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Early testing for higher end GPUs

UPDATE 2/5/16: Nixxes released a new version of Rise of the Tomb Raider today with some significant changes. I have added another page at the end of this story that looks at results with the new version of the game, a new AMD driver and I've also included some SLI and CrossFire results.

I will fully admit to being jaded by the industry on many occasions. I love my PC games and I love hardware but it takes a lot for me to get genuinely excited about anything. After hearing game reviewers talk up the newest installment of the Tomb Raider franchise, Rise of the Tomb Raider, since it's release on the Xbox One last year, I've been waiting for its PC release to give it a shot with real hardware. As you'll see in the screenshots and video in this story, the game doesn't appear to disappoint.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider takes the exploration and "tomb raiding" aspects that made the first games in the series successful and applies them to the visual quality and character design brought in with the reboot of the series a couple years back. The result is a PC game that looks stunning at any resolution, but even more so in 4K, that pushes your hardware to its limits. For single GPU performance, even the GTX 980 Ti and Fury X struggle to keep their heads above water.

In this short article we'll look at the performance of Rise of the Tomb Raider with a handful of GPUs, leaning towards the high end of the product stack, and offer up my view on whether each hardware vendor is living up to expectations.

Continue reading our look at GPU performance in Rise of the Tomb Raider!!

Mods like memory; the Gainward GTX 960 Phantom 4GB

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 4, 2016 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: gainward, GTX 960 Phantom 4GB. gtx 960, NVIDA, 4GB

If you don't have a lot of cash on hand for games or hardware, a 4k adaptive sync monitor with two $600 GPUs and a collection of $80 AAA titles simply isn't on your radar.  That doesn't mean you have to toss in your love of gaming for occasional free to play gaming sessions; you just have to adapt.  A prime example are those die hard Skyrim fans who have modded the game to oblivion over the past few years, with many other games and communities that may not be new but are still thriving.  Chances are that you are playing at 1080p so a high powered GPU is not needed, however mods that upscale textures and many others do love huge tracts of RAM. 

So for those outside of North America looking for a card they can afford after a bit of penny pinching, check out Legion Hardware's review of the 4GB version of the Gainward GTX 960 Phantom.  It won't break any benchmarking records but it will let you play the games you love and even new games as their prices inevitably decrease over time.

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Today we are checking out Gainward’s premier GeForce GTX 960 graphics card, the Phantom 4GB. Equipped with twice the memory buffer of standard cards, it is designed for extreme 1080p gaming. Therefore it will be interesting to see how the Phantom 4GB compares to a 2GB GTX 960..."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

 

AMD FirePro S-Series Introduces Hardware-Based GPU Virtualization

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 3, 2016 - 02:37 AM |
Tagged: virtual machines, virtual graphics, mxgpu, gpu virtualization, firepro, amd

AMD made an interesting enterprise announcement today with the introduction of new FirePro S-Series graphics cards that integrate hardware-based virtualization technology. The new FirePro S1750 and S1750 x2 are aimed at virtualized workstations, render farms, and cloud gaming platforms where each virtual machine has direct access to the graphics hardware.

The new graphics cards use a GCN-based Tonga GPU with 2,048 stream processors paired with 8GB of ECC GDDR5 memory on the single slot FirePro S1750. The dual slot FirePro S1750 x2, as the name suggests, is a dual GPU card that features a total of 4,096 shaders (2,048 per GPU) and 16 GB of ECC GDDR5 (8 GB per GPU). The S1750 has a TDP of 150W while the dual-GPU S1750 x2 variant is rated at 265W and either can be passively cooled.

AMD FirePro S1750 x2 Hardare-based virtualized GPU MxGPU.png

Where the graphics cards get niche is the inclusion of what AMD calls MxGPU (Multi-User GPU) technology which is derived from the SR-IOV (Single Root Input/Output Virtualization) PCI-Express standard. According to AMD, the new FirePro S-Series allows virtual machines direct access to the full range of GPU hardware (shaders, memory, ect.) and OpenCL 2.0 support on the software side. The S1750 supports up to 16 simultaneous users and the S1750 x2 tops out at 32 users. Each virtual machine is allocated an equal slice of the GPU, and as you add virtual machines the equal slices get smaller. AMD’s solution to that predicament is to add more GPUs to spread out the users and allocate each VM more hardware horsepower. It is worth noting that AMD has elected not to charge companies any per-user licensing fees for all these VMs the hardware supports which should make these cards more competitive.

The graphics cards use ECC memory to correct errors when dealing with very large numbers and calculations and every VM is reportedly protected and isolated such that one VM can not access any data of a different VM stored in graphics memory.

I am interested to see how these stack up compared to NVIDIA’s GRID and VGX GPU virtualization specialized graphics cards. The difference between the software versus hardware-based virtualization may not make much difference, but AMD’s approach may be every so slightly more efficient with the removal of layer between the virtual machine and hardware. We’ll have to wait and see, however.

Enterprise users will be able to pick up the new cards installed in systems from server manufacturers sometime in the first half of 2016. Pricing for the cards themselves appears to be $2,399 for the single GPU S1750 and $3,999 for the dual GPU S1750 x2.

Needless to say, this is all a bit more advanced (and expensive!) than the somewhat finicky 3D acceleration option desktop users can turn on in VMWare and VirtualBox! Are you experimenting with remote workstations and virtual machines for thin clients that can utilize GPU muscle? Does AMD’s MxGPU approach seem promising?

Source: AMD

EVGA Winter 2016 Prize Pack and Giveaway!!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling | February 2, 2016 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: Z170, PSU, power supply, motherboard, GTX 970, giveaway, ftw, evga, contest

For many of you reading this, the temperature outside has fallen to its deepest levels, making it hard to even bare the thought of going outdoors. What would help out a PC enthusiast and gamer in this situation? Some new hardware, delivered straight to your door, to install and assist in warming up your room, that's what!

PC Perspective has partnered up with EVGA to offer up three amazing prizes for our fans. They include a 750 G2 power supply (obviously with a 750 watt rating), a Z170 FTW motherboard and a GTX 970 SSC Gaming ACX 2.0+ graphics card. The total prize value is over $650 based on MSRPs!

All you have to do to enter is follow the easy steps in the form below. 

We want to thank EVGA for its support of PC Perspective in this contest and over the years. Here's to a great 2016 for everyone!

EVGA Winter 2016 Giveaway!!

 

The ~$220 showdown, XFX R9 380 DD Black Edition OC 4GB versus the GTX 960

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 25, 2016 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: XFX R9 380 Double Dissipation Black Edition OC 4GB, xfx, gtx 960

In one corner is the XFX R9 380 DD Black Edition OC 4GB, at factory settings and with an overclock of 1170MHz core and 6.4GHz memory and in the other corner is a GTX 960 with a 1178MHz Boost clock and 7GHz memory.  These two contenders will compete in a six round 1080p match featuring Fallout 4, Project Cars, Witcher 3, GTAV, Dying Light and BF4 to see which is worthy of your hard earned buckaroos.  Your referee for today will be [H]ard|OCP, tune in to see the final results.

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"Today we evaluate a custom R9 380 from XFX, the XFX R9 380 DD BLACK EDITION OC 4GB. Sporting a hefty factory overclock and the Ghost Thermal 3.0 custom cooling with Double Dissipation, we compare it to an equally priced reference GeForce GTX 960. Find out which video card provides the better bargain."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

AMD Shows Dual-Fiji Graphics Card in a Falcon Northwest PC at VRLA

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 25, 2016 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: fury x2, Fiji, dual fiji, amd

Lo and behold! The dual-Fiji card that we have previous dubbed the AMD Radeon Fury X2 still lives! Based on a tweet from AMD PR dude Antal Tungler, a PC from Falcon Northwest at the VRLA convention was utilizing a dual-GPU Fiji graphics card to power some demos.

This prototype Falcon Northwest Tiki system was housing the GPU beast but no images were shown of the interior of the system. Still, it's good to see AMD at least recognize that this piece of hardware still exists at all, since it was initially promised to the enthusiast market by "fall of 2015."  Even in October we had hints that the card might be coming soon after seeing some shipping manifests leak out to the web. 

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Better late than never, right? One theory floating around inside the offices here is that AMD is going to release the Fury X2 along with the VR headsets coming out this spring, with hopes of making it THE VR graphics card of choice. The value of using multi-GPU for VR is interesting, with one GPU dedicated to each eye, though the pitfalls that could haunt both AMD and NVIDIA in this regard (latency, frame time consistency) make the technological capability a debate. 

Source: Twitter

GDDR5X Memory Standard Gets Official with JEDEC

Subject: Graphics Cards, Memory | January 22, 2016 - 11:08 AM |
Tagged: Polaris, pascal, nvidia, jedec, gddr5x, GDDR5, amd

Though information about the technology has been making rounds over the last several weeks, GDDR5X technology finally gets official with an announcement from JEDEC this morning. The JEDEC Solid State Foundation is, as Wikipedia tells us, an "independent semiconductor engineering trade organization and standardization body" that is responsible for creating memory standards. Getting the official nod from the org means we are likely to see implementations of GDDR5X in the near future.

The press release is short and sweet. Take a look.

ARLINGTON, Va., USA – JANUARY 21, 2016 –JEDEC Solid State Technology Association, the global leader in the development of standards for the microelectronics industry, today announced the publication of JESD232 Graphics Double Data Rate (GDDR5X) SGRAM.  Available for free download from the JEDEC website, the new memory standard is designed to satisfy the increasing need for more memory bandwidth in graphics, gaming, compute, and networking applications.

Derived from the widely adopted GDDR5 SGRAM JEDEC standard, GDDR5X specifies key elements related to the design and operability of memory chips for applications requiring very high memory bandwidth.  With the intent to address the needs of high-performance applications demanding ever higher data rates, GDDR5X  is targeting data rates of 10 to 14 Gb/s, a 2X increase over GDDR5.  In order to allow a smooth transition from GDDR5, GDDR5X utilizes the same, proven pseudo open drain (POD) signaling as GDDR5.

“GDDR5X represents a significant leap forward for high end GPU design,” said Mian Quddus, JEDEC Board of Directors Chairman.  “Its performance improvements over the prior standard will help enable the next generation of graphics and other high-performance applications.”

JEDEC claims that by using the same signaling type as GDDR5 but it is able to double the per-pin data rate to 10-14 Gb/s. In fact, based on leaked slides about GDDR5X from October, JEDEC actually calls GDDR5X an extension to GDDR5, not a new standard. How does GDDR5X reach these new speeds? By doubling the prefech from 32 bytes to 64 bytes. This will require a redesign of the memory controller for any processor that wants to integrate it. 

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Image source: VR-Zone.com

As for usable bandwidth, though information isn't quoted directly, it would likely see a much lower increase than we are seeing in the per-pin statements from the press release. Because the memory bus width would remain unchanged, and GDDR5X just grabs twice the chunk sizes in prefetch, we should expect an incremental change. No mention of power efficiency is mentioned either and that was one of the driving factors in the development of HBM.

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Performance efficiency graph from AMD's HBM presentation

I am excited about any improvement in memory technology that will increase GPU performance, but I can tell you that from my conversations with both AMD and NVIDIA, no one appears to be jumping at the chance to integrate GDDR5X into upcoming graphics cards. That doesn't mean it won't happen with some version of Polaris or Pascal, but it seems that there may be concerns other than bandwidth that keep it from taking hold. 

Source: JEDEC

Phoronix Tests Almost a Decade of GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 20, 2016 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, linux, tesla, fermi, kepler, maxwell

It's nice to see long-term roundups every once in a while. They do not really provide useful information for someone looking to make a purchase, but they show how our industry is changing (or not). In this case, Phoronix tested twenty-seven NVIDIA GeForce cards across four architectures: Tesla, Fermi, Kepler, and Maxwell. In other words, from the GeForce 8 series all the way up to the GTX 980 Ti.

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Image Credit: Phoronix

Nine years of advancements in ASIC design, with a doubling time-step of 18 months, should yield a 64-fold improvement. The number of transistors falls short, showing about a 12-fold improvement between the Titan X and the largest first-wave Tesla, although that means nothing for a fabless semiconductor designer. The main reason why I include this figure is to show the actual Moore's Law trend over this time span, but it also highlights the slowdown in process technology.

Performance per watt does depend on NVIDIA though, and the ratio between the GTX 980 Ti and the 8500 GT is about 72:1. While this is slightly better than the target 64:1 ratio, these parts are from very different locations in their respective product stacks. Swapping the 8500 GT for the following year's 9800 GTX, which leads to a comparison between top-of-the-line GPUs of their respective times, and you see a 6.2x improvement in performance per watt versus the GTX 980 Ti. On the other hand, that part was outstanding for its era.

I should note that each of these tests take place on Linux. It might not perfectly reflect the landscape on Windows, but again, it's interesting in its own right.

Source: Phoronix

TSMC Allegedly Wants 5nm by 2020

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 19, 2016 - 11:38 PM |
Tagged: TSMC

Digitimes is reporting on statements that were allegedly made by TSMC co-CEO, Mark Liu. We are currently seeing 16nm parts come out of the foundry, which is expected to be used in the next generation of GPUs, replacing the long-running 28nm node that launched with the GeForce GTX 680. (It's still unannounced whether AMD and NVIDIA will use 14nm FinFET from Samsung or GlobalFoundries, or 16nm FinFET from TSMC.)

Update (Jan 20th, @4pm EST): Couple minor corrections. Radeon HD 7970 launched at 28nm first by a couple of months. I just remember NVIDIA getting swamped in delays because it was a new node, so that's probably why I thought of the GTX 680. Also, AMD announced during CES that they will use GlobalFoundries to fab their upcoming GPUs, which I apparently missed. We suspect that NVIDIA will use TSMC, and have assumed that for a while, but it hasn't been officially announced yet (if ever).

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According to their projections, which (again) are filtered through Digitimes, the foundry expects to have 7nm in the first half of 2018. They also expect to introduce extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography methods with 5nm in 2020. Given that Silicon in a solid has a lattice spacing of ~0.54nm at room temperature, 7nm transistors will consist of about 13 atoms, and 5nm transistors will have features containing about 9 atoms.

We continue the march toward the end of silicon lithography.

Even if the statement is correct, much can happen between then and now. It wouldn't be the first time that I've seen a major foundry believe that a node would be available, but end up having it delayed. I wouldn't hold my breath, but I might cross my fingers if my hands were free.

At the very least, we can assume that TSMC's roadmap is 16nm, 10nm, 7nm, and then 5nm.

Source: Digitimes

Samsung Mass Produces HBM2 Memory

Subject: Graphics Cards, Memory | January 19, 2016 - 11:01 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, HBM2, hbm

Samsung has just announced that they have begun mass production of 4GB HBM2 memory modules. When used on GPUs, four packages can provide 16GB of Video RAM with very high performance. They do this with a very wide data bus, which trade off frequency for transferring huge chunks. Samsung's offering is rated at 256 GB/s per package, which is twice what the Fury X could do with HBM1.

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They also expect to mass produce 8GB HBM2 packages within this calendar year. I'm guessing that this means we'll see 32GB GPUs in the late-2016 or early-2017 time frame unless "within this year" means very, very soon (versus Q3/Q4). They will likely be for workstation or professional cards, but, in NVIDIA's case, those are usually based on architectures that are marketed to high-end gaming enthusiasts through some Titan offering. There's a lot of ways this could go, but a 32GB Titan seems like a bit much; I wouldn't expect that this affects the enthusiast gamer segment. It might mean that professionals looking to upgrade from the Kepler-based Tesla K-series might be waiting a little longer, maybe even GTC 2017. Alternatively, they might get new cards, just with a 16GB maximum until a refresh next year. There's not enough information to know one way or the other, but it's something to think about when more of it starts rolling in.

Samsung's HBM2 are compatible with ECC, although I believe that was also true for at least some HBM1 modules from SK Hynix.

Source: Samsung