Basemark GPU Vulkan Announced for Q2'16 Release

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 10, 2015 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: vulkan

The Vulkan API, announced during the Game Developers Conference last March, is a low-level method to communicate with GPUs. It is essentially a fork of AMD's Mantle, which was modified to include things like OpenCL's SPIR bytecode for its shading and compute language, rather than DirectX and Mantle's HLSL (or OpenGL's GLSL). At the time, Khronos mentioned that Vulkan is expected to be released in 2015, and that they intend to “under promise and over deliver” on that schedule. Being November, I expect that something came up, which isn't too surprising as Microsoft seems to have similar issues with DirectX 12.


That said, Basemark has just announced that they will have (at least one?) Vulkan-compatible benchmark available in Q2 2016. It is unclear whether they mean calendar year or some arbitrary fiscal year. Basemark GPU Vulkan is planned to focus on “relevant Vulkan API performance tests as opposed to theoretical workloads”. This sounds like more than a high-draw, low detail technical demo, which is an interesting metric, but one that will probably be covered elsewhere (like the competing 3DMark from Futuremark).

Hopefully the roll-out, for developers at the very least, will occur this year, though.

Source: Basemark

NVIDIA Releases Driver 358.91 for Fallout 4, Star Wars Battlefront, Legacy of the Void

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 9, 2015 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, 358.91, fallout 4, Star Wars, battlefront, starcraft, legacy of the void

It's a huge month for PC gaming with the release of Bethesda's Fallout 4 and EA's Star Wars Battlefront likely to take up hours and hours of your (and my) time in the lead up to the holiday season. NVIDIA just passed over links to its latest "Game Ready" driver, version 358.91.


Fallout 4 is going to be impressive graphically

Here's the blurb from NVIDIA directly:

Continuing to fulfill our commitment to GeForce gamers to have them Game Ready for the top Holiday titles, today we released a new Game Ready driver.  This Game Ready driver will get GeForce Gamers set-up for tomorrow’s release of Fallout 4, as well as Star Wars Battlefront, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void. WHQLed and ready for the Fallout wasteland, driver version 358.91 will deliver the best experience for GeForce gamers in some of the holiday’s hottest titles.

Other than learning that NVIDIA considers "WHQLed" to be a verb now, this is good news for PC gamers looking to dive into the world of Fallout or take up arms against the Empire on the day of release. I honestly believe that these kinds of software updates and frequent driver improvements timed to major game releases is one of the biggest advantages that GeForce gamers have over Radeon users; though I hold out hope that the red team will get on the same cadence with one Raja Koduri in charge.

You can also find more information from NVIDIA about configuration with its own GPUs for Fallout 4 and for Star Wars Battlefront on

Source: NVIDIA

ASUS Announces ROG Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly Motherboard and Matrix GTX 980 Ti

Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards | November 9, 2015 - 10:49 AM |
Tagged: ROG, Republic of Gamers, Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly, Matrix GTX 980 Ti, Headphone Amp, E9018K2M, DAC, asus, 10GbE, 10 Gbps Ethernet

ASUS has announced two new products for their Republic of Gamers lineup today, and while we saw the Matrix GTX 980 Ti at IFA in September (and the Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly was also on display), there are further details for both products in today's press release.


ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly motherboard with Matrix 980 Ti

The motherboard in question is the Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly, a Z170 board with an external headphone amp and 10Gb/s Ethernet add-in card included. This board could run into some money.


The ROG 10G Express expansion card

While other Maximus VIII series motherboards have high-end audio support, the Extreme/Assembly further differentiates itself with an included 10Gb/s Ethernet card. ASUS has partnered with Tehuti Networks for the card, which in addition to 10Gbps also operates at conventional 100/1000 Ethernet speeds, as well as new 2.5/5Gbps over CAT5e.

“ROG 10G Express is the enterprise-speed Ethernet card, powered by Aquantia® and Tehuti Networks: these key partners are both members of the NBASE-T™ alliance, and are working closely to create the new 2.5Gbit/s and 5Gbit/s standards that will be compatible with the existing Category 5e (Cat 5e) cabling and ports. With PCI Express 2.0 x4 speed, it equips Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly gamers for next-generation LAN speeds of up to 10Gbit/s — or up to ten times (10X) faster than today’s fastest onboard consumer Ethernet.”

This will certainly add to the cost of the motherboard considering a 10GbE card (without the 2.5/5Gbps feature) currently sells for $239.99 on Amazon.


The ROG SupremeFX Hi-Fi amplifier

If you’re an audio enthusiast (like me) you’ll be impressed by the attention to audio, which begins with the audiophile-grade ESS E9018K2M DAC chip found on other members of the Maximus VIII family, and capable of not only native PCM 32-bit/384kHz playback, but up to dual-rate DSD (DSD128). The external headphone amplifier features the Texas Instruments TPA6120A2, and has a very high 6V output to drive the most challenging headphone loads.

What about the Matrix GTX 980 Ti? Full specifications were announced for the card, with boost GPU clock speeds of up to 1317 MHz.


  • Graphics Engine: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • Video memory: 6GB GDDR5
  • CUDA cores: 2816
  • GPU clock (boosted):
    • 1317MHz (OC mode)
    • 1291MHz (gaming mode)
  • GPU clock (base)
    • 1216MHz (OC mode)
    • 1190MHz (gaming mode)
  • Memory clock: 7200MHz
  • Memory interface: 384-bit
  • Display Output: 3x DisplayPort 1.2, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x Dual-link DVI
  • Dimensions: 11.62 x 5.44 x 2 inches

Availability and pricing information for these new ROG products was not released.

Source: ASUS ROG

Report: AMD Radeon R9 380X Coming November 15 for $249

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 7, 2015 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: tonga, rumor, report, Radeon R9 380X, r9 285, graphics card, gpu, GDDR5, amd

AMD will reportedly be launching their latest performance graphics card soon, and specs for this rumored R9 380X have now been reported at VR-Zone (via Hardware Battle).


(Image credit: VR-Zone)

Here are the full specifications from this report:

  • GPU Codename: Antigua
  • Process: 28 nm
  • Stream Processors: 2048
  • GPU Clock: Up to 1000 – 1100 MHz (exact number not known)
  • Memory Size: 4096 MB
  • Memory Type: GDDR5
  • Memory Interface: 256-bit
  • Memory Clock: 5500 – 6000 MHz (exact number not known)
  • Display Output: DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4, Dual-Link DVI-D

The launch date is reportedly November 15, and the card will (again, reportedly) carry a $249 MSRP at launch.


The 380X would build on the existing R9 285

Compared to the R9 280X, which also offers 2048 stream processors, a boost clock up to 1000 MHz, and 6000 MHz GDDR5, the R9 380X would lose memory bandwidth due to the move from a 384-bit memory interface to 256-bit. The actual performance won’t be exactly comparable however, as the core (Antigua, previously Tonga) will share more in common with the R9 285 (Tonga), though the R9 285 only offered 1792 Stream processors and 2 GB of GDDR5.

You can check out our review of the R9 285 here to see how it performed against the R9 280X, and it will certainly be interesting to see how this R9 380X will fare if these specifications are accurate.

Source: VR-Zone

NVIDIA Confirms Clock Speed, Power Increases at High Refresh Rates, Promises Fix

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 6, 2015 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: ROG Swift, refresh rate, pg279q, nvidia, GTX 980 Ti, geforce, asus, 165hz, 144hz

Last month I wrote a story that detailed some odd behavior with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX graphics cards and high refresh rate monitors, in particular with the new ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q that has a rated 165Hz refresh rate. We found that when running this monitor at 144Hz or higher refresh rate, idle clock speeds and power consumption of the graphics card increased dramatically.

The results are much more interesting than I expected! At 60Hz refresh rate, the monitor was drawing just 22.1 watts while the entire testing system was idling at 73.7 watts. (Note: the display was set to its post-calibration brightness of just 31.) Moving up to 100Hz and 120Hz saw very minor increases in power consumption from both the system and monitor.


But the jump to 144Hz is much more dramatic – idle system power jumps from 76 watts to almost 134 watts – an increase of 57 watts! Monitor power only increased by 1 watt at that transition though. At 165Hz we see another small increase, bringing the system power up to 137.8 watts.

When running the monitor at 60Hz, 100Hz and even 120Hz, the GPU clock speed sits comfortably at 135MHz. When we increase from 120Hz to 144Hz though, the GPU clock spikes to 885MHz and stays there, even at the Windows desktop. According to GPU-Z the GPU is running at approximately 30% of the maximum TDP.

We put NVIDIA on notice with the story and followed up with emails including more information from other users as well as additional testing completed after the story was posted. The result: NVIDIA has confirmed it exists and has a fix incoming!

In an email we got from NVIDIA PR last night: 

We checked into the observation you highlighted with the newest 165Hz G-SYNC monitors.
Guess what? You were right! That new monitor (or you) exposed a bug in the way our GPU was managing clocks for GSYNC and very high refresh rates.
As a result of your findings, we are fixing the bug which will lower the operating point of our GPUs back to the same power level for other displays.
We’ll have this fixed in an upcoming driver.

This actually supports an oddity we found before: we noticed that the PG279Q at 144Hz refresh was pushing GPU clocks up pretty high while a monitor without G-Sync support at 144Hz did not. We'll see if this addresses the entire gamut of experiences that users have had (and have emailed me about) with high refresh rate displays and power consumption, but at the very least NVIDIA is aware of the problems and working to fix them.

I don't have confirmation of WHEN I'll be able to test out that updated driver, but hopefully it will be soon, so we can confirm the fix works with the displays we have in-house. NVIDIA also hasn't confirmed what the root cause of the problem is - was it related to the clock domains as we had theorized? Maybe not, since this was a G-Sync specific display issue (based on the quote above). I'll try to weasel out the technical reasoning for the bug if we can and update the story later!

Bethesda Blogs Fallout 4 Graphics Features

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 4, 2015 - 09:37 PM |
Tagged: fallout 4, bethesda

Fallout 4 is just a few days from release, and the hype train is roaring into the station. Bethesda titles are particularly interesting for PC hardware websites because they tend to find a way into our benchmarking suites. They're relatively demanding, open world titles that are built with a unique engine, and they are popular. They are very, very popular. Skyrim is still in our lineup even though it launched four whole years ago (although that is mostly because it's our last DirectX 9 representative).


Being a demanding, open world title means that it has several interesting features. First, it has full time-of-day lighting and weather effects, which were updated in this release with enhanced post processing effects. A bright, daytime scene will have blue skies and a soft fog that scatters light. Materials are developed using a “Physically Based Shading” model, which is more of an artist feature, but it tends to simplify asset creation and make it much more consistent.

They also have “dynamic dismemberment using hardware tessellation”. In other words, GPUs will add detail to models as they are severed into smaller chunks. Need I say more?


A lot of these features are seen in many other engines lately, like Unreal Engine 4, so it shouldn't be too surprising. Bokeh Depth of Field is a blurring technique to emulate how camera apertures influence out-of-focus elements. This is most obvious in small highlights, which ends up taking the shape of the camera's aperture. If a camera uses a six-blade aperture, then blurred point blooms will look like hexagons. This is very useful to emulate film. They also use “filmic tonemapping”, which is another post process effect to emulate film.

Fallout 4 seems to be making use of high-end DirectX 11-era features. While this means that it should be about the best-looking game out there, it also holds a lot of promise for mods.

As you're well aware, Fallout 4 ships on November 10th (and screenshots have already leaked).

Source: Bethesda

NVIDIA Promoting Game Ready Drivers with Giveaway

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 4, 2015 - 09:01 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers, geforce, game ready

In mid-October, NVIDIA announced that Game Ready drivers would only be available through GeForce Experience with a registered email address, which we covered. Users are able to opt-out of NVIDIA's mailing list, though. They said that this would provide early access to new features, chances to win free hardware, and the ability to participate in the driver development process.


Today's announcement follows up on the “win free hardware” part. The company will be giving away $100,000 worth of prizes, including graphics cards up to the GeForce GTX 980 Ti, game keys, and SHIELD Android TV boxes. To be eligible, users need to register with GeForce Experience and use it to download the latest Game Ready driver.

Speaking of Game Ready drivers, the main purpose of this blog post is to share the list of November/December games that are in this program. NVIDIA pledges to have optimized drivers for these titles on or before their release date:

  • Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
  • Call of Duty Black Ops III
  • Civilization Online
  • Fallout 4
  • Just Cause 3
  • Monster Hunter Online
  • Overwatch
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon World
  • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void
  • Star Wars Battlefront
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege
  • War Thunder

As is the case recently, NVIDIA also plans to get every Game Ready driver certified by Microsoft, through Microsoft's WHQL driver certification program.

Source: NVIDIA

Gaming at $165? The ASUS Strix GTX 950 DC2OC

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 3, 2015 - 02:57 PM |
Tagged: Strix GTX 950 DC2OC, strix, gtx 950, factory overclocked, asus

At $165 currently the ASUS Strix GTX 950 DC2OC sports the same custom cooler higher end Strix cards use and is overclocked by 141MHz right out of the box.  That cooler helped Bjorn3D get the Boost Clock on the card up to 1425MHz and the memory to 6900MHz effective, not too shabby for such an inexpensive card.  The real question is if that boost is enough to allow this card to provide decent performance while gaming at 1080p.  See if it can in the full review.


"Naturally NVIDIA wants to cover all price points so they did a snip and clip on the GM206 Maxwell core and trimmed 256 Cuda cores off the GTX 960 leaving 768 Shaders on the GTX 950. You still have the same 2GB GDDR5 running across a 128-bit bus and 32 ROPS but GTX 960 gets 85 TMUs while GTX 950 gets 64 and those are really the hardware trade offs NVIDIA had to do to field a $160 video card."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: Bjorn3D
Manufacturer: AMD

Four High Powered Mini ITX Systems

Thanks to Sebastian for helping me out with some of the editorial for this piece and to Ken for doing the installation and testing on the system builds! -Ryan

While some might wonder where the new Radeon R9 Nano fits in a market that offers the AMD Fury X for the same price, the Nano is a product that defines a new category in the PC enthusiast community. It is a full-scale GPU on an impossibly small 6-inch PCB, containing the same core as the larger liquid-cooled Fury X, but requiring 100 watts less power than Fury X and cooled by a single-fan dual-slot air cooler.

The R9 Nano design screams compatibility. It has the ability to fit into virtually any enclosure (including many of the smallest mini-ITX designs), as long as the case supports a dual-slot (full height) GPU. The total board length of 6 inches is shorter than a mini-ITX motherboard, which is 6.7 inches square! Truly, the Nano has the potential to change everything when it comes to selecting a small form-factor (SFF) enclosure.


Typically, a gaming-friendly enclosure would need at minimum a ~270 mm GPU clearance, as a standard 10.5-inch reference GPU translates into 266.7 mm in length. Even very small mini-ITX enclosures have had to position components specifically to allow for these longer cards – if they wanted to be marketed as compatible with a full-size GPU solution, of course. Now with the R9 Nano, smaller and more powerful than any previous ITX-specific graphics card to date, one of the first questions we had was a pretty basic one: what enclosure should we put this R9 Nano into?

With no shortage of enclosures at our disposal to try out a build with this new card, we quickly discovered that many of them shared a design choice: room for a full-length GPU. So, what’s the advantage of the Nano’s incredibly compact size? It must be pointed out that larger (and faster) Fury X has the same MSRP, and at 7.5 inches the Fury X will fit comfortably in cases that have spacing for the necessary radiator.

Finding a Case for Nano

While even some of the tiniest mini-ITX enclosures (EVGA Hadron, NCASE M1, etc.) offer support for a 10.5-in GPU, there are several compact mini-ITX cases that don’t support a full-length graphics card due to their small footprint. While by no means a complete list, here are some of the options out there (note: there are many more mini-ITX cases that don’t support a full-height or dual-slot expansion card at all, such as slim HTPC enclosures):

Manufacturer Model Price
Cooler Master Elite 110 $47.99,
Cooltek Coolcube  
Lian Li PC-O5 $377,
Lian Li PC-Q01 $59.99,
Lian Li PC-Q03 $74.99,
Lian Li PC-Q07 $71.98,
Lian Li PC-Q21  
Lian Li PC-Q26  
Lian Li PC-Q27  
Lian Li PC-Q30 $139.99,
Lian Li PC-Q33 $134.99,
Raijintek Metis $59.99,
Rosewill Legacy V3 Plus-B $59.99,

The list is dominated by Lian Li, who offers a number of cube-like mini-ITX enclosures that would ordinarily be out of the question for a gaming rig, unless one of the few ITX-specific cards were chosen for the build. Many other fine enclosure makers (Antec, BitFenix, Corsair, Fractal Design, SilverStone, etc.) offer mini-ITX enclosures that support full-length GPUs, as this has pretty much become a requirement for an enthusiast PC case.

Continue our look at building Mini ITX systems with the AMD Radeon R9 Nano!!

AMD Cancels Catalyst, Introduces Radeon Software Crimson

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 2, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: radeon software, radeon, driver, crimson, catalyst, amd

For as long as I can remember, the AMD (previously ATI) graphics driver was know as Catalyst. The Catalyst Control Center (CCC) offered some impressive features, grew over time with the Radeon hardware but it had more than its share of issues. It was slow, it was ugly and using it was kind of awful. And today we mourn the passing of Catalyst but welcome the birth of "Radeon Software" and the first iteration if it, Crimson.


Starting with the next major driver release from AMD you'll see a major change the speed, design and usability of the most important interface between AMD and its users. I want to be clear today: we haven't had a chance to actually use the software yet, so all of the screenshots and performance claims are from an AMD presentation to the media last week. 


Let's start with new branding: gone is the AMD Catalyst name, replaced by "Radeon Software" as the overarching title for the software and driver packages that AMD releases. The term "Crimson Edition" refers to the major revision of the software and will likely be a portion of the brand that changes with the year or with important architectural changes. Finally, the numeric part of the branding will look familiar and represents the year and month of release: "15.11" equates to 2015, November release.


With the new brand comes an entire new design that AMD says targets simplicity, ease of use and speed. The currently available Catalyst Control Center software is none of those so it is great news for consumers that AMD has decided to address it. This is one of AMD's Radeon Technology Group SVP Raja Koduri's pet projects - and it's a great start to a leadership program that should spell positive momentum for the Radeon brand.

While the Catalyst Control Center was written in the aging and bloated .Net coding ecosystem, Radeon Software is designed on QT. The first and most immediate advantage will be startup speed. AMD says that Radeon Software will open in 0.6 seconds compared to 8.0 seconds for Catalyst on a modestly configured system. 


The style and interface look to be drastically improved with well defined sections along the top and settings organized in a way that makes them easy to find and address by the user. Your video settings are all in a single spot, the display configuration is on its as well, just as they were with Catalyst, but the look and feel is completely different. Without hands on time its difficult to say for sure, but it appears that AMD has made major strides. 


There are some new interesting capabilities as well, starting with per-game settings available in Game Manager. This is not a duplication of what GeForce Experience does in terms of adjust in-game settings, but it does allow you to set control panel-specific settings like anti-aliasing, texture filtering quality, vertical sync. This capability was around in the previous versions of Catalyst but it was hard to utilize.

Overdrive, the AMD-integrated GPU overclocking portion of Radeon Software, gets a new feature as well: per-game overclocking settings. That's right - you will now be able to set game-specific overclocking settings for your GPU that will allow you to turn up the power for GTA V while turning things down for lower power consumption and noise while catching up on new DLC for Rocket League. I can see this being an incredibly useful feature for gamers willing to take the time to customize their systems.


There are obviously more changes for Radeon Software and the first iteration of it known as Crimson, including improved Eyefinity configuration, automatic driver downloads and much more, and we look forward to playing around with the improved software package in the next few weeks. For AMD, this shows a renewed commitment to Radeon and PC gaming. With its declining market share against the powerful NVIDIA GeForce brand, AMD needs these types of changes.