Subject: Graphics Cards, Memory | January 19, 2016 - 11:01 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 19, 2016 - 10:31 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: rumor, report, nvidia, GTX 980MX, GTX 980M, GTX 970MX, GTX 970M, geforce
NVIDIA is reportedly preparing faster mobile GPUs based on Maxwell, with a GTX 980MX and 970MX on the way.
The new GTX 980MX would sit between the GTX 980M and the laptop version of the full GTX 980, with 1664 CUDA cores (compared to 1536 with the 980M), 104 Texture Units (up from the 980M's 96), a 1048 MHz core clock, and up to 8 GB of GDDR5. Memory speed and bandwidth will reportedly be identical to the GTX 980M at 5000 MHz and 160 GB/s respectively, with both GPUs using a 256-bit memory bus.
The GTX 970MX represents a similar upgrade over the existing GTX 970M, with CUDA Core count increased from 1280 to 1408, Texture Units up from 80 to 88, and 8 additional raster devices available (56 vs. 48). Both the 970M and 970MX use 192-bit GDDR5 clocked at 5000 MHz, and available with the same 3 GB or 6 GB of frame buffer.
WCCFtech prepared a chart to demonstrate the differences between NVIDIA's mobile offerings:
|Model||GeForce GTX 980 Laptop Version||GeForce GTX 980MX||
GeForce GTX 980M
|GeForce GTX 970MX||GeForce GTX 970M||GeForce GTX 965M||
GeForce GTX 960M
|Clock Speed||1218 MHz||1048 MHz||1038 MHz||941 MHz||924 MHz||950 MHz||1097 MHz|
|Frame Buffer||8 GB GDDR5||8/4 GB GDDR5||8/4 GB GDDR5||6/3 GB GDDR5||6/3 GB GDDR5||4 GB GDDR5||4 GB GDDR5|
|Memory Frequency||7008 MHz||5000 MHz||5000 MHz||5000 MHz||5000 MHz||5000 MHz||5000 MHz|
|Memory Bandwidth||224 GB/s||160 GB/s||160 GB/s||120 GB/s||120 GB/s||80 GB/s||80 GB/s|
These new GPUs will reportedly be based on the same Maxwell GM204 core, and TDPs are apparently unchanged at 125W for the GTX 980MX, and 100W for the 970MX.
We will await any official announcement.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 18, 2016 - 09:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Polaris, amd
When AMD announced their Polaris architecture at CES, it was focused on mid-range applications. Their example was an add-in board that could compete against an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950, 1080p60 medium settings in Battlefront, but do so at 39% less wattage than this 28nm, Maxwell chip. These Polaris chips are planned for a “mid 2016” launch.
Raja Koduri, Chief Architect for the Radeon Technologies Group, spoke with VentureBeat at the show. In his conversation, he mentioned two architectures, Polaris 10 and Polaris 11, in the context of a question about their 2016 product generation. In the “high level” space, they are seeing “the most revolutionary jump in performance so far.” This doesn't explicitly state that the high-end Polaris video card will launch in 2016. That said, when combined with the November announcement, covered by us as “AMD Plans Two GPUs in 2016,” it further supports this interpretation.
We still don't know much about what the actual performance of this high-end GPU will be, though. AMD was able to push 8 TeraFLOPs of compute throughput by creating a giant 28nm die and converting the memory subsystem to HBM, which supposedly requires less die complexity than a GDDR5 memory controller (according to a conference call last year that preceded Fury X). The two-generation jump will give them more complexity to work with, but that could be partially offset by a smaller die because of the potential differences in yields (and so forth).
Also, while the performance of the 8 TeraFLOP Fury X was roughly equivalent to NVIDIA's 5.6 TeraFLOP GeForce GTX 980 Ti, we still don't know why. AMD has redesigned a lot of their IP blocks with Polaris; you would expect that, if something unexpected was bottlenecking Fury X, the graphics manufacturer wouldn't overlook it the next chance that they are able to tweak it. This could have been graphics processing or something much more mundane. Either way, upcoming benchmarks will be interesting.
And it seems like that may be this year.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 13, 2016 - 07:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: graphics drivers, amd
AMD's recent “Hotfix” drivers don't seem to mean what NVIDIA's does. In the Green Team's case, they usually fix one or two issues that slipped past QA. While they likely won't break anything, they are probably a bad idea to install if you're not experiencing the listed problems. The changelog on AMD's drivers are significantly longer with a list of known issues that is roughly the same size.
So should you install it? That depends. It's a little less cut-and-dry than NVIDIA's hotfixes, which are only useful for a handful of people. It sounds like the worst known issue is “Game stuttering may be experienced when running two Radeon R9 295X2 graphics cards in CrossFire mode” and “Display corruption may occur on multiple display systems when it has been running idle for some time.” The latter would affect me greatly, because I run four displays and basically never sleep or shutdown (except for updates). On the other hand, it fixes a variety of crash, hang, and flicker issues.
Check it out. If it sounds good, then pick it up. Otherwise, wait for the next Beta or WHQL driver.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 12, 2016 - 08:11 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: graphics drivers, graphics driver, nvidia
NVIDIA has been pushing for WHQL certification for their drivers, but sometimes issues slip through QA, both at Microsoft and their own, internal team(s). Sometimes these issues will be fixed in a future release, but sometimes they push out a “HotFix” driver immediately. This is often great for people who experience the problems, but they should not be installed otherwise.
In this case, GeForce Hotfix driver 361.60 fixes two issues. One is listed as “install & clocking related issues,” which refers to the GPU memory clock. According to Manuel Guzman of NVIDIA, some games and software was not causing the driver to fully wake the memory clock to a high-performance state. The other issue is “Crashes in Photoshop & Illustrator,” which fixes blue screen issues in both software, and possibly other programs that use the GPU in similar ways. I've never seen GeForce Driver 361.43 cause a BSOD in Photoshop, but I am a few versions behind with CS5.5.
Download links are available at NVIDIA Support, but unaffected users should just wait for an official driver in case the patch causes other issues, due to its minimal QA.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 11, 2016 - 06:05 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: rumor, report, pascal, nvidia, HBM2, hbm, GP104
A delivery of GPUs and related test equipment from Taiwan to Banglore has led to speculation about NVIDIA's upcoming GP104 Pascal GPU.
Image via Zauba.com
How much information can be gleaned from an import shipping manifest (linked here)? The data indicates a chip with a 37.5 x 37.5 mm package and 2152 pins, which is being attributed to the GP104 based on knowledge of “earlier, similar deliveries” (or possible inside information). This has prompted members of the 3dcenter.org forums (German language) to speculate on the use of GDDR5 or GDDR5X memory based on the likelihood of HBM being implemented on a die of this size.
Of course, NVIDIA has stated that Pascal will implement 3D memory, and the upcoming GP100 will reportedly be on a 55 x 55 mm package using HBM2. Could this be a new, lower-cost part using the existing GDDR5 standard or the faster GDDR5X instead? VideoCardz and WCCFtech have posted stories based on the 3DCenter report, and to quote directly from the VideoCardz post on the subject:
"3DCenter has a theory that GP104 could actually not use HBM, but GDDR5(X) instead. This would rather be a very strange decision, but could NVIDIA possibly make smaller GPU (than GM204) and still accommodate 4 HBM modules? This theory is not taken from the thin air. The GP100 aka the Big Pascal, would supposedly come in 55x55mm BGA package. That’s 10mm more than GM200, which were probably required for additional HBM modules. Of course those numbers are for the whole package (with interposer), not just the GPU."
All of this is a lot to take from a shipping record that might not even be related to an NVIDIA product, but the report has made the rounds at this point so now we’ll just have to wait for new information.
Are Computers Still Getting Faster?
It looks like CES is starting to wind down, which makes sense because it ended three days ago. Now that we're mostly caught up, I found a new video from The 8-Bit Guy. He doesn't really explain any old technologies in this one. Instead, he poses an open question about computer speed. He was able to have a functional computing experience on a ten-year-old Apple laptop, which made him wonder if the rate of computer advancement is slowing down.
I believe that he (and his guest hosts) made great points, but also missed a few important ones.
One of his main arguments is that software seems to have slowed down relative to hardware. I don't believe that is true, but I believe it's looking in the right area. PCs these days are more than capable of doing just about anything in terms of 2D user interface that we would want to, and do so with a lot of overhead for inefficient platforms and sub-optimal programming (relative to the 80's and 90's at the very least). The areas that require extra horsepower are usually doing large batches of many related tasks. GPUs are key in this area, and they are keeping up as fast as they can, despite some stagnation with fabrication processes and a difficulty (at least before HBM takes hold) in keeping up with memory bandwidth.
For the last five years to ten years or so, CPUs have been evolving toward efficiency as GPUs are being adopted for the tasks that need to scale up. I'm guessing that AMD, when they designed the Bulldozer architecture, hoped that GPUs would have been adopted much more aggressively, but even as graphics devices, they now have a huge effect on Web, UI, and media applications.
These are also tasks that can scale well between devices by lowering resolution (and so forth). The primary thing that a main CPU thread needs to do is figure out the system's state and keep the graphics card fed before the frame-train leaves the station. In my experience, that doesn't scale well (although you can sometimes reduce the amount of tracked objects for games and so forth). Moreover, it is easier to add GPU performance, compared to single-threaded CPU, because increasing frequency and single-threaded IPC should be more complicated than planning out more, duplicated blocks of shaders. These factors combine to give lower-end hardware a similar experience in the most noticeable areas.
So, up to this point, we discussed:
- Software is often scaling in ways that are GPU (and RAM) limited.
- CPUs are scaling down in power more than up in performance.
- GPU-limited tasks can often be approximated with smaller workloads.
- Software gets heavier, but it doesn't need to be "all the way up" (ex: resolution).
- Some latencies are hard to notice anyway.
Back to the Original Question
This is where “Are computers still getting faster?” can be open to interpretation.
Tasks are diverging from one class of processor into two, and both have separate industries, each with their own, multiple goals. As stated, CPUs are mostly progressing in power efficiency, which extends (an assumed to be) sufficient amount of performance downward to multiple types of devices. GPUs are definitely getting faster, but they can't do everything. At the same time, RAM is plentiful but its contribution to performance can be approximated with paging unused chunks to the hard disk or, more recently on Windows, compressing them in-place. Newer computers with extra RAM won't help as long as any single task only uses a manageable amount of it -- unless it's seen from a viewpoint that cares about multi-tasking.
In short, computers are still progressing, but the paths are now forked and winding.
Subject: Graphics Cards | January 11, 2016 - 08:32 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: radeon, r9 nano, R9 Fury X, price cut, press release, amd
AMD has announced a price cut for the Radeon R9 Nano, which will now have a suggested price of $499, a $150 drop from the original $649 MSRP.
VideoCardz had the story this morning, quoting the official press release from AMD:
"This past September, the AMD Radeon™ R9 Nano graphics card launched to rave reviews, claiming the title of the world’s fastest and most power efficient Mini ITX gaming card, powered by the world’s most advanced and innovative GPU with on-chip High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) for incredible 4K gaming performance. There was nothing like it ever seen before, and today, it remains in a class of its own, delivering smooth, true-to-life, premium 4K and VR gaming in a small form factor PC.
At a peak power of 175W and in a 6-inch form factor, it drives levels of performance that are on par with larger, more power-hungry GPUs from competitors, and blows away Mini ITX competitors with up to 30 percent better performance than the GTX 970 Mini ITX.
As of today, 11 January, this small card will have an even bigger impact on gamers around the world as AMD announces a change in the AMD Radeon™ R9 Nano graphics card’s SEP from $649 to $499. At the new price, the AMD Radeon™ R9 Nano graphics card will be more accessible than ever before, delivering incredible performance and leading technologies, with unbelievable efficiency in an astoundingly small form factor that puts it in a class all of its own."
The R9 Nano (reviewed here) had been the most interesting GPU released in 2015 to the team at PC Perspective. It was a compelling product for its tiny size, great performance, and high power efficiency, but the dialogue here probably mirrored that of a lot of potential buyers; for the price of a Fury X, did it make sense to buy the Nano? It was all going to depend on need, but very few enclosures on the market do not support a full-length GPU, as we discovered when testing out small R9 Nano builds.
Now that the price will move down $150 it becomes an easier choice: $499 will buy you a full R9 Fury X core for $150 less. The performance of a Fury X is only a few percentage points higher than the slighly lower-clocked Nano, so you're now getting most of the way there for much less. We have seen some R9 Fury X cards selling for $599, but even at $100 more would you buy the Fury X over a Nano? If nothing else the lower price makes the conversation a lot more interesting.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 9, 2016 - 07:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ubisoft, quad-core, pc gaming, far cry primal, dual-core
If you remember back when Far Cry 4 launched, it required a quad-core processor. It would block your attempts to launch the game unless it detected four CPU threads, either native quad-core or dual-core with two SMT threads per core. This has naturally been hacked around by the PC gaming community, but it is not supported by Ubisoft. It's also, apparently, a bad experience.
The follow-up, Far Cry Primal, will be released in late February. Oddly enough, it has similar, but maybe slightly lower, system requirements. I'll list them, and highlight the differences.
- 64-bit Windows 7, 8.1, or 10 (basically unchanged from 4)
- Intel Core i3-550 (down from i5-750)
- or AMD Phenom II X4 955 (unchanged from 4)
- 4GB RAM (unchanged from 4)
- 1GB NVIDIA GTX 460 (unchanged from 4)
- or 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5770 (down from HD 5850)
- 20GB HDD Space (down from 30GB)
- Intel Core i7-2600K (up from i5-2400S)
- or AMD FX-8350 (unchanged from 4)
- 8GB of RAM (unchanged from 4)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 (up from GTX 680)
- or AMD Radeon R9 280X (down from R9 290X)
While the CPU is interesting, the opposing directions of the recommended GPU is fascinating. Either the parts are within Ubisoft's QA margin of error, or they increased the GPU load, but were able to optimize AMD better than Far Cry 4, which was a net gain in performance (and explains the slight bump in CPU power required to feed the extra content). Of course, either way is just a guess.
Back on the CPU topic though, I would be interested to see the performance of Pentium Anniversary Edition parts. I wonder whether they removed the two-thread lock, and, especially if hacks are still required, whether it is playable anyway.
That is, in a month and a half.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Displays | January 8, 2016 - 02:56 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, Polaris, hdmi, freesync, CES 2016, CES, amd
At its suite at CES this year, AMD was showing off a couple of new technologies. First, we got to see the upcoming Polaris GPU architecture in action running Star Wars Battlefront with some power meters hooked up. This is a similar demo to what I saw in Sonoma back in December, and it compares an upcoming Polaris GPU against the NVIDIA GTX 950. The result: total system power of just 86 watts on the AMD GPU and over 150 watts on the NVIDIA GPU.
Another new development from AMD on the FreeSync side of things was HDMI integration. The company took time at CES to showcase a pair of new HDMI-enabled monitors working with FreeSync variable refresh rate technology.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!