The Fable of the uncontroversial benchmark

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 24, 2015 - 02:53 PM |
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, lionhead, geforce, fable legends, fable, dx12, benchmark, amd

By now you should have memorized Ryan's review of Fable's DirectX 12 performance on a variety of cards and hopefully tried out our new interactive IFU charts.  You can't always cover every card, as those who were brave enough to look at the CSV file Ryan provided might have come to realize.  That's why it is worth peeking at The Tech Report's review after reading through ours.  They have included an MSI R9 285 and XFX R9 390 as well as an MSI GTX 970, which may be cards you are interested in seeing.  They also spend some time looking at CPU scaling and the effect that has on AMD and NVIDIA's performance.  Check it out here.


"Fable Legends is one of the first games to make use of DirectX 12, and it produces some truly sumptuous visuals. Here's a look at how Legends performs on the latest graphics cards."

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Manufacturer: Lionhead Studios

Benchmark Overview

When approached a couple of weeks ago by Microsoft with the opportunity to take an early look at an upcoming performance benchmark built on a DX12 game pending release later this year, I of course was excited for the opportunity. Our adventure into the world of DirectX 12 and performance evaluation started with the 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test back in March and was followed by the release of the Ashes of the Singularity performance test in mid-August. Both of these tests were pinpointing one particular aspect of the DX12 API - the ability to improve CPU throughput and efficiency with higher draw call counts and thus enabling higher frame rates on existing GPUs.


This game and benchmark are beautiful...

Today we dive into the world of Fable Legends, an upcoming free to play based on the world of Albion. This title will be released on the Xbox One and for Windows 10 PCs and it will require the use of DX12. Though scheduled for release in Q4 of this year, Microsoft and Lionhead Studios allowed us early access to a specific performance test using the UE4 engine and the world of Fable Legends. UPDATE: It turns out that the game will have a fall-back DX11 mode that will be enabled if the game detects a GPU incapable of running DX12.

This benchmark focuses more on the GPU side of DirectX 12 - on improved rendering techniques and visual quality rather than on the CPU scaling aspects that made Ashes of the Singularity stand out from other graphics tests we have utilized. Fable Legends is more representative of what we expect to see with the release of AAA games using DX12. Let's dive into the test and our results!

Continue reading our look at the new Fable Legends DX12 Performance Test!!

Phoronix Looks at NVIDIA's Linux Driver Quality Settings

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 22, 2015 - 09:09 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, linux, graphics drivers

In the NVIDIA driver control panel, there is a slider that controls Performance vs Quality. On Windows, I leave it set to “Let the 3D application decide” and change my 3D settings individually, as needed. I haven't used NVIDIA's control panel on Linux too much, mostly because my laptop is what I usually install Linux on, which runs an AMD GPU, but the UI seems to put a little more weight on it.


Or is that GTux?

Phoronix decided to test how each of these settings affects a few titles, and the only benchmark they bothered reporting is Team Fortress 2. It turns out that other titles see basically zero variance. TF2 saw a difference of 6FPS though, from 115 FPS at High Quality to 121 FPS at Quality. Oddly enough, Performance and High Performance were worse performance than Quality.

To me, this sounds like NVIDIA has basically forgot about the feature. It barely affects any title, the game it changes anything measureable in is from 2007, and it contradicts what the company is doing on other platforms. I predict that Quality is the default, which is the same as Windows (albeit with only 3 choices: “Performance”, “Balanced”, and the default “Quality”). If it is, you probably should just leave it there 24/7 in case NVIDIA has literally not thought about tweaking the other settings. On Windows, it is kind-of redundant with GeForce Experience, anyway.

Final note: Phoronix has only tested the GTX 980. Results may vary elsewhere, but probably don't.

Source: Phoronix
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Pack a full GTX 980 on the go!

For many years, the idea of a truly mobile gaming system has been attainable if you were willing to pay the premium for high performance components. But anyone that has done research in this field would tell you that though they were named similarly, the mobile GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA had a tendency to be noticeably slower than their desktop counterparts. A GeForce GTX 970M, for example, only had a CUDA core count that was slightly higher than the desktop GTX 960, and it was 30% lower than the true desktop GTX 970 product. So even though you were getting fantastic mobile performance, there continued to be a dominant position that desktop users held over mobile gamers in PC gaming.

This fall, NVIDIA is changing that with the introduction of the GeForce GTX 980 for gaming notebooks. Notice I did not put an 'M' at the end of that name; it's not an accident. NVIDIA has found a way, through binning and component design, to cram the entirety of a GM204-based Maxwell GTX 980 GPU inside portable gaming notebooks.


The results are impressive and the implications for PC gamers are dramatic. Systems built with the GTX 980 will include the same 2048 CUDA cores, 4GB of GDDR5 running at 7.0 GHz and will run at the same base and typical GPU Boost clocks as the reference GTX 980 cards you can buy today for $499+. And, while you won't find this GPU in anything called a "thin and light", 17-19" gaming laptops do allow for portability of gaming unlike any SFF PC.

So how did they do it? NVIDIA has found a way to get a desktop GPU with a 165 watt TDP into a form factor that has a physical limit of 150 watts (for the MXM module implementations at least) through binning, component selection and improved cooling. Not only that, but there is enough headroom to allow for some desktop-class overclocking of the GTX 980 as well.

Continue reading our preview of the new GTX 980 for notebooks!!

Intel Will Not Bring eDRAM to Socketed Skylake

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | September 17, 2015 - 09:33 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, kaby lake, iris pro, Intel, edram

Update: Sept 17, 2015 @ 10:30 ET -- To clarify: I'm speaking of socketed desktop Skylake. There will definitely be Iris Pro in the BGA options.

Before I begin, the upstream story has a few disputes that I'm not entirely sure on. The Tech Report published a post in September that cited an Intel spokesperson, who said that Skylake would not be getting a socketed processor with eDRAM (unlike Broadwell did just before Skylake launched). This could be a big deal, because the fast, on-processor cache could be used by the CPU as well as the RAM. It is sometimes called “128MB of L4 cache”.


Later, ITWorld and others posted stories that said Intel killed off a Skylake processor with eDRAM, citing The Tech Report. After, Scott Wasson claimed that a story, which may or may not be ITWorld's one, had some “scrambled facts” but wouldn't elaborate. Comparing the two articles doesn't really illuminate any massive, glaring issues, but I might just be missing something.

Update: Sept 18, 2015 @ 9:45pm -- So I apparently misunderstood the ITWorld article. They were claiming that Broadwell-C was discontinued, while The Tech Report was talking about Socketed Skylake with Iris Pro. I thought they both were talking about the latter. Moreover, Anandtech received word from Intel that Broadwell-C is, in fact, not discontinued. This is odd, because ITWorld said they had confirmation from Intel. My guess is that someone gave them incorrect information. Sorry that it took so long to update.

In the same thread, Ian Cutress of Anandtech asked whether The Tech Report benchmarked the processor after Intel tweaked its FCLK capabilities, which Scott did not (but is interested in doing so). Intel addressed a slight frequency boost between the CPU and PCIe lanes after Skylake shipped, which naturally benefits discrete GPUs. Since the original claim was that Broadwell-C is better than Skylake-K for gaming, giving a 25% boost to GPU performance (or removing a 20% loss, depending on how you look at it) could tilt Skylake back above Broadwell. We won't know until it's benchmarked, though.

Iris Pro and eDRAM, while skipping Skylake, might arrive in future architectures though, such as Kaby Lake. It seems to have been demonstrated that, in some situations, and ones relevant to gamers at that, that this boost in eDRAM can help computation -- without even considering the compute potential of a better secondary GPU. One argument is that cutting the extra die room gives Intel more margins, which is almost definitely true, but I wonder how much attention Kaby Lake will get. Especially with AVX-512 and other features being debatably removed, it almost feels like Intel is treating this Tock like a Tick, since they didn't really get one with Broadwell, and Kaby Lake will be the architecture that will lead us to 10nm. On the other hand, each of these architectures are developed by independent teams, so I might be wrong in comparing them serially.

What to use for 1080p on Linux or your future SteamOS machine

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 17, 2015 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: linux, amd, nvidia

If you are using a 1080p monitor or perhaps even outputting to a large 1080p TV, there is no point in picking up a $500+ GPU as you will not be using the majority of its capabilities.  Phoronix has just done research on what GPU offers you the best value for gaming at that resolution, putting five AMD GPUs from the Radeon R9 270X to the R9 Fury and six NVIDIA cards ranging from the GTX 950 to a GTX TITAN X into their test bench.  The TITAN X is a bit of overkill, unless somehow your display is capable of 200+ fps.  When you look at frames per second per dollar the GTX 950 came out on top, providing playable frame rates at a very low cost.  These results may change as AMD's Linux driver improves but for now NVIDIA is the way to go for those who game on Linux.


"Earlier this week I posted a graphics card comparison using the open-source drivers and looking at the best value and power efficiency. In today's article is a larger range of AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards being tested under a variety of modern Linux OpenGL games/demos while using the proprietary AMD/NVIDIA Linux graphics drivers to see how not only the raw performance compares but also the performance-per-Watt, overall power consumption, and performance-per-dollar metrics."

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Source: Phoronix

MSI and Corsair Launch Liquid Cooled GTX 980 Ti SEA HAWK

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 17, 2015 - 09:14 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, msi, liquid cooled, GTX980Ti SEA HAWK, GTX 980 Ti, graphics card, corsair

We reported last night on Corsair's new Hydro GFX, a liquid-cooled GTX 980 Ti powered by an MSI GPU, and MSI has their own new product based on this concept as well.


"The MSI GTX 980Ti SEA HAWK utilizes the popular Corsair H55 closed loop liquid-cooling solution. The micro-fin copper base takes care of an efficient heat transfer to the high-speed circulation pump. The low-profile aluminum radiator is easy to install and equipped with a super silent 120 mm fan with variable speeds based on the GPU temperature. However, to get the best performance, the memory and VRM need top-notch cooling as well. Therefore, the GTX 980Ti SEA HAWK is armed with a ball-bearing radial fan and a custom shroud design to ensure the best cooling performance for all components."

The MSI GTX 980 Ti Sea Hawk actually appears identical to the Corsair Hydro GFX, and a looking through the specs confirms the similarities:

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti GPU
  • 2816 Processor Units
  • 1291 MHz/1190 MHz Boost/Base Core Clock
  • 6 GB 384-bit GDDR5 Memory
  • 7096 MHz Memory Clock
  • Dimensions: Card - 270x111x40 mm; Cooler - 151x118x52 mm
  • Weight: 1286 g
  • With a 1190 MHz Base and 1291 MHz Boost clock the SEA HAWK has the same factory overclock speeds as the Corsair-branded unit, and MSI is also advertising the card's potential to go further:

    "Even though the GTX 980Ti SEA HAWK boasts some serious clock speeds out-of-the-box, the MSI Afterburner overclocking utility allows users to go even further. Explore the limits with Triple Overvoltage, custom profiles and real-time hardware monitoring."

    I imagine the availability of this MSI branded product will be greater than the Corsair branded equivalent, but in either case you get a GTX 980 Ti with the potential to run as fast and cool as a custom cooled solution, without any of the extra work. Pricing wasn't immediately available this morning but expect something close to the $739 MSRP we saw with Corsair.

    Source: MSI

    Corsair and MSI Introduce Hydro GFX Liquid Cooled GeForce GTX 980 Ti

    Subject: Graphics Cards | September 16, 2015 - 09:00 PM |
    Tagged: nvidia, msi, liquid cooler, GTX 980 Ti, geforce, corsair, AIO

    A GPU with attached closed-loop liquid cooler is a little more mainstream these days with AMD's Fury X a high-profile example, and now a partnership between Corsair and MSI is bringing a very powerful NVIDIA option to the market.


    The new product is called the Hydro GFX, with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 980 Ti supplying the GPU horsepower. Of course the advantage of a closed-loop cooler would be higher (sustained) clocks and lower temps/noise, which in turns means much better performance. Corsair explains:

    "Hydro GFX consists of a MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti card with an integrated aluminum bracket cooled by a Corsair Hydro Series H55 liquid cooler.

    Liquid cooling keeps the card’s hottest, most critical components - the GPU, memory, and power circuitry - 30% cooler than standard cards while running at higher clock speeds with no throttling, boosting the GPU clock 20% and graphics performance up to 15%.

    The Hydro Series H55 micro-fin copper cooling block and 120mm radiator expels the heat from the PC reducing overall system temperature and noise. The result is faster, smoother frame rates at resolutions of 4K and beyond at whisper quiet levels."

    The factory overclock this 980 Ti is pretty substantial out of the box with a 1190 MHz Base (stock 1000 MHz) and 1291 MHz Boost clock (stock 1075 MHz). Memory is not overclocked (running at the default 7096 MHz), so there should still be some headroom for overclocking thanks to the air cooling for the RAM/VRM.


    A look at the box - and the Corsair branding

    Specs from Corsair:

    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti GPU with Maxwell 2.0 microarchitecture
    • 1190/1291 MHz base/boost clock
    • Clocked 20% faster than standard GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards for up to a 15% performance boost.
    • Integrated liquid cooling technology keeps GPU, video RAM, and voltage regulator 30% cooler than standard cards
    • Corsair Hydro Series H55 liquid cooler with micro-fin copper block, 120mm radiator/fan
    • Memory: 6GB GDDR5, 7096 MHz, 384-bit interface
    • Outputs: 3x DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0, and Dual Link DVI
    • Power: 250 watts (600 watt PSU required)
    • Requirements: PCI Express 3.0 16x dual-width slot, 8+6-pin power connector, 600 watt PSU
    • Dimensions: 10.5 x 4.376 inches
    • Warranty: 3 years
    • MSRP: $739.99

    As far as pricing/availability goes Corsair says the new card will debut in October in the U.S. with an MSRP of $739.99.

    Source: Corsair

    Report: TSMC To Produce NVIDIA Pascal On 16 nm FinFET

    Subject: Graphics Cards | September 16, 2015 - 09:16 AM |
    Tagged: TSMC, Samsung, pascal, nvidia, hbm, graphics card, gpu

    According to a report by BusinessKorea TSMC has been selected to produce the upcoming Pascal GPU after initially competing with Samsung for the contract.


    Though some had considered the possibility of both Samsung and TSMC sharing production (albeit on two different process nodes, as Samsung is on 14 nm FinFET), in the end the duties fall on TSMC's 16 nm FinFET alone if this report is accurate. The move is not too surprising considering the longstanding position TSMC has maintained as a fab for GPU makers and Samsung's lack of experience in this area.

    The report didn't make the release date for Pascal any more clear, naming it "next year" for the new HBM-powered GPU, which will also reportedly feature 16 GB of HBM 2 memory for the flagship version of the card. This would potentially be the first GPU released at 16 nm (unless AMD has something in the works before Pascal's release), as all current AMD and NVIDIA GPUs are manufactured at 28 nm.

    Manufacturer: AMD
    Tagged: video, radeon, R9, Nano, hbm, Fiji, amd

    Specs and Hardware

    The AMD Radeon Nano graphics card is unlike any product we have ever tested at PC Perspective. As I wrote and described to the best of my ability (without hardware in my hands) late last month, AMD is targeting a totally unique and different classification of hardware with this release. As a result, there is quite a bit of confusion, criticism, and concern about the Nano, and, to be upfront, not all of it is unwarranted.


    After spending the past week with an R9 Nano here in the office, I am prepared to say this immediately: for users matching specific criteria, there is no other option that comes close to what AMD is putting on the table today. That specific demographic though is going to be pretty narrow, a fact that won’t necessarily hurt AMD simply due to the obvious production limitations of the Fiji and HBM architectures.

    At $650, the R9 Nano comes with a flagship cost but it does so knowing full well that it will not compete in terms of raw performance against the likes of the GTX 980 Ti or AMD’s own Radeon R9 Fury X. However, much like Intel has done with the Ultrabook and ULV platforms, AMD is attempting to carve out a new market that is looking for dense, modest power GPUs in small form factors. Whether or not they have succeeded is what I am looking to determine today. Ride along with me as we journey on the roller coaster of a release that is the AMD Radeon R9 Nano.

    Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon R9 Nano!!