Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 03:14 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sapphire, R7 240, htpc, SFF, low profile, steam os
Sapphire is preparing a new low profile Radeon R7 240 graphics card for home theater PCs and small form factor desktop builds. The new graphics card is a single slot design that uses a small heatsink with fan cooler that is shorter than the low profile PCI bracket for assured compatibility with even extremely cramped cases.
The Sapphire R7 240 card pairs a 28nm AMD GCN-based GPU with 2GB of DDR3 memory. There are two HDMI 1.4a display outputs that each support 4K 4096 x 2160 resolutions. Specifically, this particular iteration of the Radeon R7 240 has 320 stream processors clocked at 730 MHz base and 780 MHz boost along with 2GB DDR3 memory clocked at 900 MHz on a 128-bit bus. The card further has 20 TMUs and 8 ROPs. The card has a power sipping 30W TDP.
This low profile R7 240 is a sub-$100 part that can easily power a home theater PC or Steam OS streaming endpoint. Actually, the R7 240 itself can deliver playable gaming frame rates with low quality settings and lowered resolutions delivering at least 30 average FPS in modern titles like Bioshock Infinite and BF4 according to this review. Another use case would be to add the card to an existing AMD APU-based system in Hybrid CrossFire (which has seen Frame Pacing fixes!) for a bit more gaming horsepower under a strict budget.
The card occupies a tight space where it is only viable in specific situations constrained by a tight budget, physical size, and the requirement to buy a card new and not an older (single and faster, not Hybrid CrossFire) generation card on the used market. Still, it is nice to have options and this will be one such new budget alternative. Exact pricing is not yet available, but it should be hitting store shelves soon. For an idea on pricing, the full height Sapphire R7 240 retails for around $70, so expect the new low profile variant to be around that price if at a slight premium.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | February 26, 2014 - 07:18 PM | Ryan Shrout
Overclocking the memory and GPU clock speeds on an AMD APU can greatly improve gaming performance - it is known. With the new AMD A10-7850K in hand I decided to do a quick test and see how much we could improve average frame rates for mainstream gamers with only some minor tweaking of the motherboard BIOS.
Using some high-end G.Skill RipJaws DDR3-2400 memory, we were able to push memory speeds on the Kaveri APU up to 2400 MHz, a 50% increase over the stock 1600 MHz rate. We also increased the clock speed on the GPU portion of the A10-7850K from 720 MHz to 1028 MHz, a 42% boost. Interestingly, as you'll see in the video below, the memory speed had a MUCH more dramatic impact on our average frame rates in-game.
In the three games we tested for this video, GRID 2, Bioshock Infinite and Battlefield 4, total performance gain ranged from 26% to 38%. Clearly that can make the AMD Kaveri APU an even more potent gaming platform if you are willing to shell out for the high speed memory.
|Stock||GPU OC||Memory OC||Total OC||Avg FPS Change|
|22.4 FPS||23.7 FPS||28.2 FPS||29.1 FPS||+29%|
High + 2xAA
|33.5 FPS||36.3 FPS||41.1 FPS||42.3 FPS||+26%|
|30.1 FPS||30.9 FPS||40.2 FPS||41.8 FPS||+38%|
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 26, 2014 - 06:17 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: opengl, nvidia, Mantle, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, DirectX, amd
UPDATE (2/27/14): AMD sent over a statement today after seeing our story.
AMD would like you to know that it supports and celebrates a direction for game development that is aligned with AMD’s vision of lower-level, ‘closer to the metal’ graphics APIs for PC gaming. While industry experts expect this to take some time, developers can immediately leverage efficient API design using Mantle, and AMD is very excited to share the future of our own API with developers at this year’s Game Developers Conference.
Credit over to Scott and his reader at The Tech Report for spotting this interesting news today!!
It appears that DirectX and OpenGL are going to be announcing some changes at next month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. According to some information found in the session details, both APIs are trying to steal some of the thunder from AMD's Mantle, recently released with the Battlefield 4 patch. Mantle is na API was built by AMD to enable more direct access (lower level) to its GCN graphics hardware allowing developers to code games that are more efficient, providing better performance for the PC gamer.
From the session titled DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform we find this description (emphasis mine):
For nearly 20 years, DirectX has been the platform used by game developers to create the fastest, most visually impressive games on the planet.
However, you asked us to do more. You asked us to bring you even closer to the metal and to do so on an unparalleled assortment of hardware. You also asked us for better tools so that you can squeeze every last drop of performance out of your PC, tablet, phone and console.
Come learn our plans to deliver.
Another DirectX session hosted by Microsoft is titled DirectX: Direct3D Futures (emphasis mine):
Come learn how future changes to Direct3D will enable next generation games to run faster than ever before!
In this session we will discuss future improvements in Direct3D that will allow developers an unprecedented level of hardware control and reduced CPU rendering overhead across a broad ecosystem of hardware.
If you use cutting-edge 3D graphics in your games, middleware, or engines and want to efficiently build rich and immersive visuals, you don't want to miss this talk.
Now look at a line from our initial article on AMD Mantle when announced at its Hawaii tech day event:
It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software.
This is all sounding very familiar. It would appear that Microsoft has finally been listening to the development community and is working on the performance aspects of DirectX. Likely due in no small part to the push of AMD and Mantle's development, an updated DirectX 12 that includes a similar feature set and similar performance changes would shift the market in a few key ways.
Is it time again for innovation with DirectX?
First and foremost, what does this do for AMD's Mantle in the near or distant future? For now, BF4 will still include Mantle support as will games like Thief (update pending) but going forward, if these DX12 changes are as specific as I am being led to believe, then it would be hard to see anyone really sticking with the AMD-only route. Of course, if DX12 doesn't really address the performance and overhead issues in the same way that Mantle does then all bets are off and we are back to square one.
Interestingly, OpenGL might also be getting into the ring with the session Approaching Zero Driver Overhead in OpenGL:
Driver overhead has been a frustrating reality for game developers for the entire life of the PC game industry. On desktop systems, driver overhead can decrease frame rate, while on mobile devices driver overhead is more insidious--robbing both battery life and frame rate. In this unprecedented sponsored session, Graham Sellers (AMD), Tim Foley (Intel), Cass Everitt (NVIDIA) and John McDonald (NVIDIA) will present high-level concepts available in today's OpenGL implementations that radically reduce driver overhead--by up to 10x or more. The techniques presented will apply to all major vendors and are suitable for use across multiple platforms. Additionally, they will demonstrate practical demos of the techniques in action in an extensible, open source comparison framework.
This description seems to indicate more about new or lesser known programming methods that can be used with OpenGL to lower overhead without the need for custom APIs or even DX12. This could be new modules from vendors or possibly a new revision to OpenGL - we'll find out next month.
All of this leaves us with a lot of questions that will hopefully be answered when we get to GDC in mid-March. Will this new version of DirectX be enough to reduce API overhead to appease even the stingiest of game developers? How will AMD react to this new competitor to Mantle (or was Mantle really only created to push this process along)? What time frame does Microsoft have on DX12? Does this save NVIDIA from any more pressure to build its own custom API?
Gaming continues to be the driving factor of excitement and innovation for the PC! Stay tuned for an exciting spring!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 25, 2014 - 02:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, Mantle, TrueAudio, Thief 4, thief
AMD released their Catalyst 14.2 Beta V1.3 graphics drivers today, coinciding with the launch of Thief. The game, developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix, is another entry in "Gaming Evolved" and their "Never Settle" promotion. Soon, it will also support Mantle and TrueAudio.
Being Theif's launch driver, it provides optimizations for both single-GPU and Crossfire customers in that title. It also provides fixes for other titles, especially Battlefield 4 which can now run Mantle with up-to four GPUs. Battlefield 3 and 4 also supports Frame Pacing on very high (greater than 2560x1600) resolution monitors in dual-card Crossfire. It also fixes a couple of bugs in using Crossfire with DirectX 9 games, missing textures Minecraft, and corruption in X-Plane.
Catalyst 14.2 Beta V1.3 driver is available now at AMD's website.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | February 25, 2014 - 01:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Ivy Bridge, Intel, iGPU, haswell
Recently, Intel released the 220.127.116.1112 (18.104.22.168.3412 for 64-bit) drivers for their Ivy Bridge and Haswell integrated graphics. The download was apparently published on January 29th while its patch notes are dated February 22nd. It features expanded support for Intel Quick Sync Video Technology, allowing certain Pentium and Celeron-class processors to access the feature, as well as an alleged increase in OpenGL-based games. Probably the most famous OpenGL title of our time is Minecraft, although I do not know if that specific game will see improvements (and if so, how much).
The new driver enables Quick Sync Video for the following processors:
- Pentium 3558U
- Pentium 3561Y
- Pentium G3220(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
- Pentium G3420(Unsuffixed/T)
- Pentium G3430
- Celeron 2957U
- Celeron 2961Y
- Celeron 2981U
- Celeron G1820(Unsuffixed/T/TE)
- Celeron G1830
Besides the addition for these processors and the OpenGL performance improvements, the driver obviously fixes several bugs in each of its supported OSes. You can download the appropriate drivers from the Intel Download Center.
Mobile Gaming Powerhouse
Every once in a while, a vendor sends us a preconfigured gaming PC or notebook. We don't usually focus too much on these systems because so many of readers are quite clearly DIY builders. Gaming notebooks are another beast, though. Without going through a horrible amount of headaches, building a custom gaming notebook is a pretty tough task. So, for users who are looking for a ton of gaming performance in a package that is mobile, going with a machine like the ORIGIN PC EON17-SLX is the best option.
As the name implies, the EON17-SLX is a 17-in notebook that includes some really impressive specifications including a Haswell processor and SLI GeForce GTX 780M GPUs.
|ORIGIN PC EON17-SLX|
|Processor||Core i7-4930MX (Haswell)|
|Cores / Threads||4 / 8|
|Graphics||2 x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB|
|System Memory||16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600|
|Storage||2 x 120GB mSATA SSD (RAID-0)
1 x Western Digital Black 750GB HDD
|Wireless||Intel 7260 802.11ac|
|Screen||17-in 1920x1080 LED Matte|
|Optical||6x Blu-ray reader / DVD writer|
|Operating System||Windows 8.1|
Intel's Core i7-4930MX processor is actually a quad-core Haswell based CPU, not an Ivy Bridge-E part like you might guess based on the part number. The GeForce GTX 780M GPUs each include 4GB of frame buffer (!!) and have very similar specifications to the desktop GTX 770 parts. Even though they run at lower clock speeds, a pair of these GPUs will provide a ludicrous amount of gaming performance.
As you would expect for a notebook with this much compute performance, it isn't a thin and light. My scale tips at 9.5 pounds with the laptop alone and over 12 pounds with the power adapter included. Images of the profile below will indicate not only many of the features included but also the size and form factor.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 20, 2014 - 05:45 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: nvidia, mining, maxwell, litecoin, gtx 750 ti, geforce, dogecoin, coin, bitcoin, altcoin
As we have talked about on several different occasions, Altcoin mining (anything that is NOT Bitcoin specifically) is a force on the current GPU market whether we like it or not. Traditionally, Miners have only bought AMD-based GPUs, due to the performance advantage when compared to their NVIDIA competition. However, with continued development of the cudaMiner application over the past few months, NVIDIA cards have been gaining performance in Scrypt mining.
The biggest performance change we've seen yet has come with a new version of cudaMiner released yesterday. This new version (2014-02-18) brings initial support for the Maxwell architecture, which was just released yesterday in the GTX 750 and 750 Ti. With support for Maxwell, mining starts to become a more compelling option with this new NVIDIA GPU.
With the new version of cudaMiner on the reference version of the GTX 750 Ti, we were able to achieve a hashrate of 263 KH/s, impressive when you compare it to the performance of the previous generation, Kepler-based GTX 650 Ti, which tops out at about 150KH/s or so.
As you may know from our full GTX 750 Ti Review, the GM107 overclocks very well. We were able to push our sample to the highest offset configurable of +135 MHz, with an additional 500 MHz added to the memory frequency, and 31 mV bump to the voltage offset. All of this combined to a ~1200 MHz clockspeed while mining, and an additional 40 KH/s or so of performance, bringing us to just under 300KH/s with the 750 Ti.
As we compare the performance of the 750 Ti to AMD GPUs and previous generation NVIDIA GPUs, we start to see how impressive the performance of this card stacks up considering the $150 MSRP. For less than half the price of the GTX 770, and roughly the same price as a R7 260X, you can achieve the same performance.
When we look at power consumption based on the TDP of each card, this comparison only becomes more impressive. At 60W, there is no card that comes close to the performance of the 750 Ti when mining. This means you will spend less to run a 750 Ti than a R7 260X or GTX 770 for roughly the same hash rate.
Taking a look at the performance per dollar ratings of these graphics cards, we see the two top performers are the AMD R7 260X and our overclocked GTX 750 Ti.
However, when looking at the performance per watt differences of the field, the GTX 750 Ti looks more impressive. While most miners may think they don't care about power draw, it can help your bottom line. By being able to buy a smaller, less efficient power supply the payoff date for the hardware is moved up. This also bodes well for future Maxwell based graphics cards that we will likely see released later in 2014.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 19, 2014 - 04:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: geforce, gm107, gpu, graphics, gtx 750 ti, maxwell, nvidia, video
We finally saw Maxwell yesterday, with a new design for the SMs called SMM each of which consist of four blocks of 32 dedicated, non-shared CUDA cores. In theory that should allow NVIDIA to pack more SMMs onto the card than they could with the previous SMK units. This new design was released on a $150 card which means we don't really get to see what this new design is capable of yet. At that price it competes with AMD's R7 260X and R7 265, at least if you can find them at their MSRP and not at inflated cryptocurrency levels. Legit Reviews contrasted the performance of two overclocked GTX 750 Ti to those two cards as well as to the previous generation GTX 650Ti Boost on a wide selection of games to see how it stacks up performance-wise which you can read here.
That is of course after you read Ryan's full review.
"NVIDIA today announced the new GeForce GTX 750 Ti and GTX 750 video cards, which are very interesting to use as they are the first cards based on NVIDIA's new Maxwell graphics architecture. NVIDIA has been developing Maxwell for a number of years and have decided to launch entry-level discrete graphics cards with the new technology first in the $119 to $149 price range. NVIDIA heavily focused on performance per watt with Maxwell and it clearly shows as the GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB video card measures just 5.7-inches in length with a tiny heatsink and doesn't require any internal power connectors!"
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- MSI GTX 750 Ti Gaming Video Card Review @HiTech Legion
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti @ Benchmark Reviews
- ASUS GTX 750 OC 1 GB @ techPowerUp
- MSI GTX 750 Ti Gaming 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750Ti the Arrival of Maxwell @HiTech Legion
- Palit GTX 750 Ti StormX Dual 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- The GTX 750 Ti Review; Maxwell Arrives @ Hardware Canucks
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti vs. AMD Radeon R7 265 @ Legion Hardware
- MSI GTX750Ti OC Twin Frozr @ Kitguru
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti "Maxwell" On Linux @ Phoronix
- A quick look at Mantle on AMD's Kaveri APU @ The Tech Report
- Sapphire Radeon R9 Tri-X OC video card @ Hardwareoverclock
- AMD Radeon R9 290: Still Not Good For Linux Users @ Phoronix
- AMD Radeon R7 265 2GB Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- Sapphire Radeon R7 260X OC 2GB Graphics Card Review @ Techgage
- XFX Double Dissipation R9 280X @ [H]ard|OCP
An Upgrade Project
When NVIDIA started talking to us about the new GeForce GTX 750 Ti graphics card, one of the key points they emphasized was the potential use for this first-generation Maxwell GPU to be used in the upgrade process of smaller form factor or OEM PCs. Without the need for an external power connector, the GTX 750 Ti provided a clear performance delta from integrated graphics with minimal cost and minimal power consumption, so the story went.
Eager to put this theory to the test, we decided to put together a project looking at the upgrade potential of off the shelf OEM computers purchased locally. A quick trip down the road to Best Buy revealed a PC sales section that was dominated by laptops and all-in-ones, but with quite a few "tower" style desktop computers available as well. We purchased three different machines, each at a different price point, and with different primary processor configurations.
The lucky winners included a Gateway DX4885, an ASUS M11BB, and a Lenovo H520.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 19, 2014 - 12:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: raptr, gaming evolved, amd
The AMD Gaming Evolved App updates your drivers, optimizes your game settings, streams your gameplay to Twitch, accesses some social media platforms, and now gives prizes. Points are given for playing games using the app, optimizing game settings, and so forth. These can be exchanged for rewards ranging from free games, to Sapphire R9-series graphics cards.
This program has been in beta for a little while now, without the ability to redeem points. The system has been restructured to encourage using the entire app by lowering the accumulation rate for playing games and adding other goals. Beta participants do not lose all of their points, rather it is rescaled more in line with the new system.
Get notified when we go live!