Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems | November 5, 2013 - 09:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, grid, AWS, amazon
Amazon Web Services allows customers (individuals, organizations, or companies) to rent servers of certain qualities to match their needs. Many websites are hosted at their data centers, mostly because you can purchase different (or multiple) servers if you have big variations in traffic.
I, personally, sometimes use it as a game server for scheduled multiplayer events. The traditional method is spending $50-80 USD per month on a... decent... server running all-day every-day and using it a couple of hours per week. With Amazon EC2, we hosted a 200 player event (100 vs 100) by purchasing a dual-Xeon (ironically the fastest single-threaded instance) server connected to Amazon's internet backbone by 10 Gigabit Ethernet. This server cost just under $5 per hour all expenses considered. It was not much of a discount but it ran like butter.
This leads me to today's story: NVIDIA GRID GPUs are now available at Amazon Web Services. Both companies hope their customers will use (or create services based on) these instances. Applications they expect to see are streamed games, CAD and media creation, and other server-side graphics processing. These Kepler-based instances, named "g2.2xlarge", will be available along side the older Fermi-based Cluster Compute Instances ("cg1.4xlarge").
It is also noteworthy that the older Fermi-based Tesla servers are about 4x as expensive. GRID GPUs are based on GK104 (or GK107, but those are not available on Amazon EC2) and not the more compute-intensive GK110. It would probably be a step backwards for customers intending to perform GPGPU workloads for computational science or "big data" analysis. The newer GRID systems do not have 10 Gigabit Ethernet, either.
So what does it have? Well, I created an AWS instance to find out.
Its CPU is advertised as an Intel E5-2670 with 8 threads and 26 Compute Units (CUs). This is particularly odd as that particular CPU is eight-core with 16 threads; it is also usually rated by Amazon at 22 CUs per 8 threads. This made me wonder whether the CPU is split between two clients or if Amazon disabled Hyper-Threading to push the clock rates higher (and ultimately led me to just log in to an instance and see). As it turns out, HT is still enabled and the processor registers as having 4 physical cores.
The GPU was slightly more... complicated.
NVIDIA control panel apparently does not work over remote desktop and the GPU registers as a "Standard VGA Graphics Adapter". Actually, two are available in Device Manager although one has the yellow exclamation mark of driver woe (random integrated graphics that wasn't disabled in BIOS?). GPU-Z was not able to pick much up from it but it was of some help.
Keep in mind: I did this without contacting either Amazon or NVIDIA. It is entirely possible that the OS I used (Windows Server 2008 R2) was a poor choice. OTOY, as a part of this announcement, offers Amazon Machine Image (AMI)s for Linux and Windows installations integrated with their ORBX middleware.
I spot three key pieces of information: The base clock is 797 MHz, the memory size is 2990 MB, and the default drivers are Forceware 276.52 (??). The core and default clock rate, GK104 and 797 MHz respectively, are characteristic of the GRID K520 GPU with its 2 GK104 GPUs clocked at 800 MHz. However, since the K520 gives each GPU 4GB and this instance only has 3GB of vRAM, I can tell that the product is slightly different.
I was unable to query the device's shader count. The K520 (similar to a GeForce 680) has 1536 per GPU which sounds about right (but, again, pure speculation).
I also tested the server with TCPing to measure its networking performance versus the cluster compute instances. I did not do anything like Speedtest or Netalyzr. With a normal cluster instance I achieve about 20-25ms pings; with this instance I was more in the 45-50ms range. Of course, your mileage may vary and this should not be used as any official benchmark. If you are considering using the instance for your product, launch an instance and run your own tests. It is not expensive. Still, it seems to be less responsive than Cluster Compute instances which is odd considering its intended gaming usage.
Regardless, now that Amazon picked up GRID, we might see more services (be it consumer or enterprise) which utilizes this technology. The new GPU instances start at $0.65/hr for Linux and $0.767/hr for Windows (excluding extra charges like network bandwidth) on demand. Like always with EC2, if you will use these instances a lot, you can get reduced rates if you pay a fee upfront.
More of the same for a lot less cash
The week before Halloween, AMD unleashed a trick on the GPU world under the guise of the Radeon R9 290X and it was the fastest single GPU graphics card we had tested to date. With a surprising price point of $549, it was able to outperform the GeForce GTX 780 (and GTX TITAN in most cases) while under cutting the competitions price by $100. Not too bad!
Today's release might be more surprising (and somewhat confusing). The AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB card is based on the same Hawaii GPU with a few less compute units enabled (CUs) and an even more aggressive price and performance placement. Seriously, has AMD lost its mind?
Can a card with a $399 price tag cut into the same performance levels as the JUST DROPPED price of $499 for the GeForce GTX 780?? And, if so, what sacrifices are being made by users that adopt it? Why do so many of our introduction sentences end in question marks?
The R9 290 GPU - Hawaii loses a small island
If you are new to the Hawaii GPU and you missed our first review of the Radeon R9 290X from last month, you should probably start back there. The architecture is very similar to that of the HD 7000-series Tahiti GPUs with some modest changes to improve efficiency with the biggest jump in raw primitives per second to 4/clock over 2/clock.
The R9 290 is based on Hawaii though it has four fewer compute units (CUs) than the R9 290X. When I asked AMD if that meant there was one fewer CU per Shader Engine or if they were all removed from a single Engine, they refused to really answer. Instead, several "I'm not allowed to comment on the specific configuration" lines were given. This seems pretty odd as NVIDIA has been upfront about the dual options for its derivative GPU models. Oh well.
When AMD released the Radeon R9 290X last month, I came away from the review very impressed with the performance and price point the new flagship graphics card was presented with. My review showed that the 290X was clearly faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 and (and that time) was considerably less expensive as well - a win-win for AMD without a doubt.
But there were concerns over a couple of aspects of the cards design. First was the temperature and, specifically, how AMD was okay with this rather large silicon hitting 95C sustained. Another concern, AMD has also included a switch at the top of the R9 290X to switch fan profiles. This switch essentially creates two reference defaults and makes it impossible for us to set a baseline of performance. These different modes only changed the maximum fan speed that the card was allowed to reach. Still, performance changed because of this setting thanks to the newly revised (and updated) AMD PowerTune technology.
We also saw, in our initial review, a large variation in clock speeds both from one game to another as well as over time (after giving the card a chance to heat up). This led me to create the following graph showing average clock speeds 5-7 minutes into a gaming session with the card set to the default, "quiet" state. Each test is over a 60 second span.
Clearly there is variance here which led us to more questions about AMD's stance. Remember when the Kepler GPUs launched. AMD was very clear that variance from card to card, silicon to silicon, was bad for the consumer as it created random performance deltas between cards with otherwise identical specifications.
When it comes to the R9 290X, though, AMD claims both the GPU (and card itself) are a customizable graphics solution. The customization is based around the maximum fan speed which is a setting the user can adjust inside the Catalyst Control Center. This setting will allow you to lower the fan speed if you are a gamer desiring a quieter gaming configuration while still having great gaming performance. If you are comfortable with a louder fan, because headphones are magic, then you have the option to simply turn up the maximum fan speed and gain additional performance (a higher average clock rate) without any actual overclocking.
ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP
Earlier this month AMD took the wraps off of a revamped and restyled family of GPUs under the Radeon R9 and R7 brands. When I reviewed the R9 280X, essentially a lower cost version of the Radoen HD 7970 GHz Edition, I came away impressed with the package AMD was able to put together. Though there was no new hardware to really discuss with the R9 280X, the price drop placed the cards in a very aggressive position adjacent the NVIDIA GeForce line-up (including the GeForce GTX 770 and the GTX 760).
As a result, I fully expect the R9 280X to be a great selling GPU for those gamers with a mid-range budget of $300.
But another of the benefits of using an existing GPU architecture is the ability for board partners to very quickly release custom built versions of the R9 280X. Companies like ASUS, MSI, and Sapphire are able to have overclocked and custom-cooled alternatives to the 3GB $300 card, almost immediately, by simply adapting the HD 7970 PCB.
Today we are going to be reviewing a set of three different R9 280X cards: the ASUS DirectCU II, MSI Twin Frozr Gaming, and the Sapphire TOXIC.
ARM is Serious About Graphics
Ask most computer users from 10 years ago who ARM is, and very few would give the correct answer. Some well informed people might mention “Intel” and “StrongARM” or “XScale”, but ARM remained a shadowy presence until we saw the rise of the Smartphone. Since then, ARM has built up their brand, much to the chagrin of companies like Intel and AMD. Partners such as Samsung, Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Rockchip, and NVIDIA have all worked with ARM to produce chips based on the ARMv7 architecture, with Apple being the first to release the first ARMv8 (64 bit) SOCs. The multitude of ARM architectures are likely the most shipped chips in the world, going from very basic processors to the very latest Apple A7 SOC.
The ARMv7 and ARMv8 architectures are very power efficient, yet provide enough performance to handle the vast majority of tasks utilized on smartphones and tablets (as well as a handful of laptops). With the growth of visual computing, ARM also dedicated itself towards designing competent graphics portions of their chips. The Mali architecture is aimed at being an affordable option for those without access to their own graphics design groups (NVIDIA, Qualcomm), but competitive with others that are willing to license their IP out (Imagination Technologies).
ARM was in fact one of the first to license out the very latest graphics technology to partners in the form of the Mali-T600 series of products. These modules were among the first to support OpenGL ES 3.0 (compatible with 2.0 and 1.1) and DirectX 11. The T600 architecture is very comparable to Imagination Technologies’ Series 6 and the Qualcomm Adreno 300 series of products. Currently NVIDIA does not have a unified mobile architecture in production that supports OpenGL ES 3.0/DX11, but they are adapting the Kepler architecture to mobile and will be licensing it to interested parties. Qualcomm does not license out Adreno after buying that group from AMD (Adreno is an anagram of Radeon).
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 28, 2013 - 10:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: R9 290X, amd
Hawaii launches and AMD sells their inventory (all of it, in many cases). The Radeon R9 290X brought reasonably Titan-approaching performance to the $550-600 USD dollar value. Near and dear to our website, AMD also took the opportunity to address much of the Crossfire and Eyefinity frame pacing issues.
Nitroware also took a look at the card... from a distance because they did not receive a review unit. His analysis was based on concepts, such as revisions to AMD design over the life of their Graphics Core Next architecture. The discussion goes back to the ATI Rage series of fixed function hardware and ends with a comparisson between the Radeon HD 7900 "Tahiti" and the R9 290X "Hawaii".
Our international viewers (or even curious North Americans) might also like to check out the work Dominic undertook compiling regional pricing and comparing those values to currency conversion data. There is more to an overview (or review) than benchmarks.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 28, 2013 - 09:29 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: nvidia, kepler, gtx 780 ti, gtx 780, gtx 770, geforce
A lot of news coming from the NVIDIA camp today, including some price drops and price announcements.
First up, the high-powered GeForce GTX 780 is getting dropped from $649 to $499, a $150 savings that will bring the GTX 780 into line with the competition of AMD's new Radeon R9 290X launched last week.
Next, the GeForce GTX 770 2GB is going to drop from $399 to $329 to help it compete more closely with the R9 280X.
Even you weren't excited about the R9 290X, you have to be excited by competition.
In a surprising turn of events, NVIDIA is now the company with the great bundle deal with GPUs as well! Starting today you'll be able to get a free copy of Batman: Arkham Origins, Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag with the GeForce GTX 780 Ti, GTX 780 and GTX 770. If you step down to the GTX 760 or 660 you'll lose out on the Batman title.
SHIELD discounts are available as well: $100 off you buy the upper tier GPUs and $50 off if you but the lower tier.
UPDATE: NVIDIA just released a new version of GeForce Experience that enabled ShadowPlay, the ability to use Kepler GPUs to record game play in the background with almost no CPU/system ovehead. You can see Scott's initial impressions of the software right here; it seems like its going to be a pretty awesome feature.
Need more news? The yet-to-be-released GeForce GTX 780 Ti is also getting a price - $699 based on the email we just received. And it will be available starting November 7th!!
With all of this news, how does it change our stance on the graphics market? Quite a bit in fact. The huge price drop on the GTX 780, coupled with the 3-game bundle means that NVIDIA is likely offering the better hardware/software combo for gamers this fall. Yes, the R9 290X is likely still a step faster, but now you can get the GTX 780, three great games and spend $50 less.
The GTX 770 is now poised to make a case for itself against the R9 280X as well with its $70 drop. The R9 280X / HD 7970 GHz Edition was definitely a better option with its $100 price delta but with only $30 separating the two competing cards, and the three free games, again the advantage will likely fall to NVIDIA.
Finally, the price point of the GTX 780 Ti is interesting - if NVIDIA is smart they are pricing it based on comparable performance to the R9 290X from AMD. If that is the case, then we can guess the GTX 780 Ti will be a bit faster than the Hawaii card, while likely being quieter and using less power too. Oh, and again, the three game bundle.
NVIDIA did NOT announce a GTX TITAN price drop which might surprise some people. I think the answer as to why will be addressed with the launch of the GTX 780 Ti next month but from what I was hearing over the last couple of weeks NVIDIA can't make the cards fast enough to satisfy demand so reducing margin there just didn't make sense.
NVIDIA has taken a surprisingly aggressive stance here in the discrete GPU market. The need to address and silence critics that think the GeForce brand is being damaged by the AMD console wins is obviously potent inside the company. The good news for us though, and the gaming community as a whole, is that just means better products and better value for graphics card purchases this holiday.
NVIDIA says these price drops will be live by tomorrow. Enjoy!
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 (Newegg.com)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 (Newegg.com)
- AMD Radeon R9 290X (Newegg.com)
- AMD Radeon R9 280X (Newegg.com)
ShadowPlay is NVIDIA's latest addition to their GeForce Experience platform. This feature allows their GPUs, starting with Kepler, to record game footage either locally or stream it online through Twitch.tv (in a later update). It requires Kepler GPUs because it is accelerated by that hardware. The goal is to constantly record game footage without any noticeable impact to performance; that way, the player can keep it running forever and have the opportunity to save moments after they happen.
Also, it is free.
I know that I have several gaming memories which come unannounced and leave undocumented. A solution like this is very exciting to me. Of course a feature on paper not the same as functional software in the real world. Thankfully, at least in my limited usage, ShadowPlay mostly lives up to its claims. I do not feel its impact on gaming performance. I am comfortable leaving it on at all times. There are issues, however, that I will get to soon.
This first impression is based on my main system running the 331.65 (Beta) GeForce drivers recommended for ShadowPlay.
- Intel Core i7-3770, 3.4 GHz
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670
- 16 GB DDR3 RAM
- Windows 7 Professional
- 1920 x 1080 @ 120Hz.
- 3 TB USB3.0 HDD (~50MB/s file clone).
The two games tested are Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and Battlefield 3.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 24, 2013 - 02:38 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, kepler, hawaii, amd
If you didn't stay up to watch our live release of the R9 290X after the podcast last night you missed a chance to have your questions answered but you will be able to watch the recording later on. The R9 290X arrived today, bringing 4K and Crossfire reviews as well as single GPU testing on many a site including PCPer of course. You don't just have to take our word for it, [H]ard|OCP was also putting together a review of AMD's Titan killer. Their benchmarks included some games we haven't adopted yet such as ARMA III. Check out their results and compare them to ours, AMD really has a winner here.
"AMD is launching the Radeon R9 290X today. The R9 290X represents AMD's fastest single-GPU video card ever produced. It is priced to be less expensive than the GeForce GTX 780, but packs a punch on the level of GTX TITAN. We look at performance, the two BIOS mode options, and even some 4K gaming."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD's Radeon R9 290X graphics card @ The Tech Report
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- AMD Radeon R9 290X @ Hardware.info
- 4K Gaming Showdown - AMD R9 290X & R9 280X Vs Nvidia GTX Titan & GTX 780 @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon R9 290X @ Legit Reviews
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Review @ Hardware Canucks
- AMD Radeon R9 290X CrossFire @ techPowerUp
- AMD Radeon R9 290X @ Techspot
- AMD R9 290X @ Kitguru
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4 GB @ techPowerUp
A bit of a surprise
Okay, let's cut to the chase here: it's late, we are rushing to get our articles out, and I think you all would rather see our testing results NOW rather than LATER. The first thing you should do is read my review of the AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Hawaii graphics card which goes over the new architecture, new feature set, and performance in single card configurations.
Then, you should continue reading below to find out how the new XDMA, bridge-less CrossFire implementation actually works in both single panel and 4K (tiled) configurations.
A New CrossFire For a New Generation
CrossFire has caused a lot of problems for AMD in recent months (and a lot of problems for me as well). But, AMD continues to make strides in correcting the frame pacing issues associated with CrossFire configurations and the new R9 290X moves the bar forward.
Without the CrossFire bridge connector on the 290X, all of the CrossFire communication and data transfer occurs over the PCI Express bus that connects the cards to the entire system. AMD claims that this new XDMA interface was designed for Eyefinity and UltraHD resolutions (which were the subject of our most recent article on the subject). By accessing the memory of the GPU through PCIe AMD claims that it can alleviate the bandwidth and sync issues that were causing problems with Eyefinity and tiled 4K displays.
Even better, this updated version of CrossFire is said to compatible with the frame pacing updates to the Catalyst driver to improve multi-GPU performance experiences for end users.
When an extra R9 290X accidentally fell into my lap, I decided to take it for a spin. And if you have followed my graphics testing methodology in the past year then you'll understand the important of these tests.
Get notified when we go live!