Way back in January of this year, while attending CES 2015 in Las Vegas, we wandered into the MSI suite without having any idea what we might see as new and exciting product. Besides the GT80 notebook with a mechanical keyboard on it, the MSI GS30 Shadow was easily the most interesting and exciting technology. Although MSI is not the first company to try this, the Shadow is the most recent attempt to combine the benefits of a thin and light notebook with a discrete, high performance GPU when the former is connected to the latter's docking station.
The idea has always been simple but the implementation has always been complex. Take a thin, light, moderately powered notebook that is usable and high quality in its own right and combine it with the ability to connect a discrete GPU while at home for gaming purposes. In theory, this is the best of both worlds: a notebook PC for mobile productivity and gaming capability courtesy of an external GPU. But as the years have gone on, more companies try and more companies fail; the integration process is just never as perfect a mix as we hope.
Today we see if MSI and the GS30 Shadow can fare any better. Does the combination of a very high performance thin and light notebook and the GamingDock truly create a mobile and gaming system that is worth your investment?
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 6, 2015 - 04:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: factory overclocked, powercolor pcs+, R9 290X
The lowest priced GTX 980 on Amazon is currently $530 while the PowerColor PCS+ R9 290X is $380, about 72% of the price of the GTX 980. The performance that [H]ard|OCP saw after overclocking the 290X was much closer, in some games even matching it but usually about 5-10% slower than the GTX 980, making it quite obvious which card is the better value. The GTX 970 is a different story, you can find a card for $310 and the performance is only slightly behind the 290X although the 290X takes a larger lead at higher resolutions. Read through the review carefully as the performance delta and overall smoothness varies from game to game but unless you like paying to brag about your handful of extra frames the 970 and 290X are the cards offering you the best bang for your buck.
"Today we examine what value the PowerColor PCS+ R9 290X holds compared to overclocked GeForce GTX 970. AMD's Radeon R9 290X pricing has dropped considerably since launch and constitutes a great value and competition for the GeForce GTX 970. At $350 this may be an excellent value compared to the competition."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X 8GB CrossFireX @ eTeknix
- Bitspower MSI GTX 970 Full Cover Waterblock @ Modders-Inc
- PNY GTX 980 XLR8 Pro OC Review @ Hardware Canucks
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN X Overclocking & Best Playable Settings @ Techgage
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN X @ NitroWare
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 27, 2015 - 04:02 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gtx titan x, linux, nvidia
Perhaps somewhere out there is a Linux user who wants a TITAN X and if there is they will like the results of Phoronix's testing. The card works perfectly straight out of the box with the latest 346.47 driver as well as the 349.12 Beta; if you want to use Nouveau then don't buy this card. The TITAN did not win any awards for power efficiency but for OpenCL tests, synthetic OpenGL benchmarks and Unigine on Linux it walked away a clear winner. Phoronix, and many others, hope that AMD is working on an updated Linux driver to accompany the new 300 series of cards we will see soon to help them be more competitive on open source systems.
If you are sick of TITAN X reviews by now, just skip to their 22 GPU performance roundup of Metro Redux.
"Last week NVIDIA unveiled the GeForce GTX TITAN X during their annual GPU Tech Conference. Of course, all of the major reviews at launch were under Windows and thus largely focused on the Direct3D performance. Now that our review sample arrived this week, I've spent the past few days hitting the TITAN X hard under Linux with various OpenGL and OpenCL workloads compared to other NVIDIA and AMD hardware on the binary Linux drivers."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Nvidia Geforce GTX Titan X 12GB @ Kitguru
- Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan X @ Legion Hardware
- Asus GeForce GTX 970 DirectCU Mini @ Kitguru
- ASUS STRIX GTX 960 DirectCU II OC @ [H]ard|OCP
- Zotac GeForce GTX980 AMP Omega Edition @ Bjorn3d
- PowerColor R9 285 2GB Turbo Duo @ Modders-Inc
- The Best Graphics Solution You Can Buy For Around £1000: Sapphire 295X2’s @ eTeknix
It's more than just a branding issue
As a part of my look at the first wave of AMD FreeSync monitors hitting the market, I wrote an analysis of how the competing technologies of FreeSync and G-Sync differ from one another. It was a complex topic that I tried to state in as succinct a fashion as possible given the time constraints and that the article subject was on FreeSync specifically. I'm going to include a portion of that discussion here, to recap:
First, we need to look inside the VRR window, the zone in which the monitor and AMD claims that variable refresh should be working without tears and without stutter. On the LG 34UM67 for example, that range is 48-75 Hz, so frame rates between 48 FPS and 75 FPS should be smooth. Next we want to look above the window, or at frame rates above the 75 Hz maximum refresh rate of the window. Finally, and maybe most importantly, we need to look below the window, at frame rates under the minimum rated variable refresh target, in this example it would be 48 FPS.
AMD FreeSync offers more flexibility for the gamer than G-Sync around this VRR window. For both above and below the variable refresh area, AMD allows gamers to continue to select a VSync enabled or disabled setting. That setting will be handled as you are used to it today when your game frame rate extends outside the VRR window. So, for our 34UM67 monitor example, if your game is capable of rendering at a frame rate of 85 FPS then you will either see tearing on your screen (if you have VSync disabled) or you will get a static frame rate of 75 FPS, matching the top refresh rate of the panel itself. If your game is rendering at 40 FPS, lower than the minimum VRR window, then you will again see the result of tearing (with VSync off) or the potential for stutter and hitching (with VSync on).
But what happens with this FreeSync monitor and theoretical G-Sync monitor below the window? AMD’s implementation means that you get the option of disabling or enabling VSync. For the 34UM67 as soon as your game frame rate drops under 48 FPS you will either see tearing on your screen or you will begin to see hints of stutter and judder as the typical (and previously mentioned) VSync concerns again crop their head up. At lower frame rates (below the window) these artifacts will actually impact your gaming experience much more dramatically than at higher frame rates (above the window).
G-Sync treats this “below the window” scenario very differently. Rather than reverting to VSync on or off, the module in the G-Sync display is responsible for auto-refreshing the screen if the frame rate dips below the minimum refresh of the panel that would otherwise be affected by flicker. So, in a 30-144 Hz G-Sync monitor, we have measured that when the frame rate actually gets to 29 FPS, the display is actually refreshing at 58 Hz, each frame being “drawn” one extra instance to avoid flicker of the pixels but still maintains a tear free and stutter free animation. If the frame rate dips to 25 FPS, then the screen draws at 50 Hz. If the frame rate drops to something more extreme like 14 FPS, we actually see the module quadruple drawing the frame, taking the refresh rate back to 56 Hz. It’s a clever trick that keeps the VRR goals and prevents a degradation of the gaming experience. But, this method requires a local frame buffer and requires logic on the display controller to work. Hence, the current implementation in a G-Sync module.
As you can see, the topic is complicated. So Allyn and I (and an aging analog oscilloscope) decided to take it upon ourselves to try and understand and teach the implementation differences with the help of some science. The video below is where the heart of this story is focused, though I have some visual aids embedded after it.
Still not clear on what this means for frame rates and refresh rates on current FreeSync and G-Sync monitors? Maybe this will help.
Our first DX12 Performance Results
Late last week, Microsoft approached me to see if I would be interested in working with them and with Futuremark on the release of the new 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test. Of course I jumped at the chance, with DirectX 12 being one of the hottest discussion topics among gamers, PC enthusiasts and developers in recent history. Microsoft set us up with the latest iteration of 3DMark and the latest DX12-ready drivers from AMD, NVIDIA and Intel. From there, off we went.
First we need to discuss exactly what the 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test is (and also what it is not). The feature test will be a part of the next revision of 3DMark, which will likely ship in time with the full Windows 10 release. Futuremark claims that it is the "world's first independent" test that allows you to compare the performance of three different APIs: DX12, DX11 and even Mantle.
It was almost one year ago that Microsoft officially unveiled the plans for DirectX 12: a move to a more efficient API that can better utilize the CPU and platform capabilities of future, and most importantly current, systems. Josh wrote up a solid editorial on what we believe DX12 means for the future of gaming, and in particular for PC gaming, that you should check out if you want more background on the direction DX12 has set.
One of DX12 keys for becoming more efficient is the ability for developers to get closer to the metal, which is a phrase to indicate that game and engine coders can access more power of the system (CPU and GPU) without having to have its hand held by the API itself. The most direct benefit of this, as we saw with AMD's Mantle implementation over the past couple of years, is improved quantity of draw calls that a given hardware system can utilize in a game engine.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 23, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: quadro, nvidia, m6000, gm200
Alongside the Titan X, NVIDIA has announced the Quadro M6000. In terms of hardware, they are basically the same component: 12 GB of GDDR5 on a 384-bit memory bus, 3072 CUDA cores, and a reduction in double precision performance to 1/32nd of its single precision. The memory, but not the cache, is capable of ECC (error-correction) for enterprises who do not want a stray photon to mess up their computation. That might be the only hardware difference between it and the Titan X.
Compared to other Quadro cards, it loses some double precision performance as mentioned earlier, but it will be an upgrade in single precision (FP32). The add-in board connects to the power supply with just a single eight-pin plug. Technically, with its 250W TDP, it is slightly over the rating for one eight-pin PCIe connector, but NVIDIA told Anandtech that they're confident that it won't matter for the card's intended systems.
That is probably true, but I wouldn't put it past someone to do something spiteful given recent events.
The lack of double precision performance (IEEE 754 FP64) could be disappointing for some. While NVIDIA would definitely know their own market better than I do, I was under the impression that a common workstation system for GPU compute was a Quadro driving a few Teslas (such as two of these). It would seem weird for a company to have such a high-end GPU be paired with Teslas that have such a significant difference in FP64 compute. I wonder what this means for the Tesla line, and whether we will see a variant of Maxwell with a large boost in 64-bit performance, or if that line will be in an awkward place until Pascal.
Or maybe not? Maybe NVIDIA is planning to launch products based on an unannounced, FP64-focused architecture? The aim could be to let the Quadro deal with the heavy FP32 calculations, while the customer could opt to load co-processors according to their double precision needs? It's an interesting thought as I sit here at my computer musing to myself, but then I immediately wonder why did they not announce it at GTC if that is the case? If that is the case, and honestly I doubt it because I'm just typing unfiltered thoughts here, you would think they would kind-of need to be sold together. Or maybe not. I don't know.
Pricing and availability is not currently known, except that it is “soon”.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 19, 2015 - 03:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: titan x, nvidia, gtx titan x, gm200, geforce, 4k
You have read Ryan's review of the $999 behemoth from NVIDIA and now you can take the opportunity to see what other reviewers think of the card. [H]ard|OCP tested it against the GTX 980 which shares the same cooler and is every bit as long as the TITAN X. Along the way they found a use for the 12GB of VRAM as both Watch_Dogs and Far Cry 4 used over 7GB of memory when tested at 4k resolution though the frame rates were not really playable, you will need at least two TITAN X's to pull that off. They will be revisiting this card in the future, providing more tests for a card with incredible performance and an even more incredible price.
"The TITAN X video card has 12GB of VRAM, not 11.5GB, 50% more streaming units, 50% more texture units, and 50% more CUDA cores than the current GTX 980 flagship NVIDIA GPU. While this is not our full TITAN X review, this preview focuses on what the TITAN X delivers when directly compared to the GTX 980."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Nvidia's GeForce GTX Titan X @ The Tech Report
- NVIDIA GeForce Titan X 12GB GPU Review @HiTech Legion
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X Review @ OCC
- NVIDIA GTX TITAN X Performance Review @ Hardware Canucks
- he New Single GPU King Of The Hill: A Look At NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX TITAN X @ Techgage
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X Review @ Neoseeker
- NVIDIA GeForce Titan X 12 GB @ techPowerUp
- ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX 980 Platinum vs. AMD R9 295X2 @ [H]ard|OCP
- Inno3D GeForce GTX 960 iChill X3 Air Boss Ultra @ Kitguru
- EVGA GTX 960 SuperSC SweetSpot Plus Style @ Bjorn3d
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | March 17, 2015 - 03:44 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: nvidia, DIGITS
At GTC, NVIDIA announced a new device called the DIGITS DevBox:
The DIGITS DevBox is a device that data scientists can purchase and install locally. Plugged into a single electrical outlet, this modified Corsair Air 540 case equipped with quad TITAN X (reviewed here) GPUs can crank out 28 TeraFLOPS of compute power. The installed CPU is a Haswell-E 5930K, and the system is rated to draw 1300W of power. NVIDIA is building these in-house as the expected volume is low, with these units likely going to universities and small compute research firms.
Why would you want such compute power?
DIGITS is a software package available from NVIDIA. Its purpose is to act as a tool for data scientists to manipulate deep learning environments (neural networks). This package, running on a DIGITS DevBox, will give much more compute power capability to scientists who need it for their work. Getting this tech in the hands of more scientists will accelerate this technology and lead to what NVIDIA hopes will be a ‘Big Bang’ in this emerging GPU-compute-heavy field.
Ryan interviewed the lead developer of DIGITS in the video below. This offers a great explanation (and example) of what this deep learning stuff is all about:
With the release of the GeForce GTX 980 back in September of 2014, NVIDIA took the lead in performance with single GPU graphics cards. The GTX 980 and GTX 970 were both impressive options. The GTX 970 offered better performance than the R9 290 as did the GTX 980 compared to the R9 290X; on top of that, both did so while running at lower power consumption and while including new features like DX12 feature level support, HDMI 2.0 and MFAA (multi-frame antialiasing). Because of those factors, the GTX 980 and GTX 970 were fantastic sellers, helping to push NVIDIA’s market share over 75% as of the 4th quarter of 2014.
But in the back of our mind, and in the minds of many NVIDIA fans, we knew that the company had another GPU it was holding on to: the bigger, badder version of Maxwell. The only question was going to be WHEN the company would release it and sell us a new flagship GeForce card. In most instances, this decision is based on the competitive landscape, such as when AMD might be finally updating its Radeon R9 290X Hawaii family of products with the rumored R9 390X. Perhaps NVIDIA is tired of waiting or maybe the strategy is to launch soon before Fiji GPUs make their debut. Either way, NVIDIA officially took the wraps off of the new GeForce GTX TITAN X at the Game Developers Conference two weeks ago.
At the session hosted by Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang arrived when Tim lamented about needing more GPU horsepower for their UE4 content. In his hands he had the first TITAN X GPU and talked about only a couple of specifications: the card would have 12GB of memory and it would be based on a GPU with 8 billion transistors.
Since that day, you have likely seen picture after picture, rumor after rumor, about specifications, pricing and performance. Wait no longer: the GeForce GTX TITAN X is here. With a $999 price tag and a GPU with 3072 CUDA cores, we clearly have a new king of the court.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 17, 2015 - 01:47 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: pascal, nvidia, gtc 2015, GTC, geforce
At the keynote of the GPU Technology Conference (GTC) today, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang disclosed some more updates on the roadmap for future GPU technologies.
Most of the detail was around Pascal, due in 2016, that will introduce three new features including mixed compute precision, 3D (stacked) memory, and NVLink. Mixed precision is a method of computing in FP16, allowing calculations to run much faster at lower accuracy than full single or double precision when they are not necessary. Keeping in mind that Maxwell doesn't have an implementation with full speed DP compute (today), it would seem that NVIDIA is targeting different compute tasks moving forward. Though details are short, mixed precision would likely indicate processing cores than can handle both data types.
3D memory is the ability to put memory on-die with the GPU directly to improve overall memory banwidth. The visual diagram that NVIDIA showed on stage indicated that Pascal would have 750 GB/s of bandwidth, compared to 300-350 GB/s on Maxwell today.
NVLink is a new way of connecting GPUs, improving on bandwidth by more than 5x over current implementations of PCI Express. They claim this will allow for connecting as many as 8 GPUs for deep learning performance improvements (up to 10x). What that means for gaming has yet to be discussed.
NVIDIA made some other interesting claims as well. Pascal will be more than 2x more performance per watt efficient than Maxwell, even without the three new features listed above. It will also ship (in a compute targeted product) with a 32GB memory system compared to the 12GB of memory announced on the Titan X today. Pascal will also have 4x the performance in mixed precision compute.