Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 09:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: external graphics, CES 2016, CES, asus
While external graphics has been a thing for quite some time, it was rarely an available thing. Several companies, such as AMD, Lucid, and others, announced products that were never sold. ASUS had their XG Station for Windows Vista that allowed laptops to plug into a GeForce 8600 GT, which was only available in Australia. Only now are we beginning to see options from Alienware, MSI, and even Microsoft that are widely available.
ASUS is jumping back in, too. Not much is known about the XG Station 2, except that it is “specially designed for ASUS laptops and graphics cards.” This sounds like it is using a proprietary connector, similar to Alienware and MSI, to connect to ASUS laptops. Also saying it's specifically for ASUS graphics cards is a bit confusing, though. If it is an open PCIe slot, I'm not sure why or how it would be limited to ASUS cards. If the graphics cards are pre-installed, then we don't know the list of potential GPUs.
Either way, ASUS states that the dock can be disconnected without shutting down the PC. I'm interested to see how the GPU is supposed to be unplugged, as Alienware's option can only be done when the system is off, and Microsoft's Surface Book has a software detach with a hardware latch. The connector will also charge the laptop, which is an interesting add-in.
Pricing and availability varies, like the other ASUS announcements, by region.
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AMD Polaris Architecture Coming Mid-2016
In early December, I was able to spend some time with members of the newly formed Radeon Technologies Group (RTG), which is a revitalized and compartmentalized section of AMD that is taking over all graphics work. During those meetings, I was able to learn quite a bit about the plans for RTG going forward, including changes for AMD FreeSync and implementation of HDR display technology, and their plans for the GPUOpen open-sourced game development platform. Perhaps most intriguing of all: we received some information about the next-generation GPU architecture, targeted for 2016.
Codenamed Polaris, this new architecture will be the 4th generation of GCN (Graphics Core Next), and it will be the first AMD GPU that is built on FinFET process technology. These two changes combined promise to offer the biggest improvement in performance per watt, generation to generation, in AMD’s history.
Though the amount of information provided about the Polaris architecture is light, RTG does promise some changes to the 4th iteration of its GCN design. Those include primitive discard acceleration, an improved hardware scheduler, better pre-fetch, increased shader efficiency, and stronger memory compression. We have already discussed in a previous story that the new GPUs will include HDMI 2.0a and DisplayPort 1.3 display interfaces, which offer some impressive new features and bandwidth. From a multimedia perspective, Polaris will be the first GPU to include support for h.265 4K decode and encode acceleration.
This slide shows us quite a few changes, most of which were never discussed specifically that we can report, coming to Polaris. Geometry processing and the memory controller stand out as potentially interesting to me – AMD’s Fiji design continues to lag behind NVIDIA’s Maxwell in terms of tessellation performance and we would love to see that shift. I am also very curious to see how the memory controller is configured on the entire Polaris lineup of GPUs – we saw the introduction of HBM (high bandwidth memory) with the Fury line of cards.
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 31, 2015 - 06:41 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: rumor, report, radeon, Polaris, graphics card, gpu, GCN, amd
A report claims that Polaris will succeed GCN (Graphics Core Next) as the next AMD Radeon GPU core, which will power the 400-series graphics cards.
Image via VideoCardz.com
As these rumors go, this is about as convoluted as it gets. VideoCardz has published the story, sourced from WCCFtech, who was reporting on a post with supposedly leaked slides at HardwareBattle. The primary slide in question has since been pulled, and appears below:
Image via HWBattle.com
Of course the name does nothing to provide architectural information on this presumptive GCN replacement, and a new core for the 400-series GPUs was expected anyway after the 300-series was largely a rebranded 200-series (that's a lot of series). Let's hope actual details emerge soon, but for now we can speculate on mysterious tweets from certain interested parties:
— Raja Koduri (@GFXChipTweeter) November 26, 2015
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 29, 2015 - 12:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: opengl, mesa, linux, Intel
The open-source driver for Intel is known to be a little behind on Linux. Because Intel does not provide as much support as they should, the driver still does not support OpenGL 4.0, although that is changing. One large chunk of that API is support for tessellation, which comes from DirectX 11, and recent patches are adding it for supported hardware. Proprietary drivers exist, at least for some platforms, but they have their own issues.
According to the Phoronix article, once the driver succeeds in supporting OpenGL 4.0, it will not be too long to open the path to 4.2. Tessellation is a huge hurdle, partially because it involves adding two whole shading stages to the rendering pipeline. Broadwell GPUs were recently added, but a patch that was committed yesterday will expand that to Ivy Bridge and Haswell. On Windows, Intel is far ahead -- pushing OpenGL 4.4 for Skylake-based graphics, although that platform only has proprietary drivers. AMD and NVIDIA are up to OpenGL 4.5, which is the latest version.
While all of this is happening, Valve is working on an open-source Vulkan driver for Intel on Linux. This API will be released adjacent to OpenGL, and is built for high-performance graphics and compute. (Note that OpenCL is more sophisticated than Vulkan "1.0" will be on the compute side of things.) As nice as it would be to get high-end OpenGL support, especially for developers who want a more simplified structure to communicate to GPUs with, Vulkan will probably be the API that matters most for high-end video games. But again, that only applies to games that are developed for it.
May the Radeon be with You
In celebration of the release of The Force Awakens as well as the new Star Wars Battlefront game from DICE and EA, AMD sent over some hardware for us to use in a system build, targeted at getting users up and running in Battlefront with impressive quality and performance, but still on a reasonable budget. Pairing up an AMD processor, MSI motherboard, Sapphire GPU with a low cost chassis, SSD and more, the combined system includes a FreeSync monitor for around $1,200.
Holiday breaks are MADE for Star Wars Battlefront
Though the holiday is already here and you'd be hard pressed to build this system in time for it, I have a feeling that quite a few of our readers and viewers will find themselves with some cash and gift certificates in hand, just ITCHING for a place to invest in a new gaming PC.
The video above includes a list of components, the build process (in brief) and shows us getting our gaming on with Star Wars Battlefront. Interested in building a system similar the one above on your own? Here's the hardware breakdown.
|AMD Powered Star Wars Battlefront System|
|Processor||AMD FX-8370 - $197
Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO - $29
|Motherboard||MSI 990FXA Gaming - $137|
|Memory||AMD Radeon Memory DDR3-2400 - $79|
|Graphics Card||Sapphire NITRO Radeon R9 380X - $266|
|Storage||SanDisk Ultra II 240GB SSD - $79|
|Case||Corsair Carbide 300R - $68|
|Power Supply||Seasonic 600 watt 80 Plus - $69|
|Monitor||AOC G2460PF 1920x1080 144Hz FreeSync - $259|
|Total Price||Full System (without monitor) - Amazon.com - $924|
For under $1,000, plus another $250 or so for the AOC FreeSync capable 1080p monitor, you can have a complete gaming rig for your winter break. Let's detail some of the specific components.
AMD sent over the FX-8370 processor for our build, a 4-module / 8-core CPU that runs at 4.0 GHz, more than capable of handling any gaming work load you can toss at it. And if you need to do some transcoding, video work or, heaven forbid, school or productivity work, the FX-8370 has you covered there too.
For the motherboard AMD sent over the MSI 990FXA Gaming board, one of the newer AMD platforms that includes support for USB 3.1 so you'll have a good length of usability for future expansion. The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO cooler was our selection to keep the FX-8370 running smoothly and 8GB of AMD Radeon DDR3-2133 memory is enough for the system to keep applications and the Windows 10 operating system happy.
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 21, 2015 - 06:04 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: GameWorks VR 1.1, nvidia, Oculus, opengl, vive
If you are blessed with the good fortune of already having a VR headset and happen to be running an NVIDIA GPU then there is a new driver you want to grab as soon as you can. The driver includes a new OpenGL extension that enables NVIDIA SLI support for OpenGL apps that display on an Oculus or Vive. NVIDIA's PR suggests you can expect your performance to improve 1.7 times, not quite doubling but certainly offering a noticeable performance improvement. The update is for both GeForce and Quadro cards.
They describe how the update will generate images in their blog post here. They imply that the changes to your code in order to benefit from this update will be minimal and it will also reduce the CPU overhead required to display the images for the right and left eye. Read on if you are interested in the developer side of this update, otherwise download your new driver and keep an eye out for application updates that enable support for SLI in VR.
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 21, 2015 - 12:25 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: vulkan, Mantle, Khronos, dx12, DirectX 12
The Khronos Group announced on Friday that the Vulkan API will not ship until next year. The standards body was expecting to launch it at some point in 2015. In fact, when I was first briefed on it, they specifically said that 2015 was an “under-promise and over-deliver” estimate. Vulkan is an open graphics and compute standard that was derived from AMD's Mantle. It, like OpenCL 2.1, uses the SPIR-V language for compute and shading though, which can be compiled from subsets of a variety of languages.
I know that most people will be quick to blame The Khronos Group for this, because industry bodies moving slowly is a stereotype, but I don't think it applies. When AMD created Mantle, it bore some significant delays at all levels. Its drivers and software were held back, and the public release of its SDK was delayed out of existence. Again, it would be easy to blame AMD for this, but hold on. We now get to Microsoft. DirectX 12, which is maybe even closer to Mantle than Vulkan is due to its shading language, didn't roll out as aggressively as Microsoft expected, either. Software is still pretty much non-existent when they claimed, at GDC 2014, that about 50% of PC games would be DX12-compatible by Holiday 2015. We currently have... ... zero (excluding pre-release).
Say what you like about the three examples individually, but when all three show problems, then there might just be a few issues that took longer than expected to solve. Again, this is a completely different metaphor of translating voltages coming through a PCI Express bus into fancy graphics and GPU compute, and create all of the supporting ecosystems, too.
Speaking of ecosystems, The Khronos Group has also announced that Google has upgraded their membership to “Promoter” to get more involved with Vulkan development. Google has been sort-of hostile towards certain standards from The Khronos Group on Android in the past, such as disabling OpenCL on Nexus devices, and trying to steer developers into using Android Extension Pack and Renderscript. They seem to want to use Vulkan proper this time, which is always healthy for the API.
I guess look forward to Vulkan in 2016... hopefully early.
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 17, 2015 - 10:49 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, crimson, amd
That's right folks, the official AMD Radeon Software Crimson Edition 15.12 has just launched for you to install. This includes the fixes for fan speeds when you are using AMD Overdrive, your settings will stick and the fans will revert to normal after you go back to the desktop from an intense gaming session. There are multiple fixes for Star Wars Battlefront, Fallout 4 and several GUI fixes within the software itself. As always there are still a few kinks being worked out but overall it is worth popping over to AMD to grab the new driver. You should also have less issues upgrading from within Crimson after this update as well.
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 16, 2015 - 01:12 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, geforce experience, geforce
A new version of GeForce Experience was published yesterday. It is classified as a beta, which I'm guessing means that they wanted to release it before the Holidays, but they didn't want to have to fix potential, post-launch issues during the break. Thus, release it as a beta so users will just roll back if something doesn't work. On the other hand, NVIDIA is suggesting that it will be a recurring theme with their new "Early Access" program.
It has a few interesting features, though. First, it has a screenshot function that connects with Imgur. Steam's F12 function is pretty good for almost any title, but there are some times that you don't want to register the game with Steam, so a second option is welcome. They also have an overlay to control your stream, rather than just an indicator icon.
They added the ability to choose the Twitch Ingest Server, which is the server that the broadcaster connects to and delivers your stream into Twitch's back-end. I haven't used ShadowPlay for a while, but you previously needed to use whatever GeForce Experience chose. If it's not the best connection (ex: across the continent) then you basically had to deal with it. OBS and OBS Studio have these features too of course. I'll be clear: NVIDIA is playing catch-up to open source software in that area.
The last feature to be mentioned might just be the most interesting, though. A while ago, we mentioned that NVIDIA wants to allow online co-op by a GameStream-like service. They now have it, and it's called GameStream Co-op. The viewer can watch, take over your input, or register as a second gamepad. It requires a GeForce GTX 650 (or 660M) or higher.
Open Source your GPU!
As part of the AMD’s recent RTG (Radeon Technologies Group) Summit in Sonoma, the company released information about a new initiative to help drive development and evolution in the world of gaming called GPUOpen. As the name implies, the idea is to use an open source mentality to drivers, libraries, SDKs and more to improve the relationship between AMD’s hardware and the gaming development ecosystem.
When the current generation of consoles was first announced, AMD was riding a wave of positive PR that it hadn’t felt in many years. Because AMD Radeon hardware was at the root of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, game developers would become much more adept at programming for AMD’s GCN architecture and that would waterfall down to PC gamers. At least, that was the plan. In practice though I think you’d be hard pressed to find any analyst to put their name on a statement claiming that proclamation from AMD actually transpired. It just hasn’t happened – but that does not mean that it still can’t if all the pieces fall into place.
The issue that AMD, NVIDIA, and game developers have to work around is a divided development ecosystem. While on the console side programmers tend to have very close to the metal access on CPU and GPU hardware, that hasn’t been the case with PCs until very recently. AMD was the first to make moves in this area with the Mantle API but now we have DirectX 12, a competing low level API, that will have much wider reach than Mantle or Vulkan (what Mantle has become).
AMD also believes, as do many developers, that a “black box” development environment for tools and effects packages is having a negative effect on the PC gaming ecosystem. The black box mentality means that developers don’t have access to the source code of some packages and thus cannot tweak performance and features to their liking.