AMD launches dual-Fiji card as Radeon Pro Duo, targeting VR developers, for $1500

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 14, 2016 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: VR, radeon pro duo, radeon, Fiji, dual fiji, capsaicin, amd

It’s finally here, and AMD is ready to ship it, the much discussed and often debated dual-Fiji graphics card that the company first showed with the launch of the Fury series of Radeon cards way back in June of last year. It was unnamed then, and I started calling it the AMD Fury X2, but it seems that AMD has other plans for this massive compute powerhouse, now with a price tag of $1,499.

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As part of the company’s Capsaicin event at GDC tonight, AMD showed the AMD Radeon Pro Duo, calling it the “most powerful platform for VR” among other things. The card itself is a dual-slot configuration with what appears to be a (very thick) 120mm self-contained liquid cooler, similar to the Fury X design. You’ll need three 8-pin power connectors for the Radeon Pro Duo as well, but assuming you are investing in this kind of hardware that should be no issue.

Even with the integration of HBM to help minimize the footprint of the GPU and memory system, the Radeon Pro Duo is a bit taller than the standard bracket and is more analogous the length of a standard graphics card.

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AMD isn’t telling us much about performance in the early data provided, only mentioning again that the card provides 16 teraflops of compute performance. This is just about double that of the Fury X, single GPU variant released last year; clearly the benefit of water cooling the Pro Duo is that it can run at maximum clock speeds.

Probably the biggest change from what we learned about the dual-GPU card in June to today is its target market. AMD claims that the Radeon Pro Duo is “aimed at all aspects of the VR developer lifestyle: developing content more rapidly for tomorrow’s killer VR experiences while at work, and playing the latest DirectX® 12 experiences at maximum fidelity while off work.” Of course you can use this card for gaming – it will show up in your system just as any dual-GPU configuration would and can be taken advantage of at the same level owning two Fury X cards would.

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The Radeon Pro Duo is cooled by a rear-mounted liquid cooler in this photo

That being said, with a price tag of $1,499, it makes very little sense for gamers to invest in this product for gaming alone. Just as we have said about the NVIDIA TITAN line of products, they are the best of the best but are priced to attract developers rather than gamers. In the past AMD had ridiculed NVIDIA for this kind of move but it seems that the math just works here – the dual-Fiji card is likely a high cost, low yield, low production part. Add to that the fact that it was originally promised in Q3 2015, and that AMD has publicly stated that its Polaris-based GPUs would be ready starting in June, and the window for a consumer variant of the Radeon Pro Duo is likely closed.

"The Radeon Pro Duo is AMD's evolution of their high-end graphics card strategy with them positioning the Radeon Pro Duo more towards a content creator audience rather than gamers. This helps justify the higher price and lower volumes as well as gives developers the frame of mind to develop for multi-GPU VR from the get go rather than as an afterthought." - Anshel Sag, Analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy

For engineers, developers, educational outlets and other professional landscapes though, the pure processing power compressed into a single board will be incredibly by useful. And of course, for those gamers crazy enough out there with the unlimited budget and the need to go against our recommendations.


Update: AMD's Capsaicin livestream included some interesting slides on the new Pro Duo GPU, including some of the capabilities and a look at the cooling system.

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The industrial design has carried over from the Fury X

As we see from this slide, the Pro Duo offers 2x Fiji GPUs with 8GB of HBM, and boasts 16 TFLOPS of compute power (the AMD Nano offers 8.19 TFLOPS, so this is consistent with a dual-Nano setup).

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The cooling system is again a Cooler Master design, with a separate block for each GPU. The hoses have a nice braided cover, and lead to a very thick looking radiator with a pre-attached fan.

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From the look of the fan blades this looks like it's designed to move quite a bit of air, and it will need to considering a single (120 mm?) radiator is handling cooling for a pair of high-end GPUs. Temperatures and noise levels will be something to look for when we have hardware in hand.

AMD Live Stream and Live Blog TODAY!!

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 14, 2016 - 04:41 PM |
Tagged: video, live, capsaicin, amd

AMD is hosting an event during the Games Developer Conference called Capsaicin, focused on VR, the new Polaris architecture, and will be announcing some new products we can't discuss quite yet. (*wink*) On our PC Perspective Live! page we are hosting AMD's live stream and will be adding our commentary with a live blog. Won't you join us?
 
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The event starts at 4pm PT / 7pm ET
 
 
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 Live from the event as the team puts the final touches on tonight’s big show by AMD Radeon.
 
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Rumor: NVIDIA's Next GPU Called GTX 1080, Uses GDDR5X

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 11, 2016 - 05:03 PM |
Tagged: rumor, report, pascal, nvidia, HBM2, gtx1080, GTX 1080, gtx, GP104, geforce, gddr5x

We are expecting news of the next NVIDIA graphics card this spring, and as usual whenever an announcement is imminent we have started seeing some rumors about the next GeForce card.

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(Image credit: NVIDIA)

Pascal is the name we've all being hearing about, and along with this next-gen core we've been expecting HBM2 (second-gen High Bandwidth Memory). This makes today's rumor all the more interesting, as VideoCardz is reporting (via BenchLife) that a card called either the GTX 1080 or GTX 1800 will be announced, using the GP104 GPU core with 8GB of GDDR5X - and not HBM2.

The report also claims that NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang will have an announcement for Pascal in April, which leads us to believe a shipping product based on Pascal is finally in the works. Taking in all of the information from the BenchLife report, VideoCardz has created this list to summarize the rumors (taken directly from the source link):

  • Pascal launch in April
  • GTX 1080/1800 launch in May 27th
  • GTX 1080/1800 has GP104 Pascal GPU
  • GTX 1080/1800 has 8GB GDDR5X memory
  • GTX 1080/1800 has one 8pin power connector
  • GTX 1080/1800 has 1x DVI, 1x HDMI, 2x DisplayPort
  • First Pascal board with HBM would be GP100 (Big Pascal)

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Rumored GTX 1080 Specs (Credit: VideoCardz)

The alleged single 8-pin power connector with this GTX 1080 would place the power limit at 225W, though it could very well require less power. The GTX 980 is only a 165W part, with the GTX 980 Ti rated at 250W.

As always, only time will tell how accurate these rumors are; though VideoCardz points out "BenchLife stories are usually correct", though they are skeptical of the report based on the name GTX 1080 (though this would follow the current naming scheme of GeForce cards).

Source: VideoCardz

AMD Announces XConnect Technology for External Graphics

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 10, 2016 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: XConnect, thunderbolt 3, radeon, graphics card, gpu, gaming laptop, external gpu, amd

AMD has announced their new external GPU technology called XConnect, which leverages support from the latest Radeon driver to support AMD graphics over Thunderbolt 3.

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The technology showcased by AMD is powered by Razer, who partnered with AMD to come up with an expandable solution that supports up to 375W GPUs, including R9 Fury, R9 Nano, and all R9 300 series GPUs up to the R9 390X (there is no liquid cooling support, and the R9 Fury X isn't listed as being compatible). The notebook in AMD's marketing material is the Razer Blade Stealth, which offers the Razer Core external GPU enclosure as an optional accessory. (More information about these products from Razer here.) XConnect is not tied to any vendor, however; this is "generic driver" support for GPUs over Thunderbolt 3.

AMD has posted this video with the head of Global Technical Marketing, Robert Hallock, to explain the new tech and show off the Razer hardware:

The exciting part has to be the promise of an industry standard for external graphics, something many have hoped for. Not everyone will produce a product exactly like Razer has, since there is no requirement to provide a future upgrade path in a larger enclosure like this, but the important thing is that Thunderbolt 3 support is built in to the newest Radeon Crimson drivers.

Here are the system requirements for AMD XConnect from AMD:

  • ​Radeon Software 16.2.2 driver (or later)
  • 1x Thunderbolt 3 port
  • 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 cable
  • Windows 10 build 10586 (or later)
  • BIOS support for external graphics over Thunderbolt 3 (check with system vendor for details)
  • Certified Thunderbolt 3 graphics enclosure configured with supported Radeon R9 Series GPU
  • Thunderbolt firmware (NVM) v.16

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The announcement introduces all sorts of possibilities. How awesome would it be to see a tiny solution with an R9 Nano powered by, say, an SFX power supply? Or what about a dual-GPU enclosure (possibly requiring 2 Thunderbolt 3 connections?), or an enclosure supporting liquid cooling (and the R9 Fury X)? The potential is certainly there, and with a standard in place we could see some really interesting products in the near future (or even DIY solutions). It's a promising time for mobile gaming!

Source: AMD
Author:
Manufacturer: GitHub

A start to proper testing

During all the commotion last week surrounding the release of a new Ashes of the Singularity DX12 benchmark, Microsoft's launching of the Gears of War Ultimate Edition on the Windows Store and the company's supposed desire to merge Xbox and PC gaming, a constant source of insight for me was one Andrew Lauritzen. Andrew is a graphics guru at Intel and has extensive knowledge of DirectX, rendering, engines, etc. and has always been willing to teach and educate me on areas that crop up. The entire DirectX 12 and Unified Windows Platform was definitely one such instance. 

Yesterday morning Andrew pointed me to a GitHub release for a tool called PresentMon, a small sample of code written by a colleague of Andrew's that might be the beginnings of being able to properly monitor performance of DX12 games and even UWP games.

The idea is simple and it's implementation even more simple: PresentMon monitors the Windows event tracing stack for present commands and records data about them to a CSV file. Anyone familiar with the kind of ETW data you can gather will appreciate that PresentMon culls out nearly all of the headache of data gathering by simplifying the results into application name/ID, Present call deltas and a bit more.

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Gears of War Ultimate Edition - the debated UWP version

The "Present" method in Windows is what produces a frame and shows it to the user. PresentMon looks at the Windows events running through the system, takes note of when those present commands are received by the OS for any given application, and records the time between them. Because this tool runs at the OS level, it can capture Present data from all kinds of APIs including DX12, DX11, OpenGL, Vulkan and more. It does have limitations though - it is read only so producing an overlay on the game/application being tested isn't possible today. (Or maybe ever in the case of UWP games.) 

What PresentMon offers us at this stage is an early look at a Fraps-like performance monitoring tool. In the same way that Fraps was looking for Present commands from Windows and recording them, PresentMon does the same thing, at a very similar point in the rendering pipeline as well. What is important and unique about PresentMon is that it is API independent and useful for all types of games and programs.

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PresentMon at work

The first and obvious question for our readers is how this performance monitoring tool compares with Frame Rating, our FCAT-based capture benchmarking platform we have used on GPUs and CPUs for years now. To be honest, it's not the same and should not be considered an analog to it. Frame Rating and capture-based testing looks for smoothness, dropped frames and performance at the display, while Fraps and PresentMon look at performance closer to the OS level, before the graphics driver really gets the final say in things. I am still targeting for universal DX12 Frame Rating testing with exclusive full screen capable applications and expect that to be ready sooner rather than later. However, what PresentMon does give us is at least an early universal look at DX12 performance including games that are locked behind the Windows Store rules.

Continue reading our look at the new PresentMon tool!!

ZOTAC Introduces ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 VR Ready Mini-PC

Subject: Graphics Cards, Systems | March 10, 2016 - 11:38 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, VR, SFF, nvidia, mini-pc, MAGNUS EN980, liquid cooling, GTX980, GTX 980, graphics, gpu, geforce

ZOTAC is teasing a new mini PC "ready for virtual reality" leading up to Cebit 2016, happening later this month. The ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 supplants the EN970 as the most powerful version of ZOTAC's gaming mini systems, and will come equipped with no less than an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980.

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(Image via Guru3D)

Some questions remain ahead of a more formal announcemnent, and foremost among them is the version of the system's GTX 980. Is this the full desktop variant, or the GTX 980m? It seems to be the former, if we can read into the "factory-installed water-cooling solution", especially if that pertains to the GPU. In any case this will easily be the most powerful mini-PC ZOTAC has released, as even the current MAGNUS EN970 doesn't actually ship with a GTX 970 as the name would imply; rather, a GTX 960 handles discrete graphics duties according to the specs.

The MAGNUS EN980's GTX 980 GPU - mobile or not - will make this a formidable gaming system, paired as it is with a 6th-gen Intel Skylake CPU (the specific model was not mentioned in the press release; the current high-end EN970 with dicrete graphics uses the Intel Core i5-5200U). Other details include support for up to four displays via HDMI and DisplayPort, USB 3.0 and 3.1 Type-C inputs, and built-in 802.11ac wireless.

We'll have to wait until Cebit (which runs from March 14 - 18) for more details. Full press release after the break.

Source: ZOTAC

AMD Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.3 Released

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 9, 2016 - 07:42 PM |
Tagged: amd, radeon, graphics drivers, vulkan, dx12, DirectX 12

New graphics drivers from AMD have just been published, and it's a fairly big release. First, Catalyst 16.3 adds Vulkan support to main-branch drivers, which they claim is conformant to the 1.0 specification. The Khronos Group website still doesn't list AMD as conforming, but I assume that they will be added shortly (rather than some semantic “conformant” “fully conformant” thing going on). This is great for the platform, as we are still in the launch window of DirectX 12.

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Performance has apparently increased as well, significantly. This is especially true in the DirectX 12 title, Gears of War Ultimate Edition. AMD claims that FuryX will see up to a 60% increase in that title, and the R9 380 will gain up to 44%. It's unclear how much that is in real world performance, especially in terms of stutter and jank, which apparently plagues that game.

The driver also has a few other interesting features. One that I don't quite understand is “Power Efficiency Toggle”. This supposedly “allows the user to disable some power efficiency optimizations”. I would assume that means keeping you GPU up-clocked under certain conditions, but I don't believe that was much of an issue for the last few generations. That said, the resolved issues section claims that some games were choppy because of core clock fluctuation, and lists this option as the solution, so maybe it was. It is only available on “select” Radeon 300 GPUs and Fury X. That is, Fury X specifically, not the regular Fury or the Nano. I expect Ryan will be playing around with it in the next little while.

Last of the main features, the driver adds support for XConnect, which is AMD's new external graphics standard. It requires a BIOS that support external GPUs, which AMD lists the Razer Blade Stealth as. Also noteworthy, Eyefinity can now be enabled with just two displays, and Display Scaling can be set per-game. I avoid manually controlling drivers, even my Wacom tablet, to target specific applications, but that's probably great for those who do.

As a final note: the Ashes of the Singularity 2.0 benchmark now supports DirectFlip.

If you have a recent AMD GPU, grab the drivers from AMD's website.

Source: AMD

Ubuntu 16.04 Deprecates AMD fglrx Driver Support

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 9, 2016 - 03:30 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, graphics drivers, graphics driver, amd

AMD has been transitioning their kernel driver from the closed-source fglrx to the open-source AMDGPU driver that was announced last year. This forms the base that both closed and open user-mode drivers will utilize. For the upcoming Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Canonical has decided to deprecate fglrx and remove it from the system upon upgrade. Users can then choose to install an AMDGPU-based one, or reinstall the Radeon driver. That will need to be done without Canonical's support, though.

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It makes sense that they would choose Ubuntu 16.04 to pull the plug. This is the version that Canonical will be maintaining for the next five years, which could give a headache when AMD has spent the last year trying to get rid of it. AMDGPU is a much safer target as the years roll forward. On the other hand, GPUs prior to Fiji will not have the luxury of choosing, because AMD still hasn't announced AMDGPU for GDC (Update March 9th @ 6pm: Fixed typo) GCN 1.0 and 1.1.

Source: Ubuntu

NVIDIA Pulls 364.47 WHQL and Releases 364.51 Beta

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 9, 2016 - 11:55 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers

The last couple of days were not too great for software patches. Microsoft released a Windows 10 update that breaks 5K monitors, and NVIDIA's driver bug, mentioned in the last post, was bigger than they realized. It turns out that the issue is not isolated to multiple monitors, but rather had something to do with choosing “Express Install” in the setup screen.

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In response, NVIDIA has removed 364.47 from their website. For those who want “Game Ready” drivers with games like “The Division,” NVIDIA has provided a 364.51 beta driver that supposedly corrects this issue. People on the forums still claim to have problems with this driver, but nothing has been confirmed yet. It's difficult to tell whether other issues exist with the drivers, whether users are having unrelated issues that are attributed to the drivers, or if it's just a few hoaxes. ((Update on March 9th @ 12:41pm: Still nothing confirmed, but one of our comments claim that they've experienced issues personally.)) If you are concerned, then you can roll back to 362.00.

Fortunately for me, I chose to clean install 364.47 and have not had any issues with them. I asked a representative from NVIDIA on Twitter whether I should upgrade to 364.51, and he said that a few other bugs were fixed but I shouldn't bother.

If you managed to properly install 364.47, then you should be fine staying there.

Source: NVIDIA

Talking VR and the HTC Vive with Polygon.com's Ben Kuchera

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 8, 2016 - 10:18 PM |
Tagged: video, polygon.com, ben kuchera, VR, htc, vive, Oculus, rift

During our 12-hour live streaming event cleverly titled "Streaming Out Loud", we invited Ben Kuchera from Polygon.com to stop in and talk about a subject he is very passionate about: virtual reality. Ben has been a VR enthusiast since the beginning, getting a demo of the first Rift prototype from John Carmack himself. He was able to bring over the HTC Vive Pre unit to the office for some show and tell, answer questions about the experiences he has had so far, hardware requirements and much more.