Computex 2014: ASUS Announces ROG ARES III Water-Cooled Gaming Graphics Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 2, 2014 - 11:41 PM |
Tagged: computex, radeon, r9 295x2, Hawaii XT, dual gpu, computex 2014, ASUS ROG, asus, Ares, amd

The latest installment in the ASUS ARES series of ultra-powerful, limited-edition graphics cards has been announced, and the Ares III is set to be the “world’s fastest” video card.

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The ARES III features a full EK water block

The dual-GPU powerhouse is driven by two “hand-selected” Radeon Hawaii XT GPUs (R9 290X cores) with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. The card is overclockable according to ASUS, and will likely arrive factory overclocked as they claim it will be faster out of the box than the reference R9-295x2. The ARES III features a custom-designed EK water block, so unlike the R9 295x2 the end user will need to supply the liquid cooling loop.

ASUS claims that the ARES III will “deliver 25% cooler performance than reference R9 295X designs“, but to achieve this ASUS “highly” recommends a high flow rate loop with at least a 120x3 radiator “to extract maximum performance from the card,” and they “will provide a recommended list of water cooling systems at launch”.

Only 500 of the ARES III will be made, and are individually numbered. No pricing has been announced, but ASUS says to expect it to be more than a 295x2 ($1499) - but less than a TITAN Z ($2999). The ASUS ROG ARES III will be available in Q3 2014.

For more Computex 2014 coverage, please check out our feed!

Source: ASUS

NVIDIA Launches GeForce Experience 2.1

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 2, 2014 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, geforce experience, ShadowPlay

NVIDIA has just launched another version of their GeForce Experience, incrementing the version to 2.1. This release allows video of up to "2500x1600", which I assume means 2560x1600, as well as better audio-video synchronization in Adobe Premiere. Also, because why stop going after FRAPS once you start, it also adds an in-game framerate indicator. It also adds push-to-talk for recording the microphone.

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Another note: when GeForce Experience 2.0 launched, it introduced streaming of the user's desktop. This allowed recording of OpenGL and windowed-mode games by simply capturing an entire monitor. This mode was not capable of "Shadow Mode", which I believed was because they thought users didn't want a constant rolling video to be taken of their desktop in the event that they wanted to save a few minutes of it at some point. Turns out that I was wrong; the feature was coming and it arrived with GeForce Experience 2.1.

GeForce Experience 2.1 is now available at NVIDIA's website, unless it already popped up a notification for you.

Source: NVIDIA

AMD Catalyst Driver 14.6 BETA released

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 28, 2014 - 07:17 PM |
Tagged: driver, Catalyst 14.4 beta, amd

Get the latest Catalyst for your Radeon!

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  • Starting with AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta, AMD will no longer support Windows 8.0 (and the WDDM 1.2 driver) Windows 8.0 users should upgrade (for Free) to Windows 8.1 to take advantage of the new features found in the AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta
  • AMD Catalyst 14.4 will remain available for users who wish to remain on Windows 8 A future AMD Catalyst release will allow for the WDDM 1.1 (Windows 7 driver) to be installed under Windows 8.0 for those users unable to upgrade to Windows 8.1
  • The AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta Driver can be downloaded from the following links: AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta Driver for Windows
  • NOTE! This Catalyst Driver is provided "AS IS", and under the terms and conditions of the End User License Agreement provided with it.

Featured Improvements

  • Performance improvements
    • Watch Dogs performance improvements AMD Radeon R9 290X - 1920x1080 4x MSAA – improves up to 25%
    • AMD Radeon R9290X - 2560x1600 4x MSAA – improves up to 28%
    • AMD Radeon R9290X CrossFire configuration (3840x2160 Ultra settings, MSAA = 4X) - 92% scaling
  • Murdered Soul Suspect performance improvements
    • AMD Radeon R9 290X – 2560x1600 4x MSAA – improves up to 16%
    • AMD Radeon R9290X CrossFire configuration (3840x2160 Ultra settings, MSAA = 4X) - 93% scaling
  • AMD Eyefinity enhancements: Mixed Resolution Support
    • A new architecture providing brand new capabilities
    • Display groups can be created with monitors of different resolution (including difference sizes and shapes)
    • Users have a choice of how surface is created over the display group
      • Fill – legacy mode, best for identical monitors
      • Fit – create the Eyefinity surface using best available rectangular area with attached displays.
      • Expand – create a virtual Eyefinity surface using desktops as viewports onto the surface.
  • Eyefinity Display Alignment
    • Enables control over alignment between adjacent monitors
    • One-Click Setup Driver detects layout of extended desktops
    • Can create Eyefinity display group using this layout in one click!
    • New user controls for video color and display settings
  • Greater control over Video Color Management:
    • Controls have been expanded from a single slider for controlling Boost and Hue to per color axis
    • Color depth control for Digital Flat Panels (available on supported HDMI and DP displays)
    • Allows users to select different color depths per resolution and display
  • AMD Mantle enhancements
    • Mantle now supports AMD Mobile products with Enduro technology
    • Battlefield 4: AMD Radeon HD 8970M (1366x768; high settings) – 21% gain
    • Thief: AMD Radeon HD 8970M (1920x1080; high settings) – 14% gain
    • Star Swarm: AMD Radeon HD 8970M (1920x1080; medium settings) – 274% gain
    • Enables support for Multi-GPU configurations with Thief (requires the latest Thief update)

... and much more, grab it here.

Source: AMD
Author:
Manufacturer: Various

The AMD Argument

Earlier this week, a story was posted in a Forbes.com blog that dove into the idea of NVIDIA GameWorks and how it was doing a disservice not just on the latest Ubisoft title Watch_Dogs but on PC gamers in general. Using quotes from AMD directly, the author claims that NVIDIA is actively engaging in methods to prevent game developers from optimizing games for AMD graphics hardware. This is an incredibly bold statement and one that I hope AMD is not making lightly. Here is a quote from the story:

Gameworks represents a clear and present threat to gamers by deliberately crippling performance on AMD products (40% of the market) to widen the margin in favor of NVIDIA products. . . . Participation in the Gameworks program often precludes the developer from accepting AMD suggestions that would improve performance directly in the game code—the most desirable form of optimization.

The example cited on the Forbes story is the recently released Watch_Dogs title, which appears to show favoritism towards NVIDIA GPUs with performance of the GTX 770 ($369) coming close the performance of a Radeon R9 290X ($549).

It's evident that Watch Dogs is optimized for Nvidia hardware but it's staggering just how un-optimized it is on AMD hardware.

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Watch_Dogs is the latest GameWorks title released this week.

I decided to get in touch with AMD directly to see exactly what stance the company was attempting to take with these kinds of claims. No surprise, AMD was just as forward with me as they appeared to be in the Forbes story originally.

The AMD Stance

Central to AMD’s latest annoyance with the competition is the NVIDIA GameWorks program. First unveiled last October during a press event in Montreal, GameWorks combines several NVIDIA built engine functions into libraries that can be utilized and accessed by game developers to build advanced features into games. NVIDIA’s website claims that GameWorks is “easy to integrate into games” while also including tutorials and tools to help quickly generate content with the software set. Included in the GameWorks suite are tools like VisualFX which offers rendering solutions like HBAO+, TXAA, Depth of Field, FaceWorks, HairWorks and more. Physics tools include the obvious like PhysX while also adding clothing, destruction, particles and more.

Continue reading our editorial on the verbal battle between AMD and NVIDIA about the GameWorks program!!

Futuremark Announces 3DMark Sky Diver Benchmark

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 28, 2014 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: benchmarking, 3dmark

HELSINKI, FINLAND – May 28, 2014 – Futuremark today announced 3DMark Sky Diver, a new DirectX 11 benchmark test for gaming laptops and mid-range PCs. 3DMark Sky Diver is the ideal test for benchmarking systems with mainstream DirectX 11 graphics cards, mobile GPUs, or integrated graphics. A preview trailer for the new benchmark shows a wingsuited woman skydiving into a mysterious, uncharted location. The scene is brought to life with tessellation, particles and advanced post-processing effects. Sky Diver will be shown in full at Computex from June 3-7, or find out more on the Futuremark website.

Jukka Mäkinen, Futuremark CEO said, "Some people think that 3DMark is only for high-end hardware and extreme overclocking. Yet millions of PC gamers rely on 3DMark to choose systems that best balance performance, efficiency and affordability. 3DMark Sky Diver complements our other tests by providing the ideal benchmark for gaming laptops and mainstream PCs."

3DMark - The Gamer's Benchmark for all your hardware
3DMark is the only benchmark that offers a range of tests for different classes of hardware:

  • Fire Strike, for high performance gaming PCs (DirectX 11, feature level 11)
  • Sky Diver, for gaming laptops and mid-range PCs (DirectX 11, feature level 11)
  • Cloud Gate, for notebooks and typical home PCs (DirectX 11 feature level 10)
  • Ice Storm, for tablets and entry level PCs (DirectX 11 feature level 9)

With 3DMark, you can benchmark the full performance range of modern DirectX 11 graphics hardware. Where Fire Strike is like a modern game on ultra high settings, Sky Diver is closer to a DirectX 11 game played on normal settings. This makes Sky Diver the best choice for benchmarking entry level to mid-range systems and Fire Strike the perfect benchmark for high performance gaming PCs.

See 3DMark Sky Diver in full at Computex
3DMark Sky Diver will be on display on the ASUS, MSI, GIGABYTE, Galaxy, Inno3D, and G-Skill booths at Computex, June 3-7.

S.Y. Shian, ASUS Vice President & General Manager of Notebook Business Unit said,

"We are proud to partner with Futuremark to show 3DMark Sky Diver at Computex. Sky Diver helps PC gamers choose systems that offer great performance and great value. We invite everyone to visit our stand to experience 3DMark Sky Diver on a range of new ASUS products."

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Sky Diver will be released as an update for all editions of 3DMark, including the free 3DMark Basic Edition. 

Source: Futuremark

NVIDIA Finally Launches GeForce GTX Titan Z Graphics Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 28, 2014 - 11:19 AM |
Tagged: titan z, nvidia, gtx, geforce

Though delayed by a month, today marks the official release of NVIDIA's Titan Z graphics card, the dual GK110 beast with the $3000 price tag. The massive card was shown for the first time in March at NVIDIA's GPU Technology Conference and our own Tim Verry was on the grounds to get the information

The details remain the same:

Specifically, the GTX TITAN Z is a triple slot graphics card that marries two full GK110 (big Kepler) GPUs for a total of 5,760 CUDA cores, 448 TMUs, and 96 ROPs with 12GB of GDDR5 memory on a 384-bit bus (6GB on a 384-bit bus per GPU). For the truly adventurous, it appears possible to SLI two GTX Titan Z cards using the single SLI connector. Display outputs include two DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort connector.

The difference now of course is that all the clock speeds and pricing are official. 

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A base clock speed of 705 MHz with a Boost rate of 876 MHz places it well behind the individual GPU performance of a GeForce GTX 780 Ti or GTX Titan Black (rated at 889/980 MHz). The memory clock speed remains the same at 7.0 Gbps and you are still getting a massive 6GB of memory per GPU.

Maybe most interesting with the release of the GeForce GTX Titan Z is that NVIDIA seems to have completely fixated on non-DIY consumers with the card. We did not receive a sample of the Titan Z (nor did we get one of the Titan Black) and when I inquired as to why, NVIDIA PR stated that they were "only going to CUDA developers and system builders."

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I think it is more than likely that after the release of AMD's Radeon R9 295X2 dual GPU graphics card on April 8th, with a price tag of $1500 (half of the Titan Z), the target audience was redirected. NVIDIA already had its eye on the professional markets that weren't willing to dive into the Quadro/Tesla lines (CUDA developers will likely drop $3k at the drop of a hat to get this kind of performance density). But a side benefit of creating the best flagship gaming graphics card on the planet was probably part of the story - and promptly taken away by AMD.

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I still believe the Titan Z will be an impressive graphics card to behold both in terms of look and style and in terms of performance. But it would take the BIGGEST NVIDIA fans to be able to pass up buying a pair of Radeon R9 295X2 cards for a single GeForce GTX Titan Z. At least that is our assumption until we can test one for ourselves.

I'm still working to get my hands on one of these for some testing as I think the ultra high end graphics card coverage we offer is incomplete without it. 

Several of NVIDIA's partners are going to be offering the Titan Z including EVGA, ASUS, MSI and Zotac. Maybe the most intersting though is EVGA's water cooled option!

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So, what do you think? Anyone lining up for a Titan Z when they show up for sale?

AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta Driver Now Available, Adds Mixed Resolution Eyefinity

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 27, 2014 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: radeon, R9, R7, eyefinity, amd

AMD has just launched their Catalyst 14.6 Beta drivers for Windows and Linux. This driver will contain performance improvements for Watch Dogs, launching today in North America, and Murdered: Soul Suspect, which arrives next week. On Linux, the driver now supports Ubuntu 14.04 and its installation process has been upgraded for simplicity and user experience.

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Unless performance improvements are more important to you, the biggest feature is the support for Eyefinity with mixed resolutions. With Catalyst 14.6, you no longer need a grid of identical monitors. One example use case, suggested by AMD, is a gamer who purchases an ultra-wide 2560x1080 monitor. They will be able to add a pair of 1080p monitors on either side to create a 6400x1080 viewing surface.

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If the monitors are very mismatched, the driver will allow users to letterbox to the largest rectangle contained by every monitor, or "expand" to draw the largest possible rectangle (which will lead to some assets drawing outside of any monitor). A third mode, fill, behaves like Eyefinity currently does. I must give AMD a lot of credit for leaving the choice to the user.

Returning to performance with actual figures, AMD claims "up to" 25% increases in Watch Dogs at 1080p or 28% at 1600p, compared to the previous version. The new CrossFire profile also claims up to 99% scaling in that game, at 2560x1600 with 8x MSAA. Murdered: Soul Suspect will see "up to" 16% improvements on a single card, and "up to" 93% scaling. Each of these results were provided by AMD, which tested on Radeon R9 290X cards. If these CrossFire profiles (well, first, are indicative of actual performance, and) see 99% scaling across two cards, that is pretty remarkable.

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A brief mention, AMD has also expanded their JPEG decoder to Kabini. Previously, it was available to Kaveri, as of Catalyst 14.1. This allows using the GPU to display images, with their test showing a series of images being processed in about half of the time. While not claimed by AMD, I expect that the GPU will also be more power-efficient (as the processor can go back to its idle state much quicker, despite activitating another component to do so). Ironically, the three images I used for this news post are encoded in PNG. You might find that amusing.

AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta Drivers should be now available at their download site.

Source: AMD

What if you can't afford that second R9 295X2?

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 26, 2014 - 05:16 PM |
Tagged: amd, radeon, r9 295x2, R9 290X

Through hard work or good luck you find yourself the proud owner of an R9 295X2 and a 4K display but somehow the performance just isn't quite good enough.  You can't afford another X2 though there is an R9 290X in your price range but you just aren't sure if it will help your system out at all.  That is where [H]ard|OCP steps in with this review where they prove that tri-fire in this configuration does indeed work.  Not only does it work, it allows you to vastly increase your performance over a 295X2 or to improve the performance somewhat while raising your graphics settings to new highs.  For those using 5760x1200 Eyefinity you probably already have your graphics options cranked; this upgrade will still offer you a linear increase in performance.  Not bad if you have the money to invest!

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"Will adding a single AMD Radeon R9 290X video card to the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 work? Will you get triple-GPU performance, ala TriFire CrossFire performance? This just might be a more financially feasible configuration for gamers versus QuadFire that provides a great gaming experience in Eyefinity and 4K resolutions."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

NVIDIA Tegra K1 Benchmarks Spotted

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | May 22, 2014 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: tegra k1, nvidia, iris pro, iris, Intel, hd 4000

The Chinese tech site, Evolife, acquired a few benchmarks for the Tegra K1. We do not know exactly where they got the system from, but we know that it has 4GB of RAM and 12 GB of storage. Of course, this is the version with four ARM Cortex-A15 cores (not the upcoming, 64-bit version based on Project Denver). On 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, it was capable of 25737 points, full system.

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Image Credit: Evolife.cn

You might remember that our tests with an Intel Core i5-3317U (Ivy Bridge), back in September, achieved a score of 25630 on 3DMark Ice Storm. Of course, that was using the built-in Intel HD 4000 graphics, not a discrete solution, but it still kept up for gaming. This makes sense, though. Intel HD 4000 (GT2) graphics has a theoretical performance of 332.8 GFLOPs, while the Tegra K1 is rated at 364.8 GFLOPs. Earlier, we said that its theoretical performance is roughly on par with the GeForce 9600 GT, although the Tegra K1 supports newer APIs.

Of course, Intel has released better solutions with Haswell. Benchmarks show that Iris Pro is able to play Battlefield 4 on High settings, at 720p, with about 30FPS. The HD 4000 only gets about 12 FPS with the same configuration (and ~30 FPS on Low). This is not to compare Intel to NVIDIA's mobile part, but rather compare Tegra K1 to modern, mainstream laptops and desktops. It is getting fairly close, especially with the first wave of K1 tablets entering at the mid-$200 USD MSRP in China.

As a final note...

There was a time where Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, said that the difference between high-end and low-end PCs "is something like 100x". Scaling a single game between the two performance tiers would be next-to impossible. He noted that ten years earlier, that factor was more "10x".

Now, an original GeForce Titan is about 12x faster than the Tegra K1 and they support the same feature set. In other words, it is easier to develop a game for the PC and high-end tablet than it was to develop an PC game for high-end and low-end machines, back in 2008. PC Gaming is, once again, getting healthier.

Source: Evolife.cn

AMD Radeon R9 Prices Have Leveled Out, R9 280 Drops to $249

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 15, 2014 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, r9 290, r9 280x, r9 280, amd

Just the other day AMD sent out an email to the media to discuss the current pricing situation of the Radeon R9 series of graphics cards. This email started with the following statement.

You’ve seen many articles, discussions online about the AMD Radeon™ R9 lineup – especially chatter about pricing and availability. As we’ve talked about it before, the demand for the R9 lineup has been nothing but astonishing, and went well beyond our most optimistic expectations. That created a situation where gamers weren’t able to purchase their desired R9 graphics card.

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Clearly AMD would not bring up the subject if the current situation was BAD news so guess what? All seems to be back normal (or expected) in terms of AMD Radeon R9 pricing and card availability. Take a look at the table below to get an idea of where Radeon's currently stand.

  Amazon.com Newegg.com
Radeon R9 295X2 $1524 $1499
Radeon R9 290X  $549 $529
Radeon R9 290 $379 $399
Radeon R9 280X $289 $299
Radeon R9 280 $249 $249
Radeon R9 270X $199 $189
Radeon R9 270 $169 $179

There is one price change that differs from the products' launch - the SEP of the Radeon R9 280 has dropped from $279 to $249. Nothing dramatic but a nice change.

Maybe most interesting is this line from the AMD email.

Now that product is available and at suggested pricing, these prices will remain stable. No more madness like you saw in Q1.

That emphasis is AMD's. I'm not quite sure how the company thinks they can keep a tight control on pricing now if it wasn't able to do so before, but more than likely, with the rush for coin mining hardware somewhat dying off, the prediction will hold true. (As a side note, there appears to be some discounts to be found on used Radeon hardware these days...)

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Of course the AMD bundling promotion known as Never Settle Forever is still going strong with these new prices as well. Scott wrote up a story detailing this latest incarnation of the promotion and he and I both agree that while free is always good great, the age of most of the titles in the program is a bit of a problem. But AMD did note in this email that they have "lined up a few brand new games to add to this promotion, and they'll [sic] be sharing more info with you in the next few weeks!"