Specs and Hardware
The AMD Radeon Nano graphics card is unlike any product we have ever tested at PC Perspective. As I wrote and described to the best of my ability (without hardware in my hands) late last month, AMD is targeting a totally unique and different classification of hardware with this release. As a result, there is quite a bit of confusion, criticism, and concern about the Nano, and, to be upfront, not all of it is unwarranted.
After spending the past week with an R9 Nano here in the office, I am prepared to say this immediately: for users matching specific criteria, there is no other option that comes close to what AMD is putting on the table today. That specific demographic though is going to be pretty narrow, a fact that won’t necessarily hurt AMD simply due to the obvious production limitations of the Fiji and HBM architectures.
At $650, the R9 Nano comes with a flagship cost but it does so knowing full well that it will not compete in terms of raw performance against the likes of the GTX 980 Ti or AMD’s own Radeon R9 Fury X. However, much like Intel has done with the Ultrabook and ULV platforms, AMD is attempting to carve out a new market that is looking for dense, modest power GPUs in small form factors. Whether or not they have succeeded is what I am looking to determine today. Ride along with me as we journey on the roller coaster of a release that is the AMD Radeon R9 Nano.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 8, 2015 - 05:56 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: STRIX DirectCU III OC, nvidia, factory overclocked, asus, 980 Ti
The ASUS GTX 980 Ti STRIX DCIII OC comes with the newest custom cooler from ASUS and a fairly respectable factory overclock of 1216MHz, 1317MHz boost and a 7.2GHz effective clock on the impressive 6GB of VRAM. Once [H]ard|OCP had a chance to use GPUTweak II those values were increased to 1291MHz, 1392MHz boost and a 6GB VRAM clock with manual tweaking, for those who prefer automated OCing there are three modes which range from Silent to OC mode that will instantly get you ready to use the card. With an MSRP of $690 and a street price usually over $700 you have to be ready to invest a lot of hard earned cash into this card but at 4k resolutions it does outperform the Fury X by a noticeable margin.
"Today we have the custom built ASUS GTX 980 Ti STRIX DirectCU III OC 6GB video card. It features a factory overclock, extreme cooling capabilities and state of the art voltage regulation. We compare it to the AMD Radeon R9 Fury, and overclock the ASUS GTX 980 Ti STRIX DCIII to its highest potential and look at some 4K playability."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- EVGA GTX 980 Ti Classified ACX 2.0+ @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980Ti 6GB @ eTeknix
- Colorful iGame GTX 980 Ti 6GB @ techPowerUp
- MSI GTX 980 Ti Lightning Review @ OCC
- PNY GTX 980 XLR8 Review @ OCC
- MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- GTX 780 Ti vs R9 290X; The Rematch @ Hardware Canucks
- ARCTIC Accelero Hybrid III-140 vga cooler @ HardwareOverclock
- AMD Linux Graphics: The Latest Open-Source RadeonSI Driver Moves On To Smacking Catalyst @ Phoronix
- Running The AMD Radeon R9 Fury With AMD's New Open-Source Linux Driver @ Phoronix
- HIS R7 360 iCooler OC 2GB Video Card Review @ Madshrimps
- PowerColor Radeon R9 380 PCS+ Graphics Card Review @ Techgage
- Tiny Radeon R9 Nano to pack a wallop at $650 @ The Tech Report
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 2, 2015 - 05:58 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, r9 nano, Fiji, amd
Tomorrow afternoon, at 12pm PT / 3pm ET, AMD is hosting a live stream on its Twitch channel to show off and discuss a little more about the upcoming Radeon R9 Nano product we previewed last month.
I have no idea what is going to be discussed, I have no idea how long it will be and I don't really know what to expect at all other than that. Apparently AMD is going to play some games on the R9 Nano as well as talk about mods that the small form factor enables.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 2, 2015 - 11:43 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: ROG, Matrix GTX 980Ti Platinum, matrix, IFA 2015, GTX 980 Ti, DirectCU II, asus
The GTX 980 Ti has received the Matrix treatment from ASUS, and the ROG GTX 980Ti Platinum graphics card features a DirectCU II cooler with the new plasma copper color scheme.
In addition to the claimed 25% cooling advantage from the DirectCU II cooler, which also promises "3X less noise than reference cards", the Matrix Platinum is constructed with Super Alloy Power II components for maximum stability. An interesting addition is something called Memory Defroster, which ASUS explains:
"Memory Defroster is an ASUS-exclusive technology that takes overclocking to extremes – it defrosts the Matrix card's memory during subzero overclocking to ensure sustained stability."
The overbuilt ROG Matrix cards are meant to be overclocked of course, and the GTX 980Ti Platinum offers convenience features such as a one-click "Safe Mode" to restore the card's BIOS to default settings, and a color-coded load indicator that "lets users check GPU load levels at a glance".
The Matrix GTX 980 Ti Platinum also comes with a one‑year XSplit Gamecaster premium license, which is a $99 value. So what is the total cost of this card? That hasn't been announced just yet, and availability is also TBA.
To the Max?
Much of the PC enthusiast internet, including our comments section, has been abuzz with “Asynchronous Shader” discussion. Normally, I would explain what it is and then outline the issues that surround it, but I would like to swap that order this time. Basically, the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark utilizes Asynchronous Shaders in DirectX 12, but they disable it (by Vendor ID) for NVIDIA hardware. They say that this is because, while the driver reports compatibility, “attempting to use it was an unmitigated disaster in terms of performance and conformance”.
AMD's Robert Hallock claims that NVIDIA GPUs, including Maxwell, cannot support the feature in hardware at all, while all AMD GCN graphics cards do. NVIDIA has yet to respond to our requests for an official statement, although we haven't poked every one of our contacts yet. We will certainly update and/or follow up if we hear from them. For now though, we have no idea whether this is a hardware or software issue. Either way, it seems more than just politics.
So what is it?
Simply put, Asynchronous Shaders allows a graphics driver to cram workloads in portions of the GPU that are idle, but not otherwise available. For instance, if a graphics task is hammering the ROPs, the driver would be able to toss an independent physics or post-processing task into the shader units alongside it. Kollock from Oxide Games used the analogy of HyperThreading, which allows two CPU threads to be executed on the same core at the same time, as long as it has the capacity for it.
Kollock also notes that compute is becoming more important in the graphics pipeline, and it is possible to completely bypass graphics altogether. The fixed-function bits may never go away, but it's possible that at least some engines will completely bypass it -- maybe even their engine, several years down the road.
But, like always, you will not get an infinite amount of performance by reducing your waste. You are always bound by the theoretical limits of your components, and you cannot optimize past that (except for obviously changing the workload itself). The interesting part is: you can measure that. You can absolutely observe how long a GPU is idle, and represent it as a percentage of a time-span (typically a frame).
And, of course, game developers profile GPUs from time to time...
According to Kollock, he has heard of some console developers getting up to 30% increases in performance using Asynchronous Shaders. Again, this is on console hardware and so this amount may increase or decrease on the PC. In an informal chat with a developer at Epic Games, so massive grain of salt is required, his late night ballpark “totally speculative” guesstimate is that, on the Xbox One, the GPU could theoretically accept a maximum ~10-25% more work in Unreal Engine 4, depending on the scene. He also said that memory bandwidth gets in the way, which Asynchronous Shaders would be fighting against. It is something that they are interested in and investigating, though.
This is where I speculate on drivers. When Mantle was announced, I looked at its features and said “wow, this is everything that a high-end game developer wants, and a graphics developer absolutely does not”. From the OpenCL-like multiple GPU model taking much of the QA out of SLI and CrossFire, to the memory and resource binding management, this should make graphics drivers so much easier.
It might not be free, though. Graphics drivers might still have a bunch of games to play to make sure that work is stuffed through the GPU as tightly packed as possible. We might continue to see “Game Ready” drivers in the coming years, even though much of that burden has been shifted to the game developers. On the other hand, maybe these APIs will level the whole playing field and let all players focus on chip design and efficient injestion of shader code. As always, painfully always, time will tell.
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 31, 2015 - 07:19 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers, geforce, drivers
Unlike last week's 355.80 Hotfix, today's driver is fully certified by both NVIDIA and Microsoft (WHQL). According to users on GeForce Forums, this driver includes the hotfix changes, although I am still seeing a few users complain about memory issues under SLI. The general consensus seems to be that a number of bugs were fixed, and that driver quality is steadily increasing. This is also a “Game Ready” driver for Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
NVIDIA's GeForce Game Ready 355.82 WHQL Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain drivers (inhale, exhale, inhale) are now available for download at their website. Note that Windows 10 drivers are separate from Windows 7 and Windows 8.x ones, so be sure to not take shortcuts when filling out the “select your driver” form. That, or just use GeForce Experience.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | August 30, 2015 - 09:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, carrizo, Fiji, opencl, opencl 2.0
Apart from manufacturers with a heavy first-party focus, such as Apple and Nintendo, hardware is useless without developer support. In this case, AMD has updated their App SDK to include support for OpenCL 2.0, with code samples. It also updates the SDK for Windows 10, Carrizo, and Fiji, but it is not entirely clear how.
That said, OpenCL is important to those two products. Fiji has a very high compute throughput compared to any other GPU at the moment, and its memory bandwidth is often even more important for GPGPU workloads. It is also useful for Carrizo, because parallel compute and HSA features are what make it a unique product. AMD has been creating first-party software software and helping popular third-party developers such as Adobe, but a little support to the world at large could bring a killer application or two, especially from the open-source community.
The SDK has been available in pre-release form for quite some time now, but it is finally graduated out of beta. OpenCL 2.0 allows for work to be generated on the GPU, which is especially useful for tasks that vary upon previous results without contacting the CPU again.
Subject: Graphics Cards | August 27, 2015 - 05:23 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, nvidia, geforce, drivers, graphics drivers
While GeForce Hotfix driver 355.80 is not certified, or even beta, I know that a lot of our readers have issues with SLI in Windows 10. Especially in games like Battlefield 4, memory usage would expand until, apparently, a crash occurs. Since I run a single GPU, I have not experienced this issue and so I cannot comment on what happens. I just know that it was very common in the GeForce forums and in our comment section, so it was probably a big problem for many users.
If you are not experiencing this problem, then you probably should not install this driver. This is a hotfix that, as stated above, was released outside of NVIDIA's typical update process. You might experience new, unknown issues. Affected users, on the other hand, have the choice to install the fix now, which could very well be stable, or wait for a certified release later.
You can pick it up from NVIDIA's support site.
The Tiniest Fiji
Way back on June 16th, AMD held a live stream event during E3 to announce a host of new products. In that group was the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X, R9 Fury and the R9 Nano. Of the three, the Nano was the most intriguing to most of the online press as it was the one we knew the least about. AMD promised a full Fiji GPU in a package with a 6-in PCB and a 175 watt TDP. Well today, AMD is, uh, re-announcing (??) the AMD Radeon R9 Nano with more details on specifications, performance and availability.
First, let’s get this out of the way: AMD is making this announcement today because they publicly promised the R9 Nano for August. And with the final days of summer creeping up on them, rather than answer questions about another delay, AMD is instead going the route of a paper launch, but one with a known end date. We will apparently get our samples of the hardware in early September with reviews and the on-sale date following shortly thereafter. (Update: AMD claims the R9 Nano will be on store shelves on September 10th and should have "critical mass" of availability.)
Now let’s get to the details that you are really here for. And rather than start with the marketing spin on the specifications that AMD presented to the media, let’s dive into the gory details right now.
|R9 Nano||R9 Fury||R9 Fury X||GTX 980 Ti||TITAN X||GTX 980||R9 290X|
|GPU||Fiji XT||Fiji Pro||Fiji XT||GM200||GM200||GM204||Hawaii XT|
|Rated Clock||1000 MHz||1000 MHz||1050 MHz||1000 MHz||1000 MHz||1126 MHz||1000 MHz|
|Memory Clock||500 MHz||500 MHz||500 MHz||7000 MHz||7000 MHz||7000 MHz||5000 MHz|
|Memory Interface||4096-bit (HBM)||4096-bit (HBM)||4096-bit (HBM)||384-bit||384-bit||256-bit||512-bit|
|Memory Bandwidth||512 GB/s||512 GB/s||512 GB/s||336 GB/s||336 GB/s||224 GB/s||320 GB/s|
|TDP||175 watts||275 watts||275 watts||250 watts||250 watts||165 watts||290 watts|
|Peak Compute||8.19 TFLOPS||7.20 TFLOPS||8.60 TFLOPS||5.63 TFLOPS||6.14 TFLOPS||4.61 TFLOPS||5.63 TFLOPS|
AMD wasn’t fooling around, the Radeon R9 Nano graphics card does indeed include a full implementation of the Fiji GPU and HBM, including 4096 stream processors, 256 texture units and 64 ROPs. The GPU core clock is rated “up to” 1.0 GHz, nearly the same as the Fury X (1050 MHz), and the only difference that I can see in the specifications on paper is that the Nano is rated at 8.19 TFLOPS of theoretical compute performance while the Fury X is rated at 8.60 TFLOPS.
Retail Card Design
AMD is in an interesting spot right now. The general consensus is that both the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X and the R9 Fury graphics cards had successful launches into the enthusiast community. We found that the performance of the Fury X was slightly under that of the GTX 980 Ti from NVIDIA, but also that the noise levels and power draw were so improved on Fiji over Hawaii that many users would dive head first into the new flagship from the red team.
The launch of the non-X AMD Fury card was even more interesting – here was a card with a GPU performing better than the competition in a price point that NVIDIA didn’t have an exact answer. The performance gap between the GTX 980 and GTX 980 Ti resulted in a $550 graphics card that AMD had a victory with. Add in the third Fiji-based product due out in a few short weeks, the R9 Nano, and you have a robust family of products that don’t exactly dominate the market but do put AMD in a positive position unlike any it has seen in recent years.
But there are some problems. First and foremost for AMD, continuing drops in market share. With the most recent reports from multiple source claiming that AMD’s Q2 2015 share has dropped to 18%, an all-time low in the last decade or so, AMD needs some growth and they need it now. Here’s the catch: AMD can’t make enough of the Fiji chip to affect that number at all. The Fury X, Fury and Nano are going to be hard to find for the foreseeable future thanks to production limits on the HBM (high bandwidth memory) integration; that same feature that helps make Fiji the compelling product it is. I have been keeping an eye on the stock of the Fury and Fury X products and found that it often can’t be found anywhere in the US for purchase. Maybe even more damning is the fact that the Radeon R9 Fury, the card that is supposed to be the model customizable by AMD board partners, still only has two options available: the Sapphire, which we reviewed when it launched, and the ASUS Strix R9 Fury that we are reviewing today.
AMD’s product and financial issues aside, the fact is that the Radeon R9 Fury 4GB and the ASUS Strix iteration of it are damned good products. ASUS has done its usual job of improving on the design of the reference PCB and cooler, added in some great features and packaged it up a price that is competitive and well worth the investment for enthusiast gamers. Our review today will only lightly touch on out-of-box performance of the Strix card mostly because it is so similar to that of the initial Fury review we posted in July. Instead I will look at the changes to the positioning of the AMD Fury product (if any) and how the cooler and design of the Strix product helps it stand out. Overclocking, power consumption and noise will all be evaluated as well.