Testing GPU Power Draw at Increased Refresh Rates using the ASUS PG279Q

Subject: Graphics Cards, Displays | October 24, 2015 - 04:16 PM |
Tagged: ROG Swift, refresh rate, pg279q, nvidia, GTX 980 Ti, geforce, asus, 165hz, 144hz

In the comments to our recent review of the ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q G-Sync monitor, a commenter by the name of Cyclops pointed me in the direction of an interesting quirk that I hadn’t considered before. According to reports, the higher refresh rates of some panels, including the 165Hz option available on this new monitor, can cause power draw to increase by as much as 100 watts on the system itself. While I did say in the review that the larger power brick ASUS provided with it (compared to last year’s PG278Q model) pointed toward higher power requirements for the display itself, I never thought to measure the system.

To setup a quick test I brought the ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q back to its rightful home in front of our graphics test bed, connected an EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti (with GPU driver 358.50) and chained both the PC and the monitor up to separate power monitoring devices. While sitting at a Windows 8.1 desktop I cycled the monitor through different refresh rate options and then recorded the power draw from both meters after 60-90 seconds of time to idle out.


The results are much more interesting than I expected! At 60Hz refresh rate, the monitor was drawing just 22.1 watts while the entire testing system was idling at 73.7 watts. (Note: the display was set to its post-calibration brightness of just 31.) Moving up to 100Hz and 120Hz saw very minor increases in power consumption from both the system and monitor.

But the jump to 144Hz is much more dramatic – idle system power jumps from 76 watts to almost 134 watts – an increase of 57 watts! Monitor power only increased by 1 watt at that transition though. At 165Hz we see another small increase, bringing the system power up to 137.8 watts.

Interestingly we did find that the system would repeatedly jump to as much as 200+ watts of idle power draw for 30 seconds at time and then drop back down to the 135-140 watt area for a few minutes. It was repeatable and very measurable.

So, what the hell is going on? A look at GPU-Z clock speeds reveals the source of the power consumption increase.


When running the monitor at 60Hz, 100Hz and even 120Hz, the GPU clock speed sits comfortably at 135MHz. When we increase from 120Hz to 144Hz though, the GPU clock spikes to 885MHz and stays there, even at the Windows desktop. According to GPU-Z the GPU is running at approximately 30% of the maximum TDP.

Though details are sparse, it seems pretty obvious what is going on here. The pixel clock and the GPU clock are connected through the same domain and are not asynchronous. The GPU needs to maintain a certain pixel clock in order to support the required bandwidth of a particular refresh rate, and based on our testing, the idle clock speed of 135MHz doesn’t give the pixel clock enough throughput to power anything more than a 120Hz refresh rate.


Pushing refresh rates of 144Hz and higher causes a surprsing increase in power draw

The obvious question here though is why NVIDIA would need to go all the way up to 885MHz in order to support the jump from 120Hz to 144Hz refresh rates. It seems quite extreme and the increased power draw is significant, causing the fans on the EVGA GTX 980 Ti to spin up even while sitting idle at the Windows desktop. NVIDIA is aware of the complication, though it appears that a fix won’t really be in order until an architectural shift is made down the road. With the ability to redesign the clock domains available to them, NVIDIA could design the pixel and GPU clock to be completely asynchronous, increasing one without affecting the other. It’s not a simple process though, especially in a processor this complex. We have seen Intel and AMD correctly and effectively separate clocks in recent years on newer CPU designs.

What happens to a modern AMD GPU like the R9 Fury with a similar test? To find out we connected our same GPU test bed to the ASUS MG279Q, a FreeSync enabled monitor capable of 144 Hz refresh rates, and swapped the GTX 980 Ti for an ASUS R9 Fury STRIX.



The AMD Fury does not demonstrate the same phenomenon that the GTX 980 Ti does when running at high refresh rates. The Fiji GPU runs at the same static 300MHz clock rate at 60Hz, 120Hz and 144Hz and the power draw on the system only inches up by 2 watts or so. I wasn't able to test 165Hz refresh rates on the AMD setup so it is possible that at that threshold the AMD graphics card would behave differently. It's also true that the NVIDIA Maxwell GPU is running at less than half the clock rate of AMD Fiji in this idle state, and that may account for difference in pixel clocks we are seeing. Still, the NVIDIA platform draws slightly more power at idle than the AMD platform, so advantage AMD here.

For today, know that if you choose to use a 144Hz or even a 165Hz refresh rate on your NVIDIA GeForce GPU you are going to be drawing a bit more power and will be less efficient than expected even just sitting in Windows. I would bet that most gamers willing to buy high end display hardware capable of those speeds won’t be overly concerned with 50-60 watts of additional power draw, but it’s an interesting data point for us to track going forward and to compare AMD and NVIDIA hardware in the future.

Are NVIDIA and AMD ready for SteamOS?

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 23, 2015 - 03:19 PM |
Tagged: linux, amd, nvidia, steam os

Steam Machines powered by SteamOS are due to hit stores in the coming months and in order to get the best performance you need to make sure that the GPU inside the machine plays nicely with the new OS.  To that end Phoronix has tested 22 GPUs, 15 NVIDIA ranging from a GTX 460 straight through to a TITAN X and seven AMD cards from an HD 6570 through to the new R9 Fury.  Part of the reason they used less AMD cards in the testing stems from driver issues which prevented some models from functioning properly.  They tested Bioshock Infinite, both Metro 2033 games, CS:GO and one of Josh's favourites, DiRT Showdown.  The performance results may not be what you expect and are worth checking out fully.  As well Phoronix put in cost to performance findings, for budget conscious gamers.


"With Steam Machines set to begin shipping next month and SteamOS beginning to interest more gamers as an alternative to Windows for building a living room gaming PC, in this article I've carried out a twenty-two graphics card comparison with various NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon GPUs while testing them on the Debian Linux-based SteamOS 2.0 "Brewmaster" operating system using a variety of Steam Linux games."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: Phoronix

Report: AMD Radeon 400 Series Taped Out, Coming 2016

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 23, 2015 - 01:49 AM |
Tagged: tape out, rumor, report, Radeon 400 Series, radeon, graphics card, gpu, Ellesmere, Baffin, amd

Details are almost nonexistent, but a new report claims that AMD has reached tape out for an upcoming Radeon 400 series of graphics cards, which could be the true successor to the R9 200-series after the rebranded 3xx cards.


Image credit: WCCFtech

According to the report:

"AMD has reportedly taped out two of its next-gen GPUs, with "Ellesmere" and "Baffin" both taping out - and both part of the upcoming Radeon 400 series of video cards."

I wish there was more here to report, but if this is accurate we should start to hear some details about these new cards fairly soon. The important thing is that AMD is working on the new performance mainstream cards so soon after releasing what was largely a simple rebrand accross much of the 300-series GPUs this year.

Source: WCCFTech

ASUS Has Created a White AMD Radeon R9 Nano

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 23, 2015 - 12:29 AM |
Tagged: r9 nano, mITX, mini-itx, graphics card, gpu, asus, amd

AMD's Radeon R9 Nano is a really cool product, able to provide much of power of the bigger R9 Fury X without the need for more than a standard air cooler, and doing so with an impossibly tiny size for a full graphics card. And while mini-ITX graphics cards serve a small segment of the market, just who might be buying a white one when this is released?


According to a report published first by Computer Base in Germany, ASUS is releasing an all-white AMD R9 Nano, and it looks really sharp. The stock R9 Nano is no slouch in the looks department as you can see here in our full review of AMD's newest GPU, but with this design ASUS provides a totally different look that could help unify the style of your build depending on your other component choices. White is just starting to show up for things like motherboard PCBs, but it's pretty rare in part due to the difficulty in manufacturing white parts that stay white when they are subjected to heat.


There was no mention on a specific release window for the ASUS R9 Nano White, so we'll have to wait for official word on that. It is possible that ASUS has also implemented their own custom PCB, though details are not know just yet. We should know more by the end of next month according to the report.

Gigabyte GTX 980 WATERFORCE Liquid-Cooled Graphics Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 21, 2015 - 07:18 AM |
Tagged: water cooling, nvidia, liquid cooled, GTX 980 WATERFORCE, GTX 980, GPU Water Block, gigabyte, AIO

Gigabyte has announced the GeForce GTX 980 WATERFORCE water-cooled graphics card, and this one is ready to go out of the box thanks to an integrated closed-loop liquid cooler.


In addition to full liquid cooling, the card - model GV-N980WAOC-4GD - also features "GPU Gauntlet Sorting", meaning that each card has a binned GTX 980 core for better overclocking performance.

"The GTX 980 WATERFORCE is fitted with only the top-performing GPU core through the very own GPU Gauntlet Sorting technology that guarantees superior overclocking capabilities in terms of excellent power switching and thermal efficiency. Only the strongest processors survived can be qualified for the GTX 980 WATERFORCE, which can fulfill both gaming enthusiasts’ and overclockers’ expectations with greater overclocking headroom, and higher, stable boost clocks under heavy load."


The cooling system for the GTX 980 WATERFORCE begins with a full-coverage block that cools the GPU, RAM, power delivery, without the need for any additional fan for board components. The tubes carrying liquid to the radiator are 45 cm SFP, which Gigabyte says "effectively prevent...leak(s) and fare a lower coolant evaporation rate", and the system is connected to a 120 mm radiator.

Gigabyte says both the fan and the pump offer low noise output, and claim that this cooling system allows the GTX 980 WATERFORCE to "perform up to 38.8% cooler than the reference cooling" for cool and quiet gaming.


The WATERFORCE card also features two DVI outputs (reference is one dual-link output) in addition to the standard three DisplayPort 1.2 and single HDMI 2.0 outputs of a GTX 980.

Pricing and availability have not been announced.

Source: Gigabyte

NVIDIA Releases Share Beta, Requires GFE for Future Beta Driver Downloads

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 15, 2015 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce experience, beta drivers

NVIDIA just released a new driver, version 358.50, with an updated version of GeForce Experience that brings about some interesting changes to the program. First, let's talk about the positive changes, including beta access to the updated NVIDIA Share utility and improvements in GameStream.

As we detailed first with the release of the GeForce GTX 950, NVIDIA is making some impressive additions to the ShadowPlay portion of GeForce Experience, along with a rename to NVIDIA Share


The idea is to add functionality to the Shadowplay feature including an in-game overlay to control the settings and options for local recording and even an in-overlay editor and previewer for your videos. This allows the gamer to view, edit, ­snip and then upload those completed videos to YouTube directly, without ever having to leave the game. (Though you’ll obviously want to pause it before going through that process.) Capture and “Instant Replay” support is now capable of 4K / 60 Hz capture and upload as well – nice!

Besides added capability for the local recording portion of Share, NVIDIA is also adding some new features to mix. NVIDIA Share will now allow for point to point stream sharing, giving you the ability to send a link to your friend that they can open in a web browser and watch the game that you are playing with very low latency. You could use this as a way to show your friend that new skill you learned for Rocket League, to try and convince him to pick up his own copy or even just for a social event. It supports voice communication for the ability to talk smack if necessary.


But it goes beyond just viewing the game – this point to point streaming allows the remote player to take over the controls to teach the local gamer something new or to finish a difficult portion of the game you might be stuck on. And if the game supports local multiplayer, you can BOTH play as the remote gaming session will emulate a second attached Xbox / SHIELD controller to the system! This does have a time limit of 1 hour as a means to persuade game developers and publishers to not throw a hissy-fit.

The demo I saw recently was very impressive and it all worked surprisingly well out of the box.


Fans of NVIDIA local network GameStream might enjoy the upgrade to support streaming games at 4K 60 FPS - as long as you have an NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV device connected to a 4K capable TV in your home. Clearly this will make the visual presentation of your games on your television more impressive than ever and NVIDIA has added support for 5.1 channel surround sound pass through. 

There is another change coming with this release of GFE that might turn some heads surrounding the frequently updated "Game Ready" drivers NVIDIA puts out for specific game launches. These drivers have been a huge part of NVIDIA's success in recent years as the day one experience for GeForce users has been improved over AMD in many instances. It is vital for drivers and performance to be optimal on the day of a game's release as many enthusiast gamers are the ones going through the preloading process and midnight release timings. 


Future "Game Ready" drivers will no longer be made available through GeForce.com and instead will ONLY be delivered through GeForce Experience. You'll also be required to have a validated email address to get the downloads for beta drivers - though NVIDIA admitted to me you would be able to opt-out of the mailing list anytime after signing up.

NVIDIA told media that this method of driver release was planning for stuff in the future but gamers would be getting early access to new features, chances to win free hardware and the ability to take part in the driver development process like never before. Honestly though, this is a way to get users to sign up for a marketing mailing list that has some specific purpose going forward. Not all mailing lists are bad obviously (have you signed up for the PC Perspective Live! Mailing List yet?!?) but there is bound to be some raised eyebrows over this.


NVIDIA says that more than 90% of its driver downloads today already come through GeForce Experience, so changes to the user experience should be minimal. We'll wait to see how the crowd reacts but I imagine once we get past the initial shock of the change over to this system, the roll outs will be fast, clean and simple. But dammit - we fear change.

Source: NVIDIA

AMD Releases Catalyst 15.10 Beta Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 14, 2015 - 11:24 AM |
Tagged: radeon, dx12, DirectX 12, Catalyst 15.10 beta, catalyst, ashes of the singularity, amd


The AMD Catalyst 15.9 beta driver was released just two weeks ago, and already AMD is ready with a new version. 15.10 is available now and offers several bug fixes, though the point of emphasis is DX12 performance improvements to the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark.

From AMD:

Highlights of AMD Catalyst 15.10 Beta Windows Driver

Performance Optimizations:

  • Ashes of the Singularity - DirectX 12 Quality and Performance optimizations

Resolved Issues:

  • Video playback of MPEG2 video fails with a playback error/error code message
  • A TDR error or crash is experienced when running the Unreal Engine 4 DirectX benchmark
  • Star Wars: Battlefront is able to use high performance graphics when launched on mobile devices with switchable graphics
  • Intermittent playback issues with Cyberlink PowerDVD when connecting to a 3D display with an HDMI cable
  • Ashes of the Singularity - A 'Driver has stopped responding' error may be experienced in DirectX 12 mode
  • Driver installation may halt on some configurations
  • A TDR error may be experienced while toggling between minimized and maximized mode while viewing 4K YouTube content

Known Issues:

  • Ashes of the Singularity may crash on some AMD 300 series GPUs
  • Core clock fluctuations may be experienced when FreeSync and FRTC are both enabled on some AMD CrossFire systems
  • Ashes of the Singularity may fail to launch on some GPUs with 2GB Video Memory. AMD continues to work with Stardock to resolve the issue. In the meantime, deleting the game config file helps resolve the issue
  • The secondary display adapter is missing in the Device Manager and the AMD Catalyst Control Center after installing the driver on a Microsoft Windows 8.1 system
  • Elite: Dangerous - poor performance may be experienced in SuperCruise mode
  • A black screen may be encountered on bootup on Windows 10 systems. The system will ultimately continue to the Windows login screen

The driver is available now from AMD's Catalyst beta download page.

Source: AMD
Manufacturer: MSI

Quick Look

Last month NVIDIA introduced the world to the GTX 980 in a new form factor for gaming notebook. Using the same Maxwell GPU, the same performance levels but with slightly tweaked power delivery and TDPs, notebooks powered by the GTX 980 promise to be a noticeable step faster than anything before it.


Late last week I got my hands on the updated MSI GT72S Dominator Pro G, the first retail ready gaming notebook to not only integrate the new GTX 980 GPU but also an unlocked Skylake mobile processor. 

This machine is something to behold - though it looks very similar to previous GT72 versions, this machine hides hardware unlike anything we have been able to carry in a backpack before. And the sexy red exterior with MSI Dragon Army logo blazoned across the back definitely help it to stand out in a crowd. If you happen to be in a crowd of notebooks.


A quick spin around the GT72S reveals a sizeable collection of hardware and connections. On the left you'll find a set of four USB 3.0 ports as well as four audio inputs and ouputs and an SD card reader.


On the opposite side there are two more USB 3.0 ports (totalling six) and the optical / Blu-ray burner. With that many USB 3.0 ports you should never struggle with accessories availability - headset, mouse, keyboard, hard drive and portable fan? Check.

Continue reading our preview of the new MSI GT72S Dominator Pro G with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980!!

NVIDIA Releases 358.50 WHQL Game Ready Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 7, 2015 - 01:45 PM |
Tagged: opengl es 3.2, nvidia, graphics drivers, geforce

The GeForce Game Ready 358.50 WHQL driver has been released so users can perform their updates before the Star Wars Battlefront beta goes live tomorrow (unless you already received a key). As with every “Game Ready” driver, NVIDIA ensures that the essential performance and stability tweaks are rolled in to this version, and tests it against the title. It is WHQL certified too, which is a recent priority for NVIDIA. Years ago, “Game Ready” drivers were often classified as Beta, but the company now intends to pass their work through Microsoft for a final sniff test.


Another interesting addition to this driver is the inclusion of OpenGL 2015 ARB and OpenGL ES 3.2. To use OpenGL ES 3.2 on the PC, if you want to develop software in it for instance, you needed to use a separate release since it was released at SIGGRAPH. It has now been rolled into the main, public driver. The mobile devs who use their production machines to play Battlefront rejoice, I guess. It might also be useful if developers, for instance at Mozilla or Google, want to create pre-release implementations of future WebGL specs too.

Source: NVIDIA

Who Decided to Call a Lightweight API "Metal"?

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 7, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: opengl, metal, apple

Ars Technica took it upon themselves to benchmark Metal in the latest OSX El Capitan release. Even though OpenGL on Mac OSX is not considered to be on par with its Linux counterparts, which is probably due to the driver situation until recently, it pulls ahead of Metal in many situations.


Image Credit: Ars Technica

Unlike the other graphics APIs, Metal uses the traditional binding model. Basically, you have a GPU object that you attach your data to, then call one of a handful of “draw” functions to signal the driver. DirectX 12, Vulkan, and Mantle, on the other hand, treat work like commands on queues. The latter model works better in multi-core environments, and it aligns with GPU compute APIs, but the former is easier to port OpenGL and DirectX 11 applications to.

Ars Technica notes that faster GPUs, such as the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX, show higher gains than slower ones. Their “best explanation” is that “faster GPUs can offload more work from the CPU”. That is pretty much true, yes. The new APIs are designed to keep GPUs loaded and working as much as possible, because they really do sit around doing nothing a lot. If you are able to keep a GPU loaded, because it can't accept much load in the first place, then there is little benefit to decreasing CPU load or spreading out across multiple cores.

Granted, there are many ways that benchmarks like these could be incorrectly used. I'll assume that Ars Technica and GFXBench are not making any simple mistakes, though, but it's good to be critical just in case.

Source: Ars Technica