So Long Adware, and Thanks for All the Fish!

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 1, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: superfish, Lenovo, bloatware, adware

Obviously, this does not forget the controversy that Lenovo got themselves into, but it is certainly the correct response (if they act how they imply). Adware and bloatware is common to find on consumer PCs, which makes the slowest of devices even more sluggish as demos and sometimes straight-up advertisements claim their share of your resources. This does not even begin to discuss the security issues that some of these hitchhikers drag in. Again, I refer you to the aforementioned controversy.

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In response, albeit a delayed one, Lenovo has announced that, by the launch of Windows 10, they will only pre-install the OS and “related software”. Lenovo classifies this related software as drivers, security software, Lenovo applications, and applications for “unique hardware” (ex: software for an embedded 3D camera).

It looks to be a great step, but I need to call out “security software”. Windows 10 should ship with Microsoft's security applications in many regions, which really questions why a laptop provider would include an alternative. If the problem is that people expect McAfee or Symantec, then advertise pre-loaded Microsoft anti-malware and keep it clean. Otherwise, it feels like keeping a single finger in the adware take-a-penny dish.

At least it is not as bad as trying to install McAfee every time you update Flash Player. I consider Adobe's tactic the greater of two evils on that one. I mean, unless Adobe just thinks that Flash Player is so insecure that you would be crazy to install it without a metaphorical guard watching over your shoulder.

And then of course we reach the divide between “saying” and “doing”. We will need to see Lenovo's actual Windows 10 devices to find out if they kept their word, and followed its implications to a tee.

Source: Lenovo

Imagination Launches PowerVR GT7900, "Super-GPU" Targeting Consoles

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | February 26, 2015 - 02:15 PM |
Tagged: super-gpu, PowerVR, Imagination Technologies, gt7900

As a preview to announcements and releases being made at both Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the Game Developers Summit (GDC) next week, Imagination Technologies took the wraps off of a new graphics product they are calling a "super-GPU". The PowerVR GT7900 is the new flagship GPU as a part of its Series7XT family that is targeting a growing category called "affordable game consoles." Think about the Android-powered set-top devices like the Ouya or maybe Amazon's Kindle TV.

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PowerVR breaks up its GPU designs into unified shading clusters (USCs) and the GT7900 has 16 of them for a total of 512 ALU cores. Imagination has previously posted a great overview of its USC architecture design and how you can compare its designs to other GPUs on the market. Imagination wants to claim that the GT7900 will offer "PC-class gaming experiences" though that is as ambiguous as the idea of a work load of a "console-level game." But with rated peak performance levels hitting over 800 GFLOPS in FP32 and 1.6 TFLOPS in FP16 (half-precision) this GPU does have significant theoretical capability.

  PowerVR GT7900 Tegra X1
Vendor Imagination Technologies NVIDIA
FP32 ALUs 512 256
FP32 GFLOPS 800 512
FP16 GFLOPS 1600 1024
GPU Clock 800 MHz 1000 MHz
Process Tech 16nm FinFET+ 20nm TSMC

Imagination also believes that PowerVR offers a larger portion of its peak performance for a longer period of time than the competition thanks to the tile-based deferred rendering (TBDR) approach that has been "refined over the years to deliver unmatched efficiency."

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The FP16 performance number listed above is useful as an extreme power savings option where the half-precision compute operates in a much more efficient manner. A fair concern is how many applications, GPGPU or gaming, actually utilize the FP16 data type but having support for it in the GT7900 allows developers to target it.

Other key features of the GT7900 include support for OpenGL ES 3.1 + AEP (Android Extension Pack), hardware tessellation and ASTC LDR and HDR texture compression standards. The GPU also can run in a multi-domain virtualization mode that would allow multiple operating systems to run in parallel on a single platform.

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Imagination believes that this generation of PowerVR will "usher a new era of console-like gaming experiences" and will showcase a new demo at GDC called Dwarf Hall.

I'll be at GDC next week and have already setup a meeting with Imagination to talk about the GT7900 so I can have some hands on experiences to report back with soon. I am continually curious about the market for these types of high-end "mobile" GPUs with the limited market that the Android console market currently addresses. Imagination does claim that the GT7900 is beating products with performance levels as high as the GeForce GT 730M discrete GPU - no small feat.

Author:
Manufacturer: Asus

Quiet, Efficient Gaming

The last few weeks have been dominated by talk about the memory controller of the Maxwell based GTX 970.  There are some very strong opinions about that particular issue, and certainly NVIDIA was remiss on actually informing consumers about how it handles the memory functionality of that particular product.  While that debate rages, we have somewhat lost track of other products in the Maxwell range.  The GTX 960 was released during this particular firestorm and, while it also shared the outstanding power/performance qualities of the Maxwell architecture, it is considered a little overpriced when compared to other cards in its price class in terms of performance.

It is easy to forget that the original Maxwell based product to hit shelves was the GTX 750 series of cards.  They were released a year ago to some very interesting reviews.  The board is one of the first mainstream cards in recent memory to have a power draw that is under 75 watts, but can still play games with good quality settings at 1080P resolutions.  Ryan covered this very well and it turned out to be a perfect gaming card for many pre-built systems that do not have extra power connectors (or a power supply that can support 125+ watt graphics cards).  These are relatively inexpensive cards and very easy to install, producing a big jump in performance as compared to the integrated graphics components of modern CPUs and APUs.

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The GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti have proven to be popular cards due to their overall price, performance, and extremely low power consumption.  They also tend to produce a relatively low amount of heat, due to solid cooling combined with that low power consumption.  The Maxwell architecture has also introduced some new features, but the major changes are to the overall design of the architecture as compared to Kepler.  Instead of 192 cores per SMK, there are now 128 cores per SMM.  NVIDIA has done a lot of work to improve performance per core as well as lower power in a fairly dramatic way.  An interesting side effect is that the CPU hit with Maxwell is a couple of percentage points higher than Kepler.  NVIDIA does lean a bit more on the CPU to improve overall GPU power, but most of this performance hit is covered up by some really good realtime compiler work in the driver.

Asus has taken the GTX 750 Ti and applied their STRIX design and branding to it.  While there are certainly faster GPUs on the market, there are none that exhibit the power characteristics of the GTX 750 Ti.  The combination of this GPU and the STRIX design should result in an extremely efficient, cool, and silent card.

Click to read the rest of the review of the Asus STRIX GTX 750 Ti!

NVIDIA Faces Class Action Lawsuit for the GeForce GTX 970

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 23, 2015 - 04:12 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, GTX 970

So apparently NVIDIA and a single AIB partner, Gigabyte, are facing a class action lawsuit because of the GeForce GTX 970 4GB controversy. I am not sure why they singled out Gigabyte, but I guess that is the way things go in the legal world. Unlucky for them, and seemingly lucky for the rest.

nvidia-970-architecture.jpg

For those who are unaware, the controversy is based on NVIDIA claiming that the GeForce GTX 970 has 4GB of RAM, 64 ROPs, and 2048 KB of L2 Cache. In actuality, it has 56 ROPs and 1792KB of L2 Cache. The main talking point is that the RAM is segmented into two partitions, one that is 3.5GB and another that is 0.5GB. All 4GB are present on the card though, and accessible (unlike the disable L2 Cache and ROPs). Then again, I cannot see an instance in that class action lawsuit's exhibits which claim an incorrect number of ROPs or amount of L2 Cache.

Again, the benchmarks that you saw when the GeForce GTX 970 launched are still valid. Since the issue came up, Ryan has also tried various configurations of games in single- and multi-GPU systems to find conditions that would make the issue appear.

Source: Court Filing

Windows Update Installs GeForce 349.65 with WDDM 2.0

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 21, 2015 - 04:23 PM |
Tagged: wddm 2.0, nvidia, geforce 349.65, geforce, dx12

Update 2: Outside sources have confirmed to PC Perspective that this driver contains DirectX 12 as well as WDDM 2.0. They also claim that Intel and AMD have DirectX 12 drivers available through Windows Update as well. After enabling iGPU graphics on my i7-4790K, the Intel HD 4600 received a driver update, which also reports as WDDM 2.0 in DXDIAG. I do not have a compatible AMD GPU to test against (just a couple of old Windows 7 laptops) but the source is probably right and some AMD GPUs will be updated to DX12 too.

So it turns out that if your motherboard dies during a Windows Update reboot, then you are going to be spending several hours reinstalling software and patches, but that is not important. What is interesting is the installed version number for NVIDIA's GeForce Drivers when Windows Update was finished with its patching: 349.65. These are not available on NVIDIA's website, and the Driver Model reports WDDM 2.0.

nvidia-34965-driver.png

It looks like Microsoft pushed out NVIDIA's DirectX 12 drivers through Windows Update. Update 1 Pt. 1: The "Runtime" reporting 11.0 is confusing though, perhaps this is just DX11 with WDDM 2.0?

nvidia-34965-dxdiag.png

I am hearing online that these drivers support the GeForce 600 series and later GPUs, and that there are later, non-public drivers available (such as 349.72 whose release notes were leaked online). NVIDIA has already announced that DirectX 12 will be supported on GeForce 400-series and later graphics cards, so Fermi drivers will be coming at some point. For now, it's apparently Kepler-and-later, though.

So with OS support and, now, released graphics drivers, all that we are waiting on is software and an SDK (plus any NDAs that may still be in effect). With Game Developers Conference (GDC 2015) coming up in a little over a week, I expect that we will get each of these very soon.

Update 1 Pt. 2: I should note that the release notes for 349.72 specifically mention DirectX 12. As mentioned above, is possible that 349.65 contains just WDDM 2.0 and not DX12, but it contains at least WDDM 2.0.

GPU Market sees 20-point swing in 2014: NVIDIA gains, AMD falls

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 21, 2015 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, marketshare, market share, geforce, amd

One of the perennial firms that measures GPU market share, Jon Peddie Research, has come out with a report on Q4 of 2014 this weekend and the results are eye opening. According to the data, NVIDIA and AMD each took dramatic swings from Q4 of 2013 to Q4 of 2014.

  Q4 2014 Q3 2014 Q4 2013 Year-to-year Change
AMD 24.0% 28.4% 35.0% -11.0%
Matrox 0.00% 0.10% 0.10% -0.1%
NVIDIA 76.0% 71.5% 64.9% +11.1%
S3 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% +0.0%

Data source: Jon Peddie Research

Here is the JPR commentary to start us out:

JPR's AIB Report tracks computer add-in graphics boards, which carry discrete graphics chips. AIBs used in desktop PCs, workstations, servers, and other devices such as scientific instruments. They are sold directly to customers as aftermarket products, or are factory installed. In all cases, AIBs represent the higher end of the graphics industry using discrete chips and private high-speed memory, as compared to the integrated GPUs in CPUs that share slower system memory.

The news was encouraging and seasonally understandable, quarter-to-quarter, the market decreased -0.68% (compared to the desktop PC market, which decreased 3.53%).

On a year-to-year basis, we found that total AIB shipments during the quarter fell -17.52% , which is more than desktop PCs, which fell -0.72%.

However, in spite of the overall decline, somewhat due to tablets and embedded graphics, the PC gaming momentum continues to build and is the bright spot in the AIB market.

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NVIDIA's Maxwell GPU

The overall PC desktop market increased quarter-to-quarter including double-attach-the adding of a second (or third) AIB to a system with integrated processor graphics-and to a lesser extent, dual AIBs in performance desktop machines using either AMD's Crossfire or Nvidia's SLI technology.

The attach rate of AIBs to desktop PCs has declined from a high of 63% in Q1 2008 to 36% this quarter.

The year to year change that JPR is reporting is substantial and shows a 20+ point change in market share in favor of NVIDIA over AMD. According to this data, AMD's market share has now dropped from 35% at the end of 2013 to just 24% at the end of 2014. Meanwhile, NVIDIA continues to truck forward, going from 64.9% at the end of 2013 to 76% at the end of 2014.

08.jpg

The Radeon R9 285 release didn't have the impact AMD had hoped

Clearly the release of NVIDIA's Maxwell GPUs, the GeForce GTX 750 Ti, GTX 970 and GTX 980 have impacted the market even more than we initially expected. In recent weeks the GTX 970 has been getting a lot of negative press with the memory issue and I will be curious to see what effect this has on sales in the near future. But the 12 month swing that you see in the table above is the likely cause for the sudden departure of John Byrne, Collette LaForce and Raj Naik.

AMD has good products, even better pricing and a team of PR and marketing folks that are talented and aggressive. So how can the company recover from this? Products, people; new products. Will the rumors circling around the Radeon R9 390X develop into such a product?

Hopefully 2015 will provide it.

EVGA would like to give you a GTX 960 SSC and a Z97 FTW motherboard

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards | February 20, 2015 - 05:10 PM |
Tagged: z97, gtx 960, giveaway, evga, contest

I know, the nerve of some people. Jacob from EVGA emails me this week, complaining about how he has this graphics card and motherboard just sitting in his cubicle taking up space and "why won't I just give it away already!?"

Fine. I'll do it. For science.

So let's make this simple shall we? EVGA wants to get rid of some kick-ass gaming hardware and you want to win it. Why muddle up a good thing?

The Prizes

  • EVGA GeForce GTX 960 SSC
     
    • The EVGA GeForce GTX 960 delivers incredible performance, power efficiency, and gaming technologies that only NVIDIA Maxwell technology can offer. This is the perfect upgrade, offering 60% faster performance and twice the power efficiency of previous-generation cards*. Plus, it features VXGI for realistic lighting, support for smooth, tear-free NVIDIA G-SYNC technology, and Dynamic Super Resolution for 4K-quality gaming on 1080P displays.
       
    • The new EVGA ACX 2.0+ cooler brings new features to the award winning EVGA ACX 2.0 cooling technology. A Memory MOSFET Cooling Plate (MMCP) reduces MOSFET temperatures up to 11°C, and optimized Straight Heat Pipes (SHP) reduce GPU temperature by an additional 5°C. ACX 2.0+ coolers also feature optimized Swept fan blades, double ball bearings and an extreme low power motor, delivering more air flow with less power, unlocking additional power for the GPU.

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  • EVGA Z97 FTW Motherboard
     
    • Welcome to a new class of high performance motherboards with the EVGA Z97 lineup. These platforms offer a return to greatness with a new GUI BIOS interface, reimagined power VRM that focuses on efficiency, and are loaded with features such as Intel® Gigabit LAN, Native SATA 6G/USB 3.0 and more.
       
    • Engineered for the performance users with excellent overclocking features. Includes a GUI BIOS that is focused on functionality, new software interface for overclocking in the O.S., high quality components, M.2 storage option and more.

evgacontest2.jpg

The Process (aka how do you win?)

So even though I'm doing all the work getting this hardware out of Jacob's busy hands and to our readers...you do have to do a couple of things to win the hardware as well. 

  1. Fill out the questionnaire below.
     
  2. Enter the "secret phrase" from tonight's 337th episode of the PC Perspective Podcast. We'll be live streaming at 10pm ET / 7pm PT or you can wait for the downloadable version at http://www.pcper.com/podcast or the video version on our PC Perspective YouTube channel

The contest will run for one week so you will have more than enough time to listen to or watch the podcast and get the super-secret answer. We'll ship to anywhere in the world and one person will win both fantastic prizes! Once the contest closes (Wednesday, February 25th at 12pm ET) we'll randomly draw a winner from the form below that got the correct answer!

A HUGE thanks goes to our friends at EVGA for supplying the hardware for our giveaway. Good luck!

Source: EVGA

You have to pay to play, Gigabyte's overclockable GTX 980 G1 GAMING

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 20, 2015 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, nvidia, GTX 980 G1 GAMING, windforce, maxwell, factory overclocked

If you want the same amount of Maxwell Streaming Multiprocessors and ROP units as a GTX 980 as well as that last 500MB of RAM to run at full speed then you will need to pay for a GTX 980.  One choice is Gigabyte's GTX 980 G1 Gaming which will cost you $580, around $240 more than a GTX 970 but the premium can be worth it if you need the power.  [H]ard|OCP took the already overclocked card from a boost GPU frequency of 1329MHz and RAM of 7GHz all the way to a boost of 1513MHz with RAM topping out at 8.11GHz.  That overclock had a noticeable effect on performance and helped the card garner an Editors Choice award.  See it in action here.

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"Today we have the GIGABYTE GTX 980 G1 GAMING, which features the WINDFORCE 600W cooling system and a high factory overclock. We will make comparisons to the competition, find out how fast it is compared to a GTX 980, and you won't believe the overclock we achieved! We will make both performance and price comparisons."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

NVIDIA Recants: Overclocking Returning to Mobile GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | February 19, 2015 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, notebooks, mobile, gpu

After a week or so of debate circling NVIDIA's decsision to disable overclocking on mobility GPUs, we have word that the company has reconsidered and will be re-enabling the feature in next month's driver release:

As you know, we are constantly tuning and optimizing the performance of your GeForce PC.

We obsess over every possible optimization so that you can enjoy a perfectly stable machine that balances game, thermal, power, and acoustic performance.

Still, many of you enjoy pushing the system even further with overclocking.

Our recent driver update disabled overclocking on some GTX notebooks. We heard from many of you that you would like this feature enabled again. So, we will again be enabling overclocking in our upcoming driver release next month for those affected notebooks. 

If you are eager to regain this capability right away, you can also revert back to 344.75.

Now, I don't want to brag here, but we did just rail NVIDIA for this decision on last night's podcast...and then the decision was posted on NVIDIA's forums just four hours ago... I'm not saying, but I'm just saying!

nvidia-logo.jpg

All kidding aside, this is great news! And NVIDIA desperately needs to be paying attention to what consumers are asking for in order to make up for some poor decisions made in the last several months. Now (or at least soon), you will be able to return to your mobile GPU overclocking!

Amazon, Newegg and others offering partial refunds on GTX 970 purchases

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 19, 2015 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, memory issue, GTX 970, geforce

It looks like some online retailers are offering up either partial refunds or full refunds (with return) for those users that complain about the implications of the GeForce GTX 970 memory issue. On January 25th NVIDIA came clean about the true memory architecture of the GTX 970 which included changes to specifications around L2 cache and ROP count in addition to the division of the 4GB of memory into two distinct memory pools. Some users have complained about performance issues in heavy memory-depedent gaming scenarios even though my own testing has been less than conclusive

GM204_arch.jpg

Initially there was a demand for a recall or some kind of compensation from NVIDIA regarding the issue but that has fallen flat. What appears to be working (for some people) is going to the retailer directly. A thread on reddit.com's Hardware sub-reddit shows quite a few users were able to convince Amazon to issue 20-30% price refunds for their trouble. Even Newegg has been spotted offering either a full refund with return after the typical return window or a 20% credit through gift cards. 

gtx970refund.jpg

To be fair, some users are seeing their requests denied:

"After going back and forth for the past hour I manage to escalated my partial refund to a supervisor who promptly declined it."

"Are you serious? NewEgg told me to go complain to the vendor."

So, while we can debate the necessity or vadidity of these types of full or partial refunds from a moral ground, the truth is that this is happening. I'm very curious to hear what NVIDIA's internal thinking is on this matter and if it will impact relationships between NVIDIA, it's add-in card partners and the online retailers themselves. Who ends up paying the final costs is still up in the air I would bet.

Our discussion on the original GTX 970 Issue - Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more!

What do you think? Is this just some buyers taking advantage of the situation for their own gain? Warranted requests from gamers that were taken advantage of? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!

Further reading on this issue:

Source: Reddit.com