HSA 1.1 Released

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | June 6, 2016 - 07:11 AM |
Tagged: hsa 1.1, hsa

The HSA Foundation released version 1.1 of their specification, which focuses on “multi-vendor” compatibility. In this case, multi-vendor doesn't refer to companies that refused to join the HSA Foundation, namely Intel and NVIDIA, but rather multiple types of vendors. Rather than aligning with AMD's focus on CPU-GPU interactions, HSA 1.1 includes digital signal processors (DSPs), field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and other accelerators. I can see this being useful in several places, especially on mobile, where cameras, sound processors, and CPU cores, and a GPU regularly share video buffers.

HSA Foundation_Logo.png

That said, the specification also mentions “more efficient interoperation with non-HSA compliant devices”. I'm not quite sure what that specifically refers to, but it could be important to keep an eye on for future details -- whether it is relevant for Intel and NVIDIA hardware (and so forth).

Charlie, down at SemiAccurate, notes that HSA 1.1 will run on all HSA 1.0-compliant hardware. This makes sense, but I can't see where this is explicitly mentioned in their press release. I'm guessing that Charlie was given some time on a conference call (or face-to-face) regarding this, but it's also possible that he may be mistaken. It's also possible that it is explicitly mentioned in the HSA Foundation's press blast and I just fail at reading comprehension.

If so, I'm sure that our comments will highlight my error.

Computex 2016: Gigabyte Grants Sneak Peek at GPU Dock

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 5, 2016 - 02:02 AM |
Tagged: gigabyte, external gpu

External GPUs can be a good idea. If it is affordable, easy, and not too big, users can augment their laptop CPU, which is probably good enough to at least run most tasks, with a high-end GPU. While GPUs are more efficient that CPUs, the tasks that they are expected to do are so much larger that a decent graphics chip is difficult to cram into laptop form factor... for the most part.

gigabyte-2016-externalgpu-toms.jpg

Image Credit: Tom's Hardware

Preamble aside, it's been tried and dropped numerous times over the last decade, but the last generation seems to be getting a little traction. Razer added the feature to their relatively popular Blade line of laptops, and AMD, who was one of the companies to try it several years ago, is pushing it now with their XConnect technology. Even Microsoft sort-of does this with their Surface Book, and it's been a small source of problems for them.

Now Gigabyte, at Computex, announced that they are investigating prototypes. According to Tom's Hardware, their current attempt stands upright, which is likely to take up less desk space. Looking at it, I could see it hiding in the space between my monitors and the corner of the room (because my desk slides into the corner). Of course, in my case, I have a desktop PC, so I'm not the target demographic, but who knows? It's possible that a laptop user might have a similar setup to me. It's still pretty big, though.

Currently, Gigabyte limits the power supply to 250W, which drops GPU support to under 175W TDP. In other words? Too small for a GeForce GTX 1080. The company did tell Tom's Hardware that they are considering upping that to 350W, which would allow 260W of load, which allows all 1x PCIe 8-pin graphics cards, and thus many (but not all) GTX 1080s.

No pricing or availability yet, of course. It's just a prototype.

Rumor: GP104 Might Arrive in Laptops... Soon.

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 4, 2016 - 04:28 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, pascal

Normally, when a GPU developer creates a laptop SKU, they re-use the desktop branding, add an M at the end, but release a very different, significantly slower part. This changed with the GTX 980, as NVIDIA cherry-picked the heck out of their production to find chips that could operate full-speed at a lower-than-usual TDP. With less power (and cooling) to consider, they were sent to laptop manufacturers and integrated into high-end designs.

nvidia-2016-980-not-m-laptop.jpg

They still had the lower-performance 980M, though, which was confusing for potential customers. You needed to know to avoid the M, and trust the product page to correctly add the M as applicable. This is where PCGamer's scoop comes into play. Apparently, NVIDIA will stop “producing separate M versions of its desktop GPUs”. Also, they are expected to release their 10-series desktop GPUs to their laptop partners by late-summer.

Whatttttt?

Last time, NVIDIA took almost a year to bin enough GPUs for laptops. While we don't know how long they've been stockpiling GP104 GPUs, this, if the rumors are true, would just be about three months of lead-time for the desktop SKUs. Granted, Pascal is significantly more efficient than Maxwell. Maxwell tried to squeeze extra performance out of an existing fabrication node, while Pascal is a relatively smaller chip, benefiting from the industry's double-shrink in process technology. It's possible that they didn't need to drop the TDP threshold that far below what they accept for desktop.

For us desktop users, this also suggests that NVIDIA is not having too many issues with yield in general. I mean, if they were expecting GPU shortages to persist for months, you wouldn't expect that they would cut their supply further with a new product segment, particularly one that should require both decent volume and well-binned chips. This, again, might mean that we'll see desktop GPUs restock soon. Either that, or NVIDIA significantly miscalculated demand for new GPUs, and they needed to fulfill partner obligations that they made before reality struck.

Call it wishful thinking, but I don't think it's the latter.

Source: PCGamer

Computex 2016: Can't Forget ZOTAC's Custom GTX 1080s

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 4, 2016 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, GTX 1080, zotac

(Most of) NVIDIA's AIB partners have been flooding out announcements of custom GTX 1080 designs. Looking over them, it seems like they fall into two camps: one believes 1x eight-pin PCIe power is sufficient for the GP104, and the other thinks that 1x eight-pin + 1x six-pin PCIe could be useful.

zotac-2016-gtx1080-amp-regular.jpg

ZOTAC, on the other hand, seems to believe that both are underestimating. Excluding the Founders Edition, both of their GTX 1080 designs utilize 2x eight-pin PCIe connectors. This gives their cards a theoretical maximum of 375W, versus 225W of the Founders Edition. At this point, considering the Founders Edition can reach 2.1 GHz with good enough binning, I'm guessing that it's either there simply because they can, or they just didn't want to alter their existing design. Not that, if you only have 6-pin PCIe connectors on your power supply, ZOTAC provides the dual-six-to-eight-pin adapters in the box.

zotac-2016-gtx1080-amp-extreme.jpg

The two SKUs that they are releasing, again, apart from the Founders Edition, vary by their heatsink. The ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1080 AMP has a dual-fan IceStorm cooler, while the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1080 AMP Extreme has a triple-fan IceStorm cooler. (IceStorm is the brand name of ZOTAC's custom cooler.) Other than the 2x 8-pin PCIe connector, there's not much else to mention. ZOTAC has not settled on a default base, boost, or memory clock, and you will probably be overclocking it yourself (either manually or by using an automatic overclocker) anyway. Both cards have a back plate, if that's something you're interested in.

Once again, no pricing or availability. It shouldn't be too long, though.

Source: ZOTAC

Computex 2016: Corsair Hydro GFX for GeForce GTX 1080

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 4, 2016 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, msi, hydro gfx, GTX 1080, corsair

Last week, we wrote about the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 SEA HAWK. This design took their AERO cooler and integrated a Corsair self-contained water cooler into it. In response, Corsair, not to be outdone by MSI's Corsair partnership, partnered with MSI to release their own graphics card, the GeForce GTX 1080 version of the Corsair Hydro GFX.

msi-2016-gtx1080-seahawk.png

The MSI SEA HAWK

Basically, like we saw with their previous Hydro GFX card, Corsair and MSI are each selling basically the same graphics card, just with their own branding. It sounds like the two cards, MSI's SEA HAWK and Corsair's Hydro GFX, differ slightly in terms of LED lighting, but it might just be a mismatch between Tom's Hardware's Computex coverage and MSI's product page. Otherwise, I would guess that the choice between these SKUs comes down to the company that you trust most for support, which I believe both Corsair and MSI hold a good reputation for, and the current price at the specific retailer you choose. Maybe some slight variation in clock rate?

corsair-2016-gfx-hydro-toms.jpg

The Corsair Hydro GFX at Computex
(Image Credit: Tom's Hardware)

For the record, both cards use a single, eight-pin PCIe power connector, rather than an eight-pin and a six-pin as we've seen a few, high-end boards opt for.

No idea about pricing or availability. Corsair's page still refers to the GTX 980 Ti model.

Report: NVIDIA GTX 1080 Founders Edition Fan Speed Fix Coming Soon

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 4, 2016 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: revving, report, nvidia, GTX 1080, gpu cooler, founders edition, fan speed, fan issue

VideoCardz is reporting (via PC Games Hardware, Reddit, and TechPowerUp) that an official fix to the reported Founders Edition fan issue is coming soon via driver update:

“NVIDIA has reportedly found the solution and the problem should will be fixed with the next driver release. NVIDIA rep confirmed that software team was able to reproduce this problem, and their fix has already passed internal testing.”

Nvidia-Geforce-GTX-1080.jpg

Image credit: PC Games Hardware

On the NVIDIA forums customer care representative Manuel Guzman has posted about the issue, and now it seems a fix will be provided with the next driver release:

“This thread is to keep users up to date on the status of the fan randomly spinning up and down rapidly that some users are reporting with their GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition card. Thank you for your patience.

Updates Sticky Post
Update 6/1/16 - We are testing a driver fix to address the random spin up/down fan issue.
Update 6/2/16 - Driver fix so far has passed internal testing. Fix will be part of our next driver release.”

For those who have experienced the “revving” issue, described as a rapid rise and fall from 2000 RPM to 3000 RPM in the post, this will doubtless come as welcome news. We will have to see how these cards perform once the updated driver has been released and is in user hands.

Source: VideoCardz

Computex 2016: EVGA Is Making Custom SLI HB Bridges

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 4, 2016 - 02:39 AM |
Tagged: evga, sli, SLI HB, GTX 1080, nvidia, gtx 1070

Still no idea when these are coming out, or how much they'll cost, but EVGA will introduce their own custom SLI High-Bandwidth (HB) bridges. These are designed for the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 cards in two-way SLI mode to share frames in high-speed 1440p, 4K, 5K, and Surround configurations. As TAP mentioned on our live stream, if the bridge was overloaded, it would fall back to communicating PCIe, which should be doing other things at the time.

nvidia-2016-dreamhack-newsli.png

NVIDIA's SLI HB connector.
We didn't have a presence at Computex, so you'll need to check out Fudzilla's photo for EVGA's.

As for EVGA's model? Without pricing and availability, all we can say is that they have a different aesthetic from NVIDIA's. They also, unlike NVIDIA's version, have RGB LEDs on them to add a splash (or another splash) of colored light inside your case. Three versions will be offered, varying with the distances between your cards, but, as the SLI HB spec demands, each of them only supports two at a time.

Source: Fudzilla

AMD Published AMD GPU-PRO Beta Driver (for Linux)

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 3, 2016 - 11:15 PM |
Tagged: linux, graphics drivers, AMDGPU, amd

On Windows, we really only have one graphics driver per GPU. On Linux, however, there is a choice between open drivers and closed, binary-only blobs. Open drivers allow users to perpetuate support, for either really old hardware or pre-release software, without needing the GPU vendor to step in. It can also be better for security, because open-source software can be audited, which is better (albeit how much better is up for debate) than just having a few eyes on it... if any at all.

AMD_2016-Logo.png

As we reported a few months ago, AMD has been shifting their structure. Rather than two completely different code-bases, AMDGPU is an open-source driver, officially supported by AMD, that communicates with the Linux kernel. This chunk is compliant with the GPL, so it can be bundled with the operating system. Above this, a user space driver adds the various APIs, game-specific optimizations, and so forth. AMD calls this plug-in component AMD GPU-PRO.

This component has now been released for Ubuntu 16.04, which includes OpenGL 4.5, OpenCL 1.2, and Vulkan 1.0.

Open-source developers can create their own components, using the same AMDGPU hooks that AMD uses, and release those on their own. This is not a perfect solution, though. If, at any point, AMD disagrees with a necessary, proposed change, then the only way forward could be to fork the project, which AMD wouldn't support with their closed-source blob, leading to the previous situation. That said, AMD is putting a lot of effort into this, so it would stand to reason that they aren't intending to throw all of that away over a pull request.

Either way, you can get AMD GPU-PRO Beta from AMD's page for Ubuntu 16.04. SteamOS added AMD GPU-PRO with their 2.80 update last week.

Source: AMD

MSI announces 4 custom GTX 1070s

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 2, 2016 - 04:18 PM |
Tagged: gtx 1070, msi, GAMING X 8G, AERO 8G OC, AERO 8G, SEA HAWK X, founders edition

MSI's line up of GTX 1070s can be seen below, apart from the Founders Edition which you will already be familiar with.

GAMING X 8G.png

The GeForce GTX 1070 GAMING X 8G comes with a nice overclock as well as a silent mode for when you do not need all the graphical horsepower this card offers.

AERO 8G OC.PNG

There will be two versions of the AERO 8G, one with default clocks and an OC version with a 38MHz overclock to it's boost clock straight out of the box.

SEA HAWK X.png

Last is the SEA HAWK X with a much more impressive overclock which you can see in the chart below.  All models have three DisplayPorts 1.4 which is blessing for those with multiple monitors, in addition is an HDMI 2.0 port and DVI.

MSI Global.png

Source: MSI
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

AMD gets aggressive

At its Computex 2016 press conference in Taipei today, AMD has announced the branding and pricing, along with basic specifications, for one of its upcoming Polaris GPUs shipping later this June. The Radeon RX 480, based on Polaris 10, will cost just $199 and will offer more than 5 TFLOPS of compute capability. This is an incredibly aggressive move obviously aimed at continuing to gain market share at NVIDIA's expense. Details of the product are listed below.

  RX 480 GTX 1070 GTX 980 GTX 970 R9 Fury R9 Nano R9 390X R9 390
GPU Polaris 10 GP104 GM204 GM204 Fiji Pro Fiji XT Hawaii XT Grenada Pro
GPU Cores 2304 1920 2048 1664 3584 4096 2816 2560
Rated Clock ? 1506 MHz 1126 MHz 1050 MHz 1000 MHz up to 1000 MHz 1050 MHz 1000 MHz
Texture Units ? 120 128 104 224 256 176 160
ROP Units ? 64 64 56 64 64 64 64
Memory 4/8GB 8GB 4GB 4GB 4GB 4GB 8GB 8GB
Memory Clock 8000 MHz 8000 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 500 MHz 500 MHz 6000 MHz 6000 MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 4096-bit (HBM) 4096-bit (HBM) 512-bit 512-bit
Memory Bandwidth 256 GB/s 256 GB/s 224 GB/s 196 GB/s 512 GB/s 512 GB/s 384 GB/s 384 GB/s
TDP 150 watts 150 watts 165 watts 145 watts 275 watts 175 watts 275 watts 230 watts
Peak Compute > 5.0 TFLOPS 5.7 TFLOPS 4.61 TFLOPS 3.4 TFLOPS 7.20 TFLOPS 8.19 TFLOPS 5.63 TFLOPS 5.12 TFLOPS
Transistor Count ? 7.2B 5.2B 5.2B 8.9B 8.9B 6.2B 6.2B
Process Tech 14nm 16nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
MSRP (current) $199 $379 $499 $329 $549 $499 $389 $329

The RX 480 will ship with 36 CUs totaling 2304 stream processors based on the current GCN breakdown of 64 stream processors per CU. AMD didn't list clock speeds and instead is only telling us that the performance offered will exceed 5 TFLOPS of compute; how much is still a mystery and will likely change based on final clocks.

9310_ellesmere_cam1_02_0010_4K.jpg

The memory system is powered by a 256-bit GDDR5 memory controller running at 8 Gbps and hitting 256 GB/s of throughput. This is the same resulting memory bandwidth as NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card.

AMD also tells us that the TDP of the card is 150 watts, again matching the GTX 1070, though without more accurate performance data it's hard to assume anything about the new architectural efficiency of the Polaris GPUs built on the 14nm Global Foundries process.

Obviously the card will support FreeSync and all of AMD's VR features, in addition to being DP 1.3 and 1.4 ready. 

AMD stated that the RX 480 will launch on June 29th.

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I know that many of you will want us to start guessing at what performance level the new RX 480 will actually fall, and trust me, I've been trying to figure it out. Based on TFLOPS rating and memory bandwidth alone, it seems possible that the RX 480 could compete with the GTX 1070. But if that were the case, I don't think even AMD is crazy enough to set the price this far below where the GTX 1070 launched, $379. 

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I would expect the configuration of the GCN architecture to remain mostly unchanged on Polaris, compared to Hawaii, for the same reasons that we saw NVIDIA leave Pascal's basic compute architecture unchanged compared to Maxwell. Moving to the new process node was the primary goal and adding to that with drastic shifts in compute design might overly complicate product development.

9310_ellesmere_cam2_02_0010_4K.jpg

In the past, we have observed that AMD's GCN architecture tends to operate slightly less efficiently in terms of rated maximum compute capability versus realized gaming performance, at least compared to Maxwell and now Pascal. With that in mind, the >5 TFLOPS offered by the RX 480 likely lies somewhere between the Radeon R9 390 and R9 390X in realized gaming output. If that is the case, the Radeon RX 480 should have performance somewhere between the GeForce GTX 970 and the GeForce GTX 980. 

polaris-15 (1).jpg

AMD claims that the RX 480 at $199 is set to offer a "premium VR experience" that has previously be limited to $500 graphics cards (another reference to the original price of the GTX 980 perhaps...). AMD claims this should have a dramatic impact on increasing the TAM (total addressable market) for VR.

In a notable market survey, price was a leading barrier to adoption of VR. The $199 SEP for select Radeon™ RX Series GPUs is an integral part of AMD’s strategy to dramatically accelerate VR adoption and unleash the VR software ecosystem. AMD expects that its aggressive pricing will jumpstart the growth of the addressable market for PC VR and accelerate the rate at which VR headsets drop in price:

  • More affordable VR-ready desktops and notebooks
  • Making VR accessible to consumers in retail
  • Unleashing VR developers on a larger audience
  • Reducing the cost of entry to VR

AMD calls this strategy of starting with the mid-range product its "Water Drop" strategy with the goal "at releasing new graphics architectures in high volume segments first to support continued market share growth for Radeon GPUs."

So what do you guys think? Are you impressed with what Polaris looks like its going to be now?