Subject: Editorial, Graphics Cards | October 13, 2014 - 10:28 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, pcper, nvidia, live, GTX 980, geforce, game stream, borderlands: the pre-sequel, borderlands
UPDATE: You missed this weeks live stream but you can watch the game play via this YouTube embed!!
I'm sure like the staff at PC Perspective, many of our readers have been obsessively playing the Borderlands games since the first release in 2009. Borderlands 2 arrived in 2012 and once again took hold of the PC gaming mindset. This week marks the release of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which as the name suggests, takes place before the events of Borderlands 2. The Pre-Sequel has playable characters that were previously only known to the gamer as NPCs and that, coupled with the new low-gravity game play style, should entice nearly everyone that loves the first-person, loot-driven series to come back.
To celebrate the release, PC Perspective has partnered with NVIDIA to host a couple of live game streams that will feature some multi-player gaming fun as well some prizes to giveaway to the community. I will be joined by NVIDIA's Andrew Coonrad and Kris Rey to tackle the campaign in a cooperative style while taking a couple of stops to give away some hardware.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA
5pm PT / 8pm ET - October 14th
Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!
Here are some of the prizes we have lined up for those of you that join us for the live stream:
- 1 x NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet (Wi-Fi) - PC Perspective Review
- 1 x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB - PC Perspective Review
- 1 x ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q G-Sync Monitor - PC Perspective Review
- 3 x Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Steam Keys
Holy crap, that's a hell of a list!! How do you win? It's really simple: just tune in and watch the Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA! We'll explain the methods to enter live on the air and anyone can enter from anywhere in the world - no issues at all!
So stop by Tuesday night for some fun, some gaming and the chance to win some hardware!
SLI Setup and Testing Configuration
The idea of multi-GPU gaming is pretty simple on the surface. By adding another GPU into your gaming PC, the game and the driver are able to divide the workload of the game engine and send half of the work to one GPU and half to another, then combining that work on to your screen in the form of successive frames. This should make the average frame rate much higher, improve smoothness and just basically make the gaming experience better. However, implementation of multi-GPU technologies like NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFire are much more difficult than the simply explanation above. We have traveled many steps in this journey and while things have improved in several key areas, there is still plenty of work to be done in others.
As it turns out, support for GPUs beyond two seems to be one of those areas ready for improvement.
When the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 launched last month my initial review of the product included performance results for GTX 980 cards running in a 2-Way SLI configuration, by far the most common derivative. As it happens though, another set of reference GeForce GTX 980 cards found there way to our office and of course we needed to explore the world of 3-Way and 4-Way SLI support and performance on the new Maxwell GPU.
The dirty secret for 3-Way and 4-Way SLI (and CrossFire for that matter) is that it just doesn't work as well or as smoothly as 2-Way configurations. Much more work is put into standard SLI setups as those are by far the most common and it doesn't help that optimizing for 3-4 GPUs is more complex. Some games will scale well, others will scale poorly; hell some even scale the other direction.
Let's see what the current state of high GPU count SLI is with the GeForce GTX 980 and whether or not you should consider purchasing more than one of these new flagship parts.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | October 8, 2014 - 05:54 PM | Scott Michaud
In an abrupt announcement, Rory Read has stepped down from his positions at AMD, leaving them to Dr. Lisa Su. Until today, Mr. Read served as president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the x86 chip designer and Dr. Su as Chief Operating Officer (COO). Today however, Dr. Su has become president and CEO, and Mr. Read will stay on for a couple of months as an adviser during the transition.
Josh Walrath, editor here at PC Perspective, tweeted that he was "Curious as to why Rory didn't stay on longer? He did some good things there [at AMD], but [it's] very much an unfinished job." I would have to agree. It feels like an odd time, hence the earlier use of the word "abrupt", to have a change in management. AMD restructured just four months ago, which was the occasion for Dr. Su to be promoted to COO. In fact, at least as far as I know, no-one is planned to fill her former position as COO.
These points suggest that she was planned to take over the company for at least several months.
I have been told that timing is everything. I guess this rings true, but only if you truly know the circumstances around any action. Today’s announcement by AMD was odd in its timing, but it was not exactly unexpected. As Scott mentioned above, I was confused by this happening now. I had expected Rory to be in charge for at least another year, if not two. Rory had hinted that he was not planning on being at AMD forever, but was aiming at creating a solid foundation for the company and to help shore up its finances and instill a new culture. While the culture is turning due to pressure from up top as well as a pretty significant personnel cuts, AMD is not quite as nimble yet as they want to be.
Rory’s term has seen the return of seasoned veterans like Jim Keller and Raja Koduri. These guys are helping to turn the ship around after some fairly mediocre architecturse on the CPU and GPU sides. While Raja had little to do with GCN, we are seeing some aggressive moves there in terms of features that are making their products much more competitive with NVIDIA. Keller has made some very significant changes to the overall roadmap on the CPU side and I think we will see some very solid improvements in design and execution over the next two years.
Lisa Su was brought in by Rory shortly after he was named CEO. Lisa has a pretty significant background in semiconductors and has made a name for herself in her work with IBM and Freescale. Lisa attained all three of her degrees from MIT. This is not unheard of, but it is uncommon to stay in one academic setting when gaining advanced degrees. Having said that, MIT certainly is the top engineering and science school in the nation (if not the world). I’m sure people from RPI, GT, and CalTech might argue that, but it certainly is an impressive school to have on your resume.
Dr. Su has seemingly been groomed for this transition for quite some time now. She went from a VP to COO rather quickly, and is now shouldering the burden of being CEO. Lisa has been on quite a few of the quarterly conference calls and taking questions. She also serves on the Board of Directors at Analog Devices.
I think that Lisa will continue along the same path that Rory set out, but she will likely bring a few new wrinkles due to her experience with semiconductor design and R&D at IBM. We can only hope that this won’t become a Dirk Meyer 2.0 type situation where a successful engineer and CPU architect could not change the course of the company after the disastrous reign of Hector Ruiz. I do not think that this will be the case, as Rory did not leave the mess that Hector did. I also believe that Lisa has more business sense and acumen than Dirk did.
This change, at this time, has provided some instability in the markets when regarding AMD. Some weeks ago AMD was at a near high for the year at around $4.66 per share. Right now it is hovering at $3.28. I was questioning why the stock price was going down, and it seems that my question was answered. One way or the other, rumors of Rory taking off reached investors’ ears and we saw a rapid decline in share price. We have yet to see what Q3 earnings look like now that Rory has rather abruptly left his position, but people are pessimistic as to what will be announced with such a sudden departure.
Quick Performance Comparison
Earlier this week, we posted a brief story that looked at the performance of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on the latest GPUs from both NVIDIA and AMD. Last week also marked the release of the v1.11 patch for Sniper Elite 3 that introduced an integrated benchmark mode as well as support for AMD Mantle.
I decided that this was worth a quick look with the same line up of graphics cards that we used to test Shadow of Mordor. Let's see how the NVIDIA and AMD battle stacks up here.
For those unfamiliar with the Sniper Elite series, the focuses on the impact of an individual sniper on a particular conflict and Sniper Elite 3 doesn't change up that formula much. If you have ever seen video of a bullet slowly going through a body, allowing you to see the bones/muscle of the particular enemy being killed...you've probably been watching the Sniper Elite games.
Gore and such aside, the game is fun and combines sniper action with stealth and puzzles. It's worth a shot if you are the kind of gamer that likes to use the sniper rifles in other FPS titles.
But let's jump straight to performance. You'll notice that in this story we are not using our Frame Rating capture performance metrics. That is a direct result of wanting to compare Mantle to DX11 rendering paths - since we have no way to create an overlay for Mantle, we have resorted to using FRAPs and the integrated benchmark mode in Sniper Elite 3.
Our standard GPU test bed was used with a Core i7-3960X processor, an X79 motherboard, 16GB of DDR3 memory, and the latest drivers for both parties involved. That means we installed Catalyst 14.9 for AMD and 344.16 for NVIDIA. We'll be comparing the GeForce GTX 980 to the Radeon R9 290X, and the GTX 970 to the R9 290. We will also look at SLI/CrossFire scaling at the high end.
If there is one message that I get from NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 900M-series announcement, it is that laptop gaming is a first-class citizen in their product stack. Before even mentioning the products, the company provided relative performance differences between high-end desktops and laptops. Most of the rest of the slide deck is showing feature-parity with the desktop GTX 900-series, and a discussion about battery life.
First, the parts. Two products have been announced: The GeForce GTX 980M and the GeForce GTX 970M. Both are based on the 28nm Maxwell architecture. In terms of shading performance, the GTX 980M has a theoretical maximum of 3.189 TFLOPs, and the GTX 970M is calculated at 2.365 TFLOPs (at base clock). On the desktop, this is very close to the GeForce GTX 770 and the GeForce GTX 760 Ti, respectively. This metric is most useful when you're compute bandwidth-bound, at high resolution with complex shaders.
The full specifications are:
|GTX 980M||GTX 970M||
|Memory||Up to 4GB||Up to 3GB||4GB||4GB||4GB/8GB|
|Memory Rate||2500 MHz||2500 MHz||7.0 (GT/s)||7.0 (GT/s)||2500 MHz|
As for the features, it should be familiar for those paying attention to both desktop 900-series and the laptop 800M-series product launches. From desktop Maxwell, the 900M-series is getting VXGI, Dynamic Super Resolution, and Multi-Frame Sampled AA (MFAA). From the latest generation of Kepler laptops, the new GPUs are getting an updated BatteryBoost technology. From the rest of the GeForce ecosystem, they will also get GeForce Experience, ShadowPlay, and so forth.
For VXGI, DSR, and MFAA, please see Ryan's discussion for the desktop Maxwell launch. Information about these features is basically identical to what was given in September.
BatteryBoost, on the other hand, is a bit different. NVIDIA claims that the biggest change is just raw performance and efficiency, giving you more headroom to throttle. Perhaps more interesting though, is that GeForce Experience will allow separate one-click optimizations for both plugged-in and battery use cases.
The power efficiency demonstrated with the Maxwell GPU in Ryan's original GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 review is even more beneficial for the notebook market where thermal designs are physically constrained. Longer battery life, as well as thinner and lighter gaming notebooks, will see tremendous advantages using a GPU that can run at near peak performance on the maximum power output of an integrated battery. In NVIDIA's presentation, they mention that while notebooks on AC power can use as much as 230 watts of power, batteries tend to peak around 100 watts. Given that a full speed, desktop-class GTX 980 has a TDP of 165 watts, compared to the 250 watts of a Radeon R9 290X, translates into notebook GPU performance that will more closely mirror its desktop brethren.
Of course, you probably will not buy your own laptop GPU; rather, you will be buying devices which integrate these. There are currently five designs across four manufacturers that are revealed (see image above). Three contain the GeForce GTX 980M, one has a GTX 970M, and the other has a pair of GTX 970Ms. Prices and availability are not yet announced.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 6, 2014 - 03:21 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, r9 290, hawaii, GTX 980, GTX 970, geforce, amd
On Saturday while finishing up the writing on our Shadow of Mordor performance story, I noticed something quite interesting. The prices of AMD's flagship Radeon products had all come down quite a bit. In an obvious response to the release of NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970, the Radeon R9 290X and the Radeon R9 290 have lowered prices in a very aggressive fashion.
UPDATE: A couple of individual cards appear to be showing up as $360 and $369 on Newegg!
Amazon.com is showing some R9 290X cards at $399
For now, Amazon.com is only listing the triple-fan Gigabyte R9 290X Windforce card at $399, though Newegg.com has a couple as well.
Amazon.com also has several R9 290 cards for $299
- Gigabyte R9 290 Windforce - $299
- Powercolor AX R9 290 - $299
- ASUS R9 290 DirectCU II - $329
- More R9 290 Card on Amazon.com
And again, Newegg.com has some other options for R9 290 cards at these lower prices.
Let's assume that these price drops are going to be permanent which seems likely based on the history of AMD and market adjustments. That shifts the high end GPU market considerably.
|GeForce GTX 980 4GB||$549|
|$399||Radeon R9 290X 4GB|
|GeForce GTX 970 4GB||$329|
|$299||Radeon R9 290 4GB|
The battle for that lower end spot between the GTX 970 and R9 290 is now quite a bit tighter though NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture still has a positive outlook against the slightly older Hawaii GPU. Our review of the GTX 970 shows that it is indeed faster than the R9 290 though it no longer has the significant cost advantage it did upon release. The GTX 980, however, is much tougher sell over the Radeon R9 290X for PC gamers that are concerned with price per dollar over all else. I would still consider the GTX 980 faster than the R9 290X...but is it $150 faster? That's a 35% price difference NVIDIA now has to contend with.
NVIDIA has proven that is it comfortable staying in this position against AMD as it maintained it during essentially the entire life of the GTX 680 and GTX 780 product lines. AMD is more willing to make price cuts to pull the Radeon lineup back into the spotlight. Though the market share between the competitors didn't change much over the previous 6 months, I'll be very curious to see how these two strategies continue to play out.
In what can most definitely be called the best surprise of the fall game release schedule, the open-world action game set in the Lord of the Rings world, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor has been receiving impressive reviews from gamers and the media. (GiantBomb.com has a great look at it if you are new to the title.) What also might be a surprise to some is that the PC version of the game can be quite demanding on even the latest PC hardware, pulling in frame rates only in the low-60s at 2560x1440 with its top quality presets.
Late last week I spent a couple of days playing around with Shadow of Mordor as well as the integrated benchmark found inside the Options menu. I wanted to get an idea of the performance characteristics of the game to determine if we might include this in our full-time game testing suite update we are planning later in the fall. To get some sample information I decided to run through a couple of quality presets with the top two cards from NVIDIA and AMD and compare them.
Without a doubt, the visual style of Shadow of Mordor is stunning – with the game settings cranked up high the world, characters and fighting scenes look and feel amazing. To be clear, in the build up to this release we had really not heard anything from the developer or NVIDIA (there is an NVIDIA splash screen at the beginning) about the title which is out of the ordinary. If you are looking for a game that is both fun to play (I am 4+ hours in myself) and can provide a “wow” factor to show off your PC rig then this is definitely worth picking up.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 3, 2014 - 03:18 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, DirectX, DirectX 12, windows 10, threshold, windows
A Microsoft blog posting confirms: "The final version of Windows 10 will ship with DirectX 12". To me, this seems like a fairly obvious statement. The loose dates provided for both the OS and the availability of retail games suggest that the two would be launching at roughly the same time. The article also claims that DirectX 12 "Early Access" members will be able to develop with the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Apart from Unreal Engine 4 (for Epic Games subscribers), Intel will also provide source access to their Asteroids demo, shown at Siggraph 2014, to all accepted early access developers.
Our readers might find this information slightly disappointing as it could be interpreted that DirectX 12 would not be coming to Windows 7 (or even 8.x). While it does not look as hopeful as before, they never, at any point, explicitly say that it will not come to older operating systems. It still might.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 2, 2014 - 04:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, GTX 970 GAMING 4G, factory overclocked
It is sadly out of stock on both NewEgg and Amazon right now but MSI's $350 GTX 970 GAMING 4G is an incredible buy and worth waiting for. The factory overclock already set up on this card is quite nice, a Core rated at 1140/1279MHz which [H]ard|OCP actually observed hit as high as 1366MHz until they overclocked it and hit 1542MHz before the 110% GPU power limitation ended their fun. It would seem that the card is capable of more, if only you were not prevented from feeding it more than that extra 10%. The card was already beating the 780 Ti and R8 290 before the overclock but you should read the full review to see what happened once they tested it at the full speed.
"The MSI GeForce GTX 970 GAMING 4G video card is making the GeForce GTX 780 and AMD Radeon R9 290 obsolete. This $349 video card puts up a fight and punches in a win at this price. The overclock alone is somewhat staggering. If you are about to spend money on a GPU, don't miss this one."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 SLI @ techPowerUp
- Asus GTX980 Strix OC 2 Kitguru
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980: The Best GPU For Linux Gamers @ Phoronix
- NVIDIA Starting To Sign/Validate GPU Firmware Images @ Phoronix
- NZXT Kraken G10 Liquid GPU Cooling Bracket @ Kitguru
- XFX R7 250E Review @ OCC
- XFX R7 250E Core Edition Review @ Neoseeker
Installation and Overview
While once a very popular way to cool your PC, the art of custom water loops tapered off in the early 2000s as the benefits of better cooling, and overclocking in general, met with diminished returns. In its place grew a host of companies offering closed loop system, individually sealed coolers for processors and even graphics cards that offered some of the benefits of standard water cooling (noise, performance) without the hassle of setting up a water cooling configuration manually.
A bit of a resurgence has occurred in the last year or two though where the art and styling provided by custom water loop cooling is starting to reassert itself into the PC enthusiast mindset. Some companies never left (EVGA being one of them), but it appears that many of the users are returning to it. Consider me part of that crowd.
During a live stream we held with EVGA's Jacob Freeman, the very first prototype of the EVGA Hydro Copper was shown and discussed. Lucky for us, I was able to coerce Jacob into leaving the water block with me for a few days to do some of our testing and see just how much capability we could pull out of the GM204 GPU and a GeForce GTX 980.
Our performance preview today will look at the water block itself, installation, performance and temperature control. Keep in mind that this is a very early prototype, the first one to make its way to US shores. There will definitely be some changes and updates (in both the hardware and the software support for overclocking) before final release in mid to late October. Should you consider this ~$150 Hydro Copper water block for your GTX 980?