GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 3-Way and 4-Way SLI will not be enabled for games

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 8, 2016 - 08:44 PM |
Tagged: sli, pascal, nvidia, GTX 1080, GP104, geforce, 4-way sli, 3-way sli

IMPORTANT UPDATE: After writing this story, but before publication, we went to NVIDIA for comment. As we were getting ready to publish, the company updated me with a shift in its stance on multi-GPU configurations. NVIDIA will no longer require an "enthusiast key" to enable SLI on more than two GPUs. However, NVIDIA will also only be enabling 3-Way and 4-Way SLI for a select few applications. More details are at the bottom of the story!

You'll likely recall that during our initial review of the GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition graphics card, we mentioned that NVIDIA was going to be moving people towards the idea that "only 2-Way SLI will be supported" and promoted. There would still be a path for users that wanted 3 and 4 GPU configurations anyway, and it would be called the Enthusiast Key.

As it turns out, after returning from an AMD event focused on its upcoming Polaris GPUs, I happen to have amassed a total of four GeForce GTX 1080 cards.

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Courtesy of some friends at EVGA and two readers that were awesome enough to let me open up their brand new hardware for a day or so, I was able to go through the 3-Way and 4-Way SLI configuration process. Once all four were installed, and I must point out how great it is that each card only required a single 8-pin power connector, I installed the latest NVIDIA driver I had on hand, 368.19.

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Knowing about the need for the Enthusiast Key, and also knowing that I did not yet have one and that the website that was supposed to be live to enable me to get one is still not live, I thought I might have stumbled upon some magic. The driver appeared to let me enable SLI anyway. 

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Enthusiasts will note however that the green marker under the four GPUs with the "SLI" text is clearly only pointing at two of the GTX 1080s, leaving the remaining two...unused. Crap.

At this point, if you have purchased more than two GeForce GTX 1080 cards are simply out of luck and are waiting on NVIDIA to make good on it's promise to allow for 3-Way and 4-Way configurations via the Enthusiast Key. Or some other way. It's way too late now to simply say "we aren't supporting it at all." 

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While I wait...what is there for a gamer with four GeForce GTX 1080 cards to do? Well, you could run Ashes of the Singularity. It's multi-GPU mode uses MDA mode, which means the game engine itself accesses each GPU on its own, without the need for the driver to handle anything regarding GPU load balancing. Unfortunately, Ashes only supports two GPUs today.

Well...you could run an OpenCL based benchmark like LuxMark that access all the GPUs independently as well.

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I did so, and the result is an impressive score of 17,127!!

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How does that compare to some other products?

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The four GTX 1080 cards produce a score that is 2.57x the result provided by the AMD Radeon Pro Duo and 2.29x the score of SLI GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards. Nice!

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So there you go! We are just as eager to get our hands on the ability to test 3-Way and 4-Way SLI with new Pascal GPUs as some of the most extreme and dedicated enthusiasts out there are. With any luck, NVIDIA will finally figure out a way to allow it - no matter how it finally takes place.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Before going to press with this story I asked NVIDIA for comment directly: when was the community finally going to get the Enthusiast Key website to unlock 3-Way and 4-Way SLI for those people crazy enough to have purchased that many GTX 1080s? The answer was quite surprising: NVIDIA is backing away from the idea of an "Enthusiast Key" and will no longer require it for enabling 3-Way and 4-Way SLI. 

Here is the official NVIDIA statement given to PC Perspective on the subject:

With the GeForce 10-series we’re investing heavily in 2-way SLI with our new High Bandwidth bridge (which doubles the SLI bandwidth for faster, smoother gaming at ultra-high resolutions and refresh rates) and NVIDIA Game Ready Driver SLI profiles.  To ensure the best possible gaming experience on our GeForce 10-series GPUs, we’re focusing our efforts on 2-way SLI only and will continue to include 2-way SLI profiles in our Game Ready Drivers.
 
DX12 and NVIDIA VR Works SLI technology also allows developers to directly implement and control multi-GPU support within their games.  If a developer chooses to use these technologies then their game will not need SLI profiles.  Some developers may also decide to support more than 2 GPUs in their games. We continue to work with all developers creating games and VR applications that take advantage of 2 or more GPUs to make sure they’ll work great on GeForce 10-series GPUs.
 
For our overclocking community, our Game Ready Drivers will also include SLI profiles for 3- and 4-way configurations for specific OC applications only, including Fire Strike, Unigine and Catzilla.

NVIDIA clearly wants to reiterate that only 2-Way SLI will get the attention that we have come to expect from the GeForce driver dev team. As DX12 and Vulkan next-generation APIs become more prolific, the game developers will still have the ability to directly access more than two GeForce GTX 10-series GPUs, though I expect that be a very narrow window of games simply due to development costs and time.

NVIDIA will enable support for three and four card configurations in future drivers (without a key) for specific overclocking/benchmarking tools only, as a way to make sure the GeForce brand doesn't fall off the 3DMark charts. Only those specific applications will be able operate in the 3-Way and 4-Way SLI configurations that you have come to know. There are no profiles to change manually and even the rare games that might have "just worked" with three or four GPUs will not take advantage of more than two GTX 10-series cards. It's fair to say at this point that except for the benchmarking crowd, NVIDIA 3-Way and 4-Way SLI is over.

We expect the "benchmark only" mode of 3-Way and 4-Way SLI to be ready for consumers with the next "Game Ready" driver release. If you happened to get your hands on more than two GTX 1080s but aren't into benchmarking, then find those receipts and send a couple back.

So there you have it. Honestly, this is what I was expecting from NVIDIA with the initial launch of Pascal and the GeForce GTX 1080/1070 and I was surprised when I first heard about the idea of the "enthusiast key." It took a bit longer than expected, and NVIDIA will get more flak for the iterated dismissal of this very niche, but still pretty cool, technology. In the end, this won't have much impact on the company's bottom line as the quantity of users that were buying 3+ GTX GPUs for a single system was understandably small.

GeForce GTX 1080s Are Available at Newegg Canada

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 7, 2016 - 08:07 PM |
Tagged: zotac, pascal, nvidia, GTX 1080, GP104, asus

Update @ 10:30pm, June 7th: Annnnnnnnd it's gone.

Update @ 9:45pm, June 7th: ASUS is now out-of-stock, so I crossed out the relevant links. ZOTAC is still around for now.

Update @ 8:45pm, June 7th: Turns out that it's also available on Newegg US. In fact, it's possible that both sites share from the same stock pool, at least for the US ASUS and US ZOTAC cards, given that Newegg Canada says it ships them from the US.

A couple of GeForce GTX 1080s are available at Newegg Canada at the moment. Both models, one from ASUS and one from ZOTAC, are listed at $909. This seems high, but it's actually the current US-to-Canada exchange rate from the $699 MSRP. If you were interested in the Founders Edition cards, then you have a brief moment to pick one up.

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That said, it's looking like the custom-cooled versions might be a better bet. The EVGA dual-fan GAMING SC ACX 3.0 version is listed at $824.99 CDN (~$635 USD) and, from what we've seen so far, seems to be quite a bit cooler than the Founders Edition (albeit we haven't tested sound levels yet). Those should be coming out fairly soon, and will apparently lean on the cheaper side of the Founders Edition fence.

But, if you don't care, go go go go go.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.”

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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.

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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

MSI Announces Four Custom GTX 1080s (Six SKUs)

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 29, 2016 - 05:46 PM |
Tagged: msi, GTX 1080, sea hawk, gaming x, armor, Aero, nvidia

Beyond the Founders Edition, MSI has prepared six SKUs of the GTX 1080. These consists of four variants, two of which have an overclocked counterpart to make up the remaining two products. The product stack seems quite interesting, with a steady progression of user needs, but we'll need to wait for price and availability to know for sure.

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We'll start at the bottom with the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 AERO 8G and MSI GeForce GTX 1080 AERO 8G OC. These are your typical blower designs that pull air in from within the case, and exhausts it out the back after collecting a bunch of heat from the GPU. It will work, it should be one of the cheapest options for this card, and it will keep the GTX 1080's heat outside of the case. It has a little silver accent on it, too. The non-overclocked version is the standard 1607 MHz / 1733 MHz that NVIDIA advertises, and the OC SKU is a little higher: 1632 MHz / 1771 MHz.

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Next up the product stack are the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 ARMOR 8G and MSI GeForce GTX 1080 ARMOR 8G OC versions. This uses MSI's aftermarket, two-fan cooler that should provide much lower temperatures than AERO, but they exhaust back into the case. Personally? I don't really care about that. The only other thing that heats up in my case, to any concerning level at least, is my CPU, and I recently switched that to a closed-loop water cooler anyway. MSI added an extra, six-pin power connector to these cards (totaling 8-pin + 6-pin + slot power = up-to 300W, versus 8-pin + slot power's 225W). The non-overclocked version is NVIDIA's base 1607 MHz / 1733 MHz, but OC brings that up to 1657 MHz / 1797 MHz.

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Speaking of closed-loop water coolers... The MSI GeForce GTX 1080 SEA HAWK takes the AERO design, which we mentioned earlier, and puts a Corsair self-contained water cooler inside it, too. Only one SKU of this is available, clocked at 1708 MHz base and 1847 MHz boost, but it should support overclocking fairly easily. That said, unlike other options that add a bonus six-pin connector, the SEA HAWK has just one, eight-pin connector. Good enough for the Founders Edition, but other SKUs (including three of the other cards in this post) suggest that there's a reason to up the power ceiling.

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We now get to MSI's top, air-cooled SKU: the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 GAMING X 8G. This one has their new TWIN FROZR VI, which they claim spins quieter and has fans that drag more air to spin slower than previous models. It, as you would assume from reading about ARMOR 8G, has an extra, six-pin power connector to provide more overclocking headroom. It has three modes: Silent, which clocks the card to the standard 1607 MHz / 1733 MHz levels; Gaming, which significantly raises that to 1683 MHz / 1822 MHz; and OC, which bumps that slightly further to 1708 MHz / 1847 MHz.

Currently, no pricing and availability for any of these.

Source: MSI

ASUS Announces ROG Strix GTX 1080

Subject: Graphics Cards | May 28, 2016 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: asus, ROG, strix, GTX 1080, nvidia

The Founders Edition versions of the GTX 1080 went on sale yesterday, but we're beginning to see the third-party variants being announced. In this case, the ASUS ROG Strix is a three-fan design that uses their DirectCU III heatsink. More interestingly, ASUS decided to increase the amount of wattage that this card can accept by adding an extra, six-pin PCIe power connector (totaling 8-pin + 6-pin). A Founders Edition card only requires a single, eight-pin connection over the 75W provided by the PCIe slot itself. This provides an extra 75W of play room for the ROG Strix card, raising the maximum power from 225W to 300W.

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Some of this power will be used for its on-card, RGB LED lighting, but I doubt that it was the reason for the extra 75W of headroom. The lights follow the edges of the card, acting like hats and bow-ties to the three fans. (Yes, you will never unsee that now.) The shroud is also modular, and ASUS provides the data for enthusiasts to 3D print their own modifications (albeit their warranty doesn't cover damage caused by this level of customization).

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As for the actual performance, the card naturally comes with an overclock out of the box. The default “Gaming Mode” has a 1759 MHz base clock with an 1898 MHz boost. You can flip this into “OC Mode” for a slight, two-digit increase to 1784 MHz base and 1936 MHz boost. It is significantly higher than the Founders Edition, though, which has a base clock of 1607 MHz that boosts to 1733 MHz. The extra power will likely help manual overclocks, but it will come down to “silicon lottery” whether your specific chip was abnormally less influenced by manufacturing defects. We also don't know yet whether the Pascal architecture, and the 16nm process it relies upon, has any physical limits that will increasingly resist overclocks past a certain frequency.

Pricing and availability is not yet announced.

Source: ASUS

Podcast #400 - Talking GTX 1080 Performance, GTX 1070 specs, AMD Polaris leaks and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 19, 2016 - 12:08 PM |
Tagged: video, radeon, polaris 11, polaris 10, Polaris, podcast, pascal, nvidia, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx, geforce, arm, amd, 10nm

PC Perspective Podcast #400 - 05/19/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 1080 performance and features, official specifications of the GTX 1070, new Polaris specification rumors, ARM's 10nm chip test and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!