What RTG has planned for 2016
Last week the Radeon Technology Group invited a handful of press and analysts to a secluded location in Sonoma, CA to discuss the future of graphics, GPUs and of course Radeon. For those of you that seem a bit confused, the RTG (Radeon Technologies Group) was spun up inside AMD to encompass all of the graphics products and IP inside the company. Though today’s story is not going to focus on the fundamental changes that RTG brings to the future of AMD, I will note, without commentary, that we saw not a single AMD logo in our presentations or in the signage present throughout the week.
Much of what I learned during the RTG Summit in Sonoma is under NDA and will likely be so for some time. We learned about the future architectures, direction and product theories that will find their way into a range of solutions available in 2016 and 2017.
What I can discuss today is a pair of features that are being updated and improved for current generation graphics cards and for Radeon GPUs coming in 2016: FreeSync and HDR displays. The former is one that readers of PC Perspective should be very familiar with while the latter will offer a new window into content coming in late 2016.
High Dynamic Range Displays: Better Pixels
In just the last couple of years we have seen a spike in resolution for mobile, desktop and notebook displays. We now regularly have 4K monitors on sale for around $500 and very good quality 4K panels going for something in the $1000 range. Couple that with the increase in market share of 21:9 panels with 3440x1440 resolutions and clearly there is a demand from consumers for a better visual experience on their PCs.
But what if the answer isn’t just more pixels, but better pixels? We already have this discussed weekly when comparing render resolutions in games of 4K at lower image quality solutions versus 2560x1440 at maximum IQ settings (for example) but the truth is that panel technology has the ability to make a dramatic change to how we view all content – games, movies, productivity – with the introduction of HDR, high dynamic range.
As the slide above demonstrates there is a wide range of luminance in the real world that our eyes can see. Sunlight crosses the 1.6 billion nits mark while basic fluorescent lighting in our homes and offices exceeds 10,000 nits. Compare to the most modern PC displays that range from 0.1 nits to 250 nits and you can already tell where the discussion is heading. Even the best LCD TVs on the market today have a range of 0.1 to 400 nits.
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 3, 2015 - 10:34 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Tonga XT, tonga, Radeon R9 380X, Radeon R9 285, Radeon R9 280X, Radeon R9 280, radeon, amd, 384-bit
While it was reported a year ago that AMD's Tonga XT GPU had a 384-bit memory bus in articles sourcing the same PC Watch report, when the Radeon R9 380X was released last month we saw a Tonga XT GPU with a 256-bit memory interface.
The full Tonga core features a 384-bit GDDR5 memory bus (Credit: PC Watch)
Reports of the upcoming card had consistently referenced the wider 384-bit bus, and tonight we are able to officially confirm that Tonga (not just Tonga XT) has been 384-bit capable all along, though this was never enabled by AMD. The reason? The company never found the right price/performance combination.
AMD confirms 384-bit bus available on Tonga, just not enabled on any product, including 380X. Didn't find a perfect perf/$ slot.
— Ryan Shrout (@ryanshrout) December 4, 2015
AMD's Raja Koduri confirmed Tonga's 384-bit bus tonight, and our own Ryan Shrout broke the news on Twitter.
So does this mean an upcoming Tonga GPU could offer this wider memory bus? Tonga itself was a follow-up to Tahiti (R9 280/280X), which did have a 384-bit bus, but all along the choice had been made to keep the updated core at 256-bit.
Now more than a year after the launch of Tonga a new part featuring a fully enabled memory bus doesn't seem realistic, but it's still interesting to know that significantly more memory bandwidth is locked away from owners of these cards.
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 29, 2015 - 05:25 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, graphics driver, radeon, crimson
Users have been reporting that the latest AMD graphics driver, Radeon Software Crimson Edition, has been incorrectly setting fan speeds. Some users report that the driver spins up fans to 100% and others report that they slow down to 30% regardless of load.
Over the weekend, AMD acknowledged the issue and claim that a fix is intended for Monday.
Some users also claim that the card will stick with that fan setting until it cooks itself. This seems odd to me, since GPUs (and CPUs of course) are now designed to down-volt if temperatures reach unsafe levels, and even cut power entirely if heat cannot be managed. We haven't really seen reports of graphics cards cooking themselves since the Radeon HD 5000 series implemented hardware in response to Furmark and OCCT. That said, the driver bug might some how override these hardware protections.
In the mean time, you'll either want to keep an eye on your fan settings and reset them as necessary, or roll back to the previous driver. AMD didn't comment on the high fan speed issue that some were complaining about, so I'm not sure if this fix will address both issues.
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 25, 2015 - 02:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, r9 nano, mini ITX, amd, obsidian 250d, corsair
When Ryan tested out how the R9 Nano performs in tiny cases he chose the Cooler Master Elite 110, the Raijintek Metis, the Lian Li PC-Q33BL and their PC-Q30X. The card did slow down somewhat because of a lack of airflow in the case but that was quickly remedied with a drill press and we saw vast improvements in the in-game frequencies. [H]ard|OCP performed a similar experiment with the Cooler Master Elite 110 as well and found similar results.
They are now back at it again, this time testing in a Corsair Obsidian Series 250D Mini ITX case, which is large enough to accommodate a full sized GPU and provide improved airflow. They tested the Nano against a GTX 980 Ti and a R9 Fury X as they cost a similar amount to the tiny little Nano. They tested the cards at both 1440p and 4K resolutions and as you might reasonably expect the Nano fell behind, especially at 4K. If you have a case which can fit a full sized GPU then the Nano does not make sense to purchase, however in cases in which the larger cards will not fit then the Nano's performance is unmatched.
"Our second installment covering our AMD Radeon R9 Nano in a Small Form Factor chassis is finally done. We will upgrade the case to a Corsair Obsidian Series 250D Mini ITX PC Case and compare the R9 Nano to price competitive video cards that can be installed. We game at 1440p and 4K for the ultimate small form factor experience."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD Radeon Software Crimson Edition Is A Letdown On Linux @ Phoronix
- Radeon Software Crimson; The Review @ Hardware Canucks
- AMD Radeon Software Crimson Editon Detailed Briefing @ TechARP
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 24, 2015 - 09:08 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, radeon software, radeon, live, giveaway, freesync, crimson, contest, amd
UPDATE: Did you miss today's live stream? No worries! You can get the full rundown of the new Radeon Software Crimson Edition driver and get details on new features like FreeSync Low Frame Rate Compensation, DX9 frame pacing, custom resolutions, and more. Check out the video embed below.
It's nearly time for the holidays to begin but that doesn't mean the hardware and software news train comes to a halt! This week we are hosting AMD in the PC Perspective offices for a live stream to discuss the upcoming release of the new AMD Radeon Software Crimson Edition. Earlier in the month we showed you a preview of what changes were coming to the AMD GPU driver and now we are going to not only demo it for you but let the community ask AMD questions directly about it!
And what's a live stream without prizes? AMD has stepped up to the plate to offer up some awesome hardware for those of you that tune in to watch the live stream!
- 2 x AMD Radeon R9 Nano 4GB Fiji Graphics Cards
- 2 x PowerColor PCS+ Radeon R9 380 Graphics Cards
AMD Radeon Software Crimson Live Stream and Giveaway
12pm PT / 3pm ET - November 24th
Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!
The event will take place Tuesday, November 24th at 12pm PT / 3pm ET at http://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.
I will be joined by Adrian Costelo, Product Manager for Radeon Software, and Steven Gans, UX Designer for Radeon Software. In short, these are the two people you want to hear from and have answer your questions!
If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from AMD?
So join us! Set your calendar for Tuesday at 12pm PT / 3pm ET and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 24, 2015 - 01:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon software, radeon, low frame rate compensation, freesync, frame pacing, crimson, AMD VISION Engine
In case you thought we missed something in our discussion of the new AMD Crimson software you can check out what some of the other websites thought of the new release. The Tech Report is a good first stop, they used the Fable Legends DX 12 to test the improvements to frametime which will be of interest to those who do not obsess over DX 9 games and their performance. They also delve a bit more into the interface so you can see what the new screens will look at as well as learning the path that will take you to a familiar settings screen. Check out their impressions right here.
"AMD's Radeon Software Crimson Edition is the second in a line of major annual graphics driver updates from the company. Crimson also replaces the Catalyst Control Center software with a faster, more refined utility called Radeon Settings. We dug in to see what Crimson has to offer."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD's Radeon Software Crimson OS powers faster, better gaming @ The Inquirer
- AMD Radeon Software: Crimson Edition First Look and Testing @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon Crimson Edition Drivers @ techPowerUp
- ASUS STRIX R9 380X DirectCU II OC @ [H]ard|OCP
- The AMD Radeon R9 380X Review @ Hardware Canucks
- 12K (Triple 4K Monitors) SLI & Crossfire @ eTeknix
- Gigabyte GTX980Ti XTREME Gaming Windforce @ Kitguru
FreeSync and Frame Pacing Get a Boost
Make sure you catch today's live stream we are hosting with AMD to discuss much more about the new Radeon Software Crimson driver. We are giving away four Radeon graphics cards as well!! Find all the information right here.
Earlier this month AMD announced plans to end the life of the Catalyst Control Center application for control of your Radeon GPU, introducing a new brand simply called Radeon Software. The first iteration of this software, Crimson, is being released today and includes some impressive user experience changes that are really worth seeing and, well, experiencing.
Users will no doubt lament the age of the previous Catalyst Control Center; it was slow, clunky and difficult to navigate around. Radeon Software Crimson changes all of this with a new UI, a new backend that allows it to start up almost instantly, as well as a handful of new features that might be a surprise to some of our readers. Here's a quick rundown of what stands out to me:
- Opens in less than a second in my testing
- Completely redesigned and modern user interface
- Faster display initialization
- New clean install utility (separate download)
- Per-game Overdrive (overclocking) settings
- LiquidVR integration
- FreeSync improvements at low frame rates
- FreeSync planned for HDMI (though not implemented yet)
- Frame pacing support in DX9 titles
- New custom resolution support
- Desktop-based Virtual Super Resolution
- Directional scaling for 2K to 4K upscaling (Fiji GPUs only)
- Shader cache (precompiled) to reduce compiling-induced frame time variance
- Non-specific DX12 improvements
- Flip queue size optimizations (frame buffer length) for specific games
- Wider target range for Frame Rate Target Control
That's quite a list of new features, some of which will be more popular than others, but it looks like there should be something for everyone to love about the new Crimson software package from AMD.
For this story today I wanted to focus on two of the above features that have long been a sticking point for me, and see how well AMD has fixed them with the first release of Radeon Software.
FreeSync: Low Frame Rate Compensation
I might be slightly biased, but I don't think anyone has done a more thorough job of explaining and diving into the differences between AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync than the team at PC Perspective. Since day one of the G-Sync variable refresh release we have been following the changes and capabilities of these competing features and writing about what really separates them from a technological point of view, not just pricing and perceived experiences.
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 16, 2015 - 09:34 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, radeon, GCN
Late last week, Forbes published an editorial by Patrick Moorhead, who spoke with Raja Koduri about AMD's future in the GPU industry. Patrick was a Corporate Vice President at AMD until late 2011. He then created Moor Insights and Strategy, which provides industry analysis. He regularly publishes editorials to Forbes and CIO. Raja Koduri is the head of the Radeon Technologies Group at AMD.
I'm going to be focusing on a brief mention a little more than half-way through, though. According to the editorial, Raja stated that AMD will release two new GPUs in 2016. “He promised two brand new GPUs in 2016, which are hopefully going to both be 14nm/16nm FinFET from GlobalFoundries or TSMC and will help make Advanced Micro Devices more power and die size competitive.”
We have been expecting AMD's Artic Islands to arrive at some point in 2016, which will compete with NVIDIA's Pascal architecture at the high end. AMD's product stack has been relatively stale for a while, with most of the innovation occurring at the top end and pushing the previous top-end down a bit. Two new GPU architectures almost definitely mean that a second one will focus on the lower end of the market, making more compelling products on smaller processes to be more power efficient, cheaper per unit, and include newer features.
Add the recent report of the Antigua architecture, which I assume is in addition to AMD's two architecture announcement, and AMD's product stack could look much less familiar next year.
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 13, 2015 - 03:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, r9 nano, amd
We are not the only ones investigating usage scenarios for AMD's tiny R9 Nano, [H]ard|OCP has also recently looked at this card to determine if or when there is a good reason to pay the extra price for this tiny GPU. This particular review focuses on performance against a similarly sized Gigabyte GTX 970 in a Cooler Master Elite 110, there will be a follow up in which the cards will run inside a Corsair Obsidian Series 250D case. At 1080p the cards performed at very similar levels with the significantly more expensive Nano holding a small lead while at 1440p the R9 Nano truly shines. This card is certainly not for everyone and both the FuryX and GTX 980 Ti offer much better performance at a simliar price point but neither of them will fit inside the case of someone determined to build a tiny gaming machine.
"This evaluation will compare the new retail purchased Radeon R9 Nano with a GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 970 N970-IX-OC small form factor video card in a mini-ITX Cooler Master Elite 110 Intel Skylake system build. We will find out if the higher priced Nano is worth the money for a 1440p and 1080p gameplay experience in a tiny footprint. "
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD R9 Nano 4GB CrossFire @ eTeknix
- The ITX GPU Battle: R9 Nano vs GTX 970 Mini @ Hardware Canucks
- Club3D R9 Nano 4GB @ eTeknix
- PowerColor Radeon R9 390 PCS+ @ Kitguru
- AMD Tonga & Fiji Open-Source Performance Boosted By PowerPlay Patches @ Phoronix
- Workstation Graphics Card Comparison Guide @ TechARP
- Asus ROG Matrix GTX 980Ti Platinum Edition @ Kitguru
Four High Powered Mini ITX Systems
Thanks to Sebastian for helping me out with some of the editorial for this piece and to Ken for doing the installation and testing on the system builds! -Ryan
Update (1/23/16): Now that that AMD Radeon R9 Nano is priced at just $499, it becomes an even better solution for these builds, dropping prices by $150 each.
While some might wonder where the new Radeon R9 Nano fits in a market that offers the AMD Fury X for the same price, the Nano is a product that defines a new category in the PC enthusiast community. It is a full-scale GPU on an impossibly small 6-inch PCB, containing the same core as the larger liquid-cooled Fury X, but requiring 100 watts less power than Fury X and cooled by a single-fan dual-slot air cooler.
The R9 Nano design screams compatibility. It has the ability to fit into virtually any enclosure (including many of the smallest mini-ITX designs), as long as the case supports a dual-slot (full height) GPU. The total board length of 6 inches is shorter than a mini-ITX motherboard, which is 6.7 inches square! Truly, the Nano has the potential to change everything when it comes to selecting a small form-factor (SFF) enclosure.
Typically, a gaming-friendly enclosure would need at minimum a ~270 mm GPU clearance, as a standard 10.5-inch reference GPU translates into 266.7 mm in length. Even very small mini-ITX enclosures have had to position components specifically to allow for these longer cards – if they wanted to be marketed as compatible with a full-size GPU solution, of course. Now with the R9 Nano, smaller and more powerful than any previous ITX-specific graphics card to date, one of the first questions we had was a pretty basic one: what enclosure should we put this R9 Nano into?
With no shortage of enclosures at our disposal to try out a build with this new card, we quickly discovered that many of them shared a design choice: room for a full-length GPU. So, what’s the advantage of the Nano’s incredibly compact size? It must be pointed out that larger (and faster) Fury X has the same MSRP, and at 7.5 inches the Fury X will fit comfortably in cases that have spacing for the necessary radiator.
Finding a Case for Nano
While even some of the tiniest mini-ITX enclosures (EVGA Hadron, NCASE M1, etc.) offer support for a 10.5-in GPU, there are several compact mini-ITX cases that don’t support a full-length graphics card due to their small footprint. While by no means a complete list, here are some of the options out there (note: there are many more mini-ITX cases that don’t support a full-height or dual-slot expansion card at all, such as slim HTPC enclosures):
|Cooler Master||Elite 110||$47.99, Amazon.com|
|Lian Li||PC-O5||$377, Amazon.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q01||$59.99, Newegg.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q03||$74.99, Newegg.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q07||$71.98, Amazon.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q30||$139.99, Newegg.com|
|Lian Li||PC-Q33||$134.99, Newegg.com|
|Rosewill||Legacy V3 Plus-B||$59.99, Newegg.com|
The list is dominated by Lian Li, who offers a number of cube-like mini-ITX enclosures that would ordinarily be out of the question for a gaming rig, unless one of the few ITX-specific cards were chosen for the build. Many other fine enclosure makers (Antec, BitFenix, Corsair, Fractal Design, SilverStone, etc.) offer mini-ITX enclosures that support full-length GPUs, as this has pretty much become a requirement for an enthusiast PC case.