Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Displays, Systems | May 15, 2015 - 03:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Oculus, oculus vr, nvidia, amd, geforce, radeon, Intel, core i5
Today, Oculus has published a list of what they believe should drive their VR headset. The Oculus Rift will obviously run on lower hardware. Their minimum specifications, published last month and focused on the Development Kit 2, did not even list a specific CPU or GPU -- just a DVI-D or HDMI output. They then went on to say that you really should use a graphics card that can handle your game at 1080p with at least 75 fps.
The current list is a little different:
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 (or higher)
- Intel Core i5-4590 (or higher)
- 8GB RAM (or higher)
- A compatible HDMI 1.3 output
- 2x USB 3.0 ports
- Windows 7 SP1 (or newer).
I am guessing that, unlike the previous list, Oculus has a more clear vision for a development target. They were a little unclear about whether this refers to the consumer version or the current needs of developers. In either case, it would likely serve as a guide for what they believe developers should target when the consumer version launches.
This post also coincides with the release of the Oculus PC SDK 0.6.0. This version pushes distortion rendering to the Oculus Server process, rather than the application. It also allows multiple canvases to be sent to the SDK, which means developers can render text and other noticeable content at full resolution, but scale back in places that the user is less likely to notice. They can also be updated at different frequencies, such as sleeping the HUD redraw unless a value changes.
The Oculus PC SDK (0.6.0) is now available at the Oculus Developer Center.
Introduction and Specifications
Displays have been a hot item as of late here at PC Perspective. Today we are looking at the new Acer XB270HU. In short, this is an IPS version of the ASUS ROG Swift. For the long version, it is a 1440P, 144Hz, G-Sync enabled 27 inch display. This is the first G-Sync display released with an IPS panel, which is what makes this release such a big deal. Acer has been pushing hard on the display front, with recent releases of the following variable refresh capable displays:
- XB270H 27in 1080P 144Hz G-Sync
- XB280HK 28in 4K 60Hz G-SYnc
- XG270HU 27in 1440P 40-144Hz FreeSync
- XB270HU 27in 1440P 144Hz G-Sync < you are here
The last entry in that list is the subject of todays review, and it should look familiar to those who have been tracking Acer's previous G-Sync display releases:
Here's our video overview of this new display. I encourage you to flip through the review as there are more comparison pictures and information to go along.
Early in April ASUS and AMD announced that the MG279Q display, first shown at CES in January, would be brought into the world of FreeSync and officially adopt AMD's branding. The original post from the AMD Twitter account clearly mentions the display would support 144 Hz refresh rates, an increase from the 120 Hz that ASUS claimed during CES.
Now however, we have some complications to deal with. According to a FAQ posted on the ASUS.com website, FreeSync variable refresh rates will only be supported in a range of 35 - 90 Hz.
Enable FreeSync™ in the MG279’s OSD setting, choose PC’s refresh rate timing between 35-90Hz (DP/miniDP only)
On the positive, that 35 Hz lower limit would be the best we have seen on any FreeSync monitor to date. And while the 90 Hz upper limit isn't awful (considering we have seen both 75 Hz and 144 Hz limits on current monitors), it does the beg the question as to why it would be LOWER than the 144 Hz quoted maximum overall refresh rate of the display.
The ASUS MG279Q is an IPS-style display so the quality of the screen should be top notch, but that doesn't alone answer why the upper FreeSync limit and upper refresh rate would not match. We already have the Acer Predator XB270HU G-Sync display in-house that operates at a variable refresh rate as high as 144 Hz with a similar quality IPS display. I've inquired to both AMD and ASUS about the reasoning for this 90 Hz limit, and we'll see if either side cares to comment prior to the display's release.
Subject: Displays | April 16, 2015 - 10:26 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: 3440x1440, XR341CKA, ultra-widescreen, gaming monitor, g-sync, acer, 21:9, ips
Acer's upcoming ultra-widescreen 34-inch G-SYNC gaming monitor, the XR341CKA, will have multiple inputs according to a report published by TFT Central, which indicates possible changes to the G-SYNC V2 module as previous displays only provided one input.
The Acer XR341CKA (Credit: TFT Central)
The Acer XR341CKA is a variant of the XR341CK, a FreeSync monitor that contains an identical panel. The IPS panel in both monitors is rated up to 75Hz refresh with a resolution of 3440x1440, and a contrast ratio of 1000:1 with 8-bit + FRC (effective 10-bit) color depth. The big story here is of course the G-SYNC module, and though we don't know the specific implementation yet is will be interesting to see what the input support of version 2 G-SYNC displays will be. According to TFT Central the FreeSync (CK) variant of the XR341 offers "HDMI 2.0 (MHL), DisplayPort, Mini DP and DP out connections," and "it will support daisy chaining via the DP out port and also PiP and PbP functions".
The original G-SYNC module (Credit: NVIDIA)
In contrast the G-SYNC variant (CKA) of the XR341 offers "DisplayPort, but also an additional HDMI 1.4 video connection...(and) will also support ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur)." TFT Central points out that this detail "would mark the first G-sync screen we've seen with more than one connection, so we will be interested to see how this works." If indeed this is a single module solution it is possible that NVIDIA has made changes with the second-gen G-SYNC module to allow for more than one input. We will have to wait and see, unless more details about this V2 module are forthcoming.
Subject: Displays | April 10, 2015 - 01:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: hp, 3d display, Zvr
3D displays have had limited success in the gaming market, while interesting most gamers have instead opted for high resolution and high refresh rate monitors over 3D. However there is great potential for 3D displays in professional applications such as CAD/CAM and medicine; imaging actually seeing a 3D representation of a model or organ instead of trying to visualize it from a 2D screen. NitroWare.net had a change to see the HP Zvr 23.6-inch Virtual Reality Display in action and you can too by following the link.
"HP Australia gave NitroWare.net an exclusive preview in Sydney of its new zSpace powered 3D Virtual Reality Monitor aimed to complement its professional desktop and mobile workstation line. The Zvr Display introduces head-tracking and an interactive stylus to enable 3D/VR interactivity and manipulation via an off-the-shelf product from a mass-market OEM."
Here are some more Display articles from around the web:
- BenQ XL2730Z (FreeSync) @ HardwareHeaven
- AMD FreeSync Review with LG 34UM67 @ HardwareHeaven
- ASUS Designo MX27AQ WQHD Monitor @ Kitguru
- AOC U3477PQU WQHD 34 inch LCD Monitor Review @ NikKTech
Subject: Displays | April 8, 2015 - 01:24 PM | Sebastian Peak
Last Friday Dell announced a new 2560x1440 monitor in an official blog post, and while it won’t compare to the variable refresh gaming monitors we’ve been talking about quite a bit lately it’s still impressive considering the price. (Here’s hoping the lower-cost WQHD trend continues!)
The P2416D is a 24-inch 2560x1440 display that Dell will offer for $369.99. The Tech Report linked to specifications published internationally pointing to an IPS panel, a detail that was not mentioned in Dell’s blog post. This would be in keeping with other panels in Dell’s P and U series, but is significant for the $369.99 price at 1440p. This will be a conventional 60 Hz panel of course, but represents a lower cost than other entry level IPS monitors at this resolution from Dell, and is the only option at this compact 24-inch size.
A competing low-cost QHD monitor, the Acer G257HU, is much more aggressively priced at $279.99, and Acer lists IPS as the panel type for this 25-inch display. How might Dell help justify the $90 premium over a monitor like the Acer? The P2416D monitor is covered by Dell’s “Premium Panel Guarantee” that Professional/UltraSharp monitor customers are likely familiar with, which provides free panel exchanges for “even one bright pixel” at any time during the 3-year warranty period. The Dell 24-inch monitor also offers their usual tilt/pivot/rotate/height adjustable stand, DisplayPort (1.2) and HDMI (1.4) input along with VGA, plus a 4-port USB 2.0 hub.
The Dell P2416D is not listed on Dell’s U.S. site just yet but will be available in May.
Subject: Displays | April 7, 2015 - 12:31 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: variable refresh rate, mg279q, freesync, asus, amd
If you remember back at CES in early January, we got hands-on with an upcoming monitor from ASUS, the MG279Q. Unlike the company's other G-Sync enabled displays, this monitor was unique in that offered support for the Adaptive Sync portion of the DisplayPort 1.2a standard but was also not a part of AMD's initial wave of FreeSync monitors.
The ASUS MG279Q from CES 2015
The screen technology itself was impressive: a 2560x1440 resolution, IPS-style implementation and a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. (Note: the new marketing material indicates that the panel will have a 144 Hz maximum refresh rate. Maybe there was a hardware change since CES?) During a video interview with ASUS at the time it was labeled as having a minimum refresh rate of 40 Hz which is something we look forward to testing if and when we can get a sample in our labs.
At the time, there was some interesting debate about WHY this wasn't a FreeSync branded monitor. We asked AMD specifically about this monitor's capability to work with capable Radeon GPUs for variable refresh and they promised there were no lock-outs occurring. We guessed that maybe ASUS' deal with NVIDIA on G-Sync was preventing them from joining the FreeSync display program, but cleary that wasn't the case. Today on Twitter, AMD announced that the MG279Q was officially part of the FreeSync brand.
I am glad to see more products come into the FreeSync monitor market and hopefully we'll have some solid gaming experiences with the ASUS MG279Q to report back on soon!
A monitor for those that like it long
It takes a lot to really impress someone that sits in front of dual 2560x1600 30-in IPS screens all day, but the LG 34UM95 did just that. With a 34-in diagonal 3440x1440 resolution panel forming a 21:9 aspect ratio, built on LG IPS technology for flawless viewing angles, this monitor creates a work and gaming experience that is basically unmatched in today's market. Whether you need to open up a half-dozen Excel or Word documents, keep an eye on your Twitter feed while looking at 12 browsers or run games at near Eyefinity/Surround levels without bezels, the LG 34UM95 is a perfect option.
Originally priced north of $1200, the 34UM95 and many in LG's 21:9 lineup have dropped in price considerably, giving them more avenues into users' homes. There are obvious gaming advantages to the 34-in display compared to a pair of 1920x1080 panels (no bezel, 20% more pixels) but if you have a pair of 2560x1440 screens you are going to be giving up a bit. Some games might not handle 21:9 resolutions well either, just as we continue to see Eyefinity/Surround unsupported occasionally.
Productivity users will immediately see an improvement, both for those us inundated with spreadsheets, web pages and text documents as well as the more creative types with Adobe Premiere timelines. I know that Ken would definitely have approved us keeping this monitor here at the office for his use.
Check out the video above for more thoughts on the LG 34UM95!
What is FreeSync?
FreeSync: What began as merely a term for AMD’s plans to counter NVIDIA’s launch of G-Sync (and mocking play on NVIDIA’s trade name) has finally come to fruition, keeping the name - and the attitude. As we have discussed, AMD’s Mantle API was crucial to pushing the industry in the correct and necessary direction for lower level APIs, though NVIDIA’s G-Sync deserves the same credit for recognizing and imparting the necessity of a move to a variable refresh display technology. Variable refresh displays can fundamentally change the way that PC gaming looks and feels when they are built correctly and implemented with care, and we have seen that time and time again with many different G-Sync enabled monitors at our offices. It might finally be time to make the same claims about FreeSync.
But what exactly is FreeSync? AMD has been discussing it since CES in early 2014, claiming that they would bypass the idea of a custom module that needs to be used by a monitor to support VRR, and instead go the route of open standards using a modification to DisplayPort 1.2a from VESA. FreeSync is based on AdaptiveSync, an optional portion of the DP standard that enables a variable refresh rate courtesy of expanding the vBlank timings of a display, and it also provides a way to updating EDID (display ID information) to facilitate communication of these settings to the graphics card. FreeSync itself is simply the AMD brand for this implementation, combining the monitors with correctly implemented drivers and GPUs that support the variable refresh technology.
A set of three new FreeSync monitors from Acer, LG and BenQ.
Fundamentally, FreeSync works in a very similar fashion to G-Sync, utilizing the idea of the vBlank timings of a monitor to change how and when it updates the screen. The vBlank signal is what tells the monitor to begin drawing the next frame, representing the end of the current data set and marking the beginning of a new one. By varying the length of time this vBlank signal is set to, you can force the monitor to wait any amount of time necessary, allowing the GPU to end the vBlank instance exactly when a new frame is done drawing. The result is a variable refresh rate monitor, one that is in tune with the GPU render rate, rather than opposed to it. Why is that important? I wrote in great detail about this previously, and it still applies in this case:
The idea of G-Sync (and FreeSync) is pretty easy to understand, though the implementation method can get a bit more hairy. G-Sync (and FreeSync) introduces a variable refresh rate to a monitor, allowing the display to refresh at wide range of rates rather than at fixed intervals. More importantly, rather than the monitor dictating what rate this refresh occurs at to the PC, the graphics now tells the monitor when to refresh in a properly configured G-Sync (and FreeSync) setup. This allows a monitor to match the refresh rate of the screen to the draw rate of the game being played (frames per second) and that simple change drastically improves the gaming experience for several reasons.
Gamers today are likely to be very familiar with V-Sync, short for vertical sync, which is an option in your graphics card’s control panel and in your game options menu. When enabled, it forces the monitor to draw a new image on the screen at a fixed interval. In theory, this would work well and the image is presented to the gamer without artifacts. The problem is that games that are played and rendered in real time rarely fall into a very specific frame rate. With only a couple of exceptions, games frame rates will fluctuate based on the activity happening on the screen: a rush of enemies, a changed camera angle, an explosion or falling building. Instantaneous frame rates can vary drastically, from 30, to 60, to 90, and force the image to be displayed only at set fractions of the monitor's refresh rate, which causes problems.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Displays | March 5, 2015 - 11:46 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: freesync, amd
Hey everyone, we just got a quick note from AMD with an update on the FreeSync technology rollout we have been expecting since CES in January (and honestly, even before that). Here is the specific quote:
AMD is very excited that monitors compatible with AMD FreeSync™ technology are now available in select regions in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). We know gamers are excited to bring home an incredibly smooth and tearing-free PC gaming experience powered by AMD Radeon™ GPUs and AMD A-Series APUs. We’re pleased to announce that a compatible AMD Catalyst™ graphics driver to enable AMD FreeSync™ technology for single-GPU configurations will be publicly available on AMD.com starting March 19, 2015. Support for AMD CrossFire™ configurations will be available the following month in April 2015.
A couple of interesting things: first, it appears that FreeSync monitors are already shipping in the EMEA regions and that is the cause for this news blast to the media. If you are buying a monitor with a FreeSync logo on it and can't use the technology, that is clearly a bit frustrating. You have just another two weeks to wait for the software to enabled your display's variable refresh rate.
That also might be a clue as to when you can expect review embargoes and/or the release of FreeSync monitors in North America. The end is in sight!