Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards | March 8, 2018 - 02:55 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: passive cooling, mini ITX, j4005i-c, Intel, gemini lake, fanless, asus
Asus is launching a new Mini ITX motherboard packing a passively-cooled Intel Celeron J4005 "Gemini Lake" SoC. The aptly-named Asus Prime J4005I-C is aimed at embedded systems such as point of sale machines, low end networked storage, kiosks, and industrial control and monitoring systems and features "5x Protection II" technology which includes extended validation and compatibility/QVL testing, overcurrent and overvoltage protection, network port surge protection, and ESD resistance. The board also features a EUFI BIOS with AI Suite.
The motherboard features an Intel Celeron J4005 processor with two cores (2.0 GHz base and 2.7 GHz boost), 4MB cache, Intel UHD 600 graphics, and a 10W TDP. The SoC is passively cooled by a copper colored aluminum heatsink. The processor supports up to 8GB of 2400 MHz RAM and the motherboard has two DDR4 DIMM slots. Storage is handled by two SATA 6 Gbps ports and one M.2 slot (PCI-E x2) for SSDs. Further, the Prime J4005I-C has an E-key M.2 slot for WLAN and Bluetooth modules (PCI-E x2 or USB mode) along with headers for USB 2.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1, LVDS, and legacy LPT and COM ports.
Rear I/O includes two PS/2, two USB 2.0, one Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8111H), two USB 3.1 Gen 1, one HDMI, one D-SUB, one RS232, and three audio ports (Realtek ALC887-UD2).
The motherboard does not appear to be for sale yet in the US, but Fanless Tech notes that is is listed for around 80 euros overseas (~$100 USD). More Gemini Lake options are always good, and Asus now has one with PCI-E M.2 support though I see this board being more popular with commercial/industrial sectors than enthusiasts unless it goes on sale.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 5, 2018 - 06:07 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, radeon, Adrenalin, resx
We all know that driver specific and per-game optimization happens for all major GPU vendors, including AMD and NVIDIA, but also Intel, and even mobile SoC vendors. Working with the game developers and tweaking your own driver is common practice to helping deliver the best possible gaming experience to your customers.
During the launch of the Radeon Vega graphics cards, AMD discussed with the media an initiative to lower the input latency for some key, highly sensitive titles. Those mostly focused around the likes of Counter-Strike: GO, DOTA 2, League of Legends, etc. They targeted very specific use cases, low-hanging fruit, which the engineering team had recognized could improve gameplay. This included better management of buffers and timing windows to decrease the time from input to display, but had a very specific selection of games and situations it could address.
And while AMD continues to tout its dedication to day-zero driver releases and having an optimized gaming experience for Radeon users on the day of release of a new major title, AMD apparently saw fit to focus a portion of its team on another specific project, this time addressing what it called “the best possible eSports experience.”
So Project ReSX was born (Radeon eSports Experience). Its goal was to optimize performance for some of the “most popular” PC games for Radeon GPUs. The efforts included both driver-level fixes, tweaks, and optimizations, as well as direct interaction with the game developer themselves. Depending on the level of involvement that the dev would accept, AMD would either help optimize the engine and game code itself locally or would send out AMD engineering talent to work with the developer on-site for some undisclosed period of time to help address performance concerns.
Driver release 18.3.1 which is posted on AMD’s website right now, integrates these fixes that the company says are available immediately with some titles and will be “rolling into games in the coming weeks.”
Results that AMD has shared look moderately impressive.
In PUBG, for example, AMD is seeing an 11% improvement in average frame rate and a 9% improvement in the 99th percentile frame time, an indicator of smoothness. Overwatch and DOTA2 are included as well though the numbers are bit lower at 3% and 6%, respectively, in terms of average frame rate. AMD claims that the “click to response” measurement (using high speed cameras for testing) was as much as 8% faster in DOTA 2.
This is great news for Radeon owners, and not just RX 580 customers. AMD’s Scott Wasson told me that if anything, the gaps may widen with the Radeon Vega lineup but that AMD wanted to focus on where the graphics card lineup struggled more with this level of game. PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is known to be a highly unoptimized game, and seeing work from AMD on the driver and at the developer relations level is fantastic.
However, there are a couple of other things to keep in mind. These increases in performance are in comparison to the 17.12.1 release, which was the first Adrenalin launch driver in December of last year. There have been several drivers released between now and today, so we have likely seen SOME of this increase along the way.
Also, while this initiative and project are the right track for AMD to be on, the company isn’t committing to any future releases along these veins. To me, giving this release and direction some kind of marketing name and calling it a “project” indicates that there is or will be continued work on this front: key optimizations and developer work for very popular titles even after the initial launch window. All I was told today was that “there may be” more coming down the pipeline but they had nothing to announce at this time. Hmph.
Also note that NVIDIA hasn’t been sitting idle during this time. In fact, the last email I received from NVIDIA’s driver team indicates that it offers “performance improvements in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), which exhibits performance improvements up to 7% percent” with driver 391.01. In fact, the website lists a specific table with performance uplifts:
While I am very happy to see AMD keeping its continued software promise for further development and optimization for current customers going strong, it simply HAS TO if it wants to keep pace with the efforts of the competition.
All that being said – if you have a Radeon graphics card and plan on joining us to parachute in for some PUBG matches tonight, go grab the new driver immediately!
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2018 - 02:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, hotfix, graphics drivers
NVIDIA has published a hotfix driver, 391.05, for a few issues that didn’t make it into the recently released 391.01 WHQL version. Specifically, if you are experiencing any of the following issues, then you can go to the NVIDIA forums and follow the link to their associated CustHelp page:
- NVIDIA Freestyle stopped working
- Display corruption on Titan V
- Support for Microsoft Surface Book notebooks
While improved support for the Titan V and the Microsoft Surface Book is very important for anyone who owns those devices, NVIDIA Freestyle is an interesting one for the masses. NVIDIA allows users to hook the post processing stage of various supported games and inject their own effects. The feature launched in January and it is still in beta, but lead users still want it to work of course. If you were playing around with this feature and it stopped working on 390-based drivers, then check out this hotfix.
For the rest of us? Probably a good idea to stay on the official drivers. Hotfixes have reduced QA, so it’s possible that other bugs were introduced in the process.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 28, 2018 - 09:04 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: bitmain, bitcoin, qualcomm, nvidia, amd
This article originally appeared in MarketWatch.
Research firm Bernstein recently published a report on the profitability of Bitmain Technologies, a secretive Chinese company with a huge impact on the bitcoin and cryptocurrency markets.
With estimated 2017 profits ranging from $3 billion to $4 billion, the size and scope of Beijing-based Bitmain is undeniable, with annual net income higher than some major tech players, including Nvidia and AMD. The privately held company, founded five years ago, has expanded its reach into many bitcoin-based markets, but most of its income stems from the development and sale of dedicated cryptocurrency mining hardware.
There is a concern that the sudden introduction of additional companies in the chip-production landscape could alter how other players operate. This includes the ability for Nvidia, AMD, Qualcomm and others to order chip production from popular semiconductor vendors at the necessary prices to remain competitive in their respective markets.
Bitmain makes most of its income through the development of dedicated chips used to mine bitcoin. These ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) offer better performance and power efficiency than other products such as graphics chips from Nvidia and AMD. The Bitmain chips are then combined into systems called “miners” that can include as many as 250 chips in a single unit. Those are sold to large mining companies or individuals hoping to turn a profit from the speculative cryptocurrency markets for prices ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars apiece.
Bitcoin mining giant
Bernstein estimates that as much as 70%-80% of the dedicated market for bitcoin mining is being addressed by Bitmain and its ASIC sales.
Bitmain has secondary income sources, including running mining pools (where groups of bitcoin miners share the workload of computing in order to turn a profit sooner) and cloud-based mining services where customers can simply rent mining hardware that exists in a dedicated server location. This enables people to attempt to profit from mining without the expense of buying hardware directly.
A Bitmain Antminer
The chip developer and mining hardware giant has key advantages for revenue growth and stability, despite the volatility of the cryptocurrency market. When Bitmain designs a new ASIC that can address a new currency or algorithm, or run a current coin algorithm faster than was previously possible, it can choose to build its Antminers (the brand for these units) and operate them at its own server farms, squeezing the profitability and advantage the faster chips offer on the bitcoin market before anyone else in the ecosystem has access to them.
As the difficulty of mining increases (which occurs as higher-performance mining options are released, lowering the profitability of older hardware), Bitmain can then start selling the new chips and associated Antminers to customers, moving revenue from mining directly to sales of mining hardware.
This pattern can be repeated for as long as chip development continues, giving Bitmain a tremendous amount of flexibility to balance revenue from different streams.
Imagine a situation where one of the major graphics chip vendors exclusively used its latest graphics chips for its own services like cloud-compute, crypto-mining and server-based rendering and how much more valuable those resources would be — that is the power that Bitmain holds over the bitcoin market.
Competing for foundry business
Clearly Bitmain is big business, and its impact goes well beyond just the bitcoin space. Because its dominance for miners depends on new hardware designs and chip production, where performance and power efficiency are critical to building profitable hardware, it competes for the same foundry business as other fabless semiconductor giants. That includes Apple, Nvidia, Qualcomm, AMD and others.
Companies that build ASICs as part of their business model, including Samsung, TSMC, GlobalFoundries and even Intel to a small degree, look for customers willing to bid the most for the limited availability of production inventory. Bitmain is not restricted to a customer base that is cost-sensitive — instead, its customers are profit-sensitive. As long as the crypto market remains profitable, Bitmain can absorb the added cost of chip production.
Advantages over Nvidia, AMD and Qualcomm
Nvidia, AMD and Qualcomm are not as flexible. Despite the fact that Nvidia can charge thousands for some of its most powerful graphics chips when targeting the enterprise and machine-learning market, the wider gaming market is more sensitive to price changes. You can see that in the unrest that has existed in the gaming space as the price of graphics cards rises due to inventory going to miners rather than gamers. Neither AMD nor Nvidia will get away with selling graphic cards to partners for higher prices and, as a result, there is a potential for negative market growth in PC gaming.
If Bitmain uses the same foundry as others, and is willing to pay more for it to build their chips at a higher priority than other fabless semiconductor companies, then it could directly affect the availability and pricing for graphics chips, mobile phone processors and anything else built at those facilities. As a result, not only does the cryptocurrency market have an effect on the current graphics chip market for gamers by causing shortages, but it could also impact future chip availability if Bitmain (and its competitors) are willing to spend more for the advanced process technologies coming in 2018 and beyond.
Still, nothing is certain in the world of bitcoin and cryptocurrency. The fickle and volatile market means the profitability of Bitmain’s Antminers could be reduced, lessening the drive to pay more for chips and production. There is clearly an impact from sudden bitcoin value drops (from $20,000 to $6,000 as we see saw this month) on mining hardware sales, both graphics chip-based and ASIC-based, but measuring that and predicting it is a difficult venture.
It's clear by now that AMD's latest CPU releases, the Ryzen 3 2200G and the Ryzen 5 2400G are compelling products. We've already taken a look at them in our initial review, as well as investigated how memory speed affected the graphics performance of the internal GPU but it seemed there was something missing.
Recently, it's been painfully clear that GPUs excel at more than just graphics rendering. With the rise of cryptocurrency mining, OpenCL and CUDA performance are as important as ever.
Cryptocurrency mining certainly isn't the only application where having a powerful GPU can help system performance. We set out to see how much of an advantage the Radeon Vega 11 graphics in the Ryzen 5 2400G provided over the significantly less powerful UHD 630 graphics in the Intel i5-8400.
|Test System Setup|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 5 2400G
Intel Core i5-8400
|Motherboard||Gigabyte AB350N-Gaming WiFi
ASUS STRIX Z370-E Gaming
|Memory||2 x 8GB G.SKILL FlareX DDR4-3200
(All memory running at 3200 MHz)
|Storage||Corsair Neutron XTi 480 SSD|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon Vega 11 Graphics
Intel UHD 630 Graphics
|Graphics Drivers||AMD 17.40.3701
|Power Supply||Corsair RM1000x|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro x64 RS3|
Before we take a look at some real-world examples of where a powerful GPU can be utilized, let's look at the relative power of the Vega 11 graphics on the Ryzen 5 2400G compared to the UHD 630 graphics on the Intel i5-8400.
SiSoft Sandra is a suite of benchmarks covering a wide array of system hardware and functionality, including an extensive range of GPGPU tests, which we are looking at today.
Comparing the raw shader performance of the Ryzen 5 2400G and the Intel i5-8400 provides a clear snapshot of what we are dealing with. In every precision category, the Vega 11 graphics in the AMD part are significantly more powerful than the Intel UHD 630 graphics. This all combines to provide a 175% increase in aggregate shader performance over Intel for the AMD part.
Now that we've taken a look at the theoretical power of these GPUs, let's see how they perform in real-world applications.
Memory speed is not a factor that the average gamer thinks about when building their PC. For the most part, memory performance hasn't had much of an effect on modern processors running high-speed memory such as DDR3 and DDR4.
With the launch of AMD's Ryzen processors, last year emerged a platform that was more sensitive to memory speeds. By running Ryzen processors with higher frequency and lower latency memory, users should see significant performance improvements, especially in 1080p gaming scenarios.
However, the Ryzen processors are not the only ones to exhibit this behavior.
Gaming on integrated GPUs is a perfect example of a memory starved situation. Take for instance the new AMD Ryzen 5 2400G and it's Vega-based GPU cores. In a full Vega 56 or 64 situation, these Vega cores utilize blazingly fast HBM 2.0 memory. However, due to constraints such as die space and cost, this processor does not integrate HBM.
Instead, both the CPU portion and the graphics portion of the APU must both depend on the same pool of DDR4 system memory. DDR4 is significantly slower than memory traditionally found on graphics cards such as GDDR5 or HBM. As a result, APU performance is usually memory limited to some extent.
In the past, we've done memory speed testing with AMD's older APUs, however with the launch of the new Ryzen and Vega based R3 2200G and R5 2400G, we decided to take another look at this topic.
For our testing, we are running the Ryzen 5 2400G at three different memory speeds, 2400 MHz, 2933 MHz, and 3200 MHz. While the maximum supported JEDEC memory standard for the R5 2400G is 2933, the memory provided by AMD for our processor review will support overclocking to 3200MHz just fine.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 18, 2018 - 02:54 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: opengl, nvidia, metal, macos, apple
Just two days ago, NVIDIA has published a job posting for a software engineer to “implement and extend 3D graphics and Metal”. Given that they specify the Metal API, and they want applicants who are “Experienced with OSX and/or Linux operating systems”, it seems clear that this job would involve macOS and/or iOS.
First, if this appeals to any of our readers, the job posting is here.
Second, and this is where it gets potentially news-worthy, is that NVIDIA hasn’t really done a whole lot on Apple platforms for a while. The most recent NVIDIA GPU to see macOS is the GeForce GTX 680. It’s entirely possible that NVIDIA needs someone to fill in and maintain those old components. If that’s the case? Business as usual. Nothing to see here.
The other possibility is that NVIDIA might be expecting a design win with Apple. What? Who knows. It could be something as simple as Apple’s external GPU architecture allowing the user to select their own add-in board. Alternatively, Apple could have selected an NVIDIA GPU for one or more product lines, which they have not done since 2013 (as far as I can tell).
Apple typically makes big announcements at WWDC, which is expected in early June, or around the back-to-school season in September. I’m guessing we’ll know by then at the latest if something is in the works.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 14, 2018 - 07:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, graphics drivers
AMD has published a new version of their Radeon Software Adrenaline Edition graphics drivers. This one focuses on Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Fortnite, and PlayerUnknown’s Battleground. The first one, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, is an action RPG from Deep Silver and Warhorse Studios. It is the studio’s first game, although its founders came from 2K and Bohemia Interactive.
AMD is quoting frame rate increases in the range of ~3-4% with this driver, although PubG can see up to 7% if you compare it with 17.12.1. They don’t seem to list any fixes, although there’s a handful of known issues, like FreeSync coming online during Google Chrome video playback, refreshing incorrectly and causing flicker. There’s also a system hang that could occur when twelve GPUs are performing a compute task. I WONDER WHAT CONDITIONS WOULD CAUSE THAT.
You can pick up the latest driver from AMD’s website.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 7, 2018 - 09:02 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: VR, trueaudio next, TrueAudio, steam audio, amd
Valve has announced support for AMD's TrueAudio Next technology in its Steam Audio SDK for developers. The partnership will allow game and VR application developers to reserve a portion of a GCN-based GPU's compute units for audio processing and increase the quality and quantity of audio sources as a result. AMD's OpenCL-based TrueAudio Next technology can run CPUs as well but it's strength is in the ability to run on a dedicated portion of the GPU to improve both frame times and audio quality since threads are not competing for the same GPU resources during complex scenes and the GPU can process complex audio scenes and convolutions much more efficiently than a CPU (especially as the number of sources and impulse responses increase) respectively.
Steam Audio's TrueAudio Next integration is being positioned as an option for developers and the answer to increasing the level of immersion in virtual reality games and applications. While TrueAudio Next is not using ray tracing for audio, it is physics-based and can be used to great effect to create realistic scenes with large numbers of direct and indirect audio sources, ambisonics, increased impulse response lengths, echoes, reflections, reverb, frequency equalization, and HRTF (Head Related Transfer Function) 3D audio. According to Valve indirect audio from multiple sources with convolution reverb is one of the most computationally intensive parts of Steam Audio, and TAN is able to handle it much more efficiently and accurately without affecting GPU frame times and freeing the CPU up for additional physics and AI tasks which it is much better at anyway. Convolution is a way of modeling and filtering audio to create effects such as echoes and reverb. In the case of indirect audio, Steam Audio uses ray tracing to generate an impulse response (it measures the distance and path audio would travel from source to listener) and then convolution is used to generate a reverb effect which, while very accurate, can be quite computationally intensive with it requiring hundreds of thousands of sound samples. Ambisonics further represent the directional nature of indirect sound which helps to improve positional audio and the immersion factor as sounds are more real-world modeled.
GPU versus CPU convolution (audio filtering) performance. Lower is better.
In addition to the ability of developers to dedicate a portion (up to 20 to 25%) of a GPU's compute units to audio processing, developers can enable/disable TrueAudio processing including the level of acoustic complexity and detail on a scene-by-scene basis. Currently it appears that Unity, FMOD Studio, and C API engines can hook into Steam Audio and the TrueAudio Next features, but it remains up to developers to use the features and integrate them into their games.
Note that GPU-based TrueAudio Next requires a GCN-based graphics card of the RX 470, RX 480, RX 570, RX 580, R9 Fury, R9 Fury X, Radeon Pro Duo, RX Vega 56, and RX Vega 64 variety in order to work, so that is a limiting factor in adoption much like the various hair and facial tech is for AMD and NVIDIA on the visual side of things where the question of is the target market large enough to encourage developers to put in the time and effort to enable X optional feature arises.
I do not pretend to be an audio engineer, nor do I play a GPU programmer on TV but more options are always good and I hope that developers take advantage of the resource reservation and GPU compute convolution algorithms of TrueAudio Next to further the immersion factor of audio as much as they have the visual side of things. As VR continues to become more relevant I think that developers will have to start putting more emphasis on accurate and detailed audio and that's a good thing for an aspect of gaming that has seemingly taken a backseat since Windows Vista.
What are your thoughts on the state of audio in gaming and Steam Audio's new TrueAudio Next integration?
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 3, 2018 - 05:00 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: RX 580, msi, GDDR5, factory overclocked, amd, 8gb
MSI is updating its Radeon RX 580 Armor series with a new MK2 variant (in both standard and OC editions) that features an updated cooler with red and black color scheme and a metal backplate along with Torx 2.0 fans.
The graphics card is powered by a single 8-pin PCI-E power connection and has two DisplayPort, two HDMI, and one DVI display output. MSI claims the MK2 cards use its Military Class 4 hardware including high end solid capacitors. The large heatsink features three copper heatpipes and a large aluminum fin stack. It appears that the cards are using the same PCB as the original Armor series but it is not clear from MSI’s site if they have dome anything different to the power delivery.
The RX 580 Polaris GPU is running at a slight factory overclock out of the box with a boost clock of up to 1353 MHz (reference is 1340) for the standard edition and at up to 1366 MHz for the RX 580 Armor MK2 OC Edition. The OC edition can further clock up to 1380 MHz when run in OC mode using the company’s software utility (enthusiasts can attempt to go beyond that but MSi makes no guarantees). Both cards come with 8GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at the reference 8GHz.
MSI did not release pricing or availability but expect them to be difficult to find and for well above MSRP when they are in stock If you have a physical Microcenter near you, it might be worth watching for one of these cards there to have a chance of getting one closer to MSRP.