A song of external GPUs; Sonnet' eGFX Breakaway Box

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 3, 2017 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: external gpu, sonnet, eGFX Breakaway Box, thunderbolt 3

The version of Sonnet's Breakaway Box which Ars Technica tested is priced at $300, for that you get the housing with a 350W PSU inside that can handle a GPU of up to 300W.  There are two other models, the Developer Edition which shipped with Apple's External GPU Dev kit and a higher powered model which can support cards that require up to 375W.  AMD worked with Sonnet to create an optimized driver for this enclosure which has enabled them to retain more performance than NVIDIA on this Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, however all the cards they tested did show performance degradation compared to a GPU inside of a desktop system.  On the other hand that is not what this device is for; it is to enable a laptop to play high end games and in that it does succeed.  Check out the full review here.

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"The Breakaway Box is best described as functional, consisting of a simple steel chassis and vented side panels (neither of which, sadly, feature proper dust filters), with a power supply, 120mm fan, and a single PCIe slot inside."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: Ars Technica

The Khronos Group Releases OpenGL 4.6

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 2, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: spir-v, opengl, Khronos

While Vulkan has been getting a lot of mindshare recently, OpenGL is still in active development. This release, OpenGL 4.6, adds a bunch of extensions into the core specification, making them more reliably available to engines. There’s a lot of them this time, many of which seem to borrow design elements from the work done on Vulkan.

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The headlining feature is SPIR-V support as an ARB extension, which frees OpenGL programs from having their shaders written in GLSL. Many engines write their shaders in HLSL and use a transpiler to generate the corresponding GLSL, which may not support all features. The extension might also help titles target both OpenGL and Vulkan, although I’m not sure why we would see a driver that supports OpenGL 4.6 but not Vulkan.

Another extension is GL_KHR_no_error, which tells graphics drivers that they do not need to generate errors at runtime. This will save a bit of driver overhead. GL_ARB_indirect_parameters also helps with CPU overhead by allowing draws to pass parameters to other GPU-initiated draws, although this is a bit out of my domain. Also, if you’re not working in SPIR-V, GL_KHR_parallel_shader_compile will allow the driver to compile your GLSL shaders across multiple worker threads.

NVIDIA has a beta driver for developers, which is a couple of versions back compared to their consumer version, so you don’t want to install it unless you intend on developing OpenGL 4.6 applications. Mesa says that they shouldn’t be too far behind.

Report: Wolfenstein 2 Optimized for AMD Vega with FP16 Shader Support

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 1, 2017 - 12:05 PM |
Tagged: Wolfenstein 2, vulkan, Vega, id Tech 6, id software, half-precision, game engine, FP16, amd

According to a report from Golem.de (German language), with the upcoming Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus game AMD Vega owners will have the advantage of FP16 shader support from a new version of the id Tech 6 engine. The game supports both DX12 and the Vulkan API, but the use of half-precision calculations - the scope of which has not been specified - will potentially offer higher frame-rates for AMD Vega users.

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AMD provided some technical details about Wolfenstein 2 during their Threadripper/Vega tech day, and this new game includes “special optimizations” in the id Tech 6 game engine for AMD Vega hardware:

“For what exactly id Software (is using) FP16 instead of FP32, AMD did not say. These could post-processing effects, such as bloom. The performance should increase in the double-digit percentage range, (though) id Software did not want to comment on it.” (Translated from German.)

Source: Golem.de

ASUS Announces Four RX Vega 64 GPUs Headlined By ROG STRIX RX Vega 64 OC Edition

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 30, 2017 - 11:02 PM |
Tagged: vega 64, strix, radeon rx vega, ASUS ROG, asus, amd

Although AMD’s own cards are the focus of attention this weekend, the company’s partners are also ready with some RX Vega announcements of their own. ASUS today announced four new cards based on the highest-tier Vega 64 design:

  • ASUS RX Vega64 Water Cooled Edition
  • ASUS RX Vega64 Air Cooled Edition
  • ROG Strix RX Vega64 OC Edition
  • ROG Strix RX Vega64

The first two cards, the non-Strix models, feature AMD’s corresponding reference design for the air and water-cooled models, while incorporating support for both ASUS’s GPU Tweak II software and XSplit Gamecaster.

asus-rog-strix-vega-64.jpg

The Strix models will feature a custom triple fan ASUS cooler, RGB lighting with Aura Sync support, and two “VR-friendly” HDMI ports (the reference RX Vega design only has one). ASUS has yet to announce base or boost clocks for the ROG Strix RX Vega64. See below for complete specifications:

asus-rx-vega64-specs-tbd.png

ASUS RX Vega64 Air and Water Cooled editions will launch on August 14th. ASUS states “early September” availability for the ROG Strix models. Pricing was not disclosed as of the date of this article’s publication.

Source: ASUS
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

RX Vega is here

Though we are still a couple of weeks from availability and benchmarks, today we finally have the details on the Radeon RX Vega product line. That includes specifications, details on the clock speed changes, pricing, some interesting bundle programs, and how AMD plans to attack NVIDIA through performance experience metrics.

There is a lot going on today and I continue to have less to tell you about more products, so I’m going to defer a story on the architectural revelations that AMD made to media this week and instead focus on what I think more of our readers will want to know. Let’s jump in.

Radeon RX Vega Specifications

Though the leaks have been frequent and getting closer to reality, as it turns out AMD was in fact holding back quite a bit of information about the positioning of RX Vega for today. Radeon will launch the Vega 64 and Vega 56 today, with three different versions of the Vega 64 on the docket. Vega 64 uses the full Vega 10 chip with 64 CUs and 4096 stream processors. Vega 56 will come with 56 CUs enabled (get it?) and 3584 stream processors.

Pictures of the various product designs have already made it out to the field including the Limited Edition with the brushed anodized aluminum shroud, the liquid cooled card with a similar industrial design, and the more standard black shroud version that looks very similar to the previous reference cards from AMD.

  RX Vega 64 Liquid RX Vega 64 Air RX Vega 56 Vega Frontier Edition GTX 1080 Ti GTX 1080 TITAN X GTX 980 R9 Fury X
GPU Vega 10 Vega 10 Vega 10 Vega 10 GP102 GP104 GM200 GM204 Fiji XT
GPU Cores 4096 4096 3584 4096 3584 2560 3072 2048 4096
Base Clock 1406 MHz 1247 MHz 1156 MHz 1382 MHz 1480 MHz 1607 MHz 1000 MHz 1126 MHz 1050 MHz
Boost Clock 1677 MHz 1546 MHz 1471 MHz 1600 MHz 1582 MHz 1733 MHz 1089 MHz 1216 MHz -
Texture Units 256 256 256 256 224 160 192 128 256
ROP Units 64 64 ? 64 88 64 96 64 64
Memory 8GB 8GB 8GB 16GB 11GB 8GB 12GB 4GB 4GB
Memory Clock 1890 MHz 1890 MHz 1600 MHz 1890 MHz 11000 MHz 10000 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 1000 MHz
Memory Interface 2048-bit HBM2 2048-bit HBM2 2048-bit HBM2 2048-bit HBM2 352-bit G5X 256-bit G5X 384-bit 256-bit 4096-bit (HBM)
Memory Bandwidth 484 GB/s 484 GB/s 484 GB/s 484 GB/s 484 GB/s 320 GB/s 336 GB/s 224 GB/s 512 GB/s
TDP 345 watts 295 watts 210 watts 300 watts 250 watts 180 watts 250 watts 165 watts 275 watts
Peak Compute 13.7 TFLOPS 12.6 TFLOPS 10.5 TFLOPS 13.1 TFLOPS 10.6 TFLOPS 8.2 TFLOPS 6.14 TFLOPS 4.61 TFLOPS 8.60 TFLOPS
Transistor Count 12.5B 12.5B 12.5B 12.5B 12.0B 7.2B 8.0B 5.2B 8.9B
Process Tech 14nm 14nm 14nm 14nm 16nm 16nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
MSRP (current) $699 $499 $399 $999 $699 $599 $999 $499 $649

If you are a frequent reader of PC Perspective, you have already seen our reviews of the Vega Frontier Edition air cooled and liquid cards, so some of this is going to look very familiar. Looking at the Vega 64 first, we need to define the biggest change to the performance ratings of RX and FE versions of the Vega architecture. When we listed the “boost clock” of the Vega FE cards, and really any Radeon cards previous to RX Vega, we were referring the maximum clock speed of the card in its out of box state. This was counter to the method that NVIDIA used for its “boost clock” rating that pointed towards a “typical” clock speed that the card would run at in a gaming workload. Essentially, the NVIDIA method was giving consumers a more realistic look at how fast the card would be running while AMD was marketing the theoretical peak with perfect thermals, perfect workloads. This, to be clear, never happened.

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With the RX Vega cards and their specifications, the “boost clock” is now a typical clock rate. AMD has told me that this is what they estimate the average clock speed of the card will be during a typical gaming workload with a typical thermal and system design. This is great news! It means that gamers will have a more realistic indication of performance, both theoretical and expected, and the listings on the retailers and partner sites will be accurate. It also means that just looking at the spec table above will give you an impression that the performance gap between Vega FE and RX Vega is smaller than it will be in testing. (This is, of course, if AMD’s claims are true; I haven’t tested it myself yet.)

Continue reading our preview of the Radeon RX Vega 64 and Vega 56!

Looks Like Vega Nano is GO!

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 30, 2017 - 10:07 PM |
Tagged: Vega, Siggraph, Nano

This doesn't look like it was really meant to happen, but it is in the wild now!  Twitter user Drew has posted a picture of Chris Hook holding up a Vega Nano card outside the show.  It draws its design from the previous Vega products that we have seen with the shroud and the red cube in the top right corner.  No specifications were included with this post, but we can see that the card is significantly shorter than the RX Vega FE that Ryan had reviewed.

vega_hook.jpg

TDPs should be in the sub-200 watt range for such a design.  The original Nano was a 150 watt TDP part that performed quite well at the time.  Pricing is again not included, but we will be able to guess once the rest of the Vega lineup is announced later.

Source: Twitter

AMD Releases Radeon GPU Profiler

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 27, 2017 - 05:45 PM |
Tagged: amd

Alongside the big Radeon Software Crimson ReLive 17.7.2 release, AMD pushed out a new developer tool to profile performance on AMD GPUs. First and foremost, it’s only designed to work with the newer graphics APIs, DirectX 12 and Vulkan, although it supports many operating systems: Windows 7, Windows 10, and Linux (Ubuntu 16.04). It doesn’t (yet) support Vega, so you will need to have a 400-, 500-, or Fury series GPU. I expect that will change in the near future, though.

amd-2017-rgp-main.png

So what does it do? These new graphics APIs are low-level, and there’s a lot going on within a single frame. Other tools exist to debug thing like “which draw call is painting a white blotch over part of my frame”, with AMD recommending RenderDoc. Radeon GPU Profiler is more for things like “did I feed my GPU enough tasks to mask global memory access latency?” or “what draw call took the longest to process?” Now that a lot of this is in the hands of game developers, AMD wants them to have the tools to efficiently load their GPUs.

While the software is freely available, it’s not open source. (You will see a “Source code” link in the release section of GitHub, but it’s just a Readme.)

Source: AMD
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

Software Iteration

The software team at AMD and the Radeon Technologies Group is releasing Radeon Crimson ReLive Edition 17.7.2 this evening and it includes a host of new features, improved performance capabilities, and stability improvements to boot. This isn’t the major reboot of the software that we have come to expect on an annual basis, but rather an attempt to get the software team’s work out in front of media and gamers before the onslaught of RX Vega and Threadripper steal the attention.

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AMD’s software team is big on its user satisfaction ratings, which it should be after the many years of falling behind NVIDIA in this department. With 16 individual driver releases in 2017 (so far) and 20 new games optimized and supported with day one releases, the 90% rating seems to be about right. Much of the work that could be done to improve multi-GPU and other critical problems are more than a calendar year behind us, so it seems reasonable the Radeon gamers would be in a good place in terms of software support.

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One big change for Crimson ReLive today is that all of those lingering settings that remained in the old Catalyst Control Panel will now reside in the proper Radeon Settings. This means matching UI and streamlined interface.

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The ReLive capture and streaming capability sees a handful of upgrades today including a bump from 50mbps to 100mbps maximum bit rate, transparency support for webcams, improved optimization to lower the memory usage (and thus the overhead of running ReLive), notifications of replays and record timers, and audio controls for microphone volume and push-to-talk.

Continue reading about the latest Crimson ReLive driver updates!

Introducing the EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti K|NGP|N

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 25, 2017 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: evga, Kingpin, 1080 ti, nvidia

A fancy new card with a fancy way of spelling K|NGP|N has just been announced by EVGA.  It is a rather attractive card, eschewing RGBitis for a copper heatsink peeking through the hexagonal grill and three fans.  The only glowing parts indicate the temperature of the GPU, memory and PWM controller; a far more functional use.

kingpin.PNG

As you would expect, the card arrives with default clocks, a base clock of 1582MHz and boost of 1695MHz, however the card is guaranteed to hit 2025MHz and higher when you overclock the cards.  The base model ships with a dual-slot profile, however EVGA chose to move the DVI port down, leaving the top of the card empty except for cooling vents, this also means you could purchase a Hydro Copper Waterblock and reduce the cards height to a single slot.

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The card currently holds several single GPU World Records:

  • 3DMark Time Spy World Record – 14,219
  • 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme World Record – 19,361
  • 3DMark Fire Strike World Record – 31,770
  • UNIGINE Superposition – 8,642

July 25th, 2017 - The GeForce® GTX™ 1080 Ti was designed to be the most powerful desktop GPU ever created, and indeed it was. EVGA built upon its legacy of innovative cooling solutions and powerful overclocking with its GTX 1080 Ti SC2 and FTW3 graphics cards. Despite the overclocking headroom provided by the frigid cooling of EVGA's patented iCX Technology, the potential of the GTX 1080 Ti still leaves room for one more card at the top...and man is it good to be the K|NG.

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Source: EVGA
Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

Specifications and Design

Just a couple of short weeks ago we looked at the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition 16GB graphics card in its air-cooled variety. The results were interesting – gaming performance proved to fall somewhere between the GTX 1070 and the GTX 1080 from NVIDIA’s current generation of GeForce products. That is under many of the estimates from players in the market, including media, fans, and enthusiasts.  But before we get to the RX Vega product family that is targeted at gamers, AMD has another data point for us to look at with a water-cooled version of Vega Frontier Edition. At a $1500 MSRP, which we shelled out ourselves, we are very interested to see how it changes the face of performance for the Vega GPU and architecture.

Let’s start with a look at the specifications of this version of the Vega Frontier Edition, which will be…familiar.

  Vega Frontier Edition (Liquid) Vega Frontier Edition Titan Xp GTX 1080 Ti Titan X (Pascal) GTX 1080 TITAN X GTX 980 R9 Fury X
GPU Vega Vega GP102 GP102 GP102 GP104 GM200 GM204 Fiji XT
GPU Cores 4096 4096 3840 3584 3584 2560 3072 2048 4096
Base Clock 1382 MHz 1382 MHz 1480 MHz 1480 MHz 1417 MHz 1607 MHz 1000 MHz 1126 MHz 1050 MHz
Boost Clock 1600 MHz 1600 MHz 1582 MHz 1582 MHz 1480 MHz 1733 MHz 1089 MHz 1216 MHz -
Texture Units ? ? 224 224 224 160 192 128 256
ROP Units 64 64 96 88 96 64 96 64 64
Memory 16GB 16GB 12GB 11GB 12GB 8GB 12GB 4GB 4GB
Memory Clock 1890 MHz 1890 MHz 11400 MHz 11000 MHz 10000 MHz 10000 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 1000 MHz
Memory Interface 2048-bit HBM2 2048-bit HBM2 384-bit G5X 352-bit 384-bit G5X 256-bit G5X 384-bit 256-bit 4096-bit (HBM)
Memory Bandwidth 483 GB/s 483 GB/s 547.7 GB/s 484 GB/s 480 GB/s 320 GB/s 336 GB/s 224 GB/s 512 GB/s
TDP 300 watts
~350 watts
300 watts 250 watts 250 watts 250 watts 180 watts 250 watts 165 watts 275 watts
Peak Compute 13.1 TFLOPS 13.1 TFLOPS 12.0 TFLOPS 10.6 TFLOPS 10.1 TFLOPS 8.2 TFLOPS 6.14 TFLOPS 4.61 TFLOPS 8.60 TFLOPS
Transistor Count ? ? 12.0B 12.0B 12.0B 7.2B 8.0B 5.2B 8.9B
Process Tech 14nm 14nm 16nm 16nm 16nm 16nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
MSRP (current) $1499 $999 $1200 $699 $1,200 $599 $999 $499 $649

The base specs remain unchanged and AMD lists the same memory frequency and even GPU clock rates across both models. In practice though, the liquid cooled version runs at higher sustained clocks and can overclock a bit easier as well (more details later). What does change with the liquid cooled version is a usable BIOS switch on top of the card that allows you to move between two distinct power draw states: 300 watts and 350 watts.

IMG_4728.JPG

First, it’s worth noting this is a change from the “375 watt” TDP that this card was listed at during the launch and announcement. AMD was touting a 300-watt and 375-watt version of Frontier Edition, but it appears the company backed off a bit on that, erring on the side of caution to avoid breaking any of the specifcations of PCI Express (board slot or auxiliary connectors). Even more concerning is that AMD chose to have the default state of the switch on the Vega FE Liquid card at 300 watts rather than the more aggressive 350 watts. AMD claims this to avoid any problems with lower quality power supplies that may struggle to hit slightly over 150 watts of power draw (and resulting current) from the 8-pin power connections. I would argue that any system that is going to install a $1500 graphics card can and should be prepared to provide the necessary power, but for the professional market, AMD leans towards caution. (It’s worth pointing out the RX 480 power issues that may have prompted this internal decision making were more problematic because they impacted the power delivery through the motherboard, while the 6- and 8-pin connectors are generally much safer to exceed the ratings.)

Even without clock speed changes, the move to water cooling should result in better and more consistent performance by removing the overheating concerns that surrounded our first Radeon Vega Frontier Edition review. But let’s dive into the card itself and see how the design process created a unique liquid cooled solution.

Continue reading our review of the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition Liquid-Cooled card!!