|The TR Podcast 168: The CES wrap 2015||1|
|Samsung's Portable SSD T1 reviewed||32|
|Cooler Master's Hyper D92 CPU cooler reviewed||23|
Eight is Enough
Read more... Nvidia admits, explains GeForce GTX 970 memory allocation issue
We've been tracking an issue with GeForce GTX 970 memory use for a little while now, most notably via this thread in our forums. Some GeForce GTX 970 owners have noticed unusual behavior from these cards compared to the GTX 980. Specifically, the GTX 970 sometimes appears to allocate less than its full 4GB of memory in cases where the GTX 980 does. Also, when asked to go beyond 3.5GB using a directed test, GTX 970 memory bandwidth appears to drop. We even discussed the issue on the Alt+Tab Show last night.
Nvidia has been looking into the issue and has now issued the following statement:
The GeForce GTX 970 is equipped with 4GB of dedicated graphics memory. However the 970 has a different configuration of SMs than the 980, and fewer crossbar resources to the memory system. To optimally manage memory traffic in this configuration, we segment graphics memory into a 3.5GB section and a 0.5GB section. The GPU has higher priority access to the 3.5GB section. When a game needs less than 3.5GB of video memory per draw command then it will only access the first partition, and 3rd party applications that measure memory usage will report 3.5GB of memory in use on GTX 970, but may report more for GTX 980 if there is more memory used by other commands. When a game requires more than 3.5GB of memory then we use both segments.
We understand there have been some questions about how the GTX 970 will perform when it accesses the 0.5GB memory segment. The best way to test that is to look at game performance. Compare a GTX 980 to a 970 on a game that uses less than 3.5GB. Then turn up the settings so the game needs more than 3.5GB and compare 980 and 970 performance again.
Here’s an example of some performance data:
Shadows of Mordor
<3.5GB setting = 2688x1512 Very High
>3.5GB setting = 3456x1944
<3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 2xMSAA
>3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 135% res
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
<3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 FSMAA T2x, Supersampling off
>3.5GB setting = 3840x2160 FSMAA T2x, Supersampling on
On GTX 980, Shadows of Mordor drops about 24% on GTX 980 and 25% on GTX 970, a 1% difference. On Battlefield 4, the drop is 47% on GTX 980 and 50% on GTX 970, a 3% difference. On CoD: AW, the drop is 41% on GTX 980 and 44% on GTX 970, a 3% difference. As you can see, there is very little change in the performance of the GTX 970 relative to GTX 980 on these games when it is using the 0.5GB segment.
Interesting. We explored a similar datapath issue related to the GTX 970's disabled SMs in this blog post. In that case, we looked at why the GTX 970 can't make full use of its 64 ROP partitions at once when drawing pixels. Sounds to me like this issue is pretty closely related.
Beyond satisfying our curiosity, though, I'm not sure what else to make of this information. Like the ROP issue, this limitation is already baked into the GTX 970's measured performance. Perhaps folks will find some instances where the GTX 970's memory allocation limits affect performance more dramatically than in Nvidia's examples above. If so, maybe we should worry about this limitation. If not, well, then it's all kind of academic.Here's my guest appearance on tonight's Alt+Tab Show
We talked about the GeForce GTX 960, among other things, on this evening's edition of the Alt+Tab Show. Here's the rebroadcast via YouTube for those who missed it.
Thanks to Steve, Paul, and the rest of the Newegg TV crew for having me on the show.Watch John Romero talk about Doom level design
It's a rainy Friday afternoon here, and there's no better way to spend one of these than by reminiscing about the olden days of PC gaming. Happily, the guys at Double Fine Productions have just the thing. They've posted a 10-part video series wherein John Romero, gloriously coiffed as always, walks through the original Doom and explains his level design choices.
That's the second video in the series, but I think it's a better starting point than the first one. There's just something weirdly exciting about seeing Romero deconstruct such a classic level as E1M1. Either way, Double Fine's 10 clips add up to well over two hours of run time, so there's no shortage of content here. Happy watching!I'll be on Newegg TV's Alt+Tab show live at 3PM PT
I'll be putting in an appearance this evening on Newegg TV's Alt+Tab Show starting at 6:00 PM Eastern time/3:00 PM Pacific. I'm sure we'll be talking about my GeForce GTX 960 review and, well, whatever else the guys have on tap.
You can tune in via Newegg TV's Twitch channel or just view the show in the embedded player below once the time comes.
Feel free to drop into the chat room and ask any burning questions you may have. I expect we'll have time to answer a few.Windows 10 build 9926 adds Cortana, Continuum, and more
On the heels of Wednesday's Windows 10 event, Microsoft has released a new preview build of the operating system. Available now to members of the Windows Insider Program, build 9926 includes some—but not all—of the features demoed earlier this week. Here's a video preview presented by Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's OS chief:
In build 9926, users can look forward to Cortana integration, a revamped Start menu (which showcases the Continuum capability we saw in September), a new Windows Store, better support for wireless audio and video devices, some tweaks based on user feedback, and several new-and-improved apps, including Settings, Photos, Maps, and Xbox. Microsoft says it's working hard to get the rest of the features we saw this week ready for public consumption.
The new build is being pushed out to "both 'Fast' and 'Slow' rings simultaneously," Microsoft says, so current testers will get it regardless of the update frequency they've chosen. The new build should also be available as an ISO download for new members of the Windows Insider Program.Apacer exec sees 256GB SSDs falling below $70 this year
Solid-state drives will get a whole lot cheaper in the second half of this year. That's according to CK Chang, General Manager at Taiwanese digital storage firm Apacer. Speaking to DigiTimes this week, Chang said he expects 256GB SSDs to fall below $70 in that time frame, with 128GB offerings to land at just $40.
Chang expects the coming price decline to be spurred by NAND flash makers as they transition to 14-, 15-, and 16-nm process geometries. The move, DigiTimes says, will "[drag] production costs down substantially." No kidding.
Dirt-cheap 256GB drives would be nice, but if you ask me, bargain-priced 512GB SSDs are a more exciting prospect. If 256GB drives fall below $70, then it's probably fair to expect 512GB offerings to land under $140—or perhaps even lower, since the cost per gigabyte tends to decline as capacities rise. 512GB offers quite a bit more headroom, especially for those large games that have come out lately.Deal of the week: IPS monitors with 4K and 1080p resolutions
Those are the deals that caught my eye this morning, but the list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to chime in with any good deals you spot in the comments below.Haswell CPU and Radeon graphics team up in ASRock's VisionX mini PC
ASRock has beefed up its line of mini PCs with a new VisionX Series that combines Haswell horsepower with Radeon graphics. The 7.9" x 7.9" x 2.8" systems are available with a range of mobile CPUs capped by the Core i7-4712MQ, a 37W chip with quad cores clocked up to 3.3GHz. Graphics grunt is provided by a GCN-based R9 M270X GPU with 1GB of dedicated memory.
The VisionX looks fairly nice from the outside, and it's loaded with connectivity. Up front, you get a USB 3.0 port, an SD reader, and a "MHSL" connector of ASRock's own design. This "Mobile High Speed Link" is compatible with the MHL standard, and it can sync data in addition to handling display signals.
There's a little bit of everything around back, including HDMI, DVI, S/PDIF, eSATA, and loads of USB. Gigabit Ethernet is included, as well, along with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Inside, the chassis has room for dual SO-DIMMs, dual 2.5" hard drives, and one mSATA SSD. The top configuration comes with 8GB of RAM, a 2TB mechanical drive, and a 256GB SSD. A "DVD Super Multi" drive is also listed in the spec sheet, but it's not entirely clear whether Blu-ray discs are supported. One would hope.
ASRock includes an MCE-compatible remote in the box, making the VisionX particularly well-suited to home-theater PC duty. I hope the system isn't too loud for the living room, though. The chassis appears to have very little ventilation, which means the internal blower will probably have to work reasonably hard to expel heat from inside the case.Report: Google to launch its own cellular service
After Google Fiber, here comes Google Wireless. That's the scoop over at the Wall Street Journal, which says Google has cut deals to launch its own cellular service aimed directly at consumers.
This time, Google won't be building its own infrastructure. Instead, according to "people familiar with the matter," the Internet giant has entered partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile. Google plans to resell service on those companies' networks.
The Journal adds that it still lacks details about where, when, and for how much Google's wireless offering will be available. However, the paper says its sources believe Google's entry is "likely to prod the wireless industry to cut prices and improve speeds."
Well, let's keep our fingers crossed.Updated: GeForce GTX 960 cards already plentiful online
Just hours after its launch, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 960 graphics card is already available online in sizeable numbers.
Newegg has 12 versions of it listed, all of them available and ready to ship. Three are priced at $199.99, six are listed for $209.99, and the remaining three are marked up between $219.99 and $239.99. The Asus Strix model Scott tested most extensively in his review is among the $209.99 options.
Not all e-tailers have similarly large stocks, though. Amazon lists 11 cards with prices ranging from $204.99 to $279.99, but only three are in stock. Meanwhile, a search for "GTX 960" at TigerDirect only pulls up a single card, an MSI Gaming 2G variant priced at $259.99.
Still, Nvidia's new hotness isn't hard to come by, especially if you don't mind shopping at Newegg.
The GTX 960's most direct competitor, the Radeon R9 285, is similarly plentiful. Prices start at $209.99 and range up to $259.99 for certain variants, including a compact one from Sapphire aimed at Mini-ITX builds.
Update 2:55 PM: Added a link to Amazon's GTX 960 page.Thursday Shortbread
Eight is Enough
Read more... GeForce 347.25 drivers add GTX 960 support, expand MFAA
Nvidia has released new drivers to celebrate the arrival of its GeForce GTX 960 graphics card. The 347.25 drivers bear Microsoft's WHQL certification, and they support GPUs dating all the way back to the GeForce 400 series.
Along with support for Nvidia's new hotness, the 347.25 release contains optimizations for Dying Light, an upcoming survival horror game that combines parkour and zombies. The drivers also extend MFAA, Nvidia's multi-frame antialiasing scheme, to "nearly every DX10 and DX11 title." MFAA is available on a limited number of Maxwell-based GPUs, including the GTX 960, 970, and 980.
Additional details about the drivers can be found in the release notes (PDF). Apart from a handful of miscellaneous bug fixes and some new SLI profiles, there isn't much else to see. The 347.25 release can be downloaded right here.Report: Acer prepping curved 34'' display with G-Sync
Fans of curved, ultra-wide displays may soon be able to get one with Nvidia's variable refresh mojo. According to TFT Central, Acer is developing a curved 34-incher with support for G-Sync refresh rates up to 144Hz.
The Predator XR341CK will reportedly have a 3440x1440 resolution, and there may be more than one version. The site also mentions possible variants with a lower 2560x1080 resolution and fixed refresh rate. A FreeSync unit doesn't appear to be in the cards, though.
There's no word on the panel technology behind the rumored displays. LG already offers a curved 34" IPS display with a 3440x1440 resolution, but that monitor tops out at only 60Hz, so the underlying panel probably isn't fast enough for the Predator. Support for higher refresh rates is fairly rare in IPS territory, making TN tech a more likely candidate. That said, we've yet to see a curved display based on TN tech.
If Acer's curved Predator does exist, we should learn more about it in the spring. Mass production is set for the second quarter, TFT Central says, and availability should follow soon thereafter.Windows 10 may support streaming from PC to Xbox One, too
While Microsoft made no mention of such a feature at yesterday's event, Xbox chief Phil Spencer strongly hinted at the possibility in a followup appearance:
"People ask about the streaming in the opposite direction — can I stream from my PC to my Xbox? — and I'll just say it's something that we're really looking at," Spencer said.
As a vessel for PC gaming in the living room, the Xbox One would certainly be an unlikely tool in the PC gamer's toolbox. The Xbone is very competitively priced, though, and its catalogue of exclusives could make it a more compelling solution for some than something like a Steam machine.Microsoft's next-gen browser has annotation system, Cortana assistant
Microsoft's rumored Project Spartan browser is real, and it's coming to Windows 10 devices, including smartphones. This apparent heir to Internet Explorer has a new rendering engine to go along with an updated interface. It also packs a bunch of new features revealed at the Windows 10 event today.
As with the rest of the OS, Cortana is deeply integrated into the experience. Microsoft's virtual assistant automatically provides relevant information based on what's displayed on the page and typed in the address bar. Users can also get more details on specific page elements by right-clicking on highlighted words and phrases.
Annotation is a big part of the browser. Notes can be scribbled on top of web pages and then saved and shared with the underyling links intact. The annotation system seems best suited to stylus input, but there are options to add notes with a keyboard, mouse, and fingertip.
Last, but not least, Spartan adds a special reading mode that appears inspired by similar functionality in Safari. This mode strips everything but the page's core content to provide an uncluttered reading experience. It supports caching pages for offline viewing, as well.Windows Holographic can put you on Mars, in Minecraft
For years, a skunkworks team at Microsoft has been quietly exploring augmenting reality with virtual holograms. The fruits of their efforts were unveiled during today's Windows 10 showcase, and the unexpected demo was arguably the highlight of the event.
Dubbed Windows Holographic, the scheme looks like a form of augmented reality. It relies on HoloLens, which Kinect alum and Microsoft Fellow Alex Kipman described as a "fully untethered holographic computer." The head-mounted unit projects holographs—basically virtual 3D objects—onto see-through lenses through which users can view the rest of the world. A surround-sound system provides the appropriate audio cues, while an array of sensors monitors the environment and the user's actions.
Sensor input is processed by a proprietary "holographic processor" of Microsoft's own design. This chip is used to map the surrounding area, determine where the user is looking, interpret gestures, and monitor voice input. Everything is handled by the HoloLens hardware, with no need for external cameras or auxiliary processing.
An external machine isn't required because the HoloLens has PC hardware built in. A "high-end CPU and GPU" are integrated into the headset, though Kipman didn't reveal more specifics on that front. It seems unlikely that Microsoft has squeezed potent desktop hardware—or even a discrete GPU—into the head-mounted chassis. My money's on an ultrabook-class Intel processor with integrated graphics, but I wouldn't be surprised by custom silicon derived from the Xbone's SoC.
The HoloLens headset will be available in the same time frame as Windows 10. Microsoft has developed its own Holo Studio software for creating virtual holograms, and it's working with developers on third-party apps. Minecraft integration is on the menu, of course, and so is support for exporting virtual objects to 3D printers. Microsoft has also been collaborating with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which plans to use HoloLens to explore a virtual version of Mars based on images taken from the Martian surface. Pretty slick.Win10's gaming features mostly about Xbox
Xbox chief Phil Spencer revealed a slew of Windows 10 gaming features during Microsoft's press conference today. And, as one might expect, they're largely tied to the company's console.
The standard and tablet versions of the OS will ship with an Xbox-branded app that combines a game library, messaging, and social-networking feeds. PC gamers will be able to interact with their
peasant Xbox One counterparts, and Microsoft has integrated support for cross-platform multiplayer between those two camps.
It's ultimately up to developers to offer cross-platform play in their games, of course. But Lionhead Studios has already added the feature to Fable Legends, which will offer both combative and cooperative multiplayer modes when it's released later this year. Spencer demoed a joint session between early PC and Xbone builds of the game.
Windows 10 also adds the ability to stream real-time gaming sessions from the Xbox One to local PCs and tablets. PC games can't be routed to the Xbone, though, and PC-to-PC streaming doesn't appear to be in the cards. Good thing we already have Steam's in-home streaming and Nvidia's GameStream tech.
Microsoft's console remains at the center of its gaming strategy, but look out for increased cross-pollination on the applications front. Windows 10's universal apps will run on the Xbox One, giving developers the ability to target consoles and PCs with the same software. The Xbone is practically a PC under the hood, so cross-platform apps make perfect sense.
Speaking of cross-pollination, the Xbone's Game DVR is integrated into Windows 10. This feature works with all games, and it appears to support both manual recording and 30-second replays. Footage of your sweet headshots and epic combos can be edited and shared within the Xbox app.
Incidentally, Spencer called himself "a big Steam customer." He demoed the DVR functionality in Civilization: Beyond Earth, which was launched via the Steam client.
The last gaming tidbits relate to DirectX 12, which seems increasingly likely to be a Windows 10 exclusive. Although Microsoft didn't mention supported OS versions during the event, the fact that Win10 is a free upgrade for Win7 and Win8.1 suggests little need to backport the API.
Following in Unreal Engine's footsteps, the Unity engine is adopting DirectX 12. Spencer said the API is ideal for mobile use, claiming that DirectX 12 can reduce the power required to render a scene by half. Credit the API's lower overhead, which should also help to improve performance in CPU-bound games. Cyril saw some of DX12's potential on this front at Siggraph in August.Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for the first year
During its Windows 10 event in Redmond this morning, Microsoft announced that the new OS will be a free upgrade for the first year after launch. Folks running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 will all be able to get the latest hotness free of charge.
The freebie was introduced by Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive VP for operating systems. Interestingly, Myerson also said that Windows 10 is "so much more than a free, one-time upgrade." "With Windows 10, we think of Windows as a service," he said, adding that the OS "redefines the relationship between us and our customers."
Meyerson stopped short of mentioning subscription-style pricing, but it sounds like that could be a future possibility for the OS. Microsoft wants to get more users on the same version of the Windows, making it easier for the company to push out updates—and for developers to target a larger audience.
Update: During a subsequent Q&A session that wasn't part of the live stream, Microsoft head Satya Nadella reportedly said references to Windows 10 as a service relate to how the operating system will be updated—not to how customers will pay for it. Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley tweets "Nadella says calling #Windows10 a service does not imply change in biz model." #Phew.HP's new Core M convertible hides an extra battery in its keyboard dock
HP uncorked a boatload of business-oriented mobile systems yesterday, including multiple Windows and Android tablets. For me, the most intriguing of the bunch is the Elite x2 1011 G1, an 11.6" detachable convertible with Core M horsepower.
When it's released later this month, the Elite will be available with a range of Core M processors along with up to 512GB of solid-state storage and 8GB of RAM. The datasheet (PDF) suggests the onboard memory is a single 4GB or 8GB module, seemingly ruling out dual-channel configurations. We've asked HP to clarify, and we'll update this post when we hear back.
Somewhat surprisingly, the base display has a measly 1366x768 resolution. A 1080p unit is also an option, and both screens use IPS panel technology. Phew. Users can complement the capacitive touchscreen with an optional digitizer and Wacom stylus, as well. Other optional extras include a fingerprint reader, 4G connectivity, and a WiGig docking station with a range of four feet.
HP has two keyboard docks lined up. The power keyboard is probably the one you want; it has a sturdy hinge, backlit keys, a force-sensitive touchpad, dual USB ports, DisplayPort out, and a 21-Wh auxiliary battery to provide some relief for the 33-Wh cell in the tablet. Most of those features are absent from the basic travel keyboard, which relies on a folding cover to prop up the tablet.
On its own, the tablet is 0.42" thick and 1.7 lbs. Add another 0.4" and 1.7 lbs for the power keyboard and 1.2 lbs for the travel keyboard. HP doesn't list the thickness with the travel keyboard attached, but the contraption doesn't look especially thin.
HP says the Elite x2 1011 G1 starts at $899, which presumably refers to a configuration with a Core M-5Y10c processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and the 1366x768 display. That seems a little steep, but corporate gear usually carries a bit of a price premium over machines geared toward consumers.
Update: HP tells us the Elite x2 uses dual-channel memory. The datasheet is in error, the company says, and it should be corrected soon. Kudos to HP for not skimping on the memory config.
|Nvidia admits, explains GeForce GTX 970 memory allocation issue||224|
|Here's my guest appearance on tonight's Alt+Tab Show||11|
|Watch John Romero talk about Doom level design||44|
|I'll be on Newegg TV's Alt+Tab show live at 3PM PT||15|
|Windows 10 build 9926 adds Cortana, Continuum, and more||41|
|Apacer exec sees 256GB SSDs falling below $70 this year||46|
|Deal of the week: IPS monitors with 4K and 1080p resolutions||11|
|Haswell CPU and Radeon graphics team up in ASRock's VisionX mini PC||14|
|HA. AMD in the red and nVidia in the green. Thats funny cause you know... *cough* oh forget it.||+81|