Do AMD Drivers Really Deserve Such a Hostile Reception?

Introduction


AMD has a serious image problem with their drivers which stems from buggy, unrefined updates, and a slow release schedule. Even though this perception began many years ago, it’s still impacting on the company’s sales and explains why their market share is so small. The Q4 2015 results from Jon Peddie Research suggests AMD reached a market share of 21.1% while NVIDIA reigned supreme with 78.8%. Although, the Q4 data is more promising because AMD accounted for a mere 18.8% during the last quarter. On the other hand, respected industry journal DigiTimes reports that AMD is likely to reach its lowest ever market position for Q1 2016. Thankfully, the financial results will emerge on April 21st so we should know the full picture relatively soon. Of course, the situation should improve once Polaris and Zen reach retail channels. Most importantly, AMD’s share price has declined by more than 67% in five years from $9 to under $3 as of March 28, 2016. The question is why?

Is the Hardware Competitive?


The current situation is rather baffling considering AMD’s extremely competitive product line-up in the graphics segment. For example, the R9 390 is a superb alternative to NVIDIA’s GTX 970 and features 8GB VRAM which provides extra headroom when using virtual reality equipment. The company’s strategy appears to revolves around minor differences in performance between the R9 390 and 390X. This also applied to the R9 290 and 290X due to both products utilizing the Hawaii core. NVIDIA employs a similar tactic with the GTX 970 and GTX 980 but there’s a marked price increase compared to their rivals.

NVIDIA’s ability to cater towards the lower tier demographic has been quite poor because competing GPUs including the 7850 and R9 380X provided a much better price to performance ratio. Not only that, NVIDIA’s decision to deploy ridiculously low video memory amounts on cards like the GTX 960 has the potential to cause headaches in the future. It’s important to remember that the GTX 960 can be acquired with either 2GB or 4GB of video memory. Honestly, they should have simplified the process and produced the higher memory model in a similar fashion to the R9 380X. Once again, AMD continues to offer a very generous amount of VRAM across various product tiers.

Part of the problem revolves around AMD’s sluggish release cycle and reliance on the Graphics Core Next (GCN) 1.1 architecture. This was first introduced way back in 2013 with the Radeon HD 7790. Despite its age, AMD deployed the GCN 1.1 architecture on their revised 390 series and didn’t do themselves any favours when denying accusations about the new line-up being a basic re-branding exercise. Of course, this proved to be the case and some users managed to flash their 290/290X to a 390/390X with a BIOS update. There’s nothing inherently wrong with product rebrands if they can remain competitive in the current market. It’s not exclusive to AMD, and NVIDIA have used similar business strategies on numerous occasions. However, I feel it’s up to AMD to push graphics technology forward and encourage their nearest rival to launch more powerful options.

Another criticism regarding AMD hardware which seems to plague everything they release is the perception that every GPU runs extremely hot. You only have to look on certain websites, social media and various forums to see this is the main source of people’s frustration. Some individuals are even known to produce images showing AMD graphics cards setting ablaze. So is there any truth to these suggestions? Unfortunately, the answer is yes and a pertinent example comes from the R9 290 range. The 290/290X reference models utilized one of the most inefficient cooler designs I’ve ever seen and struggled to keep the GPU core running below 95C under load.

Unbelievably, the core was designed to run at these high thermals and AMD created a more progressive RPM curve to reduce noise. As a result, the GPU could take 10-15 minutes to reach idle temperature levels. The Hawaii temperatures really impacted on the company’s reputation and forged a viewpoint among consumers which I highly doubt will ever disappear. It’s a shame because the upcoming Polaris architecture built on the 14nm FinFET process should exhibit significant efficiency gains and end the concept of high thermals on AMD products. There’s also the idea that AMD GPUs have a noticeably higher TDP than their NVIDIA counterparts. For instance, the R9 390 has a TDP of 275 watts while the GTX 970 only consumes 145 watts. On the other hand, the Fury X utilizes 250 watts compared to the GTX 980Ti’s rating of 275 watts.

Eventually, AMD released a brand new range of graphics cards utilizing the first iteration of high bandwidth memory. Prior to its release, expectations were high and many people expected the Fury X to dethrone NVIDIA’s flagship graphics card. Unfortunately, this didn’t come to fruition and the Fury X fell behind in various benchmarks, although it fared better at high resolutions. The GPU also encountered supply problems and emitted a large whine from the pump on early samples. Asetek even threatened to sue Cooler Master who created the AIO design which could force all Fury X products to be removed from sale.

The rankings alter rather dramatically when the DirectX 12 render is used which suggests AMD products have a clear advantage. Asynchronous Compute is the hot topic right now which in theory allows for greater GPU utilization in supported games. Ashes of the Singularity has implemented this for some time and makes for some very interesting findings. Currently, we’re working on a performance analysis for the game, but I can reveal that there is a huge boost for AMD cards when moving from DirectX11 to DirectX12. Furthermore, there are reports indicating that Pascal might not be able to use asynchronous shaders which makes Polaris and Fiji products more appealing.

Do AMD GPUs Lack Essential Hardware Features?


When selecting graphics hardware, it’s not always about pure performance and some consumers take into account exclusive technologies including TressFX hair before purchasing. At this time, AMD incorporates with their latest products LiquidVR, FreeSync, Vulkan support, HD3D, Frame rate target control, TrueAudio, Virtual Super resolution and more! This is a great selection of hardware features to create a thoroughly enjoyable user-experience. NVIDIA adopts a more secretive attitude towards their own creations and often uses proprietary solutions. The Maxwell architecture has support for Voxel Global Illumination, (VGXI), Multi Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA), Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR), VR Direct and G-Sync. There’s a huge debate about the benefits of G-Sync compared to FreeSync especially when you take into account the pricing difference when opting for a new monitor. Overall, I’d argue that the NVIDIA package is better but there’s nothing really lacking from AMD in this department.

Have The Drivers Improved?


Historically, AMD drivers haven’t been anywhere close to NVIDIA in terms of stability and providing a pleasant user-interface. Back in the old days, AMD or even ATI if we’re going way back, had the potential to cause system lock-ups, software errors and more. A few years ago, I had the misfortune of updating a 7850 to the latest driver and after rebooting, the system’s boot order was corrupt. To be fair, this could be coincidental and have nothing to do with that particular update. On another note, the 290 series was plagued with hardware bugs causing black screens and blue screens of death whilst watching flash videos. To resolve this, you had to disable hardware acceleration and hope that the issues subsided.

The Catalyst Control Center always felt a bit primitive for my tastes although it did implement some neat features such as graphics card overclocking. While it’s easy enough to download a third-party program like MSI Afterburner, some users might prefer to install fewer programs and use the official driver instead.

Not so long ago, AMD appeared to have stalled in releasing drivers for the latest games to properly optimize graphics hardware. On the 9th December 2014, AMD unveiled the Catalyst 14.12 Omega WHQL driver and made it ready for download. In a move which still astounds me, the company decided not to release another WHQL driver for 6 months! Granted, they were working on a huge driver redesign and still produced the odd Beta update. I honestly believe this was very damaging and prevented high-end users from considering the 295×2 or a Crossfire configuration. It’s so important to have a consistent, solid software framework behind the hardware to allow for constant improvements. This is especially the case when using multiple cards which require profiles to achieve proficient GPU scaling.

Crimson’s release was a major turning point for AMD due to the modernized interface and enhanced stability. According to AMD, the software package involves 25 percent more manual test cases and 100 percent more automated test cases compared to AMD Catalyst Omega. Also, the most requested bugs were resolved and they’re using community feedback to quickly apply new fixes. The company hired a dedicated team to reproduce errors which is the first step to providing a more stable experience. Crimson apparently loads ten times faster than its predecessor and includes a new game manager to optimize settings to suit your hardware. It’s possible to set custom resolutions including the refresh rate, which is handy when overclocking your monitor. The clean uninstall utility proactively works to remove any remaining elements of a previous installation such as registry entries, audio files and much more. Honestly, this is such a revolutionary move forward and AMD deserves credit for tackling their weakest elements head on. If you’d like to learn more about Crimson’s functionality, please visit this page.

However, it’s far from perfect and some users initially experienced worse performance with this update. Of course, there’s going to be teething problems whenever a new release occurs but it’s essential for AMD to do everything they can to forge a new reputation about their drivers. Some of you might remember, the furore surrounding the Crimson fan bug which limited the GPU’s fans to 20 percent. Some users even reported that this caused their GPU to overheat and fail. Thankfully, AMD released a fix for this issue but it shouldn’t have occurred in the first place. Once again, it’s hurting their reputation and ability to move on from old preconceptions.

Is GeForce Experience Significantly Better?


In recent times, NVIDIA drivers have been the source of some negative publicity. More specifically, users were advised to ignore the 364.47 WHQL driver and instructed to download the 364.51 beta instead. One user said:

“Driver crashed my windows and going into safe mode I was not able to uninstall and rolling back windows would not work either. I ended up wiping my system to a fresh install of windows. Not very happy here.”

NVIDIA’s Sean Pelletier released a statement at the time which reads:

“An installation issue was found within the 364.47 WHQL driver we posted Monday. That issue was resolved with a new driver (364.51) launched Tuesday. Since we were not able to get WHQL-certification right away, we posted the driver as a Beta.

GeForce Experience has an option to either show WHQL-only drivers or to show all drivers (including Beta). Since 364.51 is currently a Beta, gamers who have GeForce Experience configured to only show WHQL Game Ready drivers will not currently see 364.51

We are expecting the WHQL-certified package for the 364.51 Game Ready driver within the next 24hrs and will replace the Beta version with the WHQL version accordingly. As expected, the WHQL-certified version of 364.51 will show up for all gamers with GeForce Experience.”

As you can see, NVIDIA isn’t immune to driver delivery issues and this was a fairly embarrassing situation. Despite this, it didn’t appear to have a serious effect on people’s confidence in the company or make them re-consider their views of AMD. While there are some disgruntled NVIDIA customers, they’re fairly loyal and distrustful of AMD’s ability to offer better drivers. The GeForce Experience software contains a wide range of fantastic inclusions such as ShadowPlay, GameStream, Game Optimization and more. After a driver update, the software can feel a bit unresponsive and takes some time to close. Furthermore, some people dislike the notion of GameReady drivers being locked in the GeForce Experience Software.  If a report from PC World is correct, consumers might have to supply an e-mail address just to update their drivers through the application.

Before coming to a conclusion, I want to reiterate that my allegiances don’t lie with either company and the intention was to create a balanced viewpoint. I believe AMD’s previous failures are impacting on the company’s current product range and it’s extremely difficult to shift people’s perceptions about the company’s drivers. While Crimson is much better than CCC, it’s been the main cause of a horrendous fan bug resulting in a PR disaster for AMD.

On balance, it’s clear AMD’s decision to separate the Radeon group and CPU line was the right thing to do. Also, with Polaris around the corner and more games utilizing DirectX 12, AMD could improve their market share by an exponential amount. Although, from my experience, many users are prepared to deal with slightly worse performance just to invest in an NVIDIA product. Therefore, AMD has to encourage long-term NVIDIA fans to switch with reliable driver updates on a consistent basis. AMD products are not lacking in features or power, it’s all about drivers! NVIDIA will always counteract AMD releases with products exhibiting similar performance numbers. In my personal opinion, AMD drivers are now on par with NVIDIA and it’s a shame that they appear to be receiving unwarranted criticism. Don’t get me wrong, the fan bug is simply inexcusable and going to haunt AMD for some time. I predict that despite the company’s best efforts, the stereotypical view of AMD drivers will not subside. This is a crying shame because they are trying to improve things and release updates on a significantly lower budget than their rivals.

AMD Unveils 32GB FirePro W9100 Graphics Card

With 8Gb GDDR5 modules becoming ever more abundant, AMD and Nvidia have the opportunity to increase the amount of VRAM without having to bump the memory bandwidth. While 8Gb may be well enough for gaming purposes for now, the same doesn’t hold true for professional users. In light of this, AMD has updated their FirePro W9100 workstation graphics card with a 32GB variant.

Due to the large memory bus on the Hawaii chip, FirePro cards had held the top VRAM buffer size with their 16GB W9100 for quite a while. Nvidia only recently triumphed with the 24GB Quadro M6000 which was only possible with 8Gb modules. With the 32GB card, AMD has reclaimed their capacity crown, maintaining their lead in terms of both compute performance and highest VRAM size. Except for the $1000 higher price tag, the W9100 32GB is the same as the 16GB variant.

With both AMD and Nvidia choosing to lead into the new generation with lower end cards, we may see the W9100 and M6000 stick around for a while yet. With Nvidia making compute a priority again with Pascal, it remains to see who will win the enterprise and professional market for the next generation, but AMD has undoubtedly clinched the victory for 28nm.

XFX Brings Back Blower Style R9 390X

When AMD first launched their R9 290 and 290X GPUs back in 2013, many had mixed feelings for the blower style cooler. While the cooler was one of the best efforts yet from AMD, it was not enough for the hot Hawaii chips, leading to high temperature, throttling and noisy operation. In the end, many opted for custom coolers which were not blowers and did a better job at cooling. Two years later, it looks like XFX is planning on releasing the 390/X series cards equipped with what appears to be the original 290X cooler.

Using the Grenada core, the R9 390X is fundamentally the same as the 290X, with maybe better binning and process improvements to differentiate them. XFX is also using the older cooler and not the revamped one AMD launched with the R9 390X in a while ago. The new 390X blower cooler take’s its design cues from the Fury X and Nano. Given XFX’s choice of using the 2013 cooler and not the 2015 model, either XFX has a lot of stock left or there is little difference between the 2015 and 2013 models. You can check out the 2015 model below.

There is undoubtedly a market for blower style GPUs as they tend to exhaust more of the GPU heat out of the case. This is especially important for SFF and builds with poor case cooling. If the cooler is still lacking though, there won’t be many users who will pick it up. The biggest advantage is that with a reference board, watercooling blocks will be easier to source. It will be interesting to see how well the blower card does, both performance and sales wise.

Sapphire Tri-X R9 390X 8GB CrossfireX Review

Introduction


Here at eTeknix, we strive to give the consumer the best possible advice in every aspect of technology. Today is no different and we are excited to bring you the CrossfireX review of the Sapphire Tri-X R9 390X graphics cards.

Based on the slightly aging Hawaii architecture, performance was expected to be fairly low, however, as we found in our standalone review that really wasn’t the case. Alone, this card has the power to directly take on the GTX 980 and is poised to be at the low-end of the brand new AMD R9 Fury range. At a price of £350, it is perfectly priced to fill in the gap between the R9 390 and R9 Fury.

When we test in CrossfireX, we aim to use two identical graphics card to ensure that everything is as similar as possible. When using the same cards, you can almost guarantee the same cooling capabilities, power draw, core clock, boost clock and so on. This then gives us the best possible outcome for maximum performance as the computer does not need to compensate for any differences.

New Utility lets you Unlock Disabled Compute Engines on AMD GPUs

A new utility has emerged, entitled, “CUINFO” on Overclock.net which outlines how many compute units are enabled on Fiji, Hawaii and Tonga GPUs. The tool is designed to provide information on your card’s capabilities and offer the ability to unlock specific disabled compute units. However, many CUs are hardware locked and cannot be enabled using this software. According to VideoCardz, if the hardware message resembles the text below, you cannot perform a manual unlock or overriding might cause some kind of component failure:

Adapters detected: 1
Card #1 PCI ID: 1002:7300 – 174B:E329
DevID [7300] Rev [CB] (0), memory config: 0x00000000 (unused)
Fiji-class chip with 16 compute units per Shader Engine
SE1 hw/sw: 00030000 / 00000000 […………..xx]
SE2 hw/sw: 02400000 / 00000000 [……x..x……]
SE3 hw/sw: 90000000 / 00000000 [x..x…………]
SE4 hw/sw: 00090000 / 00000000 […………x..x]
56 of 64 CUs are active. HW locks: 8 (R/W) / SW locks: 0 (R/W).
8 CU’s are disabled by HW lock, override is possible at your own risk.

The developer of this tweak, who goes by the name of TX12, said:

“In general, you can try to unlock some cores ONLY if you have at least one of the two rightmost columns filled with ‘x’-es.”

“On this example map, rightmost column (#1) is filled with ‘x’-es only, but second (#2) is not.”

“If none of the two rightmost columns is filled with ‘x’, you’re most probably out of luck and shouldn’t try this unlock method.”

“Or just try all the roms to catch some luck (not recommended).”

TX12 explained the entire process in a lengthy forum post and is available here. Interestingly, he created a script which creates three unique ROMs, and one of these called ALL will instigate the entirety of Fuji’s cores. Although, this hasn’t been achieved as of yet.

Preliminary benchmarks indicate a clear increase in graphical horsepower after applying the tool.

Please note that this doesn’t mean your card will be compatible and you should proceed with caution.

Thank you Video Cardz for providing us with this information.

AMD Hawaii GPUs Returning With Radeon 300 Series

It’s not uncommon for current generation graphics cards to be tweaked, improved and rebranded to become part of the next-generation launch. This time around, it seems that the current line-up of Hawaii GPUs, such as the Radeon R9 290 cards, will be treated to an overclock and the addition of more VRAM However, it’s important to point out that any rebranded cards will not feature the upcoming HBM memory that the new flagship cards will feature.

It’s hard to nail down what new cards are what, as they’ve not yet been given a confirmed codename. We suspect that cards such as the R9 380 will be a rebrand of the current R9 285, but that information will no doubt become clearer closer to the launch. The Hawaii HX has a mild overclock, but a significant boost in memory speed, as well as a move from 4GB to 8GB of VRAM; the same goes for the Hawaii Pro.

Check out this list of expected 300 series cards below. It’s incomplete, but given that many of the cards aren’t confirmed yet, only rumoured and leaked, there’s still plenty more information to discover.

Personally, I’m happy to see the better picks from the current range get a boost, as they offer some great price vs performance ratios, while the bump in VRAM will help push 4K gaming into the mainstream. However, I’m personally sitting and waiting for the higher-end all-new cards with HBM, such as the R9 380X and 390X.

Thank you VideoCardz for providing us with this information.

Latest 15.3 Catalyst Driver Reveals AMD Radeon Rx 300 Cards

A few people have apparently taking a closer look into AMD’s latest Catalyst driver, the 15.3 beta. They apparently have found a few new entries leading to the upcoming Rx 300 series of graphics cards.

Some information here reveals some bad news for gamers who wanted a new chip in the latest Rx 300. The information points that the new cards are just some respin products, meaning that older GPUs will be used on new PCBs and BIOS, often polished with a subtle clock frequency increase.

Comparing the device ID’s found in the Catalyst driver to previous generations reveals that older GPUs are in use for the upcoming cards up to the R9 370.

  • AMD665F.1 = “AMD Radeon R9 360″
  • AMD6610.2 = “AMD Radeon(TM) R7 350X”
  • AMD6610.3 = “AMD Radeon(TM) R5 340X”
  • AMD6611.10 = “AMD Radeon R7 340″
  • AMD665F.1 = “AMD Radeon R9 360″
  • AMD6660.1 = “AMD Radeon(TM) R5 M330″
  • AMD6660.2 = “AMD Radeon(TM) R5 M330″
  • AMD6660.3 = “AMD Radeon(TM) R5 M330″
  • AMD6778.8 = “AMD Radeon R5 310″
  • AMD6811.1 = “AMD Radeon R9 370″

The above reveals that the Radeon R9 370 would be Trinidad, also found in HD 7870 and 265/270/270X products. The Radeon R9 360 Tobago would use Bonaire with 896 shader processors and Radeon R7 350X, R7 340 and R5 340X would use the Oland with 384 stream processors.

The R9 380 and R9 390 have yet to show up, but taking into account the respin mentioned above, a logical speculation would be that they will feature the Hawaii found in 290 and 290X graphics cards. However, this is just a speculation, so take it with a pinch of salt.

Thank you Guru3D for providing us with this information

AMD To Update GCN Series With Iceland, Tonga and Hawaii XTX

The next-generation GPU wars based on new graphics architectures and 20/16nm process nodes is not set to begin until early 2015. In the meantime AMD and Nvidia are both having to make do with product refreshes and tweaks based on their existing 28nm GCN and Kepler designs respectively. The latest refreshes are to come from the AMD camp and they are looking to out three new GPUs based on their GCN 28nm design: Iceland, Tonga and Hawaii XTX.

Iceland is set to be a mid-range GPU for the mobile market, it will also launch as a desktop card at a later date and will replace AMD’s Cape Verde GPUs: which form the HD 7750, HD 7770, R7 250X and some R7 250 models. As a result Iceland will be competing with Nvidia’s GM107 Maxwell parts: the GTX 750 Ti and GTX 750.

Next up is Tonga which we have already heard a lot about. According to VideoCardz the Tonga GPU will be based on the Tahiti design, which makes the R9 280X, R9 280, HD 7970 (GHz) and HD 7950 (Boost). However, it will be a slightly slimmed down version with a 256 bit memory bus versus the current 384 bit. Given the reduced memory bandwidth it seems likely that it will slot in between the R9 270X and R9 280. The Tonga GPU will exist alongside current Tahiti products until the 300 series is launched by AMD next year.

Finally we have Hawaii XTX. We have heard about this GPU before and the basic rumour was that the Hawaii GPU was not fully utilised and so a Hawaii XTX model would come out with extra stream processors and would offer a faster single GPU than the R9 290X. It turns out that the speculated R9 295X did not exist, at least not with 3072 GCN cores. Now it appears Hawaii XTX will merely be a revision to the Hawaii XT GPU, think of it as the R9 290X GHz Edition. Of course the R9 290X already runs at 1GHz , but the point I’m trying to get across is it will be similar to what AMD did when the HD 7970 became the HD 7970 GHz Edition. They will be increasing the core clock speeds and using a more refined second revision of the GPU that should clock higher and be more stable when overclocking.

Source: VideoCardz

Image courtesy of VideoCardz

Shooting Birds with Lasers? Don’t Worry, It’s to Save Their Lives

In what sounds like an epic game of Duck Hunt in real life, the skies of Hawaii are now protected by a grid of thirty focused green lasers. The laser grids are being mounted on the countries electricity poles in a bid to save birds from crashing into the cables.

The “light fence” as it is known was installed earlier this week as a potentially cheaper alternative to burying their power lines underground. With endangered species such as the Newell’s Shearwater and the Hawaiian Petrel often flying into the cables at night, something had to be done to protect the islands wildlife.

Over the next few weeks the team behind the laser installation will be trying out different colours of laser light to find out which one works best at detracting the birds from the lines. The team will be using frequencies that present no danger to the human eye, or of course bird eyes, but it still sounds weird that they’re going to be shooting birds with laser beams.

No word on upgrading the system in the case of alien invasion.

Thank you Slashgear for providing us with this information.

Breaking News: AMD Tonga GPU Details Revealed

The team over at Videocardz.com have gotten hold of some very exciting information about the next set of hardware from the red camp. AMD’s new GPU hardware is set to be called Tonga, part of their ever popular volcanic island series, following on from Hawaii and Vesuvius.

There have been rumours about Tonga hardware before, when the name leaked in a beta driver alongside the Hawaii and Vesuvious hardware. However, nothing has been heard since, until now of course. Previous rumours pointed towards a new flagship model, but with the 295×2 now out in the wild, that seems unlikely, especially given that AMD currently lead the performance market with that card. The new card will be for the general consumer, a mid-budget range of cards that you won’t need to print money to be able to afford.

The card isn’t hugely innovative, so don’t expect 20nm fabrication or high bandwidth memory, in fact the reference design will have an upper limit of just 2GB GDDR5, but perhaps AMD partners can take things to the next level after its release. The card looks like another tweak on the current GCN hardware, bringing better power efficiency, more performance as well as popular AMD technologies such as Mantle, TrueAudio and hopefully XDMA CrossFire.

The card looks set to compete with the Nvidia Maxwell GM107 hardware and after a ferocious battle for flagship GPU’s over the last few months it will be nice to see AMD play a mid range blow to the market. Computex is just weeks away now, so fingers crossed for even more details, but GPU releases are never far away, so expect to see hardware on the market in around three months time.

Thank you Videocardz for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Videocardz.

First Retail Asus Radeon R9 295X2 Pictured

It looks like the guys over at WCCFtech have got their hands on some images of the new R9 295X2, AMD’s latest dual Hawaii based graphics card which is set to be launched very soon. We’ve already seen images and specifications for the new card, but now we see the first card from a manufacturer other than AMD reference.

OK so this is still a reference card design, as you can see it just features the Asus sticker on the fan, another on the radiator and Asus packaging. The only real difference for the consumer maybe price and warranty, which typically varies from brand to brand.

One thing we do like about the new packaging is that it confirms that the 295X2 is in fact an 8GB GDDR5 equipped card, as we did have some rumours that it was 16GB, but of course 8GB is more than enough, 16GB is just crazy. The card is also DirectX 11.2 ready, features the Hydra cooler which was specially made by Asatek and is expected to cost around $1500.

Thank you WCCFTech for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of WCCFTech.

AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Stripped Down, New Images Leaked

It looks like the team over at Videocardz are happy to leak even more information on the upcoming Radeon R9 295X2 graphics card. The 295X2 is set to be the latest and greatest card from AMD, featuring two graphics 290x graphics cores and a high end hybrid cooling solution.

As you can see from the pictures here the card features two Hawaii based GPUs, each with their own 5+1 phase power delivery systems, a PLX chip that will handle the on-board CrossFire between the two cores and support for XDMA CrossFire which will allow you to hook up two R9 295X2 cards, technically quad-GPU’s.

The dual slot design of the card means that mounting it shouldn’t be much of an issue, and while we don’t have official sizes it’s obviously quite a long graphics cards. A single 92mm fan cools the ram and the VRM from the centre of the card and you’ll also find a pair of liquid cooling pumps running in tandem via a 120mm water cooling radiator, something that was said to be custom made by Asetek as part of AMD’s Project Hydra cooling system for this card.

Rumour has it that the card will set you back $1500, half of the price of the Nvidia GTX Titan Black, no doubt each card will have their own set of strength and weaknesses when we finally get to put them side by side on our test bench.

Thank you Hardware-360 for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of VideoCards.

New AMD Hawaii FirePro Card Accidentally Leaked

We’re no stranger to seeing hardware leaked before its official announcement, normally with the help of some industry insiders on some obscure forums. However it makes our job much easier when the company behind the product leaks the information all by its self. AMD accidentally posted an announcement about an upcoming Hawaii launch even, and while I’m sure many of you hope it was the 295×2 we reported on yesterday, it’s the first Hawaii based FirePro card from the red camp.

No specification were leaked which is a real shame, but on the plus side we know the hardware exists so you can expect more details to start flooding from AMD, either officially or via obscure leaks, especially now that people know what to look for. AMD will be running a webcast on March 26th with more details.

With Nvidia dominating the profession graphics market with a 4/5 market share, AMD are keen to make up on lost ground, something we expect they’re hoping to do with Hawaii based hardware as they target a 30% market share for this year.

Thank you Fudzilla for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of VideoCardz.

 

AMD “Hawaii” R9 295X2 Dual GPU Leaked?

Tahiti based Ares GPU pictured

There have been a few quiet whispers and rumours about this legendary card for a while now, especially given that it’s not the first time we’ve seen dual GPU cards, it’s more a matter of “when will it be released” than “will it ever be released.” With Hawaii based hardware not well established in terms of the number of GPU’s available to the market, it’s about time AMD kicked things up a few notches.

The flagship dual-GPU card is believed to run a pair of 28nm “Hawaii” cores, and since Dutch publication BouweenPC has been digging in dark corners for information we now know that the card is to be called the Radeon R9 295X2. Both the cores are expect to have a clock speed of no less than 1000 MHz and will feature hybrid cooling prevent them from melting through the Earth’s crust.

Hybrid air and liquid cooling is nothing new for graphics cards, just look at the insane Asus Republic of Gamers ARES II graphics card. The new dual GPU card will benefit from two GPU liquid cooling blocks, while relying on airflow to cool other components such as the VRM and memory.

There is no doubt in my mind that this card is out there, and you can expect more details start cropping up over the next few weeks. As for pricing, expect it to be a fantastically big number, because flagship dual GPU cards with water cooling do not come cheap.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Club 3D Radeon R9 290 and 290X royalACE GPUs Revealed

Club 3D have just announced two new entries to their royalAce range of graphics cards. As you may know, Club 3D have been using their Poker Series of graphics card classification for a while now and royalAce grade cards are top of the pack. Adding to their flagship series of graphics cards is the all new Radeon R9 290 and the R9 290X.

The new royalAce Radeon R9 290 is packed with features, with 2560 stream processors and 4GB of GDDR5 RAM packed under its triple fan cooler and a clock speed of 1040GHz, making it one of the fastest graphics  cards available on the market.

The 290 may be one of the fastest, but it’s still a runt compared to the beast that is the new royalAce R9 290X. With all the settings dialled up to 11, the 290X featured 2816 stream processors, 4GB of GDDR5, a core clock speed of 1050MHz (10MHz faster than the R9 290).

Both cards are much faster than the reference Hawaii 290 and 290x designs, with custom hardware that has been tweaked and tuned to offer faster and more reliable performance.

We don’t have exact pricing at the moment, but you can expect they’ll be expensive given that they’re some of the best GPU’s around, and expect to pay a 10-20% premium over reference cards retail prices.

Thank you Club-3D for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of Club-3D.

Overclocked GTX 780 Ti Released By KFA2

KFA2 might not be so well known or popular, being an European based support, warehousing and RMA facilities for NVIDIA graphics card. However, they did release the GTX 780 Ti recently, which is quite a magnificent card.

It describes itself as a manufacturer of premium Nvidia graphics cards and more often than not the company manages to life up to the promise by developing attractive non-reference products. The Hall of Fame series is a good example of the KFA2 design philosophy. HOF edition cards are high-end products and they tend to be overdesigned, with elaborate custom coolers. The GTX 780 HOF launched a few months ago, just in time for AMD’s Hawaii rollout and now the GTX 780 Ti is getting the HOF treatment, too.

Based on Nvidia GK110-425-B1 silicon, the card is stock clocked at 1020MHz, but it can hit 1085MHz on boost. This makes it faster than most factory overclocked GTX 780 Ti cards – only EVGA, Gigabyte and Inno3D each have even faster GTX 780 Ti cards. The memory is clocked at a reference 1750MHz, like most factory overclocked GTX 780 Ti cards. The GTX 780 Ti features 2880 cores, 240 TMUs and 48 ROPs. The KFA2 card is rated at 5875GFLOPS (Single), 245GFLOPS (Double). The only downside we could think of it the size of the cooler, It’s a triply slot affair, but it also features two axial 100mm fans. Only a handful of GTX 780 cards feature 100mm fans, most rely on smaller 80mm or 92mm units.

There is no official price tag revealed so far, however Overclockers UK has it listed for £559 (or $920).

Thank you Fudzilla for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Fudzilla

Gigabyte R9 290X WindForce OC 4GB Graphics Card Review

Introduction


When AMD released their R9 290X it was the new fastest consumer gaming graphics card (with a single GPU) on the planet for a short period of time. Since its release it has been surpassed by Nvidia’s GTX 780 Ti but the R9 290X is still an immensely attractive option costing around $150 less than the GTX 780 Ti and offering similar levels of performance. However, one major issue plagued the R9 290X and that was heat (which is a result of its high power consumption and also led to excessive noise). Whether in “Quiet” mode or Uber mode the R9 290X rapidly reaches its thermal limit of 95 degrees and starts to throttle its own clocks to keep temperatures under control resulting in that 1GHz engine clock dropping as low as 650MHz in some applications. We have been waiting for non-reference designs to come along and fix that and today we have the first of those from Gigabyte. Gigabyte have strapped their successful WindForce 450 VGA cooler to the R9 290X. Gigabyte are offering a modest 40MHz overclock, but the real win comes with their cooling solution which should allow the R9 290X to actually run at its rated clocks or at least a lot closer to them than the reference design allows. Gigabyte’s card offers the same dual BIOS we’ve come to expect on the R9 290X but Gigabyte are promising much quieter operation and much cooler operation all with much higher consistent average clocks on both BIOS settings. All in all its a small difference on paper that should give a big difference in reality.

The packaging denotes the stand-out feature, which is the WindForce 450 cooling solution capable of taming up to 450W – trust me with the R9 290X this is going to be necessary!

The back of the box details more features about the card, we encourage you to check out the product page if you want to learn more about these.

Our sample came direct from Gigabyte so lacks the retail accessory pack, it was merely a card in a box.

Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X 4GB Graphics Card Review

Introduction


When the AMD R9 290X hit the market everyone was impressed with the fantastic value for money offered – performance that could challenge and often easily beat the GTX 780 for a fraction of the price at the time of release. Nvidia of course responded with price cuts but AMD did even more to undercut the R9 290X than Nvidia did by releasing the R9 290. The R9 290 is $150 cheaper than the R9 290X and offers only a tiny drop-off in performance. Of course we aren’t here to review the AMD R9 290, we’ve already done that here, but what we are doing today is looking at our first non-reference R9 290 graphics card from an AMD partner.

The generous AMD partner is Sapphire and they’ve provided us with their Tri-X AMD R9 290 graphics card. For the eagle-eyed reader with a good memory you make see the rather obvious similarities with this graphics card and the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition graphics card we recently reviewed. The similarity comes from the shared Tri-X cooling solution. In the case of the R9 290 it really needs this kind of high performance cooling solution because it is a graphics card that produces a lot of heat and gulps its way through a lot of power, even at stock clocks. However, Sapphire have been brave and taken clock speeds from 947MHz to 1000MHz on the core and bumped the memory up to 5200MHz from 5000MHz. This is going to result in even more heat so the Tri-X cooler is a necessary addition.

Sapphire’s packaging has the usual feature bubbles along the bottom pointing out key things like UEFI BIOS compatibility, the fact it is overclocked and using the Tri-X cooling solution.

The rear of the packaging contains more product details and explanations of the features. You can check out more details about the product at the official product page here.

Included with Sapphire’s R9 290 Tri-X graphics card is a 1.8m HDMI 1.4a cable, molex to 6 pin power supply adapter, dual molex to 8 pin power supply adapter, driver CD, Sapphire case badge/sticker and some documentation.

Powercolor Reveals Its Radeon R9 290X PCS+ Grahics Card

Powercolor has unveiled their Radeon R9 290X PCS+, featuring a triple fan cooling system. This is not the first 290X featuring an aftermarket cooling solution, the first being the R9 290X LCS having the EK waterblock cooling system, but it was a reference board.

The Powercolor R9 290X PCS+ is a dual-slot card with three fans, pushing air towards the central heatsink made up of two aluminum fin array blocks sitting on the Core, Memory and Power areas. The aluminum blocks are interconnected with six 8mm heatpipes which dissipate heat from the core and push it out of the card with the air supplied. From the size, the card certainly looks slightly taller than the stock solution and has a nice matte black color theme which was highly appreciated on the ASUS’s new Radeon R9 290X with people naming it the Batman card.

It features the flagship Hawaii XT chip with 2816 Stream processors, 64 ROPs and 176 TMUs. It comes with a 4 GB GDDR5 memory buffer operating along a 512-bit bus interface. Power is provided through 8+6 Pin connectors which is the same as the reference variant since the card is still using AMD reference PCB for the Hawaii GPU. Clock frequencies haven’t been mentioned but a factory overclock from PowerColor at around 1040 MHz for core and 5200/5400 MHz memory clock should be expected. Display outputs include Dual-Link DVI, HDMI and a single full length Display port.

The Powercolor Radeon R9 290X PCS+ is said to be available starting next month, though the price is expected to be above $550 / €400 / £335.

Thank you WCCF and Video Cardz for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of Video Cardz

AMD R9 290 4GB Graphics Card Review

Introduction


The launch of AMD’s R9 290X last week was interesting as it certainly stirred up the graphics card market and industry. Following the launch arguing between readers occurred in abundance across many review sites, not just our own. Where I stand in this debate is that AMD have really shot themselves in the foot by releasing such a high performance graphics card that then gets throttled by such a mediocre cooling solution. Then to make things worse they’ve chosen to shed no light on the launch of non-reference solutions – something all prospective R9 290X buyers are waiting for to make a fully informed decision. Yet despite the R9 290X being throttled by that stock cooler the general consensus from most reviewers was that the R9 290X is at least as good as the GTX 780, while some reviewers who were able to test in favourable temperature conditions received results that suggested the R9 290X was better than the GTX Titan. Our review fell into that latter category and our benchmarks showed the R9 290X as being quite some way ahead of the GTX Titan in most benchmarks.

Setting the R9 290X aside for a bit, today we have with us the R9 290, the R9 290X’s little brother. For those who remember the HD 7000 series clearly the R9 290 is essentially the HD 7950 successor and is the second best single GPU graphics card of the RX-2XX series. Sadly, the AMD R9 290 comes with the same weak AMD stock cooling solution so we can expect more of the same – a wide variety of reviewers showing very different results based on testing that was conducted in varying ambient room temperatures. I think it is immensely important to stress that if readers really want to see the full picture, and want to make a solid judgement on whether the R9 290(X) cards are a good buy, then you’ve got to wait for the non-reference solutions to hit the market to see the accurate picture. When that will be is anyone’s guess as AMD have remained tight-lipped about it, we’ve seen a variety of (guess)estimates thrown all over internet forums ranging from early November to mid December – in my opinion the sooner the better.

The AMD R9 290 is a moderately cut down version of the R9 290X. It features the same GPU die but with 256 less GCN cores, 16 less texture units and a slightly lower core clock speed. Of course on paper the gap is very small so we probably shouldn’t expect to see no more than a 5-10% dip in performance compared to the R9 290X.

AMD’s R9 290 also comes with AMD’s new version of PowerTune like the R9 290X had. In essence the new PowerTune can be seen as AMD’s answer to Nvidia’s GPU Boost 2.0. AMD’s new PowerTune balances clock speeds and fan speeds to maintain a steady temperature threshold. The card adjusts the clock speed dynamically along with the fan speed (which also has a threshold) to maintain that steady temperature under load. By default there is a 95 degree fixed max temperature and 40% fixed max fan speed so the clock speed will be adjusted to ensure it can achieve both those parameters. Normally this means the clock speed is lowered when the card is going to exceed either the max temperature or fan speed, or the clock speed is raised when there is sufficient temperature or fan profile headroom to support this. What this creates is an extensive overclocking system where users can balance the temperature, fan speed, clock speed and also the Power Limit to get the most performance or the most silence. AMD’s OverDrive section of their Catalyst Control Center will allow you to control all these other parameters but you will also be able to use third party overclocking tools to adjust these things too when those programs are fully updated.

Linked to the new overclocking system is the dual BIOS implementation but unlike the R9 290X, the R9 290 does not have two different modes, just two identical BIOSes. The R9 290 comes with the “Quiet” profile equivalent of the R9 290X that caps the fan speed at 40%. It isn’t particularly quiet though so wait for those non-reference solutions.

AMD has also worked hard to support 4K gaming in a “plug and play” fashion on its new flagship with default Eyefinity configurations for tiled 4K monitors such as the Sharp PN-K321 or ASUS PQ321Q monitors (and while on the topic of 4K be sure to check out our 4K gaming featured article here that includes the R9 290X, R9 280X, GTX Titan and GTX 780). As part of its push to 4K AMD is supporting the new industry standard for tiled displays in VESA – DisplayID v1.3. While AMD can support the very limited numbers of 4K monitors currently out on the market, in the future when 4K monitors proliferate, AMD (and other graphics providers) will need a unified standard to easily recognise stitched 4K panels.

A final noteworthy mention is AMD’s new method of CrossFire which enables the activation of CrossFire without the need for the physical CrossFire X ribbon. As far as AMD have suggested this will only be supported on the R9 290 series as it is part of the new architectural design of the Hawaii GPU. The Eyefinity and TrueAudio enhancements introduced by AMD with the other RX 2XX cards released a few weeks ago are also extended to the R9 290, check out the details of those right here.

AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Graphics Card Review

Introduction


After months of rumours and media hype, AMD’s new flagship graphics card is here. We have a launch-day review for you guys to read and we’re putting this brand new GPU through its paces on the eTeknix graphics card test system. We’re very excited to bring you this review because everyone loves to see how a new flagship GPU performs and what it can deliver, even if you have no intention of ever buying it. The AMD R9 290X is a brand new GPU crafted from the same 28nm process as the HD 7000 series but using a revised architecture design (GCN 2.0 vs GCN) and a new GPU die codenamed “Hawaii”.

The AMD R9 290X brings a number of new features to the table which we will cover briefly but first let’s check a run down of the specifications. AMD’s R9 290X is a big step up from the R9 280X (HD 7970) featuring 768 more stream processors, 1.5 more TFLOPS of compute performance, 32GB/s more memory bandwidth, double the number of ROPs and much more. A default clock speed of up to 1GHz on the core and up to 5GHz on the memory is deployed, this will vary dynamically as it is adjusted by AMD’s revised PowerTune technology, which leads us on nicely to the next part – the new features of the R9 290X.

Firstly, AMD has introduced a new version of its PowerTune technology. In essence the new PowerTune can be seen as AMD’s answer to Nvidia’s GPU Boost 2.0. AMD’s new PowerTune balances clock speeds and fan speeds to maintain a steady temperature threshold. The card adjusts the clock speed dynamically along with the fan speed (which also has a threshold) to maintain that steady temperature under load. By default there is a 95 degree fixed max temperature and 40% fixed max fan speed so the clock speed will be adjusted to ensure it can achieve both those parameters. Normally this means the clock speed is lowered when the card is going to exceed either the max temperature or fan speed, or the clock speed is raised when there is sufficient temperature or fan profile headroom to support this. What this creates is an extensive overclocking system where users can balance the temperature, fan speed, clock speed and also the Power Limit to get the most performance or the most silence. AMD’s OverDrive section of their Catalyst Control Center will allow you to control all these other parameters but you will also be able to use third party overclocking tools to adjust these things too when those programs are fully updated.

Linked to the new overclocking system is the dual BIOS system. By default the AMD R9 290X ships with two BIOSes and a switch to select between each one. The first and default switch is “Quiet Mode” and this limits the fan speed to 40% with the default 95 degree threshold. The second switch is for “Uber Mode” and this boosts the maximum fan speed to 55% and leaves the temperature threshold at 95 degrees. Uber mode allows the card to clock higher by having better cooling while Quiet mode allows it to remain quieter. Of course AIB partners will be able to benefit from dramatically better cooling than the reference design and you may not even need the dual BIOS switch to access the maximum performance. You can of course pick any custom combination of GPU temperature and maximum fan speed as shown above.

AMD has also worked hard to support 4K gaming in a “plug and play” fashion on its new flagship with default Eyefinity configurations for tiled 4K monitors such as the Sharp PN-K321 or ASUS PQ321Q monitors (and while on the topic of 4K be sure to check out our 4K gaming featured article here). As part of its push to 4K AMD is supporting the new industry standard for tiled displays in VESA – DisplayID v1.3. While AMD can support the very limited numbers of 4K monitors currently out on the market, in the future when 4K monitors proliferate, AMD (and other graphics providers) will need a unified standard to easily recognise stitched 4K panels.

A final noteworthy mention is AMD’s new method of CrossFire which enables the activation of CrossFire without the need for the physical CrossFire X ribbon. As far as AMD have suggested this will only be supported on the R9 290 series as it is part of the new architectural design of the Hawaii GPU. The Eyefinity and TrueAudio enhancements introduced by AMD with the other RX 2XX cards released a few weeks ago are also extended to the R9 290X, check out the details of those right here.

Sapphire AMD Radeon R9 280X Vapor-X OC 3GB Graphics Card Review

Introduction


AMD’s new series of graphics cards, the RX 2XX series, is split up into the R9 Enthusiast class and the R7 mainstream class. Both segmentations feature impressive levels of value for money and top end performance at each price point but today we are looking at one of the higher end models. We have with us the Sapphire AMD Radeon R9 280X Vapor-X OC Graphics card in this review but we’ve also reviewed the AMD R7 260X and AMD R9 270X for today’s launch. While this is a Sapphire branded card we are using this as an opportunity to to also look at AMD’s Radeon R9 280X as AMD were not able to provide us with a reference design. The reference design of course is identical to Sapphire’s model other than the cooler is different and Sapphire have added a mild factory overclock taking the clock speed up from 1GHz to 1.07GHz, and the memory from 6GHz to 6.2GHz.

The Radeon R9 280X card we received from Sapphire and AMD is simply an OEM graphics card so it comes with nothing other than the card which is pictured above. Below you can see a GPU-Z screenshot of the new AMD graphics card which reveals those overclocks I mentioned earlier. A couple of other things to point out are that this card supports Direct X 11.2, OpenGL 4.3 and AMD’s new “Mantle” technology.

Looking at the AMD R9 280X more broadly it should have the following specifications:

Of course for those who don’t know, the AMD Radeon R9 280X is based on an optimised version of the AMD HD 7970 GPU. It features increased clock speeds and uses a more refined 28nm process as well as a redesigned cooling solution for the reference cards. The main advantage is that AMD is shipping the new R9 280X with a price of $299 compared to the HD 7970 which when it first shipped had an MSRP of $549. With the R9 280X, AMD hopes to take on Nvidia by offering a card that is faster than the GTX 760 and on par with the GTX 770 but costs $299 instead of the $249 of the GTX 760 or $399 of the GTX 770. Of course Nvidia will undoubtedly respond with price cuts but as things stand the R9 280X is seeking to be the GTX 770 killer by offering equivalent performance for a staggering $100 less. Let us proceed with this review and see if the R9 280X delivers.

AMD R9-290X “Hawaii” GPU Specs Revealed

3Dcenter.org has managed to get its hand on some key information about the new AMD flagship graphics card the R9-290X. Based on the Hawaii chip this GPU succeeds the Tahiti series (HD 7900) and features a die area of 430mm² which is 18% bigger than Tahiti. The Hawaii GPU has 4 raster engines with 2816 shader units, 176 TMUs, 32-48 ROPs and a 384 bit GDDR5 interface. The next chip down still based on Hawaii should have 160 TMUs, 32-48 ROPs, 2560 shader units and a 384 bit interface.

In terms of performance 3D center estimate that we will see around 20 to 25% more performance compared to the HD 7970 GHz edition as a result of these new tweaks. The new RX-2XX series will feature hardware level support for Direct X 11.2. The new shaders use the GCN2.0 design and have a temperature controlled boost clock design. 3Dcenter says these new GPUs will presented in just 6 days on September 25th. Availability is slated for mid to late October.

Image #1 courtesy of AMD and Image #2 courtesy of 3Dcenter.org

AMD “Hawaii” Press Sample Boxes Pictured

On September 25th 2013 it is reported that AMD will be flying over high profile media and press to Hawaii for the unveiling of its “Volcanic Islands” GPU family. You can read all the latest details on AMD’s Volcanic Islands series of GPUs here. The press event is expected to see the Hawaii GPUs unveiled, these will be the top-end GPUs that are the equivalents of the current HD 7900 series.

Over at ChipHell they have posted up pictures of the Hawaii Press Sample boxes sent out to high profile media invited to the event.  The box appears to contain a pre-release copy of Battlefield 4 for GPU testing maybe, though this does seem unlikely. 

While both boxes are a bit mysterious and cryptic, given that the photographer is withholding from showing us the whole package, we can safely assume it has something to do with AMD’s Hawaii GPUs.

What do you think the boxes are for?

Images courtesy of Chiphell

New AMD “Volcanic Islands” And “Pirate Islands” GPUs Revealed

AMD’s next generation GPUs have been detailed and we now know they will be called Volcanic Islands and Pirate Islands. Volcanic Islands is the high end GPU stack of the next generation and features the high end single and dual GPU configurations.

The highest end part is dubbed Hawaii followed by Maui and Tonga. AMD will debut the HD 9000 series Volcanic Islands GPUs in Q4 of 2013 and TSMCs 20nm node process is expected to be at the heart of these new GPUs – though this is not confirmed. We do know that we will will definitely see GCN 2.0 and Direct X 11.1.

AMD will then succeed “Volcanic Islands” GPUs with “Pirate Islands” GPUs at some stage after in late 2014 or early 2015. These will be made up of Bermuda, Fiji and Treasure Island GPUs and will definitely be based on the 20nm node.

According to the report, AMD might ditch the HD XXXX naming convention and use a Radeon 1xxx Rx naming system. The next series would then be called Radeon 2xxx Rx, and so on. It is not known if this is a simple replacement of the HD prefix, so R10-9970/9970-R10 for example, or if AMD could opt for new naming structures using the RX pre-fix to denote market segmentation. This would be similar to their APUs where A10 represents the best and A4 the worst.

Image courtesy of WCCFTech, Information Via 3DCenter