The goal of this content is to show that HBAO and SSAO have negligible performance impact on Battlefield 1 performance when choosing between the two. This benchmark arose following our Battlefield 1 GPU performance analysis, which demonstrated consistent frametimes and frame delivery on both AMD and nVidia devices when using DirectX 11. Two of our YouTube commenters asked if HBAO would create a performance swing that would favor nVidia over AMD and, although we've discussed this topic with several games in the past, we decided to revisit for Battlefield 1. This time, we'll also spend a bit of time defining what ambient occlusion actually is, how screen-space occlusion relies on information strictly within the z-buffer, and then look at performance cost of HBAO in BF1.
We'd also recommend our previous graphics technology deep-dive, for folks who want a more technical explanation of what's going on for various AO technologies. Portions of this new article exist in the deep-dive.
AMD sent us an email today that indicated a price reduction for the new-ish RX 460 2GB card and RX 470 4GB card, which we've reviewed here (RX 460) and here (RX 470). The company's price reduction comes in the face of the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti release, scheduled for October 25 for the 1050 Ti, and 2-3 weeks later for the GTX 1050. Our reviews will be live next week.
Battlefield 1 marks the arrival of another title with DirectX 12 support – sort of. The game still supports DirectX 11, and thus Windows 7 and 8, but makes efforts to shift Dice and EA toward the new world of low-level APIs. This move comes at a bit of a cost, though; our testing of Battlefield 1 has uncovered some frametime variance issues on both nVidia and AMD devices, resolvable by reverting to DirectX 11. We'll explore that in this content.
In today's Battlefield 1 benchmark, we're strictly looking at GPU performance using DirectX 12 and DirectX 11, including the recent RX 400 series, GTX 10 series, GTX 9 series, and RX 300 series GPUs. Video cards tested include the RX 480, RX 470, RX 460, 390X, and Fury X from AMD and the GTX 1080, 1070, 1060, 970, and 960 from nVidia. We've got a couple others in there, too. We may separately look at CPU performance, but not today.
This BF1 benchmark bears with it extensive testing methodology, as always, and that's been fully detailed within the methodology section below. Please be sure that you check this section for any questions as to drivers, test tools, measurement methodology, or GPU choices. Note also that, as with all Origin titles, we were limited to five device changes per game code per day (24 hours). We've got three codes, so that allowed us up to 15 total device tests within our test period.
The Nintendo “Switch” was announced this morning, the next-generation half-portable, half-docked console. To reduce confusion, the Switch was previously referred to as the Nintendo “NX.” It is the same device.
Nintendo's new Switch is built in partnership with nVidia and leverages the Pascal architecture found in current-generation GTX 10-series GPUs. At least, based on this text from nVidia's blog: "[...] NVIDIA GPU based on the same architecture as the world’s top-performing GeForce gaming graphics cards." Tegra SOCs include ARM processors alongside the nVidia graphics solution, and also host all of the I/O lanes and memory interfaces. This is a complete system, as indicated by “system on chip.” We've asked nVidia for details on which ARM devices are used and which memory will be supported, but were told that the company is not revealing further details on Nintendo's product. We are awaiting comment from Nintendo for more information.
We do know that the Tegra SOC is accelerating gameplay with hardware-acceleration for video playback, and that nVidia and Nintendo have deployed “custom software for audio effects and rendering.” We can confidently speculate that the Switch is not functioning as the previous Shield devices have (read: not streaming to handheld from a dock), mostly because the Switch is large enough to contain all necessary render hardware within its handheld state. The Switch is also shown in the advert to be playable on planes, which most certainly do not have fast enough internet to support up/down game streaming. This is processing and rendering locally.
Retail powerhouse Newegg is allegedly now majority-owned by Hangzhao Liaison Interactive Information Technology Co., Ltd, heretofore known as Over-compensator, Inc. UDN reports that the company with the big name now holds nearly 56% of Newegg through a $2.63B USD investment. This would allow China-based Liaison Interactive to claim hardware/software retail domination of US and Chinese markets. Granted, Google Translate does say that Newegg is the second-largest “US egg supplier in China,” so we can't interpret much beyond the alleged major investment made by Liaison.
We've already extensively looked at the GTX 1060 3GB vs. GTX 1060 6GB buying options, we covered the RX 480 4GB vs. 8GB options, but we haven't yet tested the 3GB & 4GB SKUs head-to-head. In this content, we're using the latest drivers to specifically benchmark the GTX 1060 3GB versus the RX 480 4GB cards to determine which has the best framerate for the price.
Each of the lower VRAM spec SKUs has a few other tweaks in addition to its memory capacity reduction. The GTX 1060 3GB, for instance, also eliminates one of its SMs. In turn, that kills 128 CUDA cores and 8 TMUs, dragging the 1060 down from 1280 cores / 80 TMUs to 1152 cores / 72 TMUs on the GTX 1060 3GB model. AMD's RX 480 4GB card, meanwhile, has a lower minimum specification for memory to assist in cost management. The RX 480 4GB has a minimum memory speed of ~1750MHz (or ~7Gbps effective), whereas the RX 480 8GB model runs 2000MHz (8Gbps effective).
NZXT's new Kraken X42, X52, and X62 liquid coolers were announced today, all using the new Asetek Gen5 pump with substantial custom modifications. The most direct Gen5 competition would be from Corsair, makers of the H115i and H100iV2, each priced to compete with the Kraken X42 ($130) and X52. The Corsair units, however, are using an unmodified Asetek platform from top-to-bottom, aside from a couple of Corsair fans. NZXT's newest endeavor had its components dictated by NZXT, including a custom (and fairly complex) PCB for fan speed, pump speed, and RGB control, planted under a custom pump plate with infinity mirror finish. The unit has gone so far as to demand a double-elbow barb for pose-able tubes, rather than the out-the-top setup of the Asetek stock platform – that's some fastidious design.
As for how we know all of this, it's because we've already disassembled a unit. We decided to dismantle one of our test-complete models to learn about its internals, since we're still waiting for the X52 and X62 models to be review-ready. We've got a few more tests to run.
Before getting to the tear-down, let's run through the specs, price, and availability of NZXT's new Kraken X42, X52, and X62 closed-loop liquid coolers.
Tuesday, upon its institution on the Gregorian calendar, was deemed “product release day” by our long dead-and-rotted ancestors. Today marks the official announcement of the nVidia GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti cards on the GP107 GPU, though additional product announcements will go live on our site by 10AM EST.
The GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti video cards are based on the GP107 GPU with Pascal architecture, sticking to the same SM layout as on previous Pascal GPUs (exception: GP100). Because this is a news announcement, we won't have products in hand for at least another day – but we can fly through the hard specs today and then advise that you return this week for our reviews.
Abstraction layers that sit between the game code and hardware create transactional overhead that worsens software performance on CPUs and GPUs. This has been a major discussion point as DirectX 12 and Vulkan have rolled-out to the market, particularly with DOOM's successful implementation. Long-standing API incumbent Dx 11 sits unmoving between the game engine and the hardware, preventing developers from leveraging specific system resources to efficiently execute game functions or rendering.
Contrary to this, it is possible, for example, to optimize tessellation performance by making explicit changes in how its execution is handled on Pascal, Polaris, Maxwell, or Hawaii architectures. A developer could accelerate performance by directly commanding the GPU to execute code on a reserved set of compute units, or could leverage asynchronous shaders to process render tasks without getting “stuck” behind other instructions in the pipeline. This can't be done with higher level APIs like Dx 11, but DirectX 12 and Vulkan both allow this lower-level hardware access; you may have seen this referred to as “direct to metal,” or “programming to the metal.” These phrases reference that explicit hardware access, and have historically been used to describe what Xbox and Playstation consoles enable for developers. It wasn't until recently that this level of support came to PC.
In our recent return trip to California (see also: Corsair validation lab tour), we visited AMD's offices to discuss shader intrinsic functions and performance acceleration on GPUs by leveraging low-level APIs.
We’re taking a brief break from our hardware facility coverage to bring you this weekend’s sales. End-of-year price cuts continue, as manufacturers try to clear their remaining inventory before the next quarter—which means discounts on usually expensive components.