One of our most commonly received Ask GN questions is “which video card manufacturer is 'the best?'” (scare quotes added). The truth of the matter is, as we've often said, they're all similar in the most critical matter – the GPU is the same. If MSI sells an R9 380X and PowerColor sells an R9 380X, they're both using the same GPU (Tonga) and silicon; core performance will be nearly identical. The same is true for the GTX cards – EVGA and PNY both sell GTX 960 video cards, and all of their models implement the same GM206 GPU. The differences are generally rooted in pre-overclocking, cooling units, support and warranties, and aesthetics.
All our content combined, we've spent hours and tens of thousands of words talking about which video cards perform the best in various categories. That's great -- but sometimes it's fun to do something different. This video allows each GPU manufacturer one minute to explain who makes the best graphics cards for gaming. It's a speed-round, to be sure.
PAX is always surprisingly full of PC gaming hardware, and we’ve run across a couple more items that aren’t yet available – but will be soon. PNY brought the newest addition to their red-and-black gaming suite, an overclocked Nvidia GTX 960, and OCZ came with an M.2 SSD, the RD400 NVME. Both devices are set to release sometime in May.
Video card drivers are almost as important as the hardware with which they interface; without stable and ongoing driver support, a GPU can't be fully utilized to a level that exercises its strengths in the field. AMD has long battled to improve perception of its drivers – a fight we endorsed upon the release of Catalyst successor Radeon Settings – and has continued that battle at GDC 2016.
“For a long time, people keep saying, 'well, AMD has great hardware – what about our drivers?'” AMD Corporate VP Roy Taylor told us in an interview, “I don't want to hear that anymore, all right?” The response was given in our interview following AMD's Capsaicin event, which featured industry luminaries in game development and VR.
Ashes of Singularity has become the poster-child for early DirectX 12 benchmarking, if only because it was the first-to-market with ground-up DirectX 12 and DirectX 11 support. Just minutes ago, the game officially updated its early build to include its DirectX 12 Benchmark Version 2, making critical changes that include cross-brand multi-GPU support. The benchmark also made updates to improve reliability and reproduction of results, primarily by giving all units 'god mode,' so inconsistent deaths don't impact workload.
For this benchmark, we tested explicit multi-GPU functionality by using AMD and nVidia cards at the same time, something we're calling “SLIFire” for ease. The benchmark specifically uses MSI R9 390X Gaming 8G and MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G cards vs. 2x GTX 970s, 1x GTX 970, and 1x R9 390X for baseline comparisons.
Monitors have undergone a revolution over the past few years. 1080p lost its luster as 1440p emerged, and later 4K – which still hasn't quite caught on – and that's to say nothing of the frequency battles. 144Hz has subsumed 120Hz, both sort-of “premium” frequencies, and adaptive synchronization technologies G-Sync and FreeSync have further complicated the monitor buying argument.
But we think the most interesting, recent trend is to do with aspect ratios. Modern displays don't really get called “widescreen” anymore; there's no point – they're all wide. Today, we've got “UltraWides,” much like we've got “Ultra HD” – and whatever else has the U-word thrown in front of it – and they're no gimmick. UltraWide displays run a 21:9 aspect ratio (21 pixels across for every 9 pixels down, think of it like run/rise), a noticeable difference from the 16:9 of normal widescreens. These UltraWide displays afford greater production capabilities by effectively serving the role of two side-by-side displays, just with no bezel; they also offer greater desk compatibility, more easily centered atop smaller real-estate.
For gaming, the UltraWide argument is two-fold: Greater immersion with a wider, more “full” space, and greater peripheral vision in games which may benefit from a wider field of view. Increased pixel throughput more heavily saturates the pipeline, of course, which means that standard 1080p and 1440p benchmarks won't reflect the true video card requirements of a 3440x1440 UltraWide display. Today, we're benchmarking graphics card FPS on a 3440x1440 Acer Predator 34” UltraWide monitor. The UltraWide GPU performance benchmark includes the GTX 980 Ti, 980, 970, and 960 from nVidia and the R9 390X, 380X, 290X, and 285 from AMD.
Our last head-to-head GPU comparison benchmarked the performance of a single GTX 980 Ti versus two GTX 970s in SLI. Following some astute reader suggestions, we've acquired a PowerColor Devil 13 dual-core R9 390 – two GPUs on one card – to test as a CrossFire stand-in against SLI GTX 970s. Performance analysis is accompanied by power draw and thermal tests, though a proper, full review on the Devil 13 card will follow this content in short order.
For today, the focus is on this head-to-head comparison. FPS benchmarks look at performance of 2x CrossFire R9 390s vs. 2x SLI GTX 970s, including supporting data from a GTX 980 Ti, 980, and R9 390X. We'll also work toward answering the question of whether CrossFire and SLI are worth it in this particular scenario, as opposed to investing in a single, more expensive GPU.
Following its Polaris GPU architecture announcement and ensuing Polaris demo at CES, AMD today announced a reduction in price for its R9 Nano video card. The card, which launched in September 2015, is now carrying a Suggested Etail Price (SEP) of $500, a significant drop from its $650 launch price (the same as the Fury X).
It normally takes a few days for SEP reductions to set-in at Amazon and Newegg, but the two major retailers should soon reflect this change.
Quick Disconnect (QDC) liquid cooling has been concepted a few times before. For the enthusiast and DIY market, there’s not been much of an uptake on the QDC quasi-open loop liquid cooling – but there’s also never been a major marketing push. Our CES 2016 visit with EVGA had us hands-on with a quad-SLI + CPU quick disconnect liquid cooling setup, taking from the well-received GTX 980 Ti Hybrid design and expanding into sequential liquid cooling.
EVGA’s roadmap for 2016 includes quick disconnect GPUs, CPU blocks, and radiators, with additional product support in cases, power, boards, and audio. We’re focusing on the QDC components and the case today.
Graphics manufacturer AMD and its Radeon Technologies Group (RTG) today announced the arrival of “Polaris,” a 14nm FinFET architecture derived from codename Arctic Islands. Polaris is due in mid-2016 and supersedes the aged 28nm process, which both major GPU manufacturers presently employ. The new node should drastically impact performance-per-watt, aided by FinFET transistors (shaped like a 'fin,' rather than planar, so containment of power is more efficient – i.e., less leakage).
Scalable multi-card configurations from both nVidia and AMD have improved in their performance over the years, with both companies investing additional resources to driver optimizations for multi-card users. The value of SLI or CrossFire has always been debatable, particularly for day-one system builders (rather than someone upgrading), but is worth investigating further. With all the year's newest titles – and some mainstays with well-tested performance – we did that investigation, specifically comparing a single 980 Ti vs. 2x 970s in SLI, a 980, single 970, and R9 390X for AMD baseline.
Today's GTX 970 SLI vs. single 980 Ti test benchmarks average FPS and 1% / 0.1% low performance, presenting data in a few different chart types: Usual AVG, 1% low, & 0.1% low head-to-head performance; delta value (percent advantage) between the 970s in SLI and 980 Ti; delta value (percent gain) between the 2x 970s and a single GTX 970.