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.
Aside from some odd encounters in the Fury X department and poor initial driver support, AMD's continued R9 roll-out has increasingly improved in its competitive posturing. We've already looked at the R9 380X as provided by Sapphire and remarked that we felt “confident in recommending” AMD's newest device. Today, we're moving to PowerColor's PCS+ R9 380X, a dual-fan-cooled 380X chip with a slight pre-overclock, but significant overhead for additional clock increases.
Our benchmark reviews the PowerColor R9 380X Myst Edition graphics card vs. Sapphire's R9 380X Nitro, including FPS, thermal, and OC testing.
For a review of the R9 380X as it compares to other cards – like the similarly-priced GTX 960 – we'd recommend our R9 380X review and individual game benchmarks (including ACS, Battlefront, Fallout, and more). This review specifically looks at the PCS+ 380X as it compares to our other R9 380X, the Sapphire Nitro card.
AMD CEO Lisa Su recently indicated that the company's Radeon R9 Fury dual-GPU card would be pushed into 2Q16, a marked delay over the initial EOY 15 target launch window.
The new card will host two Fiji GPUs on a single card, potentially imbuing the dual-GPU, single-card market with a bit of life. The device has been touted since E3 as the Fiji Gemini and was targeting a December launch period, with Lisa Su claiming that the delay has been to better accommodate shipment of virtual reality products (HTC Vive coincides with the new Gemini window).
Cloud Imperium Games' Star Citizen achieved a major milestone with the distribution of its Alpha 2.0 package, allowing multiplayer exploration in addition to existing dog-fighting and free flight. This release gives players the first glimpse of the game's open world intentions, presenting environments forged in Sci-Fi influence.
There's not much in the way of gameplay just yet, but Alpha 2.0 has been made available to all backers for initial bug- and stress-testing. We decided to conduct a test of our own, specifically looking at GPU performance and preset scaling across multiple “game modes.” Right now, because the pre-release game is comprised of several disjointed modules, there's no one “Play Star Citizen” button – it's split into parts. Racing, free flight, and dog-fighting are in one module (Arena Commander), the Hangar stands alone, and online testing with ArcCorp and Crusader were just released.
For our Star Citizen video card benchmark, we look at GPU vs. GPU performance in the race, delta performance scaling on ArcCorp and in the hangar or free flight, and talk methodology. The game isn't done and has yet to undergo performance optimizations and official driver support, so we won't be recommending the usual “best graphics cards for [game]” this time, as we usually do in our game benchmarks.
Liquid-cooled graphics cards have blown up over the past year. They've existed before, but never to the level of publicity as spurred-on by AMD's Fury X and nVidia's high-end Maxwell board partners. With the MSI Sea Hawk 980 Ti, we explained why CLC systems for GPUs make excellent sense in the correct use case scenario. We mostly called attention to the obvious thermal reduction on the silicon, increased power efficiency by reducing capacitor leakage, and the ability for high-heat, “Big GPUs” to push more substantial overclocks. This is thanks to an avoidance of thermal throttling of the clock, meaning we become more limited by overall chip stability and BIOS vCore locks.
But liquid doesn't always make sense. CLCs drive the BOM up, increasing what the user pays for the solution. Most CLCs, depending on supplier (read about who really makes liquid coolers), are only good for a few years – five, on average – and that's undesirable to users seeking serious endurance. I'd imagine that most of our audience aims to build or upgrade systems at least once within a five-year period, perhaps mitigating the impact of this consideration. The issue is further diminished by just how easy it is to maintain these things: popping in a new cooler will get it up-and-running again, and they're fairly standardized (in the case of the 970 Hybrid or Sea Hawk, anything by Asetek will work). More work than required for an air-cooled card, but even those face decay from prolonged service life (often thermal compound or pads need to be re-applied).
At the surface, the GTX 970 Hybrid doesn't appear to like an application where “liquid makes sense.” That's what testing is for, and we'll look at use case scenarios for overclocking, ultra-low thermal systems, SFF rigs with thermal concerns, and more.
In this review of EVGA's GTX 970 Hybrid, we benchmark stock and overclocked performance in games (FPS), temperatures, and power consumption.
Friday saw the publication of our report on Asetek’s newly-issued Cease & Desist orders, targeting AMD for its R9 Fury X and Gigabyte for its GTX 980 Waterforce. Asetek, a CLC OEM known best for its provision of Corsair and NZXT CLCs, alleges that the R9 Fury X infringes upon Asetek’s patent for its inclusion of a Cooler Master CLC. The patent, boiled down to its most basic elements, primarily governs Asetek’s ownership of the IP pertaining to pump-on-coldplate configurations.