Explanation of AMD OCAT Overlay for PresentMon BenchmarkingFriday, 09 December 2016
Our full OCAT content piece is still pending publication, as we ran into some blocking issues when working with AMD’s OCAT benchmarking utility. In speaking with the AMD team, those are being worked-out behind the scenes for this pre-release software, and are still being actively documented. For now, we decided to push a quick overview of OCAT, what it does, and how the tool will theoretically make it easier for all users to perform Dx12 & Vulkan benchmarks going forward. We’ll revisit with a performance and overhead analysis once the tool works out some of its bugs.
The basics, then: AMD has only built the interface and overlay here, and uses the existing, open source Intel+Microsoft amalgam of PresentMon to perform the hooking and performance interception. We’ve already been detailing PresentMon in our benchmarking methods for a few months now, using PresentMon monitoring low-level API performance and using Python and Perl scripts built by GN for data analysis. That’s the thing, though – PresentMon isn’t necessarily easy to understand, and our model of usage revolves entirely around command line. We’re using the preset commands established by the tool’s developers, then crunching data with spreadsheets and scripts. That’s not user-friendly for a casual audience.
Just to deploy the tool, Visual Studio package requirements and a rudimentary understanding of CMD – while not hard to figure out – mean that it’s not exactly fit to offer easy benchmarking for users. And even for technical media, an out-of-box PresentMon isn’t exactly the fastest tool to work with.
Gears of War 4 PC Graphics Settings Detailed & Async Compute SupportTuesday, 16 August 2016
The Coalition's Gears of War 4 demonstrated the capabilities of nVidia's new GTX 1070-enabled notebooks, operating at 4K with fully maxed-out graphics options. View our Pascal notebook article for more information on the specifics of the hardware. While at the event in England, we took notes of the game's complete graphics settings and some notes on graphics setting impact on the GPU and CPU. The Coalition may roll-out additional settings by the game's October launch.
We tested Gears of War 4 on the new MSI GT73 notebook with 120Hz display and a GTX 1070 (non-M) GPU. The notebook was capable of pushing maxed settings at 1080p and, a few pre-release bugs aside (pre-production hardware and an unfinished game), gameplay ran in excess of 60FPS.
We've got an early look at Gears of War 4's known graphics settings, elevated framerate, async compute, and dynamic resolution support. Note that the Gears team has promised “more than 30 graphics settings,” so we'll likely see a few more in the finished product. Here are our photos of the graphics options menu:
Gears of War 4 Axes UWP V-Sync Limitations, Adds 4K Textures
Windows 10 games distribution platform UWP has previously forced V-Sync onto users, but has become toggleable for Gears of War 4, Mark Reyner told Eurogamer. Among other technical changes, Gears of War 4 appears to be shaping up to be a proper benchmark title for our future GPU reviews. The game will host a benchmark mode – always a plus – while unlocking the framerate and adding super-resolution support. That means, like Shadow of Mordor and similar games, players will be able to run the game at whatever resolution they want. It’s similar to DSR/VSR in that the game renders at the higher resolution, then down scales to fit the display. This results in greater pixel density and increases clarity.
Gamer Adoption of Dx12 Surges to 40%
Steam's hardware survey reports a +1.57% increase month-over-month in Windows 10 64-bit adoption, marking a growth trend favoring the move to DirectX 12. Presently, the major Dx12-ready titles include Rise of the Tomb Raider, Hitman, Ashes of the Singularity, and forthcoming Total War: Warhammer; you can learn about Warhammer's unique game engine technology over here.
In Steam's survey, Windows 7 is broken into just “Windows 7” and “Windows 7 64-bit,” the two totaling 41.43% of the users responding to the optional survey. The survey also breaks Windows 10 into a “64-bit” and an unspecified version, totaling 41.4% (or 40.01% for the specific 64-bit line-item).
Tabulated results are below:
Mercury Memory, Vacuum Tubes, & First Transistors - Computer History Museum TourThursday, 14 April 2016
5MB of storage once required 50 spinning platters and a dedicated computer, demanding a 16 square-foot area for its residence. The first hard drive wasn't particularly fast at 1200RPM and with seek latencies through the roof (imagine a header seeking between 50 platters) – but it was the most advanced storage of the time.
That device was the IBM 305 RAMAC, its converted cost was a $30,000 monthly lease, and single instruction execution required between 30ms and 50ms (IRW phases). The IBM 305 RAMAC did roughly 100,000 bits per second, or 0.0125MB/s. Today, the average 128GB microSD card costs ~$50 – one time – and executes read/write instructions at 671,000,000 bits per second, or 80MB/s. And this is one of our slowest forms of Flash storage. The microSD card is roughly the size of a fingernail (32x24x2.1mm), and filling a 16 square-foot area with them would yield terabytes upon terabytes of storage.
The 305 RAMAC was a creation of 1956. Following last week's GTC conference, we had the opportunity to see the RAMAC and other early computing creations at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. The museum encompasses most of computing history, including the abacus, early Texas Instruments advanced calculators (like the TI-99), and previously housed a mechanical Babbage Machine computer from the 1800s. In our recent tour of the Computer History Museum, we focused on the predecessors to modern computing – the first hard drive, first supercomputers, first transistorized computers, mercury and core memory, and vacuum tube computing.
Microsoft is Undermining PC Gaming with 'UWP' & its StoreSaturday, 05 March 2016
Anyone remember Games for Windows Live? It was that parasitic entanglement of PTSD-inducing software, purpose-built to drive legitimate game buyers to piracy. GFWL clung to life as an early scout SCV might – or StarCraft 2 at all, for that matter. Games for Windows Live lived a relatively short life, but each day of its existence felt like eternity spent in a quagmire haunted by the crushed souls of developers pressured into marketing deals with Microsoft, watching in abject horror as their games received lashings for interminable crashes and login bugs.
Mercifully, it was killed. Put down and leaving developers to scramble and update a few good legacy games – DiRT 3, Batman, and Street Fighter included – to work without the GFWL lifeline. Or anchor, as it were.
Microsoft Effectively Resurrects Games for Windows Live, Has Not Learned AnythingTuesday, 01 March 2016
Good news! The Gears of War Ultimate Edition is coming to PC. Windows made this surprise announcement just today -- but for some reason this announcement comes with a little deja vu. Why does it feel so familiar?
Here’s one reason: It was almost 10 years ago… Halo 2 was finally, after three long years, coming to PC; but what we weren’t prepared for was:
Vulkan 1.0 API Specification Finalized by AMD & Khronos Group, Driver Ready
The Vulkan API has completely taken over AMD's low-level Mantle application program interface, somewhat of a peer to Microsoft's DirectX 12.
It's a competitive space. Mantle tried to push the industry toward more console-like programming – and we mean that in positive ways – by getting developers “close to the metal.” Low-level APIs that bypass the insurmountable overhead of DirectX 11 are the key to unlocking the full potential of modern hardware; DirectX 12 and Vulkan both get us closer to this, primarily by shifting draw calls off the CPU and reducing bottlenecking. GPUs have grown so powerful in their parallel processing that they can assume significant workload that was once placed upon processors – this benefits gamers in particular, since the majority of our workloads are more easily pushed through the GPU.
Microsoft Sentences 'Quantum Break' to Death with Exclusive Windows Store Launch
Games for Windows Live was one of the worst things ever to happen to PC gaming – and we state that with unwavering confidence. GFWL often broke to such a degree that it'd be easier for folks who legitimately purchased games – DiRT, Batman, and plenty others – to go pirate them after the fact. Through the great mercy of our Microsoft overlords, GFWL was eventually discontinued and, through further effort by developers and communities, stripped from games within which it'd been defectively embedded.
By this measure, we'd mark any GFWL comparison as among the most gruesome within our small corner of the PC gaming world. It remains to be seen just how pervasive the new Windows Store is, found in Windows 10, but Microsoft is keen to start figuring out what its audience looks like.
Time to Update AMD & NVIDIA Drivers for Windows 10 - Details Within
Windows 10 was officially released yesterday. With Windows 10 comes DirectX12 and some other changes, such as Xbox Live for the PC. Of course, Windows 10 (and Dx12) also requires new drivers. Both AMD and nVidia have released drivers within the last week to support Windows 10. Because Windows 7 and 8.1 users can upgrade to Windows 10 for free within a year, these drivers are significant to migration as a potentially large portion of users will be shifting simultaneously.
We’ll first cover AMD’s newest 15.7.1 driver, then nVidia’s 353.62 driver.
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