GN's embarking on its most ambitious trip yet: Taipei, then Shenzhen, China and neighboring countries, then back to Taipei. There are many reasons we're doing the Asia tour, but it's all rooted in one of the world's largest consumer electronics shows. Computex rivals CES in size, though arguably has a bigger desktop hardware / component presence than CES (hosted annually in Las Vegas). This year, we're attending – should be a good show.
Here's a quick recap of what PC hardware to expect at Computex 2016.
The test results are in from our post-review DIY project, which started here. Our goal was a simple one: As a bit of a decompression project after our 9000-word analysis of nVidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition, we decided to tear-down the GTX 1080, look underneath, and throw a liquid block onto the exposed die. The “Founders Edition” of the GTX 1080 is effectively a reference model, and as such, it'll quickly be outranked by AIB partner cards with regard to cooling and OC potential. The GTX 1080 overclocks reasonably well – we were hitting ~2025-2050MHz with the FE model – but it still feels limited. That limitation is a mix of power limit and thermal throttling.
Our testing discovered that thermal throttles occur at precisely 82C. Each time the card hits 82C absolute, the clock-rate dips and produces a marginal impact to frametimes and framerate. We also encountered clock-rate stability issues over long burn-in periods, and would have had to further step-down the OC to accommodate the 82C threshold. Even when configuring the VRM blower fan to 100% speed, limitations were encountered – but it did perform better, just with the noise levels of a server fan (~60dB, in our tests). That's not really acceptable for a real-world use case. Liquid will bring down noise levels, help sustain higher clock-rates at those noise levels, and keep thermals well under control.
The video (Part 3) is below. This article will cover the results of our DIY liquid-cooled GTX 1080 'Hybrid' vs. the Founders Edition card, including temperatures, VRM fan RPM, overclocking, stability, and FPS. Our clocks vs. time charts are the most interesting.
We're building our own GTX 1080 Hybrid. We're impatient, and the potential for further improved clock-rate stability – not that the 1080 isn't already impressively stable – has drawn us toward a DIY solution. For this GTX 1080 liquid cooling mod, we're tearing apart $1300 worth of video cards: (1) the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Hybrid, which long held our Best of Bench award, is being sacrificed to the Pascal gods, and (2) the GTX 1080 Founders Edition shall be torn asunder, subjected to the whims of screwdrivers and liquid cooling.
Here's the deal: We ran a thermal throttle analysis in our 9000-word review of the GTX 1080 (read it!). We discovered that, like Maxwell before it, consumer Pascal seems to throttle its frequency as temperatures reach and exceed ~82C. Each hit at 82C triggered a frequency fluctuation of ~30~70MHz, enough to create a marginal hit to frametimes. This only happened a few times through our first endurance test, but we've conducted more – this time with overclocks applied – to see if there's ever a point at which the throttling goes from “welcomed safety check” to something less desirable.
Turns out, the thermal throttling impacts our overclocks, and it's limited the potential of a GPU that's otherwise a strong overclocker. And so begins Part 1 of our DIY GTX 1080 build log – disassembly; we're taking apart the GTX 1080, tearing it down to the bones for a closer look inside.
All the pyrotechnics in the world couldn't match the gasconade with which GPU & CPU vendors announce their new architectures. You'd halfway expect this promulgation of multipliers and gains and reductions (but only where smaller is better) to mark the end-times for humankind; surely, if some device were crafted to the standards by which it were announced, The Aliens would descend upon us.
But, every now and then, those bombastic announcements have something behind them – there's substance there, and potential for an adequately exciting piece of technology. NVidia's debut of consumer-grade Pascal architecture initializes with GP104, the first of its non-Accelerator cards to host the new 16nm FinFET process node from TSMC. That GPU lands on the GTX 1080 Founders Edition video card first, later to be disseminated through AIB partners with custom cooling or PCB solutions. If the Founders Edition nomenclature confuses you, don't let it – it's a replacement for nVidia's old “Reference” card naming, as we described here.
Anticipation is high for GP104's improvements over Maxwell, particularly in the area of asynchronous compute and command queuing. As the industry pushes ever into DirectX 12 and Vulkan, compute preemption and dynamic task management become the gatekeepers to performance advancements in these new APIs. It also means that LDA & AFR start getting pushed out as frames become more interdependent with post-FX, and so suddenly there are implications for multi-card configurations that point toward increasingly less optimization support going forward.
Our nVidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition review benchmarks the card's FPS performance, thermals, noise levels, and overclocking vs. the 980 Ti, 980, Fury X, and 390X. This nearing-10,000-word review lays-out the architecture from an SM level, talks asynchronous compute changes in Pascal / GTX 1080, provides a quick “how to” primer for overclocking the GTX 1080, and talks simultaneous multi-projection. We've got thermal throttle analysis that's new, too, and we're excited to show it.
The Founders Edition version of the GTX 1080 costs $700, though MSRP for AIBs starts at $600. We expect to see that market fill-in over the next few months. Public availability begins on May 27.
First, the embedded video review and specs table:
NVidia's bombastic GTX 1080 & GTX 1070 release signified the shift from “Reference” card nomenclature to one more fitting of a Kickstarter campaign, branding its $700 version of the 1080 the “Founder's Edition.” In our ensuing video coverage of the card, viewer comments indicated a clear disconnect with nVidia's intentions regarding the “Founder's Edition” GPU, its differences between the “normal” GTX 1080, and the GTX 1080s from add-in board partners. We're here to demystify that.
NVidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang hosted the official GTX 1080 ($700) unveil. On stage, Huang indicated – whether intentional or not – that a few different versions of the “reference” GTX 1080 would ship. The price structure was a markedly affordable $600 MSRP for the GTX 1080, or $700 for the GTX 1080 Founder's Edition (or “Legendary Edition,” as we've taken to calling it). Based upon the stage presentation, the Founder's Edition also carried with it a mark of higher overclocking support.
We've learned that's not quite how it works. Here's the deal, plain-and-clear:
A mysterious briefcase showed up at GN labs today, bearing the above blackened metal triangle. On the triangle is emblazoned a code, which we entered into the orderof10.com redemption page. The box is branded with a “10” enclosed by a triangle, the same as seen above. Entering the triangle's code into the webpage unlocked our “COMPUTE” piece (Leibniz); the rest of the pieces can be found here. We know that we've got COMPUTE, SlashGear's Chris Barr has Vision, Jack Pattillo of Rooster Teeth has a piece, and Devindra Hardawar of Engadget has a piece.
I tasked GN's Patrick Lathan with assisting in decoding the cryptic message. He's our “puzzle guy,” known recently for reviewing Johnathan Blow's The Witness, and has already made major progress that isn't contained in our below video.
We have updated this article with advancements below.
Pascal is the imminent GPU architecture from nVidia, poised to compete (briefly) with AMD's Polaris, which will later turn into AMD Vega and Navi. Pascal will shift nVidia onto the new memory technologies introduced on AMD's Fury X, but with the updated HBM2 architecture (High Bandwidth Memory architecture version 2); Intel is expected to debut HBM2 on its Xeon Phi HPC CPUs later this year. View previous GTC coverage of Mars 2030 here.
HBM2 operates on a 4096-bit memory bus with a maximum theoretical throughput of 1TB/s. HBM version 1, for reference, operated at 128GB/s per stack on a 1024-bit wide memory bus. On the Fury X – again, for reference – this calculated-out to approximately 512GB/s. HBM2 will double the theoretical memory bandwidth of HBM1.
AMD's GPU architecture roadmap from its Capsaicin event revealed the new “Vega” and “Navi” architectures, which have effectively moved the company to a stellar naming system. A reasonable move away from things associated with hot, at least – Volcanic Islands, Hawaii, and Capsaicin included.
This isn't news to anyone who's followed the site through our Pascal and GDDR5X posts, but new leaks by “benchlife.info” indicate nVidia's dedication to use both HBM and GDDR5X. The Chinese language site has previously proven to be reliable in its leaks.
GPU architecture has come to a head with memory. Pascal will host HBM2 on its high-end devices, but the cost makes low-end and mid-range cards (the equivalent of a current GTX 960) impossibly expensive. NVidia plans to deploy Micron's new GDDR5X high-bit-rate memory for a cheaper alternative to HBM2; GDDR5X is more expensive than GDDR5, landing it between the oldest (current) and newest (current) technology in product cost.
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