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38 Posts authored by: rhallock Employee

PC gamers that want to game on the go have always faced some tough choices when buying a notebook. Do we buy a gaming notebook that’s great to game on, but tough to carry? Or an ultrathin that’s easy to carry, but tough to game on? Some of us just buy two notebooks. Some of us buy a gaming notebook, wishing it were lighter every time they carry it. Some just buy the ultrathin, acknowledging that comfortable portability is probably more important than gaming over the long run. Every choice has drawbacks.

 

 

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Many gamers—myself included!—have dreamed of buying the best of both worlds with a lightweight notebook or 2-in-1 that also supports a powerful external graphics card. The notebook or 2-in-1 could be conveniently lightweight for work, relaxing on the couch, or travel. But, when needed, the PC could also tap into serious framerates and image quality with a powerful external GPU that’s not far from carrying an average gaming notebook. The point is: you choose.

 

A system compatible with AMD XConnect™ technology could offer exactly that.1

 

AMD XConnect™ technology is a new feature debuting in today’s Radeon Software 16.2.2 (or later) graphics driver that makes it easier than ever to connect and use an external Radeon™ graphics card in Windows® 10. External GPU enclosures configured with select Radeon™ R9 GPUs can easily connect to a compatible notebook or 2-in-11 over Thunderbolt™ 3. Best of all, a PC configured with AMD XConnect™ technology and external Radeon™ graphics can be connected or disconnected at any time, similar to a USB flash drive—a first for external GPUs.

 

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And it happens that there’s already one company out there that’s incorporating all of these pieces into an amazing package, which brings me to…

 

AMD XConnect™ In Action: Razer Blade Stealth & Razer Core

 

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The Razer Blade Stealth with Thunderbolt™ 3 is an exciting new notebook that’s also the first to be compatible with AMD XConnect™ technology. The Razer Core, meanwhile, is an optional external graphics enclosure that connects to the Blade Stealth with Thunderbolt™ 3. Gamers are in for some pretty exciting features/convenience if the Core is configured with a Radeon™ R9 300 Series GPU:

  • Plug in, game on: There’s no need to reboot the PC to connect or disconnect the Razer Core thanks to AMD XConnect™ technology.
  • Flexible displays: Our driver gives you the flexibility to choose between gaming on the Blade Stealth’s display, or standalone monitors of your choice.
  • Upgradeable: We plan to continue testing and adding Radeon™ GPUs to the AMD XConnect™ support list, giving you the power to upgrade beyond the Radeon™ R9 300/Fury Series when the time is right for you.

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A Three-Party Collaboration

 

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The intersection of AMD XConnect™, the Razer Blade Stealth/Core, and Thunderbolt™ 3 is not a coincidence. AMD, Razer, and the Intel Thunderbolt™ group have been working for many months to architect a comprehensive hardware/software solution that brings plug’n’play external graphics to life over Thunderbolt™ 3. The first external graphics solution that “works like it should!”

 

It came from a simple place: we collectively shared a dream that external GPUs were an important step forward for the PC industry, but were adamant that three things were “must haves” for external graphics to finally be a serious option for gamers:

 

  1. The external GPUs had to have a graphics driver with all the right bits for simple plug’n’play use. With AMD XConnect™ technology, Radeon™ R9 300 and Fury Series GPUs now support this in Windows® 10.
  2. The external GPUs had to connect to a system with standardized connectors/cables and enough bandwidth to feed the appetite of a high-end GPU. Thunderbolt™ 3 does that very well.
  3. And the external chassis had to be upgradeable, so users could prolong the life of their system and buy into a performance level that’s right for their needs. The Razer Core supports that with gusto—up to 375W, dual slot, 12.2” PCB. You could fit easily fit a Radeon™ R9 Nano or 390X GPU in there!2

 

And so our joint project began with regular engineering and marketing meetings to design, build and test: drivers, enclosures, cabling, BIOSes, and so much more. After months of work and hundreds of man hours, here we are!

 

The Future of AMD XConnect™ technology

 

Future external GPU solutions from other companies may come in many shapes and sizes. Some may be very compact with integrated mobile Radeon™ GPUs. Other vendors might allow you to buy empty user-upgradeable enclosures that accept desktop Radeon™ GPUs of varying lengths. We foresee that there will be choice, and the choice will be yours.

 

To keep it easy, we will be maintaining a list of systems, system requirements, GPUs and enclosures that are compatible with AMD XConnect™ on www.amd.com/xconnect.

 

Robert Hallock is the Head of Global Technical Marketing at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

 


FOOTNOTES:
1. Not all notebooks or 2-in-1s feature AMD XConnect™ technology, and not all external graphics (eGFX) enclosures are pre-configured with an AMD Radeon™ graphics card and/or feature user upgradability. Base system’s software package and BIOS must be configured to support AMD XConnect™ technology. System must have Thunderbolt™ 3 connection. Check with your manufacturer for full specifications and capabilities and visit www.amd.com/xconnect for a list of compatible devices. GD-86   

2. GPU upgrade must be supported by the system and enclosure OEM. New GPU must be supported by AMD XConnect™ technology. Visit your product’s support documentation for additional information. GD-87

 

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Last week Ashes of the Singularity™ was updated with comprehensive support for DirectX® 12 Asynchronous Compute. This momentous occasion not only demonstrated how fast Radeon™ GPUs are in DirectX® 12 games, but how much “free” performance can be gained with our exclusive support for asynchronous compute.

 

A Brief Primer on Async Compute

Important in-game effects like shadowing, lighting, artificial intelligence, physics and lens effects often require multiple stages of computation before determining what is rendered onto the screen by a GPU’s graphics hardware.

 

In the past, these steps had to happen sequentially. Step by step, the graphics card would follow the API’s process of rendering something from start to finish, and any delay in an early stage would send a ripple of delays through future stages. These delays in the pipeline are called “bubbles,” and they represent a brief moment in time when some hardware in the GPU is paused to wait for instructions.

 

thread.PNGA visual representation of DirectX® 11 threading: graphics, memory and compute operations are serialized into one long production line that is prone to delays.

 

Pipeline bubbles happen all the time on every graphics card. No game can perfectly utilize all the performance or hardware a GPU has to offer, and no game can consistently avoid creating bubbles when the user abruptly decides to do something different in the game world.

 

What sets Radeon™ GPUs apart from its competitors, however, is the Graphics Core Next architecture’s ability to pull in useful compute work from the game engine to fill these bubbles. For example: if there’s a rendering bubble while rendering complex lighting, Radeon™ GPUs can fill in the blank with computing the behavior of AI instead. Radeon™ graphics cards don’t need to follow the step-by-step process of the past or its competitors, and can do this work together—or concurrently—to keep things moving.

 

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A visual representation of DirectX® 12 asynchronous compute: graphics, memory and compute operations decoupled into independent queues of work that can run in parallel.

 

Filling these bubbles improves GPU utilization, input latency, efficiency and performance for the user by minimizing or eliminating the ripple of delays that could stall other graphics cards. Only Radeon™ graphics currently support this crucial capability in DirectX® 12 and VR.

 

Ashes of the Singularity™: Async Compute in Action

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AMD Internal testing. System config: Core i7-5960X, Gigabyte X99-UD4, 16GB DDR4-2666 Radeon™ Software 15.301.160205a, NVIDIA 361.75 WHQL, Windows® 10 x64.

 

Here we see that the Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU is far and away the fastest DirectX® 12-ready GPU in this test. Moreover, we see such powerful DirectX® 12 performance from the GCN architecture that a $400 Radeon™ R9 390X GPU ties it up with the $650 GeForce GTX 980 Ti.1 Up and down the product portfolios we tested, Radeon™ GPUs not only win against their equivalent competitors they often punch well above their pricepoints.

 

You don’t have to take our word for it. Tom’s Hardware recently explored the performance implications of DirectX® 12 Asynchronous Compute, and independently verified the commanding performance wins handed down by Radeon™ graphics.

 

“AMD is the clear winner with its current graphics cards. Real parallelization and asynchronous task execution are just better than splitting up the tasks via a software-based solution,” author Igor Wallossek wrote.

 

Other interesting data emerged from the THG analysis, summarized briefly:

  • The Radeon™ R9 Fury X gets 12% faster at 4K with DirectX® 12 Asynchronous Compute. The GeForce 980 Ti gets 5.6% slower when attempting to use this powerful DirectX® 12 feature.
  • DirectX® 12 CPU overhead with the Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU is an average of 13% lower than the GeForce 980 Ti.
  • The Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU is a crushing 98% more efficient than the GeForce 980 Ti at offloading work from the CPU to alleviate CPU performance bottlenecks. At 1440p, for example, THG found that the Fury X spent just 1.6% of the time waiting on the processor, whereas the 980 Ti struggled 82.1% of the time.

 

Of asynchronous compute, Wallossek later concludes: “This is a pretty benchmark that serves up interesting results and compels us to wonder what's coming to PC gaming in the near future? One thing we can say is that AMD wins this round. Its R&D team, which implemented functionality that nobody really paid attention to until now, should be commended.”

 

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

 

Robert Hallock is the Head of Global Technical Marketing at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

 


Footnotes:

1. Prices in $USD based on Newegg.com as of February 29, 2016. Happy leap day!

Today is an exciting day for PC gaming enthusiasts: the Khronos Group has announced immediate public release of the open standard Vulkan™ 1.0 graphics API! To mark the occasion, we’ve posted a Radeon Software beta for Vulkan. This graphics driver is primarily intended to enable a wider audience of game developers to work with Vulkan on Radeon™ graphics.

 

What is Vulkan?

From the consortium that brought you OpenGL, Vulkan is a new graphics API for developers who want or need deeper hardware control. Designed with “low-overhead” capabilities, Vulkan gives devs total control over the performance, efficiency, and capabilities of Radeon™ GPUs and multi-core CPUs.

 

Compared to OpenGL, Vulkan substantially reduces “API overhead,” which is background work a CPU must do to interpret what a game is asking of the hardware. Reducing this overhead gives hardware much more time to spend on delivering meaningful features, performance and image quality. Vulkan also exposes GPU hardware features not ordinarily accessible through OpenGL.

 

Vulkan inherits these capabilities from AMD’s Mantle graphics API. Mantle was the first of its kind: the first low-overhead PC graphics API, the first to grant unprecedented access to PC GPU resources, and the first to offer absolute control of those resources. Most importantly for gamers, Mantle got the industry thinking about how much additional GPU performance could be unlocked with a low-overhead graphics API.

 

Though the Mantle API was tailored for AMD hardware, Mantle was also designed with just enough hardware abstraction to accommodate almost any modern graphics architecture.  That architecture proved useful when we contributed the source code and API specification of Mantle to serve as the foundation of Vulkan in May of 2015.

 

Since that time, Vulkan has been forged under the stewardship of a comprehensive industry alliance that spans the hardware development, game development and content creation industries. Many new and significant capabilities have been added, such as support and performance optimizations for Android® smartphones and tablets, or cross-OS support for Windows® 7, Windows® 8.1, Windows® 10, and Linux®.

 

What our driver supports

AMD has been participating in Vulkan’s development since its inception and providing builds of our Vulkan-enabled driver to game developers for many months. As we transition into the public phase, our initial driver release enables Vulkan support for select Radeon™ GPUs on Windows® 7, Windows® 8.1, and Windows® 10. An upcoming release of the amdgpu Linux driver will also feature Vulkan support.

 

Please note that this initial Windows driver is not packaged with DirectX® driver components, so it is not a suitable replacement for your everyday graphics driver.

 

Our Vulkan driver supports the following AMD APUs and Radeon™ GPUs1 based on the Graphics Core Next architecture:

 

What are some of the Radeon™ graphics features Vulkan exposes?

Only Radeon™ GPUs built on the GCN Architecture currently have access to a powerful capability known as asynchronous compute, which allows the graphics card to process 3D geometry and compute workloads in parallel. As an example, this would be useful when a game needs to calculate complex lighting and render characters at the same time. As these tasks do not have to run serially on a Radeon™ GPU, this can save time and improve overall framerates. Game developers designing Vulkan applications can now leverage this unique hardware feature across all recent versions of Windows and Linux.

 

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Another new feature that Radeon™ GPUs support with Vulkan is multi-threaded command buffers. Games with multi-threaded command buffers can dispatch chunks of work to the GPU from all available CPU cores. This can keep the GPU occupied with meaningful work more frequently, leading to improved framerates and image quality. Vulkan brings this performance advantage to recent versions of Windows and Linux.

 

Finally, Vulkan has formal support for API extensions. API extensions allow AMD to design new hardware capabilities into future Radeon™ GPUs, then immediately expose those capabilities with a software plugin that interfaces with Vulkan in a compliant way.

 

The road ahead

As we move deeper into 2016, stay tuned to the GPUOpen website, the AMD Developer portal, and our activities at Game Developer Conference 2016. We promise to bring you a whole lot more on the exciting power and potential of the Vulkan API on Radeon™ graphics!

 

Robert Hallock is the Head of Global Technical Marketing at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

 

Footnote:

1. These products are based on a published Khronos specification but has not yet passed the Khronos Conformance Test Process. A fully conformant implementation of the Vulkan API will be included in a forthcoming Radeon Software release.

Radeon™ R9 Series GPUs have rapidly proven to be the definitive choice for gaming with the advent of DirectX® 12. If blistering performance isn’t enough, AMD Radeon™ R9 Series GPUs also support an incredible selection of technologies to push seriously beautiful pixels. When you need all of that in the ultimate graphics card money can buy, look no further than our fastest and most advanced DirectX® 12-ready GPU: the Radeon™ R9 Fury X. And starting today, we’ve teamed up with Dell to make it a new option on the otherworldly Alienware™ Area- 51™!

 

 

 

SUPREME DIRECTX® 12 PERFORMANCE

The Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU is built on AMD’s advanced Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. GCN is the scalable blueprint for all of AMD’s current GPUs, but the Radeon R9 Fury X is the best and brightest. Graphics Core Next is currently the only architecture in the world that supports DirectX® 12 asynchronous shading.

 

Asynchronous shading allows GPUs to process lighting, physics, or reflections at the same time they’re also rendering 3D objects like characters, cars or buildings. Game developers say that this can boost overall performance by up to 30%, and only Radeon™ GPUs like the R9 Fury X can do it!

 

As a recent example, Fable Legends™ from Lionhead Studios is the latest DirectX® 12-based game. The Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU with asynchronous shading slashed the processing time of this game’s complex lighting and reflections by 50% and 69%, respectively, in AMD internal testing.

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The Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU is also a powerhouse in Ashes of the Singularity™, the world’s first public DirectX® 12 game, and an incredibly demanding title at that. Nevertheless, our exclusive support for asynchronous shading played a crucial role in delivering performance gains of more than 25% when enabling DirectX® 12.

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AMD Internal Testing. System configuration: AMD Radeon™ R9 Fury X, Core i7-5960X, 16GB DDR4-2666, Windows® 10 Professional x64, AMD Catalyst™ driver 15.20.1061.

 

PUSHING MORE PIXELS

Everyone’s talking about 4K resolution, and it’s easy to see why: 4K monitors pack four times greater detail onto the screen than a normal “1080p” monitor most people have on their desk. Gaming in 4K just looks sharper, clearer and more detailed than gaming at lesser resolutions. Seeing is believing!

 

But the Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU has many ways to bring a high-resolution gaming experience to your desk.

 

  • 4K-Ready: The Alienware™ Area-51™ gives you the option of configuring your new rig with a 4K monitor, and the Radeon™ Fury X GPU is more than capable of delivering an outstanding 4K/high settings experience in the latest games like Star Wars™: Battlefront™!
  • 12K Gaming: 4K not enough? How about 12? For the truly insane, the Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU supports multiple 4K monitors with AMD Eyefinity multi-display technology for gloriously panoramic 12K gaming.
  • Virtual Super Resolution: It’s okay if you’ll choose a smaller Dell UltraSharp display, because the Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU can still render all of your games at glorious quality rivalling 4K resolution with a technology we call Virtual Super Resolution (VSR). VSR renders any game at up to 4K resolution, then downsizes those images on the fly to fit the monitor you have for a beautifully smooth supersample anti-aliasing effect.

 

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AMD Internal Testing. System configuration: Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU, Core i7-5960X, 16GB DDR4-2666, Windows® 10 Professional x64, AMD Catalyst™ 15.20.1061.

 

READY FOR VIRTUAL REALITY WITH AMD LIQUIDVR™ TECHNOLOGY

The era of serious virtual reality is upon us with engrossing games like EVE: Valkyrie and crazy fun games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Thanks to AMD LiquidVR™ technology, the Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU in the Alienware™ Area-51™ is ready to roll. And because a picture is worth 1000 words, we have a handy infographic ready to explain all the reasons why AMD LiquidVR™ is critical for a superb VR experience.

 

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NOW AVAILABLE FROM DELL

Whether you care about DirectX® 12 performance,  gigantic resolutions, or virtual reality, the Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU can do it all at serious speed. Interested? Configure your own Alienware™ Area-51™ with AMD’s mightiest GPU today, then sit back and rest easy knowing that some of the world’s most veteran PC builders are expertly handling every little detail. All you’ll have to do is unbox, plug in, and game on!

Benjamin Franklin once said that there were only two certain things in life: death and taxes. Given his era, I suppose we can forgive him for not knowing about the third thing: Radeon™ graphics crushin’ it in Star Wars™ Battlefront™.

Yes, my friends, it wasn’t that long ago when the Internet exploded with joy as the Star Wars™ Battlefront™ trailer hit at E3 2013. Over the past 18 months, gamers and Star Wars fans have (im)patiently waited for the day they could finally visit worlds like Sullust. But here at AMD, we had a different job during that time: we worked shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends at EA and DICE to ensure that the Battlefront experience is unrivalled when you sit down this week to play on a Radeon™ GPU.

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Radeon™ graphics exclusively powered the PC reveal of Star Wars™ Battlefront™ at San Diego Comic Con 2015.

 

RADEON™ GRAPHICS PERFORMANCE IN STAR WARS™ BATTLEFRONT™

Over the past two weeks we’ve been doing the shakedown cruise on that collaboration, and the results couldn’t be any clearer: if you want the highest framerates in Star Wars™ Battlefront™, you want a Radeon™ GPU.1

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And if you’re the sort of person that doesn’t have an AMD FreeSync™-enabled monitor, then you might want to sustain even higher framerates. The below table shows the combinations of GPUs, resolutions and in-game quality presets that can keep average performance around 60 FPS.

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WHY IS STAR WARS™ BATTLEFRONT™ SO GORGEOUS?

Many gamers have wondered how Star Wars™ Battlefront™ runs so well all the way up to 4K, especially considering how beautiful the graphics really are. “Overwhelming effort to optimize the PC experience” is the simplest explanation, but there are three specific technologies that play the largest role in the final product.

 

PHYSICALLY BASED RENDERING

Physically based rendering is a term that encompasses all the important aspects of correctly modeling and simulating how light interacts with the surfaces and materials seen in the game.

 

In order to achieve such a high level of realism, artists from DICE travelled to many real-world locations that best approximate the planets in the Star Wars galaxy. Surfaces from those location were photoscanned to accurately gather the exact diffuse and reflective properties of materials like basalt and snow. This real-world data is fed straight into the Frostbite™ Engine and lit according real-world parameters for light sources.

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DICE Senior Level Artist Pontus Ryman traversing the barren landscapes of Iceland for inspiration on Sullust.

 

For example, the sun produces about 1.6 billion candela per square meter of luminance (or “brightness”) at noon, while a TV might produce around 400 candela per square meter—quite the difference!  But up until now, this enormous difference hasn’t been correctly represented in most games. The lighting calculations in Star Wars™ Battlefront™ are significantly more involved than previous lighting models, but the simulations are free of fudge factors and approximations, as everything is accurately based on the real world. The Frostbite™ renderer uses a powerful combination of complex compute shaders and pixel shaders to achieve this.


DISPLACEMENT MAPPED TESSELLATED TERRAIN

The terrains in Star Wars™ Battlefront™ are highly detailed, using a combination of high resolution textures and geometry that is hardware tessellated and then displacement-mapped. The degree of tessellation executed by a Radeon™ GPU is intelligently determined based on the roughness of the terrain and the distance to the camera. This adaptive detail scaling helps keep the cost of the scene within a sensible performance budget while still delivering spectacular visuals.

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GPU COMPUTE AMBIENT OCCLUSION

Screen space ambient occlusion is a technique that analyzes the scene for areas that should receive less ambient light. It searches for areas where there are corners, cracks and crevices in the geometry and effectively dials back the quantity of light being project into that space. The ambient occlusion technique used in previous Frostbite™ games has now been improved, optimized and moved from the graphics pipeline to the compute pipeline, which will run particularly well on the powerful compute hardware of the GCN architecture.

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SEE YOU ON THE BATTLEFRONT

Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the privilege to play one small role amongst thousands at EA, DICE, LucasArts, Disney and AMD—and so many more—working to usher in a new era of Star Wars on the PC. As both a lifelong Star Wars fan and a PC gamer, it’s been the opportunity of a lifetime.

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Now comes the best part of all: staying up way later than I should playing Star Wars™ Battlefront™ in 4K on my Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU from the comfort of my own gaming rig!

 

Robert Hallock is the Head of Global Technical Marketing at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

 

FOOTNOTES:

Testing conducted by AMD performance labs as of November 11, 2015 on Radeon™ R9 Fury X GPU vs. GTX 980 Ti vs. Radeon™ R9 390X GPU at 4K resolution with average scores of FPS 57.2 vs 52.03 vs. 46.3. PC manufacturers may vary configurations yielding different results. System configuration:  Core i7-5960X, Gigabyte X99-UD4, 16GB DDR4-2666, Windows 10 Pro x64, AMD Catalyst™ 15.11.1, ForceWare 358.91. Endor Survival stage. [GRDT-93]

It may surprise you to learn…

 

DirectX® 12 is the very first version of the DirectX® API that has specific features, techniques tools to support multi-GPU (mGPU) gaming. If you are indeed surprised, follow us as we take a trip through the complicated world of mGPU in PC gaming and how DirectX® 12 turns some classic wisdom on its head.

 

MULTI-GPU TODAY

Modern multi-GPU gaming has been possible since DirectX® 9, and has certainly grown in popularity during the long-lived DirectX® 11 era. Even so, many PC games hit the market with no specific support for multi-GPU systems. These games might exhibit no performance benefits from extra GPUs or, perhaps, even lower performance. Oh no!

 

Our AMD Gaming Evolved program helps solve for these cases by partnering with major developers to add mGPU support to games and engines—with resounding success! For other applications not participating in the AMD Gaming Evolved program, AMD has talented software engineers that can still add AMD CrossFire™ support through a driver update.1

 

All of this flows from the fact that DirectX® 11 doesn’t explicitly support multiple GPUs. Certainly the API does not prevent multi-GPU configurations, but it contains few tools or features to enable it with gusto. As a result, most games have used a classic “workaround” known as Alternate Frame Rendering (AFR).

 

HOW AFR WORKS

Graphics cards essentially operate with a series of buffers, where the results of rendering work are contained until called upon for display on-screen. With AFR mGPU, each graphics card buffers completed frames into a queue, and the GPUs take turns placing an image on screen.

 

AFR is hugely popular for the framerate gains it provides, as more frames can be made available every second if new ones are always being readied up behind the one being seen by a user.

 

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But AFR is not without its costs, as all this buffering of frames into long queues can increase the time between mouse movement and that movement being reflected on screen. Most gamers call this “mouse lag.”

 

Secondly, DirectX® 11 AFR works best on multiple GPUs of approximately the same performance. DirectX® 11 frequently cannot provide tangible performance benefits on “asymmetric configurations”, or multi-GPU pairings where one GPU is much more powerful than the other. The slower device just can’t complete its frames in time to provide meaningful performance uplifts for a user.

 

Thirdly, the modest GPU multi-threading in DirectX® 11 makes it difficult to fully utilize multiple GPUs, as it’s tough to break up big graphics jobs into smaller pieces.

 

INTRODUCING EXPLICIT MULTI-ADAPTER

DirectX® 12 addresses these challenges by incorporating multi-GPU support directly into the DirectX® specification for the first time with a feature called “explicit multi-adapter.” Explicit multi-adapter empowers game developers with precise control over the workloads of their engine, and direct control over the resources offered by each GPU in a system. How can that be used in games? Let’s take a look at a few of the options.

 

SPLIT-FRAME RENDERING

New DirectX® 12 multi-GPU rendering modes like “split-frame rendering” (SFR) can break each frame of a game into multiple smaller tiles, and assign one tile to each GPU in the system. These tiles are rendered in parallel by the GPUs and combined into a completed scene for the user. Parallel use of GPUs reduces render latency to improve FPS and VR responsiveness.

 

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Some have described SFR as “two GPUs behaving like one much more powerful GPU.” That’s pretty exciting!

 

Trivia: The benefits of SFR have already been explored and documented with AMD’s Mantle in Firaxis Games’ Sid Meier’s Civilization®: Beyond Earth™.

 

ASYMMETRIC MULTI-GPU

DirectX® 12 offers native support for asymmetric multi-GPU, which we touched on in the “how AFR works” section. One example: a PC with an AMD APU and a high-performance discrete AMD Radeon™ GPU. This is not dissimilar from AMD Radeon™ Dual Graphics technology, but on an even more versatile scale!2

 

With asymmetric rendering in DirectX® 12, an engine can assign appropriately-sized workloads to each GPU in a system. Whereas an APU’s graphics chip might be idle in a DirectX® 11 game after the addition of a discrete GPU, that graphics silicon can now be used as a 3D co-processor responsible for smaller rendering tasks like physics or lighting. The larger GPU can handle the heavy lifting tasks like 3D geometry, and the entire scene can be composited for the user at higher overall performance.

 

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4+4=8?

In the world of DirectX® 9 and 11, gamers are accustomed to a dual-GPU system only offering one GPU’s worth of RAM. This, too, is a drawback of AFR, which requires that each GPU contain an identical copy of a game’s data set to ensure synchronization and prevent scene corruption.

 

But DirectX® 12 once again turns conventional wisdom on its head. It’s not an absolute requirement that AFR be used, therefore it’s not a requirement that each GPU maintain an identical copy of a game’s data. This opens the door to larger game workloads and data sets that are divisible across GPUs, allowing for multiple GPUs to combine their memory into a single larger pool. This could certainly improve the texture fidelity of future games!

 

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WRAP-UP

A little realism is important, and it’s worth pointing out that developers must choose to adopt these features for their next-generation PC games. Not every feature will be used simultaneously, or immediately in the lifetime of DirectX® 12. Certainly DirectX® 11 still has a long life ahead of it with developers that don’t need or want the supreme control of 12.

 

Even with these things in mind, I’m excited about the future of PC gaming because developers already have expressed interest in explicit multi-adapter’s benefits—that’s why the feature made it into the API! So with time, demand from gamers, and a little help from AMD, we can make high-end PC gaming more powerful and versatile than ever before.

 

And that, my friends, is worth celebrating!

 

Robert Hallock is the Head of Global Technical Marketing at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

 


FOOTNOTES

1. AMD CrossFire™ technology requires an AMD CrossFire-ready motherboard, a compatible AMD CrossFire™ bridge interconnect (for each additional graphics card) and may require a specialized power supply.

2. AMD Radeon™ Dual Graphics requires one of select AMD A-Series APUs plus one of select AMD Radeon™ discrete graphics cards and is available on Windows® 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 OSs. Linux OS supports manual switching which requires restart of X-Server to engage and/or disengage the discrete graphics processor for dual graphics capabilities. With AMD Radeon™ Dual Graphics, full enablement of all discrete graphics video and display features may not be supported on all systems and may depend on the master device to which the display is connected. Check with your component or system manufacturer for specific mode capabilities and supported technologies.

Just between StarCraft II, League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, over 75 million gamers log on to play PC games virtually every day.1 If you’re looking to join their ranks, you’ll need a desktop that can keep up with the demands of the games. In this blog we’ll show you how to do exactly that with a couple of options all based around the new AMD A10-7870K APU.

 

THE ULTIMATE BUILD
Our mission: assemble a great desktop PC around the new AMD A10-7870K. To do that, we went to PCPartPicker and lined up a fast AMD Radeon™ GPU, eight gigs of RAM, an SSD, 1TB of mass storage, a solid power supply and a well-respected case.  We also went one step further to ensure that our budget also includes a monitor, keyboard, mouse and operating system. You’ll have everything you’ll need to get up and running!

PART

PRICE

AMD A10-7870K

$137†

AMD Radeon™ R9 285

$162.98

Asus A88X-PRO

$86.99

G. Skill Ripjaws X Series (8GB DDR3-2133)

$62.99

Western Digital RE3 1TB HDD

$44.00

Samsung 850 EVO (120GB)

$68.98

Corsair 200R Case

$47.99

Corsair CX600 PSU

$44.99

Windows 8.1 x64

$89.95

ASUS MG279Q Monitor

$599

Corsair Raptor K30 Keyboard

$58.99

Razer DeathAdder Mouse

$41.00

TOTAL

$1444.86*

* Prices current in US dollars as of 12 May, 2015, PCPartPicker
†AMD suggested retail price as of 12 May, 2015

In the world of PC gaming, 30 frames per second (“FPS”) is widely considered the lower threshold for “playable,” or the point where motion in a game becomes fluid enough for play without distraction. Higher is generally better from there, but many gamers strive beat that threshold with a 1920x1080 display, which can display about 2 million pixels of information at any one time.

 

Our system has a larger 2560x1440 monitor, capable of showing 3.6 million pixels for a bigger, sharper and more detailed image. A bigger picture definitely demands additional performance from the PC, but the rig we’ve assembled effortlessly races past the 30 FPS threshold on every one of these hugely popular games.

 

1440p285.PNG
System Configuration: AMD-A10 7870K, AMD Radeon™ R9 285, Asus A88X-PRO, 8GB DDR3-2133, AMD Catalyst™ 14.502, Windows 8.1 x64 Professional, 2560x1440 resolution. All games tested with the ultra quality in-game preset.

 

THE SECRET SAUCE: AMD FREESYNC™ TECHNOLOGY

The charts are clear: our build is a total powerhouse in some seriously popular games. But what the numbers can’t show you is how smooth these games feel thanks to AMD FreeSync™ technology.

 

AMD FreeSync™ technology is a solution we developed to synchronize the GPU and the monitor to ensure unbelievably fluid gaming. Not every gaming PC can say the same, but keeping these components in lockstep ensures that your gaming experience won’t be haunted by infamous PC gaming issues like stuttering or tearing.

 

 

This is a technology that works with any PC game on the planet, and can only be found on select AMD products like the AMD Radeon™ R9 285 GPU or the AMD A10-7870K APU.

 

HOW ABOUT $1000?

We hear you.  Not every gamer has the dosh to plop down $1400 on a gaming PC, so we picked parts that could easily be adjusted to fit different budgets.

 

PART

PRICE

AMD A10-7870K

$137†

AMD Radeon™ R9 285

$162.98

Asus A88X-PRO

$86.99

G. Skill Ripjaws X Series (8GB DDR3-2133)

$62.99

Western Digital RE3 1TB HDD

$44.00

Corsair 200R Case

$47.99

Corsair CX600 PSU

$44.99

Windows 8.1 x64

$89.95

Acer K242HL Monitor

$149.89

Corsair Raptor K30 Keyboard

$58.99

Razer DeathAdder Mouse

$41.00

TOTAL

$926.77*

* Prices current in US dollars as of 12 May, 2015, PCPartPicker
†AMD suggested retail price as of 12 May, 2015

 

As we move downward, we have to sacrifice some amenities, though. To reach our new price we had to drop the SSD and our 3.6 million-pixel monitor with AMD FreeSync™. We still need a monitor, though, so we swapped the ASUS MG279Q for a 1080p display: the Acer K242HL. The K242HL is a well-rated display without AMD FreeSync™ for just $149.892, bringing the price of your new system to around $900 US.

 

1080p285.PNG

System Configuration: AMD-A10 7870K, AMD Radeon™ R9 285, Asus A88X-PRO, 8GB DDR3-2133, AMD Catalyst™ 14.502, Windows 8.1 x64 Professional, 1920x1080 resolution. All games tested with the ultra quality in-game preset.

 

Losing the buttery smooth gameplay of AMD FreeSync™ is a definite bummer, but you’re still getting >60 average FPS at max settings thanks to the AMD A10-7870K and the AMD Radeon™ R9 285 GPU.

 

OKAY, HOW ABOUT $700?

The next step in bringing great gaming to an even more attractive price lies in taking out the AMD Radeon™ R9 285 GPU and scaling back our mouse/keyboard combo. Now our system tips the scales at a cool 712 bucks, which is less than half of the original price of our system. There’s no way we can play these games at high settings, right?

 

PART

PRICE

AMD A10-7870K

$137

Asus A88X-PRO

$86.99

G. Skill Ripjaws X Series (8GB DDR3-2133)

$62.99

Western Digital RE3 1TB HDD

$44.00

Corsair 200R Case

$47.99

Corsair CX600 PSU

$44.99

Windows 8.1 x64

$89.95

Acer K242HL Monitor

$149.89

Cooler Master CM Storm Devastator Bundle

$28.99

TOTAL

$692.79*

* Prices current in US dollars as of 12 May, 2015, PCPartPicker
†AMD suggested retail price as of 12 May, 2015

 

Wrong! The numbers don’t lie: the powerful little AMD A10-7870K is still running well over 30 FPS at high to maximum settings across these four hugely popular games.

 

1080p.PNG

System Configuration: AMD-A10 7870K, Asus A88X-PRO, 8GB DDR3-2133, AMD Catalyst™ 14.502, Windows 8.1 x64 Professional, 1920x1080 resolution.

 

EVEN MORE VALUE

From budgets spanning $700-1450, the AMD A10-7870K is more than capable of powering an awesome gaming experience on four killer games played by more than 75,000,000 other gamers. But, truth be told, you might be able to squeeze out an even better budget. Maybe you already have a monitor? That’s at least $140 in your pocket. Maybe you already have a mouse and keyboard? Boom, $30 in your pocket. Already have a copy of Windows®? Boom, 89 greenbacks right into your pocket.

 

All of those changes could bring the price down to around $425 for a well-appointed gaming PC that’ll get you in these games with great image quality. Plus, you’ll be ready for DirectX® 12, too!

 

That’s the power of the A10-7870K APU, now available from AMD.

 

Robert Hallock is the Head of Global Technical Marketing at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

 


FOOTNOTES

1. StarCraft 2: 145,555 players as of 12 May, 2015 (sc2ranks.com). DOTA2: 10,731,620 players as of 12 May, 2015 (dota2.com). League of Legends: 67,000,000 players as of 12 May, 2015 (riotgames.com). Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: 577,186 players as of 12 May, 2015 (steamcharts.com).

2. Price current in USD on Amazon.com as of 12 May, 2015.

“Integration” is the great quest in the PC industry, and it is the idea that we can simultaneously make devices smaller, faster and more functional over time. The steady and relentless march of integration has fueled incredible advancements in mobility, discourse, politics, society, education and so much more. Integration must and will continue: the appetite for smaller, faster, better devices shows no sign of slowing. But there are some challenges on the horizon, and it is now clearer than ever that radical new technologies like High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) can be the answer.

 

However, in order to truly understand the need for HBM, we must first spend just a few minutes exploring the history of integration itself.

 

A FEW WORDS ON TRANSISTORS

All integrated circuits, like a processor or graphics chip, are built from basic building blocks called the “transistor.” These transistors electrically switch between “on” and “off” to represent binary 1s and 0s.  Together a legion of these transistors organized in specific ways can perform the math necessary to make your device do whatever you're asking it to do.

 

Across the decades, engineering advancements have allowed us to fit thousands, then millions, then billions of these transistors into the small space of a processor or graphics chip. That increasing transistor density has afforded more performance, along with opportunity for chipmakers like AMD to do away with other bulky devices by integrating them into the chip too.

 

integration.png
IN 2011: integration through increasing transistor density allowed AMD to combine a northbridge, quad core CPU and a graphics card into just one chip: the AMD A-Series APU. This one chip used up to 39% less power and 39% less space than the standalone pieces it replaced.

 

Over the decades, these engineering advancements have also been pretty darn predictable. So predictable, in fact, that we have a name for it: Moore’s Law. During his time at Fairchild Semiconductor, Gordon E. Moore famously predicted in 1965 that integrated circuits (like CPUs and GPUs) would double in density every 12 months. Moore later revised that to every 24 months in 1975, and his revised observation has generally rung true for the past 40 years as innovators like AMD find new and exciting ways to pack more transistors in ever-smaller spaces.

 

CHALLENGES TO INTEGRATION

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law, and integration is facing at least one challenge: off-chip technologies ripe for integration, like DRAM, are not size or cost-effective. However, there are significant performance, power and form factor benefits to integration, so another method of achieving that integration must be explored.

 

integration2.png

Moore conceptually envisioned a possible solution, and offered the following insight in the same 1965 paper that established Moore’s Law.

 

“It may prove to be more economical to build large systems out of smaller functions, which are separately packaged and interconnected," he wrote. "The availability of large functions, combined with functional design and construction, should allow the manufacturer of large systems to design and construct a considerable variety of equipment both rapidly and economically.”

 

A LARGE SYSTEM OF SMALLER FUNCTIONS

HBM is a new type of CPU/GPU memory (“RAM”) that vertically stacks memory chips, like floors in a skyscraper. Those towers connect to the CPU or GPU through an ultra-fast interconnect called the “interposer.” Much like sticking those famously colorful building blocks into that famous green base, several stacks of HBM are plugged into the interposer alongside a CPU or GPU, and that assembled module connects to a circuit board.

interposer.png

Though these HBM stacks are not physically integrated with the CPU or GPU, they are so closely and quickly connected via the interposer that HBM’s characteristics are nearly indistinguishable from on-die integrated RAM.

 

JUST THINK SMALL

GDDR5 has served the industry well these past seven years, and many gigabytes of this memory technology are used on virtually every high-performance graphics card to date.

 

But as graphics chips grow faster, their appetite for fast delivery of information (“bandwidth”) continues to increase. GDDR5’s ability to satisfy those bandwidth demands is beginning to wane as the technology reaches the limits of its specification. Each additional gigabyte per second of bandwidth is beginning to consume too much power to be a wise, efficient, or cost-effective decision for designers or consumers.

curve.png

Taken to its logical conclusion, GDDR5 could easily begin to stall the continued performance growth of graphics chips. HBM resets the clock on memory power efficiency, offering >3.5X the bandwidth per watt of GDDR5 with both superior bandwidth and lower power consumption.1

efficiency.PNG

Consider also the sheer area taken up by GDDR5. Whereas 1GB of GDDR5 on a graphics card might require 672 square millimeters of room on a circuit board, the same quantity of HBM requires just 35 square millimeters of space—a 94% space savings.3 For now we ask that you imagine the possibilities of a product no longer governed by the size and quantity of its memory chips, or all the power circuitry required to get them up to speed.

size.PNG

 

FOR THE GOOD OF ALL OF US

High-Bandwidth Memory and the high-volume manufacturable interposer are technologies invented and proposed by AMD over seven years ago. We have spent the ensuing years gaining expert allies in the interconnect and memory technology industries to help us perfect, manufacture, and standardize the technology for use across the PC industry.

 

SK hynix is one of those allies, and their memory manufacturing techniques have helped miniaturize and package key aspects of the memory to make it suitable for cost-effective mass production. With HBM, SK Hynix has once again proven a leader in the manufacture of cutting-edge memory technology.

 

We also owe gratitude to ASE, Amkor and UMC, who were instrumental in the realization of our initial interposer design. Though interposers are not a new technology, an interposer suitable for interconnecting HBM and high-performance ASICs is new, and years of work were required to reach mass production.

 

The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association is another key ally. This consortium of 300+ engineering and silicon design firms (like AMD) helps standardize specifications, implementation and testing of new memory technologies like HBM. JEDEC’s specialty is in open standards, which permit any and all companies to freely manufacture a technology if they follow the letter and the spirit of the standard.

 

AMD strongly believes in contributing revolutionary new technologies to the world as open industry standards. The proliferation of AMD proposals like GDDR5, DisplayPort™ Adaptive-Sync, HSA, low-overhead graphics APIs and Wake-on-LAN (to name a few) are evidence of this. HBM is the latest entry to this rich history of open innovation and, with JEDEC specification JESD235, High-Bandwidth Memory is now freely available to all JEDEC members.

 

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Thanks to nearly a decade of engineering work by AMD and its technology partners, HBM and the interposer smash through the power, performance and form factor boundaries erected by GDDR5. The way is paved for more compact high-performance devices for years to come! We’re thrilled to announce that you won’t have to wait very long to bring  into your home, either. HBM and the future of chip design will be available in an AMD product as soon as this summer.

 

Robert Hallock is the Head of Global Technical Marketing at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1. Testing conducted by AMD engineering on the AMD Radeon™ R9 290X GPU vs. an HBM-based device. Data obtained through isolated direct measurement of GDDR5 and HBM power delivery rails at full memory utilization. Power efficiency calculated as GB/s of bandwidth delivered per watt of power consumed. AMD Radeon™ R9 290X (10.66 GB/s bandwidth per watt) and HBM-based device (35+ GB/s bandwidth per watt), AMD FX-8350, Gigabyte GA-990FX-UD5, 8GB DDR3-1866, Windows 8.1 x64 Professional, AMD Catalyst™ 15.20 Beta. HBM-1

2. Testing conducted by AMD engineering on the AMD Radeon™ R9 290X GPU vs. an HBM-based device. Data obtained through isolated direct measurement of GDDR5 and HBM power delivery rails at full memory utilization.  AMD Radeon™ R9 290X and HBM-based device, AMD FX-8350, Gigabyte GA-990FX-UD5, 8GB DDR3-1866, Windows 8.1 x64 Professional, AMD Catalyst™ 15.20 Beta. HBM-3

3. Measurements conducted by AMD Engineering on 1GB GDDR5 (4x256MB ICs) @ 672mm2 vs. 1GB HBM (1x4-Hi) @ 35mm2. HBM-2