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- Review: AMD Radeon HD 7950
- Asus HD 7950 DirectCU II: fault report!
- AMD Radeon HD 7970 & CrossFireX review
- Understanding 3D rendering with 3DMark 11
- Catalyst 12.1 preview: profiles at last!
- AMD launches the Radeon HD 7000Ms and Enduro
- Review: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
- Review: AMD Radeon HD 7750 and HD 7770
- New GeForce 600Ms: Fermi and Kepler
- Review: AMD Radeon HD 7850 & 7870
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 690: review of a €1000 card!
- GTC: More details on the GK110
- GTC: Nvidia lifts the veil on the GK110
- Radeon HD 7970s and 7950s roundup
- Nvidia launches the GeForce GTX 690

 AMD launches the Radeon HD 7000Ms and Enduro
  Posted on 23/04/2012 at 06:00 by Damien
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While at the end of 2011 AMD gave us a rather pointless renaming of the Radeon HD 6000M family, turning them into Radeon HD 7000Ms, the new models in the family are actually arriving only now: the mobile roll out of the Southern Islands family, based on the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture and engraved at 28nm.

To recap, AMD has up until now developed three GCN GPUs: Tahiti (Radeon HD 7900), Pitcairn (Radeon HD 7800) and Cape Verde (Radeon HD 7700). As the first is too big to be used as a mobile GPU, the last two make up the new high and mid-range of the Radeon HD 7000M family:

Thus Pitcairn is used in the Radeon HD 7970M with a full version of the GPU which however is clocked down on the equivalent desktop version, the Radeon HD 7870 (850 MHz vs 1 GHz). This allows it to give a level of performance very close to that of the desktop Radeon HD 7850 and outdistance all the other competitor mobile solutions. AMD for example is claiming a 60% performance improvement in Battlefield 3 over the GeForce GTX 675M (renamed GeForce GTX 580M), which is currently NVIDIA’s highest performance solution, though this will no longer be the case after the arrival of the GK106 GPU this summer. With a TDP of 100W, the Radeon HD 7970M will of course be reserved for the so-called "transportable” laptops.

There will probably soon be a Radeon HD 7950M but we haven’t yet found any trace of it in the documentation from AMD, who appear to be keeping their cards close to their chest with respect to any specs.

Although its absence does create quite a hole, the other solutions on offer are likely to be the those most in demand, with energy consumption levels more in step with a maximum of laptops. The Radeon HD 7800Ms and 7700Ms are thus all based on the Cape Verde GPU. The Radeon HD 7870M and 7850M are equivalent to a significantly and very significantly underclocked desktop Radeon HD 7770 respectively, giving them TDPs of 35 and 45W. In the same way the Radeon HD 7770M and 7750M are equivalent to a more or less under-clocked Radeon HD 7750 with a TDP of between 25 and 35W.

Surprisingly, AMD has decided to confine the Radeon HD 7700M to PCI Express 2.0, at the same time saying that a PCI Express 3.0 with fewer lines allows us to reduce energy consumption. If this is the case, why hasn’t the Radeon HD 7750M benefitted? What’s the point of introducing this type of segmentation?

AMD is however emphasizing the use of several other technologies that allow these new graphics solutions to increase their energy yield: PowerTune to maximise the clock within the given thermal envelope, PowerGate to put any unused GPU blocks into idle (HD 7800M and 7700M only) and ZeroCore to shut the GPU down completely when the screen is on standby.

This isn’t all as this launch is also, at last, an opportunity for AMD to react to NVIDIA’s Optimus technology. To recap, Optimus allows you to juggle between an Intel IGP and a mobile GeForce, exclusively using the IGP display engine so that battery life isn’t reduced unnecessarily. AMD has taken up the Enduro solution, a development of Switchable Graphics, which was more limited and less supple in practice as it required the user to turn either the IGP or the GPU off instead of simply using the GPU to take up the slack on demanding tasks. Enduro naturally allows you to benefit fully from ZeroCore by switching the GPU off entirely when its help isn’t required.

Note that the technology is compatible both with the AMD APUs, A-Series and E-Series, and with Intel Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge CPUs. AMD doesn’t however say whether its partners will have to pay for a license to use it, as in the case of Optimus. When it comes to drivers, on Intel platforms a specific version including both Intel and AMD graphics drivers will be needed, which could have an impact on how often updates appear.

These new mobile Radeons easily give AMD the edge with respect to performance, with the Radeon HD 7970M and, more importantly, offer a reaction to the GK107, the little Kepler GPU that AMD has used in several GeForce 600Ms. While on paper, the Radeon HD 7800Ms and 7700Ms seem to have a small advantage in terms of performance, it will be interesting to see how these solutions do in practice in terms of energy consumption!

 Review: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
  Posted on 09/04/2012 at 00:01 by Damien
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After three months of Radeon domination, NVIDIA owed it to itself to react! It has now done so with the GeForce GTX 680, introducing the first Kepler generation GPU and looking to surpass the Radeon HD 7970 without sending power consumption through the roof.

> Review: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680

 Review: AMD Radeon HD 7750 and HD 7770
  Posted on 29/03/2012 at 15:18 by Damien
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AMD has renewed its mid-range with the Radeon HD 7770 and 7750. We've looked in detail at how the reference models and the XFX Radeon HD 7770 Black Super OC Double Dissipation Edition perform.

> Review: AMD Radeon HD 7750 and HD 7770 + XFX Black Super OC Edition

 New GeForce 600Ms: Fermi and Kepler
  Posted on 29/03/2012 at 02:46 by Damien
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At the same time as launching the GeForce GTX 680, NVIDIA extended its GeForce 600M family with models derived from the Fermi generation (GeForce 400/500M) and, more excitingly, models based on a new Kepler generation GPU.

Let's remind ourselves first that the first GeForce 600Ms were unveiled in December and consisted mainly of a renaming of entry level GeForce 500Ms:

To add to these first GeForce 600Ms, NVIDIA has renamed some high end models and has also introduced what is probably the last Fermi generation GPU, the GF117. It has the peculiarity of being engraved at 28nm, which should make it a very low consumption model as it has a very small GPU that basically corresponds to a shrink of the GF108 (identical in terms of numbers of functioning units but engraved at 40nm).

The GeForce GTX 675M is simply a renamed GeForce GTX 580M, which corresponds to a highly underclocked GeForce GTX 560 Ti and probably gives performance more akin to a GeForce GTX 460. The GeForce GTX 670M is a slight development of the GeForce GTX 570M with the maximum GPU clock increasing from 575 to 598 MHz, a gain of 4%.

The GeForce GT 640M LE, in its Fermi version (there’s also another version), is a strange product in that it is similar to one of the variants of the GeForce GT 635M. It offers a slightly higher GPU clock (1%) and a lower memory clock (-13%).

A third [sic] variant of the GT 630M has also been released, this time based on the GF117. It offers more memory bandwidth and 20% more processing power than the second variant based on the GF108 to which the GeForce GT 620M, also based on the GF117, is very similar.

More worthy of a look are the GK107 models. Following the GK104 used in the GeForce GTX 680, the GK107 is the second Kepler GPU engraved at 28nm. They share the same architecture described in detail here. Basically Kepler is a development of Fermi architecture designed to increase energy yield, notably by halving the clock of the processing units but doubling their number, which means it ends up consuming less energy.

The GeForce GTX 660M is the biggest model running on the GK107, an interesting development in comparison to the GeForce GTX 560M: + 8% processing power and + 60% memory bandwidth. All this comes within a thermal envelope that we imagine is similar or even lower than that on the GTX 560M.

There are other models on the programme, all based on this same GPU. The GT 650M exists in DDR3 and GDDR5 versions. The DDR3 version has a reduced memory bandwidth but a higher GPU clock than that used on the GTX 660M, while the GDDR5 version has the same memory bandwidth as the GTX 660M but a GPU with a lower clock.

Although the GT 640M also exists in DDR3 and GDDR5 versions, only the memory bandwidth is different from one to the other, with the GPU clock and processing power identical. The GT 640M is probably the best mobile compromise for the GK107 as its relatively low clock means it can give a very high performance/watt ratio. Indeed laptops equipped with this last GK107 card are the ones NVIDIA supplied for the first tests and which have been the first to come onto the market, in the Acer Timeline M3 (M3-581TG).

Finally, the GPU on the GT 640M LE is clocked even lower and only exists as a DDR3 version. Note that a second variant based on a Fermi GPU also exists and offers 24% lower processing power but 75% higher memory bandwidth.

Note that the GeForce 600Ms based on the GK107 support PCI Express 3.0 as well as DirectX 11.1, which isn’t the case with the other models. All however support Optimus technology which allows the user to benefit from the reduction in energy consumption afforded by the integrated GPU (part of the CPU) when it kicks in to display the Windows desktop. This technology does however come with a significant limitation: it is incompatible with 3D Vision. Given that NVIDIA uses a proprietary technique to transfer 3D images, an Intel GPU cannot take over for the display of these 3D images.

In the end this new mobile range from NVIDIA leaves us with rather mixed feelings. The new Fermi GPU graphics solutions give little extra in comparison to the GeForce 500M family, do not bring the energy efficiencies boasted of without distinction by NVIDIA for the 600M family and are above all there to create the illusion of innovation. Of course this never gives value for money to the consumer.

The few GeForce 600Ms based on Kepler architecture are the truly innovative products in the family and shouldn't be confused with the other models. They have a definite advantage as they give a significantly higher performance/watt ratio, which is the crucial thing for mobile graphics solutions. The sort of efficiency they afford finally allows us to glimpse the possibility of gaming on an Ultrabook type laptop.

While NVIDIA has got there first on mobile GPUs engraved at 28nm, AMD shouldn’t be far behind. Thus, its Cape Verde GPU, derived from the Radeon HD 7700s, should be capable of competing with the GK107 and Pitcairn, derived from the Radeon HD 7800s, should be able to offer real innovations when it comes to the high-end mobile segment.

 Review: AMD Radeon HD 7850 & 7870
  Posted on 13/03/2012 at 00:01 by Damien
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Following the Radeon HD 7900s and the 7700s, AMD has introduced the Radeon HD 7800s, designed for gamers looking for a decent compromise between price and performance. Let’s see what our full test reveals...

> Review: AMD Radeon HD 7850 & 7870

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