nVidia’s 1080 and 1070

Brad Cha­cos gives 10 rea­sons why he’s ex­cited by NVIDIA’s gam­ing pow­er­houses

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

NVidia’s long-awaited GEFORCE GTX 1080 is spec­tac­u­lar – at least on pa­per. If you missed our re­view last month, here are the 10 things you need to know about the new card along with the just-as-im­pres­sive GEFORCE GTX 1070.

1 Lu­di­crous speed

The most im­por­tant thing to know is that this thing is fast. “Faster than dual GEFORCE GTX 980s in SLI” fast, which hand­ily beats NVIDIA’s flag­ship Ti­tan X, the most po­tent sin­gle-GPU graph­ics card ever re­leased. Dur­ing a demon­stra­tion, the new Doom topped out at roughly 200fps at 1080p res­o­lu­tion, with all the graph­ics set­tings set at max­i­mum.

2 Im­pres­sive speed re­dux

The Ti­tan X’s high-wa­ter mark is the new mid-range for NVIDIA’s Pas­cal GPU ar­chi­tec­ture. The step-down GEFORCE GTX 1070 out punches the Ti­tan X too, ac­cord­ing to NVIDIA, though it never said ex­actly what was be­ing com­pared.

3 Black magic

The se­cret be­hind the jaw-drop­ping per­for­mance gains is the adop­tion of sev­eral cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies, all at once. Af­ter be­ing stuck on the 28-nanome­ter tran­sis­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing process for four long years, NVIDIA is build­ing its Pas­cal GPUs on the 16nm process – a two-gen­er­a­tion tech­no­log­i­cal leap. What’s more, the chips em­brace ad­vanced FinFET tech­nol­ogy, as well as 8GB of an im­proved form of mem­ory dubbed GDDR5X that al­lows for whop­ping 10Gb/s speeds. No, that’s not as fast as the cut­ting-edge high-band­width mem­ory found in AMD’s Fury graph­ics cards, but HBM is cur­rently lim­ited to 4GB ca­pac­i­ties and GDDR5X is still plenty speed­ier than the GTX 980’s 7Gb/s mem­ory. You can find the full set of an­nounced GTX 1080 tech specs on NVIDIA’s web­site (tinyurl.com/zbte2y8) if you’re in­ter­ested.

4 Power ef­fi­ciency

Be­yond en­abling eye-wa­ter­ing per­for­mance, those tech­no­log­i­cal leaps have helped the Pas­cal ar­chi­tec­ture be­come NVIDIA’s most en­ergy-ef­fi­cient GPU yet: the firm says the GTX 1080 boasts three times the ef­fi­ciency of the Maxwell GPUbased Ti­tan X. Yet de­spite of­fer­ing more per­for­mance than dual GTX 980s, the GTX 1080 only de­mands 180W of power over a sin­gle eight-pin power con­nec­tor. That seems like it shouldn’t be pos­si­ble – pow­er­ing a pair of GTX 980s de­mands the use of four six-pin power con­nec­tions, by com­par­i­son.

5 Over­clocks like a beast

But then there’s still plenty of over­clock­ing head­room for peo­ple who want more power hid­ing be­hind that mod­est power draw. While the GTX 1080 of­fers clock speeds hun­dreds of mega­hertz higher than the GTX 980 out of the box – with a max­i­mum boost clock of 1733MHz – NVIDIA showed a Paragon demo run­ning on a GTX 1080 over­clocked to a blis­ter­ing 2114MHz. And it was air-cooled, and still run­ning at a com­par­a­tively chilly 67ºC.

6 Si­mul­ta­ne­ous multi-dis­play

NVIDIA is load­ing up the GTX 1080 with some new soft­ware tricks, too. Si­mul­ta­ne­ous multi-dis­play im­proves how games look on mul­ti­ple dis­plays or vir­tual re­al­ity head­sets, us­ing tech­no­log­i­cal tricks to pre­vent the dis­tor­tion that nat­u­rally oc­curs when you’re pro­ject­ing an im­age onto mul­ti­ple dis­plays tilted at slightly dif­fer­ent an­gles. (Think of a straight line drawn on a piece of pa­per, then how it ap­pears when you fold that pa­per in­stead – an­gled, rather than straight.)

Another one of SMP’s tricks can su­per­charge tra­di­tional one-mon­i­tor gam­ing, too. In a nod to the way VR head­sets ren­der scenes, SMP ren­ders the edges of a scene at lower pixel res­o­lu­tion, since it’ll get all warped and scrunched to­gether through a VR head­set’s lenses any­way. Since the GPU’s ren­der­ing far fewer pix­els, you’ll see a big frames-per-sec­ond per­for­mance boost. You can still use that tech­nol­ogy on a sin­gle mon­i­tor and see sim­i­lar per­for­mance gains, and with less vis­ual degra­da­tion than you’d ex­pect. We played a demo of Cyan Worlds’ Ob­duc­tion (at 4K res­o­lu­tion) that let you tog­gle SMP on and off; in a scene where frame rates hov­ered around 42fps, en­abling SMP jacked it up to the mon­i­tor’s 60fps max­i­mum, and you couldn’t see any blur­ring or ar­ti­facts around the edges of the screen un­less you were stand­ing still in-game and re­ally look­ing for it. The de­vel­op­ers said that en­abling SMP can pro­vide a 30 per­cent or higher frame rate boost in the game, de­pend­ing on the scene. Ex­cit­ing stuff, all built on the shoul­ders of NVIDIA’s multi-res­o­lu­tion shad­ing.

7 Ansel

NVIDIA’s look­ing to bring more art to screen­shots with Ansel, an in-game 3D cam­era util­ity that lets you cap­ture screen­shots and then ma­nip­u­late nu­mer­ous fil­ters, bright­ness lev­els, and other op­tions to cre­ate the gam­ing masterpiece of your

dreams. You can even use a free cam­era mode in Ansel to go places you nor­mally wouldn’t be able to travel in-game, and at crazy high res­o­lu­tions – up to 61440x34560, even if the game doesn’t sup­port it. You can even take 360-de­gree ‘bub­ble’ pic­tures that you can then check out on your HTC Vive or Google Card­board head­set. That’s great since de­vel­op­ers need to ex­plic­itly en­able sup­port for Ansel. Ex­ist­ing games such as Witcher 3 and The Divi­sion – both of which al­ready fea­tured NVIDIA GAMEWORKS tools – are slated to re­ceive Ansel sup­port though, as does Cyan’s Ob­duc­tion.

8 Tweaked de­sign

NVIDIA’s Founders Edition cards – pre­vi­ously known as ref­er­ence cards – sport a new aes­thetic that largely mimes the look of the GTX 900-se­ries ref­er­ence cards, down to the alu­minium ex­te­rior and trans­par­ent front panel, but with a more ag­gres­sively an­gu­lar de­sign that brings tes­sel­la­tion tri­an­gles to mind. The GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Founders Edition cards will be sold di­rectly from NVIDIA…

9 Price and launch date

…for slightly more than you might think. While ref­er­ence card pre­vi­ously meant ‘en­try-level’ (de­spite the stun­ning build qual­ity of NVIDIA’s ref­er­ence boards), the GTX 1080 Founders Edition costs £619 at launch, com­pared to an MSRP start­ing price of £529 for the GTX 1080. The GTX 1070 costs £399 for an NVIDIA Founders Edition at launch in June, or just £375 at its sug­gested start­ing price – and yes, that’s de­spite out punch­ing a Ti­tan X.

10 What’s AMD up to?

Fi­nally, the most im­por­tant thing to keep in mind with the GEFORCE GTX 1080 is that AMD’s new RX 480 is also moving to a smaller (14nm) man­u­fac­tur­ing process bol­stered by FinFET.

The RX 480 doesn’t have the raw fire­power to com­pete with even the GTX 1070 (let alone the 1080) but AMD is pric­ing its new card so ag­gres­sively that you can buy two and run them in Cross­fire mode for less than the price of a GTX 1080. It’s too early for any bench­mark re­sults from a pair of RX 480s, but it’s cer­tainly go­ing to be an ex­cit­ing cou­ple of months for gamers.

Ob­duc­tion’s si­mul­ta­ne­ous multi-dis­play demon­stra­tion

The move to a 16nm process gives nVidia’s new­est GPU an in­sane jump in per­for­mance and ef­fi­ciency

NVidia-sup­plied per­for­mance com­par­i­son of the GTX 1080 ver­sus the GTX 980

A scene from The Wit­ness cap­tured in nVidia’s Ansel

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