AMD unveils dual-GPU card, Nvidia drivers take on Mantle, and whispers of Haswell-E
The No BS Podcast is back for episode #221! In this jam-packed episode, we begin by saluting long time podcast host and Senior Editor Josh Norem goodbye, as he will be leaving the magazine to focus on his career in pet photography. Josh will be greatly missed, but will continue to write as a freelancer for us.
We then shift gears back to hardware to discuss AMD's blazing fast R9 295X2 card. Afterwards, we put Nvidia's new driver to the test and discuss its incremental boosts in gaming performance. Next, Gordon discusses Intel's roadmap to add four new Haswell chips aimed at enthusiasts including Haswell-E, along with its corresponding X99 chipset.
Back in September, Microsoft program manager Daniel Moth indicated during a Q&A session on MSDN that DirectX 11.1 was going to be exclusive to Windows 8, shunning Windows 7 users the same way DirectX 11 initially shunned pre-Windows 7 OSes (it was later made available to Vista and Windows Server 2008). If you were hoping Microsoft would have a similar change of heart and bring DX11.1 to Windows 7, you're in luck.
Originally scheduled for sometime during the third quarter, the launch of Intel’s next-generation “Cedar Trail” Atom chips was pushed back to November owing to driver issues and the chip maker’s failure to secure WHQL certification for them. We have almost come to the end of the month and there is no sign of the Cedar Trail-M platform yet. But not everyone is clueless.
Maximum PC has had the pleasure of speaking to Carmack on a number of occasions. This story, which appeared in our December 1997 issue, was an important one. It's hard to remember back all the way to 1997, which for gamers represented the onset of the age of 3D gaming. John Carmack was one of the key innovators during this era and was also an insurrectionist of sorts for attempting to rally game developers around the OpenGL standard as opposed to Direct3D. Those were heady times for gamers, and Carmack maintained a constant presence online via his "finger" file.
These days, the 3D landscape is an entirely different (and mature) scene. While id has lost some relevance as Epic has become more dominant and more game development studios have begun rolling their own 3D engines, Carmack remains a guru and a titan of 3D engine design. His next engine - and id's next game - is named Rage.
Click on the pages for a fascinating look at what the state of 3D games and 3D engines was 13 years ago.
>We’re spoiled by today’s multichannel PC audio, but once all we had were crappy beepers. How did audio come to the PC? The journey to high quality, multichannel audio on your PC has been a long and arduous one, with some dead ends and side trips.
Herewith, we proudly present the six most important moments. What does Leisure Suit Larry have to do with PC audio? You'll have to hit the jump to find out.
Boxee unveiled their new UI today, and it’s quite the departure. The entire front page has been redesigned, looking much more sophisticated and packing new functionality. The front page now focuses on the personal queue, featured content, and recommendations. The new menu system allows for local files to be integrated with streaming content (both free and payed). There will also be three new apps: The Escapist, Suicide Girls, and TV Guide to the Web Clicker.
The new interface was made possible by the switch from an OpenGL graphical engine to DirectX. Nvidia has even been helping Boxee optimize the interface for use on the Ion platform with Flash 10.1 and DXVA. No details on when the new beta will be available to users, but we can’t wait.
Microsoft launched Windows 7 with full DirectX 11 support, but until now, Vista users running ATI’s newest 5000 series cards were left out in the cold. Its not like you’ve been waiting months to play the newest DX11 titles, but at least you now have the comfort of knowing that you don’t need to upgrade your OS in order to take advantage of your new GPU.
DirectX 11 isn’t a massive leap forward over the DirectX 10.1 found in Vista SP2, and in fact, is actually a superset implemented using WDDM (Windows Display Drive Model).Windows XP users will need to continue making do with DirectX 9 because it is not compatible with WDDM, and Microsoft has been pretty clear that this isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
The platform update KB971644 should be delivered to Vista users automatically via Windows update. Now all you need is an Radeon 5870. DirectX 11 support in Vista seems as good a reason as any don’t you think?
According to Nvidia, Windows 7, which recently reached RTM, will be the catalyst that propels the concept of GPGPU computing into the mainstream.
"Previously, GPUs were almost exclusively limited to rendering and accelerating graphics and video," Chris Daniel, product manager for software at Nvidia, wrote in a Microsoft Partner blog. "With the introduction of Windows 7, the GPU and CPU will exist in a co-processing environment where each can handle the computing task they are best suited for. The CPU is exceptionally good at performing sequential calculations, I/O, and program flow, whereas the GPU is perfectly suited for performing massive parallel calculations."
Nvidia went on to say that by introducing the DirectX Compute in Windows 7, Microsoft is providing a huge shot in the arm for developers to make better use of the GPU for more than just graphics acceleration. Such tasks include high-quality video playback, high performance transcoding, enabling new media scenarios, and offering extended control over media libraries.
"As an example of the real world benefits of DX Compute, you will be able to use the massive parallel capabilities of the GPU to significantly reduce the time it takes to manager your media files compared with just using the CPU alone," Nvidia added.
According to Rick Bergman, AMD’s Senior Vice President for Platforms, he and his crew are looking to beat Nvidia to the world of DX11.
According to Bergman, “We want to supply hardware to Microsoft and software developers so they can make DX11 games on our hardware first.” This would put AMD ahead of Nvidia, something that hasn’t happened for several years, thanks to Nvidia’s dominance in the DX10 market. “We were kind of fighting from behind, but with DX11 it feels like we’re ahead this round.”
Despite reports that very few game titles would take advantage of DX11, Bergman is keeping up his enthusiasm. Reportedly, he knows of a handful of independent software vendors that are working “eagerly” to release games.
In the Holiday 2008 issue of Maximum PC we published a list called “9 Things Microsoft Got Right.” It was a lovely list, of course, but thanks to the space limitations of the print magazine we weren’t able to go into much detail about each of the items on it. We decided that the topic was interesting enough that it deserved more than that, so we’ve rewritten it for the web, with more information and analysis.