ATI videocard owners take note - AMD has released new Catalyst drivers, v8.12, for both Windows XP and Vista. The new Catalyst release brings with it performance improvements in several DX9 and DX10 games, including up to a 25 percent boost in Crysis (DX10) for both Single and Crossfire mode. More recent releases, such as Left 4 Dead and Fallout 3, also receive a claimed performance boost by up to 10 percent and 15 percent respectively.
Many bug fixes accompany 8.12, such as improved HD video playback no longer causing Vista to stop responding, better support for connecting an All-in-Wonder card to a Yamaha receiver via an HDMI cable, and several more.
The new drivers also unlock the ATI Stream compute acceleration capabilities built into Radeon HD 3870, HD 3870 X2, and all HD 4000 series graphics cards. Similar to Nvidia's CUDA technology, ATI Stream is a set of advanced hardware and software technologies that enable AMD GPUs to work with the CPU and accelerate applications other than just graphics. To show off the technology, AMD has made available its free ATI Video Converter utility.
If you've been thinking about upgrading to Nvidia's GeForce GTX 260 videocard, you may want to hold off for a few weeks. According to Chinese site Expreview, Nvidia will release a new 55nm-based GTX 260 along with a 55nm GTX 295 (GTX 260 GX2) in January 2009. And if history tells us anything, Nvidia tends to do well with core revisions (G92-based 8800GT, for example). Expreview posted several pics of the revised GTX 260, which it claims were sent in from Zotac.
In addition to a die shrink, the new GTX 260, or at least Zotac's version, looks to be built with a 10-layer PCB design rather than 14 layers as found on current GTX 260/280 videocards, Expreview says. The new revision also upgrades its 3+2 phase power modules to 4+2 phase.
Other specs look to remain the same, such as the number of stream processors (216) and core and memory frequencies. This means you might not see a leap in stock performance, but in theory, the power consumption, heat output, and overclocking potential should all be improved.
No word yet on projected pricing, which could either sweeten or spoil the whole deal.
The holidays are shaping up to be happy for gamers on a mainstream budget. According to X-Bit Labs, AMD said it had reduced the price of its ATI Radeon HD 4870 videocard and that at least one online vendor will be selling the 512MB model for $199.
"The price of the ATI Radeon HD 4870 is dropping and we expect that the 512MB and 1GB boards should be available on Newegg today for around $199 and $239 respectively, offering an even more compelling value," a spokesperson for ATI/AMD said.
A cursory glance on Newegg backs the spokesperson's claim (not that we ever doubted him) with two 512MB models -- Sapphire and HIS -- already marked down to the promised price point, and even less if you want to try your hand at the mail-in-rebate game. The 1GB models haven't yet dropped quite as low, not before MIR anyway (we were right to be skeptical).
This year has been a good one for PC gamers as AMD and Nvidia have repeatedly cut prices and taken other measures, such as die shrinks (Nvidia) and giving graphics partners the green light to overclock (AMD), to try and one up each other.
Nvidia's nZone website has posted download links to new beta videocard drivers, version 180.84, for both Vista and XP. Little information has been given about the new drivers, other than that they're intended to improve gameplay with Rockstar's new Grand Theft Auto IV videogame.
"Nvidia recommends that you update your system with the following GeForce v180.84 driver for the best experiences on Grand Theft Auto IV," nZone writes.
Users who have installed and played GTA IV on the PC have complained of varying issues, including missing textures and intermittent crashes. GTA IV's support page lists several troubleshooting steps, one of which recommends users download the newest drivers with a link to the nZone page containing the beta release. However, no specific bug fixes or performance issues have been identified with the new drivers, so it might be hard to tell what difference they're making.
As always, take proper precautions whenever experimenting with pre-release code. As Nvidia discloses regarding beta drivers, they "may include significant issues." When you're ready to take the leap:
So you thought 3DFX was dead and gone? Well, you're right. The graphics company largely responsible for ushering in 3D gaming bit the dust nearly a decade ago when Nvidia devoured the company and announced it would not support 3DFX products. But that hasn't stopped others from stepping in to fill the void left by 3DFX's demise and its once mighty Voodoo videocard lineup.
For those of you still getting your old school game on, 3dfxzone.it has released new drivers covering a variety of vintage GPUs. Models supported by the SFFT 1.5 driver release include:
We don't imagine too many Voodoo owners are concerned with running Vista, but for the sake of full disclosure, the new drivers support Windows 2000/XP 32-bit and XP 64-bit.
Staving off the upgrade bug while waiting for the inevitable next best thing that's always just around the corner can cause you to be in a perpetual state of limbo. But if you've been suffering from this phenomenon since the AGP days, now might be the perfect time to pull the trigger. Not only has Intel released it's Core i7 platform, but if your aging AGP videocard is a qualified BFG-branded unit, you might be able to score a free or low-cost ($50) PCI-E upgrade.
"Now, for a limited time, if you send us your BFG AGP card in good, working condition, we'll send you the PCI Express equivalent at no cost to you," BFG wrote on its AGP-to-PCI-E promotional page. "If you want to upgrade to an even better performing card, there is a nominal fee to do so. Offer good for U.S. customers only."
Furthermore, BFG's claim that the free PCI-E upgrade is equivalent to its AGP counterpart might be a bit modest in certain circumstances. For example, BFG will upgrade owners of GeForce 6800OC AGP videocards with just a 128MB frame buffer to a 9600GT OC PCI-E card with 512MB of memory. The same 9600GT OC is used for all but one of the free upgrades and the performance levels out as you move up the AGP food chain, but for $50, users can instead opt for a 9800GT OC.
The offer is available for a limited time, though BFG has not specified a more specific time frame. Current AGP owners will need to register their cards with BFG if they haven't already done so. But don't fret if you've lost the receipt - BFG says no proof of purchase will be required.
Hynix this week double-dipped into the record books by introducing the world's first and fastest 1 Gigabit GDDR5 graphics DRAM operating at 7Gb/s, a 40 percent improvement over 5Gb/s GDDR5. The new memory is built using a 54nm process and can process up to 28GB/s with a 32-bit I/O, the company claims. On a 512-bit memory bus, bandwidth should reach as high as 448GB/s.
In addition to speed, Hynix also emphasized power consumption. The new memory requires just 1.35V as opposed to 1.5V inherent in previous generation GDDR5 memory. This means that the improved GDDR5 not only bodes well for future high performance videocards, but the potential for lower heat and longer battery life could also be a boon for notebooks.
Hynix says its 1Gb GDDR5 graphics memory meets the JEDEC standard and plans to start volume production in the first half of 2009.
S3 Graphics, a subsidiary of VIA and a player in the low end graphics market, has launched its next generation Chrome 500 series. S3 claims its new add-in cards offer up to a 30 percent performance increase while supporting Blu-ray playback, streaming HD video, DirectX 10.1 and OpenGL 3.0 on both Windows and Linux operating systems.
"S3 Graphics has built upon the success of the Chrome 400 Series with another GPU line that fulfills user demand of a superior visual experience and product that extends beyond just graphics," said Dr. Ken Weng, GM for S3 Graphics. "Our latest Chrome 500 supports features that surpass those found in higher end products, like high quality HD video support. This truly is a power-efficient multimedia / multi-application processor that delivers."
S3's Chrome 530 GT is the first videocad to market from the new Chrome 500 series. The upgraded GPU makes a strong bid for HTPC enthusiasts with support for PiP Blu-ray playback, HDCP capable DVI-I and HDMI ports, and a low power draw rated at just 25W.
The Chrome 530 GT is available now direct from S3 Graphics for $45 and comes bundled with InterVideo WinDVD 8.
A report by Jon Peddie Research (JPR) earlier this week confirmed that AMD's recent success with its Radeon 4000 series has helped the company take back some market share from rival GPU maker Nvidia, while also forcing Nvidia and its partners to lower prices on the recently released GTX 200 series. It appears even more cuts are on the way.
DigiTimes, citing un-named sources at graphics cards makers, says that Nvidia "is planning to cut its graphics card prices in an attempt to curb further loss of market share" to AMD. For its part, AMD isn't finished taking it to Nvidia and anticipates grabbing 50 percent of the market following lowered prices on its ATI Radeon HD 4000 series.
In short, it continues to be a great time to be a PC gamer, and it only looks to get better as AMD and Nvidia battle on the pricing front.
Nividia today announced its Quadro FX 5800 videocard calling it "the most powerful professional graphics card in graphics history." To help justify such a big claim, Nvidia slapped a big 4GB frame buffer on the new videocard, more than any other videocard to date.
"The size and complexity of data is growing at an exponential rate," said Jeff Brown, general manager, Professional Solutions, Nvidia. "The challenge for today's professional is to make sense of the mountain of data by distilling it into a form they can comprehend, analyze, and use to make impactful decisions. At stake can be billions of investment dollars, or even people's lives. The Quadro FX 5800 has advanced features to allow massive datasets to be viewed beyond traditional 3D enabling professionals to make fast and accurate decisions."
Nvidia says its new videocard is a perfect match for oil and gas exploration, medical imaging, styling and design, and scientific visualization, all of which can benefit from the large amount of memory and up to 240 CUDA programmable parallel core. Other specs include a memory bandwidth of up to 102 GB/s, a fill rate claimed to exceed 52 billion texels per second, and geometry performance of 300 million triangles per second. The Quadro FX 5800 also boasts true 10-bit color, giving it the ability to enable billions of color variations instead of millions, according to Nvidia.
The Quadro FX 5800 is available now with an MSRP set at $3500. But if it helps, think of it as less than $1000 per GB of memory.