3D Vision Blog

A normal user's look into the world of 3D Stereo Technologies

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New GeForce 301.24 Beta Drivers Bring New Features to Old GPUs

April 9th, 2012 · 9 Comments · GeForce 3D Vision

Nvidia has just released new R300 beta drivers in the form of 301.24 that bring most of the new features introduced with the GeForce GTX 680 GPUs to owners of older graphics hardware such as the GTX 580 or GTX 590 back to GeForce 8-series. This means you will get access to NVIDIA FXAA, NVIDIA Adaptive VSync, and NVIDIA Frame Rate Target and all NVIDIA Surround-capable GPUs now support the new NVIDIA Surround features, like the ability to use a fourth accessory display for example.

The new NVIDIA’s FXAA anti-aliasing technique can now be enabled for games that does not feature built-in support from the Nvidia Control Panel allowing better image quality at a reduced performance drop. FXAA can be up to 60% faster than 4xMSAA and provide similar or even better anti-aliasing, so definitely a better choice especially for more demanding games and especially when using AA in stereo 3D mode. It is of course not as good as what the latest TXAA technique can provide, but if you don’t have the latest GPUs, then even being able to enable FXAA is an improvement over the MSAA.

The new NVIDIA Adaptive VSync feature is an automated technique that disables VSync (Vertical Synchronization) when frame rates fall below the locked rate (60 or 120 for example), and re-enables it when they return to the locked rate resulting in significant reduction of stuttering whilst still preventing tearing. This means that you are going to be getting much less noticeable stuttering when the framerate drops while using Adaptive VSync, although it will not be completely gone, it will be much better than when using traditional VSync where the framerate might be constantly jumping between 30 and 60 fps trying to stay for as much as possible at one of these values resulting in micro stuttering.

The new NVIDIA Frame Rate Target will allow you to limit a game’s frame rate to a specific value and the video card will try to keep up that framerate, not trying to go over it. This feature requires some extra software such as EVGA Precision X and using it can help you resolve problems when playing old games by keeping them maxed out at a lower framerate than they may try to achieve, or even as an alternative to VSync by locking the maximum framerate to 60 or 120 fps (depending on your monitor) preventing tearing. The ideas behind this feature is that there is not much point for the GPU to render let’s say 2000 fps at a game’s menu or trying to achieve a higher framerate than you need – having some power and lowering the heat and noise level of the video card when there is no need for it to be maxed out for full performance. The owners of GeForce GTX 680 can benefit more as this function also takes advantage of the GPU Boost technology to dynamically overclock and underclock the GPU based on the performance level currently required.

The new NVIDIA Surround Enhancements features include: the ability to use of a fourth “Accessory Display”, the ability to maximize applications to a single physical display, the ability to have the Windows Taskbar to stay only on the center display, the ability to “Peek” behind monitor bezels, the ability to play single-screen games with full acceleration on Surround setups and the add or remove some of the extra Surround resolutions that you may or may not need. Of course on older generations of GPUs before GTX 680 you would still need to have either a multi-GPU video card or at least two cards in SLI in order to drive a Surround setup with three displays, only on the GTX 680 you can do it with a single card.

There are also some SLI profile updates as well as new and updated 3D Vision profiles included in the GeForce 301.24 beta drivers in order to get you better performance and thus an experience when playing in stereoscopic 3D mode:

– All Zombies Must Die! – Rated Fair
– Ghosts ‘n Goblins Online – Rated Good
– Krater – Rated Poor
– Oil Rush – Rated 3D Vision Ready
– Postal III – Rated Good
– Rayman Origins – Rated Good
– SevenCore – Rated Fair
– Stacking – Rated Good
– Unigine Heaven Benchmark v3.0 – Rated 3D Vision Ready
– Wargame: European Escalation – Rated Good
– Warp – Rated Good
– Wings of Prey – Rated Fair

Thanks Nvidia, now I have even less reason to upgrade my dual GTX 580 SLI setup to GTX 680s… ;)

To download and try the new GeForce 301.24 Beta drivers with all the new features…

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The New Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 (Kepler) Finally Making an Appearance

March 22nd, 2012 · 16 Comments · GeForce 3D Vision

Nvidia has just officially announced their new flagship GPU, the GeForce GTX 680 based on the new Kepler architecture and manufactured using 28nm process. The video cards based on the new graphics processors offer increased performance over the previous generation of Fermi and the flagship GTX 580 as well as numerous improvements and new features. Below I’ve prepared a short list of thee specifications of the new GTX 680 GPU as compared to the previous GTX 580 single GPU flagship from Nvidia, so you can easily compare what has changed.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 Specifications:

Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 680 2GB
Graphics Processing Clusters: 4
Streaming Multiprocessors: 8 -8
CUDA Cores: 1536 +1024
Texture Units: 128 +64
ROP Units: 32 -16
Graphics Clock: 1006 MHz +234
GPU Boost Clock: 1058 MHz
Memory Clock (Data rate): 6008 MHz +2000
L2 Cache Size: 512KB -256
Total Video Memory: 2048MB GDDR5 +512
Memory Interface: 256-bit -128
Total Memory Bandwidth: 192.26 GB/s -0.14
Texture Filtering Rate (Bilinear): 128.8 GigaTexels/sec +79.4
Fabrication Process: 28 nm
Transistor Count: 3.54 Billion +0.54
Connectors: Dual-Link DVI-I, Dual-Link DVI-D, HDMI 1.4 High Speed, DisplayPort 1.2
Form Factor: Dual Slot
Power Connectors: 2x 6-pin
Thermal Design Power (TDP): 195 Watts -49
Thermal Threshold: 98 degrees C
Bus Interface: PCI Express 3.0

* The superscript numbers in green and red show the change as compared to the specs of GTX 580.

I don’t want to go too much into detail about changes in the new Kepler architecture, as I’m sure not a lot of people are actually interested too much into such technical details. I just want to mention a few things and then will go to the more interesting part, namely the new features that the GTX 680 offers over the previous generation. There has been a significant change in the basic modules that build-up the GPU in the Kepler and as a result you get more CUDA cores and there is no more a separate shader clock available, there is just one clock frequency for the GPU, although there are changes in how it functions as well. And while the number of CUDA cores has been essentially tripled you should not expect to get three times the performance of a GTX 580 with a single GTX 680, as there are other important things that are responsible for the overall performance that a video card can provide… there are the Texture and ROP units as well, and then there is the memory frequency and bandwidth. Looking at the specs of the new GTX 680 you may notice that the operating frequency of the memory chips has been increased significantly, but the width of the memory bus has been reduced, so essentially the memory bandwidth remains pretty much the same as it was with the GTX 580. So instead of tripling the performance you should expect something more like 1.5x up to 2x the performance of the previous generations of GPU, depending on the usage scenario of course, although that would require some extra testing to confirm, especially when using in stereo 3D mode.

And now a it for some of the new features. One interesting thing is the GPU Boost functionality that is supposed to control in real time the operating frequency of your graphics processor, so that it can maximize the performance you get whenever you need it. Automatically increasing the working frequency of the GPU when a certain application is not optimally loading the graphics card, so you can squeeze some more performance. And since the GPU Boost cannot be disabled by the user, it will ultimately change the way you overclock the video card, especially considering that there are no more two different frequencies for the GPU anymore. And while you cannot disable the GPU Boost, you can control how it works, making you get the most out of your video card in terms of performance even when you overclock it. But thanks to the GPU Boost function and the extra electronics used to monitor the current utilization, temperature and power consumption of the GTX 680 you also get some neat new extras such as the ability to limit the maximum framerate in a 3D application to lets say 60 or 120 fps (NVIDIA Frame Rate Target). So you can look at the GPU Boost as not only something that can help you get the most out of your GPU, but also a function that can help you save power and resources when you actually don’t need them. Because when you limit the maximum framerate there is usually no need for the video card to use all of its processing power to maintain that framerate and thus it will run cooler and more silent.

Another new thing is the improvement in the Anti-Aliasing modes that you get at your disposal in order to get rid of the jaggies and get smoother looking image in games. Aside from the FXAA mode that is also supported, the new GTX 680s introduce the two new TXAA modes that bring better quality AA than MSAA with less performance hit. Another interesting new feature is the Adaptive VSync that can help you smooth out the transitions when the framerate drops below a certain level, something that with no VSync or with normal VSync usually leads to tearing of the image. And while Adaptive VSync may not be able to completely eliminate the tearing when framerate drops significantly it can help reduce it greatly making it not so apparent and even hardly noticeable if you are not paying special attention in most of the cases. So another good thing if you are a gamer and going for GTX 680 if you are not a gamer may seem like something a bit pointless to do.

And here comes another very interesting new feature – the Single GPU 3D Vision Surround. Since the GeForce GTX 680 is now capable of driving four independent monitors at the same time you are now able to create a 3D Vision Surround with just a single video card, no more need of at least two GPUs in SLI to drive the 3D Vision Surround. Have in mind though that the GTX 680 has Dual-Link DVI-I, Dual-Link DVI-D, DisplayPort 1.2 a HDMI 1.4 High Speed interfaces. Obviously you can’t use the HDMI 1.4 HS interface for a 3D Vision Surround setup, so the third display needs to be connected either through the DisplayPort or with a DP to DL-DVI adapter. The HDMI 1.4 High Speed interface should be capable of providing more than the 1080p 24Hz 3D mode that the normal HDMI 1.4 interface currently supports, however you would also require a 3D monitor supporting it and there are still no such consumer products available apparently. There are also some improvements in the Surround support, for example you can use a fourth accessory display together with the surround for showing your email for example or something else while playing, although switching to that monitor can be a bit tricky. Also you finally get the taskbar displayed only on the center display when using a Surround setup, and the ability to maximize windows only in a single display and not on all three (user selectable) and these are apart of software improvements actually, so you should be getting them available on older hardware as well. There is also a new Bezel Peek function to allow you to briefly see in-game menus or objects that may appear hidden due to the use of bezel correction by using a hotkey, there is also faster display acceleration when using only a single display in a surround setup as well as an improvement in the list of resolutions you get active when using a Surround setup, so you will not be bothered by a huge list resolutions that you need to go through. One thing that I’ve almost missed is the DirectX 11.1 support, but should you actually care that it is supported by the hardware, not really at the moment as it is nothing major for now.

The new GeForce GTX 680 from Nvidia is definitely a good improvement not only in terms of performance, but also in terms of new features that can help you get the most out of your gaming experience, including in stereoscopic 3D mode as well. It is more powerful and more energy efficient as compared to the previous generation and brings some new useful features that are surely going to be interesting for gamers. The new GeForce GTX 680 should be available with a price of about $499 USD already and I hope to be able to soon get the card to test and provide you with some benchmarks of the 680 in stereoscopic 3D mode, so stay tuned for more about that…

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