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Digital Foundry Analyzes Google's Stadia Platform

Following Google's "Stadia" game streaming service announcement yesterday, Digital Foundry decided to take a closer look at the hardware behind the platform. Google says they use a "Custom 2.7GHz hyper-threaded x86 CPU with AVX2 SIMD and 9.5MB L2+L3 cache," and while they didn't mention the vendor, DF notes that they haven't seen such a configuration in any of AMD's currently shipping server CPUs, and that it should significantly outpace anything found in a modern console. Meanwhile, the GPU largely resembles a Vega 56 card with 16GB of HBM2, and the games are reportedly loaded from an SSD. Through their own testing, DF came away impressed with the platform's consistent frame pacing, and in some cases, total latency is on par with locally-run games on a console or PC.

Google has also demonstrated scalability on the graphics side, with a demonstration of three of the AMD GPUs running in concert. Its stated aim is to remove as many of the limiting factors impacting game-makers as possible, and with that in mind, the option is there for developers to scale projects across multiple cloud units: "The way that we describe what we are is a new generation because it's purpose-built for the 21st century," says Google's Phil Harrison. "It does not have any of the hallmarks of a legacy system. It is not a discrete device in the cloud. It is an elastic compute in the cloud and that allows developers to use an unprecedented amount of compute in support of their games, both on CPU and GPU, but also particularly around multiplayer."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 9:14 AM (CDT)

AMD's 7nm Navi GPU Rumored to Launch Roughly a Month after Ryzen 3000

Contradicting earlier rumors of an October launch, the Wccftech gang is claiming AMD has told partners its 7nm Navi GPU will launch "exactly a month" after the debut of its next-generation Ryzen processors. With the conundrum of low yields somewhat out of the way (based on the availability of the Radeon VII), the author is confident AMD will have no issues getting the card out within the third quarter this year.

I have been told that AMD’s Navi GPU is at least one whole month behind AMD’s 7nm Ryzen launch, so if the company launches the 3000 series desktop processors at Computex like they are planning to, you should not expect the Navi GPU to land before early August. The most likely candidates for launch during this window are Gamescom and Siggraph. I would personally lean towards Gamescom simply because it is a gaming product and is the more likely candidate, but anything can happen with AMD!

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 17, 2019 2:15 PM (CDT)

AdoredTV Reveals New AMD Leaks and Social Media Woes

In his newest video, Jim of AdoredTV on YouTube discusses fanboys, old school tech reviews, Zen II leaks, Ryzen 3000 leaks, overclocking the Radeon VII, and more. Listen to him reminisce over the days when reviewers told it like it was without a filter and then compare it to the advertiser friendly, nice guy image most have now. The beginning of the video is about his attempts to control what happens to him on social media. Enjoy!

Tech Talk 5 - Quitting Reddit, New Zen II "Leaks" and OC'ing the Radeon VII!

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 08, 2019 6:30 PM (CST)

ScaleMP and AMD Announce Collaboration for Scale-Up EPYC Servers

ScaleMP is a leading provider of virtualization solutions such as vSMP Foundation 9.0 for high-end computing. ScaleMP has announced that it is working together with AMD to enable AMD server OEM manufacturers to create systems with 4, 8, and up to 128 processor sockets, up to 8,192 CPUs and 256 terabytes of shared memory. With EPYC processor-based servers available from many leading server vendors, ScaleMP and AMD have partnered to enable cloud, hyperscale, enterprise, and HPC customers to benefit from the superior value provided by AMD EPYC processors, with ScaleMP offering both fabric-based as well as storage-class-memory solutions.

"Supporting AMD-based servers has always been a goal of ours, as AMD has a long history of offering powerful, yet cost-effective solutions. We see a natural fit for ScaleMP technologies and AMD processors, especially with the strong demand for scale-up systems based on AMD EPYC processors," said Shai Fultheim, founder and CEO of ScaleMP. "Through this collaboration, ScaleMP enables AMD customers to create scale-up servers that will deliver breakthrough performance and help lower the TCO for organizations -- enabling customers to use more of their budget for their applications and tackle the most demanding workloads while enjoying a broader choice of multi-socket servers."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 06, 2019 6:28 PM (CST)

AMD Showcases Ryzen V1000 and EPYC 3000 at Embedded World 2019

At Embedded World 2019, AMD unveiled its expanded partner embedded product lines based on its AMD Ryzen V1000 and EPYC 3000 platforms. Embedded GPUs and the SMACH Z handheld gaming console that can be upgraded like a desktop PC were highlights of the event. Advantech announced a partnership between Advantech, AMD, and Mentor, a Siemens business, to make AI technology more accessible and easier to implement. They declared AI technology will take embedded systems to the next level with higher efficiency and smarter systems designed to improve people's lives. The PC Games Hardware interview is in English after the first minute.

Chalk this one up to I did not know that AMD had embedded GPUs, but the segment makes sense. TUL is the manufacturer of the three GPUs based on AMD for the embedded market. These seem to be mostly targeted at multi-output embedded products for features like support for between four and six monitors.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 04, 2019 2:58 PM (CST)

AMD's Mark Papermaster Discusses 7nm Process Technology

In case you missed the original presentation, AMD just uploaded the part of their Next Horizon event where they discussed the upcoming use of 7nm process technology. AMD has traditionally stuck with their former internal fab, GlobalFoundries, for most chip designs, and they're reportedly still relying on GloFo for certain chips, like 2nd gen Epyc's 14nm I/O die. But for the most part, AMD is using Taiwan Semiconductor's bleeding edge 7nm process in their major upcoming products, like Ryzen CPUs, the recently released Radeon VII, and the long rumored Navi GPUs.
AMD notes that they expected to achieve process parity with Intel this generation, but thanks to Intel's 10nm woes and a conspicuous lack of problems at TSMC's 7nm node, they've "unexpectedly" ended up ahead of their x86 competitors. Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 01, 2019 11:32 AM (CST)

ZDNet Analyzes the Windows 10 Update Schedule

Microsoft recently released code from the Windows 10 2020 H1 branch to testers last month, which left many wondering why Microsoft wasn't releasing code from the 19H1 update. Some thought Microsoft might be moving to one Windows 10 feature update per year, while others thought the marriage of Chromium and Edge might be creating a delay. However, ZDNet's sources refuted both those claims, They say that, as a result of the Azure development team catching up to the latest version of Windows core OS, the Windows core team is skipping the June Windows update and is instead focusing on the Windows 10 20H1 release. In a nutshell, ZDNet thinks that the Windows 10 19H2 update might appear to be a relatively minor update, but that's only the result of some one-time development shifts, not a release pattern Microsoft wants to stick to in the future.

This 19H2 release might appear like a more minor update, but only to those paying close attention. Does this mean Microsoft is going to move to a major/minor schedule with Windows 10 feature releases moving forward? I hear the answer is no. This year is just a messy one-off, sources of mine say. Microsoft's plan remains to continue to roll out two new Windows 10 feature updates every year (over the howls of protest of many business and consumer users). If all the stars align,the 20H1 release will be built on the Windows 10 core OS Vibranium platform which engineering will deliver internally to various Microsoft teams as of December 2019. If all goes as planned, the Windows 10 20H2 release will be built on the Windows 10 core OS platform delivered internally in June 2020 (which is codenamed "Manganese").

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 01, 2019 10:18 AM (CST)

Backblaze Analyzes SSD Reliability

BackBlaze regularly posts failure rates for their substantial collection of hard drives, and according to the results they published last month, they have over 100,000 of them to test. But as we've recently noted, flash memory prices are dropping like a rock, hence solid state drives are quickly becoming a somewhat economical alternative to 7200 RPM spinners. But just how reliable are these drives? According to a recent blog post, BackBlaze thinks that SSDs are "generally" more reliable than HDDs under most workloads, though the factors that affect SSD reliability are different. As their name would suggest, SSDs have no moving parts, hence they're more tolerant to shock, vibration, and temperature changes, but that also means that users get no audible indicators when they do start failing. Flash memory can eventually wear out too, and it can wear out relatively quickly in QLC SSDs, but Backblaze says "SSDs can be expected to last as long or longer than HDDs in most general applications." Unfortunately, the backup company isn't backing up their claims with hard data yet, but other publications have torture tested SSDs before, and I expect it won't be long before Backblaze starts posting SSD failure rates as well. Thanks to AceGoober for the tip.

SSDs are a different breed of animal than a HDD and they have their strengths and weaknesses relative to other storage media. The good news is that their strengths -speed, durability, size, power consumption, etc. - are backed by pretty good overall reliability. SSD users are far more likely to replace their storage drive because they're ready to upgrade to a newer technology, higher capacity, or faster drive, than having to replace the drive due to a short lifespan. Under normal use we can expect an SSD to last years. If you replace your computer every three years, as most users do, then you probably needn't worry about whether your SSD will last as long as your computer. What's important is whether the SSD will be sufficiently reliable that you won't lose your data during its lifetime.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 22, 2019 10:45 AM (CST)

Digital Foundry Analyzes Crackdown 3's Cloud Based Destruction

Fully destructible environments have long been a holy grail of game physics engines. I remember Red Faction: Guerrilla generating quite a bit of buzz when it came out, and according to Digital Foundry, the Crackdown devs have been working on an even more ambitious system that leverages the power of Microsoft's cloud servers. Crackdown 3 is the culmination of those efforts, and while it does have destructible environments that seem to be synced across multiplayer instances, the game itself feels rushed and somewhat underwhelming. The competitive "wrecking zone" mode, for example, has conspicuously small arenas and doesn't even have a party system, while the co-op mode still falls short of the 2015 tech demo. Check out the analysis in the video below:

What Wrecking Zone delivers is still impressive in many respects, but is definitely a simplification of the original demo - a situation which looks like a combination of both technological limitations and gameplay considerations. To begin with, the cityscape of the original demo becomes a series of enclosed holodeck-esque arenas - high on verticality, but small in terms of their overall footprint. What's clear from the 2015 demo is that it's exactly that - a demonstration, with no real gameplay as such. Limiting the scale of the play space means that players can actually find one another, which definitely helps, but there's still the sense that there's not much to actually do. The destruction can look wonderful, but little of the gameplay is actually built around the concept. Technologically, the cutbacks are legion. Micro-scale chip damage is completely absent, while destruction generally is far less granular, with buildings and statues breaking apart into more simplistic polygonal chunks. It's interesting to stack up Wrecking Zone with Red Faction Guerrilla Remastered - a game we sorely regret not covering at the time of its launch. Originally a last-gen Xbox 360 title, it does many of the same things as Wrecking Zone - on a smaller scale definitely, but with more granularity and detail. And this raises the question of whether the cloud would actually be necessary at all for Wrecking Zone.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 20, 2019 8:21 AM (CST)

Digital Foundry Analyzes Metro Exodus's Visual Fidelity

While many reviews have already dug into the technical aspects of 4A Games' newest Metro title, Digital Foundry recently posted a video showing how all that fancy tech actually impacts the in-game experience. Like many other games and benchmarks, Metro Exodus is pretty and demanding, but DF points out that those visuals do an excellent job of making the game feel immersive, as opposed to coming off as gimmicky features. The particle effects, for example, really contribute to Metro's moody atmosphere, while little touches like a remarkably detailed first person body view and the conspicuously detailed shadow it casts all make the game feel realistic. Check out the video on Metro Exodus's immersiveness below, or read Eurogamer's lengthy interview with 4A programmer Ben Archard and CTO Oles Shishkovstov if you're more interested in the technical aspects.

The open world maps are completely different to the enclosed tunnels maps of the other games. Environments are larger and have way more objects in them, visible out to a much greater distance. It is therefore a lot harder to cull objects from both update and render. Objects much further away still need to update and animate. In the tunnels you could mostly cull an object in the next room so that only its AI was active, and then start updating animations and effects when it became visible, but the open world makes that a lot trickier... So, a good chunk of that extra time is spent with updating more AIs and more particles and more physics objects, but also a good chunk of time is spent feeding the GPU the extra stuff it is going to render. We do parallelise it where we can. The engine is built around a multithreaded task system. Entities such as AIs or vehicles, update in their own tasks. Each shadowed light, for example, performs its own frustum-clipped gather for the objects it needs to render in a separate task. This gather is very much akin to the gathering process for the main camera, only repeated many times throughout the scene for each light. All of that needs to be completed before the respective deferred and shadow map passes can begin (at the start of the frame).

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 18, 2019 10:26 AM (CST)

AdoredTV Reviews the Radeon VII

AdoredTV just posted their review of the Radeon VII. In terms of performance, AdoredTV's results line up with other reviews that went up earlier, generally besting the liquid cooled Vega 64 and achieving parity with the GTX 1080 TI and RTX 2080, depending on the title and settings. But what really seemed to stick out to the Scottish reviewer was noise: even inside his personal PC, the reference Radeon VII was far noiser than the MSI 1080 TI and liquid-cooled Vega 64. Check out the review below.
Fortunately, it seems that AMD fixed the Wattman issues Gamers Nexus and Der8auer ran into earlier, as the the tool's auto undervolt feature brought noise levels down to reasonable levels with 2 clicks while lowering power consumption by about 40W. Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 14, 2019 10:43 AM (CST)

Buildzoid Analyzes the PCB and VRM Layout of the AMD Radeon VII

Buildzoid from Actually Hardcore Overclocking on YouTube has performed an in-depth analysis of the PCB and VRM layout of the AMD Radeon VII. Watch him discuss the efficiency and cost of the various exotic components that are found in the design of the AMD Radeon VII. You can view our unboxing and teardown video here.

AMD's Radeon VII card left its initial embargo, which allowed tear-downs (link below), just recently, and that allowed us to look closer at the VRM for analysis.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru February 06, 2019 6:01 PM (CST)