Thursday, May 31, 2012

Overclocking is a great way to eke a bit more gaming power out of your computer, and Windows users have quite a few tools to help them do it easily. 

Our favorite of the bunch is the insanely easy to use, feature-filled MSI Afterburner.

MSI Afterburner
Platform: Windows
Price: Free

Features : 

Change your core clock, shader clock, memory clock, and fan speed using simple sliders

Works on nearly any video card, not just MSI-manufactured cards

Turn on voltage tuning for super high overclocks

Built-in access to MSI's Kombustor benchmarking tool

Monitor your clocks, voltage, fan speeds, frame rate, and more from the app's drawer or from an on screen display during games

Save your settings to 5 different profiles for quick loading

Take screenshots and capture videos from your games with hotkeys

Fine tune the automatic fan control so you stay at the temperatures you want

Multiple different skins for changing the interface

Start with Windows or apply settings at boot, so your card is always overclocked

Where it excels

MSI Afterburner is so easy, a caveman could use it. 

Even without delving into the settings, you can overclock your card just by tweaking the sliders on the main window, hitting apply, and moving on to your game. 

The built-in access to a benchmarking program is great too, and being able to see your fan speeds and FPS levels in-game is super useful, especially when you first start overclocking. 

MSI Afterburner has just about everything you could want from a modern overclocking program.

Where it falls short

My only beef with Afterburner is that the interface is very large. 

Many people probably won't find this to be an issue, but as someone who uses dual monitors to keep an eye on other things while I game including my overclocking settings it irks me that it takes up so much space. 

The interface also seems a little hard to read at times, what with all the cool colors jumping out at you. 

It also only has 5 profiles, and while that's more than I'll ever use, its competitors offer more. 

These are very tiny nitpicks, though, and would only really apply to people in specific situations.

The competition

EVGA Precision is nearly identical to MSI Afterburner in every way. 

It has all the same features (save the one-click access to Kombustor), but is branded with the EVGA logo instead of the MSI logo. 

I prefer it for its interface, which takes up half the size of MSI's and looks a little better. 

However, Precision's voltage tuning is buried in the settings rather than on the main window of the app, which is kind of weird. 

Afterburner's better placement of the voltage tuner and its one-click access to Kombustor is why we think it just edges out Precision, though they both have their perks. 

And seriously, other than that, they're the exact same.

ATITool is another popular program, though it isn't quite as powerful as Afterburner or Precision. 

It has simple core and memory clock sliders, as well as a built-in benchmarking tool, but neither are as good as the above. 

I've included it for completeness, but unless you're having problems with the other two, I'd skip ATITool.

Lastly, if you have an older card, you can try RivaTuner. 

RivaTuner was long the king of overclocking programs, but hasn't been updated in a few years, so it doesn't work with newer cards. 

And, while Afterburner and Precision are built off RivaTuner, RivaTuner has a lot of advanced options like plugins for CPU monitoring, monitoring cheat programs, and others. 

Its interface is not nearly as good as the others, though, so unless you see RivaTuner features you absolutely must have (and have an older video card), Afterburner is still your best bet.

These are the best tools out there for overclocking, but you'll need more than just an overclocking program to make it happen. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Amd Radeon Hd 7850 2 Gb

The Pitcairn little lad has arrived in the shape of the Amd Radeon Hd 7850 and it could well be a pint-sized powerhouse.

The Hd 7850 pretty much finalises Amd's current plans for the southern islands line up, bar the crazy-expensive dual-gpu New Zealand card which is likely waiting on Nvidia's new cards.

We may see some other odd little revisions once Nvidia's kepler cards start trickling out, just to fill some gaps, but this is going to be the last standard card for a while.

The Amd Radeon Hd 7850 is also the card that's arguably got the most chance of being successful out of this family. 

At the price it looks likely to retail at, the sub-£200 mark, it could well be the highest-selling of Amd's enthusiast-class cards.

Like the Amd Radeon Hd 7870 that we've already seen, the Hd 7850 is though going to face a lot of stiff competition at this price-point.

Pitcairn Pro is what you'll learn to know as the Radeon HD 7850, it features 16 Compute Units, 1024 Stream (shader) Processors, 64 texture units and 32 ROPs.  

It's core and memory frequencies fall behind that of the 7870 but is still clocked at a good 860 MHz core with 1.20GHz (4800 MHz effective) on the memory. 

The 7850 tested has 2GB of graphics memory, but for this model we expect to see both 2GB and 1GB memory variants in the stores, again the memory is based on a 256-bit interface.

The 7870 is expected to have an MSRP of $349 USD, whereas the 7850 will be available for $249 (2GB). 

Typically prices in Eur would be slightly lower.

Amd has been focusing on three primary features and key selling points ever since the series 5000 products were released. 

First off, the new graphics adapters are of course Directx 11 ready. 

With Windows 7 and Vista being Dx11 ready all we need are some games to take advantage of Direct Compute, multi-threading, hardware tessellation and new shader 5.0 extensions.

Another big feature of the product that you already learned about is of course eyefinity, the ability to connect many monitors (depending on AIC/AIB choices in outputs) to your videocard and use it in a desktop environment, or to create an incredibly wide monitor resolution to play games in. 

The third big and prominent feature is of course performance for money. 

It's new, it's affordable, it has Amd written all over it.

Head on over to the next page where we'll meet and greet Pitcairn, aka the Radeon HD 7800 series.

While the Hd 7700 series left us feeling overall pretty flat, the same can't be said for Amd's new Hd 7900 series which offered us awesome performance. 

Along with strong numbers, though, we saw the new 28nm based cards run cooler, quieter and draw less power at both idle and load, they impressed us a lot.

We've got our fingers crossed that the Hd 7800 series sits more in line with the Hd 7900 series than it does the Hd 7700 series. 

Of course what's really going to matter is the performance of the new model. 

Before we look at that, though, we need to see what's going on with the card itself. 

While we'd normally start off with the packaging, because we're dealing with a reference card from Amd, we don't have one. 

Once we've looked at the card and taken a closer look at the main specifications, we'll move into our testbed, which then of course leads us into the performance side of things.

Well, that just about covers that, so let's just take a closer look at the card and see what exactly is going on with this new series and model from Amd.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nvidia versus Amd technology

There are two main manufacturers of the brains of a video card, the graphics processing unit, or Gpu, and each has its' advantages and disadvantages in each card it offers. 

Nvidia and Amd/Ati both offer everything from entry level to world class gpu's and video cards.

Nvidia video cards have many features that make them great. 

3D vision surround technology which allows you to spread your display across 3 or more monitors in full Hd 3d for an immersive experience and Gpu direct which allows for faster communication between computer hardware are two features that set Nvidia cards apart.

Optimus technology which optimizes notebook pc's, and purevideo high definition video processor are a few of the other features that help you get the most out of your computing experience.

Some Nvidia cards also feature Cuda architecture which allows the Gpu to perform mathematical calculations to speed up computing performance. 

PhysX gives the card the ability to run real-time physics in games and Sli technology allows you to link together multiple video cards for increased graphics power. 

With a great lineup of features it's no wonder that Nvidia is a popular choice for games and Amd is great for 3d rendering features.

Evga Geforce Gtx 570 video card

When it comes to video cards evga offers each version in several flavors including :

Standard reference design
Super Clocked (SC)
Super Super Clocked (SSC)
For The Win (FTW)
Classified Hydro (Water Cooled)

The main difference between these designations is the amount of factory overclock dialed in by EVGA and on the higher end boards the quality of some of the materials to provide potentially better overclocking.  

The Hydro series has factory installed water blocks for extreme cooling and overclocking potential.

EVGA did a full background check on Legit and gave us clearance to put this latest classified version of their GTX570 into our lab to see what the maximum factory overclocked could do to our benchmarks.  

The reference GeForce GTX 570 runs at 732 MHz core, 950 MHz memory, and 1464 MHz shader.  

This Classified version has been pushed to 823 MHz core, 975.5 MHz memory, and 1645 MHz shader clocks.  

This is good for a boost of 12% on the core and shader clocks with additional 3% on memory clock.

The MSRP for the EVGA GeForce GTX 570 Classified $359.99 but currently they are offering a $10.00 mail-in rebate.  

We found the EVGA GeForce GTX 570 HD Classified for $349.99 shipped after the rebate.  

This is a $20.00 premium over the base GTX 570 but be aware you get more than just 12% performance boost by going Classified as the power, board layout, and parts quality are boosted from the base version.

An interesting note on packaging and the classified card.  

We started to wonder when we noticed on EVGA's web site a package of the GTX 570 Classified in an all black box and without the HD badge but with the same part number.  

A quick inquiry with EVGA confirmed that they have two different packaging schemes for the same card. 

Two versions of the packaging for the EVGA GeForce GTX 570 Classified :

EVGA GeForce GTX 570 HD Classified Specifications :

Key Specifications :

480 CUDA Cores
822 MHz GPU
1645MHz Shader Clock
DirectX 11
OpenGL 4.1
Memory : 1280 MB, 320 bit GDDR5
3902 MHz (effective)
156 GB/s Memory Bandwidth
Interfaces : PCI-E 2.0 16x
Two Dual-Link DVI-I HDCP capable connectors
HDMI : Display-Port
3-Way SLI Capable
Resolution & Refresh : 240Hz Max Refresh Rate
2048x1536 Max Analog
2560x1600 Max Digital
Dimensions : Length: 10.5in - 266.7mm
Height: 4.376in - 111.15mm
Weight: 3lb
Accessories : EVGA Driver disk wiht EVGA Precision Tuning Utility
User Guide
DVI to VGA Adapter
Dual MOLEX to 6-pin PCIe power adapter
EVGA limited edition poster
Requirements : Minimum of a 550 Watt power supply. (Minimum recommended power supply with +12 Volt current rating of 38 Amps.)
An available 6-pin PCI-E power connector and an available 8 pin PCI-E power connector

Support for driver downloads : Evga download center.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Amd Radeon Hd 6990

Pros : This graphics card has an unmatched texture fill rate.

Cons : This card is loud while under heavy use, and it has compromising heat dispersion system.

This is the most powerful graphics card on the market, but you may have to buy a water block to help with cooling.

With the release of the Amd Radeon Hd 6990, Amd continues to maintain the best graphics card title and is our top winner. 

The flagship of the 6000 series has taken graphical computing power to a completely new level. 

This dual Gpu card allows you to process thousands of bits of information simultaneously, which ups the speed of rendering high-resolution video and graphics. 

With Hd swiftly becoming the standard, the Amd Radeon Hd 6990 and other impressive graphics cards will also become standard to meet the needs for processing it. 

This standard already affects the gaming world that demands more and more Gpu power every year.

The power of dual cores is always impressive, and now Amd has proven twice in a row that they know how to get as much graphics processing power out of a single pcie expansion slot as possible. 

Each core on the Amd Radeon Hd 6990 is clocked at 830 mhz. 

Between the two, they have over 3,000 steam processors, which is impressive, but not the most we've seen. 

This graphics card takes second place when it comes to transistors as well, but it is far beyond the rest with its 5,100 gflops (giga floating point operations per second) of computing capacity. 

In addition, the 159.4 texture fillrate is the highest you will find.

There is a flaw to this fearsome GPU duo. 

Up until this point graphics card manufactures were careful to not surpass the recommended tdp (thermal design power) of 300 watts. 

However, the Amd Radeon Hd 6990 has completely smashed that rule with a tdp of 375 watts at stock settings. 

Unfortunately, it was necessary for Amd to do this in order to keep the graphics card cool enough. 

However, with great cooling power, comes not great responsibility, but great levels of noise. 

It is a shame that there is no way to convert that noise into energy. 

If there were a way, the Amd Radeon Hd 6990 would be the perfect graphics card. 

However, you will have to rely on your speakers to be louder than this card under load, or buy a water block for it. 

Either one should do the trick.

The Amd Radeon Hd 6990 gave each Gpu that it is sporting 2gb of gddr5 memory. 

The memory has an impressive clock speed of 2.5 ghz, which far outpaces all other graphics cards. 

The bottleneck on the memory is the bus width. 

Amd technology is still hanging on to the 256-bit standard they have had for the last couple of years. 

With a dual gpu system like this one, it is not as big of an issue because there are two of them, but it can still be improved. 

Thankfully, they more than doubled the memory bandwidth since the 5000 series cards.

Amd tech has implemented their typical line up of technology into the Amd Radeon Hd 6990. 

For parallel computing, their Stream and video processing uses Avivo Hd. 

Eyefinity is still their multi-display solution, and it is still amazing with its resolution potential capping out at 7680 x 3200. 

Wouldn't that take 6 monitors to achieve, you ask? Y

es, but that is exactly the potential offered by Eyefinity. 

Although buying that many monitors costs too much for most of us to enjoy, having it as an option to exploit is nice for when you, say, hit a mid-life crisis wall.

Is that all? 

Nope, there is a newcomer to AMD's list of software that they added to the 6000 series cards, and you can probably guess what it is for. If you guessed 3D, you win! It seems that everything is going 3D, and it was inevitable that Amd would design something to counter Nvidia's 3D technology. 

It is simply called Hd3d, and it comes standard on the Amd Radeon Hd 6990 with the intention of meeting all your 3D needs. 

We say that it is only an intention because it does not work for all 3d content. 

The market is split between Hd3d and Nvidia's own 3d technology. 

Few have managed to get their applications to work perfectly for both so far, which means you may or may not always have 3D as an option.

There are three major APIs (application programming interfaces) that are used in graphics and animation, all of which are supported by the AMD Radeon HD 6990. 

The first and foremost is DirectX. DirectX 11, the latest version, took a few major steps with tessellation and GPU processing. 

This AMD graphics card embraced these steps and has managed to rival Nvidia's abilities with processing high levels of tessellation. 

The other two major APIs are OpenGL and OpenCL, both of which are also used for enhancing programming flexibility, performance and functionality. 

The latest versions of both are supported on the AMD Radeon HD 6990.

Display Interface Connectors :

Until now, most graphics cards have stuck with the typical DVI connectors as the primary way to connect your monitor to your computer. 

However, the AMD Radeon HD 6990 only has one dual channel DVI. 

So what did they go with? 

Mini-DisplayPorts are the answer to that and not just one or two of them. 

AMD went the extra mile and added four mini-DisplayPort connectors, probably to more easily allow people to take advantage of the Eyefinity multi-screen technology. 

If neither the DVI nor the mini-DisplayPort connections work for you, do not fret because this graphics card comes with a variety of adapters for HDMI, VGA, etc.

Before buying this graphics card there are a few things you need to know about it that could potentially be problematic. 

First of all, the AMD Radeon HD 6990 requires a lot of power so you will probably want at least a 1,000-watt power supply with a mandatory two 8-pin power connectors. 

The other thing you need to know is that all this power means lots of heat. 

In order to disperse all that heat, AMD created a slightly different design that is both clever and bothersome.

Atop each GPU, there is a vapor-chamber-based heat sink with thermal paste between the two components. 

So far so good, but here is where the problem starts. 

Rather than placing the fan at the back of the graphics card and blowing all of the heat out the back of your case, they place the fan in between the two GPUs, which means 50 percent of the heat is blown into your case. 

This design is genius in the sense that it is much more effective at dispersing heat, but you absolutely have to have a case with excellent airflow or you will risk overheating issues.

To compound the problem, the AMD Radeon HD 6990 is 12 inches long. 

Naturally, you will have to have a case that can fit that, but since 50 percent of the heat has to be blown into your case, you will have to have a case large enough to give that exhaust plenty of room. 

If it barely fits in there, like other large graphics cards that are nearly pressed up against your hard drive cage, it will not work. 

Such a tight fit would restrict the hot air from be blown out and would end up frying your card.

Summary :

The Amd Radeon Hd 6990 has a lot of power when it comes to raw graphics processing. 

However, this graphics card is by no means the perfect, ultimate solution for every situation. 

It will do everything you want quickly and efficiently, but you have to have the right system and setup for it. 

Having a jet engine does you no good if you do not have the rest of the plane and the know how to fly it.

Support for driver downloads : Amd support