Category Archives: Gpus

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 video review: Behold, the GPU king

As far as video card upgrades go, there's a lot to love with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080. We called it "the upgrade you've been waiting for" in our full review. The GTX 1080 blows away last year's high-end cards, and even though it's $599 ($699 for the…

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

A substantial PC upgrade, or even a better workspace, doesn’t have to be a huge project that drains your time and energy. If you can order the parts, there are several worthwhile improvements you can make that’ll pay off big when it’s time to work (or play). Here are some of them.

10. Switch to a New, Better Case

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

This one’s for the PC builders out there. Even if you keep all of the same components, there’s nothing like a brand new case to give your computer—and your desk—a new lease on life. Maybe you’d like some more easily accessible USB ports, or maybe you bought a huge case back in the day and now you’d rather have a space-saving model.

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As long as you buy smart and don’t let a new case spiral into building a new PC, you can have your cake and eat it too. If you need some suggestions, we have our favorite PC cases here, and our favorite small form-factor PC cases here to get you started. You can (and should) also check out what the folks at Logical Increments suggests based on your budget, and what’s popular over on PCPartPicker.

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9. Upgrade Your Display

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

A new display, bigger display, or additional display can make all the difference in your productivity (or not, but it’ll definitely make your desk cooler.) Whether you’re rocking an old 22" display you’ve had forever, don’t even have an external display, or could use the screen real estate that a 4K display could offer, now’s a good time to upgrade.

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Even if you don’t want to go full 4K, there are plenty of affordable, large panels that could give you more room to work. You could always go with an ultrawide display instead of multiple panels, or you can pick up a large, solid budget LED display to give your desk a facelift and a utility boost.

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8. Get a New Keyboard and Mouse

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

You use your keyboard and mouse every day, and there’s no easier way to give yourself that “new computer” feeling than to upgrade them both. Sure, your PC’s innards will be the same as they’ve always been, but new peripherals, especially ones you’ve had your eyes on, can make a huge difference.

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If you’ve been using the keyboard and mouse that came with your computer, now’s a good time to upgrade to a new one. Maybe give a mechanical keyboard a try (we love them around here), or pick up a sleek new gaming keyboard (and mouse). They’re fun for play, sure, but they can also help you get real work done. If you need some mouse suggestions, we’ve always been big fans of Logitech’s Performance MX, but the new MX Master is a fitting successor to it. It’s not your only option, though!

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7. Upgrade your Graphics Card

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Again, this is for the desktop PC owners (and builders) here, but a graphics card upgrade can be a big improvement for a PC that’s starting to show its age (or slow down when you try to unwind and play some video games!) Of course, it’s not always a smart investment, so you should make sure you think hard before rushing out to buy whatever card everyone’s shouting about these days. Still, if yours is due for an upgrade and you’ll actually benefit from the upgrade, it’s easy to find even budget-friendly cards that will make the most of that new display we mentioned earlier, and speed up your system’s performance in your favorite games.

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6. Give Yourself the Gift of Better Audio

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Whether you like to listen to music, or you record audio for podcasts, streams, or just do the occasional Skype call or Hangout with coworkers, a new pair of speakers or headphones (and we have some suggestions in the headphone department,) and a microphone can go a long long way toward making sure your audio is crystal clear. Best of all, they don’t cost a fortune, and installation is easy enough to do in a couple of minutes.

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We’re big fans of the Blue Yeti, but if that’s not your style, here are some of our other picks. If you’re still not sure, check out our guide to choosing the best microphone for you, or check out some of our favorite headsets with attached microphones if that’s more your speed.

When it comes to speakers, you have plenty of options, from simple bookshelf speakers you can connect to anything, great desktop speaker systems designed for PCs, to full 5.1 surround systems. Choose what works for you and your space, but anything will be an upgrade over the speakers that came with your PC, or whatever’s built into your laptop.

5. Add a New, HD Camera

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

If you’re thinking about doing video streams, or just want your visuals to match the crystal clear audio you got from that last upgrade, a new camera is in order. Odds are whatever camera is built into your laptop may not be the best, and certainly isn’t adjustable. A new, HD-capable camera will make sure everyone can see you clearly and you’re not a fuzzy blob on-screen when you fire up a Skype call, or try to do a Google Hangout with friends or coworkers when you work from home. Worst case, if you don’t have a camera at all, you probably have a good one on your phone. We have guides to turn your iOS device or Android phone into a PC-connected webcam.

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4. Add More Convenient Power (Strips)

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

When you set up your desk the first time, odds are you didn’t include all the power you’d need to connect everything you have now. Maybe you added some power strips later, or worse, you’re daisy-chaining power strips together for some reason. Stop that and get yourself a good surge protector, or better yet, a good UPS to protect your gear. Then tack on a long, server-style power strip to connect to it and give you all the power you need for all your gear. It’s a better solution than big, bulky power strips hanging off the walls, and your cables will be easier to manage.

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3. Upgrade Your Power Supply

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

Now we’re getting serious. Upgrading your power supply may take a little time (no more than transplanting all of your gear to a new case, however!) but if you’re rocking the one that came with your case when you built your PC, one that’s way too underpowered for the gear you’ve crammed into your build, or you’re experiencing strange and quirky problems with your system, it might be time for an upgrade. Don’t expect to save money on energy though, that’s not what this is about—it’s about stability and giving you enough juice to run everything you want to run. Get thee to a power supply calculator and make sure the one you buy can support your system.

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2. Add more RAM

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

We’ve said before that most modern systems probably won’t benefit from more than around 4GB of RAM, but that doesn’t mean that yours won’t be an outlier. If you don’t have that much, or you do memory intensive tasks, high-end gaming, or use virtualization software to test software or experiment, you’ll need more—a lot more. For everyday use though, 16GB is the new ceiling. Plus, while RAM isn’t as cheap as it used to be, it’s still cheap enough that in some cases it makes more sense to just max out your motherboard and call it a day.

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However, just make sure you’re not spending more on RAM than you would on other, better and more valuable upgrades to your system. More RAM isn’t a silver bullet to better performance, but if your system is hurting for memory, you probably know it already, so full speed ahead.

1. Install an (or Upgrade Your) SSD

Top 10 PC and Workspace Upgrades You Can Do in an Afternoon

If you have a computer built at all in the past few years, your boot drive is probably already an SSD. That’s great! You may want another one—bigger SSDs are cheaper now than they’ve ever been, and even if you already have one, if it’s super old and slow, there’s nothing wrong with upgrading to a newer, faster one. Even if you have a laptop, your drive is probably easy to swap out and replace, and the benefits will show themselves the first time you reboot your machine.

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If you need some help picking a good one, here are some suggestions, and of course, you can always find some good picks at Logical Increments and make sure they’re compatible with your gear at PCPartPicker. When it comes time to actually do the installation, make sure you take your files and settings with you, and optimize it for performance.

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Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out our Weekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.

Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári. Photos by TJStamp, Brett Morrison, Kevin Pham, Matthew Keefe, yoppy, Murat Tanyel, danrock, Yutaka Tsutano, and Intel Free Press.

Nvidia unveils first Pascal graphics card, the monstrous Tesla P100

The first full-fat GPU based on Nvidia’s all-new Pascal architecture is here. And while the Tesla P100 is aimed at professionals and deep learning systems rather than consumers, if consumer Pascal GPUs are anything like it—and there’s a very good chance they will be—gamers and enthusiasts alike are going to see a monumental boost in performance.

The Tesla P100 is the first full-size Nvidia GPU based on the TSMC 16nm FinFET manufacturing process—like AMD, Nvidia has been stuck using an older 28nm process since 2012—and the first to feature the second generation of High Bandwidth Memory (HBM2). Samsung began mass production of faster and higher capacity HBM2 memory back in January. While recent rumours suggested that both Nvidia and AMD wouldn’t use HMB2 this year due to it being prohibitively expensive—indeed, AMD’s recent roadmap suggests that its new Polaris GPUs won’t use HBM2—Nvidia has at least taken the leap with its professional line of GPUs.

The result of the P100′s more efficient manufacturing process, architecture upgrades, and HBM2 is a big boost in performance over Nvidia’s current performance champs like the Maxwell-based Tesla M40 and the Titan X/Quadro M6000. Nvidia says the P100 reaches 21.2 teraflops of half-precision (FP16) floating point performance, 10.6 teraflops of single precision (FP32), and 5.3 teraflops (1/2 rate) of double precision. By comparison, the Titan X and Tesla M40 offer just 7 teraflops of single precision floating point performance.

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AMD GPU roadmap reveals HBM2-powered Vega and Navi

For the first time in a long time, AMD has an honest-to-goodness GPU product roadmap, and it names the company’s next two GPU architectures: Vega and Navi.

Revealed at this year’s Game Developers Conference during the AMD “Capsaicin” event, the roadmap is light on details, but it does hint at what the future might hold for AMD’s GPUs. For starters, Vega is due to arrive early in 2017, not long after the release of Polaris. Interestingly, the roadmap explicity calls out Vega’s use of HBM2 memory, a feature that was originally supposed to be a part of the upcoming Polaris architecture and used alongside traditional GDDR5 memory.

In an interview with PC Perspective, AMD’s Raja Koduri hinted that Polaris would instead use HBM1, rather than its more accomplished counterpart. Of particular concern is that current HBM1 implementations are limited to 4GB stacks—HBM2 can go as high as 16GB—which could carry over to Polaris. Given that GPU memory requirements have skyrocketed over the past year, that could put Polaris at a significant disadvantage, particularly when Nvidia has confirmed that at least some Pascal parts will use HBM2.

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AMD’s new Crimson drivers accused of burning up video cards

AMD announced its new Crimson drivers, replacing the Catalyst name and software, with great fanfare earlier this month. The first Crimson drivers are now out, and they appear to have a serious problem. There are widespread reports of cards overheating and perhaps even failing permanently.

It appears that the new driver is setting the video card fans to 20 percent and then leaving them there. Normally, the fan speed should increase as the GPU temperature goes up, but that is not happening with Crimson. Even during games and intensive workloads, the fans are sticking at 20 percent, allowing GPU temperatures to climb to more than 90° C. These high temperatures are causing poor performance due to thermal throttling, graphical glitches and crashes, and some users are reporting permanent hardware damage. Although the GPU itself throttles when it overheats, there’s speculation that other components on the cards, such as the VRMs, can still be damaged.

AMD has acknowledged the fan speed issue and says that a hot fix will be published today. This is unlikely to be any great comfort to those whose cards have bitten the dust, and it makes for an inauspicious debut for AMD’s new driver. This is, however, not a problem unique to AMD; in 2010, Nvidia published a driver update that had a similar fan controller issue that led to cards overheating and in some cases breaking entirely. Another Nvidia release in 2013 also yielded complaints of overheating and video card destruction.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

AMD Radeon Software Crimson: A new name and a new look for Catalyst

AMD is taking the fight directly to Nvidia with the long-overdue launch of a new driver software package and UI. Called Radeon Software Crimson, the new software replaces the old AMD Catalyst Control Center (CCC) with a flat modern UI, and simplified menus. Most importantly, AMD is promising that a new major version of the software will be released every year, with minor versions arriving every month. Each new major version will have a different, colour-themed name. The software is due to roll out later this year.

Crimson has been developed in QT, a cross-platform application framework that AMD says is much quicker than the old .NET framework CCC used to use. It claims that start-up time has been reduced from eight seconds to 0.6 seconds on a mid-performance AMD E-350-based laptop; high-end desktops will be even faster. Crimson is the first in a number of software changes that AMD is implementing following the restructuring of its graphics group into the Radeon Technologies Group under the leadership of Raja Koduri.

For now, AMD is only talking about the UI changes in Crimson, which is dramatically different from the old CCC. (More will be revealed about underlying driver changes at a later date, but AMD was vague about when that might be.) The new flat design features five tabs at the top for Gaming, Video, Display, Eyefinity, and System, while then buttons at the bottom for Updates, Preferences, and Notifications. In the middle, taking up the lion’s share of the window, there’s a carousel that displays announcements and promotions about games when not being used to display settings.

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AMD unveils R9 Fury X, Fury, and Nano graphics cards

There’s not one, not two, but three brand new high-end graphics cards on the way from AMD. As rumoured, AMD is dropping the numerical branding and is instead grouping its top cards under the “Fury” banner. All are based on its new Fiji chip, which is a tweaked version of the company’s long-standing GCN architecture, and—as expected—all will come equipped with 4GB of stacked, on-package high bandwidth memory (HBM).

The flagship is the $649 R9 Fury X, which launches on June 24. At that price, it is pitched directly against Nvidia’s GTX 980 Ti. It features 4096 stream processors—a huge jump over the 2816 stream processors found in the R9 290X—”up to” 1050MHz core clock, 256 texture units, 64 ROPs, HBM memory with 512 GB/s of bandwidth, a 67.2 GP/s pixel fill rate, and a six-phase VRM (voltage regulator module), which AMD claims is ideal for overclocking the card. We don’t yet have UK pricing, but it’ll probably be around £550.

Despite using two 8-pin power connectors, the Fury X’s power consumption isn’t as high as some feared: the TDP is 275W, just a tad higher than the R9 290X’s, although it’s worth bearing in mind that in real-world usage, the R9 290X was much closer to 300W. The Fury X supports up to 375W of power for overclocking.

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Exploring DirectX 12: 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test

This week the benchmarking gurus over at Futuremark are releasing their own first run at a DirectX 12 test with their latest update for the 3DMark benchmark. Futuremark has been working away at DirectX 12 for some time – in fact they were the first partner to show DirectX 12 code in action at Microsoft’s 2014 DX12 unveiling – and now they are releasing their first DirectX 12 project.

In keeping with the general theme of the demos we’ve seen so far, Futuremark’s new DirectX 12 release is another proof of concept test. Dubbed the 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test, this benchmark is a purely synthetic benchmark designed to showcase the draw call benefits of the new API even more strongly than earlier benchmarks. Whereas Star Swarm was a best-case scenario test within the confines of a realistic graphics workload, the API Overhead Feature Test is a proper synthetic benchmark that is designed to test one thing and one thing only: how many draw calls a system can handle. The end result, as we’ll see, showcases just how great the benefits of DirectX 12 are in this situation, allowing for an order of magnitude’s improvement, if not more.

Exploring DirectX 12: 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test

This week the benchmarking gurus over at Futuremark are releasing their own first run at a DirectX 12 test with their latest update for the 3DMark benchmark. Futuremark has been working away at DirectX 12 for some time – in fact they were the first partner to show DirectX 12 code in action at Microsoft’s 2014 DX12 unveiling – and now they are releasing their first DirectX 12 project.

In keeping with the general theme of the demos we’ve seen so far, Futuremark’s new DirectX 12 release is another proof of concept test. Dubbed the 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test, this benchmark is a purely synthetic benchmark designed to showcase the draw call benefits of the new API even more strongly than earlier benchmarks. Whereas Star Swarm was a best-case scenario test within the confines of a realistic graphics workload, the API Overhead Feature Test is a proper synthetic benchmark that is designed to test one thing and one thing only: how many draw calls a system can handle. The end result, as we’ll see, showcases just how great the benefits of DirectX 12 are in this situation, allowing for an order of magnitude’s improvement, if not more.

Exploring DirectX 12: 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test

This week the benchmarking gurus over at Futuremark are releasing their own first run at a DirectX 12 test with their latest update for the 3DMark benchmark. Futuremark has been working away at DirectX 12 for some time – in fact they were the first partner to show DirectX 12 code in action at Microsoft’s 2014 DX12 unveiling – and now they are releasing their first DirectX 12 project.

In keeping with the general theme of the demos we’ve seen so far, Futuremark’s new DirectX 12 release is another proof of concept test. Dubbed the 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test, this benchmark is a purely synthetic benchmark designed to showcase the draw call benefits of the new API even more strongly than earlier benchmarks. Whereas Star Swarm was a best-case scenario test within the confines of a realistic graphics workload, the API Overhead Feature Test is a proper synthetic benchmark that is designed to test one thing and one thing only: how many draw calls a system can handle. The end result, as we’ll see, showcases just how great the benefits of DirectX 12 are in this situation, allowing for an order of magnitude’s improvement, if not more.