2016 Recap – The year of mid-range GPUs and DirectX12

Published: 31st Dec 2016, 15:45 GMT

2016 is almost over, so it’s time for a small recap.

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The best things that happened in 2016

NVIDIA FastSync

I want to start with FastSync. It’s a technology that is meant to fix the problem of tearing and frame pacing. A better VSync so they say. It is indeed something that we would’ve expected 10 years ago, but it might’ve arrived too late as most gaming monitors now support either G-Sync of FreeSync. FastSync is a good compromise between V-Sync and G-Sync, but it’s not perfect. It is said that much higher framerate is required than a refresh rate of your monitor to fully benefit from this technology. Personally, I’m still a V-Sync guy and still prefer it over FastSync. This gives me lag, but at least the GPU is not slaughtered by the game engine to render frames that are not even used.

Check this video from Battle(non)sense about FastSync.


Growing popularity of ultrawide monitors

2016 might have been the first year when Ultra-Wide monitors became popular among enthusiast. Owners of the Ultra-wide monitors are very pleased with their purchases. UW eliminates the problem of multi-monitor setup configuration (well maybe except the guy who took the picture above).

According to the Steam HW Survey, 1920×1080 monitors are still the most popular among gamers (38%), but multi-monitor (2x 1920×1080) configurations still represent 30% of all Steam gamers. Do you see where this is going? It is unlikely that all of sudden all those gamers will shift to ultra-wide, but in few years the choice will be much simpler.

By far the biggest issue with ultra-wide is the price, that’s unless you are fine with 2560×1080 resolution.

The picture was taken from this YouTube video. Check this thread at Overclockers.co.uk about Ultra-wide monitors.


Mobile graphics cards are no longer slower than desktop variants

Mobile graphics cards are finally (almost) just as fast as their desktop counterparts and some even received more CUDA cores (GTX 1070M).

This required new MXM format to be developed because MXM specification only allows 100W to be delivered to the GPU. While mobile GeForce ships almost identical specifications to its desktop variants, we still can’t say that they offer identical performance, because there are thermal and power limitations that are only present in laptops.

So could we say that laptops are slowly joining the PCMasterRace? We can now replace GPU, CPU (some even support desktop processors), SSD, RAM, and what’s also interesting, you can even attach water-cooling now. It’s a great progress over the years. But unfortunately, those solutions are still far too expensive.

Picture was taken from ComputerBase article.


Asynchronous launch of DirectX12 Games and DirectX12 GPUs

I think this might be the most important thing that happened in 2016. DirectX12 is becoming a popular API among developers. Here’s the list of all games that brought DX12 support along with them:

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Hitman
  • The Division
  • Ashes of the Singularity
  • Quantum Break
  • Total War Warhammer
  • Deus Ex Mankind Divided
  • Forza Motorsport 6 Apex
  • Halo 5 Forge
  • Forza Horizon 3
  • Gears of War 4
  • Battlefield 1
  • Civilization VI

The Steam Survey reveals that 71% of all GPUs support DX12. Whether that’s a full support of DX12 or not, is not clear. But one thing is certain, there is simply no excuse for developers to make exclusive DX11 games anymore. The transition to DX12 should be even more visible next year.

However, there are still few problems with DX12. The first one is obviously the questionable performance gain on high-end platforms. There is no denying that DX12 helps to improve performance for mid-range and low-end systems, but the better your system is, the less likely are you to see any difference. There’s also an issue with Asynchronous Compute, which is without a doubt better supported by AMD GPUs. This gave AMD an upper hand when DX12 game engines were taking full advantage of this technology. NVIDIA will likely bright full AC support with Volta, so AMD still has the chance to regain share in high-end GPU market with Vega launching next quarter.


AMD finally has good drivers

For AMD users, this is the best thing that happened in 2016.Game ready drivers,

Game ready drivers, overclocking tool called Wattman, Shadowplay-clone called ReLive or completely redesigned UI. Everyone has its own favorite thing about Crimson.


Affordable 6GB+ cards

Both vendors finally brought 6GB/8GB cards at a reasonable price. AMD RX 480 and GTX 1060 6GB are available for 250 USD. That’s a huge step forward from 3GB/4GB cards we were using just 2 years ago. Higher frame buffers simply mean you can enjoy your games at better quality, and above all, enjoy your cards for a little longer, till it’s really necessary to upgrade.


GDDR5X and HBM2

NVIDIA was the first company to bring GDDR5X and HBM2 products to the market. Tesla P100 launch was pure marketing stunt no different than most paper launches we have seen in the past, but after few months those cards were finally delivered to first customers. Teslas are not really meant for anything even remotely close to gaming, but they exist and show promising HBM2 technology in action.

Meanwhile, GDDR5X technology, allows high-end GPU production costs to be lower, simply because GDDR5X is compatible with GDDR5. We surely expect to see more GDDR5X cards next year.


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In this part, we are going to talk about stuff that was meant to bring something good but turned out to be disappointing. 


Experience NVIDIA in 3.0

You may not know this, but our site was designed to offer a simplified design, which was inspired by Windows Metro style. That was 2 years ago and since then this approach in web design was widely adopted by many other sites and applications. You may even find this approach present in the latest GeForce Experience and even Radeon Settings applications. In fact. that was one of the biggest changes in GeForce Experience 3.0.

However. Experience 3.0 also generated a lot of controversies. Especially by requiring users to create their online accounts, something that was mocked by the Red Team just a few weeks ago with ReLive launch.

NVIDIA is not exactly the first company you would consider to handle your personal data, as their forums were hacked 4 years ago, and then quietly reopened, leaving a lot of questions what exactly had happened.

Gamer Nexus took a closer look at what data is being transferred between your computer and NVIDIA servers when using Experience 3:

GPU specification & vendor, GPU clock speed / overclocks, Monitor and display resolution, Driver settings for specific games (e.g. G-Sync toggling, type of anti-aliasing used), Resolution, quality settings for specific games, Games and applications installed (e.g. Origin, Steam, Counter-Strike: GO, Overwatch), Memory capacity, CPU specification, BIOS revision and motherboard. Yet, there is no option to disable this without breaking Experience. But a vast majority of users need Experience only for ShadowPlay, not game optimization.

So nothing that important for your privacy. Yet, there is no option to disable this without breaking Experience.


MSI sending ‘modified’ samples to reviewers

This story broke out shortly after the GTX 1080 launch. As it turned out MSI was sending ‘slightly’ modified cards to the press. The MSI GAMING App gives you the option to choose between three overclocking modes. Retail cards were shipping with GAMING mode enabled, whereas the review samples were using OC Mode by default. In an official statement, MSI confirmed that their samples were indeed modified, but the only reason for that upgrade was to make reviewers work “easier” (so they didn’t have to switch between overclocking profiles). Right..


NVIDIA & GIGABYTE Giveaways

Who does not like giveaways? Free high-end GPU or brand new computer with just a few clicks really does wonders for social media account popularity. However, not all giveaways have a happy ending. NVIDIA, in particular, is known for taking weeks, sometimes months to deliver their prizes. It may be extremely frustrating, especially when your request is ignored by the company and leave you wondering why do you even have to fight for your prize in the first place? Just check this Reddit thread to learn more how you may be treated when you are selected as a winner. But if you think that a delay is the worst of your problems, then you should really consider taking part in Gigabyte giveaways.

This long thread at Reddit proves that not only the prize can be changed after you are declared a winner, but you may actually be ignored by PR representatives afterwards.


No high-end Radeons

I think this might be the most disappointing part of 2016 for me. This year AMD decided to focus on a mid-range segment to boost their market share (a reasonable choice from a business perspective) while sacrificing the trust of enthusiast to stick to Fiji while we await Vega. Fiji is not a bad product, it simply is not enough to keep most devoted fans around, when faster and more power efficient solutions are being delivered by the competition.

Simplified Radeon RX lineup, probably one of the best decisions for AMD this year, has clearly helped customers decide what card should they get. Hopefully, AMD will follow this trend next year, and even better if potential reappearance of Fury series will not translate into a higher price tag. We need AMD to compete, not just to be an alternative.


NVIDIA Founders Editions and TITAN X Pascal

Founders Editions are probably the worst decision NVIDIA has made in a long time. High-quality reference models, which are essentially what all reference models were to this day, only to be sold at a premium price? Do you remember the confusion when no one really knew what these cards are? Why they were more expensive? Because they were using chips selected in silicon lottery? Nope. Those were the same chips you can find on cheaper, yet better-equipped custom cards.

For NVIDIA Founders Edition cards are essentially a new way of making a profit, simply by selling cards directly from official channel. Of course, you can still buy Founders Edition from Add-in-Board partners, but that does not apply to all models.

Meet TITAN X. A card that is part of GeForce series has GeForce logo but is not named after GeForce (!?). This card is not sold by AIBs, it’s exclusive to NVIDIA. AIBs simply have no way of selling GP102 GPUs at this time.

So what’s TITAN X? Well, you may not agree with me, but TITAN X is simply an overpriced premium card for early adopters.

I love this card, and I hate it at the same time. It unlocks new levels of performance but keeps it exclusive only to those who can afford it (and there aren’t that many people who will spend 1200 US dollars on a GPU).


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The biggest fails of 2016

AMD RX 480 PCI-E power consumption

A problem that should have never happened. Did someone forget to measure how much power is being consumed by the graphics card? How could no one have discovered this problem before launch? Well, it did happen and left a huge mark on how we remember RX 480 launch.

The graphics card was simply using too much power from PCI-Express slot (more than 75W), which clearly violated PCI specifications. Fortunately, the fix was rather simple and was delivered in a form of a new driver (phew!).

You can find the sources of those images and comments from reviewers in our story about this issue from June.


EVGA GTX 10 Series thermal issues

Black screen, freezes, exploding capacitors, fire coming out of your graphics card during live stream.. those are not the things you expect to see after paying hundreds of dollars for your card. But those things did happen and they happened to those who bought EVGA graphics cards. Few models were confirmed to affected by this problem, a problem which eventually led to a higher temperature of VRM sections.

EVGA later issued new BIOSes for affected cards, which were meant to fix this issue simply by changing fan curvature. In my opinion owners of affected cards should still consider this rather as a workaround and apply (so-called optional) thermal pads anyway, which are offered by EVGA for free.

Some say that EVGA should’ve issued a recall on all cards that were confirmed to be affected. EVGA did not issue a recall, but they offered free cross-shipping for those who did not feel comfortable applying thermal pads themselves.

All cards currently sold by EVGA are not affected by this problem. This did, however, leave a huge mark on EVGA reputation.


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 & GTX 1050 users forget about SLI!

This is probably the worst thing that happened in 2016, simply because it was intentional. NVIDIA removed SLI fingers from GTX 1060 and GTX 1050 cards only to avoid losing profit from GTX 1070/1080 sales. Two GTX 1060s, being sold at 250 USD each, could easily affect the price tag of GTX 1080, while offering similar performance (at least in applications that support SLI).

You see SLI support is not really that good, even some AAA titles still lack support for SLI and if they do, performance is not really that great. But this is not about SLI support, this is about the choice that was taken from customers without their approval. Why does Radeon RX 460 still support CF, while no sane person would use it in CrossFire? Maybe someone wants to break a new RX 460 CF world record or wants to test a new game with the card borrowed from a friend? Well, it doesn’t really matter, because no longer you have this option with GeForce 1060/1050.


What to expect from 2017

We are already looking forward to CES 2017, which starts on January 5th. NVIDIA started teasingsomething big‘ coming on January 5th (so just when Jen-Hsun is taking the stage for his keynote). That could be highly anticipated GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

We do not expect any new cards from AMD at CES though. It’s more likely that Raja Koduri will host another Capsaicin-styled event at GDC 2017 in February. This is where Vega should finally make its appearance in multiple forms.

What will 2017 bring for GPU enthusiasts apart from new high-end solutions? My predictions are rather simple, rising popularity of HBM/GDDR5X products, ‘affordable’ ultra-wide & HDR monitors, new GPU world records and even more bizarre graphics card designs.


Anyway, stay tuned for more GPU-related stuff in 2017. VC crew wishes you a Happy New Year. 

 


by WhyCry & SMiThaYe

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