06.06.16 | ISSUE 42
The last few weeks have been dominated by some big news and announcements in the graphics industry. Gamers have cause to celebrate as NVIDIA has launched its next-generation GeForce 1080 and 1070 gaming graphics cards, while professionals have the Quadro M2000 graphics card to look forward to. Scan Pro Graphics has also been busy, developing a workstation rental program and being awarded Elite Solution Provided status for Professional Visualisation products by NVIDIA. We’ve also a hands-on report on Intel’s mini Skull Canyon PC CPU which sets a new performance standard for tiny PCs plus the world’s first 10-core desktop, read on to find out more.
1. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 review
After months of rumours and speculation, NVIDIA has announced its next generation gaming graphics cards, the GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070. The GTX 1080 is already on-sale, with the GTX 1070 coming very soon.
First, and most importantly both cards are based on a new architecture, codenamed Pascal and are made using a new 16nm FinFET process. This means the transistors are far smaller than in the current Maxwell generation GPUs such as the GTX 980, which are made using a 28nm process. In simple terms using smaller transistors means higher density GPUs with more processing power but with extremely low power consumption, thus giving greater levels of performance per watt than ever before.
The GTX 1080 has 2,560 CUDA cores, a big step up from the 2,048 of the GTX 980 plus they run much faster too, at 1,607MHz versus 1,126MHz while only having a little higher TDP of 180 versus 165W. The GTX 1080 is the first graphics card to make use of a new memory type – GDDR5X, which runs at 10Gbps, 30% faster than the standard GDDR5 you would find on the equivalent Maxwell card.
At the high resolutions such as 2560 x 1440 and 3840 x 2160 that it’s optimised for the GTX 1080 is around 46% faster than the GTX 980 Ti which is truly astounding. That said, while the GTX 1080 does deliver a silky smooth frame rate in most games at 4K it still struggles in a few games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider. Despite this amazing performance the GTX 1080 is very frugal when it comes to power consumption, with the reviewers at HEXUS finding that it drew just 229W when gaming, compared to 296W for a GTX 980 Ti.
While the GTX 1080 has arrived at a higher price point than the GTX 980 and GTX 980 Ti its outstanding performance has already made it a best seller, with the first batch of cards selling out within minutes of the launch. With more cards arriving every day, including overclocked models with custom coolers and Doom (4) proving surprisingly awesome it’s a great time to be a PC gamer. You can pick from a wide range of GTX 1080 cards on the Scan website, plus our range of configurable and pre-built ready-to-ship 3XS gaming PCs.
2. HTC Vive VR headset now available at Scan
For the last couple of months we’ve been running a virtual reality demo in the Scan showroom in which you can try out the awesome HTC Vive VR headset. You can book your personal demo by emailing [email protected]. However, if you don’t live in the north of England you can now order the HTC Vive from the Scan website. At £689 inc VAT you’ll save nearly £60 versus ordering the Vive directly from HTC. In our dedicated VR portal you can also find out more about the VR, including which graphics cards are best for VR and a range of VR Ready PCs.
3. Intel Skull Canyon mini PC review
Now that stock has arrived we wanted to have a play with it and share our findings with you.
First of all, as the pictures really don’t do it justice I’d like to make clear that the Skull Canyon really is tiny. It measures an extremely svelte 216 x 116 x 23mm, putting mini-ITX cases that can house a discrete graphics card to shame. For instance, theFractal Design Node 202 measures in at 377 x 82 x 330mm and so has a volume of 10 litres while the Skull Canyon has a volume of just 1 litre. The Skull Canyon looks good too, and is supplied with two tops, one with an engraved skull on the roof that will appeal to gamers and a plainer lid for office environments.
Powered by a Core i7 6770HQ, which is a Skylake-based quad-core chip running at between 2.6 and 3.5GHz, the Skull Canyon has a lot more processing power than the previously fastest NUC, the Rock Canyon. The latter is powered by the Core i7 5557U, which is a Broadwell-based dual-core chip running at between 3.1 and 3.4GHz. For instance, in the 3D rendering benchmark Cinebench the Skull Canyon was nearly twice as fast as the Rock Canyon, scoring a very credible 703 versus 356 for the older NUC.
What really makes the Skull Canyon special though it is integrated graphics. Known as Iris Pro 580, it has 72 execution units and 128MB of super-fast eDRAM memory versus the Iris 6100 graphics in the Rock Canyon which has 48 execution units and no local memory.
In our testing the Skull Canyon delivered a silky smooth 50–60fps in the popular online shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and a smooth 30-35fps in Borderlands 2. Both games were tested at maximum detail settings at 1,920 x 1080, and so these framerates are truly amazing for integrated graphics and far in excess of any other mini PC. However, we did see some LOD issues in Borderlands 2 with the high res version of a character’s textures not loading in till we got very close. Meanwhile the Skull Canyon achieved a score of 8,472 in the 3DMark Sky Diver benchmark, compared to just 4,037 for a Rock Canyon. That said the Skull Canyon is still a lot slower than discrete graphics cards such as theNVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti, which scored 14,281 in 3DMark Sky Diver or the GeForce GTX 950 which scored 20,168.
Skull Canyon also has a lot of merit as an entry-level workstation thanks to its support for three monitors. We tested it using the SPECviewperf 12.0.2 benchmark which measures the performance of the system using real world professional 3D graphics applications such as CATIA, Maya and Siemens NX. Performance in most applications was very impressive, in some cases exceeding that of an NVIDIA Quadro K420 discrete graphics card in applications such as Solidworks and CATIA. However, it was not a universal win for the Skull Canyon, with dismally poor performance in Siemens NX.
The Intel Skull Canyon marks a turning point for the industry as its first mini PC with integrated graphics that can play modern games smoothly at high detail settings. It also makes a credible entry-level graphics workstation. The Skull Canyon is available to order on the Scan website or pre-built and pre-configured as a 3XS system.
4. NVIDIA Quadro M2000 review
NVIDIA has given its mid-range Quadro graphics line-up a shot in the arm, replacing the ageing K2200 with a new card, the M2000. Aimed at high-end 2D and mid-range 3D applications the new M2000 card has 768 cores versus the 640 cores of the K2200. Both cards have 4GB of GDDR5, but the memory runs at a higher clock speed on the M2000, giving it 106GB/sec of bandwidth versus 80GB/sec for the K2200. Equipped with four DisplayPort outputs the M2000 can drive four 4K displays at once for maximum productivity.
We ran the industry-standard SPECviewperf 12.0.2 benchmark on both cards to see what the real world performance difference is between the two cards; the results shown as the fps (frames per second) with a higher number meaning a smoother more responsive experience.
|Graphics Card||Dassault CATIA V6 R2012||PTC Creo 2||Energy seismic rendering||Autodesk Maya 2013||Medical image rendering||Autodesk Showcase 2013||Siemens NX 8.0||Dassault Solid Works 2013 SP1|
As you can see the M2000 is considerably faster than the K2200 in all eight applications, proving on average 38% faster, making it very worthwhile step up in capability. The Quadro M2000 is available as a standalone upgrade or in our range of award-winning 3XS graphics workstations.
5. Scan 3XS workstations now available to rent
Sticking with the topic of professional PCs, award-winning Scan 3XS graphics workstations,audio workstations and video workstations are now also available to rent on a monthly basis. You can completely configure the workstations you want to rent, enabling you to expand processing power when you need it for special projects.
Renting a workstation gives you the ultimate flexibility, allowing you to increase processing power when you have a special project that requires a fast turn-around. Scan 3XS workstations are available for rental to business customers on a monthly basis, for up to 12 months. At the end of the rental period you have the option of buying the workstation at a discount or can upgrade to a new workstation to take advantage of the latest technology.
6. Elite Solution Provider for Professional Visualisation
We’re proud to announce that NVIDIA has recognised the work of Scan’s Professional Graphics division and has awarded us Elite Solution Provider status for Professional Visualisation products and solutions. Scan Pro Graphics offers the complete range of NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards plus our award-winning 3XS graphics workstations, which are available fully configurable in 3-5 days or pre-configured for next-day delivery.
7. Intel Core i7 Enthusiast, Broadwell E review
Intel’s Core i7 Enthusiasts chips based on the Haswell E architecture are getting a bit long in the tooth now, being launched back in the autumn of 2014. While Intel has decided not to upgrade the X99 chipset this year, it has just launched four new Core i7 Enthusiast processors.
The new CPUs are based on the Broadwell E architecture, which was first seen in the Xeon E5 2600 v4 series launched a couple of months ago for workstations and servers. The main improvement between Haswell E and Broadwell E is a die shrink, switching from 22nm transistors to smaller 14nm transistors, allowing Intel to squeeze more cores and cache memory into the new processors.
For instance, the new flagship CPU the Core i7 6950X is the first 10-core desktop CPU ever, with a massive 25MB of cache, while its predecessor the 5960X has 8 cores and 20MB of cache. The other three new processors are the 6900K with 8 cores and the 6850K and 6800K, which both have 6 cores.
Performance wise you’re looking at between a 7 and 13% performance increase from generation to generation with the exception of the 6950X which is much faster than the 5960X because it has two more cores. For example, while only running at 3GHz with a max turbo frequency of 3.5GHz and so not very compelling in lightly threaded applications the 6950X is a monster in heavily multithreaded applications such as 3D rendering and video processing with an 18% performance increase over the 5960X. Despite the increase in cores the new CPUs have lots of overclocking headroom too, with all the samples we tested able to reach 4.4GHz, although you’ll need a high-end heatsink or hydrocooler to keep the CPU cool.
If you run a lot of single-threaded applications then you’ll want to check out the new memorably named ‘Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0’ feature. Using a Windows application which identifies which is the fastest core in the CPU you can allocation individual executables to specific cores. However, when the reviewers at HEXUS tested the feature they measured a less than 5% performance increase in the single-threaded application PiFast. As such, you’re probably better still manually overclocking the CPU to maximise performance.
The new Broadwell E Core i7s are a welcome step up from the previous generation CPUs, especially with the introduction of the industry’s first 10-core desktop CPU. However, the 6950X comes at a significant premium, introducing a new £1,399 price point for a desktop CPU, making it only really suitable for high-end workstations. That said, the other Broadwell E Core i7s start at a much more palatable £369 making them a great choice for ahigh-end gaming or content creation system.
8. Free software bundle worth £220 with 3XS systems
We’ve teamed up with Intel to provide a stunning bundle of free software worth £220 when you buy select 3XS PCs and laptops with an Intel Core i7 processor. The bundle comprises four games, Rainbow 6, Warface, Final Fantasy XIV and Word of Tanks plus the content creation applications MAGIX Youcast, MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 2016 and MAGIX Samplitude Music Studio 2016. The free software bundle is available for a limited time only while stocks last on both configurable and pre-built ready-to-ship systems.
9. Introducing the RAID Full Motion Racing Simulator
A fast PC, a huge monitor and a steering wheel are one way to play a racing sim but to experience the true thrill of racing Scan has teamed up with VRX Simulators UK, the market leader in racing sims to bring the RAID Full Motion Racing Simulator to market.
The RAID full motion racing simulator provides an unparalleled racing experience. The three commercial-grade high-performance D-Box actuators provide motion in three degrees of freedom and support for 55 vehicles and 73 tracks. The driving controls are professional grade, equipment straight from the F1 teams’ laboratory. The driver’s cage is designed using authentic race car methods, a low bend radius tubular lightweight steel space frame encloses the driver to create a real ‘inside vehicle’ feel.
Other motion racing simulators on the market have been designed first as a non-motion product with the motion solution added later. The RAID system has been conceived to be a motion system that you sit in. The entire chassis vibrates, leans and dives as you throw it around the race track. All these feeling are communicated to you not just through the seat and driving controls, but also through the entire mass surrounding you.
You can find out more about the RAID Full Motion Simulator and our range of simulator PCs on the 3XS website.
10. AMD Radeon Pro Duo review
Even though AMD has a new graphics architecture arriving soon it has decided to squeeze out one last graphics card the Radeon Pro Duo based on its current architecture. Sporting two of the same GPUs you’d find on a R9 Fury X card, the Pro Duo is a true monster, having a grand total of 8,192 stream processors running at 1,000MHz and 8GB of HBM memory also running at 1,000MHz, all cooled by an integrated watercooler with a single 120mm-fan radiator.
However, determining the performance of dual-GPU cards is not as straightforward as adding up all the stream processors and RAM as games need a CrossFire profile to split the work across both GPUs. So far reviews of the Pro Duo are extremely thin on the ground but when reviewers such as PC Perspective and HotHardware took a look the news for AMD wasn’t good, with the Radeon Duo Pro being consistently outperformed by a pair of GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards in SLI in games such as Grand Theft Auto V, although the performance was close in games such as Far Cry Primal and Hitman Absolution.
AMD is also pitching the Radeon Duo Pro for creative professionals for tasks such as 3D rendering. However, according to the reviews a pair of GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards was 12% faster in the LuxMark ray tracing benchmarking than the Radeon Pro Duo and 27% faster in the FireRender ray tracing render plugin for 3ds Max.
You can check out the range of Radeon Pro Duo and GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards on our website.
11. AMD announces Polaris graphics cards
Just a short while later AMD also released some teaser information about its next generation graphics architecture, codename Polaris. The new architecture, which is still based on the GCN design is made using tiny 14nm FinFET transistors, so the new GPUs should consume much less power than the existing 28nm transistors used in the current AMD GPUs.
The first card to get the Polaris treatment is the Radeon RX 480 which is projected to go on-sale on June 29th. The RX 480 will have 2304 stream processors and either 4 or 8GB of GDDR5 compared to 1792 stream processors and 2 or 4GB in the existing R9 380. Despite the increase in processing power the RX 480 has a much lower TDP of 150W versus 190W for its predecessor, which bodes well for quieter gaming PCs.
12. Never miss a delivery again with Your DPD
If your plans change before your order from Scan arrives our courier partner DPD has a solution – its new Your DPD app. Available for Android and Apple devices, Your DPD allows you specify your delivery preferences, such as avoiding the school run or delivering to a specific neighbour. The app will also send you notifications of where the delivery driver is and inform you when they are 30 minutes from arriving with your Scan order. You can even rearrange your delivery right up until your order is delivered.
G-Sync really helps it to shine
The June issue of Custom PC has a big group test of gaming laptops which was won by the Scan 3XS LG15 Vengeance G-Sync, scoring 84% and a Premium Grade award.
The LG15 Vengeance G-Sync is a thin and light high-end gaming laptop with an Intel Core i7 6700HQ processor plus either a 6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M or 8GB GTX 980M graphics card plus NVIDIA G-Sync to ensure silky smooth gaming on the 15.6in 1920 x 1080 FullHD IPS screen. Configurable with your choice of RAM, storage and WiFi, Custom PC wrote that ‘G-Sync really helps it to shine. It isn't a feature to be underestimated or understated; it makes a big difference to the visual quality of games. This size enables you to get a big 15.6in screen, plenty of power and even some upgrade potential. However, it's G-Sync that's the killer feature... which is fantastic, eliminating tearing and stuttering artefacts from games.’
You can learn more and configure your own LG15 Vengeance G-Sync and view the complete range of 3XS gaming laptops on our website.