07.04.17 | ISSUE 49
Spring is finally here but there is still a great reason to stay inside thanks to the launch of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti graphis card, which delivers a whole new level of performance at a much more affordable price than previous high-end graphics cards. Read on to find out more, while also learning about the Corsair One gaming PC.
1. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080Ti review
Since NVIDIA started shipping the first Pascal based graphics cards in mid 2016 there’s been an explosion of new models, ranging all the way from the diminutive GTX 1050 with 640 cores all the way up to the mighty TITAN X and Tesla P100, each with 3584 cores.
However, with a price tag of over £1200, the TITAN X while ludicrously fast, especially for GPU-intensive workloads such a deep learning, was only practical for gamers with extremely deep pockets. Fortunately, NVIDIA has followed the same launch pattern as it did with the last few TITANs, and followed it up with a more amenably-priced Ti version.
The new GeForce GTX 1080 Ti has the same headline feature as TITAN X, with that magic figure of 3584 cores, although in the 1080 Ti they noticeable faster, at 1481MHz compared to 1417MHz in TITAN X. There are a few changes under the bonnet though, such as reducing the width of the memory controller from 384-bits to 352-bits, the RAM from 12GB to 11GB of GDDR5X, the ROPs from 96 to 88 and the L2 cache from just over 3MB to 2.8MB. However, if you work it out, despite the reduction in the width of the memory controller, as the RAM runs at a higher frequency on 1080 Ti, it has more memory bandwidth than TITAN X, with 484GB/sec versus 480GB/sec.
This win some lose some in hardware Top Trumps between the 1080 Ti and TITAN X results in very close performance between the cards. For instance, when we benchmarked the two cards together in one of our 3XS gaming PCs, in Doom (2016) at 4K both cards delivered a silky smooth frame rate close to 100fps, with only 3fps difference between them. The performance difference was even smaller in Battlefield 1 at 4K, with the 1080 Ti averaging 73fps and the TITAN X an almost identical 72fps. The new Ghost Recon Wildlands game proved more of challenge, but even then both cards delivered a smooth 52fps at 4K.
I’m not a big fan of synethic benchmarks such as 3DMark, but for reference the 1080 Ti scored 20,585 in FireStrike with the TITAN X scoring 20,888. Meanwhile in Time Spy the 1080 Ti scored 8588 and the TITAN X scored 8243.
So what does this all mean in terms of choice? Well, anybody who wanted a faster card than a GTX 1080 but hasn’t bought a TITAN X should be extremely pleased as the 1080 Ti is just as fast and a hell of a lot cheaper. The first 1080 Ti’s to go on-sale are Founders Edition cards, retailing from £699, nearly half the price of TITAN X. Yes, it is still a pricey graphics card, but in relative terms its outstanding value for money, giving you silky smooth frame rates at 4K or VR at a fraction of the price of other graphics cards.
Unlike TITAN X, you’ll also see unique designs from AIC manufacturers soon, with custom PCBs and coolers that should be even cooler, quieter and faster.
2. Corsair One review
Corsair already makes a lot of the core components for a gaming PC, such as cases, power supplies, coolers, memory and SSDs, so its totally logical to assemble them together a build a complete system. The One is just that, a complete gaming PC, including Windows 10, so all you have to do is plug it into the mains and start gaming.
Built inside a small form factor case that is compact and smart enough to sit on your desk, the Corsair One measures 176 x 380 x 200mm, so is a lot more compact than a traditional ATX gaming PC. This is made possible by a clever internal design that stacks many of the components vertically, with the motherboard at the bottom parallel with the graphics card with the PSU and exhaust fan mounted above. The CPU is kept cool by a watercooling loop with a fanless radiator on the right side while the graphics card is either air-cooled or watercooled with a fanless radiator depending on which model you choose.
Two models are available, the standard One which features a Core i7 7700, 16GB of RAM, air-cooled GeForce GTX 1070, 240GB SSD and 1TB HDD, and the Plus which upgrades the CPU to the Core i7 7700K and the graphics to a watercooled GeForce GTX 1080 and a larger 480GB SSD.
The Corsair One has already been extensively reviewed in the media, being praised for its low noise. And despite in essence having no direct airflow passing over the radiators for either the CPU or GPU temperatures aren’t too much of a concern either.
The only potential downside to the compact design is that although there is a M.2 slot on the motherboard, both versions of the One ship with standard SATA drives rather than super-fast PCI-E M.2 drives. What’s more, opening up the case invalidates the warranty. However, you will be able to return your One to Scan to be upgraded without affecting the warranty, so there is a solution to this limitation.
The Corsair One and One Pro gaming PCs are available from Scan, with prices start from £1799 inc VAT.
3. Intel Xeon E3 1200 v6 CPUs launched
Intel has just given the Kaby Lake treatment to its range of affordable Xeon E3 1200 v6 processors for entry-level single-socket servers. The new Kaby Lake models have a v6 on the end to help distinguish them from the older v5 Skylake models.
Being Kaby Lake, pretty much any existing server with a Xeon E3 1200 v5 could be upgraded to a v6 processor, giving you more performance thanks to an increase in clock speed and some architectural improvements. However, not every model will provide the same upgrade. For instance, the entry-level 1220 v5 and v6 both run at 3GHz, while the high-end 1280 v6 has an extra 200MHz over the 1280 v5.
Still, despite the small performance increase, if you’re considering a new server it makes to specify one of the new Xeon E3 1200 v6 processors, which are now available to buy standalone on in one our award-winning 3XS systems.
4. Zen based Opteron CPUs revealed
AMD had always planned for its new Zen architecture to be suitable for lots of different types of computing device, and has just officially released the first solid details of the first Zen—based server CPU.
Resurrecting the old Opteron brand that was so succesfully back in the early 2000’s, the first Zen based Opterons are codenamed Naples. Featuring up to 32 physical cores plus a further 32 virtual cores curtesy of SMT, a Naples system would have a lot more cores than a server using Intel Xeon E5 CPUs, as these currently top out at 22 physical cores plus 22 virtual HyperThreaded cores per processor.
Naples also looks very promising when it comes to memory bandwdith too, thanks to a unique 8-channel memory controller, again a massive upgrade over current Xeon E5s which have quad-channel memory. There is also a lot of I/O to go around too, with 64 PCI-E lanes per CPU, a big step up from Xeon E5s which have up to 40 lanes.
At this stage AMD hasn’t released any information about clock speeds and core configurations, but as the Naples-based Opterons are due for release in Q2 this year it shouldn’t be too long till such information is available.
5. Broadcast video expo show report
Scan Pro Video has been busy, inviting attendees at the recent Broadcast Video Expo to experience the most challenging workflow from 8K raw to VR 360 rendering using Adobe Premiere Pro, Assimilate Scratch and Davinci Resolve on our flagship bespoke 3XS Evolve NLE 8K workstation. Powered by Intel Xeon CPUs and NVIDIA Quadro graphics graphics from PNY the 3XS Evolve NLE 8K system delivers rock solid performance.
Also at BVE 2017 Scan, Adobe and MediaCity Training collaborated on an exceptional opportunity for attendees to explore the deep integration between Adobe CC applications. Using Adobe’s powerful, industry leading software on Scan 3XS Pro Video workstations, MediaCity Training can provide intensive, bespoke training sessions for all skill levels, from complete beginner to professionals transferring from another NLE.
6. Sonnet rolls out Thunderbolt 3 external GPU box
Perhaps better known by Mac than PC users, Sonnet's Thunderbolt expansion products have been a boon to Mac Pro users lacking traditional expansion options in recent years, enabling the use of pro audio I/O and DSP cards, pro video capture and transcoding cards, network and storage interface cards, and other high-performance PCI-E cards such as RedRocket X.
With the wider adoption of Thunderbolt 3 on PC laptops and desktop systems, Sonnet is gaining wider appeal. Whilst recently updating its Echo Express, SF3 card readers and 10GbE range, one piece of news that piqued our interest was the announcement that at NAB next month Sonnet will unveil a Thunderbolt 3 to PCI-E expander, the eGFX Breakaway Box, designed specifically for bandwidth-intensive graphics applications. This chassis supports every Thunderbolt 3-compatible PCI-E card, and is the first Sonnet chassis that (officially) supports graphics cards.
External PCI-E expansion solutions have been around for a long time, allowing multiple GPUs and PCI-E I/O cards to be housed outside of the main system when internal slots get filled up. The eGFX Breakaway Box isn’t meant as a replacement for these high-end products. It’s more like a portable solution that boosts graphics performance when you’re away from the desktop by giving users the ability to connect a high-performance graphics card or other PCI-E card to a Thunderbolt 3-equipped, eGFX-compatible laptop or other computer.
The new Sonnet system may have broader appeal to Pro users as well because it’s the coolest running and quietest external GPU box we’ve ever tested. It achieves that feat with a built-in, variable-speed, temperature-controlled fan. On-set colourists, DITs, editors and digital creatives working with VR in the field, who can harness the plug-and-play GPU acceleration offered by the eGFX Breakaway Box, will love it. But let’s not sideline the gamers out there; they will also experience improved performance compared to a laptop with integrated Intel graphics.
"The leaps in 3D performance are quite astounding"
Develop3D took a look at one of first Pro Graphics workstations to feature the brand new NVIDIA Quadro P4000 graphics card.
According to the review ‘Scan has produced another solid overclocked quad core workstation. It is powerful, quiet and well built. While many of the Scan workstations we get in for review focus purely on 3D CAD, this new model ups the ante by being able to deliver the mandatory 90FPS in a wide range of professional VR applications. Don’t be fooled by the name, this is a serious 3D workstation. The leaps in 3D performance are quite astounding.’
This graphics workstation can be configured online and is deliverable in just five working days.