The tale of my AMD FX-9590 Easter-PC

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I usually never participate in sweepstakes. Last Easter I decided to participate in a sweepstake promoted on the AMD Facebook page for a change. The chellange was to find hidden easter eggs on an online shop and then put together a word from the letters on the eggs. I figured out the word (the riddle wasn’t easy for sure) and sent it in for the drawing. Surprisingly I won a high-end AMD PC worth 1900 Euro built by a German computer manufacturer that I don’t want to mention because I don’t want any bad press for them. After all they have been really nice to me. It just took some time till I had the PC running… like 3-4 months ūüėČ Initially the PC, an AMD FX-9590 based water cooled rig in a stylish white Corsiar 600T case arrived with

a.) a totally broken graphics card that turned out to be a 7970 instead of a R9 290X

b.) a H80i Corsair water cooler running at maximum RPM not throttling down being loud as hell and

c.) a missing SSD that was on the specs.

You can’t imagine the disappointment. I never won something that expensive and that broken!

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The company where I won the PC sent me a new graphics card as a replacement that was finally a R9 290X as listed on the specs. Unfortunately it either wasn’t really new (it didn’t come in a package but just in a foil bag – later they claimed it was from a bulk buy) or the reference design fan couldn’t cope with the heat of the GPU reaching 95¬į C on full load. After a week it stopped working correctly and artifacts showed up after booting from time to time. Meanwhile I found out why the water cooler was running so loud. The person who assembled the computer forgot to connect the water cooler pump heatsink element sitting on the CPU with the mainboard via an USB cable. While trying to plug in the wrong cable in it I broke the socket of the USB connector but the manufacturer sent me a completely new water cooler. That was reall nice by them. So far so good… The water cooler was still not throttling down. It turned out the Corsair Link software for the fan control is incompatible with Windows 8.1 that came with the PC. I had to manually change some entries in the registey after finding the solution on a forum. There I was now with a SSD, a new water cooler I managed to mount and get running properly and a randomly working graphics card. Of course the company where I won the PC promised to change the parts for free. I got a shock when they sent me a collection letter and thought I would need to give this case to a lawyer. It turned out to be a mistake. Then they sent me an all new R290 (no R290X) but one that was much better because it had 2 fans, a PowerColor Radeon R9 290 TurboDuo. This one came in a package and worked flawlessly. When using the PC for gaming I noticed freezes after 1-2 hours of playing. It turned out the CPU needs a more aggressive water cooler than the H80i but I was able to create a custom profile that runs on slow and silent 1000-1500 RPM in idle mode and moderately loud high 2000-2700 RPM in games while keeping the CPU stable at 4,7 GHz (depending on the room temperature).

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Generally speaking the PC has an outstanding performance that runs every game in stereoscopic 3D on at least 30 fps via Tridef and everything else in normal 3D on rock solid 60 fps on maxed out settings. It’s not very silent but you can get used to it. The noise level is barable in my opinion. As the AMD FX-9590 is the last of it’s kind in the lost arms race with Intel it’s a special feeling owning such a machine. The CPU wars in future won’t be fought in the high-end segment for gaming rigs! AMD lost the race there but placed their APUs in the PS4 and XB1 next-gen consoles. The CPU wars of the future will be fought in the tablet and mobile segment!

This PC might be even my last true Desktop rig. As an AMD fanboy maybe I’ll get a nice Kaveri Notebook with an AMD FX-7600P or A10-7300 APU for content creation and coding on Windows or Linux and a PlayStation 4 running an AMD APU for gaming. Intel will keep staying outside my Android tablets BTW… No matter how much they pay the tablet makers there is nothing better than an ARM SoC!

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Stereoscopic 3D with AMD HD3D and an Acer GR235Hbmii

This hot piece of Taiwanese hardware is my new monitor. It’s a 23‚ÄĚ gaming monitor with stereoscopic 3D using polarization technology. My verdict after a few months of using it? It’s for sure worth the money! The Acer is currently priced around 170 Euro and is not only ‚Äú3D ready‚ÄĚ it IS ‚Äú3D enabled‚ÄĚ even for AMD users (like me) as you connect the monitor via HDMI 1.4a and this allows using native AMD HD3D support (i.e. in games like Battlefield 3, Dirt 3, Deus Ex Human Revolution) or running TriDef for other or older games.

There are a few confusing and misleading specs floating around the interwebs so let me clarify:

  • Make no mistake, this not 120Hz! It runs 60Hz or 75Hz in 2D and 23Hz in AMD HD3D mode.
  • The TriDef driver IS included and supported.

Pros:

  • Low price
  • Low input lag and response time
  • Nice design
  • Feels large even as a 23‚ÄĚ monitor
  • Supports AMD (former ATI) graphic cards via AMD HD3D and TriDef
  • The polarization 3D glasses don’t need any batteries and are thus are not heavy
  • You can use any polarization 3D glasses, even those you brought from the cinema
  • Games with native AMD HD3D support run with DX11 and only a small performance impact (a good example is Battlefield 3 ‚Äď with AMD HD3D I can play on high ‚Äď with TriDef I have to switch to medium quality settings)
  • The TriDef forum is pretty cool and helpful

Cons:

  • Polarization 3D feels a bit blurry as it’s using interpolation
  • TriDef is a performance eater. It cuts the FPS of a game in half.
  • TriDef creates more ghost images than AMD HD3D.
  • Not all TriDef profiles work as expected. In Assassins Creed Brotherhood i.e. players have black eyes. A work around is avaibable but you have to find that in the TriDef forum.
  • AMD HD3D is scaling down the image via HDMI. This can be fixed in 2D mode via the overscan/underscan settings in Catalyst Control center but in 3D mode you get black borders. This looks like a bug and reported this to AMD and Acer

So what games do I enjoy most with stereoscopic 3D?

  • 3rd person games like Assassins Creed Brotherhood, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction or Avatar the game just look cool as the character you play always creates a level in the foreground.
  • FPS shooters like Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 look pretty good but actually I tend to close an eye when aiming so it’s even hindering the gameplay a bit. The only advantage I noticed was in Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer where you have small maps and other players often come out of corners or doors close to you. In that case the 3D was helpful to notice the enemy is close and make a melee attack.
  • Surprisingly Sonic Generations looks super cool in¬† stereoscopic 3D
  • Racing games like Need for Speed Hot Pursuit look sweet too

What about movies?

  • The are are few demos that come with the TriDef drivers and there is a site where you can watch and buy 3D movies online: yabazam.com
  • I have no Blu-Ray drive in my PC so I can’t tell if playing 3D Blu-Rays would work. I plan to buy such a drive though. Will update the post with learnings of course.
  • YouTube works perfectly with 3D and this monitor and actually has a lot of nice content.

Batman Arkham City with hybrid PhysX on AMD

Batman Arkham City is just like Mafia II a Nvidia-sponsored game with exclusive CUDA-based-PhysX support:

AMD users don’t get full particles, debris, fog and smoke effects. I bought this game but the exclusive support for Nvidia-owners-only pissed me so much off that I decided to get an additional Nvidia card that would do¬†dedicated CUDA-PhysX calculations after watching a video on YouTube of someone who did it:

I paid 30 Euro for a GT430/PCI-E on eBay as it seemed that this card is sufficient for¬†normal PhysX setting in the game with its 96 processor cores. I build it in next to the HD 6870¬†but had to switch my Asrock AOD790GX/128M main-board from PCI-E 16/1 mode to PCI-E 8/8 Crossfire-mode in order to detect the card. The GT430 barely fit in as the HD 6870 is a 2 slot card but it worked. After doing that I installed the latest Nvidia drivers 285.62¬†that come with¬†PhysX 0621 and then applied the patch that makes this all possible…

http://www.ngohq.com/graphic-cards/17706-hybrid-physx-mod-v1-03-v1-05ff.html

… it made possible what Nvidia says is impossible: you can use an AMD card for the 3D acceleration¬†and an additional one from Nvidia for PhysX rendering. Nvidia is using PhysX as a unique selling point for their GeForce cards and is pushing it into the market by paying developers to implement exclusive support. That’s not fair and the poor success of the Bullet Physics Library shows how serious Nvidia is about it. They push this proprietary “standard” by all means.

The setup with the GT430 in hybrid-mode together with the¬†HD 6870¬†is maybe not the fastest and my system is mid-range (Phenom II¬†@3,2 GHz, 6870 1GB, 4GB RAM) but it’s enough to get 30 FPS average in the in-game benchmark and play the game smoothly on DX11 normal tessellation normal PhysX settings (rest is set to very high). Before it was ~50 FPS without the PhysX effects but in this game¬†the performance hit is¬†worth it IMHO. To get high PhysX effects you would need to use a GTX460 BTW and to get more FPS something in general like a 6970 with 2GB.

Asus 6870 DirectCU

This is my new graphics card. An AMD Radeon HD 6870 based Asus with custom heat-pipe air cooling. More info: http://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/AMD_Series/EAH6870_DC2DI2S1GD5/.

Before buying it I read tons of reviews on the AMD 6000 series and compared it to Nvidia GTX 460 and 550 Ti cards in the same price range… but first let’s start with the motivation why I upgraded: When I put together the configuration of my AMD Phenom II machine I had to be careful with costs. I even considered using the on-board HD 3300 graphics unit of the 790GX chip set motherboard (an Asrock AOD790GX/128M) but in the end went for an low-end 4800 series card, the ATI 4830. The performance of it is somewhere in the range of a Nvidia 8800 GTX.¬†Basically¬†sufficient for the majority of games that are currently on the market. Not sure if you noticed but games these days rarely go over the hardware limits of a Xbox 360 or¬†PlayStation¬†3. Crysis 2 is a good example of that. Game developers develop cross platform so you don’t need a high end graphics card in your PC as the GPUs of the Xbox and PS3 are a bit outdated by now.

Moreover cloud gaming is upcoming! With OnLive your games will run on remote servers and also remote graphics cards. More Info: http://www.onlive.com/#1 Another argument for not spending much on a graphics card.

So why the new graphics card?

  1. There are actually some game titles on the PC that go beyond console limitations and one of them even came included with the 6870: Shogun 2 Total War! A game that would make an Xbox CPU + GPU smoke. A console simply could’t handle it.
  2. DirectX 11games are picking up. More and more titles make use of it and there are even value games like Stalker Call of Pripyat or Metro 2033 for 10 Euro that have DirectX 11 support. Of course the DirectX 11 launch-title Dirt 2 looks even better on it.
  3. OnLive is not available in Europe yet and the quality of the streaming video isn’t that good.
  4. I consider getting a 24″monitor for stereoscopic 3D and the 6870 supports AMD HD3D. Moreover you need 1GB video memory to run games with full HD resolution.
Why the Asus?
  1. The Asus has a kick-ass heat-pipe based air cooling system that allows to overclock it to 1 GHz.
  2. It’s relatively silent for such a powerful card.
  3. It came with a Shogun 2 Total War Steam key voucher.
Why not Nvidia?
  1. I don’t like these guys. Nvidia pays game developers ridiculous amounts of money to get¬†exclusive¬†support of their physics acceleration standard PhysX. AMD cards can do physics¬†acceleration¬†as well.
  2. Nvidia has some weird deal with Microsoft making these guys look even more bad.
  3. In the same price range (160 Euro) Nvidia cards suck performance-wise at the moment.
  4. Nvidia 3D Vision stereoscopic glasses cost about 130 Euro. Shutter glasses for AMD HD3D come included with Viewsonic 120 Hz monitors for example.
  5. The future belongs to AMD and to Fusion… the melting of CPU and GPU. This is why Nvidia is so pissed about Intel integrating this in their new Sandy Bridge chips. They didn’t complain about AMD because they probably¬†would look just foolish ūüėČ

Complete review @Legit I recommend to read if you consider getting the Asus 6870 DirctCU: http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1605/

How AMD copes with Nvidia “standards”

AMD always had a a difficult time when it came to standards. Just recently they announced they are going to remove 3DNow! from future CPUs. AMD now recommends going for SSE (that Intel introduced BTW)… so here it seems they lost the standard-fight. For sure it’s not easy to establish standards against giants like Intel or Nvidia but AMD found a way to cope with this! … and a smart one too.

As I described in my last post Nvidia is trying to push PhysX & CUDA (their hardware acceleration standard for physics in games) with all their power they still have in the market. They team up with game software companies, support their game development and probably even pay them not to implement support for the technology of “the other guys” (that would be ATI – pardon AMD… now they are one company and are phasing out the ATI brand).

More or less the same happened with the 3D glasses technology… Nvidia pushed the market to support their standard with 3D Vision and some hardware manufacturers even followed them. It’s basically the only 3D shutter glasses set available right now… but here comes the trick: you can use it only with Nvidia graphics cards. Surprise ūüėČ Probably you could hack them to work with AMD but that’s a different story.

AMD could go ahead and invent their own standards and fight the standard-war trying to establish them… but you need a lot of money for such an approach and you probably are going to lose in the end (like with 3DNow!). AMD came up with a clever strategy here. They try to win with open standards against Nvidia and their proprietary technology. AMD supports OpenCL (physics engine acceleration), OpenGL ES (web browser acceleration) and just recently I learned about Open Stereo 3D (for 3D shutter glasses) . I just hope this works out for AMD!

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/3dnow-simd-extensions-phenom-sse,11128.html

http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/03/15/amd.announces.partners.on.open.stereo.3d.standard/

ATI 6000 Series

At work I have a 24″ screen and I consider getting one for home. Maybe a HannsG or Samsung. The problem: 1920×1080 is ~60% square pixels more than 1280×1024 (what I have now) and this higher resolution needs more VRAM. I have only 512MB and running that with my current graphics card would result in lower fps. So soon it will be time for a new graphics card for me (I have a XFX 4830 right now). What would fit my needs is either an overclocked 5770 like the PowerColor HD5770 PCS+ VORTEX or a standard 5850… but somehow I “smell” ATI releasing the 6000 series soon. The 4xx Nvidia series is cheaper and more powerful than comparable ATI cards so ATI/AMD has to come up with something new. There is some speculation going on at Tom’s Hardware:

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/286111-15-6000-series

Let’s see how fast this is going to happen… and yea, with 1GB VRAM I will be able to play GTA IV finally with 100% quality ūüėČ

EDIT (Oct 3rd 2010) : Now the AMD Radeon HD 6770 and 6750 Video Card Specs Leaked!

http://legitreviews.com/news/9088/

EDIT (Oct 22nd 2010): The new 6000 generation is finally out the door!

http://www.guru3d.com/news/radeon-hd-6850–6870-review/

this is how they look like (the picture on the top is a 5770 and no 6xxx BTW)


AMD Phenom II X6

Looks like there will be a new kick-ass CPU from AMD coming! The AMD Phenom II X6 aka Thuban!

AMD did an excellent job with optimizing CPU, chipset and the graphics-card in the Dragon platform (I have such a configuration at home BTW) and will probably come up with a new combination called Leo based on the 890FX/GX + SB850 chipset and the ATI 5800 series of GPUs. Let’s only hope AMD acts quick and releases the new six core Phenom II X6 and the Leo platform soon!

More Info:

http://en.ocworkbench.com/tech/amd-phenon-ii-x6-6-core-processor-thuban-to-launch-on-26-apr-2010/

http://vr-zone.com/articles/amd-leo-2010-platform–enthusiasts-dream-setup-/7537.html