GeForce Now streaming coming to PC and Mac

Nvidia has announced a substantial revamp of its GeForce Now cloud-based streaming service. The system is set for a March relaunch, allowing you to stream your existing PC games library from the cloud. On stage at the CES keynote, Nvidia boss Jen-Hsun Huang showed Rise of the Tomb Raider running from Steam on a Mac, streamed from a datacentre running GPUs based on the firm’s latest Pascal-based architecture.

The idea is simple – and remarkably similar to the original OnLive pitch. This is all about taking the expensive gaming hardware out of your home, relocating it to the cloud and letting the service provider take care of aspects such as upgrading the system. The user simply streams the output of the server to their home over the internet. The kicker is the price: Nvidia is charging based on the time spent using the system, with costs starting at $25 for around 20 hours of gameplay. If you want access to more powerful Pascal-based hardware, you’ll get fewer hours of gameplay.

The way the pricing works is like this – register for GeForce Now and you get 1000 free credits, and you buy further credits at a rate of $25 for 2500. Playing on a GTX 1080-based PC uses four credits per minute, while a GTX 1060 PC uses two credits per minute.

Alienware Alpha R2 review

Three years into their respective lifecycles, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have relaunched in smaller, slimmer incarnations – but neither of them holds a candle to the Alienware Alpha’s form-factor. It remains an absolutely tiny, ultra-cute piece of PC technology – and this new R2 incarnation is now a whole lot more powerful, having swapped out its Nvidia GTX 860M for a new range of GPU options, the flagship model boasting a GeForce GTX 960.

And that’s the version of the hardware we’re reviewing here today. The Alpha shifts from Intel’s Haswell to Skylake CPU architecture so Alienware has crafted a new mainboard for the R2 Alpha, and this new model also moves from DDR3 to higher bandwidth DDR4 – with a single 8GB module of Hynix laptop-format SODIMM RAM included as standard. The first order of business for any prospective Alpha owner should be to order a dual-channel config if possible, or else buy a matching module to complement the one fitted in the unit as standard. CPU resources are limited, and hobbling memory bandwidth with a single SODIMM won’t help matters there.

The Alpha supplied by Alienware comes equipped with a Skylake Core i5 6400T running at a mere 2.2GHz, but it’s really the GTX 960 that is the star of the show, offering up a good 50 per cent of additional performance over the old GTX 860M. Although it’s a seemingly bespoke part – it’s soldered on directly to the motherboard – it works just like a standard GTX 960, meaning that no custom drivers are required, and you can access all of Nvidia’s downloads, driver updates and GeForce Experience features. And yes, you can overclock it too.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti review

Nvidia’s Pascal architecture continues its top-down steamrolling of the graphics product stack, with the arrival of the first of two more budget-orientated parts – GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050. It’s the first card we’re looking at today, highlighting the debut of the fully enabled version of Nvidia’s GP107 processor, offering performance significantly ahead of PlayStation 4 and paired with a useful 4GB of GDDR5. GTX 1050 Ti can get you to 1080p60 in most titles with careful tweaking, but really this class of GPU is all about matching ballpark console performance with improved visuals and more consistent frame-rates.

In this fully loaded iteration of the GP107, GTX 1050 Ti features 768 CUDA core processors (a match for the last-gen GTX 950) backed by 7gbps GDDR5 memory fed by a 128-bit memory interface. But the real star of the show here is that fact that the card itself is – depending on the vendor – absolutely tiny, and in base configurations requires no additional PCI Express power. This is important. Essentially, like GTX 750 Ti and a very small selection of GTX 950s before it, this opens the door to a powerful GPU upgrade that will fit into the majority of PCs, with no additional PSU juice required. Everything comes from the meagre 75W provided by the motherboard slot and it’s safe to say that we were amazed at just how much performance we managed to squeeze from this tight power envelope.

The full spec is available elsewhere on the page, but one thing that stands out immediately is that the boost clock spec is a good 300MHz lower than what we’ve come to expect from the Pascal line – presumably owing to the meagre 75W TDP. However, we’re happy to report that the spec is highly conservative in reality. The Zotac board we were provided with happily boosts to 1650MHz out of the box without breaking a sweat, and overclocking taps out at 1850MHz, without exceeding that hard 75W limit.

Nvidia reveals GTX 1050/1050 Ti: Pascal on a budget

Nvidia has finally revealed its next-gen GPU play for the budget segment, with the upcoming October 25th release of two graphics cards – the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti. We’re still waiting for UK pricing, but at $109 and $139 respectively, the green team is clearly taking aim at AMD’s Radeon RX 460.

The new cards are based on an all-new Nvidia processor based on its Pascal architecture, codenamed GP107. In its fully enabled form – as seen in GTX 1050 Ti – we get 768 CUDA cores, boosting up 1.39GHz. The 640 core GTX 1050 is based on a pared back version of the same processor, its reduction in shader count mitigated slightly by a higher boost clock.

TDP is limited to 75W, meaning that both cards do not require additional PCI Express power inputs – just like the RX 460, GTX 750 Ti and indeed a limited quantities of GTX 950s – but this appears to have had an impact on boost clocks. Other Pascal cards operate at around 1.8GHz in gaming workloads, overclocking to 2GHz. At the 1.4GHz ballpark, clearly GTX 1050 and Ti are going to be a lot slower.

Asus Strix GTX 1070/GTX 1080 O8G review: high-end SLI tested

This is becoming a habit. We don’t usually review aftermarket graphics cards, but when Asus came to us offering to check out the high-end OC versions of their GTX 1070 and GTX 1080, we couldn’t resist. Clinching the deal was the fact that two of each were delivered, meaning we could compare both of Nvidia’s GP104-based graphics cards in SLI with the GP102-based Titan X Pascal – the fastest single-chip GPU money can buy. In theory, both of them should be able to best Nvidia’s top-tier card and by extension, we should be able to get even better 4K performance.

Once the preserve of multi-thousand pound monitors, 4K is now becoming readily accessible at easy to absorb price-points. To put things into perspective, the 40-inch we reviewed last week ranks as one of the best desktop monitors we’ve used – you retain an extreme pixel density, but you get some serious real estate to work with. Combine a screen like this with the Titan X Pascal and you get a stunning PC experience. GTX 1070 in SLI – in theory – looks particularly compelling, offering more performance than the Titan X, at just 63 per cent of the price.

However, it is fair to say that these more expensive Asus Strix cards are rather special. We’re looking at the 08G versions – large, tri-fan cards with ‘Aura’ RGB lighting, deluxe back plates and ultra-quiet operation. Out of the box, these things overclock to 1975-2025MHz depending on load, meaning that you’re getting pretty much everything out of the GP104 core without having to worry about stability. And on top of that load temperatures remain in the early 60 degrees Celsius range. This makes the 08G cards the coolest GP104 cards we’ve seen. Cheaper A8G cards are available that cost significantly less though, but virtually all GTX 1070s and 1080s tend to hit the core limit at 2.05GHz – which is worth bearing in mind here.

Quantum Break PC is better on DirectX 11

Quantum Break on Steam brings a much-needed performance boost to the game thanks to the use of DirectX 11 – an API the developer has stated it is much more using. This comes six months after the Windows Store version, a controversial DirectX 12 release that sadly shipped with a slew of bugs, optimisation quirks and stability issues. For the best experience at the time, Xbox One offered a better-optimised package with fewer grievances, while Windows Store customers were forced to wait some time for patches to rectify certain issues – but to this day, issues still remain.

The move back to DirectX 11 in this Steam release is great news for older Windows users of course, where previously it was exclusive to Windows 10’s online store. Curiously, it’s confirmed there’s no DirectX 12 executable included at all on Steam right now – a surprising move, but justified in part by Remedy’s confidence that DX11 is better optimised for most machines. We can confirm visuals are identical at the top ‘ultra’ settings on either API, but it’s Nvidia GPUs in particular that benefit from higher frame-rates on the Steam re-issue.

We look at the GTX 970 first, a card that had serious issues with stutters and freezing when we first tested the game on DX12. With the latest GeForce 372.90 drivers installed, we run both the Steam and Windows Store versions on a Windows 10 machine, paired with an i7 4790K and 16GB RAM. In terms of visuals settings to tax this hardware, we set it to 1080p, ultra settings, and use the game’s upscaling mode too. This constructs a full HD framebuffer using temporal supersampling from a base 720p image.

4K PC gaming is finally viable – and it’s stunning

The speed of innovation in the graphics technology spaces shows few signs of slowing down, and the recent releases of Nvidia’s top-tier GTX 1080 and Titan X Pascal are highly significant – both of these cards are capable of handing in good performance at 4K resolution. However, there’s still some uncertainty about just how powerful the new Titan X actually is and to what extent a locked 60fps is possible? We’re into uncharted territory here: benchmarks only go so far and are highly limited in nature. What’s the actual experience like?

First up, a bit of background. The next-gen consoles are seemingly targeting 4K displays, for a few reasons. Firstly, there’s no denying that 4K UHD TVs are gaining momentum in terms of sales and dropping hard in price-point. Secondly, GPU technology is scaling, while CPU performance is remaining mostly static – for the consoles, this translates into a continuation of the status quo in terms of frame-rates. And finally, both Microsoft and Sony don’t want to leave their existing userbase behind, so they are seeking to use image quality and resolution as the selling factor for their new hardware – not performance.

And that’s not exactly what the core PC gamer wants. They want better visuals than console and higher performance. And that’s exactly the premise on which we put together our 1080p60 gaming PC, pairing a Core i5 6600K with a GTX 1060. But the real question is – can we get a similar experience using PC hardware. Is the Titan X Pascal powerful enough to deliver both the image quality and resolution boost required?

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 3GB vs 6GB review

The 3GB version of Nvidia’s GTX 1060 is a curious product. Is it actually a GTX 1060 at all? The cutbacks made to this product aren’t just memory-based in nature. In addition to chopping down the full-fat product’s memory allocation, we also see a drop in available processing cores. The full complement of 1280 shaders drops to 1152 – and most of the time, this tends to be accompanied by a change in name. GTX 1050 Ti, any one? GTX 1060 LE?

It seems that Nvidia is using its product names now to group its GPUs together in terms of performance as opposed to actual spec. Based on the firm’s claims, the three gig GTX 1060 should offer just a five per cent deficit in performance compared to the same product running the fully enabled GP106 processor. Essentially – in practise, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.

But it’s the drop in available memory we should be most concerned about. High quality texture modes are on the increase, downloadable ‘HQ’ texture packs are also a thing, not to mention the beginnings of memory hungry hyper-level presets – as seen in Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Now, generally speaking, based on our experience playing the likes of Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Mirror’s Edge, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Doom 2016, the difference can be quite subtle. But the point is that generally speaking, memory requirements are only moving in one direction and there’s a definite sense that even with its cut-back shader allocation, GTX 1060 3GB doesn’t fully balance its performance with its framebuffer resources.

Nvidia unveils cut-down GeForce GTX 1060 3GB

Nvidia has announced that a new GTX 1060 is due for release over the next few weeks, this time featuring 3GB of framebuffer memory. It’s based on the same GP106 processor as the ‘full-fat’ GTX 1060 6GB, but there’s an important difference in addition to the VRAM differential – this one has 1152 CUDA cores compared to the full complement of 1280 in the top tier model. Pricing is interesting – it’ll cost $199 in the USA, with a £189 cost in the UK.

It’s a bold move on Nvidia’s part, and places the cut-down GTX 1060 on collision course with two AMD products – the RX 470, which we rather liked, and the four gig version of the RX 480 – assuming you can find one. Availability there, especially on the versions with an aftermarket cooler appears to be thin on the ground.

Based on the performance we’ve seen from the fully enabled GTX 1060, this cut-back model should still present plenty of challenge to the brace of sub-£200 AMD Polaris offerings. We’re looking at 90 per cent of the core count found in the more expensive model (costing £40-£50 more), and half the VRAM, but memory bandwidth remains unaltered at 192GB/s. The same 8gbps GDDR5 modules are utilised. On top of that, base and boost clocks remain static.

Nvidia’s Pascal-powered laptop chips are a true generational leap

Nvidia has lifted the lid on its new range of mobile GPUs based on the Pascal architecture – and the results are quite extraordinary. Gone are the days of laptop-specific graphics processors with reduced specs compared to their desktop counterparts. There is no GTX 1080M, only GTX 1080, with the same core specification as the desktop part: the same CUDA core count, the same boost clock. And it’s the same for GTX 1060, too. Meanwhile, the mobile GTX 1070 does see some variation, trading boost clock speed for additional CUDA cores vs its desktop counterpart.

Nvidia reckons that its mobile processors are – at most – 10 per cent slower than then desktop equivalents, and that comes down to variations in the thermal solutions found in laptops, which will impact the kind of boost clocks you’re likely to get in actual gaming scenarios. But even given what we would consider a constricted thermal envelope, the new Pascal-based mobile GPUs offer a huge leap in performance compared to their predecessors. There’s even much-improved overclocking too – Nvidia demonstrated a 2.06GHz GTX 1080 overclock on an MSI notebook. Results will vary per implementation, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

And there’s another welcome innovation here: there’s no downgrade to memory bandwidth as we saw with the likes of the old GTX 980M and its less capable siblings. GTX 1080 on laptops still ships with the same 10gbps GDDR5X memory, while GTX 1070 and GTX 1060 are still using top-of-the-line 8gbps GDDR5. So comparing specs, Nvidia’s old GTX 980M flagship had just 160GB/s of memory bandwidth – GTX 1080 has double that: 320GB/s.