Jonathan's Hardware Thread 2.0 (Q4 2003)

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Postby Peijen » Mon Dec 15, 2003 7:34 pm

any info about video cards? is there any reason to buy the 256mb card instead of 128mb ones?

nvidia vs ati? games support? driver support? linux support?

what can you say about multi processor system with intel chips? how about amd? 64bit processor?
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Postby Jonathan » Mon Dec 15, 2003 8:12 pm

To be written as I have time.

The reason to have more memory on a video card is to have higher quality textures. I am not aware of any locality effect with shaders or any other feature that produces bigger speedup with more video memory, unlike with system RAM. I would say you should pick a 256MB card over a 128MB one based on the expected lifetime of your card. If you believe you will hold onto your card for several years, then it may be worth your money to pay for the additional memory. If you tend to upgrade more frequently, say every 18-24 months, then you can probably hold off getting a 256MB card until the next upgrade cycle. Someone else, Dave perhaps, can better speak to the amount of texture memory games currently use.

Well, the sweet spot for graphics is the $200 price point. At $200, the graphics card makers sell enough parts to earn real revenue, and the performance is still sufficiently next-generation to warrant an upgrade. nVidia has just released the 5900 XT, which competes directly with ATI's 9800. These two cards are finally performance competitive with each other, at least in DX8 titles. Currently the only DX9 games out are Tomb Raider and Halo, neither of which are really first-class games (exception: Halo was, but that was two years ago). I would strongly recommend waiting until the release of Doom 3, Half Life 2, or both before making a purchasing decision on a video card. ATI's card does seem to have the edge over nVidia's in FFXI.

ATI has greatly increased the quality of their drivers over the past 9 months, to the point where a driver discrepancy is no longer noticeable between the two companies. nVidia has a history of binary Linux support; you can count on 3D acceleration working under Linux. ATI is late to the game, but has been working on it. If you desire 3D under Linux, your safe bet is to go with nVidia. There shouldn't be a problem with 2D under Linux with either.

DirectX 9 or OpenGL provide the APIs for essentially every game out there. I don't see a clear winner in one type of game versus another. This is much improved from the 3Dfx/nVidia days. The only real difference in their support is for DirectX 9 floating point color and the number of instructions that can be run in shader programs. nVidia has a high fidelity 32 bits per channel path and a low fidelity 16 bits per channel path. The low fidelity path has significantly higher performance. ATI uses a single internal representation of 24 bits per color channel and upsamples it to 32 bits per channel on output. nVidia's low fidelity path is roughly equivalent to ATI in performance, but their high fidelity path appears to be closer in visual quality. This is a tricky tradeoff and the best solution is highly game dependent.
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Postby Jonathan » Tue Jan 13, 2004 9:19 pm

Well, it's Q1, but that's not stopping me from adding to this thread.

BTX is the next big thing looming on the horizon after Prescott's launch in February. BTX will require new motherboards, new cases, and new power supplies. The new motherboards will feature PCI Express cards. I nearly decided against purchasing new equipment because of the impending launch of BTX this summer, but the theoretical release dates of D3 and HL2 convinced me otherwise.

BTX power supplies use 24 pins instead of 20 like ATX. In theory, some ATX power supplies will be compatible with BTX motherboards, but seeing as how you're probably going to have to buy a case to go along with that motherboard, you're gonna need a new power supply anyway. The BTX supplies are a little bit smaller than ATX, too.

I had something written up about multiprocessor, but my phone's battery died. I'll have to resurrect it in a bit.
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Postby Jonathan » Wed Jan 14, 2004 10:11 pm

Anandtech.com wrote:We like the [Athlon 64] 3400+, but the larger question is where the chip fits in the big AMD picture. For the next year, Socket 754 seems like a safe bet. AMD will be introducing another 754 chip later this year, expected to be the 3700+. However, the 3700+ may be the last Socket 754 chip. The upcoming Socket 939, which will be used for the new version of the Athlon64 FX, is expected to become the dominant AMD socket. Socket 939 will allow the common unbuffered DDR memory (that most already own) to be used in Dual-Channel with the revised FX processor. Many speculate that the 754 will move to low-end or be discontinued after a short period of co-existing with Socket 939.

So where does this leave you as a potential buyer? If you want to wait until Sockets settle down before you buy, then you will likely never own another motherboard or processor. 478 will be going to 775, 939 will be appearing, 754 may move to the low end, 940 will continue with Opteron, and a multitude of other changes are in the works in this industry.


If you're the kind of person who likes to upgrade his computer, I would recommend waiting for six months until the socket and form factor changes have all shaken out.
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Postby Jonathan » Wed Jan 14, 2004 10:14 pm

Since it's not clear from anything else I've written, Intel is changing the socket on the P4 to Socket 775 from Socket 478. Socket 775 is actually a pinless design. It will debut with the launch of Grantsdale/Alderwood, which is the successor to Springdale/Canterwood (865/875). I would expect to be able to purchase Grantsdale boards in Q2 this year.
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Postby Jonathan » Wed Jan 28, 2004 9:44 pm

Multiprocessor is tricksy. Now, almost everyone who wants multiprocessor has a specific app in mind, since not every program benefits from multiprocessor. Therefore, if you're interested in multiprocessor for a business reason, by far and away the best thing to do is to ask the shop supplying your kit to benchmark your app for you. I know places like http://www.demodepot.com will ship a system to you for this express purpose.

Barring that, you'll want to look at the demands of your app and the cost of a system. AMD and Intel use two different interconnect topologies for their Opteron and Xeon systems, so theoretical bandwidth will vary greatly depending upon the number of nodes. If you want performance data, TPC-C is the industry standard benchmark for transaction servers and is a good place to start to size up potential solutions. Obviously, this is only applicable if you want a server to run that kind of program; if you're setting up a render farm or some other different type of workload, you'll need a different benchmark. There are some scientific benchmarks like Linpack that may be better related to your situation. SPEC also publishes multiprocessor benchmarks called SPEC CPU2000 rate.

From a consumer perspective, the value of a second processor has never really been present. The types of things that benefit from Hyperthreading naturally benefit from multiprocessor: rendering, encoding, system response, and compiling are some of the more notable ones. However, both AMD and Intel charge extra for the MP capable versions of their processors, and you must buy at least two of them. This doesn't make it cost-efficient. I personally don't think it's worth it to spend another thousand dollars just to speed up your gcc compiles by 60%. Plough some of that extra cash into a faster processor and save the rest.

Both AMD and Intel have discussed chip multiprocessors, or CMP, though I don't think either one has put one of these on a roadmap yet. A mainstream CMP system will be about right, cost-wise, for those who want MP machines on the desktop. Look for those in a couple years at the earliest.
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Postby quantus » Thu Jan 29, 2004 2:37 pm

Dwindlehop wrote:Since it's not clear from anything else I've written, Intel is changing the socket on the P4 to Socket 775 from Socket 478. Socket 775 is actually a pinless design. It will debut with the launch of Grantsdale/Alderwood, which is the successor to Springdale/Canterwood (865/875). I would expect to be able to purchase Grantsdale boards in Q2 this year.

What are all the new pins being used for? More Vdd and Gnd pins? Multiple Vdd's maybe?
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Postby quantus » Thu Apr 15, 2004 3:58 am

http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.html?i=2023&p=1

Anyone who upgraded already may be easily fucked by the the graphics cards coming out. These things are MASSIVE.

The NV40 chip itself is massive. Weighing in at a hefty 222 Million transistors, NVIDIA's newest GPU has more than three times the number of transistors as Intel's Northwood P4, and about 33% more transistors than the Pentium 4 EE.


Current generation graphics cards are near the limit for how much current they are allowed to pull from one connection. So, of course, the solution is to add a second power connection to the card. That's right, the GeForce 6800 Ultra requires two independent connections to the power supply. The lines could probably be connected to a fan with no problem, but each line should really be free of any other connection.
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Postby VLSmooth » Thu Apr 15, 2004 8:09 am

Heh, I read three reviews about it today already... (HardOCP, Tom's and Anandtech). However, I'm even more curious about ATI's R420...

Well, enough thought. Time to go home!
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Postby quantus » Thu Apr 15, 2004 5:26 pm

uh, Thu Apr 15, 2004 12:09 am PDT. WTF!
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Postby VLSmooth » Thu Apr 15, 2004 6:21 pm

Heh, am I not allowed to work at that time ^^;;

* VLSmooth is in a mad rush to get work and hours in before Carnival even though he has plenty of holiday / vacation hours saved

I'd prefer not to spend them though...
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