Week in Tech: AMD On The Up, NVIDIA Game Streaming

By Jeremy Laird on April 24th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

It’s a funny old world when losing $20 million is a cause for moderate rejoicing. But then $20 million’s worth of bleeding is a hell of a lot better than $146 million. I speak, of course, of the never ending saga (going-on soap opera) that is AMD’s fortunes. Thing is, we are all of us much better off if AMD remains in the game and at the very least things are looking up. So, its worth tuning in for this latest episode. Meanwhile, it looks like the range and choice of LCD panels for PC monitors might just be ready to explode, Nvidia adds remote access to its game streaming tech and small-form factor bricks with proper gaming grunt are popping up. Hurrah and huzzah.

For the record, the AMD numbers go like this. For the first quarter of last year, the firm bled $146 million on earnings of $1.09 billion. For the same quarter this year, it said goodbyeee to $20 million off the back of $1.4 billion in sales.

If you dig down into the numbers, you’ll find AMD’s CPU business still slid 12 per cent year-on-year and pretty much all the upside seems to be courtesy of those game console wins. Moreover, more competitive AMD CPUs hardly look imminent.

Likewise, for a lot of big companies, those would be ugly numbers. But for AMD, any recovery has to be good news. Hell, it even made $89 million in the final quarter of 2013. Crikey.

Anyway, the point is that it wasn’t all that long ago that AMD’s very existence was very much in doubt. Now it looks at least fit enough to fight another day and – here’s the important bit – help keep the likes of Intel and Nvidia honest.


With any luck cash from console chips should help AMD improve its PC processors

Now, then, LCD monitors. If you’re happy with ye olde 1080p, you’ve been spoiled for choice for a year or two. But for me what separates the PC from those dumb consoles in hardware terms is the potential for the ultimate visual spectacle.

In that context, 2,560 by 1,440 panels feels like the sweet spot to me if only panels were a bit less pricey. A little further out, I’d like to see the 4k revolution pick up pace. Luckily, all of this and more looks on the cards.

I haven’t got any specific monitor model releases to share with you. But what really enables all this is the big boys who knock out the LCD panels that go into monitors. There are only a relatively small number of outfits who can stump up for the multi-billion-dollar bill that builds an LCD substrate fab will land you.

Whatever, both AU Optronics and LG have some interesting-looking panels in the pipeline. Starting with AU Optronics, it has a pair of IPS-alike 4K 32-inchers plus a VA 32-incher sporting 2,560 by 1,440.

The latter sounds like it could have a lot of potential for a high-res gaming panel barring the usual pixel-response worries that attend any panel based on ‘VA’ tech.


BenQ’s BL2710PT is he first to sport AU Optronics IPS-alike panel tech

AU Optronics also has some new 27-inch 4K panels in the works to go with its 27-inch 2,560 by 1,440 effort. Again, 4K is probably too much to ask from current GPUs, but that could change with the next generation of GPUs, so wide availability of affordable 4K panels in the meantime would be no bad thing.

LG also has a number of new panels in the works that go heavy on pixels. They start with what ought to be a pretty sublime IPS 4K effort at 27 inches and extend to the ridiculous new 34-inch 21:9 aspect panel with 3,440 by 1,440 pixels and a so called 5K3K model, again measuring 27 inches, which translates to a bonkers 5,120 by 2,880 grid.

To put that into context, that’s basically four 2,560 by 1,440 panels in a single screen. I’m not really promoting these ultra-high-res monstrosities as potential gaming panels for today. But it’s nice to see more choice and generally new entrants towards the high end should help push down prices on the current 2,560 by 1,440 sweet spot.

Next up, Nvidia’s GameStream has a new remote streaming feature entering beta. The idea is simple enough. Already you can stream games over your home network using Nvidia tech. The next logical step is to stream them over the internet from your PC to a client device.

The basic idea of streaming games over the internet is nothing new. But previously, most of action has involved cloud gaming services delivered by game servers, not using your own PC at home to stream games.


Nvidia Shield: A brave effort but basically borked

There are plenty of reasons why you might want to use your own PC as the server for remote streaming. If you have a high end-ish PC with a a full-on games library, streaming your own games with your own settings courtesy of a good PC is a lot more appealing than a third-party service running on servers and replete with limitations.

The downsides are things like the need to leave your PC up and running and drawing power and, as ever, that pesky limitation that currently requires you use Nvidia’s Shield console as the client.

Actually, the latter is a total deal breaker, even if I do respect Shield as a plucky effort to create a handheld console with interesting fringe benefits. Put simply, Nvidia’s GameStream needs to be opened out to a wide range of client devices to be of any actual interest.

If the latest price cut for Shield is anything to go by (down to just $200), Nvidia could be close to giving up on the whole fiasco and that could see GameStream finally detached from Shield. Here’s hoping.

And finally, Gigabyte is rolling out some properly gaming-viable versions of it’s Brix ultra-small-form-factor boxes. The AMD version was actually announced back in January and sports an quad-core APU and R9 M275X graphics.

The latter sports a mere 640 shaders, so nothing hugely exciting. However, if you add the 256 shaders from the APU (slightly disappointed to note that Gigabyte hasn’t gone for the 384-shader version of the same APU) in dual-graphics mode (support for this not actually confirmed, as far as I know), things begin to look interesting. For 1080p gaming at least.

The Nvidian alternative is so new details are still emerging, but as standard it sports a dual-core Intel Haswell processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 graphics. It’s not yet clear if that’s a mobile 760 and thus 768 shaders or the real desktop deal with 1,152 shaders. If the latter, it’ll really fly for such a small box.

AMD-flavoured Gigabyte Gaming Brix packs APU-plus-discrete-GPU gubbins

As for pricing, the AMD version goes for about $550+ stateside. Availability in the UK is patchy outside of ebay, but here’s hoping for something around £400. Not cheap, but just about tolerable if you’ve some cash to splash.. As for the Nvidia lump, it’s a bit early for prices.

If I’m really honest, these little Brix are probably more exciting as glimpses of the small-form-factor fun to come than as realistically priced propositions today. But the march continues towards proper gaming grunt in all shapes and sizes agt prices most of us can afford.

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34 Comments »

  1. Wedge says:

    I wonder if AMD got any of the money from the stupid runup of GPU prices last year from all those idiots coming in years late to that currency mining nonsense, or if all that money went to retailers marking prices up. Seems like that’s finally dying down as 280x’s are heading back down to $300 where they belong.

    • haze4peace says:

      It was the retailers that were making the extra money from the markup, but at least AMD was selling every single GPU they could produce.

      • jrodman says:

        Potential downside for AMD: glut of cheap used gpus now that people realize the mining is a waste of time?

        Or perhaps used goods are just too hard to move in electronics.

        • Wedge says:

          Actually saw a local Craigslist posting of someone selling 5-6 AMD GPUs for a good price that had been used for mining. I doubt it’s widespread though.

  2. Megakoresh says:

    Well LOL. I just bought a screen, a 29″ monster with 21:9 aspect ratio that weighs more than my TV. And it has very good reviews and so far the picture has been amazing. So I guess this puts me into “Don’t care” category as far as this news is concerned.

  3. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Hm. Wikipedia once told me that 2,560 by 1,440 is considered 2K, and that you have to get up above the 3,500ish times something or other to be considered 4k? [Reason: Vagueness from OEM's in attempt to make people buy their stuff? I dunno. The numbers dont make sense anyway]

    I would like a 2560 x 1440, plus of course the hardware to run it. I ordered an Oculus Rift last night though, so I’m not sure how I feel now about buying new kit. Maybe I will wait and see.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      4k is actually a little over 4.000, but that originates from some cinema camera mumbo jumbo.

      The actual 4K on 16:9 is 3840*2160, which incidentally is exactly 1080p with both numbers doubled and as such extremely sharp and perfect for 1080p downscaling, and it’s 8ish megapixels instead of 2ish.

      Sure, we’re a bit far off for now, but some games can muster that resolution on various cards, on my 780ti even Assetto corsa is over 60 fps on 4k. A lesser card can still do that with some other games, especially if you don’t mind going below 60 fps.

      But if you really want ALL games ( even Crysis 3, gameplay considerations aside ) smooth with a 500 or so euro card, 2560*1440 is still the maximum advisable for a monitor purchase.

    • phuzz says:

      I was looking at a new high res display, and I too broke and ordered an Occulus Rift DK2 instead.
      I suppose the OR will take up less space on my desk.

  4. AngelTear says:

    Not to be that guy (ok, precisely so I can be that guy) but this post is filled with almost a dozen typos, missing words and plain grammar mistakes. It’s not like you, Jeremy :3

    Beside that, I feel a bit sad, this is the first WiT when I didn’t quite understand a good third of the article. I’m not that into technology, this column is pretty much my only source for keeping up-to-date, but at least I usually understand most if not all of it :

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      Apologies on both counts and thanks for the heads up. Have been travelling non-stop for weeks and at this stage am really missing my workstation. I think the errors creep in a bit when you are on the hoof. Hopefully most if not all now corrected. Normal UK-based service resumes next week. God I hate doing real work on laptops!

      Also, was trying to pack a lot into this week’s instalment and may have glossed over too many details / assumed a little too much knowledge given my usual remit. Will make sure I don ‘t forget about that in future.

  5. amateurviking says:

    I just this month picked up a 27″ 2560×1440 panel from one of those South Korean no frills panel exporter types Alec mentioned a while back. It’s pretty decent albeit genuinely barebones.

    • haze4peace says:

      Same here. Make sure to give overclocking a shot. I was able to hit 120hz on this panel and now 60fps feels jittery and sluggish.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Mine is literally arriving today XD

      My buddy has one and the panel quality is on par with several 600 GBP ones i’ve seen.

  6. kael13 says:

    I’ll be having me one of those tasty 34″ 3440×1440 LG jobbies yes please and thank you very much.

    Had my eye on it for some time, and Linus from Linus Tech Tips is now sold on the format, judging from his video.

  7. povu says:

    Wake me up when the 27″ 1440p 120hz Gsync IPS monitors arrive.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Yeah, same for me, but then again i don’t want to imagine the price.

    • caff says:

      G-sync and similar tech excites me more than another couple of hundred X or Y pixels on my display.

      Sadly, I use a cheap, fairly average 32-inch 1080p TV that suffices as a monitor for both TV and games, and will probably not be replaced for another 5 years until the tech manufacturers sort themselves out.

    • green frog says:

      Well, soon you can have all of that but the IPS part: http://rog.asus.com/296652014/news/rog-announces-the-pg278q-swift-27-inch-wqhd-g-sync-gaming-monitor/

      The catch is that it’s a TN panel. However, ASUS insists that “Not all TN’s are made the same: the premium panel used in the PG278Q is of very high quality.” for whatever that’s worth.

      The thing that concerns me about this monitor is not so much the inferior color reproduction, but rather the viewing angles. At 27 inches I’d be concerned with TN distortion even if you’re sitting perfectly still. I’m very much looking forward to reading the reviews and finding out whether their claims of not-your-typical-TN have any merit or not.

  8. piphil says:

    I’ve just bought one of the non-gaming Gigabyte Brix (i3 @ 1.7 GHz, 4GB RAM, HD4400 GPU) for just over £300. Stuck SteamOS on it and it’s a very capable Steam in-house streaming box. In fact I’m very impressed with it, although I needed to get it connected to gigabit ethernet rather than WiFi to get rid of stuttering. I will probably use Windows 8 and Big Picture mode in the end as SteamOS isn’t quite there yet, but the streaming tech has surprised me by how good it’s got.

    • frightlever says:

      Hey, I just went (temporarily) gigabit from my PC+internet gubbins down to my front room by stringing a messy cable down the stairs. The difference over WiFi and even AV600 powerline plugs is astounding. I went from about 40mbps on the WiFi/100mbps on the powerline plugs to 800mbps on ethernet cable. I think the bandwidth is what’s going to define how good your streaming experience is. I mean over ethernet cable I can comfortably stream huge 1080P files to my HTPC which require far more bandwidth that the compressed streams that the gaming streams require. Over WiFi this is impossible and over powerline plugs is pretty patchy.

  9. RPSRSVP says:

    Samsung’s 4K monitor went for $599 on both ncix sites for weeks, now they bumped the price with the initial stock gone. It’s a TN but one of the better one and it’s a SST too. Linus tech tips has a review and plenty other outlets too.

  10. frightlever says:

    “If I’m really honest, these little Brix are probably more exciting as glimpses of the small-form-factor fun to come than as realistically priced propositions today.”

    I bet you’re going to still be saying that a decade from now. :)

    Another great article.

  11. Low Life says:

    “a so called 5K3K model, again measuring 27 inches, which translates to a bonkers 5,120 by 2,880 grid.”

    Oh my. Give it to me!

  12. sophof says:

    My guess is you’re best of buying a 4K monitor, since playing at 1080p will then just double the pixels and therefore have no need for scaling at all?
    The time is coming where I should replace my monitor, but I doubt I’ll by a rig anytime soon that’ll support 4K gaming, so I’m a bit on the fence.

  13. stahlwerk says:

    The wee gigabyte boxes are said to generate quite the noise. I applaud them for going SFF, but low noise levels should never be the first thing to sacrifice when designing a “Home Media” oriented PC build…

  14. MacPoedel says:

    For those of you who want to use nVidia Gamestream but lack an nVidia SHIELD, you might want to try Limelight: http://limelight-stream.com/. It’s an open source port of the streaming for other devices. There’s an Android, Linux/Windows/OSX and even a Raspberry Pi version, although I don’t see the point of the pc versions when you could just use Steam streaming as well.

    I’ve only just bought a GTX 760 and played around a bit with Limelight on my Nexus 7, but I think you need very good WiFi reception, which my room doesn’t have, and I can’t play from very far yet because I don’t have a bluetooth controller for the tablet (so I used the controller still connected to my pc). Darksiders was pretty much unplayable because of graphical errors, Sleeping Dogs had no errors but there was considerable lag.

    At least Limelight shows that nVidia could just as well open Gamestream up to other devices than SHIELD. I wish they did, Limelight is one of the reasons I chose an nVidia GPU this time instead of going to AMD.

  15. Wixard says:

    Most of my PCs have been AMD based since way back in the k6 days. (aside from a Pentium D and a celeron 400)

    I’m disappointed they haven’t kept up, though I can understand their situation. Their market share shrinks in a shrinking market.

    There’s nothing important for them on the PC horizon aside from video cards. For better or worse, their future is tied with the APU. If mantle or the cpu sparing effects of newer d3d takes off, it’ll make their CPUs even less important (which is good.) I think they’re in fair shape though, given how much the xbox/ps4 will drive game development for 5-10 years.

  16. jarowdowsky says:

    Surely 120 or 144hz IPS monitors are what the market is waiting for?

    I tried the 144z TN panel that g-sync is always linked to and it looked so washed out it was appalling. Mind you the refresh was great. Then it gave me a four day migraine and vomiting…

    So yeah, 144hz flicker free IPS please

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