Is three gigs of VRAM enough for top-tier 1080p60 gameplay?
Just how powerful is Nintendo Switch and what are its limits? From Digital Foundry's perspective, it's been fun - and fascinating - to see the evolution of the platform, our expectations of the core Tegra X1 processor's capabilities exceeded by several key releases. But a Switch conversion of the Doom 2016 reboot? That's on a whole new level, and we had to check it out. We went hands-on with the game for about 40 minutes last week, our key question being: just how did they do that?
A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft began its latest global media tour, primarily to promote Xbox One X. While the range of games available to check out was essentially a subset of the impressive Gamescom line-up, we did have the opportunity to get direct feed capture of a range of titles that we'll be covering over the next week, starting with Rise of the Tomb Raider. We've already posted our initial thoughts on the Gamescom demo (and we have more coverage planned) but for now, we thought we'd kick off with a look at the game's breathtaking HDR support.
Is three gigs of VRAM enough for top-tier 1080p60 gameplay?
We've already taken a look at the excellent Radeon RX Vega 56, the cut-down version of the full-fat graphics card reviewed here today - and it's a winner. A couple of outliers aside, it's as fast as Nvidia's GTX 1070 or significantly faster and it easily overclocks to push further ahead. It's AMD at its best - competitive, disruptive and adding value - but the same can't quite be said for the RX Vega 64. It's a good product overall and it's competitive enough with Nvidia, but it offers no knockout blow - in the here and now, at least.
Microsoft is planning a quiet revolution in the way that games are streamed and installed onto Xbox One and Xbox One X. The new system - known internally as Intelligent Delivery - aims to save hard drive space and reduce download times by allowing users to only download the assets they'll actually need, as opposed to the complete game package. The platform holder has already dropped some hints about this functionality, confirming that Xbox One users won't need to download X's 4K assets, but the execution goes beyond that, being flexible enough even to support multi-disc releases - not currently supported on Xbox One.
Sooner or later we knew we'd reach this point. Apple's newly revealed iPhone X is the first $1000/£1000 smartphone, arriving with a slew of features and technologies that have already been trialled in mainstream gaming with varying levels of success. The new phone brings with it a state-of-the-art HDR OLED display and features augmented reality gaming capabilities, but the real star of the show is its front-mounted Face ID camera assembly. Yes, remarkably, Kinect technology is back - miniaturised and repurposed, but based on the same principles.
If there's one aspect of Xbox One X coverage we've yet to explore in depth so far, it's how enhanced first-party titles compare with existing PC and Xbox One versions of the same game. For example, all marketing of the beautiful Forza Motorsport 7 has been on X hardware, while other titles such as Sea of Thieves have only been demoed thus far running on the Xbox One S. The good news is that at Gamescom, we were given access to an early build of Halo Wars 2 running on Xbox One X, and armed with 4K direct feed capture, we're able to offer an early look at scalability on an established Xbox Play Anywhere title.
The Destiny 2 beta finally arrived on PC this week, delivering a vast upgrade in terms of customisation over the console builds. Adjustable quality settings, unlocked frame-rate and field of view along with HDR support take pride of place in a package that seemingly does everything it can to capture the heart of the PC gaming enthusiast. It also gives us some idea of just how optimal the core code is, how well it scales across different hardware - and perhaps provides some insight into whether the upclocked CPUs in PS4 Pro and Xbox One X might be able to handle 60fps gameplay.
Is three gigs of VRAM enough for top-tier 1080p60 gameplay?
UPDATE 30/8/17 10:10am: We've updated one of the comparison images below with fresh PS4 Pro and PC shots that replicate an additional texture layer found in Square-Enix's Xbox One X press shot, representing an injured Lara. We couldn't replicate this look within the cutscene, but thankfully Digital Foundry readers came forward to help get better matching shots. The key takeaway remains the same though - Xbox One X is clearly running with higher quality art than PS4 Pro, but there are some curious differences with the maxed-out PC version.
There are two sides to the Xbox One X showing at Gamescom 2017. Initially, Microsoft's colossal acreage only seems to play host to a small range of familiar-looking wares. Forza Motorsport 7, Assassin's Creed Origins and Super Lucky's Tale - games we saw at E3 - are joined by an impressive native 4K version of Shadow of War. Aside from the Warner Bros title, there's very little new here to report on. Forza Motorsport 7 still looks beautiful (as does its companion PC build, also present at the booth) while the other titles look very similar to the builds we've already seen.
Gamescom 2017 has offered up few exciting stories for Digital Foundry so far, but the playable debut of the Switch version of Skyrim at the Nintendo booth proved to be a genuine surprise - and the good news is, the port is looking very strong.
Naughty Dog's Uncharted: The Lost Legacy launches tomorrow and it's well worth checking out - we've already posted our take on the title, but with refinements to our video workflow combined with some useful tools provided in-game by the developer itself, we can push the game's presentation to the next level. On this page, we've posted a video of The Lost Legacy's PS4 Pro 4K output, in full HDR and running at 60 frames per second. Before we go on, we've got to stress that this isn't real-time gameplay - just like Uncharted 4, it's a 30fps title - but regardless, it still looks absolutely beautiful.
The entry-level Vega takes the fight to GTX 1070.
The embargo has lifted on AMD's Radeon RX Vega line, and our core emphasis today is on the lower-priced entry-level RX Vega 56 - pared back in terms of processing power and memory bandwidth, but still faster than Nvidia's GTX 1070. But what about the top-end RX Vega 64? Unfortunately, AMD delivered both products mid-way through last week, giving us a very limited window in which to test. We concentrated on getting RX Vega 56 review completed, but we can present some initial findings for the top-end offering.
It's difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that things started to go wrong for Sega, but the late 1994 release of its 32X kicked off a timeline of disaster that would eventually result in its withdrawal from the console hardware market. A $149 mushroom-shaped add-on, the 32X crashed and burned within just one year. But just how capable was the hardware, how did it work and how well did its games stack up against the competition? Welcome to John Linneman's most ambitious DF Retro project yet - analysis of every single 32X game ever made, along with platform comparisons for multi-format entries. It's a light-hearted, joyous celebration of one of gaming's worst mistakes.
After years of iterative upgrades, things are starting to become interesting again in the CPU space on PC. We've already seen Ryzen 7's disruptive influence on Intel's enthusiast line and how Ryzen 5 strikes at Chipzilla's Core i5 gaming heartland. Things are changing and Intel is set to respond with the imminent launch of its new Coffee Lake line of processors. So what should we expect? Well, how does a full six-core processor for i5 money sound? Or how about today's i5 performance at i3 prices? That's what a series of convincing leaks over the last few weeks and months have promised - and more.
Since the release of the Core i5 2500K in January 2011, Intel's mainstream quad-core processor line has been the default choice for those looking to put together a capable gaming PC. The i5 is always fast out of the box and overclocking can keep your platform competitive for anything up to five or even six years. But the return of AMD has already proven disruptive in other areas of the x86 market and the Ryzen 5 1600 and 1600X are simply irresistible products: Core i5 is no longer the 'go to' CPU line for gamers - there is now genuine, potent competition. And to cut straight to the chase, given the choice between a 7600K or the cheaper Ryzen 5 1600, it's the AMD product we'd choose.
Guerrilla Games' Horizon Zero Dawn not only raised the bar in terms of technical accomplishment on current generation console hardware, it handed in the best 4K HDR presentation we've seen from any PlayStation 4 Pro title. The native 1080p output on base hardware scales up to 2160p on Pro, using a custom implementation of checkerboard rendering, but Horizon's presentation is so clean, so solid, so convincing, it passes for the 'real thing' - so how was this achieved?
AMD has finally announced details specifications for its next-generation line of RX Vega graphics cards, due for release in August. Two versions of the flagship RX Vega 64 will be available - one with an air-cooler and another with a liquid-cooling solution - while a less expensive, lower performance RX Vega 56 is also set for an August release. The three offerings cover a spectrum of compute power starting at 10.5 teraflops, scaling up to 13.7 teraflops, and all cards utilise 8GB of HBM2 memory.
AMD has revealed more details on Threadripper, its challenger to Intel's new Skylake-X line of top-end enthusiast CPUs. While Intel's current offerings currently top out with the powerful ten-core Core i9 7900X, AMD is offering the 16-core Ryzen 1950X for the same $999 price, saying that it provides anything up to a 38 per cent increase in performance on heavily-threaded workloads.
Intel's new Skylake-X line-up demonstrates just how good competition is for the PC hardware market. In the wake of Ryzen 7's exceptional value, Intel has been forced to react. The impact of AMD's return to the market is ongoing but in the short term, $700 off the cost of a ten-core CPU and $400 off the sticker price of an eight-core chip is definitely a step in the right direction. On top of that, further adjustments to pricing may be required in the wake of the imminent arrival of AMD's Threadripper - a 16-core monster for 10-core Intel money.
January 13th, 2017: Nintendo has its first Switch hands-on event and as we make our way around the booths at the Hammersmith Apollo venue, there's a pervading sense of déjà vu, a feeling that we've seen it all before. Much of the Switch line-up consists of Wii U ports or enhanced sequels. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is by far the most impressive title at the event, but at its heart, that's a Wii U conversion too. We look to hardware launches for new gameplay experiences, and it's hard not to feel disappointed, but suffice to say, once our Switch hardware arrives two months later, the mood changes dramatically. The hardware is great and the software impresses to the point where what is effectively a Mario Kart 8 GOTY release becomes the fastest-selling title in the series' 25-year history.
There was a time when the idea of streaming games over the internet was the hottest, most disruptive technology in the business. Why buy a console or PC when you can stream gameplay over the internet? Why upgrade your hardware when servers across the internet can be upgraded instead, with no cost to the user? Why put up with extended loading and installation times when you could have near instant access to a massive library of games right at your fingertips? PlayStation Now does all of these things and it now supports PS4 games, so why isn't there more buzz surrounding it?
With PlayStation 4 Pro on the market and Xbox One X to follow, Microsoft and Sony's R&D focus is inevitably going to shift towards the next wave of machines. Questions surround the kind of generational leap that's possible in the next couple of years, and how much these new machines will cost. But there's one aspect of their technological make-up we can take as read: AMD's Ryzen CPU technology will take centre-stage - and the shift to a radically improved processor architecture could have more pronounced implications on the games we'll play.
We were hoping that E3 would be the venue to put to rest the question of Xbox One X's raw gaming potential, but only a handful of native titles were revealed - and as such, some degree of scepticism surrounds Microsoft's 'true 4K' claims. In the wake of the event, developers have come forward to talk about impressive results with the system: Monolith has confirmed native 4K for Shadow of War, while Respawn Entertainment says that Titanfall 2 dynamically scales up to 6K resolution. On top of that, Ark developer Studio Wildcard likens Xbox One X to a PC running a GTX 1070 with 16GB of RAM. Microsoft is bullish on the machine's native 4K credentials, with its own early benchmarks painting a compelling picture of the hardware's capabilities.
Nvidia's Pascal architecture marked a step-change in gaming laptop technology. No longer would users have to put up with cut-down GPUs, slower memory and reduced clocks. A notebook GTX 1080, 1070 or 1060 offers almost all of the power of the desktop iterations in a fully portable form-factor. But what if instead of targeting maximum performance from the silicon, manufacturers aimed for peak efficiency instead? The end result is the new Nvidia Max-Q technology, seen at its zenith in Asus's new Zephyrus laptop.
Can Nvidia's now-discontinued GeForce GTX 970 successfully power a 4K ultra HD display on a range of challenging PC games? On the face of it, the notion sounds ludicrous - on a specs level we're severely constrained by memory capacity, bandwidth and of course, basic compute power. But consider this: the prices of 4K monitors and TVs are dropping like a stone, but relatively speaking, graphics hardware is holding its price. On a general level, we need more from our graphics hardware, and the GTX 970 is an excellent subject for our tests to see just how far mainstream GPUs can be pushed.
One of many Xbox One console exclusives announced at E3 2017, Playful's Super Lucky's Tale was one of the few titles at the show we can confirm running on Xbox One X hardware. It's targeting native 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, it's running on the Unity engine and it's a complete, standalone sequel to an Oculus Rift exclusive. Consider us intrigued.