NVIDIA Releases 397.31 WHQL Drivers: Vulkan 1.1 Support, NVIDIA RTX, And More

NVIDIA Releases 397.31 WHQL Drivers: Vulkan 1.1 Support, NVIDIA RTX, And More

After quietly announcing legacy support status for Fermi GPUs and 32-bit operating systems earlier this month, NVIDIA today has released the first Release 396 drivers with 397.31 WHQL, headlined with Game Ready titles BattleTech and Frostpunk. As the first of a new driver branch, 397.31 is a wide-ranging update that introduces a number of new features, including NVIDIA RTX developer preview support, additional sampling rates for GPU HDMI audio, Vulkan 1.1 mainstream support, and tempfile auto-removal functionality for the display driver standalone installer. And as expected, Release 396 officially drops mainstream ‘Game Ready’ support for Fermi and 32-bit operating systems.

Release 396 Features for Consumers

Starting things off with driver installation itself, the display driver standalone installer now automatically removes the temporary files that it self-extracts at the beginning of the process. As for the less glamorous world of HDMI audio through video cards, the new NVIDIA HD audio driver version now supports 32, 88.2, and 176.4 kHz sample rates for all GPUs, rounding out the existing driver support for 44.1, 48, 96, and 192 kHz. The newly-added sample rates are rather uncommon compared to 44.1 (e.g. music CDs) and 48 kHz (e.g. digital video formats), and even 96 and 192 kHz (e.g. professional music recording or audiophile), but still adds versatility to HTPC setups powered by discrete NVIDIA graphics. It appears that 20 bit sample size remains unsupported, and no change to codec support was mentioned.

Meanwhile, although full support for Vulkan 1.1 was made available in NVIDIA developer drivers when the API update was launched last month, 397.31 has brought it to the mainstream Game Ready branches as opposed to beta Windows drivers. For end-users, this is another step to running Vulkan 1.1 applications, though NVIDIA notes that 397.31 passes the Vulkan Conformance Test Suite version, as opposed to the major update that was released earlier in April.

Last but not least, alongside with the usual Game Ready support for BattleTech and Frostpunk, both released yesterday, NVIDIA has also added or updated SLI profiles for Descenders, Frostpunk, Warhammer Vermintide 2, and Far Cry 5.

Release 396 Features for Developers: RTX, Optimus DLLs, & NVDECODE API Updates

A little over a month ago, Microsoft announced DirectX Raytracing (DXR), bringing a standardized API for hardware and software accelerated ray tracing under DX12. Alongside this, NVIDIA unveiled their RTX Technology, NVIDIA’s underlying runtime for DXR and other real-time raytracing solutions. RTX supports Volta and later GPUs to accelerate ray tracing via a combination of hardware and software. With today’s driver release, NVIDIA RTX has finally arrived in the form of a developer preview. As NVIDIA notes, developing RTX-accelerated DXR applications requires the following:

  • NVIDIA Volta GPU
  • NVIDIA driver version 396 or higher
  • Windows 10 RS4 (colloquially known as “Spring Creators Update”)
  • Microsoft DXR developer package (includes DXR-enabled D3D runtimes, HLSL compiler, and headers)

As for mainstream developers, the recent announcement of the Quadro V100 now brings a suitable Volta GPU solution with professional Quadro drivers outside of the deep-learning/HPC oriented Tesla Volta lineup and the prosumer Titan V.

Also of interest to developers is an update to the NVDECODE API, adding client capabilities to reconfigure decoder parameters without destruction and recreation of the decoder instance. These parameters include post-processing elements such as display resolution, cropping rectangle, and aspect ratio of the decoded frame. In practical terms, this benefits developers in situations where initializing the decoder instance would greatly add to the overall decode execution time; NVIDIA mentions an example of decoding multiple short clips of varying resolutions back-to-back.

* NVIDIA’s footnotes: *Diagram represents support for Pascal GPU family; **4:2:2 is not natively supported on HW; ***Support is codec dependent

This functionality will feature in NVIDIA’s Video Codec SDK 8.2, which is expected to release later this quarter. And though the 397.31 release notes refer to NVDECODE as a whole new API, it has been around since the release of the Video Codec SDK 7.0 in 2016, where it was re-named from NVCUVID API. As part of the Video Codec SDK, the NVDECODE API deals with video decode acceleration using NVIDIA GPUs’ dedicated ‘NVDEC’ hardware decoder blocks, comparable to the video encoding/decoding hardware blocks of Intel (Quick Sync Video) and AMD (VCE/UVD).

And on a more minor note, NVIDIA has included two new libraries (nvdlist.dll and nvdlistx.dll) to support Optimus and MSHybrid notebooks, referring to the capability of graphics load switching between integrated and discrete graphics adapters to save power and increase battery life.

Bugfixes and Open Issues

As always, today’s driver release includes bugfixes and open issues. The following bugs are addressed and resolved in 397.31:

  • DOOM crashes on the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti due to the driver reverting to OpenGL 1.1 when HDR is enabled
  • Far Cry 5 crashes on the GeForce GTX 1060 after a few minutes of gameplay
  • NvfbcPluginWindow temporarily prevents Windows from shutting down after launching a Steam game
  • Driver TDR error may occur when using Firefox.
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider experiences flickering/corruption on the GeForce GTX 1060 when opening the in-game options.
  • With V-Sync and SLI both enabled in NVIDIA Control Panel, Diablo III freezes after switching windows (Alt + Tab) a few times

397.31 has also introduced several new bugs, and NVIDIA has documented the following new issues in Windows 10:

  • With HDR turned on, full-screen video playback on Microsoft Edge on an HDR display may cause corruption of the video and desktop
    • To recover, manually power-cycle the monitor
  • TDR errors may occur on the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti when changing resolutions in-game for Warhammer Vermintide 2 running in DX12 mode
    • As a workaround, use the DX11 option
  • NVIDIA Surround hotkeys as set in NVIDIA Control Panel do not work
  • GeForce Experience’s “In-Game Overlay” option cannot be enabled, nor does ShadowPlay recording work
    • The Microsoft Media Foundation library must be installed in order to use these features

Release 396 also does not support Microsoft Surface Books, with support due in a future driver release. Naturally, 397.31 does not apply to Fermi GPUs and 32-bit OSes, nor will any future Game Ready drivers.

The updated drivers are available through the GeForce Experience Drivers tab or online at the NVIDIA driver download page. The latest GeForce Experience client can also be found separately on its own download page. More information on this update and further issues can be found in the 397.31 release notes.

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ASUS Introduces “AREZ” Brand for Radeon Cards as AMD Discusses New Consumer-Friendly AIB Branding

ASUS Introduces “AREZ” Brand for Radeon Cards as AMD Discusses New Consumer-Friendly AIB Branding

This week, ASUS introduced new “AREZ” branding for their AMD Radeon video cards. This announcement comes in conjunction with an AMD ‘freedom of choice’ initiative for consumers and gamers. Unmentioned, but inextricably intertwined, is NVIDIA’s highly controversial and recently-announced GeForce Partner Program (GPP), of which there’s little first-hand information, but is widely perceived as being a consumer-unfriendly project.

NVIDIA describes GPP as a consumer transparency program with partners and OEMs that include incentives such as early access to new technologies, engineering support, and joint marketing (though the distinction between market development funds and co-operative funds was not made), types of programs that are common in the industry. However, unique to GPP and key to today’s announcements is that Partners are required to place NVIDIA cards under their own brand, as opposed to the status-quo of both AMD and NVIDIA products showing up under the same brand (e.g. ASUS’s Republic of Gamers).

In practice this has meant that Partners have booted AMD off of their existing brands. And with few verifiable facts about how these decisions were made, they’ve been subject to heavy speculation, ranging from Partners keeping their existing brands for their highest volume products – NVIDIA typically outsells AMD at around 3:1 in the GPU market – to NVIDIA secretly requiring that Partners only use their existing brands for this endeavor. (ed: officially, NVIDIA says that they don’t care as long as it’s a GeForce-only brand, but the general secrecy around GPP means that they have a public credibiltiy problem right now).

As for ASUS, the new “AREZ” brand supersedes the previous vendor-agnostic branding of “Republic of Gamers” and “ROG STRIX,” existing sub-brands that includes both systems and computer components such as discrete graphics cards. In practice, “ROG Strix” tier Radeon products have now been shuffled into it’s own branding without any further official details, while AMD motherboards have been untouched. Though it’s interesting to note that even with this latest development, AREZ isn’t strictly a new brand for ASUS. Ultra high-end dual-GPU Radeon solutions have classically fallen under the “Ares” label in the past. So the name isn’t completely detached from video card history; rather it’s had a Z bolted on to the end.

For ASUS’ Republic of Gamers, the brand was originally created as a halo brand oriented for enthusiast-class products, offering higher quality (and more profitable) components and specialty community support. Long time readers may recall that an ASUS Republic of Gamers motherboard received a very rare AnandTech Editors’ Choice Gold Award back in 2012, where we had said, “Users who participate in the Republic of Gamers are well catered for, and get the best ASUS has to offer in terms of help, information, previews, experience.” If these changes are representative of the brand as a whole, than this experience will be only offered for GeForce owners. And likewise, consumers will only be exposed to GeForce products through ROG.

The affected products appear to have only undergone rebranding, rather than any specification changes. The cutover is not complete, as equivalent listings still appear to exist under the ROG category, and a look through the AREZ video card specifications show some products still list ROG branded accessories, such as the “ROG velcro strap.”

Meanwhile, AMD connected the “AREZ” brand to new upcoming brands, announcing that “over the coming weeks, you can expect to see our add-in board partners launch new brands that carry an AMD Radeon product.” In their blogpost titled “Radeon RX Graphics: A Gamer’s Choice”, the company expounded on the idea of consumer “freedom of choice,” explicitly connecting certain values with these new brands. Of these, AMD brought up FreeSync as opposed to “penalizing gamers with proprietary technology ‘taxes’ and limiting their choices in displays,” as well as “no anti-gamer / anti-competitive strings attached” in their relationships with board partners.

All-in-all, AMD is drawing a line here, focusing on consumer awareness and industry ‘values’ rather than dragging in AIB partners into a straight-up internal AMD/NVIDIA fight. Leveraging and expanding their traditional open ecosystem strategy, AMD is emphasizing its efforts with JEDEC HBM standards, work with the Vulkan API, and initiatives with GPUOpen. These ‘values’, so to speak, are already technologies that AMD pushes, and so the company is doubling-down in how they communicate these aspects to enthusiasts when they look at these new AIB brands.

In other words, the wording is clearly aimed at, but refrains from specifically mentioning, the recent controversies with NVIDIA GPP. Likewise, AMD’s description of “AREZ” does not specify whether their announcement is a reactive reframing of board partner rebranding, or a proactive creation of a particular initiative. Across the add-in board partner environment, it’s been reported that other partners have been dropping brands from Radeon products here and there, though none as prominant or wholesale as AREZ.

Given the nature of NVIDIA GPP, conclusive details will likely be impossible to retrieve. But we can say that the new AMD Radeon sub-brands in the coming weeks will greatly elucidate the exact relationship with NVIDIA GPP.

AMD Releases Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition 18.2.3

AMD Releases Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition 18.2.3

This week, AMD released Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition 18.2.3, a smaller patch bringing support and/or performance optimizations for three new games: Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age (released 2/1), Brass Tactics (released 2/22), and Sea of Thieves…

AMD Releases Radeon Pro Software Enterprise Edition 18.Q1 WHQL: Adrenalin Comes To Enterprise

AMD Releases Radeon Pro Software Enterprise Edition 18.Q1 WHQL: Adrenalin Comes To Enterprise

This week AMD has released the first quarterly Radeon Pro Software Enterprise Edition driver drop of the year, aptly numbered 18.Q1 WHQL. Coming on the heels of December’s major driver update on the consumer side, this is the first enterprise package based on Adrenalin Edition Pro drivers. As such, 18.Q1 incorporates new Adrenalin Pro ReLive enhancements, Pro Overlay, Pro-oriented Connect Tab, and ProRender plugin updates. Likewise, as the first post-Windows 10 Fall Creators Update enterprise driver, 18.Q1 is intended for Fall Creators Update and formally supports Mixed Reality. Rounding out this quarterly release are performance optimizations for professional applications, VDI & graphics virtualization updates, and a number of bug fixes.

First things first, AMD is implementing a slight rename from Radeon Pro Software “Enterprise Driver” to “Enterprise Edition,” making it consistent to the overall Radeon Software naming. This streamlining has not been extended, however, to the latest gaming driver now supported by 18.Q1 Driver Options, which remains “Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition for Radeon Pro 18.2.1.”

Touching on the highlights of Adrenalin Pro features, AMD referred to new Pro ReLive features like borderless region capture, microphone track separation, and chroma key background transparency, as well as Radeon Pro Overlay for Pro ReLive. This also includes the several ProRender plugin updates introduced with the inaugural Adrenalin Pro 17.12.1 Meanwhile, for performance improvements, AMD is citing year-over-year uplifts compared to 17.Q1 using SPECapc and SPECviewperf testing, notably a 47% improvement in Autodesk 3ds Max and 25% improvement in Siemens NX.

Moving on to AMD’s MxGPU, their hardware-based SR-IOV virtualized graphics solution, 18.Q1 is coupled with the January technical preview host driver for Citrix XenServer MxGPU, while production-level XenDesktop and XenApp guest drivers have been updated with 18.Q1 binaries for cloud-deployed 64-bit Windows 10, 7, Server 2016, and Server 2008 R2 platforms. The packages and compatibility notes can be found on AMD’s Citrix Pro Driver page.

In a similar vein, their Guest Interface Manager (GIM) open source KVM host OS driver remains available on GitHub as a technical preview, though the guest drivers have not been updated since Adrenalin Pro 17.12.2.

Wrapping things up, 18.Q1 comes with a list of bug fixes and documented issues typical of professional and enterprise drivers.

Bug Fixes & Resolved Issues

  • [Pro Application] Viewport in Modo may hang when using lighting set to scene on normal map.
  • [Pro Application, Vega] Unexpected behavior in Adobe Premiere Pro CC 8K playback when resuming from sleep and hibernate on Radeon Pro SSG.
  • Intermittently, only one display per GPU is selectable for setting Timing-Client.
  • Radeon Settings may crash when opening Global Settings using Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition for Radeon Pro 17.9.1 driver. 
  • ReLive toolbar may not appear using Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition for Radeon Pro 17.9.1 driver. 
  • Advanced Radeon Pro Settings may not open for mobile platforms. 

Known Issues

AMD notes that Multi-GPU Single Large Surface on Windows 10 is not currently supported on any hardware for 18.Q1.

  • [Pro Application] SOLIDWORKS Viewport may appear black during resizing of the camera view of the assembly. 
  • [VDI] When more than three 2K displays are connected in Horizon View 7.1 and Horizon View 7.4, VDI may fail to resize the desktop.
  • [VDI] VM may disconnect when upgrading the driver and unable to connect until reboot.
  • [VDI] Extended monitor configuration may not function as intended in VDI environment with Windows 10 Fall Creators Update and Windows 7 using Citrix XenDesktop. 
  • [VDI] VM may disconnect to Horizon View client during driver un-install and cannot connect until reboot on blast.
  • [VDI] Radeon Pro Settings may crash on initial VM launch with Citrix XenDesktop.
  • [Vega] Unexpected behavior when resume from sleep on Radeon Pro SSG.
  • [Vega] The user may experience unexpected behavior creating 4×1 or 6×1 AMD Eyefinity display configurations with 5K displays for “Vega”-based hardware.
  • [Vega] Application profiles may not be automatically created for “Vega”-based hardware.
  • Workstation features may not appear in Advanced Radeon Pro Settings such as 10-bit, Stereo 3D, SDI and EDID for mobile platforms.
  • User may see Radeon branding when uninstalling the driver in Professional Mode, if a Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition for Radeon Pro gaming driver is installed. 
  • User may see Radeon Pro Settings icon in taskbar to be red instead of blue.
  • Radeon Pro Settings may become unresponsive when user clicks “Restore Factory Defaults”.
  • Sun Temple application (Unreal Engine demo) may crash when launched in Vulkan mode in Windows 7.
  • D2D applications may hang when switching to fullscreen using LiquidVR.
  • Radeon Pro Overlay may not appear during clone mode with 2 displays.
  • BSOD may be triggered while running Nuke Benchmark on Windows 7 OS with AMD FirePro W9100 and AMD FirePro 8100.
  • Blank screen may be seen with hot unplug and plug of 8K display. 
  • Radeon Settings may crash when opening “Global Settings” using Radeon Vega Frontier Edition with the Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition for Radeon Pro 17.9.1 gaming driver. 
  • User may encounter difficulties switching to older gaming drivers. 
  • Radeon Software branding may be observed with driver un-install from control panel during un-installation process in professional mode, if at least one gaming driver is installed. 
  • Device Manager may show yellow bang after installation and error message when opening Radeon Pro Settings. 

ISV Certification Notes

  • Due to Maya-MtoA software issue “Trac #3142,” some Viewport Draw modes for stand-ins draw an infinite line. Workaround is to toggle the Viewport Draw Mode of the stand-in in the Attribute Editor.
  • Autodesk Maya 2017/2018 may show gray patch in playback in certain models due to Maya issue “Maya 41945.” Workaround is to click on a different frame on timeline or to click on first frame.

For Linux support, details can be found in the release notes for Radeon Pro Software Enterprise Edition 18.Q1 for Linux.

The updated drivers for AMD’s professional workstation GPUs are available online at the AMD’s professional graphics driver download page. More information on this update and further issues can be found in the Radeon Pro Software Enterprise Edition 18.Q1 release notes and Radeon Pro newspost on 18.Q1.

New Radeon Pro Software Enterprise Editions are released on the 2nd Wednesday of the 2nd month of the quarter. The next releases will follow on 5/9/18, 8/8/18, and 11/14/18.