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What is the future of GPU VRAM in view of next gen consoles with unified system memory?

Soldato
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20 Dec 2006
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I've read the eurogamer article suggesting that you will want as much VRAM as possible when developers start feeding us true next-gen titles.


What I haven't seen is much discussion on the current status quo and what will happen next year when Maxwell (not sure what Red team are doing, I imagine the same...) lands with its ability to share system ram.

Will they still ship cards with 2-4-6-8gb?! on-board or offload to system RAM so everyone starts buying big, fast kits?

How can DDR3/4 compete with GDDR5/6 bandwidth on GPUs?

In view of perhaps needing more VRAM for next gen titles, will cards, in relative terms, become cheaper/stay same price though shipping with more VRAM?

or will they just make us pay for our cards:D
 
Soldato
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Well the consoles use gddr5 not ddr3 afaik tho if u mean on pc sharing system ram with the next nvidia gen then im sure they know what there doing. They say its unified but reports are coming out that its really split i.e 3-4gb is locked for OS on the new consoles. Still thats about 4gb for games which is afaik alot more than previous gens.

At the end of the day if the new gen of consoles really do have limits on the 8gb of gddr5 ram in them i.e os locks 3-4gb from games then were lookin at games not really using much more than 4-5gb on average. So there still not really using that much more than us with comparable pcs which 8gb is the average i think now. True they will be using gddr5 not ddr3 like but still. PCs wont need anything really changing to keep up with next gen regarding specs for porting from ps4 etc i think.

Edit - Link about the limits of unified mem on next gen.
http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articl...-can-only-use-4-5gb-of-systems-8gb-ram-report
 
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Soldato
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Well the consoles use gddr5 not ddr3 afaik tho if u mean on pc sharing system ram with the next nvidia gen then im sure they know what there doing. They say its unified but reports are coming out that its really split i.e 3-4gb is locked for OS on the new consoles. Still thats about 4gb for games which is afaik alot more than previous gens.
.

I would be very surprised if it was anything like this amount that was locked for the OS/ firmware. 1/2 that would be more realistic maybe with adaptive resourcing from the free allocation part if /when required
 
Caporegime
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Unified memory won't suddenly massively increase texture sizes in game, as in beyond current pc numbers already, because of resolution and inefficiency, massively higher texture sizes wouldn't increase picture quality if the size is already good enough for 1080p. PC's are at where they need to be, consoles have been miles and miles behind and will jump forward but only to match the pc.

Unified memory is really nothing to do with increasing total memory together, 512mb to 8gb was that, the unified memory part allows for significantly higher efficiency, huge reduction in generally worthless repeat copying and deleting/updating data.

In terms of memory, the XB1 reserves at least 3gb, 1gb/1 core for each OS afaik. The PS4 is said to be reserving 2.5gb or so for the OS with 1gb as yet reserved and not usable by games. If PS4 add a buttload of features in the next say 3 years which takes the OS memory requirements well beyond 2.5gb, then if games are made today that use precisely 5.5gb, then in 3 years when the OS needs more memory the game will have problems running. They can(and likely will) release most of that memory for games in the future.

Modern gpu's on pc's will not under any circumstances suddenly require 8gb to run multiplatform titles, I would be surprised if they all didn't run on 2gb gpu's without a problem(at the same settings/res), maybe much less than that.

In terms of memory, it doesn't have to be in the same place to be unified, it just needs to be all accessible to each other. HSA features unified memory, Kaveri was supposed to be the first desktop HSA parts... but no one really knows how that will work as yet. Only the APU's, or will it work with discrete gpu's, will it only work well with discrete AMD gpu's... quite likely, not because they would lock out Nvidia but because the parts would need to be HSA compatible, there are MANY companies working towards HSA compatibility, Apple, Arm, AMD.... I honestly can't remember but I don't think Intel or Nvidia have said they will do HSA compatible parts.

Nvidia has been working on their own ways to heavily cut down the amount of overhead, I forget the name of their project and I think its a PCI-e based way of doing it.

http://on-demand.gputechconf.com/gtc-express/2011/presentations/cuda_webinars_GPUDirect_uva.pdf

If you look at the first couple of pictures it kind of illistrates one of the advantages. Firstly unified memory is like on the right of the first slide, its combining all memory and letting everything see it as one pool. Then in the second slide... though not well illistrated, right now to copy data from GPU 0 memory to GPU 1 memory, it has to send the data to the cpu, then to the gpu, interupting the cpu with basically needless work and getting in the way of other traffic. With unified memory style systems you can copy the data directly from gpu 0 memory to gpu 1 memory. Its noticeably quicker and has a FAR lower cpu overhead, effectively none, meaning the transfer is much quicker and whatever the cpu is doing is effectively sped up.

In terms of bandwidth and ddr3/4 vs gddr5, well you've got power to consider, gddr5 uses significantly more than ddr3, you've got latency to consider, they aren't as far apart as people think but ddr3 is lower latency. Different access does best with different types of memory. GPU data requires exceptionally high bandwidth and latency isn't much of a concern so gddr5 is tuned for high latency very high bandwidth. CPU data usually requires low latency and doesn't need an awful lot of bandwidth, as such ddr3/4 are tuned for lower latency and not huge bandwidth. Having different types of memory for different types of device still makes sense, and local memory for different devices will always be magnitudes faster than memory further away.
 
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Soldato
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IIRC the PS3/XB1 are supposed to have GPU's on par with the HD7870/7790. Considering those cards run out of GPU grunt in current leading game at 1080p before hitting the limits of their 2GB storage or memory bus throughput then the additional memory/throughput of the new consoles isn't going to be of use, games designed for the new consoles are not going to be all that demanding unless the PC port is royally messed up Halo/GTA style.
 
Caporegime
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Not sure what is going to happen. That is why i am just getting a stop gap card (the MSI GTX 670 on offer) for now. Cant justify spending more than £200 when a 2 or 3gb might be obsolete in a year.

With the advent of the new consoles i think it is unwise to spend big on the current crop of cards as we dont know how taxing the next gen ports will be really.

I do think 2GB will be enough for a while at 1080p with not much AA though.

I bet in a few years 2gb might be stretching it a bit though, although by that time the 670 probably wont be pulling many frames anyway.
 
Soldato
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Developers are reporting that you'll want to be buying a card with at least 3GB memory as the PS4/Xbox games are primarily using their 4GB-5GB allocation (from the 8GB pool) for graphics.

Even at 1080p, which is all the consoles are targetting, they are now going to massively push up texture resolution, polygons etc which will all use a lot more GPU Ram than we currently do.

Personally i'm holding off to see what the next 9000 series AMD cards are like, bearing in mind it's their GPU's in both next generation consoles. I know PC graphics tech is already far in advance of the Xbox One and PS4 in terms of fillrate but AMD will have a better idea where things are going with their insider knowledge.
 
Don
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Developers are reporting that you'll want to be buying a card with at least 3GB memory as the PS4/Xbox games are primarily using their 4GB-5GB allocation (from the 8GB pool) for graphics.

Even at 1080p, which is all the consoles are targetting, they are now going to massively push up texture resolution, polygons etc which will all use a lot more GPU Ram than we currently do.

Personally i'm holding off to see what the next 9000 series AMD cards are like, bearing in mind it's their GPU's in both next generation consoles. I know PC graphics tech is already far in advance of the Xbox One and PS4 in terms of fillrate but AMD will have a better idea where things are going with their insider knowledge.

Have you got a link to the develpoers discussing the memory issue?
 
Soldato
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You have to also remember that these consoles are designed to last 8-10 years, so later in life of course we will see higher vram cards become the norm as higher resolution also becomes standard. Sony and microsoft probably didn't want to find them selves in the position they were in with the ps3 & 360 where quality sacrifices were being made to allow a game to run smoothly on systems with 256mb & 512mb available resources, with 8gb unified they should be able to maintain a higher quality for longer before the tech becomes obsolete.

The last article I had read suggested ps4 will use ddr5 while xbone will be ddr3.
 
Soldato
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Unified memory also allows more efficient and creative graphical trickery, since you have direct access to the graphics memory. So we'll see some interesting stuff on the PS4 once it's matured. It may not have the raw horsepower of a gaming PC, but it won't have to.
 
Soldato
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Have you got a link to the develpoers discussing the memory issue?

Yep:

Linus Bloomberg - Avalanche
In terms of pure processing power, the chances are that we now have the horsepower to exceed the first and second generation games seen on next-gen console. But what still isn't addressed to a satisfying degree is the question of on-board video RAM. Both Microsoft and Sony machines use 8GB of RAM with fast access to the GPU. We're currently living in a world where even a £400 GeForce GTX 680 only ships with 2GB - and that's a worry.

"I think we can assume that most games will use a majority of the 8GB for graphics resources, so I'd go for as much GDDR5 on the GPU as possible,"

From this Digital Foundry article: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-future-proofing-your-pc-for-next-gen

Which goes on to say

"Replicating the 8GB unified ram of the Sony console will be impossible," another well-placed source tells us.

"The problem with Windows is that there is always a DirectX type 'layer' between the game and the actual hardware. This marshals and controls the movement of textures/shaders/vertices from the main PC memory to the memory on the GPU. Unless PC games programmers get direct control of the hardware (very unlikely), you will always be fighting against this issue. You never know where your textures are and when they will be uploaded to the GPU, which can cause stalls or micro-stutters in a frame as resources are shunted between the memory types."

And again, similar to the CPU recommendations, we see consensus from all of our sources on how to best future-proof your PC in this respect - buy a graphics card "with as much memory as you can afford".

Another article states that the Killzone demo was using over 3GB of the unified ram just for graphical assets at 1080p:

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-inside-killzone-shadow-fall
 
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Soldato
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The framebuffer in a PC can get by with 2GB @ 1080p. In a console it will need less... what on Earth will they use the rest for? Can they even do 1080p? In theory yes, but nobody knows the system well enough at launch. I'm rambling now.
 
Soldato
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Hmm maybe the roles will be reveresed for a short time, where the games will be made for the lowest common denominator i.e the PC, untill Nvidia and AMD come up with a solution to this unified RAM limitation.
 
Soldato
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Don't believe the hype. They always spout this sort of guff every gen:

-blast processing (megadrive)
-64 bit (N64)
-Toy Story graphics (PS2)
-POWAR OF CELL (PS3)

PC reigns supreme, always. Unless you can break the laws of physics and economics.
 
Soldato
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Perhaps, but look how good Xbox 360 games looked in 2007/2008 compared to PC's which were much more powerful at the time.

Ok they're getting a bit long in the tooth now, but the Xbox 360 is nearly 8 years old! The Last of Us on PS3 looks very good still and that has 256mb of GPU memory!
 
Soldato
Joined
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21,595
Don't believe the hype. They always spout this sort of guff every gen:

-blast processing (megadrive)
-64 bit (N64)
-Toy Story graphics (PS2)
-POWAR OF CELL (PS3)

PC reigns supreme, always. Unless you can break the laws of physics and economics.

To be fair though, blast processing actually benefited the Megadrive quite a lot, you could even argue it was one of the prime reasons the Megadrive beat the SNES in Europe and South America.


Perhaps, but look how good Xbox 360 games looked in 2007/2008 compared to PC's which were much more powerful at the time.

Ok they're getting a bit long in the tooth now, but the Xbox 360 is nearly 8 years old! The Last of Us on PS3 looks very good still and that has 256mb of GPU memory!

UT3 came out in 2007, I have yet to see a console FPS that looks as good (and some of them even use the same engine with lower settings).
 
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Soldato
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3,032
Perhaps, but look how good Xbox 360 games looked in 2007/2008 compared to PC's which were much more powerful at the time.

You must of had a weak pc as pc games always looked better than the console releases in 2007/2008. 8800GTX would eat a 360 or PS3 for breakfast.
 
Soldato
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as above, they always spout this guff in the run up to a new console
looking at the press releases from "developers" saying that the next consoles will be better than PC's, they then go on to list out specs in the new consoles and say that these figures beat a PC, I can't remember the exact figure off the top of my head, but in reference to memory bandwidth and how much data they can transfer to VRAM they listed a figure and said that this was more than "most" PC's and they referenced PCIe 2.0... now granted "most PC's" do use PCIe2.0, however he completely neglected to mention that most mid to top end GAMING PC's use PCIe3.0, which is then nearly double the figures he quoted for the consoles

it is all fluff, no matter how efficient they make these consoles, they are not going to be able to make them stand up against gaming PC's that are 2-3 times more powerfull

also bearing in mind that by the time the consoles are actually released, or more importantly by the time games get released on these consoles that start to be able to possibly use 4GB of VRAM, there will be at least one if not two more generations of PC GPU released, and it would be trivial for the 2 card makers to add more VRAM... IF it is really needed
 
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