Nvidia held an event in Montreal, Canada on October 18th where they announced their latest offerings for, mostly, high-end gamers. On stage was Nvidia CEO, Jen-Hsun who talked about the tools and services the company will continue to roll-out to aid developers and showcased 3 new products to that end. The first aims to give every PC gamer the same kind of video capturing capabilities that will be a part of the next-gen consoles by utilizing the encoder built-in to every Nvidia GPU. The service, called Shadowplay, can record full resolution, high frame-rate video with the push of a hotkey. It’s similar to the popular Fraps program except that it uses the graphics card hardware in a way only Nvidia can therefore lifting the additional processor strain inherent with any software-based screen-capture and possibly making expensive pass-through capture devices unnecessary. Also, because the best things always happen when you’re not recording, Shadowplay will keep up to the last 20 minutes of footage in memory so you can go back and save out the clip of that amazing thing that totally just happened.
Jumping to the end of the show for a moment; Jen-Hsun showed off their latest GPU in the GeForce GTX line called the GTX 780 Ti. I’d love to tell you it’s clockspeed and number of CUDA cores, but no technical specs were given for the card. But, you know you still want it.
The biggest piece of news to come out of the event is something Nvidia claims will eliminate one of the oldest and most aggravating aspects of displaying any game; V-Sync. Any PC gamer that has weighed each of a game’s graphical settings upon the familiar and unforgiving scale of quality and performance is likely well aware of the positive and negative effects of Vertical Syncing (V-Sync). This option attempts to synchronize your monitor’s refresh rate (the fixed maximum number of frames per second it can display) with the ever changing render rate of the GPU. Without this synchronization, some frames of animation can “tear” and appear as slices of different frames viewed at once. Though this can greatly increase the smoothness of in-game visuals it has been proven to cause an often huge increase in input lag (a slow-down between the player issuing a command and the game responding) while the GPU simply waits to continue rendering frames until the monitor has caught up and finished displaying the current batch of frames held in video memory. This is made worse with more resource-demanding games.
If all that was too technical for you, it shouldn’t matter anymore because all that may now be a relic of the by-gone days of PC gaming. Nividia has unveiled their G-SYNC technology which will dynamically adjust the refresh rate of the monitor to match the render rate of the GPU. Nvidia claims this will eliminate tearing, stuttering, and lag by displaying each frame at the exact same moment it is rendered by the GPU. It’s the kind of thing that makes you think “why wasn’t this invented a long time ago?”.
“Our commitment to create a pure gaming experience led us to G-SYNC. This revolutionary technology eliminates artifacts that have long stood between gamers and the game. Once you play on a G-SYNC monitor, you’ll never want to go back.”
Jeff Fisher – Senior vice president of the GeForce brand
G-SYNC is not a device you will be able to buy and add to your existing PC set-up (NOTE - The G-SYNC module is expected to be sold separately for use as a replacement scaler board in a few existing, 144hz capable monitors by the end of 2013). Instead, It will be integrated into special G-SYNC monitors that are set for release in 2014. Other monitors will be “G-SYNC ready” and include a slot for the module. The current list of manufacturers building G-SYNC monitors are ASUS, BenQ, Philips and ViewSonic. Nvidia has promised that this chip will not add much to the price of these monitors, but if they’re being targeted to gamers you should expect nothing less than, I’d say, $350-$400 at the very cheapest.
Joining Jen-Hsun on-stage were industry leaders Tim Sweeney (Epic games), Johan Andersson (DICE), and John Carmack (Id) who spoke briefly about G-SYNC calling it a “great experience”, ”really awesome”, and pointing out that “almost every single game can benefit from this”.