This Week in Viz – 7/17/09

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Randall Hand from, the web’s best site dedicated to computer graphics and scientific visualization, recap’s the week‘s best stories related to supercomputing in the visualization and graphics industries.  This week he talks about PSC & SGI, NVidia’s fuzzy benchmark results, and state of the art CG from 1983.

Quick Picks:

GPGPU and HPC Computing to give Graphics Chips a bump in 2010

In a new report from Jon Peddie Research, they predict that while GPU chips are suffering pretty big decline right now, they’re going to come back big next year.

The decrease in shipments for 2009 will be even worse than the 2000-2001 recession. However, 2010 promises an amazing comeback.

They attribute the surge to the booming GPGPU market being fueled by CUDA & OpenCL, along with DirectX11 making a push with the release on Windows7.

Updates on the PSC & SGI Falling-Out

Still nothing official on the SGI & PSC falling-out we reported on last week.  SGI’s PR firm gave us the following statement:

SGI remains committed to the HPC community and in fact still has a business relationship with the Pittsburg Supercomputing Center. This means that all of the business dealings are considered internal and confidential, and SGI cannot publicly comment on status of any deal at this time. I am sure you understand.

So what does this mean?  Well, it’s possible that SGI & PSC are still negotiating, either lowering the final performance (sub 1-Petaflop) or raising the amount they are willing to pay.  Either way, we hope to hear more from them.

NVidia’s fuzzy benchmarks give it “World’s Fastest Mobile GPU” Title

A recent press release and benchmark from NVidia won them the title of “world’s most powerful mobile GPU setup”.  They pitted their Alienware M17X, which contains dual GTX280M’s in SLI, against the Asus W90, powered by dual AMD4870’s in Crossfire.  The NVidia/Alienware system won easily. However, new information has come up that has people wondering if perhaps the race should have been a bit closer, or perhaps NVidia should have lost:

To prove their point nVidia tested both systems and when setting up the Asus they stated that they used the “latest drivers”. However it appears that this is far from the truth and the drivers are more than one year old, hardly utilizing the second 4870 at all. It is unclear if nVidia did this to provide a larger, more impressive lead than they already had in the benchmark or if they had to do this to come out on top.

A year in the age of Video drivers is ancient history, and NVidia should know better (#1 rule in every NVidia troubleshooting howto is “Check your driver version”). Mere hours later, a rebuttal has appeared that places the blame not on NVidia, but on ASUS.

Who is at fault here? The answer is not simple, but understandable: ASUS. When we checked for latest drivers, it turned out that AMD’s own site will give you ATI Mobility Radeon X1800 as the latest mobile graphics card out there. No Mobility Radeons 2000, 3000 or 4000 series exist. According to, ATI stopped making graphics cards for notebooks in 2006. We asked questions to Ian McNaughton and Jay Marsden of AMD fame, but received no answer at press time. We reserve the right to update this article with their answer once it becomes available.

While NVidia could possibly be blamed for not advertising the lack of game profile or in not really pushing the ASUS system to it’s maximum limits, that’s not really their job.  The real puzzler is how did ASUS create a “Gaming laptop” with chips that, supposedly, were not manufactured after 2006?