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Bug Graphics Hardware Games

NVIDIA Responds To GTX 970 Memory Bug 145

Vigile writes Over the past week or so, owners of the GeForce GTX 970 have found several instances where the GPU was unable or unwilling to address memory capacities over 3.5GB despite having 4GB of on-board frame buffer. Specific benchmarks were written to demonstrate the issue and users even found ways to configure games to utilize more than 3.5GB of memory using DSR and high levels of MSAA. While the GTX 980 can access 4GB of its memory, the GTX 970 appeared to be less likely to do so and would see a dramatic performance hit when it did. NVIDIA responded today saying that the GTX 970 has "fewer crossbar resources to the memory system" as a result of disabled groups of cores called SMMs. NVIDIA states that "to optimally manage memory traffic in this configuration, we segment graphics memory into a 3.5GB section and a 0.5GB section" and that the GPU has "higher priority" to the larger pool. The question that remains is should this affect gamers' view of the GTX 970? If performance metrics already take the different memory configuration into account, then I don't see the GTX 970 declining in popularity.
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NVIDIA Responds To GTX 970 Memory Bug

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  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Saturday January 24, 2015 @04:36PM (#48894591)

    My Ferrari only goes 210 MPH but they said it would go 217!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's true though, they lied. Try to do the same when paying a bill (pay 210$ when it says 217$), you'll see how these companies will send their legions of lawyers after you just to get that little 7$.

      • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardpriceNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday January 24, 2015 @05:33PM (#48894833)

        Tell us where they lied - the card has 4GB of memory in one bank, its logically separated out internally when used by the cards processor. But it still has 4GB of memory.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          You car still has 4 wheels, so what if 3 of them can't use the brakes efficiently?

          • Except, to get the analogy right, it would be important to consider that: 1. 0.5 GB is only 12.5% of the total pool (not 75% as in your analogy), and 2. Probably 99.9% of users don't have applications or hardware to use more than half of that VRAM anyways, unlike 100% having a need for more braking performance, as with your analogy.
            • . Probably 99.9% of users don't have applications or hardware to use more than half of that VRAM anyways

              Sure they do. People who are buying the 970 are either gamers or dopey bitcoin miners, and the top tier (and most of the middle-tier) of new games will use 4gig VRAM. Who knows about the bitcoin mining because that's all nonsense anyway. But I'll bet their little programs that they run using $1 of electricity to get 50 cents in bitcoins use every bit of that 4gig VRAM. Because they've got nothing but

              • I have 4gb in my IMac (although just a 720gtxm) . I am not a gamer but Final Cut Pro uses the gpu when analyzing or altering video content.

                • Of course there are people using 4gig VRAM that aren't gamers or bitcoin miners. But they're probably not buying a 970gtx.

              • not everyone pays for their electricity

                • not everyone pays for their electricity

                  So as long as your parents are paying for the electricity, all those bitcoins are just free money? Wow. Why isn't everybody mining bitcoins? It would end world poverty!

                  • Or my electricity is part of my rent, or people in the military who live in base housing, or I can come up with 10 other examples, anyways it's pretty telling you jumped right to the living with your parents things.

                    • Or my electricity is part of my rent, or people in the military who live in base housing, or I can come up with 10 other examples

                      This may come as a shock to you, but if your electricity is part of your rent, you are still paying for your electricity.

                      No matter where you live, somebody is paying for your electricity. There is no free lunch (unless Mom and Dad are paying for the electricity, in which case, have at it because your John Galt Bucks are totally going to revolutionize the world economy).

                      Is there s

              • > Who knows about the bitcoin mining because that's all nonsense anyway.

                Nobody in their right mind uses GPUs to mine bitcoin any more. They use custom mining chips (ASICs) which are about 100 times more efficient, because the calculations are done entirely in hardware, and being fairly simple, can be parallelized much more than graphics cores.

                As far as bitcoin being nonsense, the New York Stock Exchange and a large bank just invested in a bitcoin company: http://blog.coinbase.com/post/... [coinbase.com], and Microsof

                • As far as bitcoin being nonsense, the New York Stock Exchange and a large bank just invested in a bitcoin company:

                  "The New York Stock Exchange and a large bank..."

                  They'd invest in tulip bulbs is there were sufficient suckers. Which in the case of Bitcoin, there most certainly are.

                  Good luck with your GaltBucks, boyo.

                  Not all of us are idiots.

                  If you have to say that, it's probably not true.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Except, to get the analogy right, it would be important to consider that: 1. 0.5 GB is only 12.5% of the total pool [...]

              OK, how about "your car's engine has 8 cyliders, but only 7 of them have any compression"?

            • The people using these for cheap numerical processing machines are often the sort where they will assign far more than available memory then adjust downwards until something works. They will have noticed.
        • by Rick Zeman ( 15628 ) on Saturday January 24, 2015 @05:48PM (#48894897)

          Tell us where they lied - the card has 4GB of memory in one bank, its logically separated out internally when used by the cards processor. But it still has 4GB of memory.

          They just need to run himem.sys with the right parameters.....

          • They just need to run himem.sys with the right parameters.....

            You just gave me a little shiver when I read that.

            • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Saturday January 24, 2015 @07:11PM (#48895347)

              I you want real shivers, don't forget to use EMM386 and to LH your CD-ROM and mouse drivers.

              • QEMM forever! Oh, what's this, memmaker? hmmmmm

              • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Saturday January 24, 2015 @09:14PM (#48895903)

                Silly person!

                Use UMBPCI instead of EMM386, and use CTMOUSE for the mouse driver.

                (assuming your modern system still knows how to play right in real mode anyway. Many modern chipsets have problems with ISA style DMAs, which makes using the hardware UMBs free with UMBPCI can have unpredictable results. For such systems, you are stuck with EMM386 doing protected mode memory reassignments, and gobbling down a big chunk of conventional. Blech.)

                Really, there are much better memory managers that came about since the DOS days (FreeDOS is still a living project for devices that simply must run DOS. Industrial vinyl cutters and the like come to mind), and you can reasonably get over 568k conventional free with little hassle.

                • How can you possibly remember all that? Are you maintaining some of these old industrial DOS systems? I can tell you from the top of my head what record label a rock song from 1970 was on, but I couldn't make an autoexec.bat or config.sys if you put a gun to my head without googling it. And I must have done it a thousand times back in the day.

                  • Hahaha. I know this feeling well.

                    I used to spend all kinds of time trying to load high as much as I could by rearranging the load order of drivers, etc. I was pretty good at it.

                    All these memories will be lost, in time. Like tears in the rain.

                    And good riddance, I say! :)
                    • I used to spend all kinds of time trying to load high as much as I could

                      Maybe that's why I can't remember. I read somewhere that I was supposed to "load high" and I took it a little too seriously.

                  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Sunday January 25, 2015 @01:35AM (#48896875)

                    I dont know? I remember all kinds of things.

                    I DO have a large collection of old retro DOS games, some of which are still quite fun to play, but which dont run worth SHIT on WINE or modern windows. (and cruising inside dosbox just doesn't feel the same. MoSlo and real hardware feel like the genuine experience.)

                    My inability to forget legacy shit sometimes pays off, when I come in contact with a poor IT wage slave who has to maintain legacy CNC equipment. (Sometimes phone equipment too, but mostly CNC equipment) Things like 2D vinyl cutters, old PCB milling/masking machines, etc. Those things cost millions of dollars when new, and despite being ancient beyond words inside by modern standards, the owners rarely consider "buying a new one" an acceptable solution, as long as said expensive legacy devices can be coaxed into continuing to make product. Typically, these devices simply cannot be upgraded to a more modern OS, for multitudinous reasons. The most commonplace one is that there simply arent any drivers for the custom PCI (or even ISA!) cards inside them, and the drivers that do exist require realmode level control over the hardware to work (Or the control software is so poorly written that it can't work on anything newer, etc.).

                    Sometime last year, the topic of how to reduce the need for re-imaging win9X installations came up here on slashdot. (I forget the story.. does not matter) A poster was in the undesirable position of having to maintain such a legacy device, and my inability to forget legacy shit paid off for him. I told him that he could basically make his legacy devices damned near maintenance free by using syslinux as the bootloader with an ext2 partition holding a small (512mb or so) disk image, and using memdisk. System acts goofy? Just reboot it. Fresh, clean image each and every time. Because the actual HDD is formatted with an EXT flavor OS, the win9x running does not see it or use it for anything. The actual HDD never gets written to. Switching out an aging IDE disk with a CF->IDE adapter, this works out just fine. The flash is never written to, just read from, even when windows is running.

                    He was having problems where he would have to re-image his CF cards every few months because of how intrinsically shitty and unstable win9x was. He was VERY interested in running win9x from a ramdisk. I never heard back, but I hope it worked out for him.

                    As for why I can't seem to ever forget? Who knows. I'm just unlucky maybe?

                    I can shit out a config.sys and autoexec.bat right from the dos prompt, straight from memory even to this day.

                  • by Smauler ( 915644 )

                    My autoexec.bat by the end was just a menu with 7 options at the start, with it jumping to the right parts depending on the thing I wanted to run. The config.sys was not as easy to automate - you just had to rename the files and reboot. Getting DOOM to run on 4 separate computers together back then was.... challenging, especially if you didn't run IPX natively. It was possible, though, and when I got doom set up 4 person multiplayer, it was a revelation at the time for me and my friends. This was 20 ye

                    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

                      using [] brackets and [menu] you could break up the config.sys too, then in autoexec, reference the breaks with a GOTO %CONFIG%.

                    • by Smauler ( 915644 )

                      Never heard of autocon. I'd bet it used some of that 640k though.

                  • I can tell you from the top of my head what record label a rock song from 1970 was on, but I couldn't make an autoexec.bat or config.sys if you put a gun to my head without googling it.

                    Well, different people have different interests. I care more about IT than I do about music. Indeed, when I am working on IT projects, I rarely listen to music, as I find it distracting. But music often makes me think of IT projects. Born to do it. I can still remember a lot of the stuff I used to do with DOS, even though I am about 99.99% sure that I will never touch DOS again. Never know, I might get caught up in industrial control tomorrow.

                    • Why does industrial control still use DOS? Can you even boot a modern computer into DOS or is industrial control using DOSbox?

                      I guess it doesn't matter. Practically every tool ever invented by man is still in use somewhere, for something.

                    • Why does industrial control still use DOS?

                      Because of all the stuff that's still working. A lot of it could be replaced for not too much money, if it goes right the first time...

                      Can you even boot a modern computer into DOS

                      DOS compatibility is still a listed feature of many new PC motherboards.

                      I guess it doesn't matter. Practically every tool ever invented by man is still in use somewhere, for something.

                      Yeah, I scrape something with a rock every so often...

                • and you can reasonably get over 568k conventional free with little hassle.

                  Awesome... perhaps with a little bit of careful tweaking, I can get even more, but I seriously doubt I'll ever need more than 640k.

              • or even G=C800:5
                • Umm... what are the head/cylinder/track counts for a Samsung 840 SSD? Also, is it fast enough for "Interleave=2", or will I have to leave interleave set to 3?

                  Terrible tech support, Samsung. I just can't find this critical information on your website at all!

        • Because it can't actually USE all the RAM? Its like saying "Windows XP can have up to 4GB of RAM" which while TECHNICALLY true is bullshit because of the way 32bit Windows works the max you'll ever be able to get the OS to use is around 3.5GB, with most systems only hitting around 3.2GB-3.4GB.

          If they were selling this as a 3.5GB card? I'd say fine and dandy, card makers often will disable parts that either don't work or to have different tiers at different price points but in this case they are advertisin

          • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

            Actually windows XP could use 4GB just fine. Most people just went stupid and forgot that it's total of ALL RAM memory, which includes things like video RAM on graphics card.

            So if you have a 512MB RAM on video card (which was typical for gaming rigs at the time) and 4 GB system RAM, you can only map 3.5GB system RAM. Because that's all that you can address with 32-bit OS. I had a system just like that, and I knew exactly what would happen because I researched the issue.

            • More accurately, you need some address space to access the hardware. I/O between the CPU and the keyboard, PCI devices, real-time clock, interrupt controllers etc.
              One some 8bit computers with 16bit address space you might be able to use up to 48KB RAM instead of 64K, for the same reason, unless memory banking is used.
              On PC you typically have a 256MB window to interface with the graphics card, so in fact you had 256MB taken for the graphics card and 256MB for everything else. If you had used two graphics car

        • This car has a 6000cc engine. True, only 5500cc can be used at once, but if the main engine is switched off then the little 500cc engine on the side can do a golf cart impression pretty well.

      • I have an old laptop with 4GB but it's running Windows XP 32 bit so I can only use 3GB. Have I also been lied to?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's more like they sold a car that revs to 7000rpm but cuts power at 6500rpm prematurely.

    • That it will go 200 MPH like the equivalent model from other brands like Lamborghini etc but it turns out it goes 175, i.e. slower than those. Sure, you would not have realized it until you actually found a road good enough to test over 175 MPH (if you ever did) and otherwise the car feels good and accelerates as expected, but max speed is something that some people care about especially when comparing one sports car with the other. The excuse is sort of like "yeah, we put in an engine that would theoretica
      • Yeah, but what if you got that really good looking waitress from the Tilted Kilt to finally go out with you and you told her your car could to 200 and you drive out the Bonneville Salt Flats and it turns out your expensive car runs out of horses at 175mph and you're looking like the world's biggest douche?

        How are you supposed to recover from that, huh? DAMN YOU nVIDIA!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, for some games this kind of thing can matter a great deal. One of the main games I play runs right about 3GB of VRAM if you max the texture res settings. I have a 3GB card. If it's just under 3GB, everything is fine, and the game runs 40-50 FPS. But rotate your view a little, bring some new object into the field of view, and suddenly the VRAM requirement goes over 3GB, and performance falls immediately and drastically to single digits, around 5 or 6 FPS, and textures are shoveled back and forth fr

    • You don't drive your Ferrari around at max speed all the time, Gamers DO drive their video cards at Max speed at regular intervals. Regardless they paid for the performance and received less than they paid for, Ferrari would be ridiculed/sued/have massive backlash if they published figures for their car and the real numbers were more than 10% lower.

      • You don't drive your Ferrari around at max speed all the time,

        I do in Need for Speed Rivals, which brings us full circle back to VRAM and nVidia trying to get those people who just bought Geforce 970s to start bugging their parents (or wives) for a GeForce 980 because goddamit, they promised 4gig VRAM and now I may not be able to play Arkham Knight on Ultra and that makes me feel awful.

  • False Advertising (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 24, 2015 @04:37PM (#48894593)

    I'm just going to come out and say that to advertise the card with 4GB, but then disable any amount of it, is false advertising. Sure, most games can't actually hit 4GB since most games are still brain-dead 32-bit applications that can't access more than 4GB of any memory.

    But this is a sign of things to come. Where the next generation sub-20nm GPU's will be advertised with RAM amounts and supposed to have 2-3X the processing power, but part of the GPU will be competely unusable because the operating system or software being used isn't 64-bit aware.

    • by alen ( 225700 )

      they will have a new card you can buy with newer software to solve these "issues"

    • Re:False Advertising (Score:4, Informative)

      by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday January 24, 2015 @05:55PM (#48894931)

      I'm just going to come out and say that to advertise the card with 4GB, but then disable any amount of it, is false advertising.

      i agree. however in this case, all 4 Gigabytes are accessible, they simply aren't accessible at the same speed. the final 500MB is "slow" to access but it's still there and you can still access it.

      • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday January 24, 2015 @07:22PM (#48895419)

        Thing thing is if you go and look at benchmarks of the cards in actual games, you find out the 970 wrecks shit, particularly given its price point. The 980 is an overpriced luxury (I say this as a 980 owner) because the 970 gets nearly the same performance for like half the price. The difference with its memory controller just doesn't seem to matter in actual games out there on the market.

        And that's the real thing here the the spec head forget: You buy these to run actual software. If it does well on all actual software, then who gives a shit about the details?

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Whether the GTX 970 has 3.5 or 4 GB effective it's still more than a standard GTX 780 Ti with 3 GB, so I'm guessing you have to run some rather extreme resolutions and AA modes to see a practical difference. In fact the latter will generally beat a 970 whether single vs single or SLI vs SLI at UHD (3840x2160) [guru3d.com] resolutions.

          What I do know is that my 2x970 totally trashes a single GTX 980 at a 20% price premium as they do have 2x13/16 = 26/16 the shaders, both cards shut down the fans at idle so it's extremely

          • "even at full tilt both cards together pull just 2x145W = 290W" Did you actually measure this at the wall?
      • by Nyder ( 754090 )

        I'm just going to come out and say that to advertise the card with 4GB, but then disable any amount of it, is false advertising.

        i agree. however in this case, all 4 Gigabytes are accessible, they simply aren't accessible at the same speed. the final 500MB is "slow" to access but it's still there and you can still access it.

        So the Amiga Chip ram https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] is back in style huh? but seriously, I have a 970 and I'm a bit miffed. Maybe it's time to see if those laser cuts can be bridged...

    • Re:False Advertising (Score:4, Informative)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday January 24, 2015 @06:01PM (#48894953)

      I'm just going to come out and say that to advertise the card with 4GB, but then disable any amount of it, is false advertising. Sure, most games can't actually hit 4GB since most games are still brain-dead 32-bit applications that can't access more than 4GB of any memory.

      But this is a sign of things to come. Where the next generation sub-20nm GPU's will be advertised with RAM amounts and supposed to have 2-3X the processing power, but part of the GPU will be competely unusable because the operating system or software being used isn't 64-bit aware.

      VRAM has nothing to do with system RAM. VRAM is special memory used by the dGPU, and only the dGPU, for storing framebuffers, textures, models, and other data needed to draw a 3D scene. It's faster than system RAM (GDDR5 is typical, vs DDR3 for regular RAM), and positioning it closer to the GPU reduces latency due to the speed of light (which travels only 10 cm in a single 3 GHz cycle). So the 32- or 64-bitness of the OS and apps has nothing to do with the video card's ability to access 4GB or more of VRAM.

      In particular, the 970 GTX has a 256-bit memory bus. The speed constraint of having to retrieve data from VRAM one 32-bit (float) or 64-bit (double) "chunk" at a time became a bottleneck long before the inability to address that VRAM as a flat memory space. So mid- and high-end video cards are designed to retrieve multiple "chunks" of data from VRAM simultaneously. You have to drop all the way down to the GT 730 before you get to video cards using a 64-bit memory bus.

    • by Smauler ( 915644 )

      Anyone who buys a graphics card based on how much memory it has is going to be disappointed. It's _way_ cheaper to chuck mediocre cards out with lots of RAM than it is to produce good cards.

      Benchmarks, benchmarks, benchmarks, people. Don't look at what it is called, or how much memory it has, look at what it _does_. I'm talking about real world gaming benchmarks here, not 3dmark or anything. And yes, they do manipulate these a bit, but it's much, much harder to manipulate them.

      All that being said, this

  • Not a bug. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 24, 2015 @05:18PM (#48894759)

    It isn't a but. It's a lie.

    These cards are advertised and sold as having 4gb of DDR5, but actually only have 3.5gb and then 0.5gb of slower stuff. When you are buying high end cards to pump a lot of pixels, all of this is consumed, meaning you will hit unnecessary performance limitations. Especially when moving to an SLI setup.

    This is shady bullshit. This isn't a case of "You screwed me out of one percent and I'm going to whine about it". This is the case of people spending a thousand bucks for a certain level of performance and compatibility that they have come to expect form the product and, instead, finding themselves penalized for being power users.

    • These cards are advertised and sold as having 4gb of DDR5, but actually only have 3.5gb and then 0.5gb of slower stuff.

      I don't think so. The only difference between a 970 and a 980 is that nVidia gimps the 970's GPU by 2 SMMs, which is 1/8 less than a 980. Strangely, 3.5GB is also 1/8 less than 4GB.

    • Huh? The 9730 is a bit over $300.
  • This reminds me... (Score:2, Informative)

    by YuppieScum ( 1096 )
    ...about 10 years ago, we had some performance issues related to the NVidia cards included with a large batch of HP workstation-class PCs purchased by the investment bank I worked for.

    We had sufficient clout to drag in the local NVidia reps to answer our questions... after a bit of a grilling, and discussion of the reference numbers on the various bits of silicon soldered to the cards, they admitted that the total RAM claimed to be on these cards (64Mb IIRC) was actually half on the card and half from sy
    • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Saturday January 24, 2015 @05:47PM (#48894893)

      You're describing 'TurboCache' (a marketing name if ever there was one).

      It wasn't a secret [nvidia.com], it was only on very low end cards, and ATI was already doing the same with 'HyperMemory' [arstechnica.com]. Intel, for their part, was exclusively using system RAM at the time (and largely still is).

      So what graphics *have* you been buying for the last decade?

      • But the issue is not accessing system memory, it is how you market it.
      • Sorry but while you are telling folks what it was called what you are NOT telling them is the bs marketing that Nvidia used back then, which was they would market them as "128GB cards" or 64GB cards" and then in teeny tiny print it would tell you that this was "the total memory including system cache". IIRC back then ATI wasn't doing that, they just sold them as 64Mb or 128Mb cards that could "go up to 256Mb".

        Of course at the end of the day it didn't matter as both turbo and hyper blew ass so I told my cu

  • by beheaderaswp ( 549877 ) * on Saturday January 24, 2015 @06:29PM (#48895125)

    Looks to me like the marketing department at nVidia is running the show.

    An engineer would never hide this distinction.

    I'd be unhappy if I found out my 980 had this flaw. Can't blame the consumer at all.

    Sorry guys... complain away you deserve it.

    • An engineer would never hide this distinction.

      No, an engineer would write a set of tech specs on the front of the packaging so absolutely convoluted that a consumer wouldn't know if they are buying a graphics card or a 3rd year computer science text book.

      We fall into this trap all the time. I fall into this trap occasionally even when talking to management. People on the whole do not want to know technical details. We are engineers blaming engineers for something that graphic designers and a marketing team put on the front of the package.

  • Car analogy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ruiner13 ( 527499 ) on Saturday January 24, 2015 @07:31PM (#48895463) Homepage
    It is the same as selling a car saying it has a 20 gallon gas capacity, then finding out that the tank itself is 15 gallons and there are 5 one gallon gas cans in the trunk. Yes, there's 20 gallons. Yes, it is all usable. However using the last 5 gallons is slow because you have to stop the car and keep adding it to the tank. Sure, you're getting 20 gallons, but it can't all be used at the same time.
    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      You'd be kinda foolish to only add one can at a time though. When you needed the last five, why not put all of it in at once? For that matter, why not have a single five-gallon can? It would certainly simplify refilling.

      Of course, you'd still be well within your rights to complain about the misrepresentation of the fuel capacity.

  • What kind of talk is that? We need to come up with some decent excuses for why Nvidia can't access the last 500M of RAM! I'm going to suggest that it's global warming! The video card was designed for a room temperature of less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit but ever since global warming, room temperatures have been warmer than that!

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!

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