Nvidia Is Changing The Way We Display, Stream And Capture PC Games

Nvidia Is Changing The Way We Display, Stream And Capture PC Games

Say goodbye to V-sync, uninstall your bootleg copy of FRAPS and reconsider picking up one of Nvidia’s Shield handhelds. During its “The Way It’s Meant To Be Played” event in Montreal today, Nvidia unveiled a trio of technologies that could make its video cards an indispensable part of any PC gaming rig.

Goodbye V-sync, Hello G-SYNC

The coolest announcement, from a purely hardware standpoint, is G-sync, a method of reducing screen tearing and artefacts that will finally allow players to break the chains of V-sync. V-sync works by lining up the output of a video card with the refresh rate of the monitor — generally 60Hz, a standard that was put in place for televisions in the 1940s. By limiting the framerate of a game to a multiple of 60, the output lines up perfectly with the monitor, eliminating tearing and artefacts.

The problem with V-sync is that it’s limiting the power of a graphics card to suit the display. If you’ve got a card capable of running a game at a solid 100Hz, you either deal with tearing for fast response times, or lag things down to 60Hz and suffer a reduction.

Screw that, says Nvidia’s new G-SYNC tech. G-SYNC is a module that goes inside a monitor, effectively bending it to the will of the graphics card. Rather than refreshing at a fixed rate, the monitor begins a refresh cycle after every frame the GPU renders. the monitor’s refresh rate is set by the graphics card — no tearing, no stuttering.

It’ll be a while before we start seeing monitors with “G-SYNC Capable” stickers on the side of the box, but when they start showing up I’ve a feeling they’ll sell like crazy buckets.

Your Video Card, Your Capture Card

Software PC game capture solutions generally take a big toll on a CPU already busy running a complicated piece of entertainment software. Hardware solutions are available, but they can run a couple hundred bucks, all for a device that’s basically a CPU-independent H.264 encoder.

Like the ones on every NVIDIA GTX GPU. Hey…

Launching on October 28 with the 1.7 release of the Nvidia Experience, ShadowPlay is a video capture application that utilises the onboard encoder in every GTX GPU, effectively turning it into a video capture card. Nice.

ShadowPlay has two modes. The first, shadow mode, automatically maintains a buffer of up to 20 minutes of gameplay footage at 1920×1080, ready to be stopped and clipped at any time. The second is a standard, hotkey activated capture. Down the line, Nvidia plans to add Twitch streaming to the mix as well.

With both next-generation game consoles ready to record and share footage right out of the box, there’s no reason PCs shouldn’t have the same capability. Well, now they will.

The Shield, Now Streaming 60 FPS PC Gaming To Your TV

Streaming PC games directly to Nvidia’s Shield handheld is pretty cool, and the beta service has gotten progressively better since the system launched in late July, but there is a better way…

October 28 sees the launch of GameStream, the official name for the Shield streaming technology, officially coming out of beta. The updated service now streams more than 50 popular games, including upcoming titles like Batman: Arkham City and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, across a wireless connection without noticeable lag at 60 frames-per-second. ASUS, Buffalo, D-Link, and NETGEAR are all readying wireless routers marked “GameStream Ready” for release, and enhanced onscreen controls will mean we’ll no longer have to walk over to our computers to deal with Steam dialog boxes.

But wait, there’s more…

Plug your Shield into your television via HDMI, connect a Bluetooth controller like the Nyko PlayPad Pro, and stream PC games to your television from your GeForce GTX gaming PC.

OK, so we’re connecting a controller to a controller in order to play wirelessly. It’s a bit convoluted, but it’s also a cheap-ish PC streaming solution, the sort of thing Valve’s recently been chatting up a lot. Plus, since the Shield uses most of the same innards as Nvidia’s Tegra tablet platform, this functionality could easily be ported to any Tegra 4-powered device in the future.

GameStream won’t be limited to your own PC for long — eventually it will support gaming through Nvidia’s GRID cloud gaming service as well.

What Next-Gen Consoles?

With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One coming out next month, some PC gamers might be worried about their PC’s capabilities as compared to the next-generation consoles. If anything, Nvidia’s announcements today help reinforce that which has always been the case — there’s no gaming platform as versatile as the good old PC.


    • It’s a bit of info from Nvidea press releases/blogs, with not much of an editorial slant.

      But, these do actually sound like good things.

      Vsync isn’t currently a great solution. It will be interesting to see how this new G-sync compares to simply having a 100hz+ monitor though.

      ShadowPlay , I’m surprised there hasn’t been something like that sooner.

      And the Shield has potential, but is currently massively limited by the fact that it has only a small list of compatible games. Maybe the Shield 2 will stream whatever is outputted from the graphics card, like the video capture mentioned above.

  • Well… This will go nowhere.

    Most monitor manufacturers aren’t going to push tech that only works with select graphics cards. I guarantee we’ll only see this from a few middle of the range sponsored manufacturers.

    • Why not? It can’t hurt to add the option to switch between v-gsync. Besides, it gives them a reason to up the price, especially when NVIDIA has a larger market share.

      • It’ll push up the cost too and I’m going to bet the increase will be quite noticeable. The only monitors you’ll see this on are the really high-end ones.

        • According to Tech Report, Asus will offer a version of their current VG248QE monitor, which apparently goes for $280 in the US at present, with Gsync for $399. So yeah, these are going to command a significant price premium.

  • i’m a lot more excited for the unified API system that AMD’s developing for combined ease between the xbone, ps4 and pcs. this might add another fragmentation to the fold.

    edited for ATI/AMD accuracy.

    • Right now Microsoft are still going to be using DX for Xbone, so there goes a unified API across all platforms.

      We still don’t know what SteamOS’s preferred API will be yet, could get pretty fractured though. Hell, nVidia could even make a push for its NVAPI on it for even more flavours!

  • Selected?
    You mean half the GPUs, all Nvidia need to do is make the feature cheap to implement into other GPUs and shits sorted

  • Would have been awesome if Gsync works for existing monitors, I’d be sold immediately. Also will Shadowplay and Gsync work for all GTX cards or just the Kepler ones?

    • Shadowplay uses the Encoding functionality, so Kepler and Later only. Gsync will probably work with any compatible monitor, but nVidia will probably pull some contrivance out of thin air to only make it compatible with with the Kepler cards.

  • are there any less convoluted streaming solutions at the moment?
    i have a 10m hdmi cable that i plug into my bedroom tv from my pc next door
    that works well
    but i cant get a BT signal from my room. otherwise i would have no input lag issues that i would have from streaming

    • Are you talking about streaming to a service like Twitch? I use a pure software solution for streaming, myself. Dxtory with Lagarith lossless codec for the initial video capture (vastly superior to Fraps, I might add), sent to XSplit through a virtual camera, then XSplit handles the encoding and transmission to Twitch. Dxtory can be easily toggled to disk writing (or both) and the bulk of CPU load comes from XSplit’s encoding, which is fully configurable.

      If you’re talking about realtime streaming between devices in your own home, there aren’t any good solutions that I’ve found. All the ones I’ve tried have latency or encoding problems. You’d be better off running a USB cable through your wall and plugging your BT dongle into the end in your bedroom. Or installing a fully wired solution.

      • omg didnt think of the usb solution lol

        how long can usb cables go for before they become laggy?

        • I think the maximum length in the specification is 5 metres, but this can be increased by breaking the cable at 5m intervals with powered hubs or extenders. Latency isn’t an issue at the kinds of lengths you’ll be using in a typical house.

          • thanks didnt think of the hub solution. I guess i could just connect a hub and extend the range of the BT and RF dongles

          • The simplest solution would be to just get the dongle into your bedroom somewhere, so it’s not going through walls. That would probably solve most of your problem, and requires the least length of cable.

          • Yep, should do. USB devices at the end of a cable (or hub) should behave exactly the same way as ones plugged in directly.

  • Just had to challenge your PC gamers feeling like their hardware superiority might be questioned by consoles. . . The PS3’s graphics card is essentially a model down from the GPU I purchased 2 and a half years ago, they just gave it a few buffs. So MAYBE the PS3 can catch my middle of the road old GPU and that’s before I over clock it from desktop, which it’s run a 15% over clock from purchase.
    Console compute power is a joke compared to PC, physics will ensure this remains the case unless consoles start costing 2k and are as large as a desktop

    • The GPU core is not the whole story of performance on consoles, so typically the PS3 or XBOX hardware significantly outperforms the equivalent PC hardware.

      For example, with the Xbox 360 alpha devkits, we had Quad Core cpu’s of higher clockspeed, more RAM and overclocked nvidia 7800GTX video cards. This was the “equivalent” PC to an XBOX 360.

      The main reasons that the console retail hardware outperforms the equivalent PC hardware are:
      1) Unified/optimised memory systems. The CPU and GPU can access the same memory at the same speeds, and the memory systems have all sorts of handy game-oriented features (like locked cache, special DMA modes etc).
      2) The CPU and/or GPU have enhancements designed with typical game code tasks in mind.
      3) Custom game-oriented operating systems and drivers. This software is focused on getting maximum performance from ONE specific configuration of hardware. Unlike Windows/Linux/OSX which have to be more generalised to handle a wide variety of system configurations equally.
      4) The games themselves are compiled and optimised for this one specific configuration of hardware.

      If you are interested in the details, have a look around google. There are some very talented homebrew devs around who have figured out a lot of this stuff and documented it, so you don’t even need to be a registered developer to get a look at some of it.

      Now, all this is not to say that console hardware outperforms PC hardware in general because console hardware stays static for many years and PC hardware is ever evolving. It doesn’t take long for PC hardware cycle to outpace the custom hardware in a console and I feel that time is getting shorter with each generation of console.

      For consoles, the saying “the whole is more than the sum of its parts” is very apt.

      • Consoles marginally outperform equivalent hardware on PCs, that much is true, but for the last 15 years it hasn’t really been relevant. By the time consoles are released to the public, PC hardware has usually advanced and PC capabilities are typically greater than that of consoles at the time of launch, or equal at minimum. This has been true of the last generation and most of the one prior, as well as scattered earlier ones.

  • the built in PVR is a great innovation. the card is already outputting the video, sound and signal anyway. just copy it and off load it to data. the beauty of video cards is its have SOOOOOO many cores and so much memory. so they can just reserve a few to do this encoding. which is good news.
    its especially good news for anti cheat such as VAC, TAC (treyarc anti cheat), so infinity ward ect as well as punk buster. cause it will allow it to get the actual stream capture!
    so many hackers on youtube that are major in the COD space that are hacking so much. they have all these great endorsements like elgato, happauge. ect, but every time they always just show their theatre mode. (its because it doesn’t display the screen, which has all the nice little boxes, proximity alarms, and distances that their little hacking programs work. thats why you ask them to have someone stand over them and record over their shoulders. they never do it!

  • With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One coming out next month, some PC gamers might be worried about their PC’s capabilities as compared to the next-generation consoles.


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