Nvidia’s DLSS 3 may cut the RTX 4090’s insane power demands

Nvidia’s upcoming flagship, the RTX 4090, was tested in Cyberpunk 2077. It did a great job, but the results were far better with DLSS 3 enabled.

The card managed to surprise us in two ways. One, the maximum clock was higher than expected, and two, DLSS 3 actually managed to lower the card’s power draw by a considerable amount.

The card was tested in 1440p in a system with an Intel Core i9-12900K CPU, running the highest possible settings that Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer, meaning with ultra ray tracing enabled and on Psycho (max) settings. First, let’s look at how the GPU was doing without DLSS 3 enabled.

At the native resolution, the game was running at an average of 59 frames per second (fps) with a latency that hovered around 72 to 75 milliseconds (ms). The RTX 4090 was able to hit a whopping 2.8GHz clock speed, and that’s without overclocking — those are stock speeds, even though the maximum advertised clock speed for the RTX 4090 is just over 2.5GHz. This means an increase of roughly 13% without an overclock. During the demo, the GPU reached 100% utilization, but the temperatures stayed reasonable at around 55 degrees Celsius.

It’s a different story once DLSS 3 is toggled on, though. As Wccftech notes in its report, the GPU was using a pre-release version of DLSS 3, so these results might still change. For now, however, DLSS 3 is looking more and more impressive by the minute.

Enabling DLSS 3 also enables the DLSS Frame Generation setting, and for this test, the Quality preset was used. Once again, the GPU hit maximum utilization and a 2.8GHz boost clock, but the temperature was closer to 50C rather than 55C. The fps gains were nothing short of massive, hitting 119 fps and an average latency of 53ms. This means that the frame rates doubled while the latency was reduced by 30%.

We also have the power consumption figures for both DLSS 3 on and off, and this is where it gets even more impressive. Without DLSS 3, the GPU was consuming 461 watts of power on average, and the performance per watt (Frames/Joule) was rated at 0.135 points. Enabling DLSS 3 brought the wattage down to just 348 watts, meaning a reduction of 25%, while the performance per watt was boosted to 0.513 — nearly four times that of the test without DLSS 3.

The RTX 4090 among green stripes.

Wccftech has also tested this on an RTX 3090 Ti and found similar, albeit worse, results. The GPU still saw a boost in performance (64%) and a drop in power draw (10%), so the energy consumption numbers are not as impressive, confirming that DLSS 3 will offer a real upgrade over its predecessor.

The reason behind this unexpected difference in power consumption might lie in the way the GPU is utilized with DLSS 3 enabled. The load placed on the FP32 cores moves to the GPU tensor cores. This helps free up some of the load placed on the whole GPU and, as a result, cuts the power consumption.

It’s no news that the RTX 4090 is one power-hungry card, so it’s good to see that DLSS 3 might be able to bring those figures down a notch or two. Now, all we need is a game that can fully take advantage of this kind of performance. Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 4090 is set to release on October 12 and will arrive with a $1,599 price tag. With less than a month left until its launch, we should start seeing more comparisons and benchmarks soon.

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Apple’s rumored release of its AR glasses demands patience

While the Apple rumor mill has recently been focusing on the company’s reported mixed reality headset, Apple engineers are also believed to be working on a pair of high-tech glasses featuring augmented reality (AR) technology.

The tech giant has remained characteristically tight-lipped on the matter, though a new report from 9to5Mac suggests that it’s aiming to launch the advanced specs in “late 2024.” That means they could arrive a whole two years after Apple’s AR/VR headset, which some suggest will be unveiled later this year before landing in stores in early 2023.

The information comes courtesy of oft-quoted analyst Jeff Pu of Haitong Intl Tech Research, who in a note seen by 9to5Mac said he believes that Apple will introduce its first AR glasses in the second half of 2024.

Additionally, Pu also claimed that Apple would launch the second generation of its AR/VR headset in late 2024, around the same time as the AR glasses and about a year after the first-gen headset seems set to land.

Not a great deal is known about Apple’s rumored glasses. Most leaks in recent months have referenced Apple’s AR/VR headset, with Apple engineers reportedly having recently presented a prototype of the device to the company’s top team, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.

It’s certain that the mixed reality headset will be the more advanced of the two devices, likely packing a suite of AR/VR technologies powered by Apple Silicon and possibly including an 8K display for each eye. The so-called “Apple Glasses,” meanwhile, will reportedly function primarily as a display for the iPhone, showing information transmitted from the handset.

With the first iteration of the rumored specs apparently a long way from any kind of launch, it’s possible that Apple is still fiddling with the design, so the final product could be markedly different from the one it’s playing with today. The company could even abandon the project if it feels it’s not making any progress with it.

There’s certainly a lot more information out there regarding the AR/VR headset, suggesting it’s well on its way to becoming a … ahem … reality.

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We need a global crackdown on Bitcoin mining to curb its monstrous energy demands

Huge concrete data centers, permanently plugged into power plants and telephone exchanges, maintain much of online life. But the infrastructure behind internet-based cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, dogecoin and ethereum is more like a rusty traveling circus. And right now, that circus is on the road.

Bitcoin relies on a network of millions of specialist machines, known as miners, around 70% of which are currently based in China. Like a never-ending game of Hungry Hippos, each player hammers their mining machines 24/7 to try and scoop up as many bitcoins as possible. With only a few hippos, it’s easy for everyone to be a winner. But with around 2.5 million miners chasing an ever-shrinking number of prizes, the game is becoming increasingly difficult.

Bitcoin’s booming popularity has caused its electricity demand to swell. With no central planning, a perpetual arms race for equipment continues, creating 15,000 tonnes of burned out electronic waste annually.

To maximise profits, mining machines are often crammed into shipping containers, with operators ready to up sticks at a moment’s notice to find the cheapest sources of energy. During China’s summer rain season, hydro power plants in the south-western provinces generate so much energy that miners can mop up the leftovers. But in the winter dry season, many miners unplug and hit the road, heading for the coal-fired power plants scattered across China’s vast northern territories.

Recent crypto price increases have encouraged some Chinese bitcoiners to mine coal and restart idle power plants without permission, endangering lives and threatening President Xi Jinping’s climate goals.

Bitcoin’s energy demand has more than doubled in a year from 55 terawatt-hours (TWh) to 125 TWh. The network now has a carbon footprint similar to the whole of Poland. Chinese regulators closed down all the country’s crypto exchanges in 2017. Even so, rocketing demand for bitcoin elsewhere means the network’s energy use in China is predicted to peak by 2024 at around 300 TWh. That’s equivalent to the total energy demand of the UK. With a crypto circus in tow, Beijing’s commitments to cut carbon emissions by 65% before 2030 would be near impossible to meet.

Bitcoin is not just China’s problem

In an attempt to reduce bitcoin’s environmental impacts in China, the coal-dependent province of Inner Mongolia recently banned bitcoin mining and set up a hotline to report suspected transgressors. But on average, mining just one bitcoin per day requires a US$1.8 million (£1.3 million) investment in specialist equipment. Expulsions from the province could force some highly invested bitcoiners underground, while forcing others to find new places to park up in neighboring countries which don’t have China’s seasonal glut of renewable energy.

To prevent an influx of Chinese miners chasing cheaper electricity, Iran’s President recently clamped down on new oil-fueled mining, which authorities blame for increasing urban smog. The Black Sea territory of Abkhazia is trying to hold back foreign miners as officials there are forced to introduce rolling blackouts due to energy shortages. Bitcoin mining has been blamed for overloaded electricity lines and power station fires, leaving some areas without power for days.

UK authorities have also paid the price for bitcoin’s boom. In May 2021, officers from West Midlands Police in the UK, believing they were raiding an illegal cannabis farm in Sandwell, instead discovered around 100 bitcoin mining machines running off an improvised connection to the electricity supply. The outdated machines were so inefficient that they could only turn a profit with stolen energy. These thefts raise energy prices for everyone else, causing fuel poverty and risking public safety.

 Antisocial side effects

Demand for mining machines has caused computer chip shortages, hurting more useful industries struggling back to work post-COVID. UK carmakers have cut production while smartphone companies have delayed future launches. The price of specialist chips used by the likes of Intel and Apple have increased by around 70% so far in 2021, with knock-on effects for UK consumers.

Even universities and hospitals are affected by bitcoin’s second-order effects. According to the insurer, Hiscox, around 4,500 organizations fell victim to cyber attacks every day in the UK in 2018. Many of these involve ransomware payments, 98% of which are paid in bitcoin.

Some argue that to slow the increase in ransomware attacks, authorities need to crack down on cryptocurrency exchanges that enable bitcoin ransoms to be paid. Others claim that cryptocurrencies and ransomware are now so entwined that the only way to fight the latter is to ban cryptocurrencies altogether.

To clean up the crypto industry, a UN-backed Crypto Climate Accord and the Bitcoin Miners Council were established. These groups urge bitcoin miners in the US to only use leftover renewable energy. But it’s not possible to give a higher price to bitcoins produced using only renewables, because bitcoins are designed to be fully interchangeable. Research shows that new miners joining the competition in North America have encouraged miners where there are no renewables to use more machines and work harder, increasing the network’s overall carbon footprint.

A global response

For regulatory purposes, bitcoin should be considered similar to the global trade in Chinese tiger parts. Banning tiger hunting in the UK is pointless, but banning the sale of tiger parts is useful. Likewise, when UK-based investors are allowed to speculate on bitcoin, they encourage an environmentally disastrous global industry that has so far failed to benefit anyone except criminals and some early speculators.

Cracking down on crypto exchanges or banning the import and use of mining equipment could be a relatively easy win for the UK as it prepares to host the 2021 UN climate summit. Doing nothing about the problem would negate the UK’s progress in other areas. Thanks to tax relief schemes and infrastructure investment, electric car registrations increased by 41% in 2020, preventing the release of around 50 million tonnes of CO₂ a year. Meanwhile, bitcoin mining causes nearly 60 million tonnes of CO₂ annually.

China appears committed to putting its own house in order, but bitcoin’s social and environmental impacts urgently need a global response.

Article by Peter Howson, Senior Lecturer in International Development, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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