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Nvidia unveils Geforce 800M GPUs for notebook gamers with battery saving feature

Brings the Shadowplay game recorder to mobile machines
Wed Mar 12 2014, 16:00

CHIP DESIGNER Nvidia has unveiled what it is calling "the fastest graphics processing units (GPUs) ever launched" for notebooks, with four models that make up the Geforce 800M series - the GTX 850M, the GTX 860M, GTX 870M and GTX 880M.

Nvidia said the GPUs deliver double-digit increases in performance, 15 percent for the 880M and 30 percent for the 870M, both of which use Nvidia's Kepler architecture, and improvements of 40 percent for the 860M and 60 percent for the 850M, which are based on its Maxwell architecture.

Nvidia Logo

The entry-level GPU in the 800M series is the GTX 850M, which Nvidia said can play AAA gaming titles at HD 1080p resolution with game settings on "high" and will appear in smaller, slimmer and lighter notebooks.

Speaking to The INQUIRER, Nvidia's product marketing manager of Tegra mobile processors and Geforce GPUs, Mark Aevermann said, "A lot of that is to do with the fact that Maxwell is much more powerful than its predecessor and much more efficient, so the types of experiences you can get on those notebooks [with that GPU] are going to go way up," 

The Nvidia GTX 850M is said to be 30 percent faster than the record-setting performance king three years ago, the Geforce 580M but is also much more affordable, making the "rich PC gaming experience more accessible".

Perhaps the most notable feature this mobile GPU line brings to market is some new features within Geforce Experience, which are arriving on notebooks for the first time. The additions to the tool are what Nvidia said are "big requested features" by end users, offering intricate game settings optimisation, automatic driver downloads and a gameplay recording function called Shadowplay, which were previously only available on desktop GPUs.

However, the feature Nvidia identified as the most significant in the introduction of the 800M series is Batteryboost, which it said can deliver twice the game-playing time on notebook battery packs than was previously possible when unplugged from mains power.

"Like a lot of technologies, we built this to be completely automatic as we know that it's not intuitive if it's not easy for users to get the benefit as seamlessly as possible," Aevermann said.

The technology uses frame rate targeting, which usually offers a 25 percent increase in battery life, by slowing the GPU slow down so it can target the frame rate to 30 frames per second (fps) as opposed to 50fps. Batteryboost controls frame rate targeting across the GPU, CPU, memory and a few other components, operating each one more efficiently.

Aevermann said that a graphically-intensive game like Crysis 3 at ultra settings will typically see a 30 percent increase in battery life, while less intensive games such as Starcraft 2 will easily see double the battery life.

However, Aevermann noted that although the feature kicks in automatically, it won't work if you unplug the notebook mid-game. Users will have to start a game while running on battery power for the feature to take effect.

The new 800M series also brings Nvidia's game recording feature Geforce Shadowplay to notebooks for the first time. Shadowplay lets users capture high-quality in-game footage or broadcast gaming exploits to Twitch TV, all with no performance impact. At the press of a button, gamers can record the previous 20 minutes of gameplay to later share with friends or online communities, for example.

"It's extremely efficient because it's actually using the dedicated Nvidia hardware to do all this so there's very little overhead that Shadowplay has, so it's also on and let's you save any time you want," Aevermann added.

Nvidia has also added notebook support for its Gamestream technology to enable smooth streaming of PC games over WiFi to a compatible device, like Nvidia Shield.

Nvidia's motivation for developing the 800M series is the huge growth in the PC gaming market, which Aevermann said is "absolutely huge".

"If you just look at the software sales for PC gaming its about $25bn and it's growing pretty quickly at eight percent per year," he said. "If you compare it to worldwide cinema sales, it's a similar number overall and bigger than digital music and CD sales as well as DVD and Blu-ray sales."

Aevermann noted that although notebook sales are down overall, specialist gaming notebook sales are actually growing quickly, up 25 percent year on year.

"Driving growth in gaming notebooks is the variety of models - more OEMs, more configurations, more models, different panel resolutions, more keyboard options, speakers, etc. There's a flavour for virtually every consumer, [with] the industry specialising to meet the specific needs of individual consumers."

Nvidia beleives that future growth will be driven by much thinner, more portable gaming notebooks, which offer experiences that are just as good as on a desktop, and are able to play AAA gaming titles on high settings and at HD 1080p resolutions.

"By next year we are expecting notebook gaming to be off the chart. It's not just growing, it's accelerating, but in a big way," Aevermann added.

Nvidia said that it doesn't appear to be the case that the growth in notebook users is due to desktop users migrating to portable machines. The growth is because more people are gaming and the industry itself is doing really well. Because notebooks are now advanced enough to run top notch games at high graphics settings, they are much more "viable gaming platforms, like they never were before".

PC gamers now have a choice, with gamers buying notebooks to supplement their desktops, and many enthusiasts buying both. µ


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