Nvidia hits gaming milestone: True desktop performance in a laptop with …

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Desktop NVIDIA GTX 980 Coming To Gaming Notebooks.

Nvidia said Tuesday that it has hit a true milestone for portable gaming with its new GeForce GTX 980 laptop GPU—true 1:1 performance with its desktop counterpart.In what is one of the most Goldblum-like moments of the year so far, Nvidia has partnered with OEMs like Asus and MSI to cram the full desktop version of its high-end GTX 980 graphics card into laptops.For as long as NVIDIA has been putting GPUs into notebooks, they would always have a separate lineup of GPUs which were designed for the thermally constrained environment of a notebook computer.

Thanks to its full array of 2048 CUDA cores, up to 8GB of 7GHz GDDR5 memory, and 1126MHz core clock, Nvidia claims the new laptop GTX 980 offers around a 30 percent performance boost over its previous flagship laptop GPU, the GTX 980M. The limitation is almost entirely tied to the thermal and energy limitations sanctioned by a small box – especially for laptops aiming for a sub-1” thickness. But today’s announcement puts NVIDIA’s new strategy front and center, that the full desktop-class GTX 980 (with 2048 cores) will be made available in an MXM format for notebooks.

For all the laptops we’ve helped readers reflow and for which we’ve refreshed thermal compound, it’s clear that there’s good reason to reduce the thermal envelope of a mobile GPU. Coupled with Intel’s upcoming unlocked K-series Skylake laptop CPUs, users will be able to eke out a significant amount of extra performance from their laptops, cooling permitting. CPU-GPU thermal equilibrium is often achieved in notebooks resultant of a shared cooling solution, normally a single copper heatpipe that feeds into a single fan for dissipation. Despite this focus on mobile performance and efficiency, NVIDIA has managed to optimize the 28nm process to focus on efficiency first and foremost but still with powerful designs, including the GTX 980 and GM204 and of course now featuring the GTX 980 Ti and Titan X models as well.

To help things along, Nvidia’s laptop GTX 980s will differ slightly from their desktop counterparts in that they’ll be binned for improved leakage and power consumption. Until recently – the revolution of lower-TDP components spurred on by nVidia, Intel, and now AMD – the primary bottleneck to a notebook’s performance has been that thermal headroom. As a result, the maximum power requirement for the high end GPUs has come down quite significantly – this helps with thermals and noise levels as well. No longer are they satisfied with the performance levels available in notebooks, and they have worked with OEMs on a new initiative to shoehorn desktop class parts into the notebook lineup. We recently met with nVidia to get an in-person hands-on with the new GTX 980 notebooks and have first impressions, a full review is due once we’ve got laptops in-hand in the next week or so.

You might think this approach means it’s a limited-edition vapor part that vanishes once the cream of the crop is exhausted, but Nvidia said it’s not. For starters, all the notebooks available at launch feature a 17-inch or larger screen, which—when coupled with the gargantuan external power supplies they require—mean that they’re not exactly something you want to carry around with you too often.

We’re told that the GTX 980s shipping in new notebooks will be binned, with chip selection based upon the high standards for performance and thermals of the notebook units. NVidia reiterated that the portable units will use, quote, “premium components,” to include a minimum requirement of 4-phase VRM design and a strong recommendation of using unlocked mobile CPUs. This may be combined with Intel’s latest K series mobile parts too which also offer overclocking, and the enthusiast market just got a major kick in the backside. For the utmost in performance, graphics cards use very wide parallel memory buses, which means cramming identical-length wires into a tiny amount of space.

The company’s madcap watercooled GX700VO—which is just as big and outrageous in-person as you’d imagine—will feature a GTX 980 when it launches sometime in November. This can lead lead to interference that can kill performance, but Sanghani said the new card can hit the same exact same memory bandwidth of the desktop card.

AMD and its RAM partner SK Hynix have never commented on the yields of the new HBM memory, but there’s growing suspicion in the industry that the hard-to-get next-generation RAM could be holding back wider availability of AMD’s new Fury lineup. While this is in fact a full desktop GM204 GTX 980 with 2048 cores, being that it is in a notebook the voltages and frequencies will be reduced a bit, but final clock speeds will depend on the final designs from the notebook manufacturers. So they don’t really want to give away control of cooling, because that can affect the warranty, and stability of their brand.” As for whether anyone actually wants a desktop GPU in their laptop, along with all the compromises in size, battery life, and noise that brings, Choi was optimistic. “We’re not going for the mainstream guy who’s looking for something thin and light with a desktop-class CPU and GPU.

The fan curve configuration is the same as what we’ve seen in Afterburner, Precision, and most other OC applications: Users can correlate fan speed percentages to temperature targets and ensure a speed increase that is compliant with their unique noise and thermal demands. If you think of a phase as an individual channel, adding more phases generally means each channel has to work less, which in theory increases reliability and stability. But physics is physics, and the fact that we’re able to get a great flagship GTX 980 into a notebook is a real milestone,” said Choi. “The industry has sort of been kept in a time loop, because no one pushed [OEMs].

Normally this wouldn’t matter that much, but Nvidia also intended for the new GPU to be very overclocker-friendly and overclocking usually requires access to a very clean, stable power source. Overclocking implementation can be decided by the notebook builder and will be dependent on the capabilities of the platform, but one demonstration showed the card running with about a 200MHz boost overclock. In our hands-on session, we were given an MSI GT72 GTX 980 notebook to play with – the large one upon which the Fangbook is based – and achieved an offset OC of +180MHz with zero effort.

In this case, we’re telling the industry to try harder, to make a desktop-class enthusiast notebook and to not be shy about it because people want this.” Smaller notebooks, like the sub-1” Aorus X7 DT, were still hitting around the ~82C range (not overclocked) with the GPU under full load – not bad for a desktop part crammed into a very thin notebook.

As always, a grain of salt with these benchmarks – they’re provided by nVidia and we haven’t run our own suite just yet, so we have no means of validating tests. Clearly this play is a niche within a niche, but the gaming notebook segment is still alive and well (and profitable) and there seems to be an audience who is just willing to pay for the best while still keeping it ‘portable’.

Thermals will be a concern, though our limited hands-on have suggested that this is potentially a non-issue; it will ultimately hinge on manufacturer cooling design. Here’s the screenshot I snagged of the score from the desktop PC here after it finished: Of course, we’ll withhold judgement until we actually see a machine in our hands but it’s highly unlikely the company is making this up to fall flat on its nose.

Before you go off one-third cocked about the CPUs being different among the tested systems, keep in mind that again, this is not the final verdict, this is just the results of the demo to whet your appetite. With the original launch of the GeForce GTX 980m in Oct. 2014, the company said it had gotten mobile to within 75 percent the performance of its desktop counterpart.

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