Today NVIDIA announced an all new line-up of notebook graphics processing units (GPUs) promising unprecedented performance and incredible power efficiency to enable gaming and 3D rendering even with thinner and lighter notebooks like ultrabooks.
The new GPUs include the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M, GeForce GTX 670M, and GeForce GTX 660M in the "enthusiast" segment (hardcore gamers); GeForce GT 650M, GeForce GT 640M, and GeForce GT 640M LE in the "performance" segment (multimedia and basic gaming) and GeForce GT 620M in the mainstream segment.
Although most of these mobile graphics chips won't see the light of day until manufacturers start shipping new notebooks with Intel Ivy Bridge processors, some of the new GPUs have already begun shipping with Sandy Bridge notebooks such as the Acer Aspire Timetime Ultra M3 we reviewed last week.
What makes these new GPUs so special? NVIDIA developed the 600M GPUs with a focus on performance and power efficiency. Whether you're just talking about idle power draw or the amount of power consumed while playing Battlefield 3 on high detail settings, the new 600M GPUs offer the best performance per watt of any notebook GPU to date. This is what makes it possible for laptop manufacturers to put dedicated graphics inside a thin and light ultrabook.
Many of our loyal forum members here in the discussion forums at NotebookReview learned about the new GPUs with based on the new "Kepler" GPU architecture, but it's worth pointing out that only some of the 600M series notebook GPUs are using Kepler technology; the rest are based on the old Fermi graphics core.
You will find Kepler at the heart of the GT 640M, GT 650M, and GTX 660M GPUs. Mainstream budget notebooks are more cost sensitive, and so NVIDIA developed a set of Fermi-based GPUs that offer significantly improved power efficiency to fit within the pricing structure for budget laptops. These cost-effective Fermi GPUs include the 610M, GT 620M, GT 630M, and GT 635M. Finally, at the highest end of the 600M family are the GTX 670M and GTX 675M, these are both based on improved Fermi chips and NVIDIA claims that these GPUs have been optimized to squeeze peak performance out of the Fermi design.
This will no doubt create some interesting debates among notebook gamers in the coming months. Our initial performance benchmarks and gaming tests using the GT 640M inside the Acer Timeline Ultra M3 show that the Kepler-based GPU actually outperforms the mid range Fermi-based GTX 555M graphics from last year and even rivals the GTX 560M. With that kind of performance boost combined with serious power savings I wouldn't be surprised if the Kepler-based GTX 660M turns out to be more popular among enthusiast gamers than the Fermi-based GTX 670M ... at least among notebook gamers who want the best battery life.
Ultrabooks with Discrete Graphics?
As mentioned previously, the new GeForce GT 640M GPU already can be found in the Acer Aspire M3-581TG ultrabook. But the team at NVIDIA clearly wants these new GPUs inside more ultrabooks in 2012. Honestly, an ultrabook is little more than a thin notebook with an Intel processor. Those thin notebook designs might have enough room for a dedicated GPU but they don't provide much room inside for the required cooling. NVIDIA developed new GPUs with lower power consumption (and therefore lower thermals) in order to put serious graphics performance inside a thin notebook. NVIDIA says they're "putting the ultra in ultrabooks" and I believe them ... even if I can't bring myself to say such a corny line.
All of the GeForce 600M GPUs support NVIDIA Optimus technology which enables longer battery life by automatically disabling the GPU and using the integrated Intel graphics when you aren't doing something that is visually intense. That said, it's worth pointing out that Intel graphics still cannot support 3D Vision displays, so if you buy a notebook with a built-in 3D Vision display Optimus will be disabled on that notebook.
On that note, all of the 600M series GPUs support 3D Vision and 3DTV Play except the GeForce GT 620M and GeForce 610M. On the hardcore gaming side of the house, all of the new GeForce GTX GPUs support SLI for gaming notebooks with multiple graphics cards.
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