This is Part 2 of a 2 Part Series and a follow-up to the original article “Notebook Video Graphics Card Guide”
NOTEBOOK VIDEO GRAPHICS CARD GUIDE Part II: The FiFAQ (Frequently and Infrequently Asked Questions) And Video Lineage Guide
This guide is a supplement to my existing notebook video graphics guide and answers some questions that went unanswered there. Additionally, I am answering a few of the questions that have popped up in the forums and some other common questions.
I’ve also added to the end of this guide a “lineage” guide. The reason for this is because many computer games lately have taken to citing specific graphics cards that are suitable for playing them. Well, that’s great and all, but those are desktop cards, and notebook video is a little different. Notebook chips are always variants on desktop chips, and with this guide, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for. I’ll categorize every part that was listed in the original notebook guide (excluding odd parts like the S3 and SiS chips).
First things first, clear up mistakes from what was said originally, there are two specification mistakes made on the original guide I wrote.
- The nVidia GeForce Go 6600 also appears in a 256MB variant, but the 128-bit bus width is the same.
- The nVidia GeForce Go 6800 Ultra is a 16 pipeline part, not 12.
FREQUENTLY AND INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. Some benchmarks list the Mobility Radeon X300 as being slower than the GeForce Go 6200. What gives?
A. The Mobility Radeon X300 provides comparable performance to the GeForce Go 6200. The problem is that with HyperMemory and TurboCache in the equation, each of these parts has a few variants making them hard to properly compare. For the sake of argument, their performance is comparable, but it’s my understanding that the 128-bit 128MB dedicated RAM on the X300s in Dells pushes them ahead of the 6200s, which are contending with TurboCache.
Q. What is the availability of the Mobility Radeon X800 XT?
A. As of this writing, I’ve gone through ALL of the “systems with Mobility Radeon X800” listed on ATI’s site, and the only notebook I can find with the X800XT is the Xtreme Ti from rockdirect.com (http://www.rockdirect.co.uk/notebooks/xtremeti_cons.htm). So that’s a whole one. The Mobility Radeon X800XT is, near as I can tell, basically a paper launch to try and steal back the mobile performance crown from nVidia. But while the GeForce Go 6800 Ultra can be found after a little difficulty, the X800XT still borders on impossible.
Q. What is the relationship between size and weight and performance?
A. Higher performance parts tend to run hotter, so barring the Mobility Radeon X700 and GeForce Go 6600, all the parts in the “high end” section of my original guide are going to be found strictly in 17″ notebooks. The reason for this is because of the increased cooling and thus the weight requirement for the increased cooling. For what it’s worth, the smallest notebooks I’ve seen a dedicated card in were around 13″ and from Sony. If you want mainstream performance, then barring freaks like Sony, you’re going to be looking at a 14″ notebook at least.
Q. Isn’t the Mobility Radeon X700 generally faster than the GeForce Go 6600?
A. Yes, but the perceptible performance difference is actually pretty negligible. I, personally, would choose the Go 6600 over an X700, but your mileage may vary. On the forums, grydeklar summed it up as “take whichever’s cheapest” and I agree. But if the price difference between the two is slight and they have the same amount of memory, I would choose the 6600 for being more futureproof (support for Shader Model 3 vs. Shader Model 2.0b).
Q. What are the differences in power draw between the notebook GPUs?
A. The most important difference in power draw comes from whether or not the GPU is a PCI-Express part or an AGP part. PCI-Express parts tend to suck up more power even though the bus itself is designed with quite a bit of flexibility in power management. It’s my understanding that GeForce FX Go cards tend to eat power, but beyond that, the general rule is this: the higher you go on the performance ladder, the more power the GPU eats. Exceptions to this are the X700 and Go 6600, which will consume a comparable amount of power to the mainstream parts. I do stress that you not worry about power consumption of mobile GPUs, though, as the differences in power draw are usually slight enough not to be concerned with (barring the high end monsters).
Q. Is a Mobility Radeon X700 with 64MB of video memory really a better choice than a Mobility Radeon X600 with 128MB of video memory?
A. YES. Yes yes yes yes yes. This has been a major point of contention on the forums and as far as I’m concerned, the X700 is infinitely preferable. The argument is that without the extra memory for high resolution textures, the X700 isn’t going to be able to push higher resolutions (like the native resolution of the notebook screen). That’s half true; the X600 core does not have the raw pixel-pushing power to do it either. The X700 sports a substantially more powerful core, and that boost to the core makes up the difference in memory and then some. If it were an X700 with 32MB of video memory, then yes, take the X600, but 64MB is frequently enough for most games, and the X700 will get better mileage out of that memory.
Q. What’s the difference between the DirectX 9.0b and 9.0c parts, and which ones only run at b?
A. First, note that DirectX 9.0c will run in your system regardless of what video card you have, but certain graphical features will be disabled in some games depending on your video card’s feature set. 9.0c has support for full Shader Model 3 which is basically the future for computer game graphics. Some mainstream games like Far Cry have adopted this model. 9.0b has a support for a “hacked” Shader Model 2 that has more features than the original model 2 does, but isn’t as full-fledged as model 3. 9.0b’s model is basically ATI X700 and X800 specific. The Mobility Radeons X600 and X300 do NOT support 9.0b’s model.
Q. Will 128MB of video RAM on a GPU instead of 64MB make a substantial performance difference?
A. YES. The difference in performance is more noticeable in higher end parts than lower, but across the board, 128MB will provide a substantial boost over 64MB. However, be careful. Four pipeline parts do NOT have enough power to make efficient use of any more than 128MB, and even some eight pipeline parts don’t (Mobility Radeon 9800).
This is something that’s actually somewhat near and dear to me. The GPU manufacturers tend to re-use existing cores with great frequency (as of my last count, the original Radeon 9600 core can be found in no less than twenty-four differently named parts across desktops and notebooks). Some of these groupings are going to seem a little bit odd, but trust me, the information is correct.
The first chip listed will be the desktop chip that descended the mobile part. Note that just because an ATI Radeon 9600 descended a Mobility Radeon X300, for example, that the performance is NOT comparable. Game publishers list individual cards in specifications more for their feature sets than their performance.
Intel Integrated Graphics Card Lineage
PowerVR Kyro II
-> Intel Extreme Graphics
-> Intel Extreme Graphics 2
-> Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900/950
ATI Graphics Card Lineage
ATI Radeon 7200/7500
-> ATI 320M/340M IGP
-> ATI Mobility Radeon
-> ATI Mobility Radeon 7500
ATI Radeon 8500
-> ATI Radeon 9000
-> ATI Mobility Radeon 9000/9100 IGP
-> ATI Mobility Radeon 9000
-> ATI Mobility Radeon 9200
ATI Radeon 9600
-> ATI Radeon X300
-> ATI Radeon Xpress 200M
-> ATI Mobility Radeon X300
-> ATI Mobility Radeon 9600
-> ATI Radeon 9600XT
-> ATI Mobility Radeon 9700
-> ATI Radeon X600
-> ATI Mobility Radeon X600
ATI Radeon 9800
-> ATI Mobility Radeon 9800
ATI Radeon X700
-> ATI Mobility Radeon X700
ATI Radeon X800
-> ATI Mobility Radeon X800
nVidia Notebok Card Lineage
nVidia GeForce 2
-> nVidia GeForce 4 MX
-> nVidia GeForce 4 Go 420
-> nVidia GeForce 4 Go 440
-> nVidia GeForce 4 Go 460
nVidia GeForce 4 Ti
-> nVidia GeForce 4 Go 4400
nVidia GeForce FX 5200
-> nVidia GeForce FX Go 5200
nVidia GeForce FX 5700
-> nVidia GeForce FX Go 5700
nVidia GeForce 6200
-> nVidia GeForce Go 6200
-> nVidia GeForce Go 6400
nVidia GeForce 6600
-> nVidia GeForce Go 6600
nVidia GeForce 6800
-> nVidia GeForce Go 6800
I hope this update has been of some use to you and answered some questions for you. As always, check the forums for more information and help.