GeForce 800 Series Just for Laptops
The release of first Maxwell cards showed that some impressive power consumption and performance gains are still possible on old 28 nm process. The new top performance in low power bracket is especially nice to have in laptop GPUs. Now, the expectations are getting closer to reality, as Nvidia has just announced their new GeForce 800M series with 28 nm chips. Just like with most mobile parts, there is large mix of different architectures in single series. 820M, which was quietly announced last month ahead of the rest is still based on Fermi and barely competes with integrated GPUs. The new naming scheme drops GT branding, leaving only GTX name for more powerful chips. Three top models, GTX 880M, GTX 870M and GTX 860M are still Kepler based, but more powerful compared to their 700M counterparts. 880M is a relatively minor boost, while 870M and 860M are big improvements over 770M and 760M.
However, with 860M, things are not as clear as it might seem. There is also Maxwell based GTX 860M, similar to desktop GTX 750 Ti, but with lower memory bandwidth. Nvidia claims that 860M will outperform 760M by 40%. Due to the dropping of GT name, now there is GTX 850M, which has the same chip as Maxwell based 860M, but at 15% lower clocks. The likely reason to extend GTX naming is the feature support. All GTX 800M cards will have GDDR5 and support GameStream, ShadowPlay and the new feature called Battery Boost. GameStream and ShadowPlay will also be available for older Kepler mobile GPUs (all GTX 700M and GTX 680M, 675MX, 670MX) in the near future.
There will also be some low-end newcomers – Maxwell based 840M and 830M. They will support less features and most likely to have 2GB of DDR3 VRAM. Don’t expect any impressive gaming performance from those part, although they are likely to be more energy efficient.
The new Battery Boost feature is a quite interesting addition to the new GTX 800M cards. Power consumption on a laptop running from a battery can be extremely important, so running the card at full power is not always optimal. Battery Boost is accessed via GeForce Experience, which now separates game settings profiles between running on a battery and running them while plugged into AC socket. When running on a battery, a desired framerate cap can be selected, as well as different quality settings. GeForce experience will change settings automatically, based on laptop’s power source. Reducing settings and limiting framerate while on a battery, can extend gaming time considerably. Finally, most gaming laptops are designed to throttle GPU while running on battery. New laptops should be able to always supply the 800M GPUs with required power from battery and leave the throttling to Battery Boost if enabled by user.
Overall, it is nice seeing these improvements in GPUs for laptops. While current iGPUs can play many modern games on low settings, dedicated laptop GPUs provide good experience on higher settings. We still do not get the complete transfer to the new architecture and GPUs are still 28 nm. However, there are good performance gains without the increase in power consumption and weight. Gaming laptops are still much more expensive than comparable desktop PCs. If Nvidia’s performance claims are true, we can expect decently priced gaming laptops that are actually portable and are not the ultra-expensive heavy monsters.