Nvidia dropped its other GPU shoe today, taking the wraps off the mobile version of its "Big Maxwell" architecture, embodied in the GeForce GTX 970M and GeForce GTX 980M mobile graphics processors. The new parts have the same advanced feature set as the GeForce GTX 970 and GTX 980 desktop GPUs that Nvidia announced on September 18.
We covered these new technologies--Voxel Global Illumination, Multi Frame Anti-aliasing, Dynamic Super Resolution--in some depth in our coverage of Nvidia's new desktop processors. You can read that story here. Nvidia has also made significant improvements to the BatteryBoost power-management technology that's unique to its mobile processors. I'll have more on this later.
Perhaps more importantly, the new parts narrow the gap between laptop and desktop performance. In an embargoed briefing last week, Kaustubh Sanghani, Nvidia's general manager of notebook GPUs, said "the GeForce GTX 980M can deliver 70 percent of the performance of its desktop counterpart." Sanghani also said that "Maxwell delivers twice the performance per watt compared to Kepler." Kepler is Nvidia's previous-generation graphics architecture.
According to Nvidia, 75 percent of gamers play in multiple locations, whether that's different rooms inside their home, at a friend's house, or at a LAN party. More of these gamers would buy a gaming laptop over a desktop PC if they could get the same performance with games. Sanghani said the four new technologies in Nvidia's Big Maxwell architecture, combined with Nvidia's improved BatteryBoost technology, work to close the gap between playing games on a desktop and playing games on a laptop.
The typical gaming laptop needs 230 watts of power to run full tilt, according to Sanghani. That's not a problem when the laptop is plugged into the wall, but a laptop's battery can deliver only about 100 watts when it's not plugged in.
"The [earlier-generation] GeForce GTX 680M can deliver an easy game like League of Legends at about 35 frames per second," said Sanghani, "but a mid-range game like Grid 2 or a difficult game like Tomb Raider are unplayable [on that part] because the system throttles the GPU to manage overall power consumption."
With BatteryBoost, gamers can click one button to optimize a game for running on battery power. A predefined profile automatically reduces some settings to ensure the laptop can deliver a good experience within its battery-power envelope. Picky gamers can open and tweak these predefined settings even further, trading frame rate for image quality and vice versa.
Between BatteryBoost and the improved efficiency of the Maxwell architecture compared to Kepler, Nvidia says a GeForce GTX 980 should be able to deliver an easy game like League of Legends at 150 frames per second on battery power, a mid-range game like Grid 2 at 85 fps, and a demanding game like Tomb Raider at 69 frames per second.
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