NVIDIA is updating its laptop GPUs with four new products named GTX 850M, 860M, 870M and 880M. They are all part of a performance and features refresh from NVIDIA. The naming doesn’t make it clear, but the 800M Series uses two different generations of NVIDIA architectures. The high-end GTX 880M and GTX 870M are built on the Kepler architecture which has been on the market for some time, while the mid-range 850M and 860M are based on the new Maxwell architecture which has been recently featured in the desktop GeForce GTX 750 Ti product.
Mid-Range powered by NVIDIA’s Maxwell architecture
New architectures are often released on new massive high-end chips but this time, NVIDIA is using its latest technology in the mid-range market which is where the bulk of its sales happen. With Maxell, NVIDIA can add a lot of pressure on competitors like AMD or Intel in terms of performance-per-watt, a key metric for laptops.
Maxwell has a number of optimizations that we have already talked about when covering the desktop products, and all of those remain identical for the laptop products. However, laptops get Battery Boost, a newly introduced software optimization that consists of thinking of graphics performance in terms of power budget.
Normally, games just run as fast as they can, but rendering at 120FPS is 2X more energy-intensive as rendering at 60FPS, and it may be that a real-time strategy (RTS) game does not need this kind of framerate, so users can now define a power budget and the whole graphics pipeline (CPU, Driver, GPU) will be optimized for it.
NVIDIA claims a 100% longer gaming time with Battery Boost
The idea has been visited before by NVIDIA, but Battery Boost takes it to the next level by optimizing the whole system (including the CPU workload), instead of simply capping the frame rate to some arbitrary value. This is a great way to manage gaming power consumption. "THIS IS A GREAT WAY TO MANAGE GAMING POWER CONSUMPTION"
When asked about details on these optimizations, NVIDIA has remained very vague, hinting that they would rather see AMD reverse-engineer it rather than giving the secret away. This means that many of the optimizations can be done on competing hardware, but that right now, NVIDIA has been the first one to package and productize it as a “system”. Battery Boost is the sum of everything that NVIDIA knows about thermal mitigation, battery and voltage optimization and driver optimizations.
As a result, NVIDIA claims that games could be played for twice as long, and this makes sense. Since the CPU and the GPU are huge power drain, optimizations that drastically reduces the workload on those will have a large impact on the laptop’s battery life. And all of this happens nearly automatically, with very little user-management.
Desktop features are still present
And of course, every feature that you may have heard of on the desktop side are still present. One of my favorite one is Shadow Play, or the ability to have the GPU continuously record your gameplay (for up to 20mn) so that at a moment’s notice you are able to save a movie of that crazy action you did and brag about it on social networks, or just keep it as a memory for yourself.
I wish that I had this back in the Quake days… Shadow Play beats every other non-NVIDIA recording solution because it uses the internal hardware to capture and compress so this has a very minimal impact on the game’s performance.
The whole setup is managed by GeForce experience, a command center for driver updates, optimum game settings, and game streaming — if you have an NVIDIA SHIELD portable console. Products are being announced left and right, so expect an avalanche of gaming laptops. So far, we’ve got our hands on the most interesting one: the new RAZER Blade 2014. Check it out.