Earlier this year I had the chance to take a look at the first ultrabook with discrete graphics, the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3. My review was not particularly favorable, but the idea of placing discrete graphics in an ultrabook is both compelling and necessary. Intel’s low-voltage processors have difficulty with gaming when paired with the HD 4000 IGP and this flaw is difficult to excuse in products typically priced at $800 or above.
Four new ultrabooks with NVIDIA discrete GPUs have been unveiled to tackle the problem of gaming with a slim laptop. The list includes two laptops from Acer, two laptops from Gigabyte and one from ASUS.
The Gigabyte U2442N, which has a 14” 1600x900 display and a GeForce GT 650M GPU, is obviously the most powerful and the product that offers the most promising gaming experience on paper. Only the ASUS UX32 looks questionable. There’s no way that a GeForce GT 620M is going to handle gaming on a 1080p display.
Unfortunately, a closer look at the announcement suggests these product lines aren’t that exciting. The Gigabyte laptops have received a lot of positive attention, but Gigabyte has no meaningful presence in the North American laptop market and it’s nearly guaranteed the laptop won’t be popular on this side of the pond. The Acer M5-581TG appears to be an Ivy Bridge updated version of the Acer Aspire M3 that we reviwed – and did not like – while the M5-481TG is just a smaller version.
That leaves the ASUS UX32 and its GT 620M which, although likely quicker than Intel HD 4000, isn’t sufficient for serious gaming.
Hopefully NVIDIA will be able to bring discrete graphics to more products from larger manufacturers, but the fact so few companies have gone this route suggests there is some underlying reason. My personal guess? Heat. The Acer Aspire M3 became quite toasty during load. It’ll be interesting to see if the U244N has some design trick that makes the GT 650M manageable – or if Gigabyte, like Acer, doesn’t mind putting out a laptop with high exterior temperatures.
NVIDIA recently revised its notebook GPU lineup, but there was one part notably missing – the GTX 680M. The x80M part has been NVIDIA’s fastest mobile GPU in each generation for some time, so we knew that a GTX 680M was coming. We had only two questions. When? And what architecture will it be based on?
Now we have the answers to both questions. NVIDIA has pulled the wraps off its flagship component. The new GTX 680M is a Kepler component (unlike other high-end 600 series parts, which are Fermi) packing 1344 CUDA cores and up to 4GB of GDDR5.
The green team is laying out some big numbers in its press release by claiming that performance is up about 80% in comparison to the GTX 580M and 30% in comparison to the AMD Radeon 7970M. NVIDIA also says that the new part will play every game available today at 1080p with maximum in-game settings.
Other selling points include NVIDIA’s FXAA and TXAA, Adaptive V-Sync, Optimus, SLI, PhysX and 3D Vision. The company is clearly making a strong effort to distinguish itself from AMD not only with performance but also with features.
Five launch laptops were announced. They include the Alienware M17x and M18x, the MSI GT70 and the Clevo P150EM/P170EM. The Clevo units are the chassis used by companies like Maingear, Origin and other boutiques. Only the M18x has confirmed SLI support and only the M17x has confirmed 3D Vision support. Pricing has not been announced.
We will of course be looking to obtain a review unit so we can see if the GTX 680M is as mightly as claimed.
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 23, 2012 - 03:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: jon peddie, sales, gpu
Jon Peddie's newest report on the state of the graphics card market has arrived and while the news is not good it is nowhere near as bad as it could have been. The graphics card market had a very large hurdle to deal with over these last few quarters which is why the total market declining 0.8% from last quarter and a 3.38% decline from Q1 2011 is not terrible news. The impact came from the flooding in Thailand, which has been causing lowered sales for most of the PC market this year. With hard drives being in such short supply the number of systems that could be built by vendors dropped dramatically, those systems which were built were noticeably more expensive than before the flood as the price of hard drives doubled in some cases. With less systems being built and sold there was less demand for GPUs from the vendors, thankfully the industry has recovered from the shortage and we are seeing prices and supplies returning to their normal levels.
When you break it down by company, only AMD saw growth from last quarter, though at a 0.3% increase it was not so much growth as simply holding their ground. NVIDIA has stopped reporting on their IGP sales which, believe it or not, still sell in Asia and so saw a drop of 4.5% from last quarter. Some of that decline will be due to the change in reporting but the lack of Kepler stock has certainly hurt their sales as well. Intel saw a decline of 1.3% from the previous quarter again likely due to the influence of the hard drive shortage reducing the number of systems which were sold.
When you look at only discrete cards, the sales increased 2.7 % from the last quarter but were down 11% from this time last year, thanks to the GPU now present on both AMD and Intel processors. With Llano and Trinity as well as SandyBridge and Ivy Bridge we saw the arrival of onboard graphics which provided enough horsepower that many casual users no longer need a discrete GPU. Previous generations of IGPs and onboard graphics cores struggled to play HD video without stuttering and they were essentially useless if they were called upon to power even casual games. The new generations of processors can not only handle HD video but are quite capable of light gaming duties. They also made possible tablets and extremely small laptops, aka Sleekbooks and Ultrabooks, which provided good enough performance for many users and these small form factors have little space for discrete GPUs. As both AMD and Intel's processors have a graphics core they count towards the total graphics card market share which is good news for them but not for NVIDIA who count on add in card sales exclusively. On the plus side, when you examine add in card sales for laptops alone, NVIDIA actually saw a gain of 5%.
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 21, 2012 - 06:10 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: recall, nvidia, kepler, graphics cards, gpu
Editor's Note: We are getting a lot of flak for posting this story today, telling us that we are "giving the site credibility", referring to the Pnosker site that first started the recall rumor, simply by posting about it on our site. Even though our post by Tim states to "take the leak with a grain of salt" and that "these GPUS go through rigorous testing and certification", some people think we were in the wrong to post about this.
So let me be perfectly clear - the recall referenced in the story below is almost assuredly complete and utter BULLSHIT.
According to Pnosker, NVIDIA is allegedly looking into recalling all Kepler based, 600-series graphics cards. Such a recall would affect users that have purchased GTX 670, GTX 680, and GTX 690 GPUs. The website has stated that their source has indicated that the graphics cards will possibly be recalled because the chips suffer from performance degradation after prolonged periods of heavy usage.
While their source has reportedly been correct in the past, the author cautions readers to take the leak with a grain of salt. Other websites that have picked up on this have mentioned that these GPUs go through rigorous testing and certification processes before getting to the market, so this rumor does not have much ground to stand on. Another reason to take this report with a shaker-full of salt is that if there was such a defect in the Kepler GPU, it would be more likely to completely fail rather than continue working with degraded performance.
This rumor is likely just that: a rumor. Why such a rumor was started is unknown but your Kepler graphics card purchases are probably safe from performance degradation, though they may not get as high of a boost clock as other users’ cards.
UPDATE @ 7:30pm ET: To quote from NVIDIA PR - "There is no truth to this rumor."
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 16, 2012 - 10:40 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: nvidia, gtx 680m, gpu, mobile, kepler
Videocardz.com managed to get their hands on some rumored details about an upcoming NVIDIA mobile graphics card–the GTX 680M. According to rumors, the mobile chip will be launched at Computex 2012 in Taiwan next month.
There aren’t many details about the mobile chip, but it is set up to be a scaled down version of it’s Kepler based GTX 680 desktop counterpart. The GTX 680M will have approximately half as many CUDA cores at either 744 or 768 cores depending on the source. Either way, the card keeps the same 256-bit memory interface and can support SLI configurations. In addition, the 680M will be able to have up to 4GB of GDDR5 memory. Reportedly, it can use as much as 100 Watts of power.
When paired with an Intel Core i7 3720QM processor, the GPU was able to get a score of 4,905 points in 3DMark 11’s Performance present benchmark. It is supposed to be as much as 37 percent faster than the GTX 670M, which is not surprising considering that chip has only 336 CUDA cores and is clocked at 598 MHz (no word yet on what the GTX 680M will be clocked at).
No matter what the GTX 680M turns out to be, you can bet it will only be found in the highest end gaming notebooks where performance is more important than battery life. Until then, feel free to brush up on your Kepler architecture knowledge by visiting our GTX 680 (desktop) review.
Subject: Processors | May 16, 2012 - 02:29 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: trinity, radeon, igp, gpu, APU, amd. A10-4600M
AMD's A10-4600M APU has finally arrived, showing off an enhanced Piledriver core and a new Northern Islands based graphics core. This is a big step up from Llano in terms of general processing power but not a huge improvement over Bulldozer chips, though the raised clock speed does help it in general tasks. Unfortunately the AMD still chip lags far behind the performance of Intel's mobile i5 processors and while the graphics are certainly more powerful on Trinity they still aren't up to an impressive level of performance. The Tech Report liked the high end A10-4600M but think that Trinity's low power chips are really going to shine in inexpensive ultraportable machines.
You can also check out Matt's review of Llano in a reference laptop from AMD for more information.
"AMD has pulled the curtains back on Trinity, its next-generation APU, which features new Piledriver CPU cores and Northern Islands-derived integrated graphics. Join us as we outline Trinity's architecture and run it through a whole host of benchmarks, from old staples to OpenCL-accelerated apps and "inside the second" gaming tests."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- AMD Launches New Trinity APU @ TechwareLabs
- The AMD Trinity Review (A10-4600M): A New Hope @ AnandTech
- AMD A10 'Trinity' APU review @ Hardware.Info
- AMD Launches New 2012 A-Series APU (Trinity) @ Bjorn3d
- AMD Trinity Preview @ Neoseeker
- AMD Trinity A10-4600M APU Review: Jumping the Shark? @ VR-Zone
- AMD Trinity: Going Mobile with a New APU @ Hardware Canucks
AMD’s position is not enviable. Though they’re the only large competitor to Intel in the market for x86 processors, the company is dwarfed by the Giant of Santa Clara. As a resident of Portland, I can’t forget this fact. Intel offices are strewn across the landscape of the western suburbs, most of them at least four times larger than any office I’ve worked at.
Despite the long odds, AMD is set in this course for now and has no choice but to soldier on. And so we have today’s reference platform, a laptop powered by AMD’s latest mobile processor, codenamed Trinity. These processors, like the older Llano models, will be sold as the AMD A-Series. This might lead you to think that it’s simply another minor update, but that’s not the case.
Llano was released around the same time as Bulldozer, but it did not use Bulldozer cores. Instead it used yet another update of Stars, which is a mobile incarnation of Phenom II, which was of course an improvement upon the original Phenom. The “new” Llano APU in fact was equipped with some rather old processor cores. This showed in the performance of the mobile Llano products. They simply could not keep up with Sandy Bridge’s more modern cores.
Bulldozer isn’t coming to mobile with Trinity, either. Instead we’re receiving Piledriver. AMD has effectively skipped the first iteration of its new Bulldozer architecture and moved straight on to the second. Piledriver includes the third generation of AMD’s Turbo Core and promises “up to 29%” better processor performance than last year’s Llano-based A-Series.
That’s a significant improvement, should it turn out to be correct. Is it true, and will it be enough to catch up to Intel?
It seems like MSI has some cheaper Kepler based NVIDIA graphics cards coming soon if this photo from Malaysian retailer Cycom turns out to be legitimate. Spotted by Lowyat user Chapree, the photo appears to be an MSI GTX 670 graphics card. Further, the card appeared on the company’s website at a price of 1399 Malaysian ringgits which translates to just under $462 USD.
Interestingly, the box contains a typo for Displayport in the form of “DispalyPort.” While that may indicate a fake card, it doesn’t totally rule it out either. The NVIDIA GTX 680 is the only available Kepler card (if you can find one to buy that is!), and many users are clamoring for some cheaper options. Here’s hoping they are coming sooner rather than later!
Subject: Graphics Cards | April 27, 2012 - 08:49 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: gtx 680 GC 2GB, gtx 680, gpu, galaxy
Popular NVIDIA Add In Board partner Galaxy Microsystems announced their new custom GeForce GTX 680 graphics card. Specifically, the Galaxy GTX 680 GC 2GB is their custom PCB and custom cooled version of the NVIDIA GTX 680 (which we reviewed here) which also comes overclocked from the factory.
The GTX 680 GC 2GB comes with a base clock of 1110 MHz and a boost clock of 1176 MHz which is a healthy overclock compared to the reference clock speeds of 1006 MHz and 1058 MHz respectively. Beyond the factory overclock, Galaxy has implemented a custom PCB design that appears to have eschewed the stacked PCI-E power connectors in favor of the traditional side by side approach which allowed them to use two large fans for the cooler.
The cooler in question uses an aluminum fin array with quad nickel-plated heat pipes to keep the GPU core, memory, and VRMs nice and frosty. Looking somewhat like the XFX 7970 Black Edition, the Galaxy GTX 680 GC 2GB features a custom dual fan cooling solution with brushed aluminum cooling shroud, LED accents, and two large fans (which look to be about 90mm).
Galaxy stated that “overclocking enthusiasts will find the improved cooling of the Galaxy GTX 680 GC to be indispensable for pushing their clocks to the absolute maximum for the best possible performance.”
Galaxy has stated that the new GTX 680 GC card is available now, and is retailing for around $540 USD. [Update: it is already sold out on Newegg but Amazon has 4 left] which puts it a bit more than $40 over Galaxy's referrence version -- not too bad.
Get Out the Microscope
AMD announced their Q1 2012 earnings last week, which turned out better than the previous numbers suggested. The bad news is that they posted a net loss of $590 million. That does sound pretty bad considering that their gross revenue was $1.59 billion, but there is more to the story than meets the eye. Of course, there are thoughts of “those spendthrift executives are burying AMD again”, but this is not the case. The loss lays squarely on the GLOBALFOUNDRIES equity and wafer agreements that have totally been retooled.
To get a good idea of where AMD stands in Q1, and for the rest of this year, we need to see how all these numbers actually get sorted out. Gross revenue is down 6% from the quarter before, which is expected due to seasonal pressures. This is right in line with Intel’s seasonal downturn, and in ways AMD was affected slightly less than their larger competitor. They are down around 2% from last year’s quarter, and part of that can be attributed to the continuing hard drive shortage that continued to affect the previous quarter.