CES 2011: NVIDIA GeForce 500M graphics to complement Sandy Bridge

Subject: Mobile | January 5, 2011 - 04:00 PM |

With all of the discussion surrounding the new Intel Sandy Bridge platforms and how it will affect the discrete graphics markets of AMD and NVIDIA in both the desktop and mobile space, NVIDIA is being very deliberate in their promotion of the newly announced NVIDIA GeForce 500M series of mobility GPUs.  NVIDIA is currently the discrete graphics market leader in the mobile space and has much to lose should the Intel HD Graphics 3000 turn out to be "good enough" for the majority of consumers. 

NVIDIA starts out by degrading the previous attempts of Intel to bring better IGP solutions to the mobile world.  They are pointing out the truth here: NVIDIA (and AMD) constantly update their drivers as newer games and titles are released while Intel's driver team is notorious for NOT updating drivers.  The claim then that users of Sandy Bridge graphics should worry about the future capabilities of their hardware is valid and it is going to be up to Intel to prove NVIDIA wrong here.

Yes, the Sandy Bridge processor graphics are indeed a big step up from previous mobile solutions as we saw in our testing, but the truth is that even NVIDIA's lowest end GeForce GT 520M part is able to outpace it by 50-100% and by upgrading to the GT 540M users will see a dramatic speed increase.  Along with the improved gaming performance users get access to CUDA-based applications, 3D Vision gaming (if the notebook is designed for it) and more. 

There are some caveats of course, the first of which is price.  SNB graphics is "free" and included with every Intel processor sold and obviously NVIDIA can't match that.  Is the performance difference enough to entice the customers to want to upgrade and thus warrant new designs with discrete graphics?

NVIDIA thinks so, and based on the 200+ design wins they are bragging about on Sandy Bridge platforms, OEMs seem to think so as well.  NVIDIA has products that should be shipping by the end of the month from ASUS, MSI, Dell, Lenovo, Sony and many more. 

The new mobile GPU stack from NVIDIA is shown above with the GTX 460/470/485 parts still occupying the highest-end machines priced at over $1000 and the new 500M series going for the $600+ notebooks.  All of these parts support NVIDIA Optimus technology which allows the OEM to integrated discrete graphics without increasing power consumption during idle periods - a necessary requirement to compete with the power efficiency of Sandy Bridge graphics. 

After looking at the Sandy Bridge mobility platform earlier in the week we are eager to see how the machines that integrate these new NVIDIA solutions can compete in price, performance and battery life.

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