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NVIDIA GeForce 8800M Preview
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Date: Nov 19, 2007
Section:Mobile
Author: Michael Lin
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Introduction & Specifications
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When we first looked at the NVIDIA GeForce 8M series of mobile graphics chips, over six months ago in early May, the series had just been announced. At the time, the lineup only consisted of the 8400M mainstream series and the 8600M mid-range series. Although rumors had been circulating about the possibility of a high-end, G80-based enthusiast chip for some time, and hopes were high, none were announced. This was compounded by the fact that the fastest chip in the initial lineup, the 8600M GT was quite a bit slower than last generation's top chip, the GeForce Go 7950 GTX.

A month later, NVIDIA announced what was supposed to be the first enthusiast-class chip in the GeForce 8M family, the GeForce 8700M GT. Again, this wasn't the rumored G80-gone-mobile super chip. Instead the GeForce 8700M GT turned out to be essentially a higher clocked version of the GeForce 8600M GT. While substantial core and shader clock frequency boosts allowed the 8700M GT to handily outperform the 8600M series, it still wasn't enough to take the title of fastest overall mobile graphics chip away from the GeForce Go 7950 GTX.

Several months of silence followed the GeForce 8700M launch and it seemed like the rumored mobile G80 chip was just that, a rumor. The most popular theory seemed to be that the G80's massive 185W TDP simply couldn't be tamed enough for a notebook to handle and we were unlikely to see G80 class performance in a mobile form factor until NVIDIA moved its technology to a more advanced manufacturing process.

This theory seems to be correct as the wait is finally over. Today NVIDIA is finally unveiling the rumored and much anticipated GeForce 8800M series of mobile graphics cards. The 8800M is powered by the new G92M GPU which is
built on a 65nm manufacturing process and as its name suggests, it shares a lineage with the desktop-bound G92 GPU announced three weeks ago. The 8800M series will come in two favors, a GTX and a GTS. The GeForce 8800M series is available immediately and over a dozen manufacturers are announcing new products today and in the coming weeks that will support the new chips.

Read on for specifications and preliminary benchmarks.



NVIDIA GeForce 8M Series
Features & Specifications
NVIDIA unified architecture:
Fully unified shader core dynamically allocates processing power to geometry, vertex, physics, or pixel shading operations, delivering up to 2x the gaming performance of prior generation GPUs.

GigaThread Technology:
Massively multi-threaded architecture supports thousands of independent, simultaneous threads, providing extreme processing efficiency in advanced, next generation shader programs.

Full Microsoft DirectX 10 Support:
World's first DirectX 10 GPU with full Shader Model 4.0 support delivers unparalleled levels of graphics realism and film-quality effects.

NVIDIA Lumenex Engine:
Delivers stunning image quality and floating point accuracy at ultra-fast frame rates.
16x Anti-aliasing: Lightning fast, high-quality anti-aliasing at up to 16x sample rates obliterates jagged edges.

128-bit floating point High Dynamic-Range (HDR):
Twice the precision of prior generations for incredibly realistic lighting effects - now with support for anti-aliasing.

NVIDIA Quantum Effects Technology:
Advanced shader processors architected for physics computation enable a new level of physics effects to be simulated and rendered on the GPU - all while freeing the CPU to run the game engine and AI.

NVIDIA ForceWare Unified Driver Architecture (UDA):
Delivers a proven record of compatibility, reliability, and stability with the widest range of games and applications. ForceWare provides the best out-of-box experience and delivers continuous performance and feature updates over the life of NVIDIA GeForce GPUs.

OpenGL 2.1 Optimizations and Support:
Ensures top-notch compatibility and performance for OpenGL applications.

NVIDIA nView Multi-Display Technology:
Advanced technology provides the ultimate in viewing flexibility and control for multiple monitors.

PCI Express Support:
Designed to run perfectly with the PCI Express bus architecture, which doubles the bandwidth of AGP 8X to deliver over 4 GB/sec. in both upstream and downstream data transfers.

Dual 400MHz RAMDACs:
Blazing-fast RAMDACs support dual QXGA displays with ultra-high, ergonomic refresh rates - up to 2048x1536@85Hz. 

Dual Dual-link DVI Support:
Able to drive the industry's largest and highest resolution flat-panel displays up to 2560x1600.

Built for Microsoft Windows Vista:
NVIDIA's fourth-generation GPU architecture built for Windows Vista gives users the best possible experience with the Windows Aero 3D graphical user interface.

Power Mizer 7.0 Technology:
Seventh generation of NVIDIA's advanced hardware power management technology dynamically adapts to the user's performance needs and provides longer battery life, by reducing system-level notebook power consumption and heat generation.

Hardware Decode Acceleration:
Provides ultra-smooth playback of H.264, VC-1, WMV and MPEG-2 HD and SD movies.

NVIDIA PureVideo HD Technology:
The combination of high-definition video decode acceleration and post-processing that delivers unprecedented picture clarity, smooth video, accurate color, and precise image scaling for movies and video.

Discrete, Programmable Video Processor:
NVIDIA PureVideo HD is a discrete programmable processing core in NVIDIA GPUs that provides superb picture quality and ultra-smooth movies with low CPU utilization and power.

High-Quality Scaling:
Enlarges lower resolution movies and videos to HDTV resolutions, up to 1080i, while maintaining a clear, clean image. Also provides downscaling of videos, including high-definition, while preserving image detail.

Inverse Telecine (3:2 & 2:2 Pulldown Correction):
Recovers original film images from films-converted-to-video (DVDs, 1080i HD content), providing more accurate movie playback and superior picture quality.

Bad Edit Correction:
When videos are edited after they have been converted from 24 to 25 or 30 frames, the edits can disrupt the normal 3:2 or 2:2 pulldown cadences. PureVideo HD uses advanced processing techniques to detect poor edits and recover the original content.

Video Color Correction:
NVIDIA's Color Correction Controls, such as Brightness, Contrast and Gamma Correction let you compensate for the different color characteristics of various RGB monitors and TVs ensuring movies are not too dark, overly bright, or washed out regardless of the video format or display type.

Integrated SD and HD TV Output:
Provides world-class TV-out functionality via Composite, S-Video, Component, or DVI connections. Supports resolutions up to 1080p.

Video Post-Processing:
Improves movie image quality by removing noise and increasing the contrast at edges.

HDCP Capable:
Designed to meet the output protection management (HDCP) and security specifications of the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats, allowing the playback of encrypted movie content on PCs when connected to HDCP-compliant displays.

Spatial-Temporal De-Interlacing:
Sharpens HD and standard definition interlaced content on progressive displays, delivering a crisp, clear picture that rivals high-end home-theater systems.

 


The GeForce 8800M series is very similar to the rest of the GeForce 8M range and they share the same set of features. However it traces its lineage back to the G92 based GeForce 8800 GT, rather than the G86 and G84 GPUs that the other GeForce 8M products were derived from. However, the 8800M's G92M GPU isn't just a G92 desktop chip with additional power saving features enabled. In order to bring the G92's sizable 110W TDP down to something more manageable for a notebook, NVIDIA had to significantly cut back on clock frequency. One of the seven stream processor clusters (each containing 16 stream processors) of the G82 was also cut in the name of heat reduction (and better yields), bringing the G92M down to 96 stream processors, the same as an original G80-based GeForce 8800 GTS. These heat reduction measures seem to have paid off and they bring the TDP of the G92M down to a manageable 35 watts. That might even be low enough to allow a 8800M powered laptop to rest in your lap, although we still wouldn't advise it.

For a better understanding of the GeForce 8800M's architecture and feature set, we recommend you check out our coverage of the GeForce 8800 GT (G92) for more in-depth detail and you may also find our earlier coverage of the G80 helpful.
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8800M Series Line-up & NVIDIA Benchmarks
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The 8800M series will come in two flavors, a 8800M GTX and a 8800M GTS. Both the GTX and the GTS are based on the G92M GPU and they are functionally identical. They both come with 512MB of GDDR3 and they even share the same clock frequencies. The only difference lies in the number of available stream processors. The 8800M GTX has 6 stream processor clusters for a total of 96 stream clusters (16 stream processors per cluster) while the GTS only has 4 clusters for a total of 64 stream processors.

Both the 8800M GTX and GTS will have a core clock frequency of 500MHz, shader frequency of 1250MHz and a memory frequency of 800MHz. This means that the new 8800M GTX should actually be rather similar in performance to the original GeForce 8800 GTS desktop graphics card, which has the same number of stream processors, shares the same core clock frequency and has similar shader and memory frequencies. However the 8800 GTS has a memory bus width of 320 bits while the 8800M has a more conventional 256-bit bus like its 8800 GT brother, which means the 8800 GTS will have a slight memory bandwidth advantage over the 8800M GTX.

All of these numbers might be a bit hard to follow so we've summarized the main differences between the relevant graphics cards in the table below.


   GeForce
8600M GT
 GeForce
8700M GT
GeForce
8800M GTS
GeForce
8800M GTX
GeForce
8800 GTS
GeForce
8800 GT
 GPU Core
G84M  G84M G82M G82M G80 G82
 Stream Processors
 32 32 64 96 96 112
 Core Clock (MHz)
 475 625 500 500 500 600
 Shader Clock (MHz)
 900 1250 1250
1250 1200 1500
 Memory Clock (MHz)
 1400 1600 1600 1600 1600 1800
 Maximum Memory
 512MB 512MB 512MB 512MB 640MB
512MB
 Memory Interface
 128-bit 128-bit 256-bit
256-bit 320-bit
256-bit
 Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec)
 22.4 25.6 51.2
51.2 64.0
57.6
 Texture Fill Rate (billion/sec)
 7.6 10.0
16.0
24.0 24.0
33.6


As you can see, the GeForce 8800M GTX leaves the 8700M GT far behind and actually has very similar performance specifications to its desktop-bound brother, the 8800 GTS. They have nearly identical clock frequencies and share the same texture fill rate, although the 8800 GTS has the advantage when it comes to the amount of onboard memory and memory bandwidth. It's pretty safe to assume that the GeForce 8800M GTX would perform similarly to the 8800 GTS, however, the performance of the 8800M GTS is more of a mystery. It falls in between the 8800M GTX and the 8700M GT when it comes to performance specifications but actual performance is harder to judge. 

NVIDIA has provided us with a couple of benchmarks that you can see below. We'd like to note that these benchmarks were performed by NVIDIA. We had no control over how the tests were conducted and we only have very limited knowledge of the test setup so you should take these results for what they are worth. However, they should still be useful for getting a rough idea of how the different currently available NVIDIA mobile parts perform with respect to each other. The benchmark results are presented in their original format, the way we received them, although they have been cropped. You can click on each graph to view its original, completely unaltered form.



This first benchmark is a 3DMark06 run at 1280x1024. This benchmark was run on a Windows XP machine. Here, we get our first glimpse at the performance of NVIDIA's new flagship mobile chips. The two 8800Ms completely decimate the rest of the field. The GeForce 7950 GTX and 8700M GT can only challenge the 8800Ms when they are in SLI. That indicates that the new 8800Ms are nearly twice as powerful as anything that came before them.

However, the playing field wasn't completely level. As you can see if you click on the graph to view the original data, the different graphics cards in this test were actually on different test systems configured with different processors. That skews the results somewhat, in the 8800M's favor in this case. The two 8800Ms were in systems with 2.8GHz Merom processors while the 8700M was paired with a 2.2GHz Merom and the 7950 was partnered with a 2GHz Merom. That gives the two 8800Ms the upper hand since they had several hundred more MHz to work with. So does that make these results useless? Not entirely. While we suspect the SLI setups might be able to best the two 8800Ms if they had an even playing field, the new 8800Ms are certainly out of reach of a lone 8700M or 7950 GTX, even if they had equal footing.



In this, and the remainder of the benchmarks, the 7950 GTX has been eliminated. Now all three of the remaining graphics cards are paired with 1.8GHz Merom processors and the 7950 GTX has been replaced by a 8700M paired with a Merom running at 2.8GHz. The goal of this benchmark seems to be to show how much the 3DMark06 results are affected by a 1GHz difference in processor frequency. As you can see, the difference isn't huge. This indicates, as it should, that 3DMark06 is GPU bound. It also tells us that the results in the previous benchmark aren't too far off despite the unequal footing.



Here we see F.E.A.R. at 1920x1200 with 4x Anti-Aliasing and 8x Anisotropic Filtering. It's unclear how these results were obtained but we assume that F.E.A.R.'s built-in benchmark was used. In any case, we see the two 8800Ms clearly dominating the 8700M by a large margin. Both the 8800M GTX and the GTS easily perform twice as well as the 8700M GT at 1.8GHz and they even manage to double the score of the 8700M GT when it has a 1GHz CPU frequency advantage.



The last benchmark NVIDIA provided us is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. at 1920x1200 with 4x Anti-Aliasing and 8x Anisotropic Filtering. Once again, we are not privy to the exact details of the system setups and how the benchmark was conducted, however, we do know the processor that was used and obviously the graphics cards too. Here we see a similar result as with the F.E.A.R. benchmark. Both 8800Ms completely trump the 8700M GT, achieving double its frame rate. Also interesting is the fact the 8700M GT was indifferent to the frequency of the processor, posting the same result regardless of a 1GHz difference in processor frequency.
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Summary & Conclusion
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NVIDIA's benchmarks answer a lot of questions about the 8800M series' performance, although they also leave many unanswered questions as well. Although we didn't have all the data regarding the system configurations and exact benchmark setup, we think that NVIDIA's new mobile flagships are going to perform very well. While it is questionable if the new 8800Ms are actually twice as fast as last generation's top dog, the GeForce Go 7950 GTX, it is clear that one on one, either of the 8800Ms should be able to unseat the 7950 GTX. This is great news for the gaming DTR market.

Another piece of good news is that notebooks equipped with GeForce 8800M series graphics cards will be shipping very soon. In fact, several manufacturers begin shipping 8800M equipped notebooks today in both single-card and SLI configurations. The GeForce 8800M GTX and GTS certainly cleaned house in NVIDIA's benchmarks, but just imagine what a pair of these could do when configured in SLI.

   
NVIDIA GeForce 8800M GTX MXMIII Module (front & back)

This is all great news if your in the market for a new gaming notebook but what if you already own a nice, folding, quasi-portable, gaming monster? Well, both the GeForce 8800M GTX and the 8800M GTS will be made available in MXMIII format. This means if your notebook has a MXMIII slot, and provided you can actually find a 8800M MXMIII module for sale, then you can potentially upgrade your graphics card to the new king of the hill. Although it won't come cheap, but then again, neither would a new notebook.


For nearly two years, the GeForce Go 7950 GTX was the undisputed king of the mobile-graphics hill. With no real external threats from ATI or internal threats from NVIDIA's other mobile products, the 7950 GTX has ruled for quite a while.  With a new highly anticipated DirectX 10 game being released seemingly with each passing day this season, the last generation, DirectX 9 GeForce Go 7950 GTX just isn't going to cut it for much longer. Unfortunately the fastest mobile graphics card with DirectX 10 support, the 8700M GT, just isn't quite fast enough to justify trading in the trusty 7950 GTX. With the release of the GeForce 8800M GTX, the GeForce Go 7950 GTX finally gets a worthy successor and NVIDIA finally has a mobile part worth calling their new flagship. Lastly, the DTR gaming market gets a much needed DirectX 10 laden booster shot, in the form of NVIDIA's GeForce 8800M series, which should keep it safe from struggling frame rates well into the new year.
 

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