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NVIDIA GeForce Go 7800 GTX
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Date: Oct 03, 2005
Section:Mobile
Author: Sean Pelletier
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Introduction

In the past, notebooks and gaming were two mutually exclusive things. Granted, you could get away with some Solitaire or Pinball though that was just about the extent of any gaming for mobile users. Over the course of the last few years, we've witnessed the notebook industry go through some dramatic changes. Gaming-specific notebooks were introduced by boutique PC vendors such as VoodooPC and Alienware and offered a solid gaming experience using mainstream desktop GPUs and faster LCD screens to minimize any ghosting effect. Once Dell entered the picture with their XPS line of gaming notebooks, the world knew that the "gaming notebook" was more than a marketing buzz word and that it was here to stay. Although there have been some dramatic advances in this market, today's product launch is perhaps the most significant milestone to date. With the launch of the GeForce Go 7800 GTX, NVIDIA has set a new precendent by offering a mobile GPU which is on par with the fastest desktop GPU money can buy. For the first time, notebook users have performance parity with any desktop on the market, save for perhaps an SLI setup (at least for now).

For an in-depth analysis of the base technology behind the GeForce Go 7800 GTX, please reference HotHardware's full review of the desktop GeForce 7800 GTX. Now we know what you're thinking, NVIDIA must have cut some corners here and there to squeeze the latest flagship desktop GPU into a notebook. Well, aside from a minor 30MHz drop in core frequency this new mobile GPU has an identical feature set. In fact, there are several additional features to cater to mobile users which make this new graphics core the most robust GPU to ever be harnessed by a notebook thus far. We'll investigate these features on the following pages.

NVIDIA GeForce Go 7800 GTX Specifications
Flagship Performance Crammed Into a Notebook
NVIDIA CineFX 4.0 Shading Architecture
Vertex Shaders
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_Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shader 3.0
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_Displacement mapping
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_Geometry instancing
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_Infinite length vertex programs

Pixel Shaders
·
_Support for DirectX 9.0 Pixel Shader 3.0
·
_Full pixel branching support
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_Support for Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
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_Infinite length pixel programs

Next-Generation Texture Engine
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_Accelerated texture access
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_Up to 16 textures per rendering pass
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_Support for 16-bit floating point format and 32-bit floating point format
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_Support for non-power of two textures
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_Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures
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_DirectX and S3TC texture compression

Full 128-bit studio-quality floating point precision through the entire rendering pipeline with native hardware support for 32bpp, 64bpp, and 128bpp rendering modes


API Support
•Complete DirectX support, including the latest version of Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 3.0
•Full OpenGL support, including OpenGL 2.0


64-Bit Texture Filtering and Blending
• Full floating point support throughout entire pipeline
•Floating point filtering improves the quality of images in motion
•Floating point texturing drives new levels of clarity and image detail
•Floating point frame buffer blending gives detail to special effects like motion blur and explosions


NVIDIA Intellisample 4.0 Technology
• Advanced 16x anisotropic filtering (with up to 128 Taps)
•Blistering- fast antialiasing and compression performance
•Gamma-adjusted rotated-grid antialiasing removes jagged edges for incredible image quality
•Transparent multisampling and transparent supersampling modes boost antialiasing quality to new levels
•Support for normal map compression
•Support for advanced lossless compression algorithms for color, texture, and z-data at even higher resolutions and frame rates
•Fast z-clear


NVIDIA UltraShadow II Technology
•Designed to enhance the performance of shadow-intensive games



NVIDIA Digital Vibrance Control (DVC) 3.0 Technology
•DVC color controls
•DVC image sharpening controls



Advanced Display Functionality
• Dual integrated 400MHz RAMDACs for display resolutions up to and including
2048x1536 at 85Hz
•Dual DVO ports for interfacing to externa l TMDS transmitters and external TV encoders
•Full NVIDIA nView multi-display technology capability


NVIDIA PureVideo Technology
• Adaptable programmable video processor
•High-definition MPEG-2 and WMV9 hardware acceleration
•Spatial-temporal de- interlacing
•Inverse 2:2 and 3:2 pull-down (Inverse Telecine)
•4-tap horizontal, 5-tap vertical scaling
•Overlay color temperature correction
•Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) supports multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window
•Integrated HDTV output


Composited Desktop Hardware Engine
• Video post-processing
•Real-time desktop compositing
•Accelerated antialiased text rendering
•Pixel shader-driven special effects and animation


Advanced Engineering
•Designed for PCI Express x16
•Designed for high-speed GDDR3 memory

•Designed around MXM constraints
•Same Thermal, Power, and Space contraints as GeForce Go 6800 Ultra


Operating Systems
• Windows XP/Windows XP 64
•Windows ME
•Windows 2000
•Linux
•Macintosh OS X




The GeForce Go 7800 GTX:
Exposed



The GeForce Go 7800 GTX:
Rear-View


The GeForce Go 7800 GTX:
MXM Module

 

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Features and Vendor Support

 

Just like its flagship desktop counterpart, the GeForce Go 7800 GTX is a 24 pipeline GPU built on a .11 micron fab process. Complementing the 24 pipeplines, we have a full 8 Vertex Shaders and 16 ROPs (Render Operators). These added features also increases die size and transistor count. The G70's 300 million transistors weigh in at roughly 80 million more than the GeForce Go 6800 Ultra, so that gives us an indication that this new G70 mobile part is an absolute powerhouse. Surprisingly enough though, this new mobile GPU shares the same overall footprint and power characteristics as the previous flagship GeForce Go 6800 Ultra. Again, please reference our initial review of the desktop GeForce 7800 GTX for a full analysis of the G70's architectural features.

 

Systems equipped with the GeForce Go 7800 GTX can be purchased today at any of the following launch partners. Additionally, these vendors may also offer the GeForce Go 7800 GTX module itself as an upgrade for those who already own qualifying notebooks. Please contact the appropriate vendor for more information on upgrading to this new GPU.

Sager has been an industry leader in the production of portable computers since its inception in 1985. In its two decades of service, Sager has developed a reputation for offering the most advanced technologies at prices unrivaled in the industry, while backing all of their products with the best warranties in the business. Focusing exclusively on portable PCs, Sager is consistently among the first to break new ground in implementing technical advances for mobile computing, including powerful solutions for mobile gaming, video editing, and advanced business applications.
Dell is a trusted and diversified information-technology supplier and partner, and sells a comprehensive portfolio of products and services directly to customers worldwide. Dell, recognized by Fortune magazine as America's most admired company and No. 3 globally, designs, builds and delivers innovative, tailored systems that provide customers with exceptional value. Company revenue for the last four quarters was $52.8 billion. For more information about Dell and its products and services, visit www.dell.com.
VoodooPC is a world leader in the design and manufacturing of high performance personal computer systems. An industry pioneer since 1991, Voodoo is the world's foremost PC gaming system provider and is dedicated to delivering leading-edge performance, style and craftsmanship to the discerning PC enthusiast.
Falcon Northwest has been building high end PCs for game players and enthusiasts since 1992. Widely considered the creator of the "Gaming PC", Falcon has been building systems long before PC gaming became the huge market segment today.
Alienware Corporation manufactures high-performance computer desktop and mobile systems and leading-edge professional systems. Alienware offers unique and award-winning products that incorporate state-of-the-art components, innovative engineering and design, and unprecedented customer service. Alienware systems are available direct within the United States and Europe.
Since 1990, ABS has been building high quality, high performance systems for gamers, enthusiasts, and power users with only the best components available. ABS computers are built to exacting specifications and have won numerous awards and accolades including Computer Shopper's "Best Gaming PC" of 2004, PC World's "Best Buy" and many more. ABS' line of performance desktops, notebooks, and workstations are custom configured, built, and tested with the most demanding benchmarks in the industry. For more information about ABS products, please visit http://www.abspc.com.
Hypersonic PC Systems is a leader in providing cutting edge technology to the most astute and selective users in the computing market. With world-renowned commitment to service and support, Hypersonic has been paving the way in high performance computing since 1996.

 

 

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Module

 

Despite having ~ 80 million more transistors than the GeForce Go 6800Ultra, the new GeForce Go 7800 GTX manages to retain roughly the same size, power, and thermal constraints. In short, those that are already gaming with notebooks featuring the GeForce Go 6800 Ultra may have the option of upgrading directly to NVIDIA's new flagship mobile GPU.

The Sager notebook sample we received is essentially a rebadged Clevo D900 which nearly all other notebook vendors are using to feature NVIDIA's new mobile GPU (excluding Dell). This system uses a proprietary PCI-E connector to mate the graphics module to the system. The module itself is a very clean and concise PCB with 256MB of on-board memory.

 

Cooling duties for the Sager notebook are handled by a copper heatsink assembly that is not unlike the same cooling system on reference desktop GeForce 7800 GTX cards. Ample thermal paste is applied to the GPU and thermal tape mates the memory to the heatsink. In practice, we found the cooling for this graphics module to be more than sufficient as we had no stability problems at stock speeds, despite running continuous benchmarks for hours. Those looking to squeeze a few more MHz out of the core and memory modules could try applying a thinnner application of thermal paste to the GPU as there is certainly room for improvement direct from the factory.

Cleaning the thermal paste from the GPU, we see that the core itself is labeled as a GF-Go7800-GTX-A2.

Running RivaTuner, we stumbled across some interesting information. Besides the fact that the core is reported as a NV47 A1 revision, we see the various PowerMizer settings which alter core and memory frequencies and voltage. Perhaps most interesting is the "G70M Ultra" designation which is also listed within the title and pours more fuel onto the firey "is the GTX really the top, or is there an Ultra?" debate.

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Features and Overclocking

 

In addition to profound performance in the latest and greatest titles, the GeForce Go 7800 GTX is equipped with a number of features to enhance its mobile capabilities and increase functionality. Overall, this is easily the most robust mobile GPU we've come across to date.

The Geforce Go 7800 GTX features NVIDIA's latest PowerMizer 6.0 technology. In short, this technology allows the user to tailor overall 3D performance to the application at hand and the available power.  This is done through a variety of techniques ranging from maximum CPU offload, maximum usage of ACPI low-power-states, a mobile-specific GPU performance-per-watt design, fully programmable on-chip video processor, leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing technologies, and advanced PCI-Express power management.

One of the more interesting features of the GeForce Go 7800 GTX is support for NVIDIA's PureVideo technology. Here, the onboard video processing engine allows for enthusiast-quality playback of nearly any media. In practice, we've seen some extraordinary results from NVIDIA's PureVideo technology which puts it on par with some high-end DVD players. Keep your eyes posted for an in-depth analysis of this technology in the near future as we are currently working on an article to illustrate our results.

By default, the GeForce Go 7800GTX ships with a core frequency of 400MHz and a memory frequency of 1.1GHz. Despite being squeezed into a significantly smaller mobile form factor, the notebook GPU is clocked only 30MHz lower than the full-fledged desktop counterpart. Given the exceptional overclocking headroom we've witnessed with desktop G70 cards, we were anxious to see how the mobile part would fare.

You can imagine our surprise as we saw the GPU clock up to 467MHz with no visual artifacts or stability issues! Here, the highest overclock we were able to obtain gained us an additional 67MHz on the core and a full 120MHz for the memory modules. As you'll see on the following pages, these gains resulted in some impressive benchmark results that were unheard of for a mobile GPU.

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Test Setup - 3DMark05

 

HotHardware's Test System
Not all are created equal...

SYSTEM 1:
Socket T - Pentium 4 (3GHz)

Sager NP9890 Notebook (Clevo D900)
I915G Chipset
2x512MB DDR2 533
GeForce Go 7800 GTX 256MB

On-Board 10/100/1000 Ethernet
On-Board Audio
40GB Fujitsu SATA Hard Drive
NVIDIA ForceWare 78.70
Windows XP Pro SP2

SYSTEM 2:
Pentium M 770 (2.13GHz)

Dell Inspiron XPS Gen 2 Notebook

I915PM Chipset
2x512MB DDR2 533
GeForce Go 6800Ultra 256MB

On-Board 10/100/1000 Ethernet
On-Board Audio
100GB PATA Hard Drive
NVIDIA ForceWare 75.80
Windows XP Pro SP2

Performance Comparisons With 3DMark05
Futuremark's Latest - The Jury is Still Out...

3DMark05
3DMark05 is the latest installment in a long line of synthetic 3D graphics benchmarks, dating back to late 1998.  3DMark99 came out in October of 1998 and was followed by the very popular DirectX 7 benchmark, 3DMark2000, roughly two years later.  The DirectX 8.1-compliant 3DMark2001 was released shortly thereafter, and it too was a very popular tool used by many hardcore gamers.  3DMark05 is a fairly advanced DirectX 9 benchmarking tool.  We ran 3DMark05's default test (1,024 x 768) with and without 4x AA and 8x AF on each card we tested and have the overall results for you posted below...

Looking at the plot above, we find a phenomenal score for a notebook. With a score exceeding 6300, the GeForce Go 7800 GTX has more than a thousand point advantage over the GeForce Go 6800Ultra. Scores this high are typically reserved for enthusiast desktop PC's with a single flagship graphics card. Once the GeForce Go 7800 GTX is overclocked, we nearly break the 7k point barrier.

Once 4x AA and 8x AF are introduced, we see the true strength of the G70 architecture show through. Here, the card loses only a thousand points and maintains a score above 5k. Once again, overclocking yields phenomenal results with a score that is still above 6k points despite the enhanced image quality settings.

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Doom3

 

Performance Comparisons with Doom 3 - Single Player
Details: http://www.doom3.com/

Doom 3
id Software's games have long been pushing the limits of 3D graphics. Quake, Quake 2, and Quake 3 were all instrumental in the success of 3D accelerators on the PC. Now, many years later, with virtually every new desktop computer shipping with some sort of 3D accelerator, id is at it again with the visually stunning Doom 3. Like most of id's previous titles, Doom 3 is an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows. We ran this batch of Doom 3 single player benchmarks using a custom demo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode, at resolutions of 1,024x768, 1,280 x 1,024 and 1,600 x 1,200 without anti-aliasing enabled and then again with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously. Unfortunately, the GeForce Go 6800Ultra in the Dell Dimension XPS was not tested at 1280x1024 so we are unable to compare results for that resolution.

With no enhanced image quality settings, the GeForce Go 7800 GTX and the GeForce Go 6800Ultra are neck and neck at 1024x768. By the time the reoslution is scaled up to 1600x1200, the new flagship GPU has pulled away by 36.7fps. Seeing a mobile GPU running over 80fps at 1600x1200 in Doom 3 is certainly surprising to see.

Adding 4xAA and 8xAF to the picture alters scores significantly, though the outcome is still the same. As the resolution scales, the GeForce Go 7800GTX maintains an average framerate over 40fps. Surprisingly enough, the GeForce Go 6800 Ultra is able to still put up a fight and is only 8fps behind the GeForce Go 7800 GTX at 1600x1200.

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Half-Life 2

 

 

 

Performance Comparisons with Half-Life 2
Details: http://www.half-life2.com/

Half Life 2
Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  So, when Valve announced Half-Life 2 was close to completion in mid-2003, gamers the world over sat in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, thanks to a compromised internal network, the theft of a portion of the game's source code, and a tumultuous relationship with the game's distributor, Vivendi Universal, we all had to wait until November 2004 to get our hands on this classic. We benchmarked Half-Life 2 with a long, custom-recorded timedemo in the "Canals" map, that takes us through both outdoor and indoor environments. These tests were run at resolutions of 1024x768, 1,280 x 1,024, and 1,600 x 1,200 without any anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering and with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.

Benchmarking HL2 proved to be a stressful tax as countless timedemos were used to debug some questionable performance results. Contrary to intuition, the GeForce Go 6800Ultra outpaced the GeForce Go 7800 GTX here. Even at 1600x1200 where the GeForce Go 7800GTX should shine, it fell 30fps behind the older GeForce Go 6800Ultra. Although we've been working with NVIDIA to debug the issue with this particular system, we've been unable to solve the problem in the short time we've had our hands on it.

Unfortunately, the same issue we witnessed at default image quality settings was still present when we introduced 4xAA and 16xAF. Here, the GeForce Go 7800 GTX seems hampered by a performance ceiling at roughly 88fps, potentially caused by the notebooks lowly 3GHz Pentium 4. Again, we were unable to definitively determine what the bottleneck for the system was in the time allotted. Regardless, we'll share our troubleshooting approach to lay inquisitive minds to rest.

Initially, it appeared as though there was a faulty component in the system which was performing under par and dragging overall performance down. As a result, we tested each individual component using SiSoft Sandra. Here, the CPU, memory, and hard drive all performed as expected. The next step involved removing each component and reseating it to ensure proper contact. With no luck thus far, the GPU module and CPU were removed to ensure the presence of proper thermal compound in case thermal throttling was to blame. With no success from this venture, we were left to reinstall system drivers and try other video drivers. Again, we were met with the same performance profile and were forced to move onto other benchmarks. Look for a solution to this to be posted in a future article as bugs like this will eat away at us until they are resolved.

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Battlefield 2

 

Benchmarks & Comparisons With Battlefield 2
Locked and Loaded...

Battlefield 2
With the original Battlefield 1942 easily being one of the most popular multiplayer games of all time, Battlefield 2 is the latest addition to the popular franchise and comes equipped with a host of new features. With massive maps and an impressive level of detail, it's no surprise to see some pretty steep hardware requirements. Here, the minimum acceptable hardware includes a 1.7GHz Pentium4, 512MB of system memory, and a 128MB DX9 graphics card equal or better to a GeForce FX5700 or Radeon 8500. Armed with the fastest mobile GPU money can buy today, we were anxious to see how the system would perform. All graphics settings were set to "High" with the exception of Texture Filtering which was set to "Low" to enable Trilinear Filtering. Benchmark runs were then taken at resolutions of 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with and without 4x FSAA and 4x AF enabled.

Although the plot above shows some exceptional scores for a mobile GPU, we were a bit surprised to not see some higher frame rates. Perhaps the same issues plaguing our HL2 benchmarks are to blame for the results above. Then again, we are seeing nearly 40fps at 1600x1200 in a very demanding title. It is important here to remember that BF2 loves system memory and performs significantly better with 2GB of memory instead of the 1GB as we tested with. Regardless, most desktop systems would have trouble keeping up with scores such as this, so it might be a bit unfair to be anything but impressed. Despite these facts, we would expect performance in this title to be higher with polished retail systems.

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F.E.A.R SP Demo

 

Performance Comparisons With F.E.A.R SP Demo
Candy for the Mind and Eyes...

F.E.A.R
One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005, Monolith's new psychological thriller F.E.A.R promises to be as thrilling to the mind as it is to the eyes. Taking a look at the minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card that is a Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-class or better. Using the newly released single player demo, we put the notebook through its paces to see how it fared with a promising new title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to "High" and Trilinear Filtering was enabled. Benchmark runs were then completed at resolutions of 1024x768 and 1600x1200.

At default image quality settings, the GeForce Go 7800 GTX performed exceptionally well with an average framerate of nearly 60fps at 1600x1200. Once 4x AA and 8x AF were introduced, the results changed dramatically. Here, this taxing new title brought average framerates down to 20fps at 1600x1200. However, at 1024x768 with 4xAA and 8xAF the game looked absolutely stunning and was more than playable with an average fps of 45fps. It would be interesting to see what this GPU would do with 512MB to ensure performance was not limited by its 256MB of memory.

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Call of Duty 2 Demo

 

Performance Comparisons With Call of Duty 2 Demo
Declaring War on High End Systems...

CoD 2
Building upon the Game of the Year winning Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty 2 promises to continue the trend of a chaotic wartime epic that is as pleasing for the eyes as it is for the ears. Using the newly released single player demo, we put the notebook through its paces to see how it fared with this promising new title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to "High" and Trilinear Filtering was enabled. Benchmark runs were then completed at resolutions of 1024x768, 1280x1024x and 1600x1200 with and without 4x AA and 8x AF.

This taxing new demo took its toll on our sample notebook. Here, the GeForce Go 7800 GTX came close to keeping average framerates to 40fps even at 1600x1200. Enabling 4x AA and 8x AF only dropped performance by roughly 5fps leaving us curious whether an outside factor was the bottleneck. Given the fact that the demo was released a day after we received the system, we didn't have time to explore other system configurations to test this theory. Regardless, you can rest assured that we'll revisit this demo in a future article with a GeForce Go 7800 GTX GPU to investigate our results further.

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Conclusion

 

Despite the rather odd performance issues witnessed in Half Life 2, we cannot help but be thoroughly impressed with NVIDIA's new GeForce Go 7800GTX. In addition to this GPU producing the fastest mobile benchmark results we have witnessed to date, the fact that you can buy a system configured with this card today makes this product launch a total success. It was very impressive to see a notebook outscore more than 95% of single-card desktop systems on the market. In fact, it's amusing to realize that a notebook with this GPU could realistically be the fastest system at a local LAN party. Regardless of the game being played, and almost regardless of the resolution and features selected, the GeForce Go 7800 GTX makes it all playable with exceptional framerates.

Voodoo PC's CEO Rahul Sood made a comment directly to this point: "By using the new Geforce Go 7800GTX in our Envy Heavyweight notebook we put most desktop computers to shame.  This video card is not your average notebook piece - it behaves like its desktop counterpart and schools anything in its class."

The performance issues we witnessed and the comparison with the GeForce Go 6800 Ultra require some explanation, however. Ideally, we would have had a single notebook and been able to test both the GeForce Go 7800 GTX and GeForce Go 6800 Ultra modules on the same system, with the same drivers. However, the time constraints for this review prevented this from happening. As a result, we must be aware of the architectural differences between the systems. As we know, the Pentium M CPU from the Dell Inspiron XPS with the GeForce Go 6800Ultra is much more favorable than the 3GHz Pentium 4 CPU we're using on the GeForce Go 7800 GTX test system. In addition, it would have been ideal to have 2GB installed on our systems to ensure that the amount of system RAM did not have any adverse effect on the overall performance. We have every intention of obtaining a single platform with these characteristics to follow up this review.

The only wild card to the success of the NVIDIA GeForce Go 7800 GTX is what ATI might have up its sleeve for their own next generation mobile GPU. As is always the case with computer hardware, there is always the potential of something faster on the horizon. However, it is critical to realize that we haven't seen ATI's new mobile GPU and have no idea when it will be released. In stark contrast, we are well aware of how NVIDIA's new GPU performs and you can actually purchase a notebook with this technology at this very moment. Make no mistake about it, the GeForce Go 7800 GTX is the fastest mobile GPU money can buy and will likely be the fastest mobile GPU for quite some time.  If you're looking for high-end desktop level performance with the pseudo-portability of a desktop replacement notebook, you need look no further than the GeForce Go 7800 GTX.

We Give the GeForce Go 7800 GTX a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of 9...

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