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NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX Preview
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Date: Oct 12, 2006
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Sean Pelletier
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Introduction and Specifications

The enthusiast gaming notebook has become an extremely viable and desirable alternative to today's desktop systems, which in-part explains why the mobile segment is one of the fastest growing in the PC industry. The latest crop of high performance notebooks are an engineering marvel of sorts, as they come dangerously close to providing the same levels of performance without the excessive bulk and heat associated with a full desktop system. Over the course of the last year in particular, we have witnessed the notebook gain further ground on desktops with the arrival of new processors and NVIDIA's SLI multi-GPU configurations on the notebook platform. As such, we now have the ability to run extremely potent CPUs, multiple flagship GPUs, and other enthusiast-class hardware without the need for a 700W power supply or some obnoxiously loud cooling solution.

Today, NVIDIA takes the notebook platform yet another step closer to enthusiast desktop performance with the launch of the new GeForce Go 7950 GTX. As the company's new flagship mobile GPU, this graphics chipset offers unprecedented performance for the notebooks without sacrificing the features and functionality a notebook demands. Going through the specifications, it is hard to not be impressed by NVIDIA's latest mobile creation. 

NVIDIA GeForce Go 7950 GTX Specifications
Flagship Performance Crammed Into a Notebook
NVIDIA CineFX 4.0 Shading Architecture
Vertex Shaders
Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 Vertex Shader 3.0
Displacement mapping
Geometry instancing
Infinite length vertex programs

Pixel Shaders
Support for DirectX 9.0 Pixel Shader 3.0
Full pixel branching support
Support for Multiple Render Targets (MRTs)
Infinite length pixel programs

Next-Generation Texture Engine
Accelerated texture access
Up to 16 textures per rendering pass
Support for 16-bit floating point format and 32-bit floating point format
Support for non-power of two textures
Support for sRGB texture format for gamma textures 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
.Delivers true high dynamic range (HDR) lighting support
.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
.Full NVIDIA nView multi-display technology capability


NVIDIA PureVideo Technology
.Dedicated on-chip video processor
.High-definition H.264, MPEG2 and WMV9 decode acceleration
.Advanced spatial-temporal de-interlacing
.Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
.High-quality video scaling
.Video color correction
.Microsoft Video Mixing Renderer (VMR) supports multiple video windows with full video quality and features in each window


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 constraints as GeForce Go 7900 GTX


Operating Systems
.Microsoft Vista
.Windows XP/Windows XP 64
.Windows ME
.Windows 2000
.Linux
.Macintosh OS X




The GeForce Go 7950 GTX:
Exposed



The GeForce Go 7950 GTX:
Rear-View


The GeForce Go 7950 GTX: MXM Module
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Features and Vendor Support

Unlike the GeForce 7950 GX2 which launched on the desktop platform, the GeForce Go 7950 GTX utilizes a single GPU. In recent weeks, NVIDIA has also launched the GeForce 7950 GT on the desktop platform which also features a single GPU. For many, this can be somewhat confusing, though in the case of the latest mobile part the naming convention does make sense. Make no mistake, the GeForce 7950 GTX is anything but a new GPU. Rather, this new product is more of a refinement of the previous flagship GPU in an effort to squeeze even more performance out of that architecture. 

  GeForce Go 7950 GTX GeForce Go 7900 GTX GeForce Go 7900 GS GeForce Go 7800 GTX
Process Technology .09u .09u .09u .11u
Transistor Count 278M 278M 278M 302M
Core Frequency (MHz) 575 500 375 400
Memory Frequency (MHz) 700 600 500 550
Vertex Shaders 8 8 7 8
Pixel Shaders 24 24 20 24
Memory Bandwidth (GB/s) 44.8 38.4 32.0 35.2
Vertices / Sec (Millions) 1140 1000 656 800
Pixel Fill Rate (Billions/s) 9.2 8.0 6.0 6.4
Texture Fill Rate (Billions/s) 13.8 12.0 7.5 9.6

Looking at the respective specifications in the table above, we can clearly see that the new GeForce Go 7950 GTX is more of an "evolution" rather than a "revolution". Regardless, we are witnessing a healthy 75MHz increase in core frequency compared with the previous flagship GeForce Go 7900 GTX. In addition, we have no less than an additional 100MHz in memory frequency. Together, these higher frequencies translate into some significant performance enhancements. Here, we find memory bandwidth increasing by more than 6GB/s, Fill Rate increasing by 1.2BP/s, and an additional 140M vertices can be processed per second. On paper, the new GeForce Go 7950 GTX certainly looks the part of a dominant flagship mobile GPU. 

Somewhat ironically, one of the most significant new developments with the launch of the GeForce Go 7950 GTX has nothing to do with the overall GPU architecture itself. For years, users have been pleading with NVIDIA to make it possible to allow notebook users to download and install the same drivers the company posts on its website to give us access to the various performance enhancements and game fixes the frequent driver releases make possible. Unfortunately, the barrier to this has been the fact that there are hotkeys and flags within the notebook drivers which are specific to the notebook vendor you're using. Here, a handful of enthusiasts opted to do without the "vendor features" of the model-specific drivers and brute forced the installation of the latest NVIDIA driver. Fortunately, mobile gamers can rejoice as they can now have their cake and eat it too. NVIDIA is announcing that from this point on, mobile enthusiasts will have several ways of utilizing the latest NVIDIA drivers while retaining the hotkeys and features the vendor has created for their notebooks. Whether it be through the vendor's own support website as seen in the example with Dell above or directly through NVIDIA's website, mobile users can now easily access and install the latest and greatest drivers for their notebook's GPU. 

Throughout the last few years, NVIDIA has gained significant momentum in the mobile segment in terms of overall vendor support. Judging from the list of vendors which will be supporting the GeForce Go 7950 GTX and the rest of the GeForce Go 7-series of GPU's, that momentum is continuing to grow. Users would be hard pressed to find a reputable notebook vendor which does not offer a GeForce 7 series GPU.

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Test System & Preliminary Benchmarks

Unfortunately, no test systems were able to be made available in time for the embargo date. As a result, the only preliminary performance data we are able to share with you today are the numbers which have been provided to us directly by NVIDIA through their own internal testing. Rest assured, we will be securing an appropriate sample shortly and will provide results from our usual array of benchmarks for your viewing pleasure.

Item Model
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo T7600
Chipset Intel i945PM
GPU GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/700) & (575/600)
Memory 2GB DDR2 (667MHz)
OS Windows XP SP2
Driver Foreceware 84.69

Looking at NVIDIA's test configuration, we see this is directly in-line with most flagship gaming notebooks on the market today. One item to note however is the use of two different memory frequencies for testing. NVIDIA has informed us that some notebook vendors might opt to run the memory frequency at 600MHz instead of 700MHz so both frequencies were tested.

3DMark06 - Default Test 1280x1024
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/700)
Merom 2.0GHz
5214
GeForce Go 7900 GS SLI (375/500)
Turion 64 2.2GHz
5124
GeForce Go 7900 GTX (500/600)
Merom 2.0GHz
4745
GeForce Go 7900 GTX (500/600)
Yonah 2.16GHz
4707

Unfortunately, the scenario above represents the only comparative performance data supplied by NVIDIA in terms of showcasing how the new GeForce Go 7650 GTX compares with other mobile GPU's. Regardless, we see that with two similar systems, NVIDIA's latest GPU scores nearly 500 more points than the previous flagship GeForce Go 7900 GTX and even manages to outscore two GeForce Go 7900 GS GPUs running in SLI.

 

3DMark06 - Default Test 1280x1024
Core 2 Duo T7600 - 2GB - i945PM (Forceware v84.69)
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/700)
5430
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/600) 5246

Without question, seeing a notebook capable of scoring nearly 5500 points in 3DMark06 is impressive. Here, it is interesting to see that the 100MHz drop in memory frequency translates into roughly a 100 point drop in the overall 3DMark score.

 

Oblivion Indoor w/HDR - 1600x1200
Core 2 Duo T7600 - 2GB - i945PM (Forceware v84.69)
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/700)
57.9
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/600) 54.3

It is also impressive to see Oblivion framerates dangerously close to 60FPS despite running at 1600x1200 with HDR enabled. Even more impressive is the fact that this performance is coming from a notebook which allows users to take this type of gaming horsepower anywhere they go.

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Preliminary Benchmarks Continued

Again, it should be noted that all of the performance data provided here has been provided by NVIDIA through their own internal testing as no test systems were available in time for the NDA embargo. HotHardware's own performance data from our normal suite of benchmarks will be provided shortly.

Quake 4 - Demo3 - 1600x1200
Core 2 Duo T7600 - 2GB - i945PM (Forceware v84.69)
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/700)
140.2
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/600) 133.1

Despite running at 1600x1200, NVIDIA's latest mobile flagship GPU is able to handle Quake 4 with ease. Granted, this is running the game without any enhanced image quality settings such as FSAA or Anisotropic Filtering. The performance delta between the two different memory frequencies is roughly 7FPS which is largely a mute point here as average framerates are well above 100FPS for both configurations.

 

Quake 4 - Demo3 - 1600x1200 - 4XAA / 8XAF
Core 2 Duo T7600 - 2GB - i945PM (Forceware v84.69)
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/700)
79.7
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/600) 70.6

Keeping the resolution at 1600x1200 and adding 4x FSAA and 8x Anisotropic Filtering, we are still able to see an average framerate of nearly 80FPS. The configuration using the 100MHz lower memory frequency witnesses a performance penalty of roughly 10FPS which could certainly begin to be noticeable during gameplay. 

 

Prey - Demo1 - 1600x1200
Core 2 Duo T7600 - 2GB - i945PM (Forceware v84.69)
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/700)
63.2
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/600) 59.6

Based off of the Doom3 engine, Prey has developed a reputation for having stunning visuals and a strict demand for fast hardware. Here, the GeForce Go 7950 GTX is able to run the game at 1600x1200 while retaining an average framerate of 63FPS.

 

F.E.A.R. Benchmark - 1920x1200
Core 2 Duo T7600 - 2GB - i945PM (Forceware v84.69)
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/700)
36
GeForce Go 7950 GTX (575/600) 34

F.E.A.R is an extremely demanding title in terms of hardware requirements thanks to the gorgeous visuals and effects within the game. With this in mind, it is surprising to see that a notebook using the GeForce Go 7950 GTX is able to run the title at 1920x1200 resolution, let alone at nearly 40FPS.

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Conclusion

What can be said today which has not already been said about NVIDIA's flagship mobile products this past year? For a significant amount of time, NVIDIA's GPU's have been able to dominate the top of the mobile platform unchallenged, as no major new mobile developments have come out of rival ATI for some time. However, NVIDIA has pushed forward regardless and brought the industry the world's first mobile multi-GPU configuration with the launch of mobile SLI. The advancements made in the high-end segment of the notebook platform have allowed NVIDIA to build a comfortable lead over ATI and they're not going to let go of without a fight. With the launch of the GeForce Go 7950 GTX, NVIDIA is furthering that lead and solidifying their position with what should be the fastest mobile GPU available.

Beyond the sheer performance increases which this new GPU provides, NVIDIA has made significant progress in other areas as well. Here, the company remains committed to the upgradeable MXM module as the GeForce 7950 GTX retains the same physical dimensions, power consumption, and pin layout as the GeForce 7900 GTX. As a result, those currently gaming with a GeForce 7900 GTX should be able to purchase a new GeForce 7950 GTX module directly from their notebook vendor. Easily more important however is the arrival of a process to allow consumers to utilize the latest drivers when they are released rather than wait for their particular notebook vendor to adopt them. Although the performance enhancements some drivers provide are more than welcome, it is the bug fixes for issues within games and new functionality which are critical items in this area.  When you go out and purchase a game and are unfortunate enough to encounter an issue, the last thing you want to do is wait until a notebook vendor decides to update the driver listed on their support website. Rather, you'd want a solution to the issue as soon as it is created so that you can play the game you paid for.

As is the case with all hardware, there are some caveats to counter the glowing positives with the GeForce Go 7950 GTX. The first issue will not effect the vast majority of users as it is directed squarely at those which are already gaming using the GeForce Go 7900 GTX. Here, the preliminary performance increases the GeForce Go 7950 GTX brings over the previous flagship mobile GPU do not appear to warrant the hefty cost the new GPU module will demand. Regardless, it is hard to not be satisfied with a product that will likely be the fastest mobile GPU on the planet with the potential of adding a second GeForce Go 7950 GTX for even better performance.

Easily the most controversial aspect of the GeForce Go 7950 GTX is its timing. Here, some might see the timing of the release of this new GPU as a negative, as the industry is eagerly awaiting the next-generation G80 GPU architecture for the desktop platform. Supposedly fully supporting DX10 and with a wealth of bells and whistles, it is hard to remain too excited about a GPU based around the GeForce 7 architecture when the rumor mill is obsessed with the upcoming G80 and DirectX 10. One thing to remember with the notebook platform is that it is grossly unlike the desktop platform. Notebook vendors and ODM's have design cycles which are present due to the high overall complexity and long design lead times for creating a new notebook. As a result, notebooks which are slated to come to market this holiday season have already been designed around products the notebook vendors have been able to test and reliably design around for months. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to design a notebook around such a bleeding edge technology such as the rumored G80 architecture as any design issues NVIDIA encounters could ultimately delay the launch of the notebook and cause the notebook vendor to miss a critical holiday buying season. With this dose of reality in mind, we focus on the immediate future and what enthusiast gamers will be faced with. Here, we have no immediate DX10 games on the horizon and instead find a wealth of DX9 titles and Microsoft Vista to deal with. Make no mistake, NVIDIA's GeForce Go 7950 should easily the fastest mobile GPU available and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future. By combining two GeForce Go 7950 GTX GPUs in SLI, an enthusiast can have a notebook which could easily outperform many desktop systems in a wide array of benchmarks. Beyond sheer performance, the new GPU also retains full support for NVIDIA's PureVideo HD technology as well as the company's PowerMizer 6.0 mobile optimizations. We here at HotHardware are anxious to get our hands on a test system so that we can further explore the performance potential of NVIDIA's latest mobile GPU and witness how it handles the benchmarks and testing first hand.

  • SLI Support for dual GPU's
  • Ability to use latest drivers direct from NVIDIA
  • Support for PureVideo HD and Powermizer 6.0
  • Same thermal, physical, and power criteria as GeForce Go 7900 GTX so users can upgrade
  • Tough to get too excited with DX10 and new architectures on the horizon

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