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NVIDIA GeForce 8M Series Preview
Date: May 09, 2007
Author: Michael Lin
Introduction & Specifications
If you want high-performance PC gaming action in a portable package, a laptop equipped with a GeForce Go 7 series chip has been your best bet for the last year or so. From the modest GeForce Go 7600 to the monstrous GeForce Go 7950 GTX, NVIDIA has most mobile gaming needs covered. If you were really serious, you could even get SLI in a (barely) mobile platform. However, with several highly anticipated DirectX 10 titles right around the corner, many mobile gamers have been eagerly awaiting DX10 capable GPUs for notebooks, a luxury that desktop gamers have enjoyed since November '06 with the release of the GeForce 8800 series. Today marks an industry first of sorts, for mobile DX10 capable graphics, with NVIDIA's new mobile graphics line-up, the GeForce 8M Series.

The GeForce 8M Series offers many of the same features as NVIDIA's desktop GeForce 8 series. The initial line-up of GeForce 8M series GPUs contain 289 million transistors and just like its desktop counterparts, the GeForce 8M will offer full DX10 support, hardware HD video decoding courtesy of NVIDIA's 2nd generation PureVideo technology, and a fully unified shader architecture. We've already talked at great length about the GeForce 8 series' architectural features and benefits in the past, so we won't go into detail again here.
Below we have summarized some of the GeForce 8M series' key features for your convenience.

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 2.0 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.

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.

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.

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

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, recover the original content, and display perfect picture detail frame after frame for smooth, natural looking video.

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 depending on connection type and TV capability.

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


The GeForce 8600M GT GPU

The GeForce 8400M GT GPU

The GeForce 8M GPUs differ from their desktop-bound 8800 series brethren in one significant way, the per-clock shader performance has been tweaked and greatly improved. In the GeForce 8800, each stream processor can calculate four texture addresses and perform eight filtering operations per clock while each stream processor in GeForce 8M series GPUs can calculate eight texture addresses and perform eight filtering operations per clock. This allows a greater number of unique texture locations to be sampled.

As it is a mobile part, the GeForce 8M employs significantly more sophisticated power management features than its desktop counterparts. To realize this, the GeForce 8M series is equipped with NVIDIA's seventh generation PowerMizer power management technology. One of PowerMizer's more interesting features is the ability to allow the user to control system performance and battery consumption based on their needs. New in the seventh generation is support for Vista's power management features, like activity-based switching and adaptive clocking which dynamically adjusts GPU power and active features based on current operational needs, without any user intervention. PowerMizer 7.0 also implements SmartDimmer 2.0, which dynamically modulates backlight lamp power. The second generation of SmartDimmer offers more efficient power usage and smoother transitions than before.
8M Series Line-up, Speeds and Feeds

The GeForce 8M series will initially consist of five devices, the GeForce 8600M GT, 8600M GS, 8400M GT, 8400M GS and the 8400M G. The 8400M series is meant for mainstream and thin-and-light notebooks while the 8600M is designed for full-size performance oriented laptops. Both flavors of the GeForce 8600M will use the G84M core, a mobile version of the G84 core used by the 8600 GTS and 8600 GT mid-range desktop parts. While all three versions of the 8400M will use the G86M core, a mobile version of the value-oriented G86 core used by the GeForce 8500, 8400 and 8300 desktop parts.

Unfortunately a mobile version of the G80 core, which powers the high-end GeForce 8800 series, will not be offered at this time. It seems the G80's thermal output and power requirements are too much for even the largest desktop replacement laptop to handle at this time. At least for now, it looks like those of us waiting for 8800-level performance on the go will have to keep waiting. However, we have caught wind of a so-called G81M chip, which supposedly will be available later this year and will be NVIDIA's high-end mobile product. Considering the heat and power issues, it's unlikely that NVIDIA will release a GeForce 8800 derived mobile part in the current 90nm form so don't expect it until they move to a 80nm or more likley a 65nm process. 

Besides the previously mentioned differences in the GPU core, NVIDIA's five new mobile parts will also differ in core, shader and memory frequency. The number of stream processors available will also differ between models. The 8600Ms will boast up to 512MB of GDDR3 memory while the 8400M will be equipped with DDR2. The entire GeForce 8M line-up will use NVIDIA's various MXM form factors and be integrated directly into some notebook designs as well.  We've summarized the main differences between the five parts being announced today in the table below.

Compared to the GeForce Go 7 series , the new GeForce 8M probably won't be setting any performance milestones. Until NVIDIA releases some high performance parts for the 8M series, the GeForce Go 7950GTX is still king of the hill when it comes to pure mobile graphics processing power. However, the mid-range and value solutions presented by the 8M series should bring affordable, low power DirectX 10 support to the notebook market. NVIDIA claims the new 8M series will outperform the GeForce Go 7 series by about 50% in several more recent titles. Performance is greatly improved for applications that make use of HDR, such as Rainbow Six Vegas and Oblivion. According to NVIDIA, both of these games see up to a 50% improvement in performance compared to current mid-range GeForce Go 7 parts.

DX10 In Action and The Wrap-up

As we've already mentioned, the main advantage of the GeForce 8M series over the GeForce Go 7 series is native DirectX 10 support. GeForce 8M series GPUs will render next-gen DX10 games as they were meant to be seen. We've posted a couple of screenshots of the upcoming DX10 title 'Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures' to show you exactly what we mean. On the left are images taken when the game is in DirectX 9 mode while the images on the right were taken under DirectX 10. (Click any of the images for an enlarged view)

DirectX 9
DirectX 10

DirectX 9
DirectX 10

DirectX 9
DirectX 10


DirectX 10 implements significantly more sophisticated high dynamic range (HDR) rendering, denser vegetation, greater viewing distances and better lighting models. The difference in image quality is obvious. While Age of Conan certainly looks good in DirectX 9 mode, it looks absolutely stunning in DirectX 10. The images on the right appear much more photo-realistic, with smoother textures and more realistic lighting.

The GeForce 8M series' support for NVIDIA's PureVideo HD video processing technology is another reason that the 8M series is more attractive than the GeForce Go 7 series. Decoding high-definition video is a very intensive task and PureVideo HD allows the GPU to take the brunt of the workload.
This might prompt more laptop manufacturers to offer Blu-ray and HD DVD drives in mid and lower end machines which would not otherwise be able to smoothly decode HD video without the assistance of a GeForce 8M GPU.


Despite the lack of a high-end model at the moment, the new GeForce 8M series looks very promising. The 8400M will bring DirectX 10 graphics capability and hardware HD video decoding to thin-and-light as well as value oriented mainstream notebooks while the 8600M will provide full-size performance notebooks with ample power for gaming. Unfortunately , the much anticipated mobile version of the GeForce 8800 is not part of the initial GeForce 8M line-up but we are confident that NVIDIA hasn't forgotten the DTR lovers out there. NVIDIA's five new mobile parts are very similar to their desktop counterparts in terms of their features and specifications and they will likely perform similarly too. With several DirectX 10 games around the corner, it seems NVIDIA is right on time with their GeForce 8M series.


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