NVIDIA Unveils Lineup of GeForce 800M Series Mobile GPUs, Many With Maxwell

When we evaluated NVIDIA’s Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 750 and 750 Ti a few weeks back, we lauded the GPUs for their competitive performance and class-leading power efficiency. The GeForce GTX 750 and 750 Ti are mainstream products that didn’t tear up the benchmark charts like a bleeding-edge high-end GPU would, but their Maxwell-based GPUs competed well with similarly priced products and they did so at much lower power levels.

The power efficiency of NVIDA’s Maxwell architecture make it ideal for mobile applications, so today’s announcement by NVIDIA of a new top-to-bottom line-up of mobile GPUs—most of them featuring the Maxwell architecture—should come as no surprise. Though a couple of Kepler and even Fermi-based GPUs still exist in NVIDIA’s new line-up, the heart of the product stack leverages Maxwell. And all of the GPUs arrive with support for some new features as well.

GeForce 840M GeForce 830M GeForce 820M
Process 28 nanometer 28 nanometer 28 nanometer
Architecture Maxwell Maxwell Fermi
Features GPU Boost 2.0, Optimus, PhysX, CUDA, GeForce Experience GPU Boost 2.0, Optimus, PhysX, CUDA,GeForce Experience GPU Boost 2.0, Optimus, PhysX, CUDA,GeForce Experience
Memory Up to 2GB DDR3 Up to 2GB DDR3 Up to 2GB DDR3
Memory Interface 64-bit 64-bit 64-bit
DirectX Version DX11.2 DX11.2 DX11.2

The entry-level parts in the GeForce 800M series consist of the GeForce 820M, 830M, and 840M. The 820M is a Fermi-based GPU, but the 830M and 840M are new chips that leverage Maxwell. All of the chips are produced using TSMC’s 28nm process and support DirectX 11.2. Core counts weren’t given in NVIDIA’s documents, but consider these GPUs entry-level products, targeted at low-power, thin-and-light applications.

GeForce GTX 880M GeForce GTX 870M GeForce GTX 860M GeForce GTX 850M
Process 28 nanometer 28 nanometer 28 nanometer 28 nanometer
Architecture Kepler Kepler Kepler or Maxwell Maxwell
Processor Cores 1536 1344 1152 or 640 640
Features Battery Boost, GameStream, ShadowPlay, GPU Boost 2.0, Optimus, PhysX, CUDA, SLI, GeForce Experience Battery Boost, GameStream, ShadowPlay, GPU Boost 2.0, Optimus, PhysX, CUDA,SLI,GeForce Experience Battery Boost, GameStream, ShadowPlay, GPU Boost 2.0, Optimus, PhysX, CUDA,SLI,GeForce Experience Battery Boost, GameStream, ShadowPlay, GPU Boost 2.0, Optimus, PhysX, CUDA, GeForce Experience
Clock 954MHz + Boost 941MHz + Boost 797MHz or 1029MHz + Boost 876MHz + Boost
Memory Clock 2500 MHz 2500 MHz 2500 MHz 2500 MHz
Memory Up to 4GB Up to 3GB Up to 2GB Up to 2GB GDDR5

NVIDIA GeForce 800M Series High End

The meat of the GeForce GTX 800M series consist of Kepler-based GPUs, though Maxwell is employed in the more mainstream parts. Core counts, speeds and feeds are listed in the table above, but keep in mind that these frequencies reflect NVIDIA’s reference specs. Real-world base and boost clocks will vary somewhat from notebook-to-notebook based on power and cooling characteristics.

NVIDIA is claiming the GeForce GTX 880M will be fastest mobile GPU available, but the entire GTX line-up will offer significantly higher performance then any integrated graphics solution. The GeForce GTX 860M and 850M are essentially identical to the desktop GeForce GTX 750 Ti, save for different frequencies and memory configurations.

ShadowPlay, GameStream, and Battery Boost

Arriving with the new GeForce 800M series GPUs is support for a couple of technologies previously reserved for desktop graphics cards, namely ShadowPlay and Gamestream, along with a new mobile-only technology dubbed Battery Boost. If you’re unfamiliar with ShadowPlay, it’s the video capture / streaming feature built into NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience app. By utilizing the H.264 video encoder built into NVIDIA’s GPUs, ShadowPlay can record up to the last 20 minutes of gameplay footage on-the-fly at resolutions up to 1080p at 30 FPS, and can write it to a file at the touch of a button. ShadowPlay works in the background on a system and will consume a portion of RAM depending on the length of the recording (around 500MB for a 3 minute video), but compared to software-based video encoders like FRAPS, using ShadowPlay results in much less of a performance hit, so you can still game while recording. In fact, using ShadowPlay hardly effects performance at all. And with GameStream, users can stream their games to other screens on supported devices—like SHEILD—or to services like TWITCH.

NVIDIA Battery Boost Options Available With GFE

Battery Boost is new to NVIDIA’s mobile GPU line-up. At its core, Battery Boost allows users to dial in the image quality level and target framerate of supported game titles to optimize performance or conserve power. Like ShadowPlay and GameStream, Battery Boost works in conjunction with NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience tool. GFE will scan a system for supported games, and at the touch of a button the application will optimize the game’s settings for optimal image quality and performance on a given GPU. Add Battery Boost into the mix though, and users can also set profiles for gaming on battery power or when plugged into an AC outlet.

These features will be supported by all GeForce 800M series mobile GPU, but require GeForce Experience to be installed on the system. Many of the notebooks that’ll ship with NVIDIA’s new GPUs will pre-load GFE, but for those that done, NVIDIA will be making downloads available in the coming days and weeks to bring proper support to the entire line-up.

Alienware and Asus Notebooks, Featuring NVIDIA GeForce 800M Series Graphics

There are a number of notebooks featuring NVIDIA’s GeForce 800M series GPUs coming down the pipeline from companies like Alienware, Asus, Gigabyte, Lenovo, MSI and Razer, though others are sure the follow suit. Some of the machines will be available immediately.

We’ve got a review of an MSI-built machine featuring a Maxwell-based GPU in the works “as we speak”, so stay tuned to HotHardware for the full scoop, complete with extensive performance testing in the not too distant future.