Nvidia's new mobile GPU promises speed, longer battery life

Powerhouse notebook users should rejoice at Nvidia's announcement of its GeForce2 Go processor. If it does everything the company claims it will, it is bound to make life on the road better. Senior editor Melissa Riofrio gives you the details.

Las Vegas--Playing games and performing other graphics-intensive work on a notebook can be a jumpy, jaggy experience. Nvidia plans to change all that with its new graphics processing unit (GPU), announced today at Comdex.

The NV17M will be the higher-performance cousin to Nvidia's GeForce2 Go processor. (The GeForce2 Go, which was announced last year, will continue to be sold.) Its design and capabilities promise to boost graphics performance without compromising battery life.

Faster than the rest?
The NV17M's specs carry a lot of potential. The GPU has a core clock speed of 250MHz and a memory bandwidth of 8GB per second, compared to the GeForce2 Go's 143MHz clock speed and 2.6GB per second. Nvidia claims that the NV17M's speed blows away that of both its predecessor and the competition. The company's test results, based on standard gaming benchmarks such as Quake III Arena, show that the NV17M runs three to five times faster than the GeForce2 Go and about three times more quickly than rival ATI's Mobile Radeon 7500 GPU.

In addition, the chip uses advanced multisample architecture to speed antialiasing, a method for improving fast-moving graphics by smoothing the jagged edges of an image. Nvidia showed off the new antialiasing feature with a tough-to-render animation of spiny-legged spiders crawling over a rise. Without antialiasing and at the notebook's standard resolution of 1024x768, the spiders' legs looked like they were made of Lego blocks. With antialiasing on, however, the legs looked smoother (if still slightly jagged), and the spiders' motion appeared more natural.

Smaller and more efficient
The NV17M's other notebook-friendly features include its compact design, which means it will fit into thin-and-light notebooks as well as regular-sized ones, and its PowerMizer driver, which works with the NV17M to help save battery life.

Where and when can you find this GPU in a notebook? Well, you'll have to wait a couple of months. At today's press conference, Nvidia partner Toshiba demonstrated a preproduction Satellite notebook with the NV17M installed. The notebook is due to ship in January.

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