More Information on NVIDIA Drivers

As mentioned previously, one of the big problems we often have with gaming notebooks is driver support. If you go out and buy a desktop system, you can be relatively sure that you will always be able to get graphics card driver updates from NVIDIA or AMD. Outside of truly exotic systems, users are usually assured that they won't have to wait on an OEM to update drivers. Unfortunately, the same doesn't apply to notebooks.

NVIDIA is working to rectify this situation with their "rapid driver update" program. Yes, we did indeed use the word "rapid", and in speaking with NVIDIA they are fully aware that their mobile driver updates have been anything but. Think of it more as a goal rather than a current state, and hopefully you won't get too upset about lack of driver updates for your current gaming notebook. The plan is for NVIDIA to release updated mobile drivers quarterly. The next update is scheduled for late April 2008 (give or take a couple weeks), and we should see a fair number of supported gaming laptops.

We do know for sure that (most or all) Dell XPS notebooks and Clevo ODM notebooks are part of the program, and NVIDIA is working with Gateway to add them to the rapid driver program now. Whether that means you'll get updated drivers for XP, Vista, or both is not yet clear, and the Gateway FX notebooks might not make this next driver update. That said, outside of SLI systems we have not encountered any issues with the current GeForce 8800M Windows Vista drivers.

The long-term ideal would be for NVIDIA to provide updated drivers for all the major operating systems and all of the gaming notebooks, but that's a lot of permutations to test. It also sounds like at least a couple major companies do not like the idea of NVIDIA providing updated drivers for notebooks and prefer to provide their own driver updates (or not as the case may be). Whether or not NVIDIA actually has the manpower to support more companies is difficult to say, but we strongly encourage all notebook manufacturers that use NVIDIA graphics chips — particularly on notebooks that are "gaming" notebooks — to work with NVIDIA and become a part of their rapid driver update program. If you don't care about gaming on notebooks, perhaps the drivers don't matter, but any company offering an 8700M or higher GPU either needs to get on this program or forget about the gaming notebook market. It really is that simple.

Something else that's coming down the pipe from NVIDIA is greater support for their CUDA initiative. We commented that the Core 2 Duo T5450 is rather anemic compared to other current CPUs, but for certain applications that could become a moot point in the near future. NVIDIA is working with partners on CUDA accelerated applications that cover such areas as video transcoding, photo manipulation, and 3D rendering. In some instances they are realizing speed ups of over 18x compared to doing the work on the CPU. We should start to see some applications and plug-ins with CUDA support before the end of 2008 — and perhaps as early as this summer. H.264 encoding at better than real-time speeds on a laptop? Why yes thank you, we're very interested in that!

Gaming Performance — Resolution Scaling P-6831 FX LCD Quality
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  • Sector7g - Thursday, April 03, 2008 - link

    Ive had this laptop for just over a month now. Cant beat the bang for the buck. I got the last one here in Edmonton for $1350. This was when the price was $1700 in the states I was quite surprised to see such a price difference. Now I don't even see it listed on bestbuy.ca, I wonder if they stopped selling it here in Canada.

    I have just installed 2 of 3 upgrades, another WD250GB 5200rpm HD in Raid0 and a 2nd 2GB stick of ram. I did not however make a backup DVD as was mentioned, and now am looking for some of the apps that came with it. Is anyone that made one of these back up DVD's able to get me a copy? If you reinstall from the DVD that came with the Laptop does it install the aps that was on there? repartition the hard drive for recovery? I installed with another disk I have for ultimate x86. I have x64 on my desktop and had a few problems, but I don't have 4 gigs ram on my desktop. I'm trying to find a T9300 for less than $350 here in Canada but thats seems hard to do.

    Also my ram index rating in the windows benchmark stayed a 4.5 and did not go up to 4.8 as some have mentioned. It lists 4 gigs ram in the post, but of course displays only 3 gigs ram when in vista as a result of running x86.
    Reply
  • Tattered87 - Wednesday, April 02, 2008 - link

    I bought this when I was down in Texas on vacation 2 weeks ago, saw what was in it and thought "wow, that's a beast" and then I saw the price tag and my jaw dropped. I immediately went home and found this was by far the cheapest computer with a viable mobile graphics chipset for the performance I wanted if I ever did in fact get a laptop.

    Plays WoW like a champ, and that's pretty much all I got it for; for those who knock it for the processor, it's definitely not bad for what it is, the laptop eats my old northword core 2.4 w/6800nu that I have sitting at work for breakfast. The only thing I can see the laptop really limiting would be strong physics based games, such as Crysis.

    I wasn't even looking for a laptop at the time, but this thing definitely got my attention and I ended up going back the next day and buying the last one in stock. Unfortunately it came with the 1.66 cpu, but it really doesn't bother me since I got what I paid for.

    Speaking of which, a great thanks to the writer of this article for including that it was on sale this week; I like to read reviews of things I buy in a sort of "it was ok to spend all that money since you got a really good deal on it" sort of way, and I ended up going to BB and utilizing their 2 week price match guarantee and got $107.50 back (the $7.50 is from Texas tax going to Illinois tax).

    Overall an excellent review and I highly recommend this laptop to anyone who is considering it. Thanks for the fantastic review and also for saving me some $$
    Reply
  • ccubsfan94 - Sunday, April 20, 2008 - link

    hey i was looking at this laptop to buy what i mean was is i chose and still waiting to buy but i saw you say the crysis part and i looked at youtube alot and over half the people who showed crysis vids on there was using this laptop (the P-6860 not P-6831 though) just thought to tell you that and it has no lag of what i saw except one guy mad a explosion of 3,000 barrels of oil and couldn't watch or his computer would start lagging a bit Reply
  • QuantumPion - Tuesday, April 01, 2008 - link

    I played with this laptop at Best Buy when it was on sale for like $1150 or so. I have to say, this laptop has an amazing keyboard. Not just for a laptop, it was one of the nicest feeling keyboards I have ever used. It had perfect spacing and a really nice feel, it gives even high-end desktop keyboards a run for their money. This laptop really is amazing for its price, too bad I don't have much use for it otherwise I might buy one :D Reply
  • Docdoc - Tuesday, April 01, 2008 - link

    Superb review! Many thanks.

    I'm in the process of upgrading computers for my house, and I'd like to purchase gaming laptops for their portability.

    Question of the Day:

    The myriad games that were tested are helpful, but there's an elephant in the room that currently has over TEN MILLION subscribers which makes this laptop a very likely culprit for which a gaming computer will be used:

    World of Warcraft

    How would this laptop perform with a 1920 x 1200 external monitor? Any noticeable difference from a 'regular' desktop using a midrange dual core processor and a Nvidia 8800 GT 512MB video card?

    If there's not a noticeable difference between this laptop and a desktop, I'm sold.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, April 01, 2008 - link

    WoW is extremely *un*-demanding when it comes to graphics. Part of the reason WoW is so successful is that you don't need even a moderately powerful system to run it. You can max out the detail settings on a Radeon 9800 Pro card, based on what I've seen, and still run at 1920x1200.

    This laptop has a GPU that is the mobile equivalent of the GeForce 9600 GT, which is more than capable of running WoW at maximum detail... probably even at 2560x1600, although the video output options won't support that. So, if all you're interested in playing is WoW, you'll be very happy with the performance the P-6831 offers.
    Reply
  • Donkey2008 - Monday, March 31, 2008 - link

    To the guy who said laptops are the "losers choice for gaming" - I'm not sure that I agree with that statement, but hey it's the internet so we can all vomit our opinions without actually having to prove what we say.

    I have owned a Dell XPS M170 laptop (Pentium-M 2.0,2GB 533MHz RAM,7800 Go GTX 256MB) since late 2005 and I can still play games like Bioshock, BF2142, World in Conflict and COD4 very easily on med to high settings (Crysis on med, more lowish) on my "ancient" notebook. Oh, by the way, this notebook scores a blistering 3400 in 3DMark 06 (further reducing my confidence that it is a measure of actual gameplay).

    This Gateway should have an equally good lifespan. I don't really see any games being developed that are going to knock this laptop down (seeing as most new games are first and foremost developed for older console tech). Obviously you will have to make some graphic compromises as time goes by, but a $1500 investment (with CPU upgrade) is as good as it gets for the portability/performance it offers.

    The only problem I see is the size (like my M170). I am positive that most mobile gamers like me plug it into an external LCD when at home (or work), so the internal screen is only used when truly mobile (at school, at girlfriends, in the car, etc). For that reason, I think Alienware has hit it on the head with the 15.4" M15x. Small screen, yes, but much easier to fit into a backpack and use at school. The 17" is just way too big to do this and the Alienware is $3000 afterall.

    Gateway would have the one laptop to rule them all if they made a 15.4" version of this under say $1500.

    Anyway, great review. PS - it would be nice if gaming laptops had a movable screen (like the HP 12.1" laptops) so we all don't develop carpal tunnel as we age.
    Reply
  • GuitarFreak - Monday, March 31, 2008 - link

    Great review. I think I found my new laptop. I especially like how you can upgrade it. I've got a t9300, a 2GB stick of RAM, and a 7200rpm hdd lined up to go in when I get one :D Reply
  • mdudeja - Monday, March 31, 2008 - link

    Jarred, could you give a few more details about the LCD, such as backlight bleed and viewing angles? Reply
  • SilthDraeth - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    Asus F3kA Seriies, out of the box with 2gigs of Ram, and ATI HD 2600 512 MB Video Card. $899

    I have this notebook. I bought it when it was $1000. I upgraded it to 4 Gigs of RAM, and Run Vista 64 on it. Asus even provides drivers for Vista 64. (Though they tell you they don't support Vista 64)

    I am just curious on the price to performance. I believe the Vid Card in the Gateway is superior, and the processor is as well. But the Asus is very good for gaming comes with a 30 day zero dead pixel warranty, and 1 year accidental damage warranty, and 2 year standard warranty on the rest of the notebook. So the value is extremely good.
    Reply

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