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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  • JarredWalton - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    You'll need to connect an external LCD and run at 1280x1024 to get comparable 3DMark06 scores. Without an external LCD, 3DMark06 will drop the resolution to 1280x800. I'll test that right now to let you know how the system I received benchmarks. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    FYI, here are my results for 3DMark06 at 1280x800 (the default using the laptops LCD):

    Overall Score: 7005
    SM2.0 Score: 3282
    SM3.0 Score: 3430
    CPU Score: 1448
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 29, 2008 - link

    Could be that Gateway is just going to upgrade the CPU for free. I'm sure the T5550 will improve performance slightly in some situations, but after all it's only a 10% CPU performance increase. I really wish you could customize the build a bit; I'd want a T8300 and the 1920x1200 LCD personally. That would probably increase the price to $1700-$1800, but that's still better than the alternatives and you wouldn't have to sacrifice in those areas. Although, I do wonder what type of LCD they use for the upgraded model... hopefully the same LG.Philips as the Clevo, as it's quite good. Reply
  • marsbound2024 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I work at Best Buy and I am very sure that the batteries typically installed on our FXs do NOT jut out from the back. They absolutely are flush with the unit. However, I do believe it is a smaller mAh obviously. The last time I dealt with an FX at Geek Squad I absolutely do not remember a jutting battery pack. Not sure if others can speak to this or not, however. Reply
  • ap90033 - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    I dont work at best buy, but I HAVE ONE AND IT DOES STICK OUT. Silly head... I bet you work in Geek Squad. LOL Reply
  • marsbound2024 - Tuesday, April 01, 2008 - link

    I do work in Geek Squad... not that I like it or even think it is true IT. I have bigger plans, but for now I'll take what job I can get at my age. I realize the jokes about Geek Squad, but I don't care. My intelligence is greater than what may typically be represented by GS Agents.

    Anyways, I verified for myself that the laptop's battery is flush. In fact, I will take a picture with a digital camera to prove it.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I'd love it if you could check on this. If the standard battery is 2600 mAh instead of 7800 mAh, you'd be looking at 1/3 the battery life that I got in testing. :| Reply
  • marsbound2024 - Tuesday, April 01, 2008 - link

    By the way, the Gateway FXs could have been upgraded, but I am sure our display remained the same as far as what battery it has. Reply
  • marsbound2024 - Tuesday, April 01, 2008 - link

    I checked on this already and am 100% positive that what we have at Best Buy, at least on display, is a battery that is flush with the unit. I will take it out and tell you what mAh it is. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Note that Gateway's website lists 2600 mAh for all the batteries on all the P-series FX notebooks, and obviously I received a 7800 mAh battery. Since they Gateway pictures show the battery poking out, and given the power requirements, I have to think they really are shipping larger batteries. The only 2600 mAh batteries I've seen are for 12" and smaller ultra-portables, which end up offering less than two hours battery life on those laptops. Who would want a 20 minute battery life on a larger notebook!? Reply

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