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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  • ap90033 - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    Yes it comes with a Vista Home Premium DVD.... Reply
  • win32asmguy - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I bought one of these yesterday at Best Buy after they put it on sale for $1249 again.

    It does indeed have a real Vista re-install cd. The CD also includes none of the extra bundled applications or such. However, you can also make a "restore" DVD from an included program that will recreate its 10GB recovery partition and return it to a factory fresh installation. Its nice to see Gateway let people go either way with this.

    The P-6831fx is also actually due for an update soon. Its supposed to be called the P-6860fx and will have a T5550 (1.83ghz, 667fsb, 2mb) and a 320GB hdd instead of the 250GB. My P-6831fx actually already has a T5550 in it, as gateway's ODM has appeared to already run out of the T5450's as of the last shipment. The slower processor is definitely a setback, but I will eventually upgrade to a T9300 to close the gap in performance even closer to the laptops with the GTX.

    Oh, and CPU-Z does report that it runs in dual channel mode, however it also takes a small performance hit due to not being both 2GB sticks. Other users report their Vista memory experience index from jumping from 4.6 to 4.8 when upgrading to 4GB.
    Reply
  • iclicku - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    The laptop comes with a Vista DVD. However, you'll have to burn a back-up DVD for drivers and applications. It should be the first thing you do before performing a format.

    The laptop should be fine for Folding @ Home. If not, a simple CPU upgrade should do wonders.

    As for the 3GB of ram, it is in fact running in dual channel mode so no worries there. It's definately useful since Vista needs as much memory it can get it's grubby little hands on.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    [quote] Imagine being able to buy a very nice sports car that could compete with the Dodge Viper at one third the cost, and that's what Gateway has released on the market. [/quote]

    In other words it is the Evo/STI of the gaming laptop world. Maybe one of the ones with the bigger screens qualifies as a base Corvette.
    Reply
  • Corland - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    It would be nice to see things like the MacBook Pro with LED backlight (or a regular MacBook) in the color comparison and LCD tests for comparison sake- comparing gaming laptop LCD's to each other is fine, but having some other common laptop screens that some of us will have worked with would also be useful.... Reply
  • iclicku - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    As the review states, you can't beat the value of this laptop. I purchased this laptop at Best Buy during the President's Day sale for $1199 and it came with a $50 game (COD4). Out of the box, it's a great machine. However, the review doesn't mention the amount of bloatware that is on the machine (which is commonplace).

    I managed to place a few upgrades in my machine. I placed a T7500 C2D, 4GB total ram, 200GB 7200RPM HD, and wiped my machine and installed a dual boot with Vista Business 64-bit and XP Pro 32-bit. I got great deals on the upgrades and the OSes I had from previous machines. Total cost of machine came to $1500.

    3dMark06 scores are as follows: (drivers I used are 169.09 from laptopvideo2go.com)
    Vista 64 - 8900
    XP Pro 32 - 9150
    Reply
  • tomek1984 - Tuesday, May 13, 2008 - link

    Give me few hints how you got video driver to work with XP. I downloaded 169.09 and tried installing it with base file and 2nd time with an updated one by INF file. Nether1 recognized Nvidia hardware. I am using 6860 FX with factory specs+ 2nd harddrive(XP is instaled on 2nd HD) Reply
  • Starcub - Saturday, May 17, 2008 - link

    I got a newer driver from laptopvideo2go.com to work by replacing the inf file with nvwi.inf which I extracted from the included originalinfs.zip. Reply
  • ap90033 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Nice, I have one and wondered what the difference would be if I upgraded the CPU...

    Great review by the way.
    Reply
  • ToeJuice - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I own an Asus G2 and it's one of the better (if not the best) midrange gaming laptops I've ever owned or seen. But I guess Asus lappies don't even deserve a mention here? Reply

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