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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  • ToeJuice - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Nevermind... overreacted to the first page... lol Reply
  • bill3 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Would you make a gaming laptop your only machine? A 9600GT caliber GPU sounds nice now, but in just a few months as always it will be slipping way behind.

    It's hard enough keeping up to gaming specs on a desktop, seems to me a fixed spec laptop is always a losers choice for gaming.
    Reply
  • gerf - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I use my laptop for all computer uses outside of work. I consider it gaming able as well: Dell Vostro 1500 1.6GHz C2D, 8600m 512MB only DDR2, 2GB RAM, 85WHr battery. With the discounts of the day, 3 year warranty and a bag thrown in, it was about $1050.

    What mattered the most was that I get about 5 hours battery life when I'm just running moz, irc, IM, Thunderbird around the house.

    I'm not a Dell employee, but I have to say that this type of lapper could be grouped up there as a reasonable alternative for moderate gamers on the go.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    That sort of system is a standard laptop first and a gaming laptop second. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but if you really like games and want to be able to run at maximum detail, that type of system won't cut it. That's what I'm getting at in the conclusion: the need for balance as well as targeting what type of system you want. If you want long battery life, the 8800M notebooks are currently a poor choice. I'm still waiting to see the first notebooks with HybridPower, so that you can get both 3D performance *and* long battery life. Reply
  • pmonti80 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    For the kind of people who read anandtech, that laptop is not going to be their only computer. It's a second or third computer, like a desktop pc you can move or if you go to a LAN party, used for such things.

    And for the kind of people not reading anandtech this mobile equivalent of a 9600 GT is more that OK for a couple of years. At the native resolution of 1440x900 they would be able to play any game for 2 or more, just reducing the settings used as games demand more power (1440x900 is just a few less pixels than 1280x1024).

    Just my 2 cents.
    Reply
  • iclicku - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    I actually bought this laptop to leave at my GF's place so that when I'm over there, I can play games and such. Plus my GF loves to use it as well. I already have a desktop at home and the specs are very similar to the laptop. Reply
  • FXi - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Nice review. It's very nice to see a notebook that enters the market at a kinder price point (even fully loaded it's far better than Dell or Alienware 17" gaming models).

    Drivers! Seriously anyone who isn't "working with" Nvidia hand in hand right now to get regular driver updates for mobile gaming machines is going to be out of this business when those updates start showing up. SLI absolutely requires serious regular driver updates, and the minute those updates stop (you stop getting supported) your SLI rig is not a single gpu rig in any future games. Kinda sad, eh?

    The TN panel is a bit of a compromise, but folks should seriously consider that the price for what you get is pretty good. One can always move up several thousand and not get dramatically more performance. A cpu upgrade would probably be the only thing most folks might consider paying more for.

    Well done :)
    Reply
  • pmonti80 - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    It's a pitty that I live in spain and can't buy this notebook. Because I would buy it without a second thought if Gateway sold these here.
    Great for Lan's and as a Desktop Replacement. For a decent price.
    Reply

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