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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  • marsbound2024 - Tuesday, April 01, 2008 - link

    It looks as if at least Best Buy is also shipping models only with 7800mAh batteries now. So it could be that this whole 2600mAh thing was quickly changed. But basically if you buy one now, you are getting the bigger battery and it is certainly not an option to go smaller. Now for the display, I will let you know. I know for a fact it didn't have a battery jutting out, so that could be a 2600mAh or hey, none at all. If that's the case, it's an honest mistake. I will check the next time I work. But current research points at everyone getting a 7800mAh and no option now to go smaller. In fact, on Gateway's website, they removed the 2600mAh spec. Reply
  • KeithP - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    If you don't mind a little constructive criticism, the car analogy in final conclusion is way over done IMHO. After that first sentence, everything else could have been deleted. We got it, move on. It just seemed like filler to me.

  • krwilsonn - Sunday, March 30, 2008 - link

    I actually really liked the car analogy! It could relate because a laptop "on the go", just like a car. The performance comparisons between laptops and cars are also very true, so I can't agree that it was filler as it did illustrate an important point about the performance characteristics of the laptop compared to others. Also, I think the idea that it is an "everyman" sort of laptop that is specifically capable for gaming at a great price makes it a perfect fit for alot of gamers who would probably be able to upgrade every couple years anyway. Obviously most people aren't going to spent $4000 on a laptop anyway. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    The latest Intel chipsets are able to run dual-channel with mismatched memory sizes, as the others above pointed out. There is a small performance penalty, but in truth RAM performance isn't the primary bottleneck, particularly on notebooks. Look at the WidowPC vs. AVADirect scores - the AVADirect uses faster RAM, but performance is still a tossup.

    Someone mentioned bloatware, and in the midst of testing and finishing things up, I neglected to cover that topic. The laptop does indeed come with a lot of crap software installed. However, it's not necessary to do a clean install - I just uninstalled all the extra stuff and that's what I tested. It took an hour or so all told (the internet security suite takes a while to remove), but the result is a much leaner setup. Highly recommended.

    If you want to upgrade the CPU, my recommendation would be to go for the T8300. eWiz">has it for $240, and it would totally remove the CPU bottleneck in games. If you want to go for the T9300 to get the additional cache and 100MHz more,">it costs around $320, so I'm not sure it's worth the money for most people.

    Folding@Home can run on the system - that leaves the CPU fan on max, which may reduce the life expectancy of the fan (okay, it *will* reduce the fan life), but it's not terribly loud. With the T5450, however, Folding@Home SMP needs to run pretty much 24/7 to complete work units within the alloted time.

    Regarding temperatures, a lot will depend on the operating environment. During the winter months when few houses or offices are much above 70F, I doubt many will complain. In the summer, I imagine it will be quite a bit warmer. This is at its heart a desktop replacement, like all other 17" notebooks. You can carry it around and use it on a bus/plane if you want, but that's not the primary intended role. At maximum load after 30 minutes the bottom of the laptop gets relatively warm... I'll run some tests quick and update the article in the next hour or so.

    Finally, a bunch of people complain about my mentioning the ASUS G2P. Here's the deal: the G2P was a $1900 laptop when it launched, and in my review at that time I loved the LCD but lambasted the weak GPU choice. Only laptops with a Go 7900 GS were adequate, but those cost well over $2000 at the time (not counting prices obtained via auction sites and short-term sales). The G2S is a decent notebook today, but NOT FOR GAMING! Look at the results from the Toshiba X205; that includes an 8700M GT, which is moderately faster than the 8600M GT in the G2S (higher clock speeds). The X205 had a T7200 (more cache and a 2.0GHz clock) and the P-6831 already outperforms it by up to 100%! The G2S is a great multimedia laptop, but gaming performance is still very weak. If ASUS had a laptop with an 8800M (GTS or GTX - I don't care) in it, I'd be all over it. If they could do it for $1500 or less, then the Gateway P-6831 would have some competition.
  • VooDooAddict - Friday, April 04, 2008 - link

    Can anyone confirm that the T8300 or T9300 work in this laptop?

    I saw a post that someone fitted the laptop with a 65nm T7500 but I've seen no mention of the 45nm T8300.

  • JarredWalton - Friday, April 04, 2008 - link

    The higher end models of this same chassis ship with Penryn chips, so it *shouldn't* be a problem putting a T8300 in a lower-end FX system. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Saturday, March 29, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the Folding @ Home info! I hope it'll do okay. Wish laptops were like desktops where it just doesn't matter :-/

    I'm kind of baffled by this dual channel with mismatching DIMM sizes thing. I've never seen that covered in chipset reviews. I guess it's leaving SOME of the RAM in dual channel mode, and some (the left over 1GB)? Weird. So just randomly some memory accesses would have double the bandwidth of others.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 29, 2008 - link

    It's been around since the Intel P965/975X chipsets. It's called Intel Flex Memory Technology. All I can find on the subject says that it "Gives users a more flexible memory upgrade option by allowing different memory sizes to be installed while maintaining dual-channel mode/performance." There's no clear indication of what exactly they're doing (maybe in a white paper somewhere?), but I suspect the interleaving of data between the memory channels is modified in this arrangement. Performance may not be as high as a matched dual-channel config, but it's still better than single-channel.

    Of course, last I recall seeing this tested, dual-channel only improved actual system performance by 5-15% depending on the platform. Since notebook chipsets are already bottlenecked by a slower FSB, the improved memory bandwidth probably doesn't matter that much. The FSB is 133MHz base, quad-pumped. The RAM is 333MHz base, double-pumped. Both deliver the same bandwidth before dual-channel ever comes into play.
  • jburgett - Saturday, March 29, 2008 - link

    Thank you for updating the article with temperature info! That is definitely something you can't infer from the spec sheet.
    Nice job!

  • dtonnes - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    Back in October '06 I bought (via ebay) a new Dell Inspiron 9400, 100GB 7200HD, Geforce 7900gs, 2gb ram, T7200 processor, 1920 X 1200 screen for $1684. I've since updated it with a 200GB 7200HD and 4gb DDR667 RAM.

    It doesn't really seem like there's much more bang for the buck today than when I bought my machine a year and a half ago. Perhaps the most sensible upgrade right now would be to replace the 7900gs. Does anyone know if this is possible?

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