Mobile Graphics Cards
When it comes to mobile graphics cards, one cannot, and should not, accept desktop level performance. Even the highest-end mobile graphics card can barely touch mid-range desktop cards. So when Nvidia, or even AMD for that matter, come out with a new iteration of their mobile GPUs, the PC enthusiast community is a bit skeptical as to how “powerful” these cards can really be.
But let’s be honest, if you’re planning to spend under $1000 (AED 3,700) on a notebook, then you shouldn’t exactly expect anything mind-blowing. In fact, you should temper your expectations to an incredible low to be amazed by a mobile GPU’s performance. Gaming at 1080p or above resolutions with all effects on high and getting at least 60 fps on a notebook is like expecting a Honda Civic to go up against a Porsche Panamera. So huge is the difference between notebook and desktop gaming.
Coming back to more humble grounds, when looking at notebook gaming, anything at medium to high settings with 30+ fps is a blessing if your laptop doesn’t cost over $1k. In fact, even up till last year this has been pretty much impossible on new games. Everyone knows that to have a “gaming laptop” means a big bulky 4kg monstrosity that makes too much noise and gets too hot to be able to use on laps. And let’s not even get into the fact that these machines cost well in excess of $1,500 (AED 5,800).
But what if I told you, that now you can have a laptop for $800 (AED 3,100) that is not only slim, as close as it can get to ultrabooks with an integrated optical drive, but also has a discrete graphics card that can play the latest DX11 games? And I’m not just talking about simply running these games at low settings to be able to run them for the heck of it, but running them well enough to have settings turn on to high and get well above 30 fps and much more. Enter the Nvidia GeForce GT640M.
The GeForce GT640M is based on the new 28nm Kepler architecture, that promises to outdo its predecessor by a huge margin, while costing the same. The Kepler architecture by merit provides a cooler and more power-efficient chip than the Fermi based GT540M (and any other 500M series GPUs). And while the core clock and memory speeds haven’t seen much of a bump, the CUDA cores on the GT640M come to 384 units. That’s literally 4 times as much as 96 CUDA cores on the GT540M! However, to keep the costs down, Nvidia continues using GDDR3 memory and bus bandwidth of 128-bit.
The review unit we received was the Acer Timeline Ultra M3 with an Intel Core i5-2467M (@ 1.6GHz), 4GB DDR3 RAM, 20GB SSD + 500GB HDD, and the GeForce GT 640M powered a 15-inch screen with a resolution of 1366x768.
Now one thing to keep in mind is that this time all the GeForce 600M line GPUs will have Nvidia Optimus, so expect great battery life across the board in every laptop carrying these cards. Our own Acer Timeline Ultra M3 was rated at an 8 hour battery life. I personally clocked in just less than 6 hours of regular usage (browsing and HD YouTube videos and listening to MP3s) after having played Skyrim for about 40 minutes.
For comparisons I’ll be using the Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M, from the recently reviewed MSI GT780R gaming laptop. Unfortunately our previously tested laptops aren’t with us anymore, so outside of 3DMark 11, all other gaming benchmarks will be compared to the GTX 560M.
I have used the below settings for each benchmark.
All of the above tests were run at the native resolution of 1366x768 with Sync turned off.
As you can see, both Battlefield 3 and Metro 2033, two of our most demanding DX 11 games provide frame rates well above 30. Do keep in mind that Batman Arkham City, which does have DX 11 effects and tessellation, still runs on Unreal Engine 3, which is why I kept the settings and effects to high.
Apart from that both Dirt 3 and Skyrim are also running at the highest quality settings in-game, the former even running with 2xMSAA.
The above benchmarks just go to show that even the most recent and most demanding games released are easily playable on the new Nvidia GeForce GT 640M; most in high settings. Games like Mass Effect 3 and the upcoming Diablo 3 should be extremely easy to run on this chip.
The end result is that we now have a mid-tiered, but still low-end in the large scheme of things, mobile graphics card that not only trumps the previous generation (within the same segment), but also shows the potential for what the higher-end GeForce 600M series is capable of.
So if you’re looking for a regular notebook that has as decent a CPU as an Intel Core i5 plus the new GeForce GT 640M, rest assured that this machine is well equipped to handle the latest games and even those coming out in the future, and handle them well.