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Nvidia improves laptop gaming, battery life with new flagship GPUs

Nvidia improves laptop gaming, battery life with new flagship GPUs

Nvidia says its GeForce GTX 980M and 970M GPUs are the company's fastest laptops graphics cards

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPU

Games with better special effects and more life-like images are coming to laptops with Nvidia's latest flagship GeForce GTX 980M and 970M graphics processing units.

The GeForce GTX 980M and 970M GPUs are Nvidia's fastest laptop graphics cards ever, the company said.

Users will be able to play games at higher resolutions than conventional 1080p with the faster GPUs, Nvidia said in a presentation. A handful of laptops already have 4K screens and the GPUs provide the capabilities to run games that would traditionally work only on a desktop. High-resolution games are notorious for draining laptop battery but the GPUs have new power-saving features.

The faster GTX 980M will replace the 680M, which shipped with laptops in 2012. The GPUs are based on the Maxwell microarchitecture, and the 980M's performance is close to that of the flagship desktop GPU, the GeForce GTX 980, which starting shipping last month.

The 980M will be in Windows gaming laptops from Asustek, MSI and Clevo, and the 970M will be in a laptop from Gigabyte. These chips are typically soldered on motherboards and not sold in stores.

Many new GPU features make games sharper. A new hardware feature called Voxel Global Illumination provides better special effects by allowing lights to bounce off surfaces. For example, the GPUs can replicate the sun's lighting reflect off stars or allow light from a street lamp to bounce off walls and other surfaces.

The GPUs also have a feature called "Dynamic Super Resolution" in which 4K-quality images can be delivered to 1080p screens by filtering and improving pixel quality. The upscaling feature can be turned on or shut off through Nvidia's GeForce Experience software on laptops.

Nvidia also wanted to improve battery life in games through a feature called Battery Boost. When the feature is turned on, a game is optimized to maximize battery life by switching off specific hardware features. As the battery life is tailored to the game's requirements, it does not hurt the overall gaming experience or frame rate. The feature needs to be turned on in the GeForce Experience software.

With the Battery Boost feature turned on, battery life increased by 55 percent for Tomb Raider, 29 percent for Grid 2 and 30 percent for League Legends Season One, Nvidia said in a slide.

But high-resolution games consume a lot of power, so laptops will need to be plugged in for charging at regular intervals.

Nvidia is competing on the gaming front with Advanced Micro Devices, whose chips go into PCs and all major game consoles.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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