Nvidia spruces up notebook line

With its new GeForce FX Go 5700 graphics chip, Nvidia aims to expand its presence in the high-end notebook market.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
LAS VEGAS--With its new graphics chip, Nvidia is trying to capitalize on the "entertainment centerization" of the notebook.

The company's GeForce FX Go 5700 graphics chip, announced Monday at the Comdex trade show here, is aimed at expanding the company?s presence in the high-end notebook market. Although Nvidia is the largest graphics chipmaker worldwide, most of the company's business to date has been concentrated in desktops.

The line between laptops and desktops in terms of functionality, however, has been changing, and the trend has boosted Nvidia's sales and put heat on rival ATI Technologies, said Rob Csongor, general manager of Nvidia's mobile group.

At the beginning of the year, "there was not such thing as a 17-inch notebook," he said. The introduction of laptops from Toshiba and others that run Microsoft's Windows XP MediaCenter is also allowing consumers to use their computers at personal video recorders.

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The Go 5700 improves the basic graphics technology found in the 5600 chip, which was introduced in the first quarter and adds a number of new features, Csongor said. The 5700, for instance, can churn three times as many geometry calculations in the same amount of time, allowing for more realistic, detailed images.

"You get more 3D and better video at the same power budget," Csongor said. Both the 5600 and 5700 incorporate DirectX 9-Microsoft's public graphics library, and both are programmable. In the past, pixels would essentially be painted to render light and shading effects. In programmable processors, the chip simulates how light coming from various sources would affect the color and texture of surfaces.

New features include SmartDimmer, which dims the screen when not actively in use to conserve energy, and IntelliSample, which provides better compression for smoothing edges.

UltraShadow, meanwhile, is a new set of algorithms that eliminates unnecessary calculations, said Csongor. Current graphics chips calculate shadows for every object in an image that gets light shone on it. Many of these shadows, however, can?t be seen from the perspective of viewer. Feet under a table, for instance, cast shadows that graphics chips render.

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"To a graphics processing unit, everything in a scene, whether it?s visible or not, is there," he said. By eliminating those rendering jobs, performance is increased.

Although announced now, the Go 5700 won't appear in notebooks until the first quarter. A number of manufacturers will incorporate the chip into laptops running Intel?s Dothan processor, Csongor said.

Dothan, the next major revision of the Pentium M, will contain 2MB of cache and run at faster speeds than current Pentium Ms can. Virtually all Dothan notebooks will come with integrated wireless networking.