Introducing the GeForce GTX 560M Mobile GPU

May 30, 2011

By Andrew Burnes

When browsing the aisles of a retailer, or the digital storefronts of an e-tailer, the notebooks on display typically fall into one of several categories. Netbooks, the least expensive, are suited to web browsing, as their name suggests, and little more. Business notebooks are a step up, handling word processing and other work tasks with ease, but again, little else. The most common category of notebook is the multimedia notebook, popularised by Apple’s range of products. These machines feature mid-range processors, integrated graphics processors that can accelerate web content and videos, and an assortment of technologies, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The more expensive multimedia notebooks may also include dedicated GPUs that increase performance dramatically, but not to the degree to ensure that modern-day, demanding games are playable. Sure, they will handle the classics just fine, but today’s games demand the levels of performance you’d typically associate with desktop PCs.

To play those games on a portable computer, a recent notebook GPU is required, and within NVIDIA’s line-up there are two types that fit the bill. The first is the GT class of mobile GPUs, capable of playing titles at low-to-medium detail settings at a notebook’s native resolution, depending on the model, supporting hardware, and game. The second is GTX, a high-performance class of notebook GPU designed to tackle whatever detail levels are thrown its way, ensuring games remain playable even at 1920x1080 with anti-aliasing enabled.

Today, NVIDIA is announcing the GeForce GTX 560M mobile Graphics Processing Unit, a powerful notebook GPU equipped with a 1550MHz Processor Clock, a 775MHz Graphics Clock, 192 CUDA Cores, and up to 3GB of 192-bit 1250MHz GDDR5 RAM. Incorporating the efficiency improvements of the latest desktop line-up, the GTX 560M offers more performance per watt than the previous generation of notebook GTX GPUs, resulting in higher frame rates without sacrificing battery longevity.

Performance

The GTX 560M’s impressive specifications help it to outperform NVIDIA’s other 500M-series notebook GPUs by some margin - the chart below shows games running under real-world conditions at 1920x1080, with 4x Anti-Aliasing enabled, a level of fidelity equal to desktop GPUs, and far in advance of current home consoles:

With the GTX 560M, performance has doubled by a factor of two in most games, and a factor of two-point-five in others, truly justifying the GTX moniker. And while the GT 540M and GT 555M support DirectX 11 and 3D Vision, only the GTX 560M has the horsepower to play titles that make use of those features - Duke Nukem Forever, NVIDIA's showcase title for the GTX 560M, is playable at over thirty frames per second when in 3D Vision mode, and hits a silky-smooth sixty frames per second in standard ‘2D.’

Some older games, such as Crysis, Crysis: Warhead, and The Witcher, remain demanding to this day, even for desktop GPUs. Below, you can enlarge an example of the GTX 560M’s prowess in Crysis: Warhead, and directly compare it to the game displaying the exact same scene on the GT 540M, the goal being a stable thirty-to-forty frames per second at 1920x1080:



Click To Enlarge

As you can see, a marked visual improvement without the loss of any frames per second. The GT 540M was only able to play Crytek’s much-lauded first-person shooter at minimum settings, whereas the GTX 560M could happily play Crysis: Warhead with ‘Gamer’ detail settings enabled. Similarly, visual improvements can be seen in other games also, such as Just Cause 2, where the GTX 560M was able to play the open-world third-person shooter at 1920x1080 with Water and Object Detail settings set to High, Medium shadows enabled, and CUDA-Accelerated Water enabled, whereas the GT 540M could only play the game with all options set to Low and the extra-fancy water setting disabled.

As a final example of the GeForce GTX 560M’s pixel-pushing prowess, here’s a chart showing performance results taken from some of the most popular and graphically demanding games on the marketplace, running at 1920x1080 with all options enabled and maxed out:

Optimus

Battery technology has advanced greatly in recent years, with higher capacity cells jammed into smaller and smaller spaces, but at the same time CPU and GPU technology has also advanced, resulting in comparative battery life due to the greater power demands of the new components. To counteract the increased power draw users are forced to purchase extra-large batteries that protrude from the rear of their notebooks, or gigantic battery slabs that cover the entire underside of the device, making it heavier, bulkier, and even hotter to the touch.

With gaming notebooks, their GPUs run at full tilt, all the time, regardless of their current operational status, resulting in a massive power draw even when typing a document or browsing Facebook, so no matter the size of the battery it still runs dry within an hour or two. To counteract this annoyance, NVIDIA launched their new Optimus technology in February 2010. Constantly monitoring the system’s requirements, Optimus enables and disables the built-in NVIDIA GPU as required, using the low-power Integrated Graphics Processor whenever possible. For example, if you’re browsing Facebook the NVIDIA GPU will be disabled, giving you up to five hours of usage, but if you click onto a 720p Flash video hosted by YouTube, Optimus will enable the NVIDIA GPU to make use of Flash’s GPU acceleration to ensure that video playback is silky smooth. Similarly, if you’re bored of responding to emails and crave some Crysis 2 action, the GPU will kick into high-gear and give you excellent performance.

Manufacturers will be offering a range of GTX 560M-powered notebooks, some with 3D Vision, some with Optimus, and some with both, so to help you make an informed purchasing decision here are details about each:

Paired with NVIDIA Optimus, the GTX 560M gives users the best of both worlds, letting them work and web browse for up to five hours, or game without compromise in the hottest titles and newest releases.

Verde

The aforementioned games, such as Crysis 2 and Duke Nukem Forever, work spectacularly, but what of new titles released in the future? Well you needn’t worry, NVIDIA has pledged to directly support its mobile GPUs, having heard the cries of distress from laptop users who went months without driver releases from manufacturers, if they received them at all, leaving new games slow, buggy, or completely unplayable.

Two years ago, NVIDIA launched Verde, a process that resulted in new driver packages being released day-and-date alongside those for desktop GPUs, ensuring that new titles work properly and play with the highest frame rates possible. The response from customers has been fantastic, and as with desktop GPU drivers, NVIDIA has improved performance in numerous games to a noticeable degree, as this chart shows:

The GTX 560M is the fastest GeForce 500M-series GPU NVIDIA has ever made, and handles the same titles that desktop users enjoy on a daily basis with ease, and though the faster GTX 480M exists, it lacks the efficiency improvements and updated technology of the 560M, restricting it to desktop replacement rigs that will never leave the comfort of their AC adapters. With the addition of Optimus and 3D Vision on certain manufacturers’ models, the GTX 560M gives you up to five hours of battery life when working, and then lets you relax with a spot of 3D Vision-enhanced first-person shooting in Duke Nukem Forever or any of the other five-hundred supported 3D titles, making it a truly portable mobile games machine.

If you’re looking for something that allows you to be productive, allows you to enjoy all the latest games, and allows you to frequent LAN events with the minimum of fuss, the GTX 560M-powered machines are the perfect choice - whilst your friends are lugging their heavy, expensive PCs to and fro, and their monitors, and their accessories, you can just pick up your machine and go. You can even watch 3D movies when you’re all gamed out.

The GeForce GTX 560M notebooks are in stock now at your favourite e-tail and retail outlets.

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