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Nvidia's laptop graphics cards boost web browsing

Seven GT 400M and GTX series cards announced

Nvidia has announced seven new GeForce 400M series graphics cards for laptops, which could provide parallel-processing capabilities to accelerate web browsing and 3D image rendering.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome have either implemented or will soon include the capability to off-load tasks like rendering of HTML 5 or Flash video content to graphics processors. Nvidia's new GeForce graphics cards will be faster at processing those tasks than CPUs, which should make web browsing snappier.

The new graphics cards will be around 40 percent faster than the earlier 300M series at execution of tasks, said Ken Brown, an Nvidia spokesman.

While the CPU remains at the centre of running tasks, developers are writing applications to harness the parallel-processing capabilities of graphics processors to speed up applications, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

"That's one of the changes with the new browsers, is they support that capability," McCarron said.

Laptops with Intel's latest Core processors already have a graphics processor integrated in one chip next to the CPU. However, discrete GPUs have a faster and wider pipe to run applications, McCarron said.

But graphics processors can draw more power than CPUs or integrated graphics, which can affect battery life of laptops. Nvidia's graphics cards support new switchable technology called Optimus, where specific tasks like video rendering can be seamlessly switched between the CPU and GPU. The GPU kicks in only when needed, saving laptop battery life.

Nvidia declined to comment on the power drawn by the new graphics cards, citing company policy. The company in the past has taken charges for faulty dies and weak packaging material used in its graphics chips that led to laptops overheating. Those issues have been resolved for a while, Brown said.

"Nvidia GPUs are made with a different manufacturing substrate to prevent chips from experiencing thermal issues over time. Our GPUs run in the tolerance level of their specification and the notebook chassis design constraints," Brown said.

More laptops are shipping with discrete GPUs as users look for stronger multimedia capabilities, McCarron said. Nvidia will be trying to extend its presence in the market with the new products, and it will have to compete with rival AMD, which already offers Radeon HD laptop graphics cards.

Beyond web browsing, the graphics cards will provide a better gaming experience and bring Blu-ray 3D movie playback to laptops, Nvidia's Brown said. The graphics cards will support DirectX 11, Microsoft's latest graphics technology included in the Windows 7 OS.

The new offerings include the GeForce GT 415M, GT 420M, GT 425M, GT 435M, GT 445M, and the faster GTX 460M and GTX 470M graphics cards. The cards will be available only through the PC makers, and Nvidia did not comment on when the laptops would become available. The graphics cards will be offered through PC makers including Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba.

Individual pricing for the graphics cards was not disclosed.


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