Nvidia has been systematically bridging the performance gap between its desktop and mobile GPUs over the past half decade or so. With Maxwell, Nvidia managed to shrink the gap to 80 percent of its desktop equivalent and now, it’s doing away with it completely.
The chipmaker on Tuesday unveiled a version of its GeForce GTX 980 for notebooks that offers true 1:1 performance compared to its desktop counterpart. Notice how I shied away from using the term “new” to describe the notebook variant; that’s because it’s the same chip used to power the desktop model.
It’s a significant achievement that required an immense amount of planning to pull off.
For starters, Nvidia is selecting only the highest grade chips through a process known as binning to ensure the notebook-bound chips can hit stock clock speeds and have enough overhead for mild overclocking. Shrinking down the board to fit inside a notebook also took a lot of effort, especially reworking trace routes between the GPU and RAM.
Delivering enough power to push the chip was another major concern. The GTX 980M uses a three-phase power system; the GTX 980 was designed to take advantage of up to eight phases. Kaustubh Sanghani, a general manager with Nvidia, told PCWorld that the new notebook chip has 50 percent more peak current available than the GTX 980M.
The GTX 980 for notebooks will also be able to power virtual reality-based games, a first for a mobile GPU. As mentioned, buyers will have the ability to overclock the GPU although how far a chip can be pushed will depend largely on the notebook manufacturers’ cooling capabilities.
A batch of six notebooks will be the first to receive the desktop GPU transplant and predictably, they’re all high-end units like the watercooled Asus GX700 we saw earlier this month. No word yet on pricing or specific launch dates but Nvidia says we can expect to see availability later this fall.