NVIDIA GeForce 500M: Refreshing the 400Mby Jarred Walton on January 5, 2011 4:00 PM EST
More New Chips!
The parts we’ve discussed so far are all clearly superior to the outgoing 400M models, but as we’ve already shown with the GTX 485M, there are new chips that aren’t part of the 500M family. Rounding out the mobile GPUs launching today, we have three more options—none of them particularly desirable as far as we’re concerned.
|NVIDIA’s New Entry-Level 300M/400M/500M Parts
|GeForce GT 520M
I’m not sure what purpose these new parts serve, other than giving notebook OEMs some “new” discrete GPUs that they can foist off on unsuspecting customers. Sure, the 520M ought to beat Intel’s HD Graphics 3000, but if you’re running where it makes sense (i.e. low detail) the 520M is going to offer less than the GT 420M, thanks to the reduced shader counts and half the memory bandwidth. Given the 420M and 425M already turned in similar performance results—an indication that most games are memory bandwidth limited—that could prove disastrous at anything more than low detail, and if you’re only gunning for low quality in the first place you can probably survive on the IGP.
Anyway, the 520M replaces the GT 415M, a product which we haven’t yet been able to test. The 410M appears to be the same basic idea, only without support for GDDR5. Both chips have the same pinout, but in looking at the chip shots from NVIDIA, and the chip appears a lot smaller, so it may me that GF119 is a native 48 cores rather than half being disabled.
Finally, we also have a GeForce 315M part, which keeps the flame alive for the old G 310M by changing the clock speeds to 606/1212/790. Ugh. Notice how we say “changed” rather than “improved”: those clocks compare to 625/1530/790 on the G 310M in the ASUS U30Jc, or 608/1468/620 on the ASUS UL80Jt. I’m sure you’ll get 1GB of slow memory standard, though, which doesn’t really do much for you. Given what we’ve shown with Sandy Bridge’s IGP, you’d really have to be desperate to want the 315M.
But let’s make it clear: NVIDIA isn’t creating these low-end parts without reason; there are OEMs out there who actually intend to use these GPUs. It’s almost like a throwback to the old S3 Virge days, where we all joked about them being “3D Decelerators”. If the G 310M performance is anything to go by, Sandy Bridge will typically offer better performance than the 315M. NVIDIA still has better driver support for games, so you can make a case for the 520M/410M. Those should at least match SNB graphics performance, and probably surpass it—especially the lower clocked HD 3000 offerings found in LV/ULV chips—but the old GT218 core really needs to be put out to pasture.
The other argument in favor of the 315M and 410M is that they’re extremely cheap to produce, which lets NVIDIA get hardware into just about any level of laptop hardware. I suppose that if you’re not doing Sandy Bridge, the 315M might still hold some merit. It does after all provide hardware accelerated H.264 decoding and better-than-Arrandale graphics. It might also end up in some netbooks, although NG-ION is basically the same chip and already covers that market. We never did get the GT 415M for testing, and it’s not in any US-bound laptops to our knowledge, but some of the other world markets have different tastes and it probably showed up in Asia or Europe. Hopefully that’s the case for the 410M and 315M as well, but I’m still skeptical that there’s much point in keeping something like the 315M around in the current laptop marketplace.