Mobile GeForce GTX Graphics: Model Inflation Gone Awry

Angelini: Taking ATI To Task, Too

Throughout this piece, we've focused on Nvidia's naming/architecture issues, which were made most apparent when Thomas started looking at Eurocom’s Panther workstation notebook. This is an Nvidia problem though, not a Eurocom one, so we broke it into a separate editorial.

Just because Nvidia has it wrong here doesn’t mean ATI comes away innocent. Again, this is a game of relativity, and when ATI calls its second-fastest mobile GPU the Mobility Radeon HD 4850, Nvidia sees that its flagship is faster and suddenly becomes vindicated in calling its flagship the GeForce GTX 280M. That's not doing right by the mainstream gamer, but it makes competitive sense. 

What we really need are both companies to come clean in naming mobile hardware after desktop-class performance parts and skewing end-user expectations of what their new notebooks will be able to do. In this case, ATI is “less-guilty,” since its Mobility Radeon HD 4850 is actually based on the RV770 architecture driving the desktop lineup. However, the necessary loss in clock speed to fit within a certain thermal envelope is such that what you end up with runs nothing like a Radeon HD 4850.

Putting Numbers To The Claim

In order to best prove our point here, I built up a desktop machine as comparable as possible to the MSI GT725 that Thomas tested in his Eurocom D900F review. It consisted of a Core 2 Quad Q8400S running a 1,066 MHz front side bus and 7.5x multiplier (yielding 2 GHz), 2 GB of DDR2-800 memory, and a reference ATI Radeon HD 4850 running at stock clocks.

A down-clocked Q8400S isn’t the same as a mobile Core 2 Quad Q9000—there’s a 2MB difference in shared L2 cache. So, I ran a handful of synthetics to make sure these platforms were still similar enough to stand up to each other.

In fact, the results come close enough (and indeed favor the mobile solution, if anything, given the larger L2).

The differences here aren’t as severe as what we just saw comparing a G92-based mobile GeForce GTX 280M to a desktop GTX 280, but they’re certainly notable enough that ATI should perhaps reconsider calling the Mobility Radeon HD 4850 by a name that doesn’t reflect what mainstream buyers have come to expect from reading reviews of desktop-class Radeon HD 4850 cards.

Clarifying Criticism

In discussing with Nvidia about this impending editorial, the company expressed an understanding that enthusiasts might object to its naming convention. But it isn’t the power users we’re worried about. Rather, it’s the mainstream folks who know enough to recognize GeForce GTX 280 or Radeon HD 4850, but not enough to realize that the underlying technology is completely different, or that a loss in clock speed gives the graphics solution different performance attributes.

At this moment in time, Nvidia is clearly the more-guilty vendor, but ATI is not innocent either. We’d implore both companies to reconsider the naming of their respective mobile graphics offerings (and it will, indeed, take both companies cooperating here in order to alter the relativistic nature of competitive placement).

We realize they both have powerful brands in the GeForce and Radeon, but if they’re going to recycle model numbers, do customers a favor and serve up a certain degree of consistency. Otherwise, we all end up with situations like this one, where the desktop and mobile markets are alike in name, but nothing else.

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    Top Comments
  • tacoslave
    and here i thought they were going to name it the gts 250m, but 280m? thats just low
    14
  • lemonade4
    Down with naming inflation!! (excellent article btw)
    10
  • Other Comments
  • tacoslave
    and here i thought they were going to name it the gts 250m, but 280m? thats just low
    14
  • amdfangirl
    Well... how long would a lappie last with power draws of the desktop GTX versions?
    -2
  • IzzyCraft
    Probably not more then 30 mins :) But that's not the point.
    4
  • Crashman
    IzzyCraftProbably not more then 30 mins But that's not the point.


    Actually, if you look at the notebook it's in...you could probably cool at least a GTX 275 with same-sized sinks if you had a lower power CPU.
    -2
  • Sharft6
    :o i never noticed this before although I've never had a laptop before. maybe this article could stoke up the the big boys in the gfx department to rethink their naming schemes :)
    0
  • apache_lives
    will these parts crash and burn like every other previous nvidia product released for laptop over the last 2 years?
    4
  • amdfangirl
    Well, the laptop maker could always try putting in a normal Geforce card...
    -3
  • lemonade4
    Down with naming inflation!! (excellent article btw)
    10
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Well, the laptop maker could always try putting in a normal Geforce card...


    It would be hard, but when nVidia makes a card using the same specs as the GTS 250...except lower clock speeds...it could at least call the thing a GTS 250M.

    Then again, both it an the GTS 250 are actually die-shrunk, underclocked 8800 GTS 512s...with twice the memory.
    0
  • falchard
    I think the die on the GTX 260+ is just too large to shrink down to be cool enough and power hungryless enough to put in a laptop.
    0
  • crisisavatar
    I am shocked TH actually posted this lol, let me SS just for the lulz.
    -8
  • mickey21
    Very well done article.... It explains the lower cost of the 280M part versus the 8800M GTX MXM addon... Interesting indeed... Especially since I own a laptop that uses the latter... That is bad on nVidia to represent the mobile part as the same model number... This does not sit well with me at all...
    3
  • Anonymous
    Place your ATI Mobility Laptop on a decent Laptop Cooler, (Belkin make a very good one, 8/10 Degrees Celsius depending on load) plugged into the mains(Which is exactly where most people will be when gaming, Battery life does not tend to allow long bouts of mobile gaming, we are used to it!)and overclock the Mobility chipset using AMDGpuTool.exe which allows for a significant overclock!

    Check the temps with HWmonitor until you find a happy overclock versus temperature. i bet you will find it going to the same clock speeds as the desktop variety.
    1
  • sublifer
    I can't believe that nvidia did it again! It was bad enough renaming the 8800/9800 to the GT 200 class but to imply its now a mobile equivalent to the GTX 280 is freakin wrong! Glad TH wrote this... I hadn't heard about it yet. After their defective graphics of two years ago I didn't really need another reason to avoid their mobile line further but I was hoping they'd at least begin to prove they've got reliable parts. Now though, reliable or not I won't stand for this BS. Nvidia will never get a recommendation from me.
    8
  • Anonymous
    you cannot expect ATI to even consider changing the name on their mobile parts unless Nvidia does it first. Nvidia has been riding this train for a while now, and in order for ATI to compete they may have to follow the trend and start "over-naming" their mobile parts. I'm sure Nvidia is NOT going to change the mobile parts' names, so the only fair thing to do is for ATI to rename that 4850M into 4890M :) and honestly, even that would not be as bad as 8800GTS-->280M.
    4
  • f4nt4sm4
    Nice article, Reminds me why I visit TH on a daily bssis :P
    2
  • scook9
    ATI really isn't that bad at all actually....People have gotten scores over 16000 in 3dMark06 using Mobility 3870x2 and a mildly overclocked CPU (mildly because that's all you can do on a laptop). That is on par with the desktop equivalent if you ask me. Maybe even slightly better depending on the rig. And the fact that the architecture is IDENTICAL for the laptop/desktop parts with ATI puts me 100% at ease.

    Nvidia however, I agree is atrocious with it's naming. If anyone has the time and money, they could probably be successfully sued over this haha. Of course....in about 1 minute on Nvidia's website you can figure out the equivalent desktop GPU as well...
    1
  • Pei-chen
    Why complaint? Would you prefer the sticker on your extreme gaming notebook to say Intel Core i7 and NVIDIA 8800GTS? NVIDIA renamed old parts because they need to present a unified lineup that doesn’t confuse the customer. Having a bunch of 8x00, 9x00, GTX 2x0 is not going to help customer making a purchase decision.

    All you have to remember is that GTX 280 > GTX 260 > GTS 260 and you know how much you want to spend. Whether the name corresponds with desktop parts is a non-issue as you are not going to substitute an 11lb gaming notebook with a 15lb Shuttle case and 20lb LCD.
    -11
  • B-Unit
    Pei-chenWhy complaint? Would you prefer the sticker on your extreme gaming notebook to say Intel Core i7 and NVIDIA 8800GTS? NVIDIA renamed old parts because they need to present a unified lineup that doesn’t confuse the customer. Having a bunch of 8x00, 9x00, GTX 2x0 is not going to help customer making a purchase decision.All you have to remember is that GTX 280 > GTX 260 > GTS 260 and you know how much you want to spend. Whether the name corresponds with desktop parts is a non-issue as you are not going to substitute an 11lb gaming notebook with a 15lb Shuttle case and 20lb LCD.

    Except that GTX280M = GTS250. That's the complaint.

    At best, the top end part should be a GTX250M. This is misleading and shady as hell. Im done with nVidia, I'll never buy or recommend one of their products again.
    4
  • cking
    The problem here is that it reall isn't about the speed of the part compared to it's desktop counter part. Anyone that expects it to be close is rather foolish. The real issue here is the that the name of the mobile part has nothing to do with the archeticture the chip is designed. That is were ATI is successful and NVidia fails completely. Yes the ATI part is slower then it's desktop counterpart but atleast it contains the same basic chip design and features. The nvidia part doesn't it isn't even based on the GTX 2x0 archeticture.

    We should remember that there are allot scarafices made to get either card into a laptop and in many cases the card will vary from laptop to laptop.
    9