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Test Systems Configuration And Driver Issues

GeForce GTX 460M SLI: Mobile Gaming Value From AVADirect?

A drop from the previous six-core to four-core processor meant we couldn’t use the performance data from our last X7200-based review, and were instead forced to try to find the fastest previously-tested four-core models in today’s comparison. That’s unfortunate, since its Core i7-950 desktop processor has a higher non-Turbo Boost clock than the Core i7-940XM mobile processor used in Eurocom’s X8100. Of course, any performance gained by using a desktop processor will turn into energy lost in our efficiency comparison.

Test System Configuration
AVADirect X7200 CPUIntel Core i7-950 (Bloomfield), LGA 1366, 3.06-3.33 GHz, 8MB Shared L3 Cache
AVADirect X7200 RAM3 x Kingston KVR1333D3S9/2G (3 x 2 GB)
DDR3-1333 at DDR3-1066 CAS 7-7-7-20, 6 GB Total
AVADirect X7200
2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M 1.5 GB
675 MHz GPU Core, GDDR5-2500
Mobile Driver Version 259.51, Patched 260.99
AVADirect X7200
Hard Drive
Crucial C300 CTFDDAC256MAG SSD
256 GB, SATA 6Gb/s
Alienware M17x CPUIntel Core i7-920XM (Clarksfield) PGA988, 2.00-3.20 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
Alienware M17x RAM2 x Kingston KHX1333C7S3K2/4G (2 x 2 GB)
DDR3-1333 CAS 9-9-9-24, 4 GB Total
Alienware M17x
2 x AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5870 1 GB, CrossFire
700 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4000
Mobile Driver Version 8.692.2-100203a1-095371C-Dell
Alienware M17x
Hard Drive
128 GB, SATA 3Gb/s
Eurocom X8100 CPUIntel Core i7-940XM (Clarksfield) PGA988, 2.13-3.33 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache
Eurocom X8100 RAM2 x Kingston KHX1333C7S3K2/4G (2 x 2 GB)
DDR3-1333 CAS 7-7-7-20 4 GB Total
Eurocom X8100
Nvidia GeForce GTX 480M 2 GB
425 MHz GPU Core, GDDR5-2400
Mobile Driver Version 257.07
Eurocom X8100
Hard Drive
128 GB, SATA 3Gb/s
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 64-bit

Two GeForce GTX 460M modules cost less than a single GTX 480M, so that’s the most logical Nvidia GPU match-up. Alienware’s super-performing M17x takes up arms for AMD’s Radeon series, its dual Mobility Radeon HD 5870 modules in CrossFire mode.

Also notice that the X7200 was tested twice, using the as-delivered 259.51 graphics drivers and specially-patched 260.99 “Verde” versions. The 259.51 driver often crashed when the cards dropped out of 3D mode at the end of a game test, and we found that the 260.99 drivers fixed it. The only problem for notebook buyers is, the public 260.99 drivers would not install without a little prep work.

Because Nvidia has not yet validated Clevo’s cards, the public driver INFs don’t list the card’s ID. We found three methods to enable “Verde” driver installations on AVADirect’s Clevo notebook.

The easiest method is to patch the public driver’s NVAM.INF file, finding the lines that refer to the GTX 460M device ID “0DD1” and replacing the ID of one card with that of another. We found six instances of this code, representing three cards on two different driver models. Replacing both instances of the first card listed (20401043) with the ID of our card (72001558) allowed the drivers to install without a hitch, including the Nvidia HDMI audio drivers. Because the installer removes all HD audio codec drivers before updating Nvidia’s audio drivers, the Realtek driver must also be reinstalled.

Nvidia used a different method in its own 260.99 preview driver for Asus’ G73Jw notebook, adding the lines %NVIDIA_DEV.0DD1.02% = Section017, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_0DD1&SUBSYS_71001558 and %NVIDIA_DEV.0DD1.02% = Section018, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_0DD1&SUBSYS_71001558 to the appropriate places in NVCV.INF. We tried changing Asus’ customized driver to match our card (72001558), and the graphics drivers installed without updating the Nvidia audio drivers.

Users who know a little bit more about INF structure can do to the public driver what Nvidia did to the Asus driver, adding %NVIDIA_DEV.0DD1.02% = Section017, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_0DD1&SUBSYS_72001558 and %NVIDIA_DEV.0DD1.02% = Section018, PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_0DD1&SUBSYS_72001558 to the appropriate places in NVCV.INF. The results are identical to using the modified Asus driver, and we tested all three methods to make sure they worked.

In all three cases, the 260.99 driver fixed the stability problem previously found in the 259.51 driver. Nvidia tells us to expect an official update in early December that will make manual driver hacks unnecessary for its unified software package.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2Campaign, Act III, Second Sun (45 sec. FRAPS)
Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA
Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 4x AA
DiRT 2Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 4x AA
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of PripyatCall Of Pripyat Benchmark version
Test Set 1: High Preset, DX11 EFDL, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, 4x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion: x64
Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min
Default format AAC
HandBrake 0.9.4Version 0.9.4, convert first .vob file from The Last Samurai (1 GB) to .mp4, High Profile
TMPGEnc 4.0 XPressVersion:
Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX Codec 6.9.1Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multi-threading enabled using SSE4
Quarter-pixel search
Xvid 1.2.2Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Adobe Photoshop CS4Version: 11.0 x64, Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image
Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 9.0Version: 9.0.663, Virus base: 270.14.1/2407, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
7-ZipVersion 4.65: Format=Zip, Compression=Ultra, Method=Deflate, Dictionary Size=32 KB, Word Size=128, Threads=8
Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1, GPU and CPU scores
PCMark VantageVersion: x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2010Version 2010.1.16.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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