Nvidia's MXM to allow faster deployment of notebook graphics

Santa Clara (CA) - Nvidia today announced its graphics module MXM as solution to accelerate the development of graphics boards for notebooks, enable notebook manufacturers to select and switch graphics solutions during the lifecycle of a product and allow users to upgrade the graphics cards of their mobile computers.

If you ever thought about replacing your desktop PC with a notebook, performance hasn't been the issue anymore for several years. If you enjoy keeping your computer however on a high performance level throughout its lifecycle, lack of upgrade possibilities probably was one of the key reasons for not ditching your desktop machine.

Nvidia believes that its new graphics interface MXM (Mobile PCI Express Module) will revolutionize the way graphics hardware is deployed in notebooks. Designed as a consistent graphics interface for PCI Express-based notebooks, it will allow system builders to integrate new graphics solutions from Nvidia or other manufacturers such as ATI in notebooks without having to wait until the chip company has designed and manufacturered a proprietary graphics board for their notebook.

"This is not a new idea," said Rob Csongor, Nvidia's General Manager of the firm's mobile division. "We are used to this from the desktop." In fact, Csongor believes that notebook users will soon be able to use graphics cards just as desktop PC users. According to Csongor, MXM does not only enable notebook manufacturers to offer new GPUs in their mobile PCs almost simultaneoulsy to desktop computers, but MXM-based notebook graphics will also feature an upgrade ability. Switching graphics cards could be as easy as changing a battery pack, Csongor said.

To prove that MXM accelerates deployment, the interface will make its debut when the GeForce Go 6 series, Nvidia's next generation mobile GPU, is introduced. Csongor declined to specify a launch date of the chip, but indicated that the GPU would be announced close to Intel's release of Grantsdale, which will be at the end of this Summer, according to industry sources. Working MXM systems however are likely to be showcased already at Computex, which will take place June 1 to 5 in Taipei.

Nvidia markets MXM as "standard". Competitors such as ATI are less excited, since MXM is Nvidia's and so far not accessible as open standard. Csongor says it was not a first priority to create an opens tandard, while the company might consider to release the technology to a committee at a "later time." For now, the company intends to clear up "the mess in notebook graphics design" and create a "better engineering methodology."

ATI spokesman Chris Hook said that ATI also liked the idea of a universal standard for notebook modules. Nvidia's MXM however rather was a "marketing hype" than a "bone-fide, collaborative, universal standard that works across platforms and form factors."

"Our perspective is that MXM is just another module, not a standard or anything even close to it. From our conversations with the Original Design Manufacturers, they have told us that they are not recognizing MXM as a standard, but instead see this as a new option for modules," Hook said.

According to Nvidia, the MXM specification went through thorough development and has been revised 18 times, especially to accommodate the needs of notebook mannufacturers. Marketing language left aside, MXM is considered to grab some market share, provide new graphics chips faster to users and will allow especially Nvidia to give its customers a good reason to upgrade their graphics hardware once in a while, which will result in increased sales of GPUs. If MXM is enough to attack ATI's 73 percent market share in notebook graphics, remains to be seen.