ATI and Nvidia both launched mobile graphics chips yesterday, the first aimed at retaining ATI's leadership of this market segment, while the Nvidia part is designed to wrest the crown.
ATI's part is the Mobility FireGL 7800, a high-end mobile workstation-oriented chip (hence the FireGL branding) which supports up to 64MB of 128-bit DDR SDRAM.
The chip is clocked at 270MHz, but the chip's PowerPlay power management technology should ensure the part does not impact on a notebook's battery life too heavily and can "extend DVD playback" by 25 per cent more than "competing solutions". It supports resolutions up to 2048 X 1536 pixels in 32-bit colour.
PowerPlay appears to work like Intel's SpeedStep technology: the chip adjusts its core voltage and clock speed depending on whether the user is running off the mains or on battery. Users can choose to select their preferred voltage and speed parameters depending on how they themselves want to balance performance and battery life. The chip groups its voltage/clock speed settings into three modes: DVD, 2D and 3D.
PowerPlay also reduces a notebook's LCD refresh rate to further cut battery power in instances when it can get away with doing so. PowerPlay also reduces a notebook's LCD refresh rate to further cut battery power in instances when it can get away with doing so.
Also, though, it's not new - ATI introduced the technology in the Mobility Radeon 7500.
Nvidia's NV17M is the successor to the GeForce 2 Go. The new part clocks in at 250MHz and supports up to 64MB of frame buffer memory. The chip does not have a name yet - it's only just gone into production - but the company had to launch something to stop ATI grabbing the glory, we guess.
The company seem to have rushed this out - we can't remember another occasion when Nvidia launched a graphics chip without releasing specifications or a name, or referring to the part's codename. After all, even Nvidia had to admit that notebooks using the GPU will ship only next year.
Just as ATI offers PowerPlay, Nvidia offers PowerMizer - and again there's nothing new here. Nvidia announced PowerMizer immediately after ATI originally announced PowerPlay in August - even though PowerMizer had already been made available in its GeForce 2 Go and Quadro 2 Go for some time.
Do we see a pattern emerging here? Nvidia bunging out releases bang on heels of every ATI announcement? Certainly, ATI's release seems more substantial - though that's not saying much as the Mobility FireGL 7800 is essentially a faster. rebadged Mobility Radeon 7500.
So is there anything of substance in Nvidia's announcement, apart from 'we're doing a new chip'? Well, there's the Video Processing Engine (VPE), which is what we used to call the DVD decoder and RAMDAC circuitry; but Nvidia figures we need a new acronym.
However, the NV17M will be incorporated into a new micro-AGP packaging system which squeezes both the GPU, the frame buffer RAM and "full AGP sub-system" into a unit the size of older notebook graphics chip. ®