Graphics, Hardware

Nvidia Launches Kepler Refresh, GeForce GTX 700M Series

The first day of second calendar quarter is known for a lot of jokes and fake news, making businesses scratching their heads how to launch important products for their half-year results. Nvidia decided not to follow suit and launch the line of product today.

Carrying the name GeForce 700M, the new family of notebook graphics processors represents the first announced parts of the Kepler Refresh, which will come to market over the next couple of weeks. Kepler Refresh, or Kepler 2.0 (with GK104 being 1.0 and GK110 being 1.5) is based on products that carry the codename GK11x (GK114, 117, 116 etc.). In order to continue winning the notebook design wins, the company now unveiled the products which are to be partnered with the contemporary Ivy Bridge and upcoming Haswell processors from Intel.

Nvidia claims it has over 30 design wins for touch screen notebooks with GeForce GT graphics
Nvidia claims it has over 30 design wins for touch screen notebooks with GeForce GT graphics. Time to market is another story…

According to Nvidia, there are 30 designs with GeForce 700M GPUs coming, offering sufficient performance to drive the interface for Windows 8 and the upcoming Windows Blue operating systems. Even though Intel touted that Haswell graphics are going to mean the end of the need for discrete graphics, spurred by the recent 2013 GDC press conference where Intel?s representatives were so sure in themselves – the reality is different. AAA Game developers such as openly criticize Intel for the lack of performance, as we recently revealed. Naturally, the reason why is the same slide we received from both AMD and Nvidia, which puts 5 out of 10 games unplayable on an Intel Ivy Bridge APU. AMD uses the slide to tout its Fusion APU with discrete Radeon GPUs for notebooks, while Nvidia uses the slide to tell the world how great the discrete GPU is in Top 10 games (Ivy Bridge cannot reach 30fps in 1366×768 in Assassin’s Creed III, Borderlands 2, DarkSiders 2, Far Cry 3 and PlanetSide 2).

Meet the Family

GeForce GT 700M Family Performance compared to Intel Ivy Bridge (Core i5)
GeForce GT 700M Family Performance compared to Intel Ivy Bridge (Core i7)

Nvidia introduced no less than seven GPUs, all of which are listed on the website. The only product not carrying the GT moniker is the 710M, while other six parts carry the names GT 720M, GT 730M, GT 735M, GT 740M, GT 745M and GT 750M.

Starting with the current generation of products, Nvidia is starting to hide the number of actual cores, memory interface etc., replacing it with "consumer-friendly" "GeForce Performance Score". This lovely PR/marketing move compares its GPU to an Intel HD 4000 GPU inside a Core i7 processor (Ivy Bridge). We expect to see those scores updated when Intel debuts HD 5000 graphics for Haswell APU, or maybe we’ll all have to wait until Maxwell-based hardware comes in 2014.

Even though it is not said, the company obviously wants to avoid direct comparisons between GT 640M and 740M, 650M and 750M etc., since we are talking about silicon respins with some performance improvements but not a completely new architecture. Its direct competitor AMD did not hid those specs with their HD 8000 Series but still, the 2013 is shaping up to be a dull year for computer graphics, all in preparation for the big collision in 2014, when Nvidia will have Kepler inside the Tegra SOCs as well.

Intelligent Silicon

Changes behind the 700M series do not come directly with silicon. When looking at the GK11x chips, focus was put on increasing the Performance/Watt metric as high as possible. Thus, all 700M parts come with GPU Boost 2.0 technology, which dynamically raises the clock of the execution units inside the GPU, staying within the thermal envelope of the whole notebook. The GeForce driver works hand in hand with the micro-code inside the silicon, increasing the performance without the risk of overheating, a lesson the company learned with the bumpgate of yesteryear.

Nvidia focused on Automatic Game Settings - bring on GeForce Experience (GFE).

The GPU Boost 2.0 technology is one of key aspects in order to get the GeForce Experience up and running. Nvidia is touting the Automatic Game Configuration as the best thing since sliced bread, and while the hardcore enthusiasts might not be thrilled, this technology enabled over a million users (1.5 million users downloaded the beta version) to experience games in the way Nvidia believes they should be experienced.

GeForce Experience in Action
GeForce Experience in Action

Focus of 700M series is offering the best possible experience for gamers and for Windows 8 / Blue touchscreen. Can GeForce Experience make the difference? Time will tell, but Nvidia needs to sort out its messaging outside Jen-Hsun Huang leading the keynote, and bring engineers and marketing people to the forefront, clearly messaging how gaming experience can be better.

PC gaming industry passed the overall console business, PC gaming hardware business is larger than the console one, and overall the gaming industry is on track of reaching the size of music and movie industry combined. With $120 billion TAM (Total Addressable Market), everybody and their uncle wants a slice of that pie, regardless of how inept financial analysts are to real numbers. Even Intel is touting gaming more and more, even though their hardware (currently) lacks substance. Qualcomm wants in, but that company has a serious mountain to climb. The question is, how hard can Nvidia and AMD drive their messages to the hearts of PC gamers, which are always subject to stereotypes? After all, who would ever put a woman in charge of a AAA Studio, commanding hundreds of people and nine figure budgets – right? 

GeForce 700M Series is an evolutionary produ
ct which focuses on drivers and software performance above all. While we still believe the company should be more direct in terms of messaging (people don’t seem to mind such messages coming out of Apple or Samsung), Kepler GPU offers a compelling experience for the mainstream gamer. We will see how the 700M series will shape up after the high-end products are introduced.