The desktop graphics space hasn't been that exciting in recent years, but all the improvements in power optimisation, fabrication processes and performance have not gone to waste. Now more than ever, lightweight, yet powerful gaming notebooks are becoming commonplace (and affordable) and while there's still a way to go, getting grunt without sacrificing on portability is very realistic.
NVIDIA's latest mobile GPU, the GTX 965M, debuted somewhat quietly at this year's CES. As AnandTech's Jarrad Walton notes, there's nothing particularly exciting about the 965M — it's based on the second-gen Maxwell GM204 and is a cut-down version of the 970M. However, it's still a solid chip and if the 980M is any indication, will hold its own when it comes to demanding games. You might even be able to turn on pleasantries such as anti-aliasing without killing your frame rate.
Lightweight gaming notebooks however continue to suffer from two major issues — poor battery life and crotch-scorching temperatures. These are difficult problems to solve without radical changes in notebook design or a breakthrough in technology. For now, we'll just have to settle for incremental improvements.
This is the path that NVIDIA has taken with its mobile GPUs. When the company updates its desktop hardware — the 700, 800 and now 900 series — the shift is often less dramatic in the notebook space. The 700 chips marked the transition from Kepler, to Fermi and Maxwell, while the 800 and 900 have be Maxwell-focused. The mobile chips have lagged behind, usually using a mix of new and old architectures, but the 900M series looks to be entirely Maxwell-based.
Gigabyte's AORUS X5 has two 965Ms and while the benefits of dual mobile graphics in terms of performance, power usage and temperatures is debatable, the fact we have a notebook that can run GPUs in SLI and weight 2.5kg suggests we're on the right track.
It's going to be a while before you can play demanding (or even semi-demanding) games on your notebook and get five or more hours of battery life, but for those of us that want powerful, portable gadgets and don't mind hovering near a power point, 2015 marks the time where we finally have a lot of real choices and instead of having to compromise on weight, screen resolution or performance, I'm predicting by the end of the year, we'll be swimming in options.
You'll still need to invest in a pair of asbestos pants though.