Nvidia notebook Fermis on the loose

IFA is fast becoming the main European event on visual computing. We’ve been flooded with news from Sony, Apple, Nvidia and even AMD - which is rumoured to be doing closed sessions on its upcoming netbook processor, codenamed Zacate.

Amidst this IFA-madness, Nvidia has taken the opportunity to announce its line-up of vertigo-inducing Fermi-based mobile GPUs. Seven - count ‘em - seven different GPUs (OK, in fact these are only actually two new parts, with the remainder of the versions hobbled to varying degrees to look like something entirely different).

The new parts also share the Nvidia CUDA and PhysX features of Fermi. They will all carry the Optimus or 3D Vision torch well into 2011.

On the software side, while Nvidia has Forceware for the desktop, the mobile Fermis will be using the Verde (green) driver package, to limit their hunger in times of idleness and maximise performance, says the company.

So, as of today, the complete family of on-the-go Fermis breaks down into eight variants. Starting off with the high-end GTX 480M, you then move onto the 470M (which will actually outperform its older brother in some benchmarks, despite having fewer CUDA cores).

Then there's the GTX 460M, still a very powerful graphics unit by any measure. The GTX 460M’s GPU even manages to clock in at 1.35GHz, which makes it one of the fastest pieces of silicon in the ‘hood. The GTX versions all allow tandem graphics card SLI mode.

The next rank of cards all bear the 'GT' prefix. It consists of five variants with varying degrees of aptitude: GT 445M, GT 435M, GT 425M, GT 420, and the basic GT 415M. You’ll want to be careful when buying something with a GT 445M label on it.

Although the design delivers a healthy 1.18GHz GPU, there are two build options: one using cheaper and lower-performing DDR3, and another using higher-grade, more expensive GDDR5.

If you opt for the DDR3 version, you’ll have a seriously capped graphics card. The food chain gets a bit ambiguous when you get down to the 435M through to 420M variants, as they're essentially the same silicon with different clock speeds. Performance on these cards will be very much the same.

Lookie here:

“With up to 5X faster HD video uploads to Facebook and up to 10X the game performance on the year's top title StarCraft II(ii), GeForce, 400M GPUs are the ultimate notebook upgrade,” Nvidia said in a press release.

Well, how many times "faster" it is depends on what you’re comparing it to - so do take this sort of nonsense with a huge rock of salt... and besides, it’s the first we’ve heard about a graphics card making the Internet go faster.

We hope they're referring to the fact that you can compress video with the aid of GPGPU, so you’ll actually be uploading 1/5th of the quantity of data - rather thansuggesting that the new graphics chipset will make electrons and photons zoom out of your PC’s backside faster than they did before.

Launch partners Acer, Asus, Dell and Toshiba were at the ready with the mandatory pats on the back and marketing guff, so expect the first units to arrive very soon. Shops should be filling up for back-to-school season with the Fermi-powered mobile GPUs.