NVidia's new GeForce2 Go mobile graphics controller promises great graphics on a laptop, and the first model to feature it is Toshiba’s new Satellite 2805 S402.
The moderately priced (approximately £2,000) 2805's other specs include a top-line Pentium III-850 CPU with SpeedStep, 128MB of SDRAM, 16MB of SGRAM for graphics, a 20GB hard drive, a 15-inch active-matrix display, and integrated 56-kilobits-per-second modem and ethernet. It also boasts Toshiba's integrated three-in-one optical drive with 6X DVD-ROM, 4X CD-RW, and 24X CD-ROM speeds.
Add to that a SmartMedia slot, a FireWire port, two USB ports, and Yamaha sound (complete with a subwoofer), and you have one serious 8.7-pound (loaded for travel) notebook.
The GeForce2 Go is the first mobile graphics package to include what NVidia calls a graphics processing unit. It enables some of the more sophisticated graphics-processing functions found in recent desktops, including demanding transform and dynamic lighting (T&L) functions. Relieving the CPU of such tasks results in better overall graphics performance. In addition, the GeForce2 Go includes functions that add realism to effects such as smoke, fog, and textures. It can also handle HDTV signals, among other functions.
The GeForce2 Go GPU processes 286 million pixels per second. That's small potatoes compared with the 1 billion pixels per second that NVidia's own GeForce2 Ultra desktop graphics can handle, but NVidia suggests that it's good enough to provide 3D graphics rendered at speeds up to ten times faster than today's average notebook graphics chip sets.
Digit Labs tested a preproduction unit of the Satellite 2805 S402. It scored well on our Digit Bench tests, garnering a top-ranked result of 146. We expected the 2805 to really shine in our standalone graphics tests, which we generally reserve only for high-performance desktops, and the unit didn't disappoint. On a series of 3D applications and demanding games, it maintained averages significantly better than 60 frames per second (fps) at a low resolution of 640-x-480 with 16-bit colour. At its native resolution of 1,024-x-768 and 16-bit colour, it managed satisfactory performance, with an average of well above 30fps.
While the 2805 performed well beyond the capabilities of most notebooks at 16-bit colour (65,536 colours), its overall scores didn't come close to the numbers of desktops with good graphics cards. And when we pushed the 2805 to 32-bit colour (16.7 million colors), its frame rate slowed noticeably. Regardless, most users should be well satisfied with the unit's capabilities.