Nvidia Launches the First of Its Next-Gen Kepler GPUs

Nvidia's new GPUs, first aimed at Ultrabooks and gaming desktops, come days after AMD completes the release of its Radeon HD 7000 Series graphics cards.

Nvidia is launching the first graphics chips based on the company€™s new Kepler architecture, the next-generation offering after the company€™s successful Fermi, which hit the market two years ago.

Nvidia officials, who announced the new GPUs March 22, touted the Kepler technology€™s power efficiency and gaming performance. The first Kepler GPUs€”the GeForce GTX 680 and the GeForce GT 600M chips€”will focus on gaming desktops and Ultrabooks, which are very thin and light notebooks championed by chip giant Intel.

"The Kepler architecture stands as Nvidia's greatest technical achievement to date," Brian Kelleher, senior vice president of GPU engineering at Nvidia, said in a statement. "It brings enormous performance and exceptional efficiency. Gamers will love the GTX 680's performance, as well as the fact that it doesn't require loud fans or exotic power supplies. Ultrabook users will love the GT 600M family for its performance and power efficiency."

The Kepler GPUs are built on a 28-nanometer manufacturing process; the Fermi graphics chips were 40nm.

Nvidia€™s announcement comes just days after rival Advanced Micro Devices announced its Radeon HD 7800 Series graphics cards, completing the rollout of its Radeon HD 7000 Series GPUs in less than three months.

The GeForce 600M family of GPUs works in conjunction with Intel chips in Ultrabooks and notebooks, according to Nvidia officials. Ultrabooks were a concept first talked about by Intel executives last year, with the first of them being introduced in late 2011. The aim is to have very thin and light laptops that offer the same full notebook functionality with features€”such as long battery life and constant connectivity€”found in popular tablets. Intel is pushing for the systems to come in at less than $1,000, though most of the current Ultrabooks on the market cost more than that.

Ultrabooks are seen as a way for Intel, not only to help keep pushing the PC market forward, but also as another avenue for the chip giant to gain greater traction in the mobile computing space. AMD executives have talked about similar AMD-based systems, called €œultra-thins.€

Nvidia€™s GeForce 600M family includes the vendor€™s Optimus technology, which offers longer battery life by powering the GPU only when it€™s needed, and Verde notebook drivers to improve performance and stability.

"Customers are about to see notebook manufacturers unveil a host of Ultrabooks that are truly worthy of the 'ultra' moniker,€ Rene Haas, general manager of notebook products at Nvidia, said in a statement. €œThe more efficient and powerful GeForce 600M GPUs will raise performance from the Ultrabook segment all the way up to gaming notebooks."

The GeForce GTX 680 is more than 300 percent faster in DirectX 11 tessellation performance and 43 percent faster in the most cutting-edge games, according to Nvidia officials. At the same time, it consumes 28 percent less power and offers twice the performance-per-watt capabilities of the GTX 580 Fermi processor it replaces.

Among the new technologies in the GTX 680 GPUs are SMX, a streaming multiprocessor block that leads to the performance-per-watt increase, and GPU Boost, which dynamically adjusts the speed of the GPU for maximum gaming performance.

Nvidia and AMD continue to compete aggressively in the discrete GPU space. For AMD, the last three months have been busy, starting with the release in December of the Radeon HD 7900 Series, and continuing in February with the Radeon HD 7700 Series.

€œBringing the first 28nm graphics cards to market in December spurred us to continue pushing the boundaries, product after product, culminating with today€™s product availability,€ Zvika Greenstein, director of product management for AMD€™s GPU Division, said in a statement when the company released the Radeon HD 7800 Series March 19. €œLook at our feature set: Graphics Core Next, AMD Eyefinity 2.0, AMD PowerTune, AMD ZeroCore Power technologies and, of course, our GHz Edition graphics cards€”it is without doubt that AMD stands alone in the graphics industry.€