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Digital Life, The Straits Times
Monday, Apr 28, 2014

News, Science And Tech

Nvidia's new chips are packed with goodies

Gaming laptop batteries are not known for their stamina. While the latest models generally have enough juice for a three-hour movie, they often fail to deliver when it comes to their bread and butter task - running games.

Most batteries of high-end gaming laptops struggle to pass the one-hour mark. The graphics chips inside these notebooks simply consume too much power. But graphics chipmaker Nvidia has a solution which it calls Battery Boost.

This feature is supported by the new Nvidia GeForce 800M series of graphics chips, which are found in the latest gaming laptops, such as the MSI GT70 Dominator Pro.

Nvidia claims Battery Boost can double battery life on laptops while running games. It does this by essentially limiting the performance of the graphics chip.

A user first enters a certain level of performance in the graphics settings. The default of 30 frames per second (fps) is good enough for most games.

In many older games, a typical high-end graphics chip actually produces a higher frame rate than necessary. Lowering it lets the graphics chip run at slower clock speeds and reduces power consumption.

Just set the desired frame rate in the graphics settings and Battery Boost will automatically tune the graphics chip to deliver it. However, if the level is set too high, there is little or no benefit as the graphics chip will probably run at full throttle to reach that level.

In theory, you could apply this method to any gaming laptop, not only those equipped with an Nvidia GeForce 800M chip. But you would need to tweak individual game settings for maximum power savings. Battery Boost saves you from this tedious chore.

Using the MSI GT70 Dominator Pro, equipped with the flagship GeForce GTX 880M, I played Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn online with Battery Boost enabled.

With no Battery Boost, I got 50min of gameplay; with Battery Boost, 70min. But the function halved the frame rates from an average of 60fps to the 30fps defined in the settings. While this translated to about a 40 per cent improvement in game time, I was disappointed that I could only get slightly more than an hour of gaming.

Although Battery Boost is the highlight of these new Nvidia graphics chips, the GeForce ShadowPlay function is also worth a mention. It lets you record your favourite gaming moments. It can also broadcast your game in real-time to popular video-game livestreaming site Twitch.tv.

ShadowPlay provides the same video capture and broadcast capabilities found on the latest PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game consoles. Capturing game footage is not exactly new on PCs, but having this feature bundled with Nvidia's graphics chips makes it more likely that gamers will use it.

This article was published on April 23 in Digital Life, The Straits Times.

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