Nvidia Launches Kepler-Based GPUs For Gaming, Ultrabooks

Nvidia launched Thursday its new GeForce GTX 680 and GeForce GT 640M GPUs, part of the larger GeForce 600M family and the first-ever GPUs from the chip maker to be based on its next-generation Kepler graphics architecture. The 28-nm, low-power chips are being targeted specifically at the desktop gaming and Ultrabook markets.

The GeForce GTX 680 is designed to deliver a quiet and "extremely fast" experience for PC gaming, providing double the performance per watt than Nvidia’s prior-generation GeForce GTC 580 based on its Fermi architecture. Nvidia said the GeForce GPU consumes 28 percent less power than AMD’s competing Radeon HD 7970 graphics processor.

The new Kepler-based chips were also built with Intel’s Ultrabook in mind. According to Nvidia, the GeForce 600M line-up -- specifically the GT 640M -- will enable more compact and powerful Ultrabook designs than were previously possible, with a base clock speed of 1006 MHz, a boost clock speed of 1058 MHz, and a TDP of 195W.

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"Customers are about to see notebook manufacturers unveil a host of Ultrabooks that are truly worthy of the 'ultra' moniker," said Rene Haas, general manager of notebook products at Nvidia, in a statement. "The more efficient and powerful GeForce 600M GPUs will raise performance from the Ultrabook segment all the way up to gaming notebooks. And they will be the most popular discrete GPUs used with Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge processor."

Ultrabooks running the new GeForce 600M series will have "extra-long battery life" thanks to Nvidia’s Optimus technology which conserves energy by automatically powering down a GPU when performing low-power tasks.

Nvidia said Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba have already signed on to ship GeForce-based Ultrabooks.

Nvidia attributed the performance and energy-efficiency delivered with the GeForce 600M series to the new Kepler architecture on which it’s based. It said it took 1.8 million man-hours of work over the course of five years to make Kepler a reality, and the architecture is being dubbed by the chip maker as its "greatest technical achievement to date." Nvidia launches a new chip architecture about every two years.

The GeForce GTX 680 GPU is available now from add-in card suppliers, including Asus, Colorful, EVGA, Gainward, Galaxy, Gigabyte, Innovision 3D, MSI, Palit, Point of View, PNY, and Zotac. Nvidia said expected pricing is $499.