Gaming ultrabooks on their way?

Adam Oxford at

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There's been some interesting new laptops shown off this week over at the giant German gadget-fest that is CeBit. Most intriguing is Acer's next ultrabook, the Aspire Timeline Ultra M3. That machine is just 20mm from table to top, has a 15inch screen and a DVD drive, an Ivy Bridge processor and what appears to be a – if Legit Reviews is to be believed – a GeForce GT640M graphics chip.

Even if it is a GT640, mind, it's not known for sure which of the mobile 600-series NVIDIA GPU will be built using the company's new Kepler architecture – rumours have suggested that lower end chips will stick with Fermi for the time being. Legit isn't quoting a source for its revelation, but others are reporting the same specs. Screenshots posted to Notebook Review's forums yesterday appear to identify a GeForce GT640M in an Acer Timeline as a GK107 processor. The 'K' in NVIDIA's coding nomenclature stands for Kepler, just as the current GF1xx chips are based on Fermi.

In those screens, the GT640M appears to have 384 unified shaders - the same as a desktop GeForce GTX560Ti or top end mobile GTX 580M - which are running at a very slow clockspeed of just 405MHz. That yields theoretical fill rates somewhere between a GT550M and a GT555M. Which could, of course, all change.

Intel and NVIDIA aren't going to go on the record to confirm or deny what's inside the M3 or any other 'upcoming products' yet, but we are seeing a lot of laptop manufacturers being forced into rather equivocable language to describe their forthcoming ranges. The problem is that manufacturers have to show their kit off if they want to get it in stores, but if they're not allowed to say what's inside it there's bound be rumour and speculation.

Thus we get Toshiba's rather slick looking, high performance Qosmio X870 (above) – which I played around with the other day – fitted with 'the latest Intel processors' and 'next generation NVIDIA GPUs'. The Acer Ultra M3, as CNET points out, is non-specific about the CPU but has an HM77 Ivy Bridge motherboard inside. ASUS' K75 will have '3rd Generation Intel Core Processors' and 'the latest NVIDIA GPU'. And so on.

What is certain in all this bet hedging nonsense is that the next round of MacBook Air aping Ultrabooks will be a hell of a lot better for gaming than the current lot, whether they're using Intel's integrated HD4000 graphics or a discrete chip. And Intel is determined to get the price of superthin notebooks down to a reasonable amount too.

The bad news, however, is that according to a recent Financial Times report Intel doesn't expect Ivy Bridge laptops to go on sale until June. So it might be a while before we find out how good an Ultrabook can really be.


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