In its most recent quarter, graphics specialist NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) reported that revenue from its GeForce-branded graphics processors aimed at PC gamers grew by 51% year over year. Although a big chunk of NVIDIA's business comes from selling high-performance GPUs into gaming desktop PCs, the company has been quite bullish on the market for gaming notebooks.
Indeed, at its investors meeting earlier this year, the company said that sales of gaming notebooks have grown substantially since 2013. Given that its PC graphics processors are known to be the most efficient in the industry, NVIDIA has been a major beneficiary of the growth in gaming notebooks.
Already sporting market segment share and product leadership in this market, reports have begun to surface that NVIDIA is planning to bring to market a new, very high-performance notebook-focused graphics processor.
Say hello to the GTX 990M
Notebook Check reports that the CEO of a Chinese notebook builder, Hasee, essentially "pre-announced" the GeForce GTX 990M. This chip is said to deliver performance in line with the current GTX 980M SLI (which is two GeForce GTX 980M GPUs running in tandem).
This chip, Notebook Check's "independent industry insiders" say, is codenamed "N16E-GXX" and "will be based on the Maxwell GM204 architecture." A specific release date hasn't yet leaked, but according to a post in the Notebook Review forums, the Hasee CEO said that the 990M would come in the fourth quarter of the year.
Average selling price uplift for NVIDIA?
Given NVIDIA's extremely high market segment share in the gaming notebook market, it's hard to imagine that the 990M will buy the graphics giant much, if any, incremental market segment share.
What I do think is pretty likely, though, is that the 990M should drive additional average selling price uplift for the company. If the 990M really does deliver the kind of performance that a 980M in a dual-GPU configuration does, then this chip could make delivering systems with this kind of performance easier for system vendors.
Additionally, not all games properly support multiple GPUs working in parallel (and there are other well-known issues related to multiple GPUs such as "micro stuttering"). A single chip solution that delivers the kind of best-case performance as two 980M graphics processors should be more appealing to people looking for very high-performance gaming notebooks.
Although it's hard to determine how big the impact will be, it would seem that the 990M could drive an uplift in both average selling prices and total revenue in the company's GeForce gaming business.
What perfect timing!
The launch of the 990M also seems to be very well timed. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is currently in the process of rolling out its next-generation Skylake family of processors, which means that the gaming PC vendors will most likely bring out new system designs based on those chips.
With a reported launch in the fourth quarter of this year, the 990M should nicely intercept the launches of these new, Skylake-based systems.
I also suspect that a reasonable portion of the gaming-notebook buying population has been holding off on buying new gaming notebooks until Skylake-based systems hit the market. NVIDIA could be set to benefit from a new wave of Skylake-based gaming notebooks using its graphics processors hitting the market shortly.
One more thing
Although the reports claim that this part will be based on NVIDIA's GM204 architecture, the codename for the chip that's been floating around is "N16-GXX." Normally this kind of codename wouldn't be worth reading much into, but I can't help but notice the "N16" prefix.
"N16" is how NVIDIA's main manufacturing partner, TSMC, refers to its 16-nanometer FinFET Plus manufacturing technology. Could NVIDIA be squeezing this kind of performance into a mobile power envelope by moving the 28-nanometer GM204 design to the more advanced 16-nanometer FinFET Plus manufacturing process?
It'll be interesting to hear more about this GPU once it launches sometime in the next quarter.