Nvidia launches GTX 980M, almost closing the laptop-desktop performance gap

Today, Nvidia is unveiling the GTX 980M and GTX 970M — the first high-end mobile parts based on the new GM204 Maxwell GPU core. While Maxwell’s awesome power efficiency is certainly a nice quality for desktop PCs, higher efficiency and lower TDPs truly come into their own when mobile form factors with smaller thermal envelopes are considered. With the Maxwell-based mobile GPUs, Nvidia is claiming that the 980M now has 75% the performance of its desktop counterpart — meaning there are now laptops that are truly capable of high-fps 1080p gaming. Nvidia even says the GTX 980M and 970M are capable of playing “most games” at 2560×1440 with Ultra settings — but we’d like to actually see that in practice. OEM laptops with the 980M and 970M GPUs are available today, including the Asus G751 and MSI GT72.

MIT upgrades human hand with two extra robot fingers. But why stop there?

First, the speeds and feeds. The GTX 980M and 970M appear to both be based on the GM204 Maxwell chip. While the full-fat GM204 has 2048 CUDA cores, the GTX 980M has 1536 and the 970M has 1280. Presumably while the desktop part has a full complement of 16 Maxwell Streaming Multiprocessors, the mobile parts only have 12 and 10 respectively. Other aspects of the GM204 appear to be fully present in the mobile parts, however: Dynamic Super Resolution, MFAA, and Voxel Global Illumination are all there.

Because the GTX 980M and 970M are mobile parts, there’s also an updated version of BatteryBoost — and if your laptop has an integrated Intel GPU as well, seamless switching with Optimus is still available.

MIT upgrades human hand with two extra robot fingers. But why stop there?

Much like the desktop Maxwell-based chips, Nvidia is claiming that the 980M and 970M have 40% better performance-per-core and 100% better performance-per-watt over Kepler-based parts. Because of these increased efficiencies, the mobile 980M manages 75% the performance of the desktop GTX 980; the 680M, by comparison, only managed 60% the performance of the desktop GTX 680. While the 680M could only manage 1344 CUDA cores, Maxwell’s increased efficiencies allow Nvidia to squeeze 1536 CUDA cores into the 980M.

MIT upgrades human hand with two extra robot fingers. But why stop there?

Anyway, the end result — at least according to Nvidia, but we don’t really have a reason to doubt these figures — is a mobile GPU that can play all current-gen games at 1080p on Ultra settings, and post decent frame rates at 2560×1440 as well. BatteryBoost, plus Maxwell’s improved power efficiency, means decent performance is possible when on battery power, too. Thanks to Maxwell’s new technologies like DSR and VXGI, games will also look better on laptops powered by the 980M or 970M, too — especially after DirectX 12 arrives.

Nvidia says that eight OEM laptops are available immediately, with most of them offering a choice of the GTX 980M or 970M graphics card. Most notable are probably the 17-inch Asus Rog G751 and MSI GT72 — but if money is no object, and you want mobile gaming rig that really does have comparable graphics performance as your desktop PC, the 17-inch Gigabyte Aorus X7 now has the option of 2x GTX 970M in SLI mode.

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