Analysis, Graphics

Nvidia Brings Desktop Level Performance to Notebooks With GTX 980M And GTX 970M

After launching its Maxwell-based desktop GPUs last month, Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) is bringing the GM204 silicon to notebooks with the  launch of the GTX 980M and the GTX 970M. During the launch of the desktop GTX 980 and GTX 970, Nvidia touted features like increased power efficiency, a new anti-aliasing technology called MFAA and a downsampling feature that renders content from 4K to 1080k, all of which would be ideal for the notebook form factor.

Architectural enhancements

Nvidia’s tweaks with Maxwell include redesigned Streaming Multiprocessors, which in conjunction with efficient clock-gating and better compiler-based scheduling deliver double the performance per Watt as a Kepler-based card. It is no wonder, then, that Nvidia is claiming desktop-level performance with the GTX 980M and 970M. Both cards are still fabricated using a 28 nm process, but the inherent architectural improvements allow Nvidia to deliver much better efficiency and performance at the same time.

The introduction of the GTX 980M and the GTX 970M diminishes the gap that exists between Nvidia’s desktop and mobile GPUs. Over the last three years, Nvidia’s mobile offerings delivered around 50 to 55% of what was achieved by their desktop counterparts, but with the GTX 900 series, Nvidia claims that users will get around 75% of the performance as a desktop 980M. Considering that the GTX 980 in itself is the fastest single card solution available today, the performance delivered by a GTX 980M should then be at par or better than most desktop GPUs in the market today.

GTX 980M GTX 970M
CUDA Cores 1536 1280
TMUs 96 80
ROPs 64 48
GPU Clock (MHz) 1038 924
Memory Clock (GDDR5) 1250 MHz 1250 MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit 192-bit
Memory Bandwidth (GB/s) 176 132
Memory Configuration 4GB or 8GB 3GB or 6GB
DisplayPort Up to 3840×2160 Up to 3840×2160
Max. TDP (estimated) 110 Watts 90 Watts


As far as the two cards are concerned, Nvidia cites a performance divide of around 30% between the GTX 980M and the GTX 970M. While the increased performance will allow gamers on notebooks to play at resolutions beyond 1080p, although there is a clear dearth of notebooks that offer 4K panels. For users on 1080p displays, Nvidia solution is Dynamic Super Resolution, a technology that samples a game at higher resolutions and then scales down to lower resolutions, resulting in much better visuals.

While Nvidia isn’t disclosing TDP, it is possible that the GTX 980M will be around 110W given that it delivers 75% of the performance of the desktop GTX 980. Nvidia has managed to significantly reduce the power consumption with Maxwell, and the same should be reflected in its mobile offerings.

As for how fast the current-generation cards are when seen against Nvidia’s earlier offerings, the vendor states that the GTX 980M is around 40% faster than the GTX 880M, and twice as fast as the GTX 680M. The GTX 970M is similarly 40% faster than the GTX 870M and twice as fast as the GTX 860M. We’ll have more detailed benchmarks during our review, but for now here’s a look at the figures shared by Nvidia:

Game Game Settings GTX 980M GTX 970M
Batman: Arkham Origins Max, FXAA High, PhysX High 60 45
Battlefield 4 Ultra 66 49
Bioshock Infinite Ultra DX11_DDOF 91 69
Crysis 3 Very High 4xMSAA 36 26
Far Cry 3 Ultra 4xMSAA 51 38
Hitman Absolution Ultra 74 65
Metro: Last Light Very High SSAA 36 27
StarCraft II Max 4xMSAA 68 62
Tomb Raider Ultimate 69



The GTX 980M and 970M also feature Battery Boost, which is also tweaked to allow for more untethered gaming. When removed from a power source, Battery Boost throttles the GPU so that users get just the amount of performance they need to run games at their desired frame rate target. The enhancements mean that gamers can now play titles like League of Legends, GRID 2, and Tomb Raider for twice as long when not connected to a power source.


All of this is geared at a growing market, as Nvidia mentions that over the last three years, the gaming notebook segment has witnessed a 5x increase. With Maxwell, gamers on notebook can look forward to playing visually intensive games like Battlefield 4 and Metro: Last Light at resolutions of 2560 x 1440 and on ultra settings.

Nvidia has a strong foothold in the mobile GPU segment, and with the launch of the GTX 980M and the GTX 970M, it is poised to consolidate its position in this category. With numerous design improvements, increased performance and greater power efficiency figures, Nvidia has a clear winner on its hands with its Maxwell mobile GPUs. As for availability, several mainstream vendors like MSI and Asus have already started selling gaming notebooks laden with GTX 900M series cards, as have boutique vendors like Digital Storm, Origin and others.