3DMark (2013) - Notebook GPU Performance Review
Running the New 3DMark on Notebooks
Concluding our review of 3DMark (2013)'s cross-platform benchmark, today we'll be taking a look at the Cloud Gate benchmark, which is designed for integrated graphics processors and mobile discrete GPUs. We'll also be seeing how some of our notebooks fare on Fire Strike and Fire Strike Extreme.
For a look at 3DMark (2013)'s performance on mobile devices, check out our 3DMark Android GPU Performance Review feature, and to see how desktop graphics cards fared on 3DMark check out our Fire Strike Desktop GPU Performance Review.
Cloud Gate is designed for integrated graphics processors, mobile discrete GPUs and entry-level dektop graphics cards. It utilizes a DirectX 11 engine limited to Direct3D feature level 10 (equivalent to DirectX 10) with a heavy emphasis on geometry, heavy post processing, particle effects, and volumetric illumination.
Here's what the full test looks like:
Notebook Performance Review
For this test we've chosen a variety of notebooks, ranging from a 13.3-inch Ultrabook running Intel's HD 4000 integrated GPU, to the monster MSI GT70 0NE, winner of our 2013 Tech Awards Editor's Choice for Best Gaming Notebook, which boasts NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680M GPU.
Here's a look at how our machines compare:
Surprisingly, the AMD Radeon HD 7970M equipped MSI GX60 fared very badly at Cloud Gate, scoring almost 25% behind the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650M.
As for the NVIDIA GPUs, the GTX 680M was, as expected, way ahead of the pack, outscoring the 2-way SLI GTX 650M configuration by about 20%. As we found out in our Lenovo Y500 review, the 2-way SLI GTX 650M configuration was quite powerful, outscoring the GTX 670M by about 13%.
On the other end of the chart, Intel's HD 4000 IGP was about half as good as the NVIDIA GTX 650M.
Fire Strike & Fire Strike Extreme
Fire Strike is designed for enthusiast-level graphics cards and dual-GPU setups and is Futuremark's most ambitious and technical benchmark to date.
It serves as a showcase for DirectX 11 features, utilizing a grueling two-part test with extreme levels of tessellation and volumetric illumination, as well as complex smoke simulation using compute shaders and dynamic particle illumination.
Fire Strike Extreme is a ramped up version of Fire Strike with more tessellation, more particle effects and more taxing DirectCompute calculations.
As such, it is not really designed with mobile GPUs in mind, however, we wanted to see how our notebooks fared and how they compared against their desktop equivalents.
The AMD Radeon HD 7970M fared much, much better at Fire Strike and FireStrike Extreme which makes us suspect that its poor score on Cloud Gate is more to do with bad optimization with AMD drivers - we will look into this and update with future driver versions.
In fact, the Radeon HD 7970M was the top performer on Fire Strike, outscoring even the GTX 680M by 3%. This result is actually consistent with the pattern we saw in the desktop graphics cards, where the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition managed to outperform NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 680. For modern day games, this benchmark is much more reflective of the notebook and it's graphics subsystem's capabilities.
Moving down the list, the 2-way SLI GTX 650M configuration was again very impressive, outperforming the GTX 670M by about 30% on Fire Strike and by 35% on Fire Strike Extreme.
As expected, our Intel HD 4000 IGP scored very poorly at Fire Strike.
If we compare our mobile GPU results (above graph) to our previous desktop GPU scores (below graph), we can see that mobile GPUs are still quite far behind their desktop counterparts. The highest scoring mobile GPU, AMD's Radeon HD 7970M is only about half as good as its desktop equivalent, and overall is more akin to the mid-range NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 - which still outperforms it by some 20%. From a technical standpoint, this is accurate because the GPU configuration of the desktop Radeon HD 7970 is quite different from the mobile version. However, from a marketing standpoint, it could be a cause for mismatched expectations, which has probably always been the case.
Discrete mobile GPUs are fairly powerful these days and almost all of our notebook units seemed to handle the Cloud Gate benchmark with ease (with the exception of the AMD Radeon HD 7970M - which is likely due to driver issues). Cloud Gate has a number of feature limitations due to its DirectX 10 emulated engine, which makes it somewhat unreliable as a benchmark for modern games as most new releases utilize DirectX 11 engines.
While the benchmark itself looks quite good, it is probably only useful as a representation of older games or easier to run titles such as MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. As such, Cloud Gate is probably best reserved for testing integrated graphics processors or entry-level discrete GPUs such as NVIDIA's GeForce GT 620M.
Fire Strike and Fire Strike Extreme on the other hand, are more representative of modern FPS titles utilizing a number of extremely taxing DirectX 11 features. Our high-end discrete mobile GPUs performed as expected here, scoring roughly equal to a same-generation, mid-range desktop graphics card. As such, we would recommend that gamers with powerful, desktop replacement notebooks skip Cloud Gate and use this benchmark instead.