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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M and GTX 970M: Mobile GPUs that unleash desktop class performance

By Vijay Anand - 7 Oct 2014

NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 970M put to the test!

NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 970M put to the test!

Now that we’ve discussed about the new mobile GPUs in detail, we present a performance preview with a new notebook from local boutique vendor Aftershock. We managed to secure a prototype of brand new series called the S15 and here are the machine’s specs:-

  • Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor
  • 8GB DDR3L-1600MHz
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M, 3GB GDDR5
  • 120GB Intel 530 SSD
  • 15.6-inch, Full HD display
  • Windows 8.1 OS

Since the unit is a prototype, its specs will differ slightly from the final retail model. For more information, on that, tune into this article.

As per the topic of this article, we’ll specifically be comparing the notebook’s gaming performance against previously tested gaming machines. Most of those were from our Great Gaming Notebook Shootout article from end of 2013 and as such they sport the GeForce 700M series of GPUs. Fortunately, we do have one notebook utilizing the GeForce GTX 870M for direct comparisons - the MSI GS60 2PE Ghost Pro.

We’ll briefly list the mobile GPU specs for your consideration to better decipher the results we’ll be sharing.

GeForce GTX 970M compared with other NVIDIA Mobile GPUs
  GeForce GTX 970M GeForce GTX 870M GeForce GTX 780M GeForce GTX 770M
Core code GM204 GK104 GK104 GK106
CUDA cores 1280 1344 1536 960
GPU base clock 924MHz 941MHz 823MHz 811MHz
Memory bus width 192-bit 192-bit 256-bit 192-bit
Memory clock 2500MHz 5000MHz 5000MHz 4000MHz
Memory bandwidth 60GB/s 120GB/s 160GB/s 96GB/s
Typical memory size 3GB 3GB 4GB 3GB

 

Performance Results

As it stands, the performance figures look amazing from the GeForce GTX 970M!

In 3DMark, the Aftershock S15 managed more than 60% performance leap against the MSI GT70 Dragon Edition 2 with its GeForce GTX 780M. It’s so fast that it’s actually just 15% short of the performance rendered by a pair of GTX 780M GPUs in SLI from the Dell Alienware 18 machine. Against a ‘similar class’ GPU like a GeForce GTX 770M, such as the ASUS G750JX and the Toshiba Qosmio X70, the Aftershock S15 and its GTX 970M generated performance figures that are more than twice the previous generation products. More importantly, it's 50% faster than the MSI notebook equipped with the previous generation GeForce GTX 870M.

The outcome is fairly similar even in Tomb Raider where the GTX 970M garnered more than twice performance score of a GTX 770M class product. Up against a GTX 780M, the differential dropped to 40%, but that’s still a huge lead for the GTX 970M. Compared to a GTX 870M equipped notebook, the GTX 970M easily maintained a 35% lead.

We have to admit that when we first tested the MSI GS60 2PE Ghost Pro, we were already contented with the capabilities of the GeForce GTX 870M. However, the gains made by the incoming GTX 970M are far greater than we expected. In fact, the Aftershock S15 is even marginally faster than the highly acclaimed Gigabyte Aorus X7 v2 running dual GeForce GTX 860M GPUs in SLI!

Updated on 8th October, 12am:-

How do you think battery life and power consumption fared?

Of course most notebooks compared were of the 17-inch class, but still you can easily make out that the Aftershock S15 is doing really well. Especially when compared to another 15.6-inch notebook that is the MSI GS60 2PE Ghost Pro. In terms of battery capacity, Aftershock has a 60Wh battery while the MSI notebook has a 52Wh battery. Though that’s just 15% differential in capacity, the Aftershock S15 managed over 45% better in battery life than the similar sized MSI notebook. Dice it whichever way you want, but a substantial portion of the good performance is thanks to the efficient new GPU.


Proving that it’s indeed desktop class performance

Now let’s take a good hard look at this based off 3DMark 2013 Fire Strike results. The GeForce GTX 970M based Aftershock S15 garnered a score of 6457 points. The desktop based GeForce GTX 980 clinched a score of 11142 points. Between them, there’s a 60% difference in just CUDA core count (1280 vs. 2048). Do the math and you can see that the performance is scaling closely with the number of CUDA cores the GPU endowed with and the rest of the difference can be attributed to the lower GPU boost clocks and reduced memory bandwidth.

We didn’t manage to test a desktop GTX 970 yet, but a quick math check pins its 3D Mark score at roughly 9000 points. That brings it much closer to the GTX 970M’s turf. Peering into this old desktop review of the GTX 780, we can see that the GTX 970M is faster than a desktop GTX 680 and is on par or better than the Radeon HD 7970.

If this doesn’t convince you that the GeForce GTX 970M is capable of desktop class performance, wait till you try a GTX 980M – which we’re hoping to do so in the later weeks.


Conclusion: NVIDIA kept its promise for the GTX 900 series - from desktop to laptop

After the thorough dissection of its desktop GeForce GTX 980 and now the mobile GPU variants with the GTX 970M on the Afterschock S15 notebook, it’s more than clear that NVIDIA’s second generation Maxwell GPU architecture is a force to be reckoned with as it delivers an all-time high in performance per watt efficiency like never before. This is truly one of those rare moments where looking at the specification chart really tells you nothing because the GeForce GTX 900 class of GPUs have delivered more than what you would conventionally expect of them.

Performance, power, price, efficiency - you name it and NVIDIA has got it checked with the GM204 GPU and its GeForce GTX 900 and GTX 900M series. Well done NVIDIA.

Consumers worldwide can really look forward to some hardcore gaming on more manageable sized notebooks with enough battery life to indulge in a decent gaming session - even if it’s not tethered to a power outlet. And when they are wall powered, they can dial up the graphical settings all the way, just like desktop based gaming systems.

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