Nvidia brings Maxwell architecture to laptops with GeForce GTX 970M, 980M graphics cards

The company claims that the new flagship 980M provides up to 80 percent of the performance of its desktop equivalent.


Nvidia is already the leader in discrete mobile graphics (with Intel encroaching with its improved integrated graphics), but it looks to extend its lead with the new GeForce GTX 970M and 980M cards, the first notebook boards to use the company's Maxwell architecture .

The new cards come just months after Nvidia launched its previous flagship mobile GPU, the GeForce GTX 880M . They also come less than a month after the debut of their desktop equivalents, which impressed reviewers with their performance, power efficiency, and (relatively) cool and quiet operation.

The company is making a point of emphasizing that with its tenth-generation GPU architecture, the gap between desktop and laptop performance is closer than ever. Back in 2010, its Fermi architecture offered just 40 percent of the desktop performance in its mobile versions, but now Nvidia claims that with Maxwell, it's sliced that gap so that the 970M and 980M now deliver 80 percent of the performance of the desktop 970 and 980. That means they can pump resolutions "well beyond" 1080p, which is becoming increasingly important as games offer settings like 2,500×1,400. With Dynamic Super Resolution technology, Maxwell can scale the native resolution of 4K games down to fit on laptop screens, which the company says looks better than just delivering a lower-resolution setting.

A quick look at the specs shows why the performance gap hasn't been completely closed. While the desktop 980 includes 2,048 CUDA cores with a base core clock speed of 1126MHz, its laptop equivalent comes with 1,536 cores running at 1038MHz. Likewise, the desktop 970 has 1,664 cores compared to the 1,280 cores of its mobile equivalent. Memory bandwidth is also reduced on the notebook version, as the desktop 980 provides 224GB/s, while the 980M offers 160GB/s.

Of course, the mobile GPUs have to fit into a laptop chassis, and so have to deal with obstacles like battery life that their bigger, badder desktop brethren don't have to. To that end, Nvidia has updated its BatteryBoost feature, which lets you set a maximum frame rate (up to 60 frames per second) and components are dynamically optimized to meet that rate while maximizing power efficiency.

As you might expect, gaming laptop makers have immediately updated their notebooks with the new cards, including AVADirect, CyberpowerPC, Digital Storm, and Origin PC. MSI has taken the opportunity to add a new red version of the GS70 Stealth Pro, while Maingear is now offering its Nomad 17 laptop not only with the 980M, but also a range of premium automotive paint options.