NVIDIA’s Mobility GTX 980 GPU Pitted Against Desktop Cards – Impressive Performance Results, Maintains Performance Parity With Fiji and Hawaii Chips

Hassan Mujtaba

NVIDIA unleashed their high-performance GeForce GTX 980 graphics card last month, only this time it wasn't for the desktop market but aimed at the laptop market. This was the first instance that a desktop grade, fully unlocked chip would make its way inside high-performance laptop solutions and provide a leap jump to GPU performance and capabilities. Now, several GTX 980 based laptops have started shipping to consumers and a few websites which include Computerbase and Notebookcheck have got the opportunity to test the new bad boy out in intensive gaming applications not only against mobility cards but also desktop grade, discrete cards.

NVIDIA's Mobile GTX 980 Goes Up Against Mobility SLI Solutions and High-End Desktop Cards

Achieves Parity With Top of The Line AMD and NVIDIA Cards

Well we have talked a lot about the GTX 980 since its launch and we have also explained why both, the desktop and mobility version are called GTX 980 and there's no additional moniker to differentiate both GPUs. The GTX 980 for laptops is specifically the same graphics card as the desktop grade GTX 980. They share same specs and have the same performance numbers. The only difference is that the mobile version is designed to be featured inside laptops through a custom design MXM board while the GTX 980 for desktop is featured on a larger PCB and has several custom designs.

The GeForce GTX 980 is actually a full GM204 GPU with the same specifications as a GeForce GTX 980 graphics card that is a high-performance desktop class graphics card. The GeForce GTX 980 comes with 2048 CUDA cores, 128 texture mapping units and 64 raster operation units. The GeForce GTX 980M featured 1536 CUDA cores, 96 texture mapping units and 64 raster operation units. The 980M was clocked at 1038 MHz while the 990M will have a higher clock speed of 1126 MHz base and 1218 MHz boost clock. The desktop class GeForce GTX 980 is also clocked at the same speeds of 1126 MHz base and 1218 MHz boost. So one thing is confirmed, the GeForce GTX 980 is as fast as the desktop variant and around 35% faster than the GeForce GTX 980M. We are also looking at 8 GB of GDDR5 memory that operates along a 256-bit bus and clocked at 1753 MHz (7.00 GHz effective) clock speed to pump out 224.0 GB/s bandwidth. The GeForce GTX 980M also had a slower 5.0 GHz memory clock that pumped out 160 GB/s bandwidth and came with a smaller 4 GB GDDR5 VRAM.


The GeForce GTX 980 has a TDP of 165W, the GTX 980M has a TDP of 125W while the GeForce GTX 980 (Laptop SKU) will have a TDP around 125W – 150W (configurable by OEM) since NVIDIA is using quality GM204 chips with the very best silicon and configuring the voltage accordingly to meet the performance demands. In fact, the GTX 980 uses a specialized MXM PCB board that comes with 4 to 8 Phase PWM supplies and deliver 50% higher current than the GTX 980M boards. With higher current input and an enthusiast focused design, NVIDIA will be offering full overclocking support on laptops with the desktop-class GTX 980. This GPU is said to gain an additional 10-15% performance uplift under overclocked conditions, reaching clock speeds past 1400 MHz on core and 7.5 GHz on memory.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 'Laptop' Versus Desktop GPUs:

Now first up, we have the comparison of the GeForce GTX 980 up against several high-end Desktop cards. This testing was done exclusively by Computerbase and do give them a visit for a more detailed insight on the GTX 980 'Laptop' performance review. The laptop tested was a XMG U726 Ultimate Gaming laptop with a pricing of 3665 Euros which is insane but people exist in the market who want a portable solution with them on the go so money won't be a problem for people who make sure that they have the  best performance near them all the time. The reference variant costs 2777 Euros switching to a slower Core i5-6600 chip and 8 GB of DDR4 ram while the costly variant comes with 16 Gigs of DDR4 memory and a Core i7-6600K CPU. Both versions have a 17 Inch IPS panel with G-Sync and display 1080p resolution. As was the case with Radeon R9 Nano which achieves best performance in a market (mITX) which has no counterpart as strong as itself, the GTX 980 does the same in the laptop market offering an insane 30-50% lift over the GTX 980M and GTX 970M. We will talk about mobility comparison in a bit.


Image Credits/Source: Computerbase

During gaming in various titles, the site reports an average 1076 MHz clock speed with the GPU never going below 1000 MHz and a maximum clock speed of 1228 MHz. When compared in average performance rating across 20 different gaming titles, the GeForce GTX 980 turns out to achieve performance parity with high-end cards such as the Radeon R9 390X, Radeon R9 Nano and faster than the factory overclocked GeForce GTX 970 solutions. With a temperature of 87C with small overclock speeds and achieved somewhat better clock rates in the testing. The total system power consumption stood at 202W at average and the maximum it went to was 254W. That is relatively lower than the desktop grade GTX 980, GTX 970, R9 380 and  even the R9 Nano. Also, the site managed to record some performance numbers when the laptop was plugged in to a power source and while on a battery source. It can be seen that the performance numbers drastically drop when you switch to a battery source since the laptop has battery conservation methods enabled. Overall, there was a performance difference of 10-20 FPS but its better to keep a laptop of this kind always plugged in while gaming. The feature known as NVIDIA's battery boost allows for 45-60 minutes of gaming on the laptop on a battery, when disabled the battery is limited to just 35 minutes.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Laptop Performance/Power Draw:


Image Credits/Source: Computerbase

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 'Laptop' Versus Mobility GPUs:

Next up, we have the performance results of the GTX 980 versus its mobility counterparts and to be honest, the full GM204 chip just shatters away all the other mobility chips away. AMD's fastest chip is currently the M395X and it is nowhere near the GTX 980M which itself is up to 30% slower than the GTX 980 'Laptop' version. So this would be a pointless comparison but Notebookcheck made it interesting by adding SLI numbers. As can be seen, some SLI solutions such as the GTX 970M SLI and GTX 980M SLI are up to 2% and 16% faster than a single GTX 980 graphics chip. The GTX 970M SLI solution which is found on quite a few laptops is also cheaper than the full GM204 based products but of course, SLI has some issues and most are related to games for which no drivers are available yet to support SLI profiles so you end up wasting lots of power from your SLI configuration while running the game on just one chip. There are other factors involved which include bugs, errors and poor SLI scaling so its better to opt for a single beefy solution. The GTX 970M SLI while being cheaper has all the SLI issues and is just 2% faster than the GTX 980 which can be overclocked for additional performance gains. The performance was taken from an average of several gaming titles at FHD (1080p) and UHD (4K). The test system included the Clevo P870DM laptop with a Core i7-6700 processor and 32 GB of DDR4 memory clocked at 2133 MHz.


Image Credits/Source: NotebookCheck

Overall, the GeForce GTX 980 for laptops is what the Radeon R9 Nano is for the desktop market. Both cards or chips as one would put are aimed at specific niches. The GTX 980 has no competitor in its performance league in the laptop market while the Radeon R9 Nano had no competitor in the mini-itx form factor market unlike it self. Both cards come expensive but the performance they offer is totally worth the price.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 'Laptop' PCB:


Image Credits/Source: NotebookCheck

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 “Gaming Laptop” Graphics Card Specifications:

ModelGeForce GTX 980 Laptop VersionGeForce GTX 980MXGeForce GTX 980MGeForce GTX 970MXGeForce GTX 970MGeForce GTX 965MGeForce GTX 960M
CUDA cores204816641536140812801024640
Texture Units1281049688806440
Raster Devices64646456483216
Clock Speed1218 MHz1048 MHz1038 MHz941 MHz924 MHz950 MHz1097 MHz
Memory Bus256-bit256-bit256-bit192-bit192-bit128-bit128-bit
Amount of memory8 GB GDDR58/4 GB GDDR58/4 GB GDDR53/6 GB GDDR53/6 GB GDDR54 GB GDDR54 GB GDDR5
Memory Frequency7008 MHz5000 MHz5000 MHz5000 MHz5000 MHz5000 MHz5000 MHz
Memory Bandwidth224 GB/s160 GB / s160 GB / s120 GB / s120 GB / s80 GB/s80 GB/s

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