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This Laptop Has A Better 3D Card Than Your Desktop

Unless you’re well enough off to have an Nvidia GTX 980 or better in your desktop, anyway. But I imagine you’d have to be even more well off to afford a laptop which has a full-fat GTX 980 inside it – a huge step on from the traditional performance compromises of portable graphics cards.

This means – numbers! – 2048 CUDA cores, up to 8GB of 7GHz GDDR5 memory, and a core clock of 1126MHz, all inside a laptop. Nvidia claim there’s only around a 3% performance drop compared to the desktop 980, while testing by Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry finds that the new laptop 980 offers around a 20 frames per second boost over the hitherto top-spec laptop GPU, the 980M. In practice, this seems to mean reliably exceeding 60 FPS at max settings in the likes of Witcher 3, Battlefield 4, Crysis 3 and whatever else you want to throw at it.

Clearly, this thing is out of the realms of financial possibility for the vast majority of us, but laptops finally catching up to desktops is a pretty bloody big deal in terms of the future of PC gaming. Laptop companies have been able to fit the 980 into their existent 17 inch chassis too, rather than requiring an even more brutish form factor. Given that a desktop 980 is big and heavy enough to club a mid-sized farm animal to death, that’s quite a feat.

Better laptop gaming performance has fairly recently been available, but involved two 980Ms in SLI, which isn’t a lot of fun in terms of cost, power, heat, noise and reliability, so a single-card offering is mightily more appealing.

I’ve talked about ‘this laptop’, but it would be more accurate to talk about it in terms of a new graphics card part which other manufacturers can stick into their top-end machines if they so wish. MSI (pictured atop this post) and Asus are among those offering 980-adorned laptops, although no-one seems to be talking about price just yet. I’d be surprised if they were much less than £2k, however.

The reason I’m interested in this is less about the 980 itself, and more that manufactures were able to physically fit an ostensibly desktop chip into a portable form factor. It may open the door to more affordable (contextually speaking) laptops with decent mid-range cards. Historically, the highest-end laptops have only managed mid-range performance compared to desktops, but maybe in the near future we’ll end up with a proper range. I’d really like to see more non-massive gaming laptops, too.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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