Rivaling desktop graphics is tough for any notebook, but in a thin ’n’ light?
When nvidia pul LED the wraps offits GeForce GTX 980M mobile graphics chip, the Internets burst alive with much rejoicing.
At last, here was a laptop GPU that could give the best desktop graphics cards a run for their money. Well, kinda.
Make no mistake, the 980 looks mega on paper.
With 1,536 Maxwell-style shaders and a base clock north of 1GHz, the 980M is one hell of a GPU by any metric, including the desktop. It’s so good, we built our cover feature around the notion that it made laptops truly competitive with desktops.
What it’s not, however, is unique in history.
To reach what’s arguably the golden age of laptop gaming you have to wind the clock right back to 2005 and the GeForce Go 7800 GTX, a mobile GPU with the same number of pipes and shaders as the fastest desktop graphics of the day.
There’s no competition. The GTX 980M is the king of notebook graphics.
In that context, we’re very slightly disappointed the 980M doesn’t have all 2,048 of its shaders switched on. The 980M is based on the same GM204 chip as the desktop 980, after all.
That minor point aside, we can introduce the vehicle for this second taste of the 980M (we’ve also been hands on with Asus’s 980M-equipped ROG G751 for our laptop versus desktop cover feature this month), Gigabyte’s P35X v3.
We’ve seen the P35 before and all of what we previously liked remains. It’s impressively thin and light for such a powerful mobile gaming rig, especially given the P35 houses a quad-core Intel Core i7-4710HQ chip. It’s the quad-core CPU du jour for this kind of lappie and none the worse for it.
With a base clock of 2.5GHz and a maximum Turbo speed of 3.5GHz, it has more than enough grunt to deliver on the P35’s gaming core competence.
That it also delivers nearly four hours of HD video playback on battery power is pretty nice, too.
Screen play Where this system differs from P35s passim is the screen. It’s a glorious IPS panel with 2,880 by 1,620 pixels.
Immediately, we’re worried about overkill.
After all, this is a 15-inch mobile rig: surely 1080p is plenty. And don’t forget about Windows’ traditional resolution scaling f-wittery. But here’s the thing; the ultra-dense pixel grid doesn’t just get close to making antialiasing redundant, it also means non-native resolutions look less blurry.
That’s intriguing because, although the 980M makes an incredibly good fist of gaming at that ludicrous 2,880 by 1,620 pixel resolution, for truly smooth frames rates you’re going to either need to play without antialiasing or drop down to 1080p.
Our one major worry is heat management. This notebook is offensively loud ingame. We also doubt how it can realistically manage its high GPU temps. The Heaven benchmark was reporting 85 C out of the box and it’s not at all unusual for laptops to develop fairly chronic cooling problems over time. The P35’s thinness and lightness looks great, but may end up being a longterm liability.
CPU Intel Core i7-4710HQ
GPU GeForce GTX 980M
Storage 240GB SSD, 1TB HDD
Screen Size 15.6-inch
Native Resolution 2880×1620
(H x D x W)
15.1 x 0.8 x 10.6-inches