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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q vs GTX 980 (Laptop) vs GTX 980M – gaming performance and benchmarks

A few days back we compared the GTX 1080 Max-Q to its regular notebook sibling and we were pleasantly surprised by its capabilities. Of course, it scored a bit lower than the higher clocked GTX 1080 but it was still very close while consuming far less power.

Today we want to see how does the GTX 1080 stack up to the older generation Maxwell-based flagships – the GTX 980 and GTX 980M. One of the best features of the GTX 1080 Max-Q is that it maintains high performance while severely lowering the power consumption of the regular version. However, the GTX 980 and GTX 980M both have similar TDP to the GTX 1080 Max-Q so it is interesting to see how three similarly-powered GPUs perform.

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Overview

While the GTX 980 and GTX 980M are very similar in terms of specs, the GTX 1080 Max-Q is quite different as it is from NVIDIA’s latest generation of GPUs based on the Pascal architecture. The other two are based on the older Maxwell architecture. The GTX 980 and GTX 980M are based on the GM204 chip while the GTX 1080 Max-Q on the GP104 and the 16 nm FinFETT process.

The Maxwell-based GTX 980 and 980M use GDDR5 memory while the GTX 1080 Max-Q utilizes the faster GDDR5X. The memory of the GTX 980 is clocked at 3500 MHz, followed by GTX 980M with 5000 MHz and GTX 1080 Max-Q’s memory has double that speed at 10000 MHz. The GTX 980M and GTX 1080 Max-Q both have 8GB of VRAM but the GTX 980 has only 4GB.

All three cards have fairly same core speeds. The GTX 980 is clocked at 1126 MHz with boosts of up to 1228 MHz, the GTX 980M is slightly lower with 1038 MHz Base and 1127 Boost, and the GTX 1080 Max-Q has a base frequency of 1101 – 1290 MHz and the highest Boost frequency of 1278 to 1468 MHz.

All three cards have the same bus width of 256-bit but the amount of CUDA cores is as follows: 1536 for the GTX 980M, 2048 for the GTX 980, and 2560 for the GTX 1080 Max-Q. The TDP of the GTX 980 is 165W, of the GTX 980M – 100W, and of the GTX 1080 Max-Q – 90-110W.

Synthetic benchmarks

In synthetic benchmarks, the higher core and memory clock of the GTX 1080 Max-Q blows the competition away, surpassing the two other cards by 30-40%. Despite the slower clock and memory speed, the GTX 980 is about 10% above the GTX 980M probably due to the 33% more CUDA cores. Nonetheless, gaming performance is more important than synthetic benchmarks and we will check that in a minute.

Gaming performance

The table below shows just how better is the new Pascal architecture compared to the older Maxwell. The GTX 1080 Max-Q performed way better than the GTX 980 and blew the GTX 980M away by almost doubling its frame rates. While all three cards are perfectly capable of running modern games with more than 60 fps on medium to high settings, the GTX 1080 Max-Q is the only GPU that can deliver almost solid 60 frames per second even on max graphics settings that include anti-aliasing.

GTA-V-benchmarks

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5)Full HD, Medium (Check settings)Full HD, Max (Check settings)
GTX 1080 Max-Q130 fps58 fps
GTX 980 (Laptop)107 (-17.7%) fps38 (-34.5%) fps
GTX 980M71 (-45.4%) fps33 (-44.1%) fps

Verdict

Overall, the GTX 1080 Max-Q is, by all means, the best GPU of the three. However, this doesn’t mean that the other two are worthless. They still perform quite well and will deliver enough horsepower to run every game as long as you keep the graphics settings a bit lowered. If you find a great deal on a GTX 980/980M-equipped notebook you shouldn’t hesitate too much.

With that said, we can’t leave out the fact that the GTX 1080 Max-Q carries both the perks of the Max-Q technology (40dB fan noise, low TDP, ability to be mounted inside thin chassis) and the Pascal architecture (high performance, better power management, etc.) which makes it far more feature-packed and valuable than the GTX 980 and GTX 980M.

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You can check the price and availability of the currently available Acer Predator 17X over here: http://amzn.to/1sJ1wsW

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