NVIDIA Laptop Graphics Cards Buying Guide

The way in which manufacturers use and mix the nomenclature of its graphics cards for laptop and desktop PCs just generates a lot of confusion that can be very harmful to users, since the performance of both types is not the same, even if they share the same name or number.


This means that when you buy a laptop with a specific graphics card, you may believe that it will provide an identical or very similar performance as that of its desktop variant, but nothing further from reality.

Yes, it is a common error that occurs mainly when we carried away by the name of the graphics card without going revising its detailed specifications. This, along with the fact that within a single model there may be small variations that share the same name, makes the decision of choosing a laptop with a dedicated GPU to be a real headache.

With this in mind, we decided to post a couple of special articles as a guide, in which we will help you differentiate and recognize the specifications and performance of the leading dedicated graphics cards for laptops that NVIDIA and AMD are currently offering, plus accompanying them with a reference of its approximate equivalent for desktop.

We hope that through these articles, which will be divided into two parts, we can help you choose your new laptop without problems since it would meet your expectations in spare.

Let’s get into this, and as always, I encourage you to leave your opinion in the comments. We remind you that soon we will publish the second special post in which we will talk about AMD models in detail.


Low and Medium Range Graphics Cards

Within the low-end graphics cards there are those that allow us to play usually at low resolutions and low or medium quality, depending on the specific game.

In the latest models of this section, namely the GT 730M and GT 740M, you can play pretty well at 720p and at average quality in most current games, and therefore they deserve to be classified as low-medium range. (You can find these GPU in the laptops at $600 and $800 price tags)

It is important to note that these graphics cards can deliver good performance on older or less demanding games, but of course they usually can’t perform in the same way with other more advanced and demanding games.

  • GT 710M: Despite its name, it is a Fermi-based solution, rather than Kepler, which makes this belong to the previous generation. It has 96 shaders, 16 TMUs, 4 ROPs, 64-bit bus and 2 GB of DDR3. Its working frequencies are around 800 MHz in GPU and 1600 MHz in the shaders, while the memory works at 1.8 GHz. Its performance is somewhat lower than a GT 630 (Fermi version).
  • GT 720M: It’s the same as the GT 710M, only with a slight increase in working frequencies that reach 938 MHz in GPU and 1876 MHz for the shaders, while the memory goes up to 2 GHz. Its performance is similar to a GT 630 desktop (Fermi version).
  • GT 730M: this is a Kepler based solution and thus it’s framed in the current generation. There are two variants, one based on the GK 107, with memory bus of 128 bits, and one that uses the GK 208 and has a 128 bit bus. The second is the best option as it offers higher bandwidth. Both have 384 shaders at 725 MHz and up to 4 GB of DDR3 at 1800 MHz-2000 MHz, depending on the version. The 64-bit version performs a little less than a GT 630 (Kepler version), while the 128-bit approaches a GT 640 for desktop.
  • GT 740M: A variant of the GT 730M with an increase in clock frequencies. There are also two versions that are divided in the same way as we discussed above, so it is recommended the one that integrates 128-bit bus, given that it has also a greater amount of ROPs and its performance is significantly better. The 64 bits version performs almost at the level GT 640 for desktop, while the 128 bits model performs much more than that.
Medium range

In this section you will find solutions that in most cases can enable you to play games at 900p with medium, high and even ultra quality, depending on the game.

Again, it is important to note that older or less demanding games can be played at 1080p and medium or high quality in these graphics cards, but not the most current and demanding games. (You can find these GPU in the laptops at $1000 price tags)

In more advanced models, such as the GTX 860M, you can reach 1080p smoothly in most games.

  • GT 750M: A twist to the GT 740M, as they share almost all specifications. The biggest difference is that there are versions with DDR3 or GDDR5. Variants with DDR3 are not a big difference from the GT 740M, so they’re not worth it, while the ones using GDDR5 memory represent a significant change in performance level. The version with GDDR5 performs almost like a GTX 650 desktop.
  • GTX 760M: It is like a GTX 650 Ti for desktops, but it has a working frequency for lower GPUs, and therefore it performs a little less. It has 768 shaders, 128 bit bus and up to 2GB of GDDR5.
  • GTX 850M: A new generation solution based on Maxwell, and it is offered in two versions, one with DDR3 and one with GDDR5. Among its specifications it has 640 shaders and 128 bit bus, and the performance level can be placed almost at the level of a GTX 750 Ti for desktop. The model with GDDR5 is more powerful and therefore is the best option.
  • GTX 860M: There are two very different variants. The first is a GTX 850M with higher working frequencies and GDDR5, the most widespread and used version, while the second is based on Kepler, and has 1152 shaders over the same 128 bit bus and GDDR5 memory. Generally the version that Maxwell uses performs an average of 10% more and it consumes less, so it is the best choice. It is equivalent to a GTX 750 Ti for desktop.
  • GTX 770M: It has 960 shaders and a 192 bit bus, with up to 3 GB of GDDR5, which makes it a solution that is almost equivalent to a GTX 660 for desktop.
High end

On this paragraph will be displayed the graphic cards capable of running al current generation games on high or ultra quality on 1080p.

I remind you that in the case of more advance gaming models, like the GTX 980M, it is possible to reach resolutions of 2K and 4K with medium or high quality levels. (You can find these GPU in the laptops at current best gaming laptop)

  • GTX 870M: Is a model that has no exact equivalence, as it counts with 1344 shaders like the GTX 670, but has a bus of 192 bits. I can have up to 6GB of GDDR5 and its performance would be similar to a desktop GTX 760.
  • GTX 775M: Come from being a desktop GTX 670 with less working frequencies, which is why it has a lower performance. It has 1344 shaders and a memory bus of 256 bits with up to 4GB of GDDR5. It is very difficult to find laptops that use it.
  • GTX 780M: Its name would make us think that it is the same as a desktop GTX 780, but that is far away form reality, as it really comes to be as a GTX 680 but with lower clock frequencies. It counts with 1.536 shaders and a bus of 256 bit and up to 4GB of GDDR5.
  • GTX 880M: It is an upgraded GTX 780M, with higher frequencies of work. It GDDR5 memory, can egt up to 8GB, something that can result appealing, but does not grants a huge difference.
  • GTX 970M: Based on Maxwell, it is a solution of the new generation that has 1280 shaders and a bus of 192 bits with 6GB of GDDR5. It offers a really good performance that places it a little bit under a desktop GTX 770.
  • GTX 980M: Also based on Maxwell, it does not has a concrete desktop equivalent, as it integrates 1536 shaders, bus of 256 bits and 4GB/8GB of GDDR5. Its performance is inferior to a GTX 970, but almost identical to that of a desktop GTX 780. (Read more: GTX980m vs 880M)

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