Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M vs 970M vs 965M vs 960M vs 860M Specs and Benchmark Comparison

Powered by the next-gen Nividia Maxwell archictecture, compared to their predecessors, GeForce’s GTX 980M and GTX 970M take graphic cards to a new level with their unmatched power efficiency, high performance and advanced features. But the GTX 960M, based on the same architecture with its predecessors, fails to impress in the technical specs department.

There are two versions of the GTX 860M. One is based on the Maxwell architecture while the other packs a Kepler version. The latter featured a MXM interface along with 80% more shader units. But its low performance made it less usable. Comparing the GTX 960M and the Maxwell version of the GTX 860M, you will spot numerous similarities in specs. Both GPU models use a GM107 chip; you can place 640 Unified Shaders. They also have 2048 – 4069 MB GDDR5 video memory available for use connected via a 128-bit memory interface.

The difference in the core clock speeds for the 860M and 960M is also not large. Nividia has raised it from the 1,029-1,097MHz to 1,097-1,202 MHz for the GTX 960M. The increase in speed boosts performance by 7-10%. The GPU–Z tool provides a further power up and enhances functionality by increasing the texture fill rate, the pixel fill rate and the number of TMUs. However, this might also become an issue, destabilizing the application. It would be wrong to say that the GTX 960M does not add anything new. It brings in small updates, but they are not very significant. The graphic cards don’t differ in their practice.

The 960M pales in comparison to top models from GeForce’s lineup of graphics cards with respect to hardware specifications. The 980M boasts of 4-8 GB GDDR5 video memory at a 256 bit interface while the 970M makes available 3-6GB video memory at 192 bit interface. The GTX 970M uses 1,280 shaders and the number of shaders on the 980M is more than twice (1,536 CUDA cores) that of the 960M making it the best for gamers.

Specs comparison:

GeForce GTX 980M GeForce GTX 970M GeForce GTX 965M GeForce GTX 960M GeForce GTX 860M (Maxwell) GeForce GTX 860M(Kepler)
Architecture Maxwell Maxwell Maxwell Maxwell Maxwell Kepler
Chip GM204 GM204 GM204 GM107 GM107 GK104
Technology 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm
Pipelines 1536 1280 1024 640 640 1152
Core Speed 1038 – 1127 (Boost) MHz 924 – 1038 (Boost) MHz 924 – 950 (Boost) MHz 1097 – 1202(Boost) MHz 1029 – 1097 (Boost) MHz 797 – 915(Boost) MHz
Memory Speed 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 5000 MHz
Maximum VRAM 8 GB 6 GB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB
Memory type GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory interface 256-bit 192-bit 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit

There are major differences in the gaming experience that each affords. For all tested titles in Ultra Preset settings (1920 x 1080, maximum detail, anti-aliasing), the GTX 960M lags by 60% for the GTX 970M and 100% for the GTX 980M. The GTX 965M does better as it is 8% (Maxwell version) and 17% (Kepler) faster than the GTX 860M. It has an advantage of 15%.

The limited 2GB video memory affects gaming experience for graphically dense and action-packed games such as Assassin’s Creed Unity, Watch Dogs and Shadow of Mordor to name a few. Kepler version GTX 860M, with 4 GB video memory available for use, is better suited for these gaming titles. For the highest settings, games like Wolfenstein: The New Order require at least 3 GB VRAM.

Gaming Benchmark comparison: (Ultra, 1920×1080)

GeForce GTX 980M
(4GB VRAM)
GeForce GTX 970M
(3GB VRAM)
GeForce GTX 965M (2GB VRAM) GeForce GTX 960M (2GB VRAM) GeForce GTX 860M
(2GB VRAM, Maxwell)
GeForce GTX 860M (4GB VRAM, Kepler)
Far Cry 4 59.4 fps 48.1 fps 32.4 fps 30.8 fps No data 23
Assassin’s Creed Unity 33.3 fps 22.9 fps 13.7 fps 11.9 fps No data 13.1 fps
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare 57.9 fps 46.4 fps 35.8 fps 30.4 fps No data 24.4 fps
Watch Dogs 45.4 fps 34.4 fps 17.7 fps 15.4 fps No data 18.9 fps
Thief 62.1 fps 47.9 fps 34.2 fps 28 fps 24.9  fps 22.6 fps
Battlefield 4 72.9 fps 54.8 fps 39.1 fps 33 fps 28.9 fps 26.2 fps
Metro: Last Light 66.8 fps 53.3 fps 38.7 fps 31.9 fps 28.6 fps 23.7 fps
Hitman: Absolution 54.6 fps 41.2 fps 28.1 fps 26.4 fps 24 fps 19.6 fps
Crysis 3 43.3 fps 33.4 fps 23.9 fps 20.6 fps 19 fps 18.4 fps

*The data come from NotebookCheck

Verdict

If price is a primary consideration, you can settle for the GeForce 960M; It is a good-enough solution if you are willing to tweak the settings and don’t mind some jagged graphics. The Maxwell chip however is unlikely to meet the demands on performance in the future. The restrictions on video memory (2GB) and memory interface will put a brake on performance. The GTX 965M is already showing signs of the same.

So, to repeat, if you like to upgrade your notebook every second year and don’t mind some rough sound and images, it is best to invest in the GTX 960M.  (Read More: Gaming Laptop under 1000)

All said and done, we still have a bone to pick with Nividia for its price tags. The GTX 980M, GTX 965M and GTX 960M are quite expensive in their respective range. If you are an avid gamer, we would suggest GTX 970M. It gives the best value, both for price and performance. You’ll enjoy a tremendous boost in performance; 45% faster than the GTX 965M for only 100 dollars more.

Here we recommend some gaming Laptops:

MSI GE72 APACHE PRO-242 Price and Reviews on Amazon Intel Core i7-5700HQ 2.7GHz
16GB DDR3 Ram
1TB 7200RPM Hard drive
GeForce GTX970M with 3GB GDDR5
17.3-Inch (1920 x 1080)
Windows 10
ASUS ROG G751JT-DB73 Price and Reviews on Amazon Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6GHz
16GB DDR3 Ram
1 TB 7200 RPM Hard Drive+256 GB SSD
GeForce GTX970M with 3GB GDDR5
17.3-Inch (1920 x 1080) IPS
Free upgrade to windows 10
MSI GE62 APACHE PRO-219 Price and Reviews on Amazon Intel Core i7-5700HQ 2.7GHz
16GB DDR3 Ram
1TB 7200RPM Hard drive +128GB SSD
GeForce GTX970M with 3GB GDDR5
15.6-Inch (1920 x 1080)
Free upgrade to windows 10
Alienware 17 ANW17-2136SLV Price and Reviews on Amazon Intel Core i7-4710HQ 2.5GHz
8GB DDR3
1 TB 5400RPM
GeForce GTX970M with 3GB GDDR5
17.3 inch (1920 x 1080)
Free upgrade to windows 10
ASUS ROG G751JY-DB72 Price and Reviews on Amazon Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6GHz
16GB DDR3 Ram
1 TB 7200 RPM Hard Drive+256 GB SSD
GeForce GTX980M with 4GB GDDR5
17.3-Inch (1920 x 1080) IPS
Free upgrade to windows 10
ASUS ROG GL551JW-DS71 Price and Reviews on Amazon Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6GHz
16GB DDR3 Ram
1 TB 7200 RPM
GeForce GTX960M with 2GB GDDR5
15.6-Inch (1920 x 1080)
Free upgrade to windows 10
Acer VN7-591G-70RT Price and Reviews on Amazon Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6GHz
8GB DDR3
1TB 5400RPM
GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB GDDR5
15.6-Inch (1920 x 1080)
Free upgrade to windows 10

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