Clevo P170EM GTX 680M Gaming Performance

We don’t have any major qualifications to go over before we hit the GTX 680M benchmarks, but we did end up running our gaming suite multiple times. The initial shipping driver was a 295 Series NVIDIA build, which is now getting somewhat old. We tested our core gaming suite with those drivers before updating to the 306.23 drivers, and then more recently the 306.97 drivers (there was almost no change in performance between the .23 and .96 drivers, if you’re wondering). Unlike AMD’s Hotfix driver, NVIDIA’s 306.xx driver update is more of a mixed bag—a few games improve in performance, but several titles in our test suite actually drop a bit. Of course, the GTX 680M already had a commanding lead, so losing a few FPS isn’t likely to hurt too much. Here’s the list of notebooks we’ve lined up for the graphs this time (and note that all of the laptop names link to the specific reviews):

Notebook Configuration Overview
Laptop CPU Graphics Storage Battery
AlienwareM17x R4 Intel i7-3720QM GTX680M/HD4000 Hybrid (Intel SRT) 90Wh
AlienwareM18x R2 Intel i7-3820QM GTX680M-SLI/HD4000 SSD RAID 97Wh
ASUS G74SX-A2 Intel i7-2630QM GTX560M/HD3000 SSD 90Wh
Clevo P170EM GTX 680M Intel i7-3720QM GTX680M/HD4000 SSD 77Wh
Clevo P170EM HD 7970M Intel i7-3720QM HD7970M/HD4000 SSD 77Wh
iBUYPOWERCZ-17(MSI GT70) Intel i7-3610QM GTX675M/HD4000 SSD 60Wh
Razer Blade 2012 Intel i7-3632QM GTX660M/HD4000 Hybrid (Intel SRT) 60Wh
Samsung Series 7 Intel i7-3615QM GT650M/HD4000 Hybrid (ExpressCache) 77Wh

This is a grudge match between AMD and NVIDIA, and now that we’re sporting the same hardware the only thing separating us from the mobile gaming performance crown is a few pages of benchmarks. We’re going to skip straight to the stuff that presumably everyone is here to see: gaming performance. If you want to see how the P170EM GTX 680M stacks up against the HD 7970M in general applications, we reran all of our general application tests and basically came up with a tie, so we’re going to skip those this time around (though they’re available in Mobile Bench).

Mainstream 1600x900 Gaming

Batman: Arkham City - Mainstream

Battlefield 3 - Mainstream

Civilization V - Mainstream

DiRT 3 - Mainstream

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim - Mainstream

Portal 2 - Mainstream

Total War: Shogun 2 - Mainstream

Right out of the gates, NVIDIA’s GTX 680M takes a commanding lead in our Mainstream testing (1600x900 with ~High details). The margin of victory is as much as 58% (Civilization V), though we do have a couple of games that are basically tied (Skyrim goes to the HD 7970M by a couple percent while Shogun 2 favors GTX 680M by just over 1%). With our less demanding settings, NVIDIA leads by an average of 15%—right about what you would want from an 11-15% increase in overall notebook cost. But then, it’s unlikely anyone would plunk down roughly two grand (give or take) just to run at moderately high settings and 1600x900; let’s see what happens when we turn the settings dial to 11.

Enthusiast 1920x1080 Gaming

Batman: Arkham City - Enthusiast

Battlefield 3 - Enthusiast

Civilization V - Enthusiast

DiRT 3 - Enthusiast

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim - Enthusiast

Portal 2 - Enthusiast

Total War: Shogun 2 - Enthusiast

The gap at our Mainstream settings was moderately close, but at Enthusiast detail we end up with several serious blowouts, and unfortunately there’s not a single bright spot for AMD. Batman is a 38% lead for NVIDIA, Civilization V is 33%, and Portal 2 is 30%; those are balanced by a tie in DiRT 3, a scant 7% lead in Skyrim, and an 11% lead in Battlefield 3. Incidentally, Alienware’s M17x R4 shows generally similar performance, with some variations likely caused by differences in the drivers and other components.

As for Shogun 2, unfortunately there’s a driver bug of sorts that prevents us from even testing out the “Very High” preset with AMD’s 7970M—basically, the game looks at the capabilities of the Intel HD 4000 iGPU, which doesn’t allow a few key selections, even though the game is actually supposed to be looking at the HD 7970M. We did run 1080p with identical “nearly max” settings on both GPUs, however, and at least at those settings we wind up with a blowout for NVIDIA: 46.2 FPS compared to 31.3 FPS.

NVIDIA basically takes a clean sweep of our regular gaming benchmarks, but we’re not done with the gaming discussion just yet. We decided to look at some other more recent releases to try to better characterize gaming performance.

Subjective Evaluation: Mea Culpa? GTX 680M vs. HD 7970M – the Big Picture
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  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I agree with everything there. It's...just disgusting to be insulting the author like that, and on top of that it's the commentor's "logic" that's iffy, not the authors.
  • krumme - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    "If this article compared two smartphones with the same numbers, would you make your same trollish complaint?"

    Yes. If a gamers phone was sold for 1150 usd compared to 1000 usd for exactly the same phone except gpu power.

    The total cost should be compared to the total benefit for the consumer. Even for a gamer, not everything is fps. There is a lot more to it when buying a machine. Therefore the argument is stupid.

    Jarred completely missed the total benefits, and only looked at the fps side. Thats okey, but then dont compare to the total cost. There is no consistency.
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    No, his reasoning makes complete sense. It's the same reason you don't buy one of these notebooks and then opt for a GTX 660. The GTX 660 isn't BAD, but if you're already spending that much, and getting this notebook, it makes sense to get the best, particularly since you can't upgrade.

    This is about as cut and dried a choice as there's ever been-not an ad. The GTX 680 is just plain the fastest, AND it remains a reality that Nvidia is a safer choice even if it was slower, because they have more than a decade trackrecord with solid drivers, while AMD has...well, I'm not sure they're at 1 month yet, they keep screwing up, and then promising it'll be different.

    I *am* still very concerned about Optimus/Enduro though, and wish you could get these systems WITHOUT them at least as an option, without having to spend $400 extra on the "3D" screen.

    The M17x-R4 would actually be an easy choice for me *if* it didn't have Optimus. When you tack on the extra $400 for hte "3D" screen I'd be getting solely to get rid of Optimus...well, the price gets harder to stomach.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    You can disable Optimus/Enduro on the M17x R4 in the BIOS I believe -- I know at least Enduro can be turned off, so I assume it's both. They have physical muxes on the motherboard so that all the display outputs can be routed to the dGPU, which is the major thing preventing Clevo from supporting non-Enduro/Optimus. But personally, since I only run Windows, I have no problem with Optimus. It works well for all the stuff I've done; at worst I occasionally have to tweak a game with a custom profile.
  • transphasic - Saturday, October 20, 2012 - link

    I agree with your comments and rationale on this Jarred. Since I am an owner of the 7970m, I can speak to this issue with my own experiences and buyer's remorse at foolishly choosing the 7970m in the first place.
    It's really worth it to pay a little more for better quality, better drivers, and better support in choosing what to do in deciding what GPU to put in a gaming laptop.
    Why quibble over an extra $250 dollars or so, when you are already spending $2000 anyways?
    This strikes me as penny-wise, pound foolishness to try to scrimp and save $250-$300 dollars on choosing a flawed AMD 7970m product, that almost 4 months later, we STILL have not yet gotten proper driver support from AMD.
    (what's worse, is that AMD just laid off about 3,000 of their engineers who were probably working this so-called "hotfix" driver, so we might have to wait for a lot longer time now to get it, if we ever do. AMD is on shaky ground now, and that makes me even more nervous about their present and future).

    As for me, and the testing work that you did, Jarred, I am impressed with all the time and energies that you put into it, so thank you very much for your work on this, and after seeing that the "hotfix" still doesn't close the gap by that much, it leads me to the conclusion that I (and others as well) are better off going to Nvidia from now on. In fact, I am now going to take the next step in this, by swapping out my 7970m, and switching to the 680m, and be done with AMD.
  • bennyg - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    Conclusion mentions cooling is better in Clevo (vs MSI/AW). Where's the results of that test? AT reviews seem to be getting more focused on overanalysis and pennypinching comparisons compared with taking more measures of the actual notebook. Like idle/load/surface temps!

    Real enthusiasts also don't really care much about options other than CPU as we know most of the time you end up better off (especially with Dell/AW) buying the parts yourself and installing.

    Re the actual review, I don't understand why Clevo take a bad nonstandard keyboard, and find a way to make it even more annoyingly 'custom' and worse...
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    The stress testing of the GTX 680M wasn't especially different from the HD 7970M:
  • Freakie - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    If I'm reading those graphs right, GPU utilization is actually higher on the 7970 than the 680 on a number of games that the 680 still beats it at. Seems to me like even if GPU utilization were "fixed" to be even greater on both systems, then the 680 would still beat it out in most games and therefor the Utilization argument is kind of a weak one. The only games that it seems it would help with is a couple of games at Mainstream/Value settings which as you already said in the article, most people wont be bothering with. But of course to test GPU utilization THAT thoroughly would take an incredible about of time xP So it shall remain a mystery I suppose.
  • jigglywiggly - Monday, October 15, 2012 - link

    why are you hating on the look? I love the way clevos look
  • Brojo - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I pretty much have that Clevo system except 16GB of RAM with the 7970. I knew I should of went with the 680 =p and kicking myself in the ass after seeing more and more comparisons. I will be optimistic and hope for better driver release but...if i want to swap cards It shouldnt be too difficult right?

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