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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  • TrantaLocked - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Jarred you messed up with performance vs price on this one. On and most resellers, the 7970m adds $300 to the price, while the 680m adds $495. That is a 66% increase in cost for a 20% gain in performance.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    If you want to talk GPU pricing, technically the MXM 7970M can be found for around $600 typically, which the GTX 680M goes for $900. But you can't buy a P170EM without any GPU, so it's still a strange discussion to have.
  • TokamakH3 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    Oh? I bet if you contacted XoticPC or one of the other resellers, they'd probably be willing to sell you a P170EM without a GPU. Clevo systems are a lot more like desktops in that they're very configurable, esp if you include all the reseller options. The above post does make a good point, if you look at it from a purely upgrade price, the difference is an exaggerated 66%, if you look at it as a total system price, it's a very understated 15%. Clearly someone can choose whichever value they want to either emphasize the AMD price advantage or marginalize it.
    Seems like the fair thing to do would be to compare the OEM price.
  • TrantaLocked - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Performance decreased heavily in Diablo 3, unless you had Vsync on for the 7970m for Diabo 3 Jarred?
    The 7970m should be getting over 80FPS at ultra, with or without Enduro.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I tested a section of the game that was likely more demanding than the results elsewhere. It's something of a "worst-case", but that's where you notice problems the most.
  • TrantaLocked - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Jarred could you test an Alienware with a 7970m with Enduro off and compare to the Clevo with 7970m and hotfix? I think that i more important to 7970m owners than 7970m vs 680m.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    We don't have one (yet? AMD said they'd try to get me one), but if I can get an M17x with 7970M, I'll definitely test both with and without Enduro.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Performance advantage aside, those battery life results are why I go Nvidia lately; and Intel as a matter of fact. Not to mention the generally better/more stable driver support, CUDA and PhysX which both hold value. No, the value they add wouldn't be enough to make me buy Nvidia if AMD had a 50% performance lead at the same price, but they do not.

    Also last time I used AMD gpu's, HD4000 series, I ran into hiccups in running my PC. Audio stuff, some video stuff with certain video files, proper fitting to my HDTV screen, other random inconsistencies that aren't necessarily a deal breaker; but are most definitely annoying.

    Laptops though, Optimus being more mature and the better battery life at any given price range gives them the win in my book; all day.
  • Bytales - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I own a p370em with dual 7970m. I play borderlands 2, diablo 3, star war the old repulbic. Other games, i havent tested.
    On notebookcheck, the 7970mCF is listed between 34491 and 35926 P GPU Vantage score.
    I have managed to install a 12.9 beta desktop driver on the laptop.
    Score is now 37200 P Gpu Vantage.
    Also note, that as of now, there still is NO DRIVER with OFFICIAL SUPPORT for the 7970m.

    Bugs that i encountered are a few with crossfire on, in swtor, like minimap flickering, and in single gpu stuttering with shadows, But i believe later on when we will have a driver with official support for the 7970m, we will get more performance, or at least not so many bugs.

    i gotta ask yah, what driver did you use for the 7970m tests ? Is that the driver supplied with the cd ? Cause if that is the case, then using the driver that i have, will bring more performance.
    The problem is, i think the dekstop driver cant be used on the laptop with integrated graphics.
    THe p370em's design is so that is bypasses the iGPU, there are no enduro problems, and no under utilization problems.

    I do think driver will fix a few more problems in the future and bring performance up a bit.
    Besides, i play games on a single cpu, and mine bit coins with the second :) and since i am home only 6 hours a day, i do profit from letting the GPUs mine coins, which is way better on the AMD gpus.
  • whatthehey - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    Wow! Just wow. Mining BTC on a CrossFire laptop might help offset the cost a bit but that's going to take a long time to come anywhere near paying off the notebook. Assuming current rates, I assume your P370EM gets around 650Mh/s. That would mean around 0.19BTC per day, while drawing around 260W, so profit at $12/BTC could work out to ~$1.66 per day, or almost $50 per month. But in another six weeks or so, the block reward gets cut in half and you're then down to earning $0.60 per day. Sure, that's still $18 per month, but....

    How much wear and tear does it cost to run a GPU at 100% load 24/7? On a desktop, I could see it potentially being a viable tactic to earn some money, especially since you can buy a 7970 for $410 and mine at 650Mh/s on a single GPU. But on the P370EM you've invested how much? $2300? I think you'll end up killing hardware (fans or other elements could fail) long before you've recovered the initial cost. But best of luck!

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