Opinion - AMD and NVIDIAs Inaccurate Mobile Graphics Card Specs Need To Change

Written by Paulo Proenca on Sat, Oct 24, 2015 4:00 PM

It has been at least three years since AMD and NVIDIA have stopped informing us, the customer, of the exact specifications of their mobile graphics cards. Key information is being withheld that is vitally when choosing the right mobile components. What led to this state of affairs was the production of AMD's GCN (Graphics Core Next) and Nvidia's Kepler graphics cards.

Reason number one is because they are more efficient, meaning they can have different Clock Profiles while remaining within the specified Power Envelope. The second reason is because these two architectures allow Higher Clock Speed limits when compared to the Fermi and TeraScale Architectures, meaning manufacturers have a wider choice of Clock Frequencies to chose from.

Now while I don't condemn this, there should be a guideline, a limit. While AMD still gives you an idea of which variants you can expect from a certain graphics card by giving a Max Core-Clock and Max Operating Memory Clock Limit, NVIDIA puts you totally in the dark by only mentioning something as elementary as the Memory Type.

Confused? Let us take a look at what AMD and NVIDIA have on their Product Pages. 

Starting with NVIDIA, recently released GeForce 945M is a very good example. Let's take a look at its Product Page in NVIDIA's Website:

Specifications

These are the only relevant aspects you can deduce from this product page:

  • The graphics card is equipped with DDR3. This is far from enough to know the Memory Bandwidth. The Operating Memory Clock and most importantly the Bus Width aren't stated.
  • The graphics card has a Base Clock, a Boost Clock and a Theoretical Max Clock. The GPU Boost 2.0 suggests the graphics card runs at a higher speed than its Core-Clock (known as Boost Clock) and can push this Frequency even higher if the temperature allows it, which will mostly depend on the laptop's Cooling System and the Voltage. This is known as the Max Clock.
  • The graphics card supports DirectX 12 and Open GL 4.5 - but because both Kepler and Maxwell architectures support these versions of these technologies, you can't tell which one this particular graphics card was built on.

To actually know if the GeForce 945M is a Kepler or a Maxwell Graphics Cards, you have to navigate to the Features Tab:

Features

 

There we go. GeForce 945M is a Maxwell graphics card.

But wait, is it a first-gen Maxwell or second-gen? This is an extremely important detail because second-gen Maxwell GPUs support the innovative Lossless Delta Compression Algorithm which can improve Memory Bandwidth in certain games by up to 30%!

Because GeForce 945M probably accesses a 64-bit bus width and is equipped with regular DDR3, the GPU will most likely be bottlenecked and thus Delta Compression could be a big help.

Sadly, you will only be able to know if the GeForce 945M is first or second-gen Maxwell by waiting for screenshots of GPU-Z to surface, but don't get your hopes up. There are no known second-gen Maxwell GPUs for the Entry-Level market and so the GeForce 945M most likely contains a first-gen Maxwell GM107 or GM108 GPU.

So what vital information is missing? Practically everything.

NVIDIA doesn't mention any Clock Frequencies, giving the laptop manufacturer total freedom theoretically. We aren't even told the amount of Shader Processing Units. How is anyone supposed to research and buy a laptop with a GeForce 945M based on this information?

NVIDIA pulled the misinformation card when the GeForce GTX 970 was discovered to be a 3.5GB + 512MB Card with a 224-bit +32-bit memory interfaced, claiming that the Engineering department misinformed the Marketing department.

Well, what happened here then? Was the specification sheet for the GeForce 945M sent to the Marketing Department half eaten by dogs at the Engineering department?

Now let's take a look at AMD's Product Page for the Radeon R7 M360:

Radeon R7 Series Graphics

AMD is a bit more elaborate. They provide the best case scenario for each graphics card but that might just confuse you more. Let's analyse the Radeon R7 M360:

  • GCN Architecture: The Radeon R7 M360 is built based on the Graphics Core Next Architecture, but which version? Currently GCN offers most of its features in its second revision - GCN 1.2. The most important changes are the True Audio Technology and, just like NVIDIA's Maxwell, a Lossless Delta Color Compression Algorithm.
  • 384 Stream Processor Cores: Radeon R7 M360 has 384 Shader Processing Units. Very important in order to know its overall performance.
  • 28nm Technology: Not very relevant because everyone knows the GCN Architecture is built on 28nm Technology. Useful perhaps for those who haven't been giving the GPU market their full attention.
  • Max Engine Clock of 1125MHz: The Radeon R7 M360's central unit can reach a Max of 1125MHz. Max suggests a best case scenario. Does that mean there might be versions of it clocked at just 1000MHz, for example?
  • Max Memory of 4GB: Again Max and shame on AMD for making the Frame Buffer seem so irrelevant. All the R7 Series can have up to 4GB? These are hardly suited for 720p gaming. Are the Radeon Series now aimed at video editing or is AMD expecting laptops equipped with these graphics cards to be paired with 4K Monitors?
  • Memory Type is DDR3: Finally, something that's not Max.
  • Max Memory Bandwidth of 16 GB/s: This spec should actually be below the Max Memory Interface and not before it, as it is calculated based on the Memory Interface, Memory Type and Operating Memory Clock.
  • Max Memory Interface of 64-bits: Ok, we know this table is generic but using Max Memory Interface here is quite misleading. Does that mean there may be variants of the Radeon R7 M360 accessing a 32-bit Memory Interface? Oh, and we hope the Radeon R7 M7 380 does not access a 32-bit Memory Interface. That would be pretty neat for 800x600 gaming...

Well, what is missing?

AMD has a very fancy table that doesn't say much. Other than the Shader Processing Units and the Memory Type, everything else is indicated with "Max", suggesting there will be many variants for each of these graphics cards.

The conclusion? When purchasing a laptop with the GeForce 945M you don't know at all what you are getting. First off, because the Core-Clock and Operating Memory Clock are chosen by the laptop manufacturer and are not shown in the Laptop Sheet and, secondly, because there is no place, not even NVIDIA's own website, to inform you of possible specifications.

Even in AMD's case, all you know is the best case scenario. You know the Radeon R7 M360 can have up to 4GB of DDR3 and its Central Unit may run up to 1125MHz, while there will be no variants with an Operating Memory Clock exceeding 1000MHz.

It's most annoying and unfair to the consumer that you might be buying a laptop whose GeForce 945M or Radeon R7 M360 is slower than another laptop with the same advertised GeForce 945M or Radeon R7 M360, on another shelf.

Hopefully, there won't be too many variants. GeForce 610M, a very known Entry-Level Graphics Card has at least 6 different variants. Can you actually believe that? See for yourself here.

Why do you think the mobile graphics card sector has taken this path? Do you think it's fair that a graphics card has multiple variants which aren't even known? Let us know below!

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14:29 Oct-26-2015

Before I found GD I used this place for comparisons: http://www.notebookcheck.net/ ....After I found GD they fell out of my bookmarks bar, the data here is easier and quicker to compare with side by side analysis. With user input with fps input I found out the data is more reavant here on GD than the other site with only their test rig as the benchmark; though I do have to add they do use user data, but it does not change the overall performance that was shown as a base for users. TL;DR Better meta data here than there! XD

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12:38 Oct-26-2015

The 960m in my Asus rog laptop is a 750 ti re brand and perorms as such all for the low price of
1200 usd

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19:06 Oct-26-2015

If I didn't order the better screen and extra 8gb ram, I could have gotten this rig for the low price of $1260 without windows, but I paid $1460 instead ;) Still too much, but I needed a laptop for college so it beats hauling around a desktop.

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21:35 Oct-27-2015

+200$ for windows? you can always buy windows from ebay. many people sell their windows key for 10-15$

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23:58 Oct-25-2015

Well, that's why I started using GD in the first place :D. Had it all been perfect we wouldn't have had this great site.

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22:45 Oct-25-2015

my 5650 normally is core/memory speed 650/800 and a saw it with 550/800 and mine is 450/790

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18:18 Oct-25-2015

i hope they could make upgradable laptops especially for graphics card, saw news like desktop GTX 980 was being used in few laptops

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18:24 Oct-25-2015

There already are some upgradable laptops, but the mobile graphics cards cost way too much. My laptop is upgradable, but I don't see myself spending almost $2000 just for 2 new graphics cards.


I do however like that they are offering desktop graphics cards in laptops now. I will definitely go with one of those next time. Hopefully with a full desktop Pascal card.

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01:25 Oct-26-2015

Most of the upgrades for laptops out side of ram all seem like oem's and only on ebay with crazy price gouging.

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03:00 Oct-26-2015

There are actually a few outlets where you can pick up mobile GPUs, but yes I believe they are all OEM models. Here is a link to where they can be bought. And Here


This is the best place though. (http://www.eurocom.com/ec/vgas(1)ec)

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19:14 Oct-26-2015

They didn't have a 980m for my clevo/sager, figures. That's OK though, at +$700 I would rather build a desktop later. The desktop parts we can buy now are only going to get cheaper.

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19:33 Oct-26-2015

I am sure eurocom has them.

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14:15 Oct-25-2015

well this article just proves why gd is so relevent for us gamers!

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13:20 Oct-25-2015

4gb of vram is way to little today.

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19:02 Oct-25-2015

No, you're wrong. Even 1Gb can still do the job, though don't expect to run the latest and greatest AAA games on 'Ultra-4k-max-graphics'. HoI3 for example, amazing game which even runs on a 11" Macbook Air.
Also, AAA ? more fun. Prison Architect for example, great fun! Can't say that about Ubisoft's games since ±20

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19:14 Oct-25-2015

At 1080p or less resolution 4GB VRAM is plenty for newer games. Heck even 2GB is enough for 1080p most of the time.

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19:15 Oct-26-2015

3gb seems to work just fine for me. I haven't yet played a game on less than high settings at 1080p.

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10:42 Oct-25-2015

Except it doesn't even slightly matter, because GPU specs don't mean anything anyway. The only way to judge GPU performance is with testing and benchmarking.

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08:12 Oct-25-2015

I have a gt635M in my laptop that is now two and half years old. And when nowdays they are doing as said in the article, back then they just didn't put enough cooling on them, pretty much rendering the same problem.

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07:06 Oct-25-2015

8 years ago i thought playing games with laptop was cool(and i use it) until i realized the gap between laptop GPU and desktop GPU is way too big,used 256MB GPU memory at that time(which is supposed to be mediocre at that time) but got to play in low set,while the desktop GPU can handle in medium,and it became more frustrated when next gen games(PS3,Xbox360) come out and i can't upgrade my laptop

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06:38 Oct-25-2015

Wow, now I don't understand how can people buy laptops. Always wanted one, but not anymore I think...

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12:27 Oct-25-2015

Check my specs and you'll see why...


And yes, all that in a portable package that I can just pick up and go to my friends... :)

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16:31 Oct-25-2015

Laptops like ours are not something made for everyone, but for those of us that like them they are really awesome. :D


I was even thinking about building a desktop next year when all of the true next gen hardware gets released from AMD & nVidia, but now that we can actually get desktop hardware in a laptop I may just stay mobile. I have a feeling that even next year's desktop hardware will be more power efficient than mobile hardware we have available now.

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02:00 Oct-25-2015

The driver support for these GPUs are sometimes responsible for giving inaccurate information of a particular GPU. For instance, my last system did have an Ati Mobility Radeon Hd 4250 GPU, although it was identified as Ati Mobility Radeon Hd 4200 series. The only difference of GPUs in that series is the clock speed which i noticed, but it may have people out there who may not know that.

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00:19 Oct-25-2015

interesting article

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19:37 Oct-24-2015

The only thing i dont get it is why would they put 4gb of vram in gpus like the gt 740, 730 when thoose cannot handle more than 2 gb ?

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20:25 Oct-24-2015

looks good if someone sees a gt 730 with 4gb for $100 and a 750ti with 2gb for $160 any uneducated person will most likely go with the 730 because everyone thinks more gb is better :P (which is sometimes true) ;P

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02:09 Oct-25-2015

yeah... i've even heard two people arguing theirs is better because they have more vram.... and calls it as a gaming gpu... they also sometimes add the integrated and dedicated gpus's rams saying its 6Gb or 8gb... like what the fuuu--

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08:18 Oct-25-2015

My GT635M has 2GB of ddr3 memory, it is too slow for it to be properly utilized.

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19:17 Oct-24-2015

Yeah well that's what GD and GPU-Z is for.Course the need to be more precise but in the meantime we still have other sources and all this max stuff drives people mad.It's gotta be the worst way to describe GPUs.

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18:11 Oct-24-2015

thats why we dont get leptop for games even tho some leptops are fair enough powerfull to run todays game but those leptop cost like of 3x price of same performance on pc

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18:30 Oct-24-2015

Unless you're in a position where a desktop is just too big and/or not portable enough for your needs. Then you'll be willing to pay the difference. For what I got with my laptop it definitely was nowhere near your '3x the price' of a similar desktop, more like 1.5x at best...

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00:31 Oct-25-2015

With the advent of the 900m series Nvidia cards, it's closer to 1-1, especially with the 970M and 980M. You couldn't build a desktop for less than my lappy and get the same performance. Times have changed.

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00:46 Oct-25-2015

oh yeah, definitely

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18:06 Oct-24-2015

come to think of it i have a lap top with gt 310 and 0 info about it... that is why i game on my gtx 970 on a 24" 1020p monitor :) lap tops are for youtube and social networks only.i think no sane man would gave 1500 $ for a gaming lap top that has a 4k 17" screen or something.

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18:32 Oct-24-2015

I personally prefer 1080p with DSR fallback in case of excess performance (which is what I have when I play older titles), but laptops are not bad at all these days, if you get the right one :)
I would have to strongly disagree that laptops are for 'social media and youtube only' as I do high-end professional work on mine all the time, as well as gaming that my friend can't beat with his GTX 970 desktop either.

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23:24 Oct-24-2015

that dude is not a lap top it is called a workstation!

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00:03 Oct-25-2015

:D

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00:39 Oct-25-2015

@Kumbaj That dude, is a gaming laptop. So is mine. Times have changed.

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18:05 Oct-24-2015

This happens with desktop chips to i'm afraid.


Below the x50 series only though

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17:11 Oct-24-2015

Great information and that´s right i think it´s not fair for mobile graphics users to have variants in these cards. Keep it up.

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17:01 Oct-24-2015

This is great information and I only wished I had this type of stuff when I bought my laptop. Would have looked hard at Nvidia for this type of misinformation.

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Can They Run... |

| 30FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i5-9300H 4-Core 2.4GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Mobile 8GB
Core i3-2100 3.1GHz Radeon HD 6570 4GB
| 30FPS, Medium, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1060 MSI Gaming X 6G Edition 16GB
| 30FPS, Medium, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1060 MSI Gaming X 6G Edition 16GB
Core i7-4770K 4-Core 3.5GHz GeForce RTX 2060 MSI Ventus XS OC 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
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Core i7-2600 4-Core 3.40GHz Radeon R9 280X MSI Gaming 3GB Edition 8GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
Ryzen 5 5600X 6-Core 3.7GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Gainward Ghost 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 3750H 4-Core 2.3 GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Mobile 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600H 6-Core 3.3GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Mobile 16GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
FX-6300 Radeon RX 550X 4GB 16GB
| Medium, 1080p
FX-6300 Radeon RX 550X 4GB 16GB
0% No [2 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
FX-6300 Radeon RX 550X 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 720p
Core i3-4170 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 750 EVGA 2GB Edition 8GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 30FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i5-10400T 6-Core 2.00GHz GeForce GTX 1650 8GB
75% Yes [4 votes]
| 60FPS,
Ryzen 3 2300X 4-Core 3.5GHz Radeon RX 6500 XT 4GB 16GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600X 6-Core 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB 16GB
50% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600X 6-Core 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Low, 720p
Core i3-4170 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 750 EVGA 2GB Edition 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i7-10700K 8-Core 3.8GHz GeForce RTX 3070 Colorful iGame Advanced OC 8GB 16GB
Core i7-10700K 8-Core 3.8GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Gigabyte Eagle OC 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]