Gaming Performance: HD 6970M Nipping at the Heels of GTX 485M

If you’re looking for a mobile workstation—you know, like the Racer only with the Quadro FX 5000M in place of the consumer oriented HD 6970M or GTX 485M—then gaming performance is largely meaningless. You can refer to the HP EliteBook 8740w results as a rough estimate of where such a GPU lands in the gaming hierarchy, but without Sandy Bridge it might be somewhat slower in a few titles. For those looking to buy the Racer as a gaming notebook, this page is for you. It’s also for anyone wondering how AMD’s latest and greatest mobile GPU compares to NVIDIA’s power monster GTX 485M. After the 485M leapfrogged the previous generation mobile hardware, we were a little concerned that AMD might not be able to keep pace; our concerns it appears are unwarranted.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mafia II

Mass Effect 2

Metro 2033

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

At our high detail settings (which typically means DX9/DX10 and no anti-aliasing, although we do enable 4xAA in L4D2), the Racer/6970M places third in most titles behind the 480M SLI and 485M. Perhaps more telling is that it boasts a performance increase of 16 to 75% over the GTX 460M, all for a minor increase in price. The lower end of that range is because our 900p High settings don’t put quite as much strain on the GPU, as we’ll see once we kick things up to Ultra quality. In fact, even at 1080p versus 900p, the 6970M is 8 to 30% faster than the 460M, and it’s up to 40% faster than the 5870M.

Looking at the head-to-head against the 485M makes things a bit more interesting. AMD leads by as much as 32% in L4D2, with a 4% lead in SC2 and a 5% lead in ME2. NVIDIA turns the tables in the remaining five games, with leads of 8% in BFBC2, 14% in DiRT 2, 16% in Mafia II, 1% in Metro 2033, and 5% in STALKER. It looks like NVIDIA’s 485M is in general the faster GPU, but the popular Source Engine games can really skew the results. Of course, most of these titles are hitting 60+ FPS at our High settings, so let’s set phasers for maximum power and fire a full spread of photon torpedoes.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

DiRT 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Mafia II

Mass Effect 2

Metro 2033

STALKER: Call of Pripyat

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

Crank the settings up and watch the frame rates drop. Where most of the games were pulling around 60FPS or higher on the 6970M and 485M, at our Ultra settings only two titles are above 60FPS with the 6970M (three for the 485M), and two more fall below 30FPS. Now granted, 4xAA with Very High/Extreme settings in Metro and STALKER is more than most users would expect out of a notebook; turn off AA in STALKER and the frame rate doubles on the 6970M. Still, many desktops are able to handle this sort of resolution/settings combination on midrange ($200) hardware, so when an $1800+ notebook with the fastest GPU you can currently get falls short it’s a bit disappointing.

Comparing the 6970M and 485M once more, we find NVIDIA with a slight lead in five of the eight games, but if we call anything less than a 5% difference a tie there are really only three games where there’s even a moderate difference. NVIDIA is ahead by 8% in STALKER and 14% in DiRT 2; AMD leads by 10% in StarCraft II. Everything else is splitting hairs. The 6970M puts the hurt on the 460M once again, with performance now 35% to 82% higher than the MSI GT680R.

High Detail Average Performance

Ultra Detail Average Performance

As a final look at gaming performance, we averaged all the scores across the tested games, at both our High and our Ultra detail settings. Notebooks where we don’t have scores for all eight games are shown in light blue, so take those figures with a grain of salt. We do have full results for the 460M, 485M, and 6970M, though, so we’ll focus on those areas.

First, it’s interesting to note that the 485M and 6970M end up tied once we average our test suite frame rates. At High, the very good performance of AMD in L4D2 obscures the fact that NVIDIA usually leads, but at Ultra things are so close that calling it a draw seems reasonable. If you place more value on, say, STALKER you might go the NVIDIA route; StarCraft II addicts might prefer AMD. Ultimately, we’ll give NVIDIA the slight edge in subjective performance (and we still need to look at power and battery life), but cost definitely looks to be in AMD’s favor. As for the 460M, depending on which notebook you want to compare to and what detail settings, AMD ends up 45 to 54% faster at High detail (and still 19% faster running 1080p High), and the margin grows to 63 to 70% faster at Ultra detail.

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  • rustycurse - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    Hi!
    to Jarred Walton:
    may be i missed something (sorry for English) , but i didn't see that you ever mentioned about HDMI ( Dual-Link DVI-D, etc.) revisions and resolutions in your article. Did you ever tried to test them simultaneously (for instance: watching a movie through HDMI & playing a game through Dual-Link DVI-D, or overwise) and not only on laptop screen?
    Please, do not forget about it in your next reviews. thnx
    Reply
  • araczynski - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    i don't care what they put in there, with that joke of a keyboard they can keep it. Reply
  • AssBall - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    Agreed, that thing would drive me nuts. Why not just spread out the keyboard nicer and say screw the 10 key garbage? Get a USB mini addon board if you really use it that much. Reply
  • bhima - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    Good to see a decent matte screen in this Clevo. Anyone know if Anand has ever reviewed the AU Optronics B156HW01 v4? Its a FHD matte screen with 95% NTSC color gamut (I believe its the same one that is an optional upgrade for the Thinkpad W series). Some of the Clevo resellers are starting to stock this v4 screen which I believe is even better than the one in this Clevo. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    The report on the LCD panel in this notebook specifies V1. I found a link from another site (apparently from a notebook retailer) that AUO has discontinued the B156HW01 line and is now doing B156HW02; their site only lists the B156HW03, however, so maybe they've upped the number again. They don't mention 95% NTSC anywhere, and the post saying v4 was discontinued said the newer versions were only 60% NTSC (i.e. what I tested). If you're after a wide gamut LCD, you'll want to shop around, but if all you really want is good sRGB, the B156HW01/2/3 should all work fine. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    No way that thing survives, unless you are constantly blowing out the dust. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    It adds complexity to an already complex system, and hurts performance (presumably much more so on high end parts)-and gives me at least no benefit at all.

    Optimus is actually a huge NEGATIVE for me on a notebook. I quit looking at the XPS 17 when learning it used Optimus-I don't want it's decent GPU stuck behind Intel graphics.

    I gave up looking at Clevos because of the drivers issues-I'd love a GTX 485...for some reason neither the GTX 460 nor 485 used in the Clevos is supported in Nvidia's drivers.

    While I prefer Nvidia's drivers, it's great to see what a competitive part the 6970 is! Kind of scary that it's basically 2x the performance of the 5850 used in the previous version of the HP Envy 17, considering the core count only went from 800 to 960!
    Reply
  • douglaswilliams - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    I definitely will not be making a purchase until Optimus the elusive otter shows it's head. Reply
  • noeldillabough - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    I don't need anything as fancy as full blown Optimus, but the ability to use the integrated (lower power) chip for when I'm in windows typing / webbrowsing is a must. I have the 485M and wish it could be forced off when I don't need gaming performance. Reply
  • idrivepie - Thursday, March 17, 2011 - link

    Jarred,

    If you still have the notebook and are brave enough, would you be able to tear apart the notebook and check on the die of the 6970M if it says "ENG"? I'm just wondering because Eurocom has been shipping notebooks with the 6970M for sometime now, except they're shipping Engineering Sample 6970M's which a lot of customers have been pissed off by. Also, the 6970M doesn't even have an official ETA (some speculate by the end of this month) yet for its release, so how or why Eurocom would do this is questionable. If it is an ES chip, than I think it's worthy to include that in the review, because that is not something a customer would expect when buying a "new" notebook.

    Thanks!
    Reply

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