What is the difference between laptop and desktop GPUs. What is a mobile graphics card

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Best Laptop Graphics Cards from Nvidia and AMD in 2022

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Laptops have become very powerful over the years. Gone are the days when laptops were only used for business / office work or normal work. This is because now you can play the latest high-end games on laptops with a good graphics card. Most laptops don’t ship with graphics cards because they depend on built-in or integrated graphics, and those who come with dedicated graphics cards have a different range of GPUs, from low-end to high-end.

Some laptops with graphics cards have entry-level graphics processors, and some have mid-to-high-end graphics cards or GPUs. Laptops with entry-level graphics cards are suitable for occasional gaming, video editing, watching Full HD movies and Blu-ray. In addition, these laptops are relatively cheaper compared to gaming laptops with powerful graphics cards. Laptops with mid to high end graphics cards, on the other hand, are much more efficient and you can enjoy the latest games at medium to high graphics settings at 1080p. Below is a photo of a typical laptop graphics card.


Laptop graphics card

Both AMD and Nvidia make graphics cards for laptops. These laptop graphics cards are also known as mobile graphics processors because of their smaller size and their use in notebook computers or laptops. Some laptop graphics cards are MXM graphics cards and connect in the Laptop’s Mobile PCI Express Module (MXM) slot. You may be able to upgrade MXM graphics cards on some laptops, but it really depends on your laptop model and manufacturer. In this post, I’m going to list the best laptop graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD for gaming, professional graphics, and for casual gaming.

Best Laptop GPUs from Nvidia

These are the best laptop graphics cards from Nvidia. Here, the RTX 20 series graphics cards are built on the latest Turing GPU architecture, and the GTX 10 series are built on the Pascal GPU architecture.

  • GeForce RTX 2080
  • GeForce RTX 2070
  • GeForce RTX 2060
  • GTX 1660 Ti
  • GTX 1650
  • GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
  • GeForce GTX 1080
  • GeForce GTX 1070
  • GeForce GTX 1060
  • GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
  • GeForce GTX 1050
  • GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q
  • GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
  • GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q
  • GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q
  • GTX 1050 Max-Q

What is Max-Q Nvidia Graphics Card in Laptop?

The Nvidia Max-Q graphics card is an energy-saving variant of the standard graphics card (mostly high-end GPU) used in laptops. These Nvidia Max-Q graphics cards are identified by the word Max-Q after the model number, such as GTX 1070 Max-Q or GTX 1080 Max-Q. These graphics cards are energy efficient and generate less heat compared to their standard versions. Currently, Max-Q graphics cards are available for GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080.

These Max-Q graphics cards are approximately 15% to 20% (up to 25% or more) slower than their standard variants, and their drivers are also optimized for performance, not performance. Max-Q graphics cards are mainly used in thin notebooks or thin laptops where cooling is the main challenge to deal with the heat generated by these powerful graphics processors. However, they still provide good performance for games and other applications compared to medium to budget laptop graphics cards

Anyone who’s been looking for gaming hardware knows that the graphics card (GPU) is probably the most important thing to consider. Without the right graphics card for the games you want to play, you’ll be stuck with poor graphics and an overall disappointing experience.

The difference between laptop and desktop GPUs

Lots of space on this desktop!

Consider the amount of space on your laptop versus the amount of space on your desktop – there’s just a lot less space in a laptop, even in a bulky gaming laptop.

This lack of space has traditionally required a different graphics card than that intended for desktop computers. NVIDIA calls these graphics cards something similar up to its latest 10 series cards and just adds M to the number. AMD is doing something similar with its desktop and laptop GPUs.

While the GPU architecture in laptops and desktops is the same, the similarities end there. If you compare the AMD Radeon R9 380 with the AMD Radeon R9 M380, you’ll get roughly half the performance from the mobile version than from the desktop version. These GPUBoss specs tell a story:

Category AMD Radeon R9 380 AMD Radeon R9 M380
Memory bandwidth 176 GB / s 96 GB / s
Clock speed 970 MHz 900 MHz
Shading units 1792 768
Texture mapping units 112 48
Video composition 97.9 frames / sec 47.87 frames / sec
Pixel speed 31.04 GPixel / s 16 Gpixels / sec
Compute Units 28 12
Render output processors 32 16
PassMark score 5600 3047

Even if you’re unsure what the pixel pointers and texture mapping units really mean, it’s clear that the R9 380 without the letter “M” in its name is crushing its mobile counterpart.

The same can be said of the latest generation NVIDIA 9 series GPUs. Again, thanks to the GPUBoss specification, it’s clear that the battle between GTX 980 and GTX 980M is won by the desktop version:

Category NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
Memory bandwidth 224.4 GB / s 160.4 GB / s
Clock speed 1753 MHz 1253 MHz
Shading units 2048 1536
Texture mapping units 128 96
The speed of the texture 136.2 GTexel / s 99.6 GTexel / s
PassMark score 9712 5596

Again, it is clear that the version of the laptop, named after the “M” at the end, suffers compared to the desktop GTX 980.

The future of GPUs

The new NVIDIA 10-series GPUs, GTX 1050, GTX 1060, GTX 1070 and GTX 1080, are designed with the laptop in mind, dropping the letter “M” at the end of the number. Why? You can expect almost identical performance on both versions.

GTX 1080

For example, both GTX 1080s have 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM and 2560 CUDA cores. The main difference is the clock speed, where the GTX 1080 laptop sits right below the desktop version. While the performance isn’t quite the same as the desktop version, you shouldn’t see anything more than about 5-10% of the difference.

This is good news for fans of gaming laptops, as you don’t have to sacrifice performance or carry an external GPU when you go on the road.

Once you’ve got the GPU name, you can search Google to find out more about it or compare it to the minimum requirements of the game you want to play. Usually, a higher number means a better card – so a game requiring the RX 580 may not work on the RX 480, which is weaker (though there is a workaround for this at times).

What to look for in a graphics card

When looking for graphics cards, you can choose from two major brands; AMD and NVIDIA. Both manufacturers offer high-quality, high-performance graphics cards.

  • First you need to decide how much memory you want in your graphics card
  • Also consider factors such as computer size (desktop vs laptop),
  • Whether you want a separate graphics processor or a graphics card integrated into the processor
  • Take into account what power connectors your card uses
  • Note the Design Thermal Power (TDP)

All of this will determine whether the graphics card will fit directly into your computer and whether it can receive adequate power and cooling. For an overview of the best budget GPUs, check out our HP Tech Takes article here.

1. Integrated vs discrete graphics

Integrated graphics are more common on smaller systems like laptops, but you’ll also find them in desktops for those who don’t need to use high-powered graphics software.

Integrated graphics may not have independent RAM, but neither does it generate as much heat or use as much power and battery life as their discrete counterparts. Integrated graphics are generally not preferred for graphics-intensive games, but it’s more affordable. They are also good for more basic visual tasks like streaming movies and TV.

If you’re interested in using your computer for graphics-intensive tasks, such as gaming at high settings, video editing, photo editing, and 3D rendering, you’ll need to invest in a separate graphics card.

These cards have their own RAM, unlike their integrated cousins. However, a discrete graphics card requires a good CPU to match as well as a cooling configuration to prevent the PC from overheating. It also uses more power, so you’ll need a larger (and more expensive) power supply in your desktop PC to run both CPUs.

It also means that if you have a separate card in your laptop, you will be dealing with shorter battery life compared to the less powerful options.

2. Desktop vs laptop graphics cards

Graphics cards for both desktops and laptops have separate considerations. Due to the types of devices these graphics cards are made for, there are differences between the aspect ratio, performance, and price of desktop and laptop graphics cards.

  • Form Factor: The ability to fit larger, stronger components is one of the benefits of using a tower computer. The PC tower provides the space and cooling necessary to handle the heat and power consumption of durable GPUs.
  • Performance: You will enjoy higher specs compared to laptop graphics cards. This includes greater memory bandwidth, faster pixel speeds, and greater texture mapping than with laptop graphics cards.
  • Price: Desktop cards are more affordable because the hardware is less compact and therefore less costly to manufacture.
  • Form Factor: Smaller components are necessary as the GPU has to fit into the thin casing of the laptop. As a result, they are optimized for energy consumption and use advanced thermal and electrical technology. They are also designed to run as quietly as possible.
  • Performance: Manufacturers are approaching parity for desktop and laptop GPUs, but as we mentioned earlier, laptop cards tend to underperform in some areas.
  • Price: You’ll pay a premium for laptop graphics cards. This is because the components to create a portable and energy-efficient graphics card are more expensive to manufacture. Larger and more powerful laptop graphics cards are available, but they also add to the overall weight of the device, can heat up the laptop, and make portability difficult.


Choosing a graphics card is one of the hardest parts of buying a new computer, primarily because it’s one of the most important components, so you want to get it right. Plus, if you’re new to GPUs, you’ll need to unpack a lot of terminology.

Overall, you should update your graphics card every 4 to 5 years, although an extremely high-end GPU may last a bit longer. While price is a major factor in your decision making, performance and memory needed should also be considered. And be aware of your computer’s CPU as it may need updating as well. After all, the best GPU is only as efficient as its companion processor.

About the Author: Daniel Horowitz is the co-author of HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is an author based in New York and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media.

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