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Laptop and Desktop Video Card Equivalence

written by: Jordan Salvi•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 12/27/2009

Trying to assess the performance of any video card can be tough unless you spend literally hours scouring the web for benchmarks and reviews. Laptop video cards are especially difficult to peg, as they can share the same name as a desktop part, but not the performance.

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    Mobile Power

    Laptops aren't generally thought of as gaming machines, and not without reason. Compared to a desktop computer, laptops are cramped, hot, and can't use a lot of power. This effects the components inside them, especially power hungry chips like the video card. Usually, a laptop video card performs worse than an equivalent desktop part. For example, the GeForce GTX 260M (laptop part) isn't even in the same realm as a desktop GTX 260.

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    Performance vs. Portability

    When creating a laptop video card, the standard procedure is to take a mid range desktop part and lower the clock speeds slightly. Because laptops have to operate with a lower power ceiling than desktops, the video card can't be a power hog; this power limit affects how fast they can run. A faster clocked card can take exponentially more power than a lower clocked part. That's the tradeoff of mobile computing: performance for portability. Additionally, gaming centric laptops have notoriously awful battery life, with some high-end systems only capable of an hour at most. You'll need to be near a wall socket if you plan to do any real mobile PC gaming.

    Unfortunately, there isn't any stone set method for determining the performance of a laptop video card based on it's name alone. One method might be to assume the laptop part will be on par with a desktop part one tier lower than it's namesake. For example, a 9600M GT can be compared with a desktop 9500 GT, or a Mobility Radeon HD 4670 being more or less comparable to a desktop HD 4650.

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    Laptop and Desktop Video Card Equivalence

    To simplify things, here's a list of some of today's common laptop chipsets, and their comparable desktop parts:


    Laptop | Desktop

    9300M GS | 8300 GS

    9400M G | 8400 GS

    9500M GS | 8600 GT

    9600M GS | 9500 GT

    9600M GT | 9500 GT

    9700M GT | 9500 GT

    9700M GTS | 9600 GSO

    9800M GS | 9600 GSO

    9800M GTS | 9600 GT

    9800M GT | 9600 GT

    9800M GTX | 9800 GT

    G 210M | 9400 GT

    GT 220M | 8600 GT

    GT 230M | 9500 GT

    GT 240M | 9600 GSO

    GTS 250M | 9600 GT

    GTS 260M | GT 240

    GTX 260M | 9800 GT

    GTX 280M | GTS 250


    Laptop | Desktop

    Mobility Radeon HD 4530 | Radeon HD 4350

    Mobility Radeon HD 4570 | Radeon HD 4550

    Mobility Radeon HD 4650 | Radeon HD 4650

    Mobility Radeon HD 4670 | Radeon HD 4650

    Mobility Radeon HD 4830 | Radeon HD 4830

    Mobility Radeon HD 4850 | Radeon HD 4770

    Mobility Radeon HD 4860 | Radeon HD 4770

    Mobility Radeon HD 4870 | Radeon HD 4850

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    These charts can be handy if you can't find a review of the specific laptop video card you're looking at; you can just look up the equivalent desktop video card for a rough estimate of performance. Additionally, if you're laptop has an Intel graphics chip, don't expect to do any gaming on it! Intel video processors are not meant for anything more than basic 3D acceleration, and will struggle with any modern game. If you ever plan to use your laptop for gaming, find one with at least a 9400M G or Mobility HD 4530 class video card.