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Considering the GTX 960M for Mobile Graphics? Save Your Money.


Given the popularity of NVIDIA’s GTX 960 (the desktop version), you might be scouring the market for a laptop featuring a 960M. Since the 900 series offers great performance while only sipping power, it would seem that the mobile versions would be ideal for laptop gaming. Unfortunately, the 960M is all marketing spin, and you’re better off looking at laptops with the GTX 860M (of which there are a lot more, and at better prices) instead.

The GTX 960M Is a Rebranded GTX 860M

Rebranding is nothing new in the graphics card industry. Very often, we see cards in the mid-tier use previous generation tech with some minor/moderate tweaks. In the case of the 960M, it’s almost a complete rebrand, with the only difference being a bump in core clocks. Don’t take my word for it—PCWorld made the same observation, noting that both cards use the GM107 Maxwell 1.0 architecture. In fact, they went so far as to say, “if you’re wondering just how different [the GeForce GTX 960M is] from the Maxwell-based GeForce GTX 860M…so are we.”

For their part, NVIDIA points to performance improvements from GPU Boost 2.0 and better manufacturing (due to this being Maxwell’s second generation) as reasons that the 960M will outperform its older sibling. But that’s an awfully weak sales pitch for consumers who are being asked to fork over extra cash just to see a bigger number in the name (and not much else).

GTX 800-series Notebooks Should Decrease in Price

If anything, the real reason consumers should be happy about the new cards being released is that it should drop the prices of older hardware. After all, the vast majority of buyers won’t be doing their homework, and manufacturers know they can take advantage. By the same token, however, demand for the older 860M-equipped laptops should take a relative nosedive, leaving a number of bargains for gamers that would rather get a good value than get wrapped up in bragging rights.

The GTX 860M Is Plenty Capable

It’s also worth noting that the 860M has more than enough power for the games that are on the market today. Asus did a performance test of the GTX 860M, which is featured in some of their Republic of Gamers line of gaming laptops, while playing Far Cry 4. The following shows how those computers fared at various resolution and graphical settings:

It shows that the card can probably handle high settings (given an average above 30 FPS), but you’re likely better off at least turning a couple settings to medium in order to ensure that the framerate never drops below 30, even under heavy load. Nonetheless, the game should look and play great on an 860M-powered notebook.

See GTX 860M-Powered Laptops on Amazon

So if you’re in the market for a new gaming laptop and have been trying to compare the GTX 960M vs the GTX 860M, you now have your answer: save your money and go for the older generation. You’ll have more left over to spend on games, or to improve other specs of your laptop instead of paying extra just for a meaningless number. Check out some of the best laptops with an 860M card available right now:

Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black Edition

Acer Aspire V15 Nitro Black

Asus ROG Gaming Laptop

Asus ROG GL551JK

Lenovo Y50

Lenovo Y50

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