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Cutting Through Mobile Graphics Naming

Radeon HD 6990M And GeForce GTX 580M: A Beautiful Lie

With Nvidia’s mobile solution no longer available to us when we started adding newer games to our notebook suite, we were forced to break today’s benchmarks into two groups. Performance differences in the older collection of tests were tightened by CPU bottlenecks in Crysis, while StarCraft II caused the same phenomenon in the newer group.

With a mix of resolutions starting at a unrealistically-low 1280x720, the desktop Radeon HD 6990 outpaces a pair of Radeon HD 6990Ms by around 10%. However, most readers will really want to see is how these solutions perform at a high-end notebook’s 1920x1080 native resolution.

A few folks tried telling us that CPU bottlenecks would make 1920x1080 results meaningless for pair of Radeon HD 6990M graphics modules. And still, the dual-GPU desktop card still outpaces the notebook solution by around 13% on average. And that’s with a known CPU-bottlenecked game thrown into the mix for both gaming suites.

Nvidia is only slightly less-guilty than AMD since it doesn’t give any of its mobile modules a model number equal to one of its dual-GPU desktop cards. In other words, its fastest mobile product wasn’t forced to face-off against a GeForce GTX 590. Though we don't witness the same bloodbath suffered by the AMD mobile-to-desktop comparison, it still takes two GeForce GTX 580Ms to approach the performance of a single GeForce GTX 580.

AMD rates its Radeon HD 6990 at nearly four times the power consumption of its mobile counterpart, while Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580 desktop card draws 2.5 times the wattage of its mobile sibling. We've already heard the arguments from both AMD and Nvidia in justifying the deception: "these are our fastest mobile products, and we can't deflate the names so long as the other side is doing it too." Our assertion (and cautionary benchmark results) stand, though. Today's naming is marketing-driven, spurred by AMD and Nvidia trying to one-up each other in promoting mobile architectures, and it only continues to worsen over time. 

While the performance of these mobile solutions with dual GPUs often appears wonderful at 1920x1080, anyone who expected one Radeon HD 6990M or GeForce GTX 580M to facilitate adequate performance is going to be sorely disappointed. One desktop card can certainly shoulder those loads, though, so we remain dissatisfied with the way mobile naming continues to be handled.

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