970M vs 1060 – Laptop Graphics Comparison review

970M vs 1060 – Laptop Graphics Comparison review

Laptop Graphics Comparison review 970M or 1060? We’re going to be benchmarking two similar laptops to compare the Nvidia 970M against the 1060 to see just how much better the newer Pascal based card performs, and find out if it’s worth upgrading to. I’ve previously tested the 970M against a 1070, as it was all I had available at the time. Many of you pointed out that in the Pascal GPU range, the 1060 more closely aligns with the older 970M, and I agreed.

Now that I’ve got my hands on a laptop with a 1060 we can test the differences between them. First let’s discuss the other differences between these two laptops. Both are running slightly different CPUs, the laptop with the 970M has an older Intel Skylake 6700HQ quad core CPU at 2.6GHz, while the newer laptop with the 1060 has an Intel Kabylake 7700HQ quad core CPU at 2.8GHz.

970M vs 1060 review
970M vs 1060 review

While this may affect some of the benchmarks as the newer laptop doesn’t have the exact same CPU, the majority of tests are graphics based, however just be aware that a small percentage of the difference may be due to the difference in CPU. I suggest that you look at my recent video where I compared the differences between these two CPUs if you’re interested in further information on this, but basically they perform very similarly.

Both laptops have 16GB of DDR4 RAM at 2400MHz, and both use an SSD for the primary hard drive and are running Windows 10 with all available updates applied. At the time the benchmarks were performed, both also had the latest Nvidia drivers currently available installed, which was version 378.49. No manual overclocking was performed for any of these tests. G-Sync has also been disabled in the tests, I didn’t want them to limit the FPS in any way.

Alright so far the laptops are pretty similar. The main difference here of course, is that one is running with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M, while the other has a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. We can see straight away that the specs of the 1060 are quite a bit higher, so how do they compare? Let’s find out and jump into our benchmarks. We’ll cover both real world gaming benchmarks in terms of frames per second, as well as the results of some benchmarking tools. First we’ll start with the gaming benchmarks as these are most useful. I’ve tested GTA 5, The Witcher 3, and Shadow of Mordor on both laptops.

In GTA 5 I tested with FXAA on with MSAA set to x8 with a 1080p resolution and with VSync off. We can see that the 1060 performed quite a bit better than the 970M here, with 55 FPS compared to 32 FPS. In the Witcher 3 I used the Ultra preset, and disabled VSync and NVIDIA Hairworks, and again ran at the full 1080p resolution.
The difference between the two cards looks fairly similar to the last test, the 1060 scored 51 fps while the older 970m got 33 fps. In Shadow of Mordor with ultra settings at 1080p, the 1060 is not quite doing twice the FPS but it’s close and a significant performance difference at 95 FPS compared to the 970m’s 52 FPS. Now onto the benchmarking tools, while a useful indicator note that these results are less practical compared to the real world gaming tests previously shown.

In Heaven benchmark with the quality set to ultra, tessellation on extreme, and anti-aliasing on x8 at 1080p, the 1060 scored 58 fps while the 970m got 34 FPS. It’s a similar story in Valley benchmark, with the quality set to ultra and anti-aliasing on x8 at 1080p, the 1060 came out ahead by similar amount. The 3DMark Time Spy and Firestrike benchmarks also tell the same story, with the 1060 getting a nice boost when compared against the 970M. I’ll also note that we’re only looking at the graphics scores here.

Finally let’s check the temperatures of each card during the testing, we can see that the idle temps were pretty close together with the 1060 being slightly warmer here, however keep in mind that the cooling implementation of each laptop will factor in here too. Under load however, the 1060 was actually running cooler. As expected the 1060 came out on top in all tests performing around 40% better on average compared to the 970M.

The results were quite impressive for a laptop graphics card only a single generation newer, but is it worth upgrading to? If you already have a laptop with a 970M, probably not. Upgrading would involve buying a new Pascal based laptop, which is an expensive upgrade path and thereby hard to recommend unless having the latest hardware is important to you. On the other hand if you’re looking for a new laptop and you’re trying to decide between the 970M or the newer 1060, well I think the results here speak for themselves, you should go with the newer 1060 as it simply performs quite a bit better while running at cooler temperatures during use, unless you can get one with a 970M for a great deal and the lower frame rates are acceptable to you.

While the 1060 does have more horsepower, you’ll limited to the refresh rate of your display anyway. In my case the display on the laptop with the 970M is 60Hz, while the 1060 has a 120Hz display. This is worth keeping in mind, if you’re running a 970M and getting 60FPS in your favourite games on a 60Hz panel there isn’t going to be much benefit in upgrading, unless you also look at a higher refresh rate panel, or want to run at higher settings. If you’re going to be running an external display with a higher refresh rate, then that may be another story and an upgrade could help you out there.

At the same time, most of my tests show that we aren’t even reaching 60 FPS with very high settings with the 1060 anyway, so there may be no need for a panel over 60Hz, unless you’re happy to run with lower graphics settings to increase the frame rate. If you were looking to go even higher, then you’d probably want to look at a 1070 instead with a panel with a high refresh rate.

I hope this review has helped you see the real world differences in performance between these two graphics cards, be sure to leave a share on the post if you found it useful, and don’t forget to bookmark for future posts like this one. I’m also going to look at comparing the 1060 with another laptop running a 1070, so keep an eye out for that one.

Louise Martin

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