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Nvidia's Crazy Fast Desktop GPU Coming to Laptops

Now that's what I call a power-up. Nvidia has announced that several gaming notebooks will be making the jump from mobile to desktop graphics via the company's Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 chip -- a world's first. Not to be confused with its mobile-minded cousin, the 980M, this chip will deliver a significant boost in power to laptops that were already pretty stacked in performance. Nvidia claims that the desktop chips are 35 percent faster than the 980M and 50 percent faster than last generation's 880M card. 

The laptops scheduled to receive this ambitious upgrade include the Aorus X7 DT, Clevo P870DM, Clevo P775DM, ASUS GX700v0 and the MSI GT72 Dominator. MSI's monstrous GT80 Titan SLI is also getting the chips, which means you get a pair of desktop GPUs in SLI configuration, in a laptop. Just let that sink in.

But if that isn't enough power to fuel your plans of digital world domination, you can overclock the GPU. And thanks to Intel's new Skylake processors, you'll have the option of ramping up your overall performance via the processor. At the time of this writing, neither pricing or availability has been announced for any of the new systems. 

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So what exactly does Nvidia expect you to do with all this newfound muscle? Outside of your regular gaming regimen, they're hoping you'll take advantage of some virtual reality games. According to the company, the laptops that ship with the new graphics chip will be the first with the ability to support VR titles. In order to use Oculus Rift,  a system must maintain a consistent 90 FPS at 1512 x 1680p to deliver a solid experience. Any less and you'll wind up with a stuttering mess that could induce nausea. 

While I was unable to check out any VR demos, I took the overpowered Clevo P870DM for a spin, playing Grand Theft Auto V while connected to three 1080p displays, creating an immersive surround-view setup. The game looked pristine with the sun sitting low in the horizon, turning the sky a lovely salmon color. After carjacking a passing car, I went about mowing down every person I saw. Once I caused enough mayhem and got a sufficient amount of cops chasing me, I tore down the open highway, drifting around corners and barely missing cars. The whole thing was a picture of beautiful chaos.

Tearing through GTA V was fun, but the synthetic benchmarks were equally impressive. The P870DM clocked a searing 11,457 on 3DMark Fire Strike, which measures discrete graphics card performance through taxing the GPU's rendering abilities. A test desktop with an Intel Haswell 4770 processor and a GeForce GTX 980 GPU hit 11,250. During the Tomb Raider benchmark, we saw an average frame rate of 104 fps, only slightly behind the desktop, which delivered 106 fps. 

Wielding all that extra power is a heady experience, but there are some concerns regarding battery life and heat. Nvidia assured us that the desktop chip does not consume any more energy than its mobile cousin, but we'll have to put that to the test. The company's GeForce Experience software also has a battery boost feature, which should help extend your battery life in those cases when a power outlet is out of reach.

The job of keeping your notebook from bursting into flames once you start overclocking your chips falls to laptop manufacturers, which traditionally do a pretty good job of keeping your desks and laps relatively cool. 

Nvidia may have finally closed the gap between desktop and mobile performance with the move to place desktop chips into mobile devices. The 980 chips will deliver a sizable boost in performance to gaming laptops. That's why these newest notebooks are targeting enthusiasts with the need and know-how to get the most out of their systems. Our first demo delivered some promising numbers and gameplay, but we're eagerly anticipating getting a laptop in-house for some serious testing and raid sessions.