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Review Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell vs. Kepler

Florian Glaser, 04/14/2014

The unequal duel. Nvidia offers two different versions of its latest high-end GPU GeForce GTX 860M. Besides a version based on the Maxwell architecture, there is also a GPU from the old Kepler generation. We compared the performance of the two DirectX 11 chips and found a winner.

For the original German article, see here.

Test System

We already reviewed three notebooks with the new Maxwell GTX 860M in the last couple of weeks. Besides the 13-inch Schenker XMG P304 and the 15-inch XMG A504, the Nexoc G728II also got a good overall rating.

The benchmarks of the Kepler GTX 860M are from the W504, which was kindly provided by Schenker Technologies for our gaming tests. The base is the P150SM(-A) barebone from the company Clevo, which is also used by other notebook manufacturers (Eurocom, One, etc.). Our review unit was equipped with a Core i7-4700MQ (2.4-3.4 GHz) as well as 8 GB DDR3 memory. Operating system is the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, which was installed on a 240 GB Intel SSD 520.

Even though Nvidia already released the promising beta driver 337.50, we used – similar to the Maxwell rivals – the ForceWare 332.35. The results for the mentioned GeForce 700 generation are not 100% comparable due to older drivers. The different operating systems can also have an impact here and there, although the differences should be marginal.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Motherboard
System info CPUZ Memory
System info CPUZ SPD
System info HWiNFO
System info GPU
System info GPUZ (HD 4600)
System info GPUZ (GTX 860M)
System info AS SSD Benchmark
System info CrystalDiskMark
Single-core rendering
Multi-core rendering
CPU & GPU load
System information Schenker W504 (Clevo P150SM-A)

Review configuration:

  • Intel HM87 chipset
  • Intel Core i7-4700MQ
  • 2x 4 GB DDR3-RAM (1,600 MHz, dual-channel)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (ForceWare 332.35)
  • Intel SSDSC2CW240A3 (240 GB Solid State Drive)
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Schenker W504 (Clevo P150SM-A)
Schenker W504 (Clevo P150SM-A)
Schenker W504 (Clevo P150SM-A)
Schenker W504 (Clevo P150SM-A)

Specifications

It is easy to understand why Nvidia produces two versions of the GeForce GTX 860M. Smaller notebooks use the soldered GPUs with the Maxwell chip GM107, whereas bulkier gaming cases with MXM slots use the significantly bigger Kepler sibling (GK104 chip), which is also manufactured in a 28 nm process.

Other similarities of the two cards include the memory interface: The GTX 860M uses modern GDDR5 video memory, but a 128-bit interface is not up to date anymore in 2014. It does not really matter if Nvidia equips the graphics card with 2 or 4 GB memory based on our experiences.

Much more important is the number of shader units. Thanks to the huge efficiency improvement, 640 CUDA cores are sufficient for the Maxwell GTX 860M to compete with the in-house rivals. Compared to the GTX 765M, the Kepler GTX 860M gets 50% more CUDA cores, more precisely 1,152 instead of 768. This is even superior to the GTX 770M (960 CUDA cores).

The Maxwell chip is particularly superior in terms of clocks. 1,029-1,097 MHz during 3D operation is significantly higher than the Kepler version. The latter manages 797-915 MHz under load, which is still decent.

Graphics card GeForce GTX 765M GeForce GTX 860M Kepler GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell GeForce GTX 770M GeForce GTX 870M GeForce GTX 780M GeForce GTX 880M
Manufacturing process 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm 28 nm
Chip GK106 GK104 GM107 GK106 GK104 GK104 GK104
Architecture Kepler Kepler Maxwell Kepler Kepler Kepler Kepler
CUDA Cores 768 1,152 640 960 1,344 1,536 1,536
Core clock base 850 MHz 797 MHz 1,029 MHz 811 MHz 941 MHz 823 MHz 954 MHz
Core clock Turbo 902 MHz 915 MHz 1,097 MHz 862 MHz 967 MHz 849 MHz 993 MHz
Memory clock 2,000 MHz 2,500 MHz 2,500 MHz 2,000 MHz 2,500 MHz 2,500 MHz 2,500 MHz
Memory 2,048 MB 4,096 MB 2,048 MB 3,072 MB 6,144 MB 4,096 MB 8,192 MB
Memory type GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory interface 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 192-bit 192-bit 256-bit 256-bit

Synthetic Benchmarks

The synthetic benchmarks show that the Kepler chip only manages a good score in 3DMark 11. A GPU score of 5,165 points is almost 7% ahead of the GTX 770M (4,817 points @ Medion Erazer X7825) and also 5% ahead of the Maxwell sibling (4,905 points @ Schenker XMG P304).

However, the situation changes in the other 3DMarks. Especially the Fire Strike test of the current 3DMark determines a big difference. 3,940 vs. 3,174 points results in an advantage of 24% for the Maxwell GTX 860M. Unigine Heaven 3.0 also works better with the new GPU architecture. The Kepler GPU falls behind by around 10% (45.2 vs. 49.6 fps) with 1920x1080 pixels and normal tessellation.

Unigine Heaven 3.0 - 1920x1080 DX 11, Normal Tessellation, High Shaders AA:Off AF:Off (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
45.2 fps ∼27%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
49.6 fps ∼29% +10%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
65 fps ∼39% +44%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
81.2 fps ∼48% +80%
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23)
Schenker XMG A503
36.2 fps ∼21% -20%
GeForce GTX 770M (332.21)
Medion Erazer X7825
47.2 fps ∼28% +4%
3DMark (2013) - 1920x1080 Fire Strike Standard Graphics (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
3174 Points ∼21%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
3940 Points ∼26% +24%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
4664 Points ∼31% +47%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
6095 Points ∼41% +92%
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23)
Schenker XMG A503
2768 Points ∼19% -13%
GeForce GTX 770M (332.21)
Medion Erazer X7825
3519 Points ∼24% +11%
GeForce GTX 780M (326.45)
Alienware 17
5465 Points ∼37% +72%
3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
5165 Points ∼23%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
4905 Points ∼22% -5%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
7270 Points ∼32% +41%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
8690 Points ∼38% +68%
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23)
Schenker XMG A503
4105 Points ∼18% -21%
GeForce GTX 770M (332.21)
Medion Erazer X7825
4817 Points ∼21% -7%
GeForce GTX 780M (326.45)
Alienware 17
7449 Points ∼33% +44%
3DMark Vantage - 1280x1024 P GPU no PhysX (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
17093 Points ∼33%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
18491 Points ∼36% +8%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
24065 Points ∼47% +41%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
29698 Points ∼58% +74%
GeForce GTX 765M (327.23)
Schenker XMG A503
13584 Points ∼26% -21%
GeForce GTX 770M (332.21)
Medion Erazer X7825
18129 Points ∼35% +6%
GeForce GTX 780M (326.45)
Alienware 17
27075 Points ∼53% +58%

Gaming Performance

Much more important in practice, however, is the gaming performance. Our gaming benchmark consists of 16 more or less fresh titles, which are tested with 1920x1080 pixels, (very) high details and – if supported – activated anti-aliasing on the 15-inch notebooks.

To make it brief: The ranking from the synthetic GPU benchmarks also applies for the gaming tests. The Kepler GTX 860M can win in some cases (TitanfallX-Plane 10 and GRID 2), but most games show an advantage for the Maxwell counterpart. Depending on the title, the advantage is between 3% (Crysis 3) and 43% (Dota 2).

We can see pretty large fluctuations of the frame rate in general. The Maxwell chip is noticeably faster in 10 to 16 cases. Besides Hitman: Absolution (+22%), Metro: Last Light (+21%), Guild Wars 2 (+20%), Call of Duty: Ghosts (+19%) and BioShock Infinite (+19%) this also applies for Far Cry 3 (+13%), Saints Row IV (+11%), Battlefield 4 (+10%) and Thief (+10%). Only the CPU demanding F1 2013 determines the same frame rate for both GPUs.

Titanfall - 1920x1080 (Very) High AA:4xMS AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
48.1 fps ∼80%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
42.4 fps ∼71% -12%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
57.8 fps ∼96% +20%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
59.8 fps ∼100% +24%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
35.6 fps ∼59% -26%
GeForce GTX 770M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
48.3 fps ∼81% 0%
GeForce GTX 780M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
59.1 fps ∼99% +23%
Thief - 1920x1080 Very High Preset AA:FXAA & High SS AF:8x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
22.6 fps ∼26%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
24.9 fps ∼29% +10%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
31.9 fps ∼37% +41%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
40 fps ∼46% +77%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
19.1 fps ∼22% -15%
GeForce GTX 770M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
26.6 fps ∼31% +18%
GeForce GTX 780M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
40.2 fps ∼46% +78%
X-Plane 10.25 - 1920x1080 ultra (fps_test=4) test_flight_c4 (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
20 fps ∼89%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
17.2 fps ∼77% -14%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
20.5 fps ∼92% +3%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
22.4 fps ∼100% +12%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
14.9 fps ∼67% -25%
GeForce GTX 770M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
17.1 fps ∼76% -14%
GeForce GTX 780M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
22.1 fps ∼99% +11%
Call of Duty: Ghosts - 1920x1080 Extra / High / HBAO+ / No dynamic fur AA:4x MS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
26.1 fps ∼29%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
31.1 fps ∼34% +19%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
37.3 fps ∼41% +43%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
45.9 fps ∼51% +76%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
21 fps ∼23% -20%
GeForce GTX 770M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
28.4 fps ∼31% +9%
GeForce GTX 780M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
40.5 fps ∼45% +55%
Battlefield 4 - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
26.2 fps ∼25%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
28.9 fps ∼28% +10%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
36.2 fps ∼35% +38%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
45.4 fps ∼44% +73%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
19.7 fps ∼19% -25%
GeForce GTX 770M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
26.5 fps ∼25% +1%
GeForce GTX 780M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
40 fps ∼38% +53%
F1 2013 - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
84 fps ∼74%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
84 fps ∼74% 0%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
87 fps ∼77% +4%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
94 fps ∼83% +12%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
67 fps ∼59% -20%
GeForce GTX 770M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
86 fps ∼76% +2%
GeForce GTX 780M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
95 fps ∼84% +13%
Saints Row IV - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:8x MS AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
31.1 fps ∼34%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
34.6 fps ∼37% +11%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
43.4 fps ∼47% +40%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
52.4 fps ∼57% +68%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
25.7 fps ∼28% -17%
GeForce GTX 770M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
35.9 fps ∼39% +15%
GeForce GTX 780M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
51.9 fps ∼56% +67%
Dota 2 - 1920x1080 High / On, Render Quality: 100 % (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
58.3 fps ∼49%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
83.1 fps ∼70% +43%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
99.6 fps ∼83% +71%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
105.7 fps ∼89% +81%
GeForce GTX 765M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
47.2 fps ∼40% -19%
GeForce GTX 770M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
58.9 fps ∼49% +1%
GeForce GTX 780M (mixed driver)
Schenker W503
75.7 fps ∼63% +30%
GRID 2 - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4xMS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
47.9 fps ∼37%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
46.2 fps ∼36% -4%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
64.1 fps ∼49% +34%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
76.2 fps ∼59% +59%
Metro: Last Light - 1920x1080 Very High (DX11) AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
23.7 fps ∼29%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
28.6 fps ∼35% +21%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
34.4 fps ∼43% +45%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
42.6 fps ∼53% +80%
BioShock Infinite - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset, DX11 (DDOF) (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
35.9 fps ∼28%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
42.7 fps ∼33% +19%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
52.2 fps ∼40% +45%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
65.6 fps ∼50% +83%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27)
Schenker W503
23.6 fps ∼18% -34%
GeForce GTX 770M (311.27)
One K73-3N
30.8 fps ∼24% -14%
GeForce GTX 780M (311.27)
One K56-3N2
46.6 fps ∼36% +30%
Tomb Raider - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:FX AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
43 fps ∼27%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
44.8 fps ∼29% +4%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
59.8 fps ∼38% +39%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
74.2 fps ∼47% +73%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27)
Schenker W503
31.7 fps ∼20% -26%
GeForce GTX 770M (311.27)
One K73-3N
41.9 fps ∼27% -3%
GeForce GTX 780M (311.27)
One K56-3N2
65.3 fps ∼42% +52%
Crysis 3 - 1920x1080 Very High Preset AA:2xSM AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
18.4 fps ∼31%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
19 fps ∼32% +3%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
26.7 fps ∼44% +45%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
33.2 fps ∼55% +80%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27)
Schenker W503
14.2 fps ∼24% -23%
GeForce GTX 770M (311.27)
One K73-3N
19.3 fps ∼32% +5%
GeForce GTX 780M (311.27)
One K56-3N2
29.3 fps ∼49% +59%
Far Cry 3 - 1920x1080 DX11 Ultra Preset (HDAO, Enhanced Alpha To Coverage) AA:4x MS (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
20.3 fps ∼27%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
23 fps ∼31% +13%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
28.4 fps ∼38% +40%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
35.7 fps ∼48% +76%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27)
Schenker W503
14.4 fps ∼19% -29%
GeForce GTX 770M (311.27)
One K73-3N
20 fps ∼27% -1%
GeForce GTX 780M (311.27)
One K56-3N2
30.4 fps ∼41% +50%
Hitman: Absolution - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4xMS AF:16x (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
19.6 fps ∼26%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
24 fps ∼31% +22%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
27.9 fps ∼37% +42%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
38 fps ∼50% +94%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27)
Schenker W503
13.4 fps ∼18% -32%
GeForce GTX 770M (311.27)
One K73-3N
21.2 fps ∼28% +8%
GeForce GTX 780M (311.27)
One K56-3N2
33.8 fps ∼44% +72%
Guild Wars 2 - 1920x1080 All Maximum / On AA:FX (sort by value)
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler (332.35)
Schenker W504
24.8 fps ∼32%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell (332.35)
Schenker XMG P304
29.7 fps ∼38% +20%
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
One K73-4N
34.6 fps ∼44% +40%
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
Schenker XMG P704
43.8 fps ∼56% +77%
GeForce GTX 765M (311.27)
Schenker W503
21.8 fps ∼28% -12%
GeForce GTX 770M (311.27)
One K73-3N
28.6 fps ∼37% +15%
GeForce GTX 780M (311.27)
One K56-3N2
41.2 fps ∼53% +66%

Power Consumption

Contrary to our expectations, both GPUs are very similar in regard to the power consumption. 88-110 Watts of the Schenker W504 in the first scene of 3DMark06 is barely more than the Schenker XMG A504 with the identical Core i7-4700MQ CPU (83-107 Watts). Both devices consume up to 150 Watts under maximum load.

We were even able to determine slightly lower values of the Schenker W504 during idle (13-23 vs. 16-26 Watts). One reason for that should be the additional hard drive of the XMG A504. We did not compare the temperatures and the system noise due to the huge differences of the two barebones.

Verdict

GTX 860M Maxwell (left) vs. GTX 860M Kepler (right)
GTX 860M Maxwell (left) vs. GTX 860M Kepler (right)

The Kepler GTX 860M does actually leave a good impression when you compare it with the last generation. Around 30% more performance than a GTX 765M certainly deserve credit.

However, the old chip has a hard time keeping up with the Maxwell version. Despite less shaders, the new architecture is around 10% faster. The GeForce GTX 770M is also slightly ahead of the Kepler chip, which is not least caused by the larger memory interface. We are pretty sure that the Kepler GTX 860M would be faster with a 192-bit memory interface.

The Kepler GPU offers a decent, but not brilliant high-end performance. If possible, gamers should choose the Maxwell chip or a more powerful GPU. The GTX 860M is usually sufficient for 1600x900 pixels, high details and – depending on the game – subtle anti-aliasing settings.

GPU Overall Performance
GeForce GTX 880M +65%
GeForce GTX 780M +47%
GeForce GTX 870M +37%
GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell +10%
GeForce GTX 770M +3%
GeForce GTX 860M Kepler Base (Average of 16 games)
GeForce GTX 765M -23%
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Review Nvidia GeForce GTX 860M Maxwell vs. Kepler
Author: Florian Glaser, 2014-04-14 (Update: 2014-04-14)