NVIDIA GeForce GT 420M

NVIDIA GeForce GT 420M

The NVIDIA GeForce GT 420M is a fast mid-range laptop graphics card presented in 2010. It is based on the GF108 core, which is related to the Fermi architecture. Therefore, it supports DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. In contrast to the GT 415M, the card features the full 96 shader cores. Compared to the GT425M and GT435M, the 420M offers lower clock rates.

GF108 architecture

The GF108 core of the GT 420M is related to the GF100 core of the GeFore GTX 480M and offers 96 shaders and a 128 Bit memory bus for DDR3. Except for the memory controllers the GF108 can basically be considered a halved GF106. Therefore, the architecture is not comparable to the old GT215 (e.g., GeForce GTS 350M) or GT216 (e.g., GeForce GT 330M) cores. Unlike the GF100 the smaller GF104, GF106, and GF108 core were not only shortened, but also considerably modified. In contrast to the GF100, which was designed for professional applications, these chips target the consumer market. They feature more shaders (3x16 instead of 2x16), more texture units (8 instead of 4) and SFUs per streaming multi-processor (SM). As there are still only 2 warp schedulers (versus 3 shader groups), Nvidia now uses superscalar execution to use the higher amount of shaders per SM more efficiently. In theory, the shaders can thereby be utilized more efficiently and the performance per core is improved. However, in worst case scenarios the performance can also be worse than of the GF100 (and its predecessors). The ECC memory protection, which is important for professional applications, was completely omitted and the FP64 hardware shortened (only 1/3 of the shader are FP64-capable and therewith only 1/12 of the FP32’s performance). Because of these cutbacks, the size of the SM  grew only by 25% despite the higher number of shaders and larger warp schedulers with superscalar dispatch capabilities. Due to the different shader architectures and the higher clock rate of the shader domain, the core count can not be directly compared to AMD cores of the Radeon 5000 series (e.g. HD 5650).

Detailed information on the GF104 architecture (and therewith also the GF106 and GF108) can be found in the desktop GTX 460 article by Anandtech.


Because the GeForce GT 420M features a new architecture, the performance is not comparable to older chips with a similar core count. The DDR3 graphics memory combined with the 128 Bit bus should be the bottleneck of the GT 420M. In our tests with an Acer Aspire 5745PG pre-sample, the GT 420M performed on average between a GeForce GT 330M and GT 335M. Due to the higher shader count of the GT 420M, the performance could improve with future driver releases.

The gaming performance of the GT 420M is sufficient for medium detail settings in modern games like Battlefield Bad Company 2. Less demanding games should run in high detail settings. The best resolution to choose is about 1360x768 due to the limited performance. Benchmarks and comparison charts on the 3D performance can be found below.


A novelty of the GF104/106/108 chips is the support of Bitstream HD Audio (Blu-Ray) output via HDMI. Alike the Radeon HD 5650, the GT 420M can transfer Dolby True HD and DTS-HD bitstream-wise without quality loss to a HiFi receiver.

The GT420M offers the PureVideo HD technology for video decoding. The included Video Processor 4 (VP4) supports feature set C and therefore the GPU is able to fully decode MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2 (MPEG-4 ASP - e.g., DivX or Xvid), VC-1/WMV9, and H.264 (VLD, IDCT, Motion Compensation, and Deblocking).

Furthermore, the GPU is able to decode two 1080p streams simultaneously (e.g. for Blu-Ray Picture-in-Picture).

Through CUDA, OpenCL, and DirectCompute 2.1 support, the GeForce GT 420M can be of help in general calculations. For example, the stream processor can considerably faster encode videos than a fast CPU can. Furthermore, physics calculations can be done by the GPU using PhysX (e.g. supported by Mafia 2 or Metro 2033).

According to rumors, the power consumption of the GeForce GT 420M should be about 35 Watt (TDP including the MXM board and memory), and therefore suited for 15” laptops. Our Aspire 5745PG review unit was equipped with Optimus and the GT 420M needed 10.7-12.3 Watt more than the GMA HD alone in idle mode, 15.6-17.5 Watt during 3DMark06 and 23.2 Watt more during Furmark. 

Without load, the chip is clocked at 50/100/135 MHz (chip/shader/memory) in 2D respectively 200/400/325 in 3D mode to save power. Furthermore, the 400M series supports Optimus to automatically switch between the integrated graphics card from Intel and the Nvidia GPU. However, the laptop manufacturers need to implement it and it cannot be upgraded.

GeForce GT 400M Series
GeForce GT 445M (compare) 144 @ 590 MHz192 / 128 Bit @ 1250 MHz
GeForce GT 435M (compare) 96 @ 650 MHz128 Bit @ 800 MHz
GeForce GT 425M (compare) 96 @ 560 MHz128 Bit @ 800 MHz
GeForce GT 420M 96 @ 500 MHz128 Bit @ 800 MHz
GeForce GT 415M (compare) 48 @ 500 MHz128 Bit @ 800 MHz
Pipelines96 - unified
Core Speed500 MHz
Shader Speed1000 MHz
Memory Speed800 MHz
Memory Bus Width128 Bit
Memory Type(G)DDR3
Shared Memoryno
DirectXDirectX 11, Shader 5.0
technology40 nm
Notebook Sizemedium sized
Date of Announcement03.09.2010
Optimus Support, PureVideo HD VP4, Blu-Ray 3D, Bitstream HD Audio, CUDA, DirectCompute, OpenCL, OpenGL 4.0, DirectX 11
Link to Manufacturer Page


3DMark Vantage
P Result 1280x1024 +
P GPU no PhysX 1280x1024 +
3DMark 2001SE - Standard 1024x768
min: 16559     avg: 18904     median: 18904 (20%)     max: 21249 Points
3DMark 03 - Standard 1024x768
min: 14473     avg: 15343.5     median: 15464 (8%)     max: 15972 Points
3DMark 05 - Standard 1024x768
min: 10788     avg: 11124.5     median: 11124 (21%)     max: 11461 Points
3DMark 06 Standard 1280x1024 +
Unigine Heaven 2.1 - high, Tesselation (normal), DirectX11 1280x1024
min: 9     avg: 10.1     median: 10 (4%)     max: 10 fps
SPECviewperf 11
Siemens NX 1920x1080 +
Tcvis 1920x1080 +
SolidWorks 1920x1080 +
Pro/ENGINEER 1920x1080 +
Maya 1920x1080 +
Lightwave 1920x1080 +
Ensight 1920x1080 +
Catia 1920x1080 +
Windows 7 Experience Index - Graphics
min: 4     avg: 5.2     median: 5 (71%)     max: 5 points
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit +
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit +
- Range of benchmark values for this graphics card
- Average benchmark values for this graphics card
* Smaller numbers mean a higher performance

Game Benchmarks

The following benchmarks stem from our benchmarks of review laptops. The performance depends on the used graphics memory, clock rate, processor, system settings, drivers, and operating systems. So the results don't have to be representative for all laptops with this GPU. For detailed information on the benchmark results, click on the fps number.

low 800x600
63.6 fps  fps    + Compare
med. 1024x768
42.7 fps  fps    + Compare
high 1360x768
34.3 fps  fps    + Compare
ultra 1920x1080
20.9 fps  fps    + Compare
» With all tested laptops playable in detail settings med..
Fifa 11

Fifa 11

low 800x600
184.1 307.5 fps ~ 246 fps    + Compare
med. 1024x768
102.6 148.8 fps ~ 126 fps    + Compare
high 1360x768
74.1 94.6 fps ~ 84 fps    + Compare
ultra 1920x1080
52.3 fps  fps    + Compare
» With all tested laptops playable in detail settings ultra.
Mafia 2

Mafia 2

low 800x600
47.3  fps    + Compare
med. 1024x768
31.6  fps    + Compare
high 1360x768
25.1  fps    + Compare
ultra 1920x1080
14.9  fps    + Compare
» With all tested laptops playable in detail settings low.
low 1024x768
112 fps  fps    + Compare
med. 1360x768
34 fps  fps    + Compare
high 1360x768
25 fps  fps    + Compare
ultra 1920x1080
14 fps  fps    + Compare
» With all tested laptops playable in detail settings low.
low 800x600
36 40 ~ 38 fps    + Compare
med. 1360x768
23 24.1 ~ 24 fps    + Compare
high 1600x900
12  fps    + Compare
ultra 1920x1080
4  fps    + Compare
» With all tested laptops playable in detail settings low.
low 1024x768
41 fps  fps    + Compare