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Is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980MX Still Worth Buying in 2023?

Hey there! With graphics card prices starting to come down in 2023, you may be wondering if an older GPU like the Nvidia 980MX could be a good budget option for gaming. Let‘s take a deep dive into the history and performance of the GTX 980MX to see if this mobile chipset is still worth buying.

Overview of the GeForce GTX 980MX

The GTX 980MX is a high-end mobile GPU that Nvidia released way back in June 2015. It‘s essentially a laptop version of the desktop GTX 980, which was the flagship gaming graphics card at the time.

Nvidia shrunk down the 980 into a mobile variant by reducing the number of CUDA shader cores from 2048 on the desktop down to 1664 on the 980MX. This allowed the chip to meet lower power and thermal limits while still delivering great 1080p gaming performance.

Other key specs of the GeForce GTX 980MX:

  • GPU architecture: Maxwell 2nd Gen
  • Manufacturing process: 28nm
  • Texture mapping units: 104
  • Render output units: 64
  • Core clock: 1050MHz (boost 1178MHz)
  • Memory interface: 256-bit GDDR5
  • Video memory: 8GB
  • TDP: 125W

The powerful 256-bit memory bus paired with 8GB of VRAM gave the 980MX plenty of graphical horsepower for smooth HD gaming. And the Maxwell architecture provided major gains in power efficiency over older Kepler GPUs.

Let‘s take a deeper look at the history and adoption of this mobile chipset.

Release and Adoption of the GTX 980MX

Nvidia unveiled the GeForce GTX 980MX alongside the rest of the 900M mobile GPU lineup in May 2015. The company positioned it as a flagship mobile graphics solution for premium gaming laptops.

Several major gaming notebook makers quickly introduced laptops equipped with the new GPU, including MSI, Alienware, Razer, Asus, and Aorus. For example, the MSI GT72S and Asus ROG G501 gaming laptops shipped with the 980MX.

At launch, the 980MX carried a premium price tag. The Asus G501 with 980MX retailed for $1599 when it first hit the market. For the performance at the time, that price made sense. Reviews widely praised the 980MX as a "lightning fast" mobile GPU that could handle 1080p gaming with ease.

However, due to its high TDP of 125W, the 980MX primarily remained confined to large enthusiast notebooks rather than mainstream gaming laptops. This limited its adoption compared to the more widely used GTX 980M chip.

Performance and Benchmarks

When it first launched, the GTX 980MX represented a big leap in mobile graphics horsepower. Let‘s look at some notable gaming benchmarks when reviewers first put the GPU through its paces in 2015:

3DMark Fire Strike 7323 points
Rise of the Tomb Raider 1080p/Very High 66fps
Grand Theft Auto V 1080p/Very High 75fps
The Witcher 3 1080p/High 68fps

As you can see from these results, the 980MX achieved well over 60fps in demanding games at 1080p and high to max settings. That was extremely impressive performance for a mobile GPU when Maxwell delivered huge efficiency gains over Kepler.

But how does the aging 980MX hold up in 2023 compared to today‘s budget mobile graphics cards? Let‘s look at some more recent benchmark comparisons.

In UserBenchmark testing, the 980MX now benchmarks about 37% slower than Nvidia‘s entry-level GTX 1650 laptop GPU. The 1650 is far more power efficient at just 50W TDP but still handily outperforms the last-gen Maxwell chip.

Based on recent reviews, the 980MX averages around 45fps in many newer games at 1080p if you turn down some graphics settings. You‘ll have to compromise on visuals to maintain smooth performance in demanding 2023 titles like Elden Ring or Cyberpunk 2077.

So while the GTX 980MX is showing its age, it still delivers playable framerates as long as you temper your expectations and choose some medium graphics presets in intensive new releases.

Overclocking Headroom and Enthusiast Appeal

A fun fact about the GTX 980MX is that it tended to overclock quite well, especially in enthusiast laptops with advanced cooling solutions.

Many reviewers found the Maxwell GPUs responded nicely to additional voltage and power limit headroom. With adequate thermals, the 980MX could often sustain 150-200MHz GPU overclocks and 300-500MHz on the memory.

On specialty notebooks built for overclocking, some users managed to push their 980MX chips above 1300MHz boost clocks! This provided up to 20% higher frame rates in games when thermals permitted.

Of course, your overclocking mileage will vary considerably based on individual laptop design and cooling capabilities. But the Maxwell architecture and GM204 GPU gave the 980MX plenty of enthusiast appeal for those who really wanted to push the limits.

There‘s still an active overclocking community tweaking their vintage 980MX laptops today. It goes to show this mobile GPU gathered a following from gaming enthusiasts during its time at the top.

Current Availability and Used Pricing

Since Nvidia ceased production of the GTX 900M series years ago, the only way to get your hands on a 980MX today is by purchasing a used gaming laptop.

On eBay and other secondary markets, GTX 980MX gaming notebooks tend to sell in the range of $400 – $600 in 2023 depending on model, specs, and condition. For example:

  • MSI GT72S with 980MX – $450+
  • Alienware 15 R2 with 980MX – $500+
  • Asus G501 Gaming Laptop with 980MX – $600+

Of course, buying any used electronic comes with risks of worn-out batteries, failing fans, and other reliability concerns. Be sure to thoroughly inspect the laptop and performance before purchasing.

The 980MX GPU itself is not sold separately anymore, as it uses the custom MXM mobile module form factor. You‘d have to swap out the entire laptop board to upgrade to a 980MX.

Is the GTX 980MX Still Worth Buying in 2023?

So should you consider picking up a used 980MX gaming laptop in 2023? Here are some pros and cons to weigh:

Pros:

  • Still capable of running modern games at medium settings and playable frame rates
  • Much cheaper than current budget gaming laptops
  • Provides a configurable/overclockable GPU for enthusiasts
  • Decent portability compared to desktop replacements

Cons:

  • Limited driver support as Maxwell nears obsolete status
  • Can‘t max out newer AAA game graphics anymore
  • Used laptops have uncertain reliability
  • Entry-level new GPUs like GTX 1650 outperform it

Ultimately, if you find a 980MX laptop in great condition at a good price, it can still deliver a solid budget 1080p gaming experience in 2023. I‘d only recommend it for more casual gaming needs rather than primary machine.

However, for buyers who can afford a little more, a new budget gaming laptop with RTX 3050 or GTX 1650 will provide better performance and longevity.

Either way, the 980MX stands as an impressive achievement in mobile graphics for its time. It really pushed the envelope of laptop gaming capabilities back in 2015. And that legacy endures even as newer GPUs have surpassed it today.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m happy to chat more about whether the GeForce GTX 980MX could still be a good fit for your gaming needs and budget.