Not all Nvidia MX150 GPUs are created equal

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Evidence has surfaced suggesting Nvidia is feeding OEMs two different versions of its MX150 mobile GPU, one of which offers significantly reduced performance.

NotebookCheck says it recently discovered two distinct versions of the discrete GPU. The MX150 ‘N17S-LG-A1’ (also called the 1D12) is described as essentially being a Max-Q version of the standard MX150. It has only been found in 13-inch Ultrabooks thus far. The standard version is identified as the 'N17S-G1-A1' (or '1D10').

The site recounts that its first MX150-equipped machine, the MSI PL62, exhibited a GPU with a core clock of 1,469MHz, a Boost clock of 1,532MHz and VRAM speeds of 1,502MHz. These speeds were also seen on the MX150 inside the Asus Zenbook UX430UN. In contrast, the MX150 inside the Lenovo IdeaPad 320S-13KBR boasts a core clock of 937MHz, a Boost clock of 1,038MHz and memory speeds of 1,253MHz – much slower across the board.

NotebookCheck says it has spotted the slower graphics in other systems as well including the ZenBook 13 UX331UN, Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air 13.3, HP Envy 13 and the ZenBook UX331UA. According to the site, the slower-clocked solutions afford a performance drop of as much as 25 percent in some tests.

The issue isn’t so much that Nvidia is shipping two different versions of the MX150 but that it has failed to mention as much in marketing materials.

The “original” MX150 has a TDP of 25W versus the 10W TDP exhibited by the slower variant. Obviously, a less power-hungry chip is going to be a better fit for thin and light machines… like 13” Ultrabooks.

We reached out to Nvidia and received the following statement on the matter:

The MX150 is a Pascal-based GPU featuring 384 CUDA cores. We work closely with OEM partners to optimize their specific design constraints for things such as TDP, battery capacity, CPU speed and more. Overall performance and specifications will vary based on OEM implementation and design considerations.

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Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
I don't see why this is Nvidia's problem.... They sell the GPUs to the OEMs - then the OEM sells the device. As long as the OEM knows that it has a lower-spec GPU, it's up to THEM to let the buyer know about it!

Laptops, especially small ones, have always needed to compromise performance for power/heat.... Clearly the lower performance GPUs are for those that would overheat / drain battery with the high performance one.

Perhaps the OEM is guilty of attempting to mislead the buying public - but not Nvidia!
 

Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
It's Nvidia's problem if they are pushing different hardware under the same exact model number.

Compromises in laptops are a given, but if 2 laptops are compared side by side, both with the "MX150" badge from Nvidia, and they have dramatically different physical hardware or potential specifications, then it's a problem. Consumers who bought a laptop with an MX150 and expected performance on par with the official release specs and reviewed units, then find they got bait and switched with slower units that don't meet those specs, will undoubtedly cry foul... This is the kind of stuff that starts class action lawsuits.

Nvidia shouldn't have allowed identical badging on hardware versions with major performance differences. They could have easily added a letter or something to indicate it was a slower model.
 

Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
It's Nvidia's problem if they are pushing different hardware under the same exact model number.

Compromises in laptops are a given, but if 2 laptops are compared side by side, both with the "MX150" badge from Nvidia, and they have dramatically different physical hardware or potential specifications, then it's a problem. Consumers who bought a laptop with an MX150 and expected performance on par with the official release specs and reviewed units, then find they got bait and switched with slower units that don't meet those specs, will undoubtedly cry foul... This is the kind of stuff that starts class action lawsuits.

Nvidia shouldn't have allowed identical badging on hardware versions with major performance differences. They could have easily added a letter or something to indicate it was a slower model.
The OEM is aware of the discrepancy - THEY are the ones profiting by the “mistaken” identity... it should be up to THEM to notify customers they are getting a different GPU...
 

Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
Oh, make no mistake, the OEM most certainly should be informing customers that their performance may be lower. I'm merely pointing out that by providing 2 levels of performance under the exact same "MX150" badge, Nvidia is setting itself up for issues, like getting dragged into potential legal battles (you know how people love to sue these days). It could very well end up a public relations fiasco. Or it could be no big deal and get blown off. Either way, it could all have been prevented by tagging the slower units with a slightly different badge, like MX150e or something along those lines. Then there would be no potential confusion or misinformation in the pipeline between Nvidia, OEM, and consumer.
 
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Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
Simple solution, the lower clocked version should be called the MX140, walla, no more lawsuits.
There haven’t BEEN any lawsuits! Nvidia alters their GPU FOR the OEM... they haven’t and WILL NOT get sued because they aren’t the ones selling the laptops! OEMs are the ones performing sketchy business practices - if anyone gets sued, it will be them!
 

Theinsanegamer

TS Evangelist
....This is news? This kind of thing has been happening for years. The 940MX had 3 or 4 different versions, all with different clock or memory speeds, same with the 830/40/50m. Ever since the development of turbo boost on GPUs, the performance of GPUs has varied from laptop to laptop with any model of GPU. The 980m, for instance, was slower in the alienware 17 then it was in the equivalent MSI or clevo.

Never buy a laptop with a dGPU before doing your research into its true performance.
 

GeforcerFX

TS Evangelist
There haven’t BEEN any lawsuits! Nvidia alters their GPU FOR the OEM... they haven’t and WILL NOT get sued because they aren’t the ones selling the laptops! OEMs are the ones performing sketchy business practices - if anyone gets sued, it will be them!
Reading comprehension bro, I never said "and Nvidia won't get sued now" I said by nvidia making the underclocked version a different designation (as they have done for like 10 years) then no lawsuits for anyone.
 
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CortyDK

This is just the GPU version of TDP-down found in Intel CPU's.

Example: i5-7300HQ.
Regular TDP: 45W
TDP Down: 35W
https://ark.intel.com/products/97456/Intel-Core-i5-7300HQ-Processor-6M-Cache-up-to-3_50-GHz

The laptop manufacturer does not tell you if you recieve a laptop with the 45W or 35W TDP. They just tell you the CPU ID and the "up to" frequency.

So no matter if the same chip is underclocked (tdp down) or the manufacturer has 2 versions of the same chip, we get the same result: A lower and higher speced variant, and the average consumer does not know anything about it - and frankly, many cannot tell the difference.

I suspect power users will not buy a laptop with mx chip, more likely the 1050Ti or better.
 

enemys

TS Maniac
TechSpot Elite
This is just the GPU version of TDP-down found in Intel CPU's.

Example: i5-7300HQ.
Regular TDP: 45W
TDP Down: 35W
https://ark.intel.com/products/97456/Intel-Core-i5-7300HQ-Processor-6M-Cache-up-to-3_50-GHz

The laptop manufacturer does not tell you if you recieve a laptop with the 45W or 35W TDP. They just tell you the CPU ID and the "up to" frequency.

So no matter if the same chip is underclocked (tdp down) or the manufacturer has 2 versions of the same chip, we get the same result: A lower and higher speced variant, and the average consumer does not know anything about it - and frankly, many cannot tell the difference.

I suspect power users will not buy a laptop with mx chip, more likely the 1050Ti or better.
Yeah, it's been happening for years, especially in ULV models. Aand CPU/GPU performance can vary even without adjusting TDPs - thermal constraints play big role in that. Sometimes an i5 version of a notebook can be quicker on the long run than the one with i7. Real-life testing conducted by reviewers are a better performance gauge than the CPU/GPU model.

As for the last part - I'm a power user and I recently got an MX150-powered notebook. Not every poweruser needs a mobile gaming machine - I have a 1080Ti in my desktop for that. On the other hand, being able to play some modern titles when my PC is inaccessible is still nice, and the laptop is still quite efficient and compact.
 

regiq

TS Addict
....This is news? This kind of thing has been happening for years. The 940MX had 3 or 4 different versions, all with different clock or memory speeds, same with the 830/40/50m. Ever since the development of turbo boost on GPUs, the performance of GPUs has varied from laptop to laptop with any model of GPU. The 980m, for instance, was slower in the alienware 17 then it was in the equivalent MSI or clevo.

Never buy a laptop with a dGPU before doing your research into its true performance.
The same goes for desktop cards, e.g. GM204 and GM206 with different clocks and shader count both badged as GTX 960. Or GT 640 which was like 5 different cards.
 

Puiu

TS Evangelist
Although I hate this practice, different specs for the same GPU name in laptops has been a thing since forever. That's why I check clock speeds everytime I look at a new laptop.
 

captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
It's Nvidia's problem if they are pushing different hardware under the same exact model number.
Since the article acknowledges, there are 2 distinct part numbers,on 2 different chips, under the same basic "model number", it seems to me, that it would be incumbent upon the laptop OEMs, to furnish accurate specifications about the GPU's performance capability, and nothing beyond that..

If the customer either can't read, choses not to read, or is unable to comprehend what they've read, it should not fall on the laptop maker, or Nvidia, to do either "Consumer Reports" job for them, or, the customer themselves due diligence.

I don't buy a CPU, a video card, or any other part of a PC which I might be building, without consulting the makers website, or any other source of info which might be available.

What's next, suing because there's a GTX-1080, AND a GTX-1080 TI? Get real. Those are 2 different parts, with two different capabilities, under the same basic model number umbrella.

In the case of the GTX-1050/ 1050 TI series, there are even a different number of active CUDA cores.

In the typical format of retail consumer transactions today, this falls into the category of the customer is always wrong and/or under prepared to make a major purchase, but has a shyster lawyer to vindicate and capitalize on his or her stupidity.
 

Ben Myers

TS Enthusiast
It's Nvidia's problem if they are pushing different hardware under the same exact model number.
Since the article acknowledges, there are 2 distinct part numbers,on 2 different chips, under the same basic "model number", it seems to me, that it would be incumbent upon the laptop OEMs, to furnish accurate specifications about the GPU's performance capability, and nothing beyond that..

If the customer either can't read, choses not to read, or is unable to comprehend what they've read, it should not fall on the laptop maker, or Nvidia, to do either "Consumer Reports" job for them, or, the customer themselves due diligence.

I don't buy a CPU, a video card, or any other part of a PC which I might be building, without consulting the makers website, or any other source of info which might be available.

What's next, suing because there's a GTX-1080, AND a GTX-1080 TI? Get real. Those are 2 different parts, with two different capabilities, under the same basic model number umbrella.

In the case of the GTX-1050/ 1050 TI series, there are even a different number of active CUDA cores.

In the typical format of retail consumer transactions today, this falls into the category of the customer is always wrong and/or under prepared to make a major purchase, but has a shyster lawyer to vindicate and capitalize on his or her stupidity.
What? You think anybody is going to tell you exact specs of anything? Not in the computer business any more. It is all about obfuscation so you do not know for sure what you are getting until you have bought it. Or maybe read an article like this one. Or maybe being able to get hands-on yourself with laptops in a big box store, altho this is highly improbable.