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The Nvidia MX150 GPU Is Massively Slowed Down in Some Laptops

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Laptops designed for gaming are more powerful than ever before thanks to newer GPU designs that work on either desktops or laptops. However, these machines are still hefty and expensive. If you need something in between integrated graphics and a GTX module, you might go looking for a machine with an Nvidia MX150 dedicated GPU. However, it turns out not all MX150 systems offer the same version of the GPU. Some are much, much slower, and it’s hard to know which one is which.

Nvidia launched the MX150 dedicated laptop GPU in mid-2017. Previously, it had ditched the M-series mobile GPUs for laptops with the launch of the GeForce 1000-series. The GTX chips in laptops are now virtually identical to the ones you see in desktop GPUs, so Nvidia filled the gap between integrated graphics and GTX graphics with the MX150. It claims the MX150 is up to four times faster in games and 2.5 times faster editing photos than Intel integrated graphics. You can play “lighter” PC games like World of Tanks or DOTA2 at 60fps on most MX150 systems. Not all of them, though, and that’s the problem.

The MX150 is based on the GP108 chip, using the Pascal architecture, but there are two variants of the chip. Nvidia’s internal model numbers are N17S-G1-A1 and N17S-LG-A1. The G1 variant has a 25W TDP and a clock speed between 1,486 and 1,531MHz. The LG chip is significantly slower with a 10W TDP and clock speeds between 936 and 1,037MHz.

The LG variant comes with a significant drop in performance compared with the full-speed version, but it’s aimed at thinner laptops with smaller batteries. You can’t always tell from a spec sheet which version of the MX150 a laptop uses, though. Sometimes the data just isn’t provided, and other times it uses a different naming scheme — you might also see it identified as the 1D12 chip.

The ZenBook 13, one of the laptops with the slower MX150 chip.

NotebookCheck has found the slower MX150 in the Lenovo IdeaPad 320S-13KBR, Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UN, Asus ZenBook 13 UX331UA, Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air 13.3 2018, and HP Envy 13-ad006ng. The manufacturers of these systems don’t explain the distinction between the slower MX150 they’ve used and the faster one that Nvidia touts.

Meanwhile, Tom’s Hardware reports that the MX150 variants are most likely the same hardware with firmware modifications from Nvidia. It does also mention on the product page that GPU implementations will vary by manufacturer. However, there is a big difference between the N17S-G1-A1 and N17S-LG-A1. Using different user-facing model numbers would have been prudent.

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