Most gaming laptops are very obviously gaming laptops thanks to their substantial girth and weight. After all, it takes a lot of cooling to keep a high-power GPU running in such a small case. Nvidia is looking to change that with the Max-Q technology it announced at Computex in Taipei. By optimizing performance, Max-Q can make gaming laptops with a desktop-class GTX 1080 almost as thin as a standard ultraportable notebook.
Max-Q takes its name from the aerospace industry, where it means the point at which aerodynamic stress on the craft is at its highest. Therefore, all engineering tolerances are developed with Max-Q in mind. It’s similar with Nvidia’s Max-Q, which is a combination of both hardware and software. Each laptop with Max-Q technology has to be developed in partnership with Nvidia in order to tune the performance. These devices will all run GTX 1080, 1070, or 1060 GPUs, and these are the same core components you’d find in a giant desktop video card.
The design of Max-Q gaming laptops recognizes that you reach a point of diminishing returns as you ramp up performance in a laptop. Therefore, Max-Q targets the optimal intersection of power and performance. Nvidia says the GTX 1080 in a Max-Q laptop will have about 90 percent of the performance and only half the power consumption of a desktop GTX 1080. That’s a roughly 40 or 50 percent increase over current gaming laptops.
By working with laptop manufacturers, Nvidia is helping to implement better thermal solutions based around the video card, high-efficiency energy regulators, and optimized video settings. The result is laptops that are around .7 inches (18mm) thick and have fan noise under 40dB. That’s impressive when you consider that just a few years ago, a high-end gaming laptop would sound like a 747 taking off and could easily be 1.6 to 2 inches (40-50mm) thick.
Laptop makers will be announcing Max-Q designs soon, and some have already done so at Computex. For example, there’s the Asus Zephyrus (see top). This device falls under the company’s Republic of Gamers brand, and packs a GTX 1080 into a 17.9mm thick, 4.8 pound case. It also sports a 120Hz G-Sync monitor and fans that operate at just 39dB. There’s also the somewhat more modest MSI GS63, which is a hair thinner, but it’s only 3.96 pounds. This one runs a GTX 1070.
We don’t yet know pricing or availability for the first wave of Max-Q laptops, but you should probably start saving up now.