Nvidia Max-Q launches Pascal into thinner, lighter notebooks


— 9:21 AM on May 30, 2017

Gaming laptops have gotten thinner and lighter in recent years, but they still tend to be thick, heavy bruisers that aren't any fun to carry between power plugs. Nvidia wants to change all that with a program called Max-Q, its in-house initiative to help gaming laptop makers build machines it describes as "3x thinner" and with "3.3X more performance" than the typically truckish GTX 880M-equipped gaming laptop of a couple years past. There are several fancy Max-Q notebooks debuting at Computex this week, but they all seem to share several basic characteristics: a chassis under 0.8" (20 mm) thick, a weight of around five pounds, and a GTX 1080 pushing pixels. 

One can't just shove the full 110W of the mobile GTX 1080 inside a relatively thin-and-light chassis, of course. Similar restrictions apply for the mobile GTX 1070 and GTX 1060 in their Max-Q trims. Nvidia says part of Max-Q is "operating the GPU for peak efficiency," which is a way of saying that it's using a much more restrained voltage-and-frequency-scaling curve for these parts in a tighter thermal envelope. Nvidia also says it's offering its expertise with power-delivery circuitry and cooling systems to notebook manufacturers to help them accommodate Max-Q's design goals.


Asus ROG Zephyrus

A side benefit of this move is that Nvidia's partners can target a 40-dBA noise level (measured according to ISO 7779). That could be a welcome improvement over the 50-dBA-or-more noise levels typical of gaming laptops running all-out.

Max-Q
GPU
Base
clock
(MHz)

Boost
clock
(MHz)

Graphics
power (W)
GTX 1080 1101-1290 1278-1468 90-110
GTX 1070 1101-1215 1265-1379 80-90
GTX 1060 1063-1265 1341-1480 60-70

Although Max-Q parts will still be called GTX 1080s, GTX 1070s, and GTX 1060s, they'll have lower base and boost clocks than their full-throated mobile counterparts. Buyers will need to keep that fact in mind when they compare a Max-Q laptop to a thicker, heavier machine that might also tout a GTX 1060 or GTX 1070, for example. Still, the fact that Nvidia and its partners can pack that much graphics performance into a relatively thin-and-light machine is undeniably impressive.

To keep power consumption, waste heat, and noise down even further, mobile gamers with Max-Q notebooks will have the option of using optimized settings in GeForce Experience that Nvidia claims will balance efficiency and graphics performance. The company is also introducing a new utility called WhisperMode as part of GeForce Experience. WhisperMode "intelligently paces the game's frame rate while simultaneously configuring the graphics settings for optimal power efficiency." Sounds similar to Radeon Chill to me. Nvidia says WhisperMode will be available for all Pascal GPUs as part of a future GeForce Experience update.

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