Sometimes we just want to be able to play graphically potent video games somewhere other than our desks. To address this gaming vs. travel conundrum, Nvidia and partners have developed high-end RTX Max-Q gaming laptop designs. From the CES 2019 stage, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang announced the company’s mobile graphics lineup. He said there are 40+ laptops getting the RTX treatment, and of those, 17 would be Max-Q designs. We went on a hunt for all 17.
The Max-Q program first rolled out back at Computex 2017 with GTX 1080, 1070, and 1060 options for gaming laptops. The idea is that you get close to the graphics firepower of the full cards, but with some things dialed down to meet a certain “peak efficiency” mark. This enabled thin and light laptop designs that are still able to adequately cool that high-end hardware.
Based on the new 2000 series of Turing GPUs, this crop of powerful but thin gaming laptops packs the same number of cores as their desktop brethren, yet they’re relatively thin and light (18-20mm). Keep in mind these graphics cards are clocked lower, but regardless, they should still push out some serious pixels. These blinged-out machines have an RTX 2080 Max-Q or 2070 Max-Q card paired with either an eighth- or ninth-gen Intel CPU.
One great big wildcard in this search is that we’re unsure if Nvidia considers variations on Clevo shells to be individual “designs” or not. It’s also unclear how multiple SKUs that are closely related, like Dell’s G series and Gigabyte’s pair, count towards the total. We definitely found more than 17, depending on how the above is qualified. Rather than worry too much about semantics, here’s the full list of 20-series Max-Q laptops that we’ve found.
Acer, Asus, and Dell
Acer Predator Triton 500
Acer outed two new machines packing RTX graphics at CES, but only the Acer Predator Triton 500 has the Max-Q version. (Its big brother, the Predator Triton 900, is quite an interesting thing all its own; it’s basically a giant convertible laptop with RTX graphics on board.)
The Predator Triton 500 is a more typical 15.6″ notebook, but it does have a seriously impressive-on-paper 144Hz 1080p display with G-Sync support. The bezels are fairly slim at 6.3mm. The max configuration pairs an eight-generation Intel Core i7 CPU with an RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU card. A solid 32GB DDR4 memory and some capacity of NVMe PCIe RAID 0 SSD storage round out the main specs.
At 17.9mm thick and weighing 2.1kg, it’s one of the thinner machines available, and it has a full metal chassis. Acer promises up to eight hours of battery life, but it’s likely that “up to” requires some power-saving gymnastics. It will start at $1,799 when it becomes available in February 2019.
Asus Zephyrus S GX701 and GX531
The first thing you may notice is that the keyboard and mousepad sit astride each other at the front half of the machine, all pimped out with RGB, naturally. The back half, where the keyboard usually sits, is now an air intake to assist with cooling, which is key for such a slim chassis. Asus claims that it managed to fit a typically 17.3″ 144Hz, 100% sRGB screen in a 15.7″ body. You get up to six-core Intel Core i7 CPUs and RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics, along with up to 1 TB of NVMe SSD goodness.
They also have a toggle that Asus claims is exclusive. It allows you to enable G-Sync or Optimus, with only a reboot between them. We’re not sure how this voodoo is occurring, but it could be a fantastic feature. The machine will also charge from a USB Type-C portable charger should you be without your power adapter and have light usage needs. Asus also removed the webcam from this device, citing “slim bezels,” but it’s happy to sell you one with 1080p 60FPS as an optional add-on that you can prop on top of your screen.
Dell Alienware m15 and m17, G5 and G 7 G5
Dell showed up with a full load of Max-Q machines, from the extreme high end with its Alienware brand to less flamboyant designs with its Dell G series. The options vary depending on what system your looking at, so pay attention.
Less exciting than the Area-51m perhaps, but more affordable, is the Alienware m17. It’s looks quite similar to some other Alienware machines on the market, but it has support for bigger and faster things. The 15.6″ version, the Alienware m15, has similar specs. Both offer hexacore, eighth-gen CPUs and up to RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics. You can choose between a 1080p or 4k display, and configurations are available that include up to 32 GB of RAM, 2 TB of storage (2 x 1-TB SSDs), and a Thunderbolt 3 port.
There are virtually countless configurations available between the new Dell G5 and G7 laptops. The company listed three distinct models, all eminently configurable, and all with RTX Max-Q graphics options.
The G5 15 (5590) is a 15.6″ affair with up to a stunning 3840×2160 resolution, but only a 60 Hz refresh rate. If you want to trade res for refresh, you can opt for the 1920×1080 model that offers 144 Hz. There’s up to an Intel Core i7-8750HQ hexacore CPU inside, and graphics options run the gamut from 1050 Ti to RTX 2070 or 2080 Max-Q. There’s also an SE white model that has transparent covering over the fans.
Similar in size but with some different options is the G7 15 (7590). With the G7, you can upgrade to an Intel Core i9-8950K unlocked hexacore chip, but the other options remain the same.
If you like carrying around giant laptops, or are just lousy for maximum screen real estate, the G7 17 (7790) gets you there. But the juicy specs of the display are somewhat cut back, to just the 1920×1080, 144-Hz configuration. You can kiss 1440p and up goodbye, but no one’s really complaining too much about that delicious refresh rate, right?
Gigabyte, HP, and Lenovo
Gigabyte Aero 15-Y9 and Aero 15-X9
The Aero 15-Y9 and Aero 15-X9 are both 15.6″ machines. While both are high-end, the Y9 is a little more powerful. The X9 has an RTX 2070 Max-Q, but the Y9 goes all-in with the RTX 2080 Max-Q. That’s actually the only difference. Both support up to 64GB of memory, and both can be configured with factory calibrated 144Hz panels, and even a 4K Adobe RGB 100% panel if that’s a necessity for you. The webcam offers an up-the-nose angle, being down at the base of the screen, as bezels are thin. And relax, RGB backlighting is standard.
In addition to the Intel Core i7-8750H or Core i9-8950HK CPUs, the Intel 760p SSDs, Thunderbolt 3, and Intel Killer Wi-Fi chip come together to form “the All Intel Inside” program. (Um, if you ignore the Nvidia GPU and Samsung memory.) Perhaps the most interesting thing about these machines is that Gigabyte claims to use Microsoft’s Azure to get the “perfect CPU, GPU, fan, keyboard and sound setting options tuned by the AI even without having to connect to the internet.”
HP Omen 15-DC1030NR
Although to date it’s not yet listed on HP’s buy pages, the Omen line is getting the RTX Max-Q treatment. HP isn’t making any major cosmetic changes with its new Omen model, but it’s making some serious hardware changes. Available later this year will be a 240Hz panel, which HP claims is a first on a laptop. Alternatively, it appears you can select only a 1080p 60Hz IPS panel in the meantime, so it might be worth waiting for that upgrade to be available.
HP is also offering IEEE 802.11ax Wi-Fi on the new machine at some point. Otherwise, the listed specs are typical for this kind of product, with an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, up to a 128-GB M.2 SSD that appears to be paired with a 1-TB HDD, and Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C.
HP says that it’s designed the Omen to be easy to upgrade, thanks to single panel access to changeable parts. A keyboard with rollover support on 26 of the keys and RGB lighting makes sure people know you bought a gaming laptop.
Lenovo Legion Y540 and Y740
The Legion Y540 and Y740 share a similar design, with the Y540 offering a 15.6″ display and the Y740 at 17.3″. The Y540 supports up to RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics, but the Y740 takes it up a notch with RTX 2070 Max-Q or RTX 2080 Max-Q.
Oddly, Lenovo has not listed the CPU for the Y540, but the Y740 sports the hexacore Core i7-8750H. The Y540 panel choices are both 1920×1080 IPS clocked at 60 Hz or 144 Hz, while the Y740 has the option for a 1920×1080 Nvidia G-Sync model at 144 Hz. Other key hardware specifications between the two are essentially identical.
MSI and Razer
MSI GS65 and GS75 Stealth
MSI has two laptops in two configurations apiece with RTX Max-Q graphics. The GS65 Stealth 8SG and 8SF SKUs offer RTX 2080 Max-Q and RTX 2070 Max-Q, respectively, but both have otherwise unspecified specs. (Yes, “unspecified specs” is an oxymoron. We digress.) We do know that both have 15.6″, 1920×1080, 144 Hz displays; up to 32 GB DDR4-2666 RAM; and Killer Gigabit LAN with Killer AC Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 5. But all we know beyond that, really, is that they each offer “up to 8th Gen Intel Core i7 Processor,” M.2 PCIe storage, backlit keyboards, and up to date I/O like Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C.
The story is largely the same on the GS75 Stealth, with the 8SG and 8SF versions splitting the two RTX Max-Q options. Other than a different Wi-Fi chip, very slight changes in the storage and I/O options, the GS75 just has the larger 17.3″ display.
Razer Blade 15 “Advanced Model”
Razer is not new to Max-Q, but it is trying to differentiate its Nvidia 10-series GTX Max-Q model from its newer RTX-based laptops. Currently, it lists the Razer Blade 15 with GTX 1060 Max-Q as a “Base Model” and the versions with RTX 2060, RTX 2070 Max-Q, or RTX 2080 Max-Q as “Advanced Models.”
The upgrades from the Base Model are way more than just the GPUs, though; the RTX option brings with it a 1920×1080 144 Hz or 4K OLED touch display. Previous versions have supported G-Sync, but nowhere in its lengthy press releases about these laptops does Razer mention it. You also get per-key RGB backlighting, but you lose the gigabit Ethernet port. That may be a sacrifice on the altar of thinness, given that the new Razer Blade 15 is just 17.8 mm thick.
These laptops run on an Intel Core i7-8750H hexacore CPU, paired with 16 GB of DDR4-2667 MHz RAM. They also Windows Hello camera support, meaning you can quickly login to Windows through facial recognition. Razer says that in order to cool such a small machine they needed to use vapor chamber technology instead of the traditional heat pipes most other laptops use.
Muddying the waters
We just listed 17 upcoming RTX Max-Q laptops. That should be the whole list, but there are some outliers that confuse the situation.
When it was first announced at CES 2019, the Samsung Notebook Odyssey Z purportedly had a Max-Q graphics option, but it appears that mention has been scrubbed. We can only presume that it was an error in the original announcement, but in any case, we didn’t include it in this list.
It’s also unclear what’s up with Maingear. Some reports around CES indicated that at least one of Maingear’s new Pulse laptop SKUs would have a Max-Q option. Indeed, the Pulse 17 product page says that the new laptops will have RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics, but if you click to order, there is no non-Max-Q option. Conversely (hmm, inversely?), the Pulse 15’s product page does not mention a Max-Q graphics option, but its order page does. We’ve reached out to Maingear for clarification, but initial indications are that it’s just an error. At least one of the new Maingear Pulse gaming laptops (probably the Pulse 15) will offer an RTX 2070 Max-Q option.
So that would 18. But the count might get thrown off depending on how you handle Clevo. It’s unclear how many boutique PC builders are using the same Clevo design. The issue begins with the fact that there’s little to be found about the Clevo designs that have RTX Max-Q graphics. The only serious reference we’ve been able to locate so far is from Notebook Check, which posted a news article during CES discussing all the new Clevo laptop shells. Among them is the P96 and P97 series that will have RTX 2080 Max-Q, RTX 2070 Max-Q, and RTX 2060 (no Max-Q) graphics options.
The big question is which boutique PC outfits will use the purported P96 Clevo shell, and if so, how are those counted against the 17. Origin PC’s EVO16-S and EVO17-S both have RTX Max-Q options that appear to jibe with Notebook Check’s description of the Clevo P96/P97 designs. The Maingear models might, too.
We’ll save you from doing the arithmetic, but if you count the two Clevo RTX Max-Q models, don’t count the Maingear and Origin PC laptops, count the two Gigabyte laptops as one (the only difference is the GPU), and the two Dell G5 15s as one (the white edition doesn’t count as a separate SKU), you get…17. Not that it matters how you count; if you’re interested in a gaming laptop with RTX 2000-series Max-Q graphics, you have the whole of the above list to choose from.