Most think of Gaming Laptops as thick and heavy -but powerful- computers. It has been historically true that gaming-capable laptops had to sacrifice mobility and design, for performance, but this time is over thanks to the NVIDIA Max-Q design, which aims at extracting the best performance from the components, but at the most efficient point, thus leaving the notion of “absolute performance” (at any cost) behind.
As you can see in the photo above, what a difference a few years make. NVIDIA CEO Jen Hsun Huang is holding a laptop from a few years ago, and a new one (a ROG Zephyr) that is coming out in 2017 with Max-Q. The difference in performance (3X), thickness (2.8X) and weight (2X) is staggering. Huang also said that this Max-Q laptop is 60% faster than the PlayStation 4 Pro.
As NVIDIA puts it, Max-Q is the confluence of four things:
- Running the GPU at peak efficiency (perf/watt)
- Use optimal Game settings (visuals/perf/watt)
- Have better thermal solutions
- Have next-gen power regulation (limits wasted energy)
In plain language, NVIDIA’s Max-Q design involves tuning everything in the graphics chain to get the best visuals and performance possible within the thermal and power limits of the thin and light chassis that make Max-Q such a beautiful thing.
NVIDIA has extensive experience in gathering data about GPU utilization, and with GeForce Experience, the company has a lot of additional data about what game settings affect performance/power. The goal here is to get maximum visual quality for the lowest power/heat. Keep I mind that heat induces performance throttling – hence the importance of creating as little heat as possible, and to evacuate whatever heat must be generated.
More importantly, NVIDIA has built the infrastructure to test all possible combinations/scenarios. In my opinion, all the work that NVIDIA has put into GeForce Experience is paying off, once again.
In the past, it was accepted that high-performance laptops were going to be big and heavy. It’s no longer the case. Obviously, in a few years, GPU have gotten a lot more efficient in general, but by optimizing every level of graphics rendering, NVIDIA and its OEM partners are able to deliver right now.
It remains to be seen what the performance will ultimately look like, and compare that to the full-size gaming laptops. In general, history show that pushing for higher efficiency is the winning strategy, so I’m fairly certain that this value will be quickly understood by customers. If not, OEMs will continue to cater for that bulky gaming laptop market in the short term.