Laptops With NVidia Max-Q GPU – Are They Worth It?

With the release of Max-Q graphic cards last year. Laptops that feature these cards are becoming increasingly popular because of the promise they bring to every gamer: a slim portable gaming laptop with above average battery life.

But this promise comes at a price which is a considerable reduced performance in gaming.

Something you want to avoid especially if you are a gamer because great performance is the main reason for getting a gaming laptop.

Also, Max-Q cards sounds like a renamed version of mobile laptop cards that were popular in the past. For example a GTX 960 card and its laptop or mobile version GTX 960M.

max-q design
Max-Q Design

What Is Max-Q?

Max-Q is NVidia’s solution to making gaming laptops slimmer, quieter and consume less power.

Max-Q technology make it possible for powerful graphics card like GTX 1070 into a slim laptop without worrying about overheating and poor battery life.

RTX 20 series will also be getting their Max-Q versions for laptops.

There are also two important physical metrics a laptop must meet before it can be called a Max-Q laptop.

They are:

  1. Thickness should be less than or equal to 18mm
  2. Weight should be less than or equal to 5lbs

A laptop that has a Max-Q card and doesn’t fit the requirements mentioned above can’t be called a Max-Q laptop.

How Does Max-Q Work?

Max-Q graphic cards prioritize efficiency over performance. This is done by running at lower clock speeds compared to their main counterparts. In other words, you get a slower graphics card compared to its main counterpart since power consumption is actively regulated and reduced to prevent maximum performance.

A GTX 1080 card consumes about 150 W whilst a 1080 Max-Q consumes 90-110 W.

That’s a 25-40 percent decrease in power consumption.

For example, a a gaming laptop that has a NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics card will provide gaming performance greater than a GTX 1050 Ti but lower than a GTX 1060.

Related: How To Determine If A Laptop Is Good For Gaming

Just like the performance in a GTX 1060 in a laptop has less than or equal performance to its desktop version.

How close the GTX 1060 is to the 1050 Ti or the 1060 in terms of performance is largely unknown (Some experts say it is 25% less than its main counterpart).

The best way of obtaining this information is by watching videos on YouTube comparing both cards to be able to judge correctly.

1050 Ti < 1060 Max-Q < 1060 (laptop) =< 1060 (desktop).

Same applies for cards with Max-Q.

Because of low power consumption Max-Q cards also do not produce a lot of heat compared to laptops housing main cards and battery life is substantially greater on average.

whispermode technology

Whispermode Technology

The whispermode technology – a feature of Max-Q cards – allows you the gamer to switch the laptop into a low-power gaming machine to achieve less noise making the laptop very quiet.

As a result of this low-power mode you can expect a drop in graphic quality, frame rates and less heat.

Nvidia’s “perfect” solution in creating a laptop that doesn’t overheat and make a lot of noise at the cost of performance.

Will It Be Able To Play Future Games?

This is a very important question every gamer asks when getting a gaming laptop. Will it be able to play future games?

This, as always is a difficult question to answer because of so many factors and the improvements in both graphic card technology and graphics in games. With each passing year games are getting more demanding when it comes to graphic processing power.

High-end cards are future proof but only in the sense that with every latest release the frame rates will drop until it is not sustainable at that graphic quality and resolution which you will then have to reduce till it becomes unsustainable.

The cycle then repeats with every new graphics card released until it becomes obsolete.

There is really no right answer to the question but rather if you are able to optimize the graphic settings in such a way that your gaming experience won’t be negatively impacted.

Should You Get A Laptop With Max-Q Graphics?

That is totally up to you. But, you must understand the compromises that come with max-q laptops.

If you want portability and above average battery life in your gaming laptops, Max-Q cards make this possible, but keep in mind that gaming performance will be reduced. Because the system will actively keep the power consumption low.

The main thing is that max-q cards are not for performance but rather power and efficiency.

ProsCons

 Portability

Reduced Performance

No Overheating

Less Noise

Above Average Battery Life

 

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