Nvidia made some fundamental changes with their GeForce RTX 30-series chips that made buying a gaming laptop much harder, but now the company is taking steps to fix the biggest issue. Going forward, Nvidia will require laptop makers to reveal the power and clock speed details for the GeForce GPU inside each system, along with supported Max-Q technologies, the company told PCWorld.
It’s a big deal. With the RTX 30-series, Nvidia transitioned its “Max-Q” name away from signaling that a gaming laptop uses a more efficient (but less powerful) version of a graphics chip. Now, Max-Q is an umbrella term for a wide variety of power-saving technologies, such as Dynamic Boost 2.0, Whisper Mode 2.0, Advanced Optimus, and Resizable BAR support. They’re all exciting features, but the muddying of the Max-Q waters makes it more difficult to know if a given gaming notebook is running a slower, low-power GeForce GPU, or a faster full-force version pumped full of wattage. We’ve already witnessed up to a 25 percent performance difference between RTX 3080 laptops with low- and high-power versions in our tests.
The situation is so complicated that we just published tips on how to tell which GeForce 30-series chips are more powerful. That’s changing, thankfully. From an Nvidia spokesperson (emphasis ours):
“With the 30 series launch “Max-Q” has expanded beyond only GPU perf/power optimizations. Our 3rd gen “Max-Q” technologies are system and platform-level optimizations to enable the highest performing and lightest laptops in the world. Our branding has been updated to reflect that. Max-Q is no longer part of the GPU name. It is part of the platform technology.
We’re requiring OEMs to update their product pages to the Max-Q technology features for each GeForce laptop, as well as clocks and power – which communicates the expected GPU performance in that system.”
Previously, Nvidia “encouraged” vendors to share power and clock speed info for RTX 30-series laptops but did not require it. Only XMG laptops actually did so. Now companies won’t be able to hide the crucial information.
Laptop buyers are already seeing benefits. Asus just provided Tweakers.net with a comprehensive table containing detailed power information for its new GeForce laptops—not just raw power and clock speeds, but also whether Dynamic Boost is active, and the total maximum GPU draw when it is. Good stuff. And The Verge (which first reported Nvidia’s philosophy shift) noticed that the Gigabyte Aorus 15G page now lists detailed Max-Q and power/clock info as well.
Most RTX 30-series laptop listings still lack the crucial information, but now that Nvidia is mandating it, that should change, and hopefully sooner than later. It’s a shame Nvidia didn’t roll out its next-gen notebook chips in a more transparent way, but props to the company for helping to fix the confusion once media pointed it out. People should know what they’re getting when they buy an expensive piece of hardware.
Again, our tips for discerning which GeForce 30-series chips are more powerful can help you navigate the muddy waters until Nvidia’s new mandate rolls out across the industry. We’ve rounded up some GeForce RTX 3070 and 3080 laptops you can already buy, and stay glued to our guide to the best gaming laptops for more concrete recommendations as new notebooks hit our labs. If you’re looking for deeper info, be sure to check out our GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU review to see how it hangs against the competition.