Nvidia is the company behind the graphics cards that make most gaming laptops as strong as they are, but now it wants to make those laptops easier to carry around.
The chip maker has announced a new design initiative called “Max-Q.” It’s mainly a branding change — similar to what Intel did with its “Ultrabook” platform to counter the MacBook Air. But Nvidia hopes it will help laptop manufacturers build gaming notebooks that are thinner, lighter, and quieter than usual.
Nvidia says the spec should make way for gaming laptops that are “as small as 18mm thick” — by contrast, Apple’s MacBook Air measures a little over 17mm — and around five pounds. That’s still big by mainstream laptop standards, but for a machine that can power new games, it’d play much nicer with a backpack.
The company says Max-Q laptops will run on its highest-end graphics cards (the GTX-10 series, for those playing at home), but will use that power more efficiently.
It’s hard to say how well everything will work, but the idea is to temper graphics performance just enough to find the right balance between allowing the notebooks to play new games (with support for 4K, virtual reality, et al.) and keeping them thin — without wasting energy and overheating.
For what it’s worth, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said an Asus Max-Q laptop offers “60% more performance” than Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro console at the Computex trade show in Taiwan this week. That sounds great, but it’s worth noting that a PS4 Pro costs at least $US1,600 less.
In any case, the company also announced a technology called “WhisperMode” to help with all of this. That’s said to automatically change a game’s frame rate — presumably when less
stuff is happening on screen — to save power, and thus keep the laptop’s fans from sounding like an old space heater. This’ll work with laptops that don’t follow the Max-Q design, too.
Nvidia is working with the usual PC-making suspects to help build these devices, and the likes of Asus, Acer, and MSI have already unveiled notebooks that will follow the Max-Q guidelines. Since these are still using high-end GPUs, these laptops won’t necessarily be cheap: Acer’s Predator Triton 700, for instance, starts at $US3,000.
Nothing about Max-Q seems to help with the short battery life and gaudy, childish designs that plague most modern gaming devices. And there are a handful of relatively thin, gaming-focused laptops today (the Razer Blade, for one).
But these devices should be a bit more powerful, and encourage more gaming notebooks to be less of a burden on your back. Both Nvidia and the manufacturers are likely hoping they will boost one of the few segments of the PC market that isn’t stagnant in terms of sales, too.
Nvidia says the first Max-Q laptops will arrive on June 27.
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