Nvidia Max-Q: The new gaming ultrabook standard explained

Nvidia has announced its answer to the ultrabook, unveiling its new Max-Q gaming laptop standard.

The new brand, that’s set to be used by most of the world’s gaming laptop manufacturers is a combination of external design and internal specifications.

The news was announced at Computex 2017, with Nvidia’s CEO Jensen Huang explaining that Max-Q is all about efficiency, treading the line between performance and battery life.

There are two key physical metrics laptop manufacturers will have to meet in order to be classified as a Max-Q laptop. The first is having a thickness of less than 18mm, and the second is a weight of under 5lbs, or about 2.1kg. Fan noise will have to be under 40dBA. This has all been made possible by a combination of advanced cooling and much, much more efficient electrical designs, which Nvidia says has only become possible very recently.

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While those measurements by themselves might not sound exciting, consider the other requirement: you’ll need to be stuffing a GTX 1080 GPU into your thin and light laptop, which is no mean feat. This will result in laptops with huge performance in 1440p and 4K games, without being desk-bound lumps that you wouldn’t want to take anywhere.

Max-Q laptops can also come equipped with GTX 1070s and 1060s as well.

Updated: Nvidia has now provided us with more technical info on the Max-Q standard, including the certification process.

Max-Q is more than just a set of checkboxes. Max-Q laptops use a very specific formula to balance efficiency with power. For example, a GTX 1080-powered laptop might use 120W of power on graphics, but that last 60W of power equates to 10% performance gains. Instead, Max-Q laptops are locked to a lower power consumption (60W, for example), but are still able to put in a performance that’s 90% as good as a GTX 1080 at full tilt. Sounds like a good compromise for a thin and light laptop, right?

Max-Q laptops have to be individually approved and tested by Nvidia before getting Max-Q branding. It’s an intense testing process that involves laptop makers handing Nvidia all of their fan information and cooling system specification. This is because Nvidia then makes a custom fan profile for each individual laptop, which is then tested to see whether it meets the 40dBA limit when at full load.

There’s also WhisperMode, a new feature coming to all Nvidia 10-series laptops. This new feature lets gamers switch into a less power-hungry mode, with Nvidia’s software automatically adjusting a game’s graphics settings to either drop quality or framerate. On Max-Q laptops, this will drop fan speed to 32dBA. By comparison, the average noise floor of a room is around 30dBA, so this will make your gaming laptop very quiet indeed.

Let us know what you think of the new Max-Q standard in the comments.