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.

Related: Best gaming laptop

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.

Why we’re different

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend. We use industry standard tests to evaluate products in order to assess them properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. Trusted Reviews may get a commission if you buy through our links. Tell us what you think.