NVIDIA MAX-Q Laptops: High Performance Gaming on Laptops

If you are in the market for a high-performance gaming laptop, you might have come across some models that are advertised as featuring NVIDIA Max-Q. But Max-Q isn’t a new graphics card from NVIDIA, nor is it a hardware feature at all. So what exactly does the Max-Q badge mean, and does it make a gaming laptop more powerful than a typical non-Q laptop? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about Max-Q laptops and whether they are worth your investment.

Max-Q is a new laptop design employed by NVIDIA which aims to make gaming laptops more powerful and portable by giving OEMs like ASUS access to GTX1060, GTX1070, and GTX1080 GPUs. All NVIDIA Max-Q laptops, therefore, hit the sweet spot between performance and power, while keeping the looks slim and classy.

NVIDIA Max-Q’s aim is to slim down bulky gaming laptops and to make them less noisy. To achieve this, the company provides OEMs with what they term as “Max-Q” versions of the GTX 10 series chips, which in layman’s terms are downclocked versions of the original GTX 10 series chips. For instance, while a regular GTX1080 chip will run at 150W, it’s 1080 Max-Q variant will run between 90 and 100W.

This enables manufacturers to insert the powerful GTX1080 chip in a much slimmer laptop. In a nutshell, NVIDIA MAX-Q laptops are more efficient and run on less power compared to their non-Max-Q counterparts. So far the NVIDIA Max-Q initiative has produced three laptops: Asus ZephyrusClevo P950, and the MSI GS63.

Through close interaction with some of the top gaming laptop manufacturers, NVIDIA has identified a set of system parameters required for a laptop to hit the golden trifecta: performance, slimness, and cooling. By operating within the power and performance sweet spot, a Max-Q GPU consumes less power, thus producing less heat.

Moreover, when the heat produced is less (lower temperature), it means the fans won’t have to spin as fast, and this results in a quieter system. NVIDIA’s plan is to produce slimmer and quieter systems while maintaining the top-notch performance of its GTX 10 series chips. While other gaming laptops are hungry for power, NVIDIA Max-Q laptops aim to have efficiency and slimness.

For laptop makers to earn the Max-Q badge, they have to meet some requirements that NVIDIA has laid down. One is that the fan noise must not exceed 40db. While NVIDIA hasn’t set the requirements for thickness, some Max-Q laptops are just 18mm thick. This is a huge step forward considering typical gaming laptops weigh over 3kgs. Expect any gaming laptop with a Max-Q badge to be not only slim but lightweight, too.

Since Max-Q laptops run on less power, you can expect the battery to last longer. Also, laptop makers have worked in tandem with NVIDIA to develop advanced cooling systems, such as the nifty hinge on Asus Zephyrus that opens a kind of vent whenever the lid is raised up.

In terms of performance, it’s quite hard to quantify since the level of performance will vary based on the implementation each OEM opts to adopt. However, expect Max-Q chips to be around 5% slower than their non-Max-Q counterparts.

NVIDIA Max-Q design is a revolutionary innovation that states that gaming laptops don’t have to sacrifice portability and slimness. To some hardcore gamers, the 5% reduction in performance may account for a lot. But considering the other improvements and design aesthetics that Max-Q brings along, you might want to go the Max-Q way.