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Nvidia Max-Q Design Will Enable Light and Thin High-Performance Gaming Laptops

Dozens of Max-Q laptops are expected before year’s end.

Remember when you had to settle for a so-so gaming laptop because you really didn’t want to lug around a 12-pound behemoth? Nvidia just made that compromise unnecessary. At his Computex 2017 keynote in Taipei, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revealed Max-Q, a new design approach to the company’s GPUs that enable shockingly thin and light high-end gaming laptops.

Nvidia won’t necessarily sell their own Max-Q laptop (they’ve got plenty of partners, including Asus, Acer, HP, Dell, Lenovo, MSI, and loads more for that), but Huang did have a reference design with him at the keynote. (UPDATE 05/30/2017: The laptop Huang was holding wasn’t a reference design, but the Asus ROG Zephyrus, which was officially announced yesterday. We regret the error.) That laptop was a stunner — despite having the mobile version of the company’s high-end GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, the laptop was just 18 mm thick and weighed five pounds. That’s in stark contrast to most such gaming laptops we’ve seen, which tend to be at least 10 pounds. Huang even had a live demo of the upcoming game Project Cars 2, a game apparently seen for the first time at this event.

This sounds awesome, but some details were notably absent from the announcement. In a way, that’s to be expected — Nvidia isn’t making a product, they’re making a reference design. They’ve tinkered with their GPU to enable these super thin laptops, and now it’s on the hardware makers to figure everything else out. And, there’s a lot of everything else — battery life and thermal management immediately come to mind. Huang did have a bit to say about the latter, saying that Nvidia had gotten their GPUs to work with lower voltage and made their GPUs more optimized by constantly adjusting frame rates as necessary (something that should also make the laptop fans a bit quieter). Still, that’ll only do so much — a graphics intensive game will get these things hot no matter what.

Nvidia has a lot of other expectations for Max-Q laptops, though. They want any Max-Q laptop to support a 4K display and Nvidia’s G-Sync display tech, which involves 240 Hz refresh rates and HDR playback. They also want all Max-Q notebooks to be VR-ready, meaning they’ll need a GTX 1060 GPU at a minimum.

Nvidia says their partners will start selling Max-Q gaming notebooks as soon as June 27. We’ll be on the lookout for them until then. We won’t need to look far — some of those notebooks are popping up at Computex this week.

Check out more of our Computex 2017 coverage right here!

Disclosure: Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), an organizer of COMPUTEX, covered our travel expenses to attend COMPUTEX 2017. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.