NVIDIA CEO Jen Hsun Huang just delivered a keynote speech at Computex Taipei, during which he unveiled some new mobile technology designed to optimize game performance, in smaller notebook form factors than have been previously possible. NVIDIA calls the technology Max-Q Design, and it enables NVIDIA’s notebook partners to cram high-performance GPUs like the GeForce GTX 1080 into notebooks that are a fraction of the size of previous-gen offerings.
Jen Hsun brought out a couple of system to illustrate the differences between older gaming notebooks and next-gen notebooks featuring Max-Q design. Although there are a myriad of designs on the market, with varying z-heights and form factors, etc., Jen Hsun used a couple of Asus ROG notebooks in his demonstration. The older model was built around the GeForce GTX 880, while the new machine that leveraged Max-Q Design was powered by a GeForce GTX 1080.
Jen Hsun called the new machine the Asus ROG Zephyrus, and it was roughly 1/3 the thickness of the older system, and half the weight, but was over 3.3x faster. To show off the Asus ROG Zephyrus’ gaming prowess, Jen Hsun publicly demoed the upcoming game Project Cars 2, which looked absolutely incredible. Then Jen Hsun claimed the machine he was holding in his hands was “60% faster than the PlayStation 4 Pro”.
NVIDIA claims it took a combination of four techniques to make Max-Q design possible. First, the GPUs have to be tuned for Max-Q operation. Presumably, the chips are selectively binned and the ones that operate most efficiently and at the lowest voltages are chosen. The games then have to be optimized for efficiency, using GeForce Experience. And the GPU’s thermal management / cooling system and voltage regulation circuitry are built with top-shelf materials to save power and reduce thermal output – Jen Hsun said they “spared no expense when it comes to thermal management and voltage regulator efficiency”. The voltage regulators are optimized for 1v operation and waste the least amount of power possible, according to Jen Hsun.
All told, instead of operating with maximum performance or with maximum battery life, Max-Q Design is meant to optimize game performance at the GPU’s peak efficiency point, to balance performance, thermals, acoustics, and power.
We’re not clear how the GPU in a system with Max-Q design will run with games not supported by GeForce Experience, or if a user simply overrides the game’s settings, but it’s possible the GPUs will have to throttle more aggressively to better manage thermals within the tighter physical constraints. We're told Max Q notebooks will typically operate at about a 40db noise level and comparable GPUs will be approximately 10 - 15% slower than their full-power counterparts. That is to say an GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q Design machine operating in its normal 40db mode, is reportedly about 10 - 15% slower than a larger notebook with a full-power GeForce GTX 1080, and there will be some additional variations due to design differences between the notebook ODMs. NVIDIA will also be making a "Whisper Mode" option available that limits performance further to save additional power, that will bring the typical acoustic signature down to the mid-30db level.
We hope to have more information about GeForce GTX with Max-Q Design soon and will keep you updated as additional details become available.