How Nvidia Makes It Easier To Buy a Gaming Laptop

Helping people understand their graphics cards

Key Takeaways

  • Nvidia will now require manufacturers to include the full specs of the graphics card included in gaming laptops.
  • This change follows the removal of the Max-Q and Max-P designations, which had been used to showcase the capability of a laptop’s graphics card.
  • Experts believe this change may be confusing at first, but it will make purchasing a new gaming laptop much less confusing.
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Following confusion at the launch of gaming laptops with RTX-30 series graphics cards, Nvidia now will require manufacturers to disclose their full specs to consumers.

With the latest gaming laptops now sporting the RTX 30-series graphics cards from Nvidia, some users reported that, depending on which card you ended up with in your laptop, what would normally be a less-powerful card could be more capable than higher-priced variants. Nvidia is addressing this issue by requiring gaming laptop manufacturers to fully disclose the specs of the card. This should help make the process of buying a new gaming laptop much less confusing.

"Each mobile GPU comes with multiple variants, and there have been some cases where a low-powered flagship mobile GPU gets beaten by its fully powered midrange sibling due to higher total graphics power (TGP) and clock speed," Aamir Irshad, chief editor at PC Builderz, told Lifewire via email.

Confusing the Customer

Before the launch of the RTX 30-series cards in gaming laptops, many laptops shipped with a designation of Max-Q or Max-P, with the former being the lower-powered option usually found in thinner laptops that needed to sacrifice power for better cooling.

When manufacturers began shipping laptops with the RTX 30-series cards, though, this designation was removed, causing confusion about which type of card users could end up with when purchasing a new laptop.

A spokesperson for Nvidia told The Verge that designations like Max-Q are no longer used to help determine a laptop's power. Instead, these designations are intended to help relay whether or not the graphics card utilizes features like Nvidia's Whisper Mode 2 or Dynamic Boost 2.

Irshad said it always was strange to base the performance of the graphics card on designations that typically only affect the way the card is cooled and how it draws power. He said it also made comparisons between graphics cards in laptops much more difficult, since these designations were mainly used to describe the type of cooling system the card used and how the power supply pushed power to it.

"I have been building PCs for over 10 years now. And I see this as a welcoming move by Nvidia."

"Since each laptop has a unique cooling setup and power delivery system, these designations started [to make less sense]," Irshad told Lifewire. He also noted that there have been cases in the past where some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have buried the Max-Q label deep in the spec sheet, making it almost impossible for users to find. This, he said, is a big part of the problem with how the Max-Q and Max-P designations were used.


"I have been building PCs for over 10 years now. And I see this as a welcoming move by Nvidia," Irshad said. "It is a surprise for many, but was expected by the PC builders community for quite some time."

With these changes in place, though, manufacturers now will need to lay out the exact specs of the graphics card that is offered in the laptops they’re selling. This should bring a lot more clarity to the process of buying a new gaming laptop and keep users from unknowingly buying laptops with RTX 3080s that are outperformed by lower-priced cards like the RTX 3070 or even the upcoming RTX 3060.

Now users will need to focus on hardware specs like the core clock speed, the boost clock speed, what type of VRAM it has, and how much VRAM it offers. While that might sound more confusing at first, Irshad says it will actually be much simpler, especially for users who have no prior experience with computers and the technical terms that surround the hardware.

"The higher these specs are, the more powerful (and expensive) a mobile GPU will be," Irshad explained.

Unlike the Max-Q and Max-P designations, which could be confusing for those who didn’t understand their meanings, laying out the specs in plain numbers and letters should help even the most inexperienced users find a gaming laptop with a good graphics card.

"Honestly," Irshad said, "I feel like this will take some time for the consumers, especially if they are first-time buyers, but they will eventually get used to these specs just like the PC builders have over the years."

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