Now that we're a couple of months into the RTX laptop era, it's time to pause and look at how this first wave of laptops with Nvidia's hyped-up new mobile graphics technology fares in real-world testing.
If you've been living under a rock (or don't follow the ins and outs of PC component upgrades), Nvidia's new RTX 20-series GPUs are the biggest shift in mobile gaming graphics since 2016.
Several key new features help differentiate the RTX 2060, 2070 and 2080 from the GTX cards that came before. Real-time ray tracing better simulates light, allowing for new kinds of reflections and more realistic scenes. Key is the ability to reflect objects that are off-screen, which has been next to impossible before now. Games that specifically support that include Battlefield V and Metro Exodus.
There's also DLSS, which stands for Deep Learning Super-Sampling, which uses cloud-based AI to simulate games at insanely high resolutions and teaches your GPU how to mimic that level of detail. This requires DLSS-compatible games, and the initial list includes Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Darksiders 3 and Anthem.
We've already been able to test five RTX-powered laptops, from Lenovo, Acer, Asus, MSI and Razer, with more on the testing bench right now. These are, for the most part, existing laptops models upgraded to new internal components. RTX-native laptops, like the Asus Mothership, are coming later.
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What's under the hood?
All of these laptops, from around $2,300 up to $3,300, use the same processor, the 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H. And four out of five use the same GPU, the new Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q. Nvidia introduced the Max-Q variant in 2017 as a way to get higher-end GPUs into slimmer laptops, but it does have a modest effect on overall performance.
The fifth laptop, a new version of the excellent Razer Blade, has the Nvidia RTX 2060 (non-Max-Q) inside. To be honest, playing $2,300 for the lowest-end new GPU in the family stings a bit, and the performance scores show just how much there is to gain with the higher-end 2080 GPUs. It's otherwise one of my favorite gaming laptops, especially in the alternate white version we have here.
For the most part, the results are as expected. The new 2080 Max-Q systems came out on top, with the very expensive Asus Zephyrus usually edging out a win. Note we used out-of-the-box settings for laptops like the Acer Triton 500 that offer software overclocking options.
One of our favorite last-gen gaming laptops, Alienware's 17-inch R4 model, with a full-power (not Max-Q) GeForce GTX 1080, was slower than the 2080 systems in all but one test, and the Razer with its RTX 2060 was consistently the least powerful, but frankly still very good for playing almost any game at high-end settings. Razer also offers RTX 2070 and 2080 models, but these cost a good deal more.
The Lenovo Y740 frankly feels like a great deal, even if it's not my favorite physical design. Lenovo has an ever-changing series of discounts and deals on its website, and as of this writing, you can get a 2080 Max-Q laptop for $2,087 (with less RAM and SSD storage than our test unit).
Test scores and system configurations are below, and we'll update these with new gaming laptops as we test them. See more news and reviews for PC and Mac laptops, tablets and desktops here.
|MSI GS75 Stealth 8SG (Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD|
|Acer Predator Triton 500 (Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; (2) 512GB SSD RAID 0|
|Asus Zephyrus GX701 (Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q)||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 24GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 1TB SSD|
|Razer Blade 15 (Nvidia RTX 2060)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD|
|Lenovo Legion Y740-17 (Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Alienware 17 R4 (Nvidia GTX 1080)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD|