While release of 14/16 nm GPUs has brought new performance records for desktops, the improved efficiency is extremely important for laptops. In a tighter, thermally and power-restricted environment it is less appealing to have a large hot chip with heavy cooling. Until this week, Nvidia’s most powerful laptop GPUs were cut down GTX 970M, 980M, as well as full uncut GTX 980 in some larger laptops.
Today, Nvidia has launched three new Pascal based graphics cards for laptops – GTX 1060, GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. The lack of M in the names of these cards is no mistake, as they have the same GPUs and VRAM as the desktop cards. However, when it comes to performance, things get a little more complicated. The base clocks are 10% lower than on desktop and laptop manufacturers must make sure that cards are always capable of running at this base clock. Further boost depends on the power delivery and cooling capabilities of the specific laptop. Considering that many desktop GTX 10xx cards easily reach 2 GHz boost clocks, the equivalent card in the small laptop may be thermally limited to 30% lesser performance. Meanwhile, in a large laptop with good cooling, manufacturers can do factory overclock and reach complete parity with desktop performance.
GTX 1080 on laptops has the same 2560 CUDA cores and 8 GB GDDR5X VRAM as the desktop version. GTX 1070 is a little different on laptops, as it has 2048 CUDA cores, while desktop version has 1920 CUDA cores. Such change is likely done for the efficiency reasons, as lower clocked cores consume less power than few highly clocked ones. Both versions have same 8 GB GDDR5 VRAM. Finally, laptop GTX 1060 has the same 1280 CUDA cores and 6 GB GDDR5 VRAM as its desktop equivalent. It is very likely that all laptop GPUs are binned to get lower TDP, as even 120 W TDP of desktop GTX 1060 is a lot to handle for a laptop.
Pascal-based laptop graphics cards support the same features as their desktop versions. They support the same rendering features as well as Nvidia’s latest multiprojection and VR extensions. There is 4K H.265 hardware accelerated video encoding and decoding. High dynamic range output, HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 support are only present if card controls display output, while in laptops with Optimus, GeForce cards only handles graphics tasks, while Intel iGPU controls display. Lack of Optimus is also necessary for G-Sync support, which will now be available in some laptops with 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 120 Hz monitors, while previously best G-Sync laptops were 1920×1080 75 Hz.
Overall, it is nice to see more powerful gaming laptops appearing on the market and GPU naming no longer being very distant from the desktop. While gaming on a laptop is still considerably more expensive than on a desktop, the performance difference is closer than ever and for some people the extra portability is necessary.