Check Clockspeeds and Benchmarks Before Buying a Gaming Laptop

AlphaAtlas

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Nvidia RTX-equipped gaming laptops are out, and both Nvidia and their retail partners are heavily promoting them. But before you jump on one, remember that Nvidia (and AMD) have a long-running habit of using somewhat deceptive branding for their laptop GPUs. As TechSpot points out, the mobile RTX 2080, 2070, and 2060 are not necessarily equivalent to their desktop counterparts. While they appear to use the same silicon as the desktop variants this time around, which hasn't always been the case, mobile RTX GPUs ship with significantly lower clockspeeds than desktop cards. The desktop RTX 2080, for example, features a base clock of 1,515 Mhz, while the standard mobile version runs at 1,380 Mhz. Meanwhile, the RTX 2080 "Max-Q" variant only runs at a base speed of at 735 MHz and boosts to 1095 Mhz under ideal conditions, which a laptop isn't necessarily going to have. Nvidia's Turing architecture is relatively power efficient, meaning these laptops are likely to perform well, but don't expect desktop performance from a laptop graphics card carrying the same name. Thanks to tordogs for the tip.

Check out Nvidia's short RTX laptop promo here.

With so much leeway in terms of what speed to clock cards at, it’s easy to see how performance could vary across different laptops with Nvidia’s RTX series cards. The lesson here, again, is to pay close attention to the actual clock speed of the GPU in the machine you’re considering purchasing.
 
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andrewaggb

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The previous gen Max-Q products were also clocked quite a bit lower. It's nice that they market it differently so you know though. You kinda knew anyways, if it looks too thin and light to have sufficient cooling for a big video card or the power brick isn't big enough it's probably a Max-Q.
 

travisty

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No duh. Laptops don't have enough space for all the cooling hardware. Heck there's probably more metal in standard rtx desktop heatsinks than in an entire laptop's metal cooling and case combined
 

iQuasarLV

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Really do we need re-hashed news blurbs about these types of subject matter.

Has [H] ever thought of creating a 'wiki' type of sub page with general user product knowledge and buyer tips to avoid having to revisit matters like this every 3-4 years?
 

cyclone3d

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Really do we need re-hashed news blurbs about these types of subject matter.

Has [H] ever thought of creating a 'wiki' type of sub page with general user product knowledge and buyer tips to avoid having to revisit matters like this every 3-4 years?
The noobs would have no clue to go looking at a wiki page. And those who would know to go look at the wiki page would already know.
 

haste.

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Really do we need re-hashed news blurbs about these types of subject matter.

Has [H] ever thought of creating a 'wiki' type of sub page with general user product knowledge and buyer tips to avoid having to revisit matters like this every 3-4 years?
All this^. I thought this was just common knowledge for anyone that would visit [H]. How they don't have high wattage desktop variants of their video cards in a limited sized cooling environment doesn't need to be reiterated and isn't a gotcha moment.
 

Crimson

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My god, the system you could build for the price of a *starting* Dell M51 laptop....BTW, the cost of these m51's starts at almost $2600! The top end is over 4 grand.
 

Teenyman45

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My god, the system you could build for the price of a *starting* Dell M51 laptop....BTW, the cost of these m51's starts at almost $2600! The top end is over 4 grand.
And at gaming speed the battery lasts for what 30-40 minutes?
 

Cherub

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For all the efforts to rebrand mobile GPU's and create a consistent architecture (which is really about saving money for the makers), we really have not left the era of "m" versions--they are just hobbled in slightly different ways now.

And at gaming speed the battery lasts for what 30-40 minutes?
This brings up a more important point, but not for the reason suggested. Some people, like I, have no need for a gaming laptop to last more than 30-40 minutes because my on-battery gaming sessions (95+ percent of my gaming) are no longer than that.

The bigger issue is a glaring elephant in the room that never gets discussed: that laptop companies write firmware that locks out the top clocks, power states, and sometimes hardware elements while on battery. And they never disclose this. Every laptop 1060 I've tested performs much worse on battery than the 1050Ti in my Dell 7567 (the fastest GPU I've found that runs at full speed on battery).

I've read articles about throttling due to heat, but never about intentional throttling on battery due to intentional firmware design. It does not help that laptop batteries are getting weaker and weaker, too. This is the number one area that needs improvement, yet the technology seems to be going backward.
 

cyclone3d

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Always thought "gaming laptop" was a contradiction of terms.
With the release of the GTX 10xx series and up, that kinda changed. Even before then you could do some decent gaming when traveling if you had a higher end laptop.

And at gaming speed the battery lasts for what 30-40 minutes?
I highly doubt that most people who buy gaming laptops are going to care about battery power. It is all about being able to take a light-ish powerful all-in-one computer with you when you travel or just want to be able to play the same games you play at home when you aren't at home.

When I take my laptop with me, it gets plugged in whenever I am playing games even though I have a dock battery which more than double the time that it can run on battery.
 

wadec22

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I would think this is common sense. I have never been into laptops but have always just assumed they were clock less due to power and cooling constraints.
 

ZodaEX

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I would think this is common sense. I have never been into laptops but have always just assumed they were clock less due to power and cooling constraints.
No it's not common sense. You only think that because you spend all day on geek forums.
 

Grimham

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The desktop RTX 2080, for example, features a base clock of 1,515 Mhz, while the standard mobile version runs at 1,380 Mhz. Meanwhile, the RTX 2080 "Max-Q" variant only runs at a base speed of at 735 MHz and boosts to 1095 Mhz under ideal conditions.
That seems really bad for the new Max-Q variants. I have a Dell G5 with a 1060 Max-Q and in the benchmarks I've seen it seems to be hobbled by 5-12 percent depending on the game compared to non Max-Q GPUs. These new Max-Q's look like it would be much, much worse. But I guess we'd have to see the benches to be sure.
 

AlphaAtlas

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That seems really bad for the new Max-Q variants. I have a Dell G5 with a 1060 Max-Q and in the benchmarks I've seen it seems to be hobbled by 5-12 percent depending on the game compared to non Max-Q GPUs. These new Max-Q's look like it would be much, much worse. But I guess we'd have to see the benches to be sure.
The 2080 Max-Q is definitely the most extreme example, and to be fair, it's remarkable that they squeezed a 471mm^2 GPU into that power envelope at all. It'd be like squeezing a 1080 TI or a 290X into a laptop.
 

wadec22

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No it's not common sense. You only think that because you spend all day on geek forums.
I disagree. I've made that assumption from my early days before PC building. If someone knows what clock speed is, I think they have a pretty good idea that they aren't the same as their desktop counterparts.

If someone doesnt know what clock speed is, they probably don't know there is a desktop version to compare to. Anyone unitiated into "geek forums" just sees them as gaming laptops that play games and have no idea what they compare to.
 

Simmonz

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If you need to be told that laptop parts are worse than desktop versions then you are beyond saving and will make dumb decisions regardless.
 

Nebell

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Always thought "gaming laptop" was a contradiction of terms.
What I think of when people mention gaming laptop is something that run games when I'm bored of browsing the web/editing photos. These thick laptops with beefy cards (or god forbid, SLI cards), are a joke. I'll take a 2070/2060 laptop though.
 

dvsman

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It's crazy that they can fit a RTX 2080 (even if it's a Max Q) into a thin and (relatively) light chassis. Look at the 2019 Alienware m15 or MSI G65 or Gigabyte Aero15 - seriously even if you lose 12% performance, the performance is seriously still balls to the wall insane compared to just one or two generations ago.
 

zkostik

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Maybe if I win the lottery would I ever drop 2.5 - 3 grand on a laptop. Until then, I shop in the 5-600 refurb price range.
Yeah, no kidding! OTOH, GTX1000 series will likely come down in price a lot or you could find a used one on the cheap. I'm still quite happy with my GTX980M Clevo and it runs everything quite decently at 1080p so good enough for me as a workstation/casual gamer on when on travel.
 

Burticus

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Yeah, no kidding! OTOH, GTX1000 series will likely come down in price a lot or you could find a used one on the cheap. I'm still quite happy with my GTX980M Clevo and it runs everything quite decently at 1080p so good enough for me as a workstation/casual gamer on when on travel.
I got an Acer Nitro refurb for $550 with a GTX 1050ti and it does great on 1080p games. Yeah, it ain't sexy...it's a bulky heavy beast. Not one to whip out on a plane. Tech devalues so fast there is just no way I would spend massive bucks on a laptop that is going to be worth half value in a year or 2. That being said... if you have the money and you want nice things....
 

lostin3d

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It'd be like squeezing a 1080 TI or a 290X into a laptop.
I've got no interest in another laptop but when I heard they were going to throw some 2080's into 'em, I admit it raised an eyebrow for me. Like many others the idea of a mobile 1080TI last round was an intriguing idea. Even at stock speeds that would full on conquer 120hz+ 1080p gaming and still respectable 1440p performance.

What a shame that NV is back to it's mobile shenanigans after releasing true desktop maxwell & pascal counterparts. I remember last year when we started seeing some of the interesting sku's for the 1060's appear. I also understand the power/size/cooling issues, but still it'd be nice.
 

lostin3d

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I've only got one technical 'gaming' laptop. When I went back to college and graduated my family asked what I'd like. Still have it. It's an MSI GT80 Titan 2qe. Overall a beast even by today's standards. At the time I knowingly picked it because 2x980m's was the most you could do for laptop GPU solutions and SLI was still fairly strong. At the time my desktop rig had 2 OC'd 970's in SLI. I was a bit surprised at the trade offs between the two. The desktop 970's clocks/performance narrowly beat out the 980m's(which are slightly OC'd) while the mobile actually had more Vram ironically. It's only with SOTTR recently that I've finally been able to enjoy that being used.

This was my 1st and likely last 'gaming' laptop. My main reason for getting it at the time was the 'hype' from certain MSI employees regarding that gen's MXM's future GPU upgrades. Never happened and I was even madder that the re-seller made no mention of a desktop GPU version that came out a month later. So keeping track of clock speeds or sku's is only the beginning for those feeling committed to this path. Do more research and find out soon the next thing is coming out. I was actually at a local brewery a week or so ago when someone with money to burn showed me an Alienware or similar that promised upgrade ability and I told them wait, let it get released, read the reviews, wait more and see if it gets the support promised.
 

Omegas

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Ya the early 1060 mobile adopters actually came out better as you didn't have to worry about the Max-Q's yet, still kickin along with my i7 6700hq and 6gb 1060. Can even handle most VR games.
 

chenw

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1060 is a nightmare to compare.

1060 6GB and mobile uses the same chip

1060 3GB desktop uses a cut chip

1060 3GB mobile uses the same chip as 1060 6GB
 

zalazin

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There is absolutely no way I will pay two grand for a laptop. 1500 yes but the whole RTX series is insanely overpriced and I don't want to see a laptop literally burst into flames.....
 

Teenyman45

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Something I completely forgot to add in my earlier post:

pretty much all of us know that for the last several generations of Nvidia GPUs, the box stock frequency is not all relevant to how most of the GPUs will normally operate in a well ventilated desktop. For example the 2080's stock is 1,515 and boost is 1,710 yet the GPU tends to be operating at a stable 1,900MHz+, if not nearly 2,000MHz. Benchmark scores and frame rates per second in the reviews and at home are all based on this sustained "over-boost."

What are the odds that these mobile parts will also sustain 200-250MHz over the stated "boost" frequency, particularly when the notebook is sitting on somebody's lap or atop a bed and/or is not plugged into a wall socket? After all, Nvidia only guarantees the stock frequency, with boost subject to power and temperature conditions.
 

cyclone3d

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There is another option now as well... use a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure with a desktop graphics card with your laptop.

Sue the link is only about the speed of an x4 PCIe 3.0 slot, but that will be fine for gaming with a laptop.

Unsure if any of the enclosures or laptops support using the output from the external GPU to display on the built-in display though as I haven't looked into that part of it.

In the end you would probably come out a bit cheaper, have a faster video card and also have an upgrade path for the video card if you want to do that.
 

oldmanbal

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Maybe if I win the lottery would I ever drop 2.5 - 3 grand on a laptop. Until then, I shop in the 5-600 refurb price range.
This is an important quote. I'm always scouring craigslist for a good gaming laptop to get my son since we travel with sports a lot. I just don't want to buy anything under midrange performance otherwise he might as well just use a tablet or cellphone. But even midrange is going to add around 4-500$ to the price of the laptop, which in most cases is what the cost would be otherwise. It's pretty crazy how much the gpu price weights the system now. I would say more than 50% in a lot of cases.
 

Hashiriya415

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Use inside a fridge to get similar performance of desktop counterpart. Maybe that will be a new label on the box
 
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