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Should you get an NVIDIA Max-Q notebook?

By Koh Wanzi - 27 Sep 2017


A question of trade-offs

Aftershock PRIME-15. (Image Source: Aftershock)

At the end of the day, it all comes down to where your priorities lie. If you’re looking for something more akin to a desktop replacement, a non-Max-Q notebook with a GeForce GTX 1070 may be more attractive.

After all, it’s quite a bit faster, and if you don’t intend to take it on the road with you, the lack of mobility won’t be much of an issue.

However, if your gaming laptop is something you put in your backpack on a daily basis, it’s almost a no-brainer to go with a Max-Q design. Like the Aftershock PRIME-15, these notebooks are slim, light, and powerful, offering a decent edge over a regular GeForce GTX 1060.

Is the performance advantage worth the price premium? Maybe, depending on how much you expect from your laptop. The PRIME-15 with a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB costs S$2,490, while the GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q version is over S$400 more at S$2,920.

This will net you a 20 per cent or so increase in certain titles, which isn’t too shabby. This is our main takeaway with regards to a Max-Q GPU and laptop:-

If you’ve got an eye out for as much power as you can get in a slim package, a Max-Q laptop will be quite appealing - especially if you intend to mainly use it while connected to a power outlet.

The main drawback you’ll have to be aware of is battery life. Since Max-Q involves putting GPUs like the GeForce GTX 1070 and 1080 in laptop chassis that more commonly hold a GeForce GTX 1060, there often isn’t space for a sufficiently large battery.

The PRIME-15 Max-Q’s GeForce GTX 1070 has a TDP of 80W, and even though that’s only a smidge higher than the 78W of the GeForce GTX 1060, the former features markedly worse battery life.

Even the ASUS ROG Zephyrus falls prey to this, and its battery life is quite abysmal as it only features a 50Wh battery for a GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q.

That said, there are some Max-Q notebooks that come with a large battery, such as the Alienware 15 with a GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q, a relatively new addition that boasts a 99Wh power pack.

Max-Q notebooks are a nice advancement to fill a growing niche. They're not new products or even a particularly novel technology – they’re really just a bunch of tweaks and optimizations – but they allow you to cram a more powerful GPU into a slim chassis, thus making available more powerful and portable machines than before.

To be sure, they’re slower than their non-Max-Q equivalents, but what you gain is a step up in terms of mobile performance. For someone looking for a machine for both work and LAN parties, this is difficult to pass up, although it comes at the expense of battery life.

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