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Feature Articles

Should you get an NVIDIA Max-Q notebook?

By Koh Wanzi - 27 Sep 2017

Gaming performance

Test Setup and Results

We put both laptops through a mix of synthetic benchmarks and actual games to get an idea of their performance.

Here’s a list of the benchmarks used:

  • PCMark 8
  • PCMark 10
  • 3DMark (2013)
  • VRMark
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division

Next, here’s a rundown of the specifications of the Aftershock notebooks used. The main difference between both notebooks is the GPU, so the performance differences can be generalized to apply to other notebooks with similar configurations.

Test notebooks compared
  Aftershock PRIME-15 Aftershock PRIME-15 Max-Q
  Aftershock PRIME-15 Aftershock PRIME-15 Max-Q
Processor and Chipset
  • Intel Core i7-7700HQ (2.8GHz, 6MB L3 cache)
  • Intel Core i7-7700HQ (2.8GHz, 6MB L3 cache)
Operating System
  • Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
System Memory
  • 16GB DDR4 2,400MHz RAM
  • 16GB DDR4 2,400MHz RAM
Video & Display
  • 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel 120Hz display
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
  • 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel 120Hz display
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB Max-Q
Storage
  • Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD
  • Samsung 960 EVO 250GB SSD
  • Seagate FireCuda SSHD 1TB
Optical Drive
  • None
  • None
Connectivity
  • Wireless 802.11ac/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Wireless 802.11ac/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.2
Audio
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Built-in stereo speakers
I/O Ports
  • 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 port (Type-C)
  • 3x USB 3.0 ports (USB3.1 Gen1, 1 x powered USB port, AC/DC)
  • 2x Mini Display port 1.3
  • 1x HDMITM output port (with HDCP)
  • 1x 2-in-1 Audio jack (Headphone / S/PDIF Optical output)
  • 1x Microphone jack
  • 1x RJ-45 LAN port
  • 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 port (Type-C)
  • 3x USB 3.0 ports (USB3.1 Gen1, 1 x powered USB port, AC/DC)
  • 2x Mini Display port 1.3
  • 1x HDMITM output port (with HDCP)
  • 1x 2-in-1 Audio jack (Headphone / S/PDIF Optical output)
  • 1x Microphone jack
  • 1x RJ-45 LAN port
Miscellaneous
  • RGB illumination
  • RGB illumination
Battery Type
  • 55Wh
  • 55Wh
Dimensions
  • 380 x 249 x 18.6mm
  • 380 x 249 x 18.6mm
Weight
  • 1.9kg
  • 1.9kg

 

PCMark 10 Extended

PCMark 10 Extended assesses the performance of systems in a variety of workloads, including basic computing tasks, productivity applications, digital content creation, and gaming. Compared to PCMark 8, it also adds in new test metrics, such as app startup times, which quantifies how long it takes to launch a variety of real-world apps, and a rendering and visualization workload to simulate professional graphics and engineering applications. In addition, existing workloads have been updated to reflect modern usage.

The Max-Q version of the PRIME-15, which comes equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070, was overall nearly 8 per cent quicker than the non-Max-Q model. The two traded blows in various workloads, but the bulk of the Max-Q laptop’s lead was unsurprisingly due to it’s stronger gaming performance, where it was over 21 per cent faster.

That said, we should point out that the Max-Q laptop comes equipped with a faster Samsung 960 EVO 250GB PCIe SSD, compared to the Samsung 850 EVO SATA drive on the GeForce GTX 1060 model. The faster drive does help with performance in PCMark 10, so that contributed to driving the scores up slightly.

 

3DMark (2013)

3DMark is a more relevant assessment of gaming performance, and it puts the system through a range of graphics and computational performance tests at different resolutions, starting at 1080p and going all the way up to 4K.

Overall, the GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q was 23 to 25 per cent quicker than the GeForce GTX 1060, a fairly decent lead. In comparison, the Alienware 15, a GeForce GTX 1070 notebook equipped with a sixth-generation Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor posted a score of 7238 and 3930 in Fire Strike Extreme and Ultra respectively, which translates into a 13 and 19 per cent advantage (the Fire Strike score was far closer).

In this case at least, the GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q sits neatly between a GeForce GTX 1060 and a regular GeForce GTX 1070, and the performance trade-off is one you’ll have to accept for a slimmer design.

 

VRMark

Futuremark’s VRMark benchmark is designed to assess a PC’s ability to handle high-performance headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. If a PC passes the Orange Room test, it is ready for the latter two systems.

The Max-Q laptop was just 9 per cent quicker, which is just a difference of around 10FPS. For further context, the GeForce GTX 1070-equipped Alienware 15 managed a score of 7284, 22 per cent better than the GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q.

The performance penalty is unmistakeable here, but it’s also important to remember that the Alienware 15 is 25.4mm thick, while the PRIME-15 measures just 18.6mm thin and weighs 1.9kg as opposed to the Alienware’s 3.49kg. So while there is a big difference in performance, there's also an equally large difference in form and weight and it really depends which aspect you prioritize more.

 

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

In Shadow of Mordor, the PRIME-15 Max-Q was between 16 and 18 per cent faster than its GeForce GTX 1060 counterpart. The GeForce GTX 1070 on the Alienware 15 was in turn around 10 per cent quicker than the Max-Q version, so the Max-Q model still lags perceptibly behind the non-Max-Q GPU with none of the efficiency optimizations.

 

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Mankind Divided is one of the most demanding titles to run today, and opting for the GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q model over the GeForce GTX 1060 nets you a 26 per cent performance gain at 1080p and Ultra settings (DirectX 11).

Performance dipped perceptibly when switching to DirectX 12, so you’ll probably not want to run either notebook in that mode either way.  

 

Tom Clancy’s The Division

In The Division, the PRIME-15 Max-Q was 22 per cent faster than the GeForce GTX 1060 model at 1080p and Ultra settings (DirectX 11). In turn, the GeForce GTX 1070 on the Alienware machine without Max-Q turned out 74.67FPS at the same settings, which is around 16 per cent quicker than its Max-Q sibling that managed 63.5FPS.

The performance gap is there alright, but it’s also important to note that the Max-Q model puts out a very playable frame rate in its own right.

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