NVIDIA released Max-Q graphics cards so that laptop manufacturers can develop gaming laptops that are thin and have a decent battery life.
Most gaming laptops are thick and bulky. They weigh a lot because the components used are bigger and heavier. Intel made its CPUs very slim but the GPUs manufactured by NVIDIA were thicker and heavier.
NVIDIA developed its own version of thin and light GPUs by developing the Max-Q GPUs. Laptops with NVIDIA Max-Q graphics cards are said to be thinner than most gaming laptops in the market.
The laptops with NVIDIA Max-Q graphics cards are also said to have an above average battery life. Most gaming laptops have poor battery life but the inclusion of Max-Q graphics cards can solve this problem.
Even though it looks great, the Max-Q graphics come with a big flaw. It reduces your gaming performance. This is a big problem especially for gamers because all we want is a constant high FPS while playing games.
In this article, I’ll dig deeper into NVIDIA Max-Q graphics, discuss their pros and cons, and whether they are really worth it.
What is NVIDIA Max-Q?
Max-Q is a technology developed by NVIDIA in order to develop graphics cards that can fit into thin and slim gaming laptops.
The main vision behind developing Max-Q versions of their graphics cards was to reduce power consumption and make power-saving variants of their famous graphics cards.
The Max-Q graphics cards were developed with the vision to make gaming laptops thinner, slimmer, and quieter than before. They reduced the size of the graphics cards to make them fit in thin gaming laptops.
NVIDIA also reduced the core clock speeds of the Max-Q GPUs in order to make them quieter and prevent them from overheating during heavy use. Overheating of GPU causes GPU Throttling which is a big problem in gaming laptops.
Reduction of core clock speed also reduces power consumption and increases the battery life of the laptop.
Graphics cards like NVIDIA RTX 2070 have a Max-Q version called NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q.
Similarly, many graphics cards from NVIDIA have their own Max-Q versions. Some other examples are NVIDIA GTX 1070 Max-Q, NVIDIA RTX 2080 Max-Q, etc. All RTX 20 series GPUs have a Max-Q version.
There are two factors that determine whether a laptop can be classified as a Max-Q laptop.
(A) The thickness of the laptop should be less than or equal to 18 mm.
(B) The weight of the laptop should be less than or equal to 5 lb or 2.67 kg.
If a laptop possesses an NVIDIA Max-Q graphics card but doesn’t satisfy the above two criteria then it is not considered as a Max-Q laptop. The laptop has to satisfy both of these and not just one.
How Do Max-Q Graphics Cards Work?
Max-Q graphics cards are developed in such a way that more emphasis is given on power efficiency rather than performance.
The Max-Q GPUs are made more power efficient by reducing the Core Clock Speeds of the GPU than their main counterparts.
As the Core Clock Speed is reduced, the GPUs will become slower and consume less power than their main counterparts. Less power consumed means the GPUs won’t overheat and reach high temperatures thus preventing any kind of GPU Throttling.
Example – NVIDIA RTX 2070 consumes around 215 Watts whereas NVIDIA Max-Q consumes only around 90 Watts. This is a 58% reduction in power consumption.
A negative effect of reduced clock speeds is that the Max-Q graphics cards will perform much worse than their main counterparts.
A typical NVIDIA RTX 2070 will perform much better than an NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q.
However, NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q cannot beat NVIDIA RTX 2060 and a few older models of RTX series in terms of performance.
The NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q barely beats the NVIDIA 1070 Max-Q version in terms of performance.
But, the NVIDIA GTX 1070 Max-Q does beat the previous generation NVIDIA GTX 1060 and 1050 Ti.
It is difficult to exactly say the percentage by which the GTX 1070 Max-Q beats the GTX 1060. But there are a lot of guides and YouTube videos that compare graphics cards and their performance to give us an accurate representation.
In a general case, the NVIDIA GTX 1060 Max-Q beats the NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti. The original NVIDIA GTX 1060 Mobile Version beats the NVIDIA GTX 1060 Max-Q while the Desktop version of NVIDIA GTX 1060 beats both the mobile version and Max-Q version of NVIDIA GTX 1060.
What Is Whispermode Technology?
The Whispermode technology is what the NVIDIA Max-Q cards are known for. This feature allows gamers to convert their gaming laptop into a less noisy and much quieter gaming machine.
The noise is reduced by reducing the clock speed of the GPU. It also reduces any form of Coil Whine in laptop GPUs. Also, the GPU doesn’t overheat and remains well below the critical temperature.
The Whispermode technology has a flaw in which it decreases the FPS and gaming performance of the laptop. This leads to frequent lags, stutters, and reduced graphic quality while playing games.
This is NVIDIA’s answer to GPU overheating and GPU Throttling while playing AAA title games for long periods of time.
Will Max-Q Graphics Cards Be Able To Play Future Games?
This is the only question that revolves around the minds of gamers. No one wants to buy a laptop with a graphics card that cannot run games smoothly for the next 2-3 years.
This is a tough one to answer because there a lot of factors in play here. With every passing year, the games are getting more graphically demanding and requires a very powerful GPU and CPU with high processing power.
The marquee level higher-end graphics cards are much safer as they can run future games but only to a certain extent.
As new games come out every year, you will see a reduction in FPS every year because your GPU doesn’t have enough processing power to run these new games at a decent FPS. You’ll have to increase FPS by reducing the Graphics Quality and the Screen Resolution of the game.
This reduction in FPS will continue until your GPU is unable to run any future games.
The best way to deal with it is by getting the latest graphics card when it’s released and reducing the quality and screen resolution while playing very demanding games in the future.
Pros and Cons of Laptops of NVIDIA Max-Q Graphics Cards
Here a list of the advantages and disadvantages of Laptops with NVIDIA Max-Q graphics cards.
(A) NVIDIA Max-Q graphics cards don’t consume a lot of power which means there is no chance of Overheating and Thermal Throttling of GPU.
(B) Max-Q graphics cards have reduced clock speeds which means that the laptop will make less noise and remain relatively quiet.
(C) Laptops with Max-Q graphics have above average battery life which is much better than most gaming laptops.
(D) Max-Q laptops are slim and less heavy than normal gaming laptops. This makes it portable and easy to carry around while traveling.
(a) Max-Q laptops have poor gaming performance. Some Max-Q graphics cards can’t even compete with their previous generation counterparts.
(b) Laptops with NVIDIA Max-Q graphics cards are very expensive.
Should You Buy a Laptop With NVIDIA Max-Q Graphics Card?
If you’re a person who wants a gaming laptop that consumes less power, is portable, and has an above average battery life but with reduced gaming performance then you can definitely buy a Max-Q laptop.
If you’re a pro gamer who rates gaming performance above everything else then you shouldn’t buy a laptop with NVIDIA Max-Q graphics.
If you just want to play light games like Minecraft, League of Legends, Roblox, WOW, etc. then you’re better off with Max-Q laptops. You can play these games easily without any worries of overheating and noise. You can run these games on the battery for a decent amount of time and most important of all you can easily carry your gaming laptop everywhere.
However, if you want to play very graphically demanding AAA games like Battlefield, Far Cry 5, GTA V, COD, etc. then don’t get a Max-Q laptop. You’ll just end up flushing your money down the toilet.
NVIDIA Max-Q graphics cards are the power efficient version of their counterparts. They are used for making gaming laptops thinner, lighter, quieter, power efficient, and durable.
All of these features come at the cost of reduced gaming performance. You will see a drop in frame rates and lags while playing AAA games. However, you can play less demanding games without any problems.
Max-Q laptops don’t produce much heat and have an above average battery life. But, these laptops are very expensive as they use MXM graphics cards.
I don’t recommend them to pro gamers but if you’re a light gamer then you can definitely buy one of these.