Laptops With Big Graphics Cards Are Surging For Reasons That Aren’t Obvious

NVIDIA's new GPUs are targeted at three markets

You would think the current pandemic would put companies like NVIDIA in a difficult spot because of the notion that gamers wouldn’t be buying given the high work from home (WFH) demand and quarantined Chinese gamers who spend a lot of time in gaming cafes.

Well, it’s not that simple. In fact, at NVIDIA’s March 24 investor call, Colette Kress, the company’s chief financial officer and executive vice president, said that since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, the number of gamers and people working from home has increased to record numbers. Chinese gamers are buying etail and the iCafes are starting to fill up again and western gamers keep buying GPU and gaming desktops and laptops. Kress also said the company was benefiting from the WFH trend.

When I microscopically look at my 17-year-old son and his friends, all they are doing is gaming. In fact, Steam, the largest gaming service for the PC has seen record numbers week after week, just two weeks ago Steam hit a record 20 million concurrent users. Today Steam is already hitting 23.8 million peak concurrent users which is nearly a 20% increase from the record two weeks ago. Some companies are even given a $1,000 to $2,000 stipend to get new gear and I believe many are getting a new gaming laptop with that stipend.

Last week, NVIDIA released its latest gaming and content creation GPUs and updated Max-Q technologies. NVIDIA announced that its OEM partners are releasing laptops with mobile RTX 2070 and new 2080 Super GPUs and competitively priced RTX GPU laptops as well as new MAX-Q technologies. I’ve said before, NVIDIA has a disruptive hand in the high-performance graphics notebooks experience. AMD has been disruptive lately in the mobile gaming market, and with last week’s NVIDIA announcement, I can tell you it will be an exciting year for gaming laptops.

But here’s what you may be missing. These new “gaming” laptops may be the perfect work from home computers. Think about that before you head out to the big box store for that $300 laptop for your new “home office”. Starting at $699 you can get a GeForce laptop that can power through the most demanding multi-tasking applications for work. When you’re done for the day it becomes an awesome gaming PC. And if you’re looking for more horsepower to plow through creative content, look no further. Let’s take a look at the ground-breaking technology driving these new laptops.

New mobile “Super” RTX GPUs at competitive prices

NVIDIA announced that its global OEM partners are releasing over 100 all-new NVIDIA GeForce GPU powered laptops with some to include NVIDIA’s RTX 2070 and 2080 Super mobile GPUs. The Desktop iteration of the RTX 2070 and 2080 Super came out last year during the summer and went head to head with AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 GPUs. The RTX mobile GPUs are based on NVIDIA’s Turing technology. You can read about NVIDIA’s Turing technology from Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Anshel Sag here. NVIDIA’s Turing architecture processes ray-tracing and AI in real-time to deliver enhanced visuals and performance in video games and content creation apps.

The big announcement today for NVIDIA’s ray-tracing GPUs is the RTX 2070 and 2080 Super GPUs coming to the mobile platform. Released last year at Computex 2019 over the summer, the RTX 2070 and 2080 Supers were the next iterations of the RTX 2070 and 2080. The RTX 2070 and 2080 Supers are the new top dogs for mobile NVIDIA RTX gaming GPUs, which leave the lowest iteration of RTX GPUs to fall in price. NVIDIA and OEMs announced they are competitively pricing their laptops to start at $999 for an RTX GPU laptop. To put that into perspective, the HP Omen 2016 model with a GTX 960m was priced at $999 and the new HP Omen 2020 model with an RTX 2060 is priced at $999. NVIDIA says the 2020 model is a 5x performance upgrade in hardware over its predecessor, with included Turing technology and I look forward to third party independent benchmarks to validate that.

MAX-Q technology improvements and new features

NVIDIA is also saying its Max-Q technologies are doubling the efficiency of its previous designs and adding new features for improved performance and battery life. And I think that’s awesome. The new features include:

●      Dynamic Boost which shifts power between the GPU and CPU intelligently and automatically for a boost in in-game performance.

●      Low Voltage GDDR6 increases memory efficiency for high performance and low voltage GDDR6 memory.

●      Advanced Optimus intelligently determines the right GPU to use for the specific task to optimize the display based on specific workloads for improved battery life and gameplay.

●      Next-Generation Regulator Efficiency regulates the voltage of the system for more efficient GPU performance.

●      Deep Learning Super Sampling 2.0 (DLSS 2.0) is an improved deep learning neural network for boosted frame rates and game performance while maximizing ray-tracing. It increases the output resolution and extends the battery life. DLSS 2.0 uses dedicated AI processors called Tensor cores.

Max-Q Dynamic boost showing the power shift on an RTX 2080 Super laptop, 90W GPU power limit, Witcher 3, Max settings, Core i7, 16GB of RAM. 

Not all laptops will support Max-Q GPUs, but for those laptops that do, they will continue to build on the thin and light laptop design. Max-Q is one of those disruptive technologies that allowed gamers to play on laptops for longer than an hour and in a much thinner form factor than previous generations. For those who prefer a more minimalistic gaming laptop design with a focus on being thin and light with good battery life, you can thank NVIDIA’s Max-Q technologies for actively maximizing the GPU’s performance and thermal design.

Studio laptops benefit more than content creators

In June of this past year, NVIDIA intelligently partnered with OEMs to make RTX Studio laptops. Studio laptops featured RTX 2060 all the way up to an RTX Quadro 500 GPU with Studio drivers. NVIDIA also included a software stack for support of ray-tracing and AI acceleration in apps like Autodesk Arnold, DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Lightroom, Unity, and Unreal Engine. NVIDIA now has ray-tracing and AI acceleration support for over 45 applications. On top of that, NVIDIA has announced 10 new RTX Studio laptops with RTX Super GPUs with Intel 10th Gen processors from the top OEMs like Acer, Gigabyte, MSI, and Razer.

A list of RTX Studio apps that can use ray tracing and AI Acceleration

Even if you are not a content creator, this should convince you that ray-tracing is no longer a dream of the past. An early challenge by detractors was that NVIDIA’s RTX GPUs had a lack of support for ray-tracing in many games, including AAA titles. NVIDIA’s RTX Studio laptop initiative is to push ray-tracing into the hands of content creators so that there is support for ray-tracing in more games. NVIDIA’s software stack includes top game creation engines and APIs like Unreal Engine, Unity, Frostbite, Microsoft DirectX, and Vulkan. I am not saying we should expect every game or even thousands of games to support ray-tracing within the next year. What I am saying is that ray-tracing is the future of gaming and NVIDIA is pushing for that to make your gaming experience as sweet as possible.

Wrapping up

Let’s face it - working from home is going to be the new normal for quite some time. And if you’re one of the droves of people shopping for a home office laptop you really should be looking at one of the 100+ new NVIDIA powered laptops that are now hitting the market. These new laptops will help you power through your most daunting productivity and creative tasks. And when you’re finished with the day’s work you can game all night!

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Anshel Sag and co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article. 

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.