NVIDIA’s Journey To Improve High-Performance Laptops Deserves Kudos

By Patrick Moorhead - June 9, 2019
NVIDIA Studio in action

NVIDIA has been on a path to improve the laptop experience for a long time, always trying to figure out ways to improve sustained performance, peak performance, and battery life. NVIDIA’s GPUs have been at the core of what has enabled a resurgence in high-performance PC gaming and ultimately a resurgence of high-performance laptop gaming with discrete graphics. The company has had a consistent flow of GPUs for laptops that enable different tiers of performance that satisfy different users and are changing what people expect from a laptop PC. As we embark on E3 and close out Computex, I thought it would be valuable to chronicle what has happened over the past few years.

Started with Optimus

NVIDIA originally started this journey when the company introduced their Optimus technology in 2010 which allowed the company’s GPUs to more efficiently and seamlessly synchronize with Intel’s integrated graphics to save power and only tap into the discrete GPU when necessary. This laid the groundwork for NVIDIA’s biggest effort to improve GPU performance in laptops named Max-Q.

Followed with Max-Q for gamers

Max-Q, which I first wrote about here in 2017, is NVIDIA’s way of designing GPUs in partnership with the laptop OEMs to maximize the GPU’s performance by actively controlling the performance and thermal design as well as throttling the GPU when necessary to preserve stability.

NVIDIA really improved the laptop gaming experience with Max-Q and made gaming with higher performance discrete graphics on a laptop for sustained periods of time possible. Max-Q also made gaming while on battery power for more than an hour something that was possible rather than theoretical. This eventually brought us to a point where NVIDIA and their partners were able to deliver RTX GPUs inside of a laptop with the ability to do ray tracing at 60 FPS at 1080P resolutions that are substantially thinner and lighter than what was possible before.

Max-Q giant leap in laptop experience

Now NVIDIA Studio for pro and prosumer content creators

That leads us to NVIDIA’s latest Computex 2019 announcement last week, NVIDIA Studio, which builds on many of the advancements that came from Optimus and Max-Q but for content creators. NVIDIA already has a great relationship with content creators as they do with gamers, and some of that even has some overlap now that virtually everyone is a gamer of some kind.

Nonetheless, NVIDIA is targeting the types of creators that are both casual and professional that like to create lots of content, be it photos, video or other digital media with the RTX GeForce line. NVIDIA is also targeting professional creators that work in the professional studios or enterprises and need guaranteed stability with the RTX Quadro line. NVIDIA is doing what they did with Max-Q and applying it to creator PCs by helping OEMs built RTX Studio laptops and releasing RTX Studio drivers. Being able to combine the performance of an RTX 2060 GPU to Quadro RTX 5000 with MaxQ paired with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSDs is what NVIDIA believes will be the sweet spot for content creators with multi-app workflows.

NVIDIA believes that the GeForce and Quadro RTX GPUs with the ability to do Ray Tracing, AI-optimized creative workflows and processing ultra-high-quality video will save creators time and improve their quality. I agree. This all sounds great, but without software support all of this is meaningless, and NVIDIA is fully aware of that. Through their Studio software stack,  NVIDIA already has support for ray tracing and AI acceleration in applications like Autodesk Arnold, DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Lightroom, Unity, and Unreal Engine. NVIDIA has not stopped there; it also has Adobe Dimension, Octane Render, NVIDIA Iray, Redshift, Renderman and V-ray in the works as well, in all totaling over 200 applications. These applications are pretty much all the most popular renderers in the industry today and would result in support for most of the applications that people use for 3D content creation.

With RTX Studio laptop designs spanning from the GeForce RTX 2060 to the Quadro RTX 5000, NVIDIA can satisfy different price and performance tiers for all the different types of creators, prosumer to professional.

More than paper- 17 designs in the works

NVIDIA already has 17 RTX Studio designs in the works from the world’s leading laptop PC OEMs including Acer, ASUS, Dell, Gigabyte, HP, MSI, and Razer. This could be because NVIDIA has set a minimum spec for systems if they wish to carry the RTX Studio name, which includes the specifications mentioned earlier in the article and set the resolution at a minimum of 1080P.

Wrapping up

NVIDIA deserves a lot of credit for shaping the much-improved experience of high-performance graphics notebooks in a mere two years. In addition to the most power efficient GPU architectures (Maxwell, Pascal and now Turing), it did this with Optimus, followed with Max-Q for gamers and now RTX Studio for content creation. In two years, NVIDIA with its partners has reduced GPU thickness to decrease laptop Z-heights by 33mm (1.3 inches) and five pounds, quadrupled traditional performance, and improved AI and ray tracing performance by 10x.

Nice job, NVIDIA.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.  

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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.