Nvidia RTX 3000 graphics are here for gaming laptops, let’s get straight into the details! These are the specs for these new laptop GPUs. It’s no surprise that we’re getting RTX 3060, 3070 and 3080, just like what’s currently available on the desktop side, however there are some very important differences that we need to discuss.
Power limit differences vs desktop and last gen
The power limits are about what we expected. Last year, the RTX 2060 went up to 115 watts, and now the 3060 has the same upper limit. Interestingly the 3070 sees a 10 watt boost compared to the 2070, which was capped at 115 watts. The 3080 has the same power range as the 2080 last gen, all the way from 80 watt Max-Q variants for thinner gaming laptops, to 150 plus for thicker options.
Naming the laptop GPUs the same as the desktop ones this generation feels a little misleading, and this is because there are differences between the CUDA core count and memory between the laptop and desktop variants. For the most part, the last two generations of nvidia graphics had more performance parity between laptops and desktops.
For example, the 3060 desktop card, also announced today, has 12gb of VRAM, while the laptop 3060 has 6gb. Meanwhile, the laptop 3080 has 8gb or 16gb, while the desktop has 10gb.
While it’s cool to have more than 8 gig of VRAM in gaming laptops now, these sorts of inconsistencies are going to make it difficult to somewhat fairly compare laptops with desktops. In addition to the memory size differences, the laptop 3080 also uses GDDR6, while the desktop 3080 uses faster GDDR6X. The power limit gap also increases between last gen and current gen. For example, an RTX 2070 desktop card ran at 185 watts while a 3070 runs at 220 watts. For laptops though, both could potentially run at the same 80 watts in Max-Q, best case the 3070 is 10 watts above the 2070.
Basically this means the performance uplift seen with the desktop won’t translate over to laptops quite as much. Mobile graphics are just limited by space, the power limit can’t be too high or things will get too hot.
CUDA core differences
Prior to 10 series, the performance gap between desktop and laptop was quite large, and seeing these differences in CUDA core count and memory between RTX 3000 mobile and desktop makes me think we’re headed back to the times of having different chips for each. The dark days of M branded graphics... This isn’t to say that RTX 3000 laptops won’t perform well, I’m just not expecting as big of a change compared to the desktop comparisons.
Nvidia provided performance claims
Here are some performance results provided by Nvidia, comparing their new top end RTX 3080 laptop GPU with the 2080 and 1080 laptops from previous generations. It’s critical to keep in mind that all of these would also have different processors, and that will be a factor here too. Nvidia just list that an Intel i7 is used without further details. Now Control and Minecraft are tested with ray tracing, so we expect the 1080 to do poorly there. In Borderlands 3 though outside of RTX, the 3080 apparently offers nice gains over last gen.
Nvidia also made the following claims in their press release. They’re saying a RTX 3060 gaming laptop will outperform a 2080 super gaming laptop, and they’ve also said the 3070 is around 50% faster than a 2070. The 3070 is meant to deliver good frame rates for 1440p gaming, which is good timing as we’ve seen a lot of new gaming laptops at CES 2021 start making use of high refresh 1440p panels.
Anyway these performance claims by Nvidia are pretty big. Definitely take them all with a grain of salt. They’re provided by Nvidia to make themselves look good.
Nvidia provided the following starting price points for these GPUs. I don’t really consider this as accurate as at the end of the day, it’s not Nvidia who are setting these prices, so maybe treat it as more of a guide.
In any case, I would definitely be assuming that these would be lower tier laptops generally to meet that lower price target.
Dynamic boost 2.0 improvements
Last year, RTX 2000 GPUs only had dynamic boost for Max-Q graphics options. New RTX 3000 GPUs have dynamic boost 2.0 which is available for Max-P variants too. I’ve been told that this can add an additional 15 watts of power to the GPU if the CPU package power is below 35 watts. In most games that I’ve tested, the CPU package power typically runs above 35 watts if it can, so it’s hard to say how useful this will be in the majority of games.
Lower fan noise with Whisper mode 2.0
Nvidia have also updated whisper mode to 2.0, basically the goal seems to be to control fan noise. You set a noise level, and the system will manage the CPU, GPU, system temps and fan noise as required to prevent it running too loud. If this is just something that works globally on Nvidia laptops without much effort, then it could possibly be a great alternative to laptops that don’t have fan control. There are still plenty of modern gaming laptops that don’t have fan control for some reason, so if this feature could be used as a practical alternative then that would be great.
Resizable BAR support
The new Nvidia mobile graphics options are also offering support for resizable BAR to further boost performance in some games. This is the same PCIe based feature that AMD have been marketing as SAM, or Smart Access Memory. Basically it allows the CPU to access all the GPU memory at once, something that wasn’t otherwise possible.
Lower latency with Reflex
The new Nvidia graphics also support reflex, which is meant to help reduce overall latency thereby improving the overall gaming experience.
High end Ryzen gaming laptops at last!
Now what I think is most cool is that there are now high end Ryzen gaming laptops that go all the way up to RT X 3080 graphics. Last year AMD’s Ryzen was limited to RTX 2060, so this should mean much more graphical performance from AMD gaming laptops. Some other companies like Razer for instance seem to be ignoring AMD and are going with Intel 10th gen, because 6 and 8 core 11th gen H series processors just aren’t available yet, and it’s not exactly clear when they’ll come.
It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how supply goes for laptops, because as I’m sure you all know, Nvidia have had problems supplying 3000 graphics cards, and that’s despite that they launched months ago now. Hopefully it will be different for laptops, but I’m not too optimistic.
That said, I suppose even if you don’t buy a brand new laptop with 3000 graphics these new announcements might make last gen cheaper, and those will realistically still provide a great gaming experience for most people. The Nvidia website lists availability of the new 30 series laptops from January 26th, so you can probably expect performance benchmarks from around that time.