The RTX mobile refresh has been an interesting, if lackluster one. On he one hand, the overall pace of innovation has been slow (Intel mobile CPU, NVMe parts, mobile chipsets, etc), so what we’ve seen is laptop models which look identical year over year, with the exception of the GPU, at roughly the same price point. On the other hand, the GPU refresh represents a pretty significant architecture shift for Nvidia, which always introduces some confusion, in this case compounded by some truly odd marketing choices.
What this translates to on retail shelves for the thin and light category is that the GTX1070 MaxQ has been replaced by the RTX2060 (no MaxQ). For anyone not up to speed, “MaxQ” was a Pascal mobile part brand covering a set of parts that have been underclocked in order to fit within the thermal and power constraints of thin and light packaging. Each mobile GPU (1060, 1070, 1080, etc) had a “MaxQ” variant, typically performing anywhere from 15-30% worse than the standard clocked part. This branding has persisted into the Turing era, with RTX parts having a MaxQ variant. Except for the RTX2060. So does that mean the RTX2060 mobile has standard clocks? No. It’s underclocked like a MaxQ would be, it just doesn’t carry that brand because there is only the one variant. Bullshit? Yeah, pretty much. The take away here is that the RTX2060 really is the successor of the GTX1070 MaxQ, which is why the price point for these systems has stayed roughly the same. So the real question is, is there any actual upgrade in this refresh? Let’s find out!
At HQ we happen to have representative systems of each gen, fighting the good fight so you don’t have to! The contenders are:
- MSI GS65 Stealth – Intel i7 8750H 6 Core, 16GB dual channel DDR4, 512GB NVMe, GTX 1070 MaxQ, 1080p 144Hz (4.1lbs)
- Razer Blade 15 – Intel i7 8750H 6 Core, 16GB dual channel DDR4, 512GB NVMe, RTX 2060, 1080p 144Hz (4.5lbs)
The above makes it clear how similar these systems really are. The weight difference comes down mainly to materials and build quality. The Razer feels like a tank and is solid, the MSI feels lighter, but you can also feel the flex and the plastic is noticeable. To put the systems through their paces, a mix of benchmarks and games was utilized, in each case set to max settings at 1080p:
- Unigine Heaven 4.0
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
- Metro 2033 Redux
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
Videos of each run through follow after the analysis, but the tale of the tape is presented below:
With the exception of Unigine Heaven, which was a strange anomaly, the RTX 2060 consistently placed ahead of the GTX 1070 MaxQ by 4-14%. Percentage gain (or loss) between RTX 2060 and GTX 1070 MaxQ represented below:
So what is the final verdict here? Well, in this case value must be taken into consideration. The gains are admittedly not earth shattering, and there was even a loss (albeit in a synthetic benchmark), but the gains were consistently repeatable and on the higher end (14% in Odyssey) non-trivial. Nvidia’s marketing approach is highly questionable this round, but given the new parts are roughly even money from the old parts, it seems reasonable to give them a thumbs up. That said, upgrading isn’t worth it given the performance leap isn’t significant and the RTX exclusive features (DLSS, Ray Tracing) are both untested and unlikely to be practical on these mobile parts..
Videos of the run throughs are linked below.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Metro 2033 Redux
Rise of the Tomb Raider