Earlier this month, Nvidia announced it would be shipping mobile versions of its GeForce RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super GPUs on laptops. Now, we’re able to bring you some early first-hand testing to see how they stack up against existing GeForce laptop GPUs.
In the time since the announcement, we were able to get hold of and start testing two laptops that carried the GeForce RTX 2070 Super and the RTX 2080 Super (both of them in dialed-back Max-Q configurations). The former is in the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XB, while the latter is installed in the MSI GS66 Stealth, both part of a new 2020 wave of gaming laptops that boast Nvidia GeForce RTX Super GPUs and Intel’s 10th Generation Core H-Series processors.
RTX Super Laptops
We were able to do this testing with early versions of the soon-to-be available public drivers, and of course only have these two samples to go on so far. As a result, these early tests below may be representative of what these components can do, but bear in mind: This is just two laptops, an early sampling, with first drivers and lots of variables between and among them and earlier laptops we’ll use for comparison.
For background, these top-end graphics chips will, in theory, push the higher end of Nvidia’s laptop-GPU offerings even further for laptops. On the desktop, the GeForce RTX Super series delivered better performance than the original graphics cards at a lower price point. In practice, Super-izing the GeForce RTX 2070, for example, turned it nearly into an RTX 2080, at a lower price than the original stock model. You can see our reviews of the GeForce RTX 2070 Super and GeForce RTX 2080 Super desktop cards for many more details and lots of testing.
Like with the desktop cards, the laptop versions of these GPUs should give hardcore gamers even higher frame rates in AAA games, make it more likely you can use Nvidia’s advanced ray-tracing technology without tanking frame rates, and serve as a boon for high-refresh-rate gaming (as long as the laptop’s display panel allows it). You can see the new Super GPUs in relation to the rest of the Nvidia laptop-GPU lineup here…
GeForce GPU Specs
As I wrote in my original analysis, until this launch, the original GeForce RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 were the premium GPU options in Nvidia’s laptop-GPU stack, so these new upticked Super versions should push performance further in elite, enthusiast-grade gaming laptops. You will not see them in value-focused laptops, though the existence of new high-end options does have a knock-on price effect at the entry level, which will be lower going forward. For example, Nvidia notes that shoppers should see laptops with the GeForce RTX 2060 starting at $999, a new low for RTX-based gaming machines.
The Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XB and the MSI GS66 Stealth are two such premium laptops, with slim designs and an array of advanced features in addition to the powerful GPUs. You can read our full review of the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XB today, while the MSI GS66 Stealth arrived scant hours ahead of this article, so a full review will be forthcoming soon. (We got it on the bench for a few initial tests, though.)
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED
One key twist on this testing is that these laptops are using, as I mentioned earlier, the Max-Q versions of the RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Max-Q,” you can read more about it here. But the short explanation? It’s Nvidia’s approach to getting its more powerful GPUs into slim and light laptops by down-tuning their power potential to restrict thermal output.
Since the Gigabyte and MSI models here are more-portable 15-inch laptops (as opposed to 17-inch models), going with Max-Q tuning was the obvious choice to keep them relatively thin, so these versions of the GPUs presumably won’t be as powerful as the unrestrained RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super. There’s a good chance we’ll end up reviewing more Max-Q laptops than non-Max-Q ones, given the modern focus on being thin and light, so it’s important to test both kinds.
We’ll have to wait until review units of larger laptops show up bearing these “base” non-Max-Q GPUs to measure their raw power. But considering how early we are in the stages of this launch, we’re content to have two RTX Super laptops to analyze. Still, between Max-Q and Super-izing these GPUs, there are a lot of factors affecting the results, so keep that in mind.
Points of Comparison, and a Growing List of Variables
For testing comparisons, I gathered a batch of past laptops we’ve reviewed with the relevant GPUs. Given that we’re testing the GeForce RTX 2070 Super (Max-Q) and the RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q), there are a few obvious inclusions as points of reference. Below is a cheat sheet of their names and specs, with the two new RTX Super laptops up front and the rest in (theoretical) ascending order of GPU power.
Test Configurations Cheat Sheet
Obviously, it was imperative to include machines with the non-Super RTX 2070 and RTX 2080. Since both of the new laptops employ Max-Q, I went with Max-Q versions of the originals as well, in the form of the Alienware m15 and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model, both of these 2019 models with OLED screens. This comparison allows us to get as close as we can to seeing what difference the “Super” aspect of the GPU makes. I also included a non-Max-Q RTX 2070 laptop from Acer, to see if the Super version of the GPU adds more power than Max-Q takes away. None of these is a flawless comparison, but it should give a rough idea of the scale of differences (or lack thereof) among them.
Sadly, one variable we can’t eliminate is the processor differences. These are the only two RTX Super laptops we have to test for now, and they carry different CPUs. While they are both part of Intel’s new 10th Generation H-Series, they are fairly different. The Gigabyte’s “Comet Lake-H” Core i7-10875H is clearly the more muscular of the two, boasting eight cores and 16 threads compared to the six cores and 12 threads of the MSI machine’s Core i7-10750H. This means it has more throughput for strenuous tasks, and while that is generally more relevant to media-processing workloads, it can still affect gaming performance. This should also add to the performance gains compared to the laptops using older Intel chips.
Just to make this comparison even more byzantine, you’ll notice that the better CPU of the two happens to be paired with the lesser GPU of the two, further fogging up clear results. Again, we’ll do our best to draw conclusions from these results, but there are so many mitigating factors to take into account, that it’s harder than ever to draw one-to-one comparisons between new laptop components. In an ideal world, we’d be doing a head-to-head faceoff between the two GPUs in laptops with the same CPU and RAM capacity (even better, in the same laptop!), but this is the early hand we were dealt.
If anything, you’ll see that this will only go to strengthen the value of full reviews of gaming laptops. You simply can’t draw conclusions from lists of specs alone. Indeed, as more and more variables are added (different combinations of CPU and GPU, Max-Q or not Max-Q, RTX Super or not, varying chassis and thermal designs), it’s harder than ever to “unbake” the results from the cake that is the laptop’s ingredients. Objective test results are all we can go on.
Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED
On paper, it should be superior to at least the Alienware’s RTX 2070 (Max-Q), and depending on whether the Super up-tuning or the Max-Q down-tuning has a greater impact, it may perform better than the Helios 700’s RTX 2070. If you asked me before testing, I may not have expected it to post better numbers than even a Max-Q RTX 2080, but let’s see what the results had to say