Nvidia’s GTX 1080 comes to laptops, and this isn’t a watered-down chip
Ask any self-confessed PC gamer about graphics cards and they’ll tell you that Nvidia is king. Its latest 10-series GTX cards blew away the competition, more than doubling Nvidia’s impressive last-gen card performance and besting even its top-of-the-line Titan X series of cards. Not content with sitting on its laurels, Nvidia has somehow managed to perform black magic and contain all of that power into a laptop.
No, these new 10-series notebook chips aren’t “m” grade. You won’t find a whiff of the word mobile here. These are full-size GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 chips and with them Nvidia is bringing about a gaming laptop revolution.
Previously, if you wanted to play games on the go, you’d be limited to a laptop that underperformed compared to your desktop alternative. Not so here. Admittedly, the 1060 and 1070 chips are slightly less powerful than those you’ll find in their respective desktop cards, but the 1080 is practically the same as what you’ll find in your home computer. Having gone hands-on with 1080-enabled laptops, most of the new chip worked on par with a the desktop card and occasionally outperformed it. As you can imagine, that’s serious power to have when on the move.
Packing a 76% increase over Nvidia’s Maxwell-era laptop chips when running AAA games, these new portable Pascal GPUs outperform everything else on the market. Running on “Ultra” or the equivalent highest graphics settings, the GTX 1080 chip smashes past 60fps with ease. Avid Overwatch fans will be pleased to hear it hits an average of 147fps, with id’s Doom also hitting an unbelieveable 145fps. Want to hook your laptop up to a swish 4K monitor? You’ll still be hitting over 60fps in both titles with Overwatch clocking an average of 89fps.
Of course, 89fps at 4K or 147fps at 1080p is all well and good, but laptops don’t generally come with displays capable of making use of such power. Thankfully, Nvidia has realised this and has worked with manufacturers to bring both 4K and 144Hz panels to gaming laptops. As you can imagine, the 144Hz-enabled laptops are an absolute dream to play on and seeing a game running so smoothly at 4K on a portable device is fantastic.
For me, the most tantalising aspect of Nvidia’s new chips in laptops is how every new device equipped with a 10-series chip is now capable of full VR. Yes, that’s right, you can now take VR anywhere and set it up near effortlessly. Not only does this mean that VR can be seen by even more people, but the barrier to entry is one step closer to dropping. Nvidia does state that “VR Ready” is only when the laptops are running on mains power, as opposed to from battery, but it’s still a far more portable way to enjoy VR properly than ever before. Not that you’d want to play VR in public, of course.
The fashion-conscious PC gamer also gets some benefit from Nvidia’s new architecture. Because these full-size chips have seen so many improvements in terms of power distribution, thermal cooling and overall size, you can now pick up an incredibly thin and lightweight gaming laptops. These sleeker laptops aren’t a patch on the ultraportables you can currently find, but when you can put a GTX 1060 into a laptop the size of a 13-inch MacBook pro and have it pump out Doom at over 120fps on Ultra settings, you’ve sold me.
Of course, the tricky issue is price. Usually a new generation of gaming laptops brings with it a hefty price tag and that’s unlikely to change this time around. While GTX 1060 machines start around the $1,300 (£1,000 – but about £1200 with VAT) mark, you can expect machines equipped with a GTX 1080 and a 4K screen to be stratospherically expensive. Still, that’s the price you pay for unrivalled performance and portability. After all, there’s a reason why Nvidia is still king.