NVIDIA’s Max-Q de­signs are all about find­ing the sweet spot

Where peak per­for­mance is not peak ef­fi­ciency.

HWM (Malaysia) - - LEARN - By Koh Wanzi

What do space rock­ets and NVIDIA Max-Q lap­tops have in com­mon? As it turns out, a laser sharp fo­cus on cre­at­ing de­signs that can de­liver un­der ex­treme con­di­tions. NVIDIA doesn’t want to put lap­tops in space, but it cer­tainly wants to achieve the ideal in gam­ing lap­top de­sign, where ma­chines are thin, pow­er­ful, and quiet.

At COMPUTEX 2017, NVIDIA an­nounced that it was part­ner­ing with OEMs to make high-per­for­mance lap­tops that are also thin, light, and quiet.

This trans­lates into a ton of engi­neer­ing work, and in­cludes things like ad­vanced ther­mal so­lu­tions, op­ti­mized in-game set­tings, and more ef­fi­cient power reg­u­la­tion.

WHAT IS MAX-Q?

In aero­space engi­neer­ing, Max-Q refers to max­i­mum dy­namic pres­sure, and is the point where pres­sure on a craft such as a rocket peaks in tan­dem with in­creas­ing ve­loc­ity. Af­ter that point, pres­sure drops off as a re­sult of the de­creas­ing den­sity of air as al­ti­tude in­creases.

Rock­ets are de­signed to with­stand these stress­ful Max-Q con­di­tions, and NVIDIA co-opted the term to refer to note­books that have been built to sim­i­larly per­form un­der the most try­ing con­di­tions.

ACHIEV­ING MAX­I­MUM EF­FI­CIENCY

The op­er­a­tive word in Max-Q de­signs is ef­fi­ciency. These aren’t note­books tooled for max­i­mum per­for­mance, so Max-Q lap­tops do take a small per­for­mance hit of around 10 per­cent.

In­stead, NVIDIA and its hardware part­ners have worked to iden­tify the point at which ef­fi­ciency is the high­est. The guid­ing prin­ci­ple at the heart of their ef­forts is that peak per­for­mance is not peak ef­fi­ciency.

Be­yond a cer­tain point, in­cre­ments in power con­sump­tion re­sult in in­creas­ingly smaller gains in per­for­mance that are hardly worth the higher power draw (see fig. 1).

Fur­ther­more, once you change the Y-axis to plot for in­cre­men­tal in­stead of raw per­for­mance, the drop off in

ef­fi­ciency be­comes even clearer. There just comes a point where per­for­mance in­cre­ments shrink as power in­creases, and it makes no more sense to con­tinue in that di­rec­tion, which would also ne­ces­si­tate bulky de­signs and hefty cool­ing ap­pa­ra­tus to deal with the in­creased power.

NVIDIA is shoot­ing for this point where ef­fi­ciency peaks, and this ap­proach has en­abled its part­ners to make lap­tops that are al­most 70 per­cent more pow­er­ful than be­fore, thanks to the abil­ity to cram a GeForce GTX 1080 into chas­sis that would pre­vi­ously have only held a GeForce GTX 1060 (see fig. 2).

That’s not all how­ever, and this ze­ro­ing in on peak ef­fi­ciency is com­bined with novel cool­ing so­lu­tions – such as the bot­tom panel of the ASUS ROG Ze­phyrus that opens up for more ven­ti­la­tion – and bet­ter volt­age reg­u­la­tors.

IN-GAME OPTIMIZATIONS

These optimizations ap­ply to in­di­vid­ual games as well, and a sim­i­lar ap­proach has been taken with re­gard to in-game graph­ics set­tings. NVIDIA calls this fea­ture Whis­perMode, and it helps Max-Q lap­tops run more qui­etly. In fact, the com­pany has tar­geted the max­i­mum noise level at 40dbA, which in a chart of com­par­a­tive noise lev­els, has been lumped to­gether with sounds like bird calls.

In other words, that’s barely a peep com­pared to the storm that some gam­ing lap­tops can whip up.

Whis­perMode ap­plies the most power-ef­fi­cient graph­ics set­tings and in­tel­li­gently paces the game’s frame rate, thus strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween vis­ual qual­ity, per­for­mance and noise. Over 400 games have been pro­filed, so there’s a good chance that your fa­vorite ti­tle will be able to take ad­van­tage of it (see fig. 3).

WHO HAS THE FI­NAL SAY?

Ul­ti­mately, Max-Q is just a new ap­proach to note­book de­sign, and not any new tech­nol­ogy per se. NVIDIA sim­ply takes on a more as­sertive role in the de­sign process and works with OEMs in cre­at­ing ad­vanced cool­ing so­lu­tions and max­i­miz­ing ef­fi­ciency at the hardware, soft­ware, and driver level.

There is no ar­bi­trary stan­dard for what makes a Max-Q lap­top, and NVIDIA’s par­tic­i­pa­tion is re­ally the defin­ing fac­tor. Max-Q note­books are also di­verse, and are not lim­ited to pre­mium, high-end mod­els.

For in­stance, the up­dated HP OMEN 15 is a Max-Q lap­top, but it mea­sures 24.8mm thick and fea­tures only an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060. In com­par­i­son, the ASUS ROG Ze­phyrus is an engi­neer­ing marvel that crams a GeForce GTX 1080 into a body that is only 17.9mm thick.

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