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GeForce Laptop Roundup: GPU Performance Compared

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Today we return to the realm of laptop graphics hardware to talk about Nvidia’s refreshed line of GeForce GPUs. We’ve already looked at two of the new GPUs: the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q and RTX 2080 Super Max-Q, but alongside these Nvidia has also updated the rest of the series with spec improvements.

The GeForce RTX 2060 which is found in a wide range of gaming laptops was previously limited to 90W of power, with most manufacturers choosing the default 80W for their notebooks. With the 2020 GeForce refresh, Nvidia is increasing that limit to 115W, which can bring more performance out of the same GPU as long as a proper cooling design is used.











  GeForce RTX 2080 Super GeForce RTX 2070 Super GeForce RTX 2070 GeForce RTX 2060 GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GeForce GTX 1650
CUDA Cores 3072 2560 2304 1920 1536 1024 1024 (max)
Boost Clock (MHz) 1080 – 1560 MHz 1155 – 1380 MHz 1125 – 1455 MHz 1185 – 1560 MHz 1335 – 1590 MHz 1200 – 1485 MHz 1125 – 1560 MHz
Memory 8GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6 6GB GDDR6 6GB GDDR6 4GB GDDR6 4GB GDDR6 / GDDR5
Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 192-bit 192-bit 192-bit 128-bit
Memory Bandwidth (max) 448 GB/s 448 GB/s 448 GB/s 336 GB/s 288 GB/s 192 GB/s 192 GB/s
TGP 80 – 150+ W 80 – 115 W 80 – 115 W 65 – 115 W 60 – 80 W 35 – 55 W 30 – 50 W

The reason for this could be that Nvidia realized the RTX 2060 was not very compelling when limited at 80W. On average, the RTX 2060 at 80W performs on par to the GTX 1660 Ti which is supposed to be a notch below the base RTX. As seen on the graph below, in a best case scenario like Control, the RTX 2060 is just 5% faster, but in a worst case, the GTX 1660 Ti can be up to 6% faster.

The average buyer may not realize this, while RTX 2060 laptops usually command a higher price tag ($100 to $200 more), performance between those two GPUs is too close to call at the same wattage. With the RTX 2060 you do get access to features like ray tracing and the Tensor cores (for DLSS), but the raw performance difference certainly did not make sense.

In terms of specifications, the new GPU power limit means you can raise clock speeds and improve performance. The RTX 2060 features a 960 MHz base and 1200 MHz boost clock at 80W, or a 1110 MHz base and 1335 MHz boost at 90W. At 115W, the boost clock increases a fair bit, now up to 1560 MHz, for a 17 percent rated increase over the 90W model.

There are other differences with the RTX 2060 as equipped in 2020 laptop models. Nvidia is moving to new low voltage GDDR6 memory across the line-up, which drops the memory clock rate from 14 Gbps to 11 Gbps. While this reduces memory bandwidth, it allows Nvidia to allocate more power to the GPU, which is a good solution for the 2060 that tends not to be memory limited.

If this makes the RTX 2060 line-up highly confusing for you — especially when you add the RTX 2060 Max-Q to the mix — you’re not alone, it’s a real mess. For now we’ll simply say, Nvidia appears to be improving the 2060 for new laptops, so it’s not like we’re going backwards.

Benchmarks

Today’s benchmarks are based on a long list of laptops as detailed below. For testing the new 115W variant of the RTX 2060 we’re using the MSI GL65 Leopard 10SEK which is the first laptop we were able to source that comes equipped with that GPU. This is a budget oriented gaming laptop starting at $1,299 which was surprising to see. It does have a decent cooling solution that seems capable of handling the power increase.

Laptops Tested

Our standard notes for laptop benchmarks apply here. We try to maintain apples-to-apples comparisons where possible, so we test all laptops with adequate cooling and dual channel memory. The numbers in the following charts are an average of systems with the same specs. We also list the power limits for all configurations as that’s an important factor to consider when looking GPU performance output.

It’s also worth noting that because of how laptop configurations work, we cannot directly compare say, the RTX 2080 Super against the RTX 2060 with the same processor. Usually manufacturers dictate how CPUs and GPUs are paired together, so for practical purposes these benchmarks will show you a realistic performance comparison of laptop models as they’re usually sold.

Starting with a look at Red Dead Redemption 2, this is one of the best results for the new RTX 2060 at 115W. We’re looking at around the same average performance as the full RTX 2070 configuration for laptops, while outperforming the older RTX 2060 configurations as well as the GTX 1660 Ti by over 15 percent. The 80W configuration of the 2070 Super Max-Q is slower on average than an RTX 2070, but faster at 90W.

Borderlands 3 shows a nice cadence of GPUs as we go up the stack. While previously the 1660 Ti and RTX 2060 were about equal, with the 90W model providing a small performance advantage, the new 115W variant improves performance by at least 10 percent.

With the extra power, the RTX 2060 (115W) sits above the RTX 2070 Max-Q, and not far behind the RTX 2070 at 115W. Borderlands 3 shows a strong result for the 2080 Super Max-Q with a 17 percent lead over the 2070 Super Max-Q and the standard 2070.

Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order is another title where the gap between the RTX 2060 and RTX 2070 has shrunk considerably thanks to the new power limit. The RTX 2060 delivers 11% more performance than the 2060’s 80W configuration.

The next step up is to Nvidia’s Super GPUs which occupy the top spots on the chart. Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order is mostly GPU limited in our benchmark pass on laptops, here the 2080 Super Max-Q ends up 10 percent ahead of the 2070 Super Max-Q, and 14 percent ahead of the RTX 2070.

Control is the most GPU demanding game in our test suite when played on the High preset (the highest available). We’ve tested without RTX features, if you choose to enable DLSS you will see better performance. The 2080 Super Max-Q comes out 11% ahead of the 2070 Super Max-Q when both GPUs are running at 90W. The lead is similar over the RTX 2070 running at 115W, which goes to show the efficiency advantage of the larger CUDA core design.

Looking at the RTX 2060, this is another game that benefits significantly from the increased power limit. The 115W config of the RTX 2060 comes in 15% ahead of the 90W configuration, and 19% ahead of the 80W model. In highly GPU demanding games using Ultra-type settings, it’s definitely worth being on the lookout for the highest power model that Nvidia offers.

In Metro Exodus, with 115W of power at the helm, the RTX 2060 is able to move up a class in terms of performance, now delivering a pretty consistent 60 FPS experience in our benchmark run. Once again, this variant of the 2060 is a better choice than the RTX 2070 Max-Q, which is an 80W GPU.

The 80W numbers for the 2070 Super Max-Q aren’t overly impressive, 2% slower than the RTX 2070, however this does flip over to a performance lead at 90W.

Also in Metro Exodus we see the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q at 90W delivering around the performance of an RTX 2070 desktop PC, which is a great comparison if you want to know how these sorts of laptops fare when put up against their desktop counterparts.

Resident Evil 2 is an example of a game that benefits from both CPU and GPU performance when using the Balanced preset at 1080p. The RTX 2060 115W variant offers a higher frame rate than the 80W model when paired with an Intel GPU, however the combination of the Ryzen 7 4800H and 90W RTX 2060 is a bit better for 1% low performance while offering similar averages. Not every game is able to benefit solely from an increase in GPU power, the CPU is also important.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider shows one of the strongest results for RTX 2070 Super Max-Q versus RTX 2070 Max-Q, both running at 90W. The Super variant is 13% faster and impressively, even the 80W variant is faster. This allows the 2070 Super Max-Q to come in 4% faster than the 115W RTX 2070 despite consuming just 80W of power.

The performance lead the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q has over the 2070 Super Max-Q is more modest here than in other titles. Meanwhile, we see a more modest performance gain for the 115W RTX 2060 over the 80W and 90W models, to the tune of ~6 to 8% on average.

In Battlefield V we see an 11% performance advantage comparing the 115W RTX 2060 to the 80W model, and a 6% lead on the 90W variant. However, while in some titles the 2060 gets pretty close to the 2070 with the same power limit, that’s not the case in this game, falling over 10 percent behind, which is one of the largest differences we saw.

The flagship RTX 2080 Super Max-Q holds a performance lead in the 15 percent range over the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, when looking at average frame rates. The RTX 2070 Super Max-Q isn’t as fast as the 115W RTX 2070 in this test either.

Far Cry 5 is another game with a respectable performance lead over other RTX 2060 power configurations between 6 and 11% faster. This allows the GPU to occupy a more mid-table position. Looking at average frame rates, the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q in its 80W configuration is just barely ahead of the RTX 2070 at 115W, which we guess is kind of impressive. In general the middle part of the graph is very close. The top-end RTX 2080 Super Max-Q is 10 percent ahead of the 2070 Super Max-Q, and up to 15 percent in front of the RTX 2070.

We have a couple of older titles to round this one out. Star Wars Battlefront II is on the higher end of the performance gain table. This is a game where the GTX 1660 Ti is able to outperform the RTX 2060 at 80W and match it at 90W, but that’s not the case with the new 115W power limit.

Star Wars Battlefront II is very favorable to the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q, delivering double digit gains over the RTX 2070, 2070 Super Max-Q and RTX 2080 Max-Q.

The final game in our round-up is Watch Dogs 2. Still a great game for testing a combined CPU and GPU load, this title benefits nicely from the new RTX 2060 115W power limit, pushing 13 percent ahead of the 80W model and 9 percent ahead of the 90W variant. It still ends up 11 percent behind the RTX 2070 but it’s a good result. There’s still a performance lead for the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q, but it’s not as substantial as in more GPU-limited titles.

Performance Breakdowns

Before we saw that the RTX 2060 wasn’t any faster than the GTX 1660 Ti with both GPUs configured at the same 80W power target. But when both GPUs are configured to their new maximum power limits – 115W for the 2060, and still 80W for the 1660 Ti – it’s a different story.

Across 18 games, the RTX 2060 115W is now 13 percent faster on average, with some performance leads over 20 percent in the most GPU demanding games.

The new 115W power limit allows the RTX 2060 to close the gap significantly on the RTX 2070. Where previously the 2060 configured at 80W was 17% slower on average and sometimes more than that, when comparing the 115W 2060 to the 115W 2070, the 2060 is now just 7% slower. In some games the two GPUs perform very similarly, in others there’s more of a performance gap.

The RTX 2070 Super Max-Q does provide considerably more performance than the RTX 2060 when both are configured to 80W. The new Super GPU is 18 percent faster, which suggests it is by far the more efficient design.

When looking at the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q against the RTX 2070 Max-Q, both running at 90W, on average the Super GPU is 7% faster. This will vary between titles, some games weren’t faster by much, others were up to 15% faster. This will depend on how the game uses resources and whether the game prefers core frequency or core count.

The RTX 2070 Super Max-Q fell only 3% behind the RTX 2080 Max-Q. While we can’t quite replace last generation’s higher-tier product with a lower tier design, it’s very close.

Across 19 games, the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q is 11% faster on average than the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q.

Closing Thoughts

Nvidia choosing to increase the maximum power limit on the RTX 2060 solves one of the major issues with Nvidia’s current-gen mobile graphics line. The RTX 2060 running at 80W is far too close to the GTX 1660 Ti in terms of gaming performance, which depending on your perspective could be seen as a positive. If you want the best possible performance, pay close attention to the power limits set on the RTX 2060 laptop you are looking into to make sure paying more is actually worth it.

With this refresh Nvidia is also promising reduced prices for RTX 2060 laptops, in line with GTX 1660 Ti models of last year. The GTX 1660 Ti is also cheaper now, and while so far we haven’t seen any laptops that hit Nvidia’s promised $999 target price for the 2060, generally speaking any new RTX 2060 laptop will be cheaper and possibly faster than previous-gen models.

The RTX 2070 Super is replacing the RTX 2070 at roughly the same price point and delivering a ~7% performance improvement. The standard RTX 2070 will continue to exist in the market by replacing the RTX 2060 in that price tier. Nvidia’s revamped pricing structure for 2020 (below) doesn’t solve the value disparity between Max-Q and non Max-Q GPUs, meaning Max-Q is always worse value, but that’s the premium you pay for a slimmer, nicer, and more portable machine.

The RTX 2080 Super Max-Q is Nvidia’s fastest laptop GPU for power/cooling constrained laptops. It’s a great GPU for 1080p gaming and delivers a double-digit performance gain over the tier below it which is very impressive for a 90W chip. However it should be noted it’s nowhere near as fast as the RTX 2080 Super for desktops. As we saw in some of our tests, the 2080 Super Max-Q is closer in performance to a desktop RTX 2070.

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