Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Tremendous Max-Q Evaluation

In the past few weeks we have received a number of gaming laptops with the newly updated GeForce GPUs from Nvidia. As you may recall, they recently expanded some of their mobile GPUs to include super models, while at the same time updating older versions with improved specifications.

Today we test the GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q, Nvidia's fastest laptop GPU with a power budget of 90 W. The name of the GPU is undoubtedly a mouthful, and we have repeatedly commented that this is a broken naming scheme. We won't waste any more time on it, but we'll explain where the 2080 Super Max-Q is in the GeForce mobile range.

The GeForce 20 series for 2020 is heavily segmented, especially at the top of the stack. The main models include the RTX 2070, RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super. While the RTX 2070 continues to run and can be seen in new laptops this year, the RTX 2080 was withdrawn from the market in favor of the super variant.

In addition to the basic models, each GPU is available in several performance configurations. The standard configuration is usually 115 W, although high-end laptops can also carry the RTX 2080 Super, which is configured to 150 W and higher according to Nvidia's data sheet.

Variants with lower power are marked with Max-Q and are usually offered as 80 W or 90 W configurations depending on the OEM and cooling solution used. Occasionally, you may have access to software to switch between modes on a particular system. However, you cannot turn Max-Q on or off.

What remains constant within a model name (regardless of whether it is a Max-Q, Standard or Max-P power configuration) is the core and memory configuration. For example, the RTX 2080 Super has 3072 CUDA cores, just like the desktop version. You also get 8 GB of GDDR6 memory on a 256-bit bus. This applies to all RTX 2080 Super variants.

What you will see are clock rates. The maximum specified for the RTX 2080 Super Mobile GPU is a base clock of 1365 MHz and a boost of 1560 MHz, while the memory is a maximum of 14 Gbit / s. The Max-Q models are clocked much lower to fit their performance goals, as shown in the table below. Both Max-Q variants use an 11 Gbit / s GDDR6 memory. This is the new low voltage GDDR6 that Nvidia has promoted with this updated listing.

RTX 2080 RTX 2080 (mobile) RTX 2080 Max-Q 90W RTX 2080 Max-Q 80W RTX 2080 Super RTX 2080 Super (Mobile) RTX 2080 Super Max-Q 90W RTX 2080 Super Max-Q 80W
CUDA cores 2944 2944 2944 2944 3072 3072 3072 3072
Basic clock 1515 MHz 1380 MHz 990 MHz 735 MHz 1650 MHz 1365 MHz 975 MHz 735 MHz
Boost clock 1710 MHz 1590 MHz 1230 MHz 1095 MHz 1815 MHz 1560 MHz 1230 MHz 1080 MHz
Memory tech 8 GB GDDR6 8 GB GDDR6 8 GB GDDR6 8 GB GDDR6 8 GB GDDR6 8 GB GDDR6 8 GB GDDR6 8 GB GDDR6
Memory bus 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit
Memory clock 14 Gbit / s 14 Gbit / s 12 Gbit / s 12 Gbit / s 15.5 Gbps 14 Gbit / s 11 Gbit / s 11 Gbit / s
Memory bandwidth 448 GB / s 448 GB / s 384 GB / s 384 GB / s 496 GB / s 448 GB / s 352 GB / s 352 GB / s
GPU TU104 TU104 TU104 TU104 TU104 TU104 TU104 TU104
TGP 215W 150W + 90W 80W 250W 150W + 90W 80W

It is important to know that the mobile RTX 2080 Super and the desktop RTX 2080 Super are not equivalent GPUs. The mobile variant is clocked lower – both the GPU and the memory – and has a lower performance target. An RTX 2080 super graphics card in a desktop has a 250 W power limit, while in laptops you are lucky enough to see just over 115 W. In practice, the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q with 90 W is no faster than a desktop RTX 2070.

Nvidia also introduced two new features for its 2020 mobile product line: Dynamic Boost and Advanced Optimus. So far, however, we have tested six laptops with the newer GPUs, none of which contain either function.

Our focus today will be on the RTX 2080 Max-Q in its 90 W power configuration. We have this available for testing in the GE66 Raider from MSI. Because it is a high-end GPU, many laptop manufacturers will pair it with high-tier CPUs. The GE66 Raider is the same laptop we used to test the flagship Core i9-10980HK. A quick search for other RTX 2080 super laptops suggests that you can use them with CPUs up to the Core i7-10750H. However, 8-core CPUs are a more common pairing.

The MSI GE66 is a great test platform for the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q because it is a competently designed system with a lot of thermal headroom. It's not the slimmest or lightest, but for a medium-sized gaming laptop, it has a great case, a 300 Hz 1080p IPS display, an interesting RGB lighting strip on the front edge … and lots of cooling.

We saw CPU temperatures of around 80 ° C and the GPU of only 65 ° C with moderate fan noise under a gaming load of Watch Dogs 2 with a CPU of 48 W and a GPU of 90 W, which is a great result. Thermal throttling is not a problem with this system, so we can achieve some excellent performance figures.


Before proceeding, please note that our usual test notes apply to laptops. The graphs you will see are an average of the results of laptops with the same configuration. The full list of laptops tested can be found here. We try our best to use apple to apple data. Therefore, all laptops are tested with similar performance limits, two-channel memory configurations and lots of cooling if possible.

Let's start with Red Dead Redemption 2, one of the graphically more intense titles in our benchmark suite. With 1080p high settings, the 2080 Super Max-Q is the fastest GPU we've encountered so far. However, it should be noted that we have not yet tested the Max-P versions of the new Super GPU variants.

This GPU offers very playable frame rates and delivers 17 percent more power at 90 W than the 2070 Super Max-Q and 20 percent more power than the RTX 2070, which is configured at 115 W. Unfortunately, we don't have test data for the 90W RTX 2080 Max-Q, but the performance increase of the 2080 Super Max-Q is a decent head of 25 percent of the older 2080 Max-Q at 80W.

Borderlands 3 is another strong result for the 2080 Super Max-Q. This title is completely limited to GPU gaming laptops with ultra settings. As with Red Dead, we see a 17 percent lead over the Super Max-Q 2070 and a 17 percent lead over the RTX 2070. Profits over the Max-Q 2080 are more modest, but this is still enough to get the fastest results to achieve that we've seen so far.

Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order is largely limited to the GPU in our laptop benchmark pass, though there are some sections that hit the CPU harder. Fortunately, all of our previously tested RTX 2080 Super, RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 laptops use similar 8-core CPUs with 45 W, which results in only minor CPU differences.

In this sense, the 2080 Super Max-Q is 10 percent ahead of the 2070 Super Max-Q and 14 percent ahead of the RTX 2070. The next competitor to this GPU is the older 2080 Max-Q, but the new Super variant pulls its head humble single-digit margins

Control is a very GPU-demanding title, one of the most demanding in our test suite, which is executed with the high preset, the maximum of the game. As with Fallen Order before, the 2080 Super Max-Q is around 11 percent better than the 2070 Super Max-Q when both GPUs are operated at 90 W.

The cable is similar to the RTX 2070 with 115 W, which shows the efficiency advantage of the larger CUDA core design. Because this GPU can run more cores with lower clocks, it is in a more efficient position on the voltage-frequency curve, offering better performance than the 2070 with fewer cores and a higher power limit.

In Metro Exodus we see that the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q at 90W delivers roughly the performance of an RTX 2070 desktop PC. This is a good comparison if you want to know how these types of laptops behave compared to their desktop counterparts. In terms of laptop comparisons, the 2080 Super Max-Q is 18 percent faster than the 2070 Super Max-Q and 24 percent ahead of the RTX 2070.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is another very challenging game for laptops. The performance advantage of the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q compared to the 2070 Super Max-Q is more modest than other titles, with only 7 percent for average frame rates and 10 percent for one percent low. However, it has a bigger head start than in 2070, despite its lower power consumption at around 15 percent.

Battlefield V is another title where the 2080 Super Max-Q has a 15 percent performance advantage over the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, at least when you look at the average frame rates.

This type of GPU introduces some CPU limitations, which is why many of the 8 core processors here have similar low numbers of 1 percent.

Not every game will benefit from the increased GPU performance that is available to you. One such example is Assassin's Creed Odyssey, which hits the CPU and GPU hard on laptops.

With the default setting "Very High", the 2080 Super Max-Q was only 3 percent faster on average than the 2070 Super Max-Q, although it was 8 percent faster at 1% low data. In comparison to the RTX 2070, you see similarly narrow borders with only single-digit numbers.

Far Cry 5 also benefits from CPU performance, but mostly uses a small number of threads, and without much additional single-core performance between the CPUs, the difference falls back to the GPU. The RTX 2080 Super Max-Q is 10 percent ahead of the 2070 Super Max-Q and up to 15 percent ahead of the RTX 2070.

Some older games round off the most important ones that we're going to watch today. Star Wars Battlefront II is very affordable for the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q and offers a performance advantage of almost 20 percent compared to the 2070 Super Max-Q. We saw reasonable double-digit increases for both the RTX 2070 and the RTX 2080 Max-Q.

Like Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Watch Dogs 2 is a game that requires both CPU and GPU power. There's still a performance advantage for the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q, but it's not as extensive as with more GPU-restricted titles.

For many of these older open world games, it's not worth upgrading to a flagship mobile GPU to play them.

Finally, we have Grand Theft Auto V, another title that offers a ~ 10 percent performance advantage for the 2080 Super Max-Q over the 2070 Super Max-Q and the regular RTX 2070. There is nothing special to notice here.

Performance disorders

GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q vs. RTX 2070 Super Max-Q

In the 19 games that make up our current laptop GPU test suite, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q is 11 percent faster on average than the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, and yes, these names don't just roll off your tongue like me keep repeating "super" and "max-q".

When both GPUs are configured for 90W, the added efficiency of Nvidia's top-level mobile GPU results in a double-digit performance advantage on average, although that advantage could be up to 19 percent in more demanding GPU games. On the other hand, if a game has a mixed CPU and GPU workload, expect only medium to low single-digit winnings.

GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q vs. RTX 2070 Max-P

The RTX 2080 Super Max-Q is universally faster than the RTX 2070 Max-P, although the 2080 Super has a power limit of 90 W compared to the 115 W of the 2070.

With an average performance advantage of 14 percent, we are not talking about an astonishing difference. However, since this GPU can be used in lean and light systems, while the RTX 2070 with 115 W normally cannot, these gains in efficiency are important.

GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q vs. RTX 2080 Max-Q

Finally, we have a comparison between the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q with 90 W and the RTX 2080 Max-Q with 80 W. With the additional power of 10 W and the higher efficiency, the Super variant is 14 percent faster. Based on these figures, we expect high single-digit increases if both GPUs are operated with 90 W. This makes the supermodel faster than before, even though it's still an incremental upgrade.

What we have learned

Overall, the GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q can be summarized quite quickly. This is the fastest laptop GPU from Nvidia for powerful or thermally restricted laptop form factors and offers a two-digit performance gain over the tier below. The level of performance that Nvidia was able to achieve within a 90W power budget is impressive. The efficiency of this chip is excellent and allows it to outperform lower-class GPUs with a higher performance budget.

The level of performance that Nvidia was able to achieve within a 90W power budget is impressive

At the same time, this can be seen as an incremental increase in performance over the GPU that is being replaced. Because both GPUs use the same architecture and process, Nvidia reaches its limits without changing any of these things. If you were hoping for a bigger win, you have to wait for the next generation of Nvidia products.

Name names for GeForce laptop GPUs can be confused with so many different configurations that choosing laptop models can be difficult for this reason. Many laptop manufacturers do not advertise the performance limit and, shockingly, some omit Max-Q. This is less of a problem with this flagship GPU than at lower levels because you get top-notch performance.

The RTX 2080 Super Max-Q is a great GPU for 1080p gaming and can handle all modern titles at 1080p with ultra settings, but is nowhere near as fast as the RTX 2080 Super for desktops. It's more in the ballpark of a desktop RTX 2070. As long as you understand that desktop and mobile GPUs don't perform the same way, you should be fine.

The RTX 2080 Super Max-Q is typically included in the world's most expensive gaming notebooks. Devices with this GPU start at $ 2,500 with a Core i7-10750H and can quickly rise to over $ 3,000 if you need an 8-core Intel CPU. Aside from other features and the build quality of the laptop, this equates to a premium of around 20% over an RTX 2070 Super Max-Q laptop for 10 percent better performance or a price premium of 50% on an RTX 2060 configuration for around 30 percent higher performance.

Purchasing links
  • Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q laptops at Amazon
  • Nvidia RTX 2070 Super Max-Q laptops at Amazon
  • Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q laptops at Amazon
  • MSI GE66 Raider i9 / 300Hz / RTX 2080S at Amazon
  • MSI GS66 Stealth i9 / 300Hz / RTX 2070S at Amazon
  • Intel Core i7-10875H laptops at Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS laptops at Amazon

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