New Nvidia graphics technology makes VR-ready laptops slimmer and cheaper

With the new laptop-ready GeForce GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 GPUs, Nvidia erases the line between mobile and desktop graphics.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While we've paid a lot of attention of late to traditional PC gaming desktops, because of their near-monopoly on the ability to run virtual reality hardware, that may be about to change. VR aside, gaming laptops have been the more interesting story over the past several years, with great leaps in performance, design and portability.

There are already around 20 million gaming laptops in gamers' hands right now, according to GPU-maker Nvidia, and the company hopes its new generation of mobile graphics hardware will grow the category even further. The new laptop-friendly GTX 10-series claims to offer a dramatic increase in performance over previous mobile GPUs, and supports virtual reality, which could be a real game-changer for gaming laptops.

The new GeForce GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 GPUs are part of what Nvidia calls its Pascal architecture. One big difference from the previous generation, code-named Maxwell, is that the M designation has been removed from the mobile product names, so the successor to the GTX 980M is now called the GTX 1080, not the 1080M.

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Nvidia

The message from Nvidia is that there are now no significant performance differences between laptop and desktop gaming. There are some very slight spec differences, based on size and power/cooling needs, but Nvidia says the performance should be within 10-percent of an equivalent desktop card, and show as much as a 76-percent performance boost over the previous generation of mobile graphics chips.

This means that rather than just the small handful of models with GeForce 980 desktop chips, many new gaming laptops will support VR, and at prices expected to be as low as $1,300 in the US. And, some of these VR-ready laptops will be as thin as 18mm or as light as 4 pounds (1.8kg).

The new 10-series GPUs are capable of running many new games at full-HD resolution at above 120 frames per second, or at 4K resolutions at above 60 frames per second. Nvidia is also aggressively supporting overclocking, including factory overclocking for laptop GPUs for the first time, where a PC maker tweaks a card for extra performance before sending it to you.

Hands-on with the new Nvidia GeForce 1070

We've already had a chance to test one of the first laptops with a new Nvidia GPU. This is an Asus ROG G752 gaming laptop, with the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU. We've previously tested and reviewed the same laptop earlier this year with the GeForce 970M GPU, so it's a product we've very familiar with.

The first difference in this new version is that we were able to hook up and use an Oculus Rift VR headset, using the HDMI port on the side of the system. Previously, both the Rift and the HTC Vive required high-end desktop graphics cards, and the only way to use VR hardware with a laptop was to use one of the very small handful of systems with Nvidia's shrunken-down version of the desktop GeForce 980 GPU, such as the Origin PC Eon17-SLX or the Acer Predator 17X.

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Despite the desktop designation listed here, this is actually our Asus G752 laptop with the new mobile Nvidia 1070 GPU.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The performance charts below outline our experience with this new Pascal laptop GPU. Performance was much faster than the older laptop graphics chips, but not as fast as the desktop versions of the GeForce GTX 1080 (we haven't had a chance to test a new desktop 1070 GPU yet). Keep in mind, however, that we're testing this new hardware with early Nvidia drivers, and we expect improved drivers for these new graphics chips in the near future.

Nvidia says laptops with the new GTX 10-series GPUs should be available to order immediately, and models from every major PC maker are expected by this holiday shopping season.

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (GeForce 1080)
4717
Asus ROG G752VS (GeForce 1070)
4110
Acer Predator 17 X (GeForce 980)
3050
Asus ROG G752VT (GeForce 970M)
1729

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (GeForce 1080)
221
Asus ROG G752VS (GeForce 1070)
193
Acer Predator 17 X (GeForce 980)
134
Asus ROG G752VT (GeForce 970M)
96

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)
Asus ROG G752VS (GeForce 1070) Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-6820HK; 64GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Acer Predator 17 X (GeForce 980) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-6820HK; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 980; (2) 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 (GeForce 1080) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4.2GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 3TB HDD
Asus ROG G752VT (GeForce 970M) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 3GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 970M; 128GB SSD + 1TB 7200rpm HDD
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