It was only earlier this week that AMD threw down the gauntlet in laptops with the entry of the superb Ryzen 4900HS octacore APU. But Intel has turned the battleship around, firing a massive broadside with some big figures: up to 5.1Ghz boost clocks, laptops capable of 300Hz screens, and the first iteration of Nvidia’s RTX SUPER graphics cards in laptops.
The launch drops at the same time as the announcement of more than 100 new laptops sporting Nvidia GPUs, making this week probably the biggest launch week for laptops in recent memory. But it’s Intel’s response that is the most fascinating, especially after AMD came out of the gate this week with laptops that might get some people genuinely thinking twice about their next tax time purchase.
For years, gaming laptops have been threatening to match the portability and flexibility of their thin-and-light variants. And for years, AMD has threatened to disrupt the laptop market with the same energy and performance they brought to the desktop market. Finally, that promise is starting to be realised.Read more
More than 30 new gaming laptops were launched early Friday morning with less than 20mm thickness – which means more devices around the 1.6kg to 1.7kg mark – and a string of devices with HDR 1000-capable displays. That’s a huge win, if only because many laptops lose a ton of battery life from needing to be driven at high brightness levels.
The 10th gen chips come in six variants: two quad-core i5, the hexacore i7-10750H and 10850H, and the octacore i7 10875H and i9-10980HK, the latter of which hits peak clocks of 5.1GHz and 5.3GHz on a single core. How much performance you’ll actually get at that speed depends on the cooling and chassis design of the laptop, and Intel’s deck didn’t specify what the top speeds for all cores concurrently. Intel’s chips can support up to DDR4-2933MHz RAM now as well, but that’s behind the DDR4-3200 and LPDDR4x-4266 support in the Ryzen 4000 platform.
Intel’s mobile launches over the last couple of years have pushed their gaming credentials, which makes sense given all the work they’re doing for their new discrete gaming GPU and architecture. As part of their official launch, the company pushed out some graphs showing 30 percent and 40 percent uptick in games like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Total War: Three Kingdoms, although as always these need to be taken with a heavy grain of salt (or, ideally, the whole grinder). For one, neither of these AAA games were playable on Intel’s 9th generation, and they certainly weren’t functional on three-year old laptops.
There’s the other kicker you should be aware of: Intel’s comparisons here are between a 10th gen 10980HK and a RTX 2080 Super against a laptop with a GTX 1080 and a 7820HK, which if I’m being honest, you’d expect at least a 30 percent jump, if not something closer to 50 percent. I’m putting the benchmarks here for everyone to see, though, so at least there’s some transparency on what’s being touted.
Another interesting note: Intel’s own testing featured memory running at DDR4-2666MHz, not the faster 2933MHz that the 10th gen platform actually supports. There could be plenty of reasons for that, but it’s listed in the fine print, so it’s worth noting all the same. Also, the 7th gen laptops were tested on a newer version of Windows than the 10th gen rigs (18363.657 vs 10363.476) and substantially older Nvidia drivers. There is a potential argument for the latter, but I can’t quite work out why the 7th gen laptops weren’t even tested using the same GPU driver (18.104.22.16801 vs 22.214.171.12463).
New laptops announced this morning include the Razer Blade 15, which has a RTX 2080 Super GPU, a 15.6-inch 300Hz display or a 4K OLED in touchscreen or non-touchscreen options, a UHS-III SD card reader, and (thank God) USB-C charging through a 20V charger. There’s no local pricing on the variants, but the new Blade 15 will start from $US1599 internationally.
Lenovo’s pushing harder into the gaming laptop world too, with a Legion Y540 sporting a RTX 2060 available from $US999. The Y740 has a slightly better RTX 2070 that’s selling from $US1199, and while neither GPU is the SUPER variant, they will both have updated versions of Nvidia’s Advanced Optimus GPU tech which redirects idle power between the GPU and integrated graphics depending on the workload.
The Max-Q laptop tech has been upgraded as well, improving battery life in gaming laptops by a quoted 20 percent in games that support DLSS. That’s a nice touch, but most people playing games on a gaming laptop either a) have it plugged in for full performance or b) are playing an indie game that doesn’t push the GPU hard enough that battery life is a serious concern. Most people don’t enjoy having their knees microwaved.
Still, the latest Max-Q tech does offer slightly better frame rates through Max-Q Dynamic Boost. It’s very similar to the Advanced Optimus tech, in that power from the laptop is sent to the GPU or CPU depending on where the game is bottlenecked. If the game needs more GPU power, the boost tech will shift power from the CPU on to improve the frame rate. The laptop is still operating within the same thermal constraints (35W for the CPU and 90W for the GPU in this example). But what’s neat is that this happens automatically on a frame-by-frame basis, so it’ll adjust power as necessary for heavier scenes, and then return back to normal in less intensive scenarios like cut scenes.
ASUS has new 10th gen laptops of their own, too. Their ROG Strix esports laptops and slim Zephyrus gaming laptops are getting refreshed with 240Hz and 300Hz panels, as well as RTX 2070 and 2080 SUPER cards in some variants. Like the AMD-based G14, the Zephyrus line all has support for USB-C charging too.
The big addition, though, is the introduction of the Zephyrus Duo 15. ASUS even unveiled an interesting collaboration with Techland and Dying Light 2, showing off a mock screenshot where the second screen tracked performance metrics, overlays and what looks like Twitch chat. The integration is apparently exclusive to ASUS, but in an embargoed briefing ASUS wasn’t able to give any concrete details of what gamers could do with the second screen that wouldn’t be possible with, say, a second monitor on a PC.
GIGABYTE announced seven new laptops on Friday as well, with their AORUS 15G/17G/17X gaming laptops featuring mechanical keyboards, 240Hz displays and RTX Super cards. Their AERO 15 OLED and HDR laptops have gotten a refresh too, with 144Hz displays and X-Rite Pantone colour calibration for designers and editors.
Local pricing and availability on the new 10th Gen laptops is yet to be announced, although Kotaku Australia understands some laptops should hit Australia from May – but that date is more an expectation than an official confirmation given the instability of the current global environment. But can Intel’s 10nm laptops keep up with AMD’s more power-efficient 7nm chips? How will AMD’s 45W Ryzen chip fare against the 45W i7’s and i9 chips? Are 6 cores enough in a laptop when you can get a 8 core chip in a laptop for just over $2000? And will features like 300Hz panels and super-bright HDR 1000 displays be enough to see off the challenge from AMD?
We’ll know more in the coming weeks and months. Either way, there’s a genuine battle in the world of laptops for the first time in a long, long time.