PC gaming and mobile gaming are hot. If you weren’t aware, some statistics from the new TECHnalysis Research Multi-Device Gaming report should clear that up. Gamers in both the US and China reported spending an average of 19.5 hours per week gaming on PCs and nearly 18 hours per week gaming on mobile devices. On top of that, sales of gaming PCs continue to defy overall PC market stagnation, with annual retail growth rates as high as 31% being reported by research firms like NPD.
But the truth is, much of the current PC and mobile gaming usage is occurring on desktop PCs and smartphones. They are the two most commonly owned and most heavily used devices for gaming. In fact, for PC gaming, 50% more people said they played games on Windows 10 desktops than Windows 10 notebooks, according to the survey report.
The primary reasons for this have been due to power, performance, and cost concerns. To get the kind of compute and graphics horsepower necessary to adequately run AAA gaming titles, you have typically needed a power-hungry desktop PC rig with a discrete graphics card. Yes, there have been a few high-performance gaming laptops, but they’ve been very expensive and very heavy—until now.
As of today, Intel is making a serious push into mobile PC gaming with the launch of an entire new range of 9th generation mobile CPUs specifically targeted to gamer enthusiasts, content creators, and others who demand premium performance. Simultaneously, Nvidia has unveiled a new set of GTX 1600 series mobile GPUs, designed to work hand-in-hand with these 9th-gen Intel CPUs to deliver desktop-quality gaming performance levels at prices starting at $799—much closer to that of desktop gaming systems. PC makers are taking advantage of the new combo, as over 80 new designs from Dell/Alienware, HP/Voodoo, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, MSI and more will be coming to market starting today and over the next few weeks. (Given Intel’s well-documented efforts to build its own discrete GPU, Intel will undoubtedly increase efforts to push its own CPU/GPU packages starting in 2020 when the new Intel GPU is expected to reach the market.)
While some of these new notebooks are expected to maintain the large, bulky designs of previous gaming laptops, most will look more like the ultrathin notebooks to which we’ve become so accustomed. Leveraging both the improved power efficiency of Intel’s 9th-gen Core processors, as well as the latest iteration of Nvidia’s Max-Q technology, systems will be down to 20mm thickness and weights of just under 4.2 pounds. The laptops that do maintain larger sizes will be able to offer true desktop-class performance, as the high-end Intel i9-9980 and i9-9880 series that are part of this launch are the first notebook parts to offer up to 8 cores/16 threads and Turbo Boost modes up to 5 GHz.
Regardless of size or weight, all the new gaming laptops based on these new chips will benefit from a number of other key technology enhancements. On the Intel platform side, all the new 9th-generation Core CPUs offer support for WiFi6, up to 128 GB of DDR4 memory, and Intel’s Optane memory and Optane SSD, for faster caching, file opening, and app launch times. To leverage the two different flavors of Optane, Intel has created a combination M.2 module called the H10 that houses both an Optane memory chip, as well as an Optane SSD built with Intel’s 3D NAND flash memory technology. The two pieces work together to enable a more optimized path between DRAM and storage. The pairing will provide a more responsive feel when opening files and launching applications in notebooks that incorporate the optional H10. Over time, the performance should actually improve as more applications specifically take advantage of the new system architecture that Optane enables.
Nvidia’s new GTX 16 series mobile GPUs leverage the same Turing-based architectural improvements that the recently announced 1600 series desktop CPUs offer—essentially, it’s most everything from the company’s high-end RTX 2000 series except for the dedicated ray-tracing-focused RT cores and Tensor cores. (To be clear, the mobile GTX 1600 parts do support ray tracing—as the desktop parts do—but only via software.) The combination of concurrent execution of integer and floating-point instructions, a unified cache architecture, and adaptive shading techniques from Turing translates to frame rates of over 100 fps on top-level games like Fortnite, Overwatch, and Apex Legends, as well as overall performance improvements of up to 2.5x versus previous GTX 950M-based systems. In addition, the new mobile GPUs support high refresh rate 144 Hz display panels for even higher-quality gaming experiences.
According to the TECHnalysis Research gaming survey, Windows 10-based gaming laptops are the 5th most commonly owned and used gaming device among active gamers. However, because they combine the capability and flexibility of gaming desktops with the relative portability of mobile devices, there’s little doubt that number will rise over time, concurrent with the growing interest in mobile gaming. In fact, given recent market momentum, it’s clear that gaming laptops are going to become an increasingly important part of the overall device mix for many gaming enthusiasts, particularly now that more powerful and more portable designs are becoming available at mainstream price points.