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What is Max Q? How can I tell if a laptop is Max Q?

Nvidia Max Q laptops explained, including Nvidia Max Q vs Non Max Q mobile GPUs

Updated: Jan 4, 2023 2:20 pm
What is Max Q how can i tell if a laptop is max q Nvidia max Q explained Nvidia Max Q vs non Max q vs mobile GPU

If you want to know What is Max Q? and How can I tell if a laptop is Max Q? then your mind will soon be at peace, content with said knowledge.

Assuming you’re interested in laptop graphics cards and not aerospace physics and engineering, Max Q (most commonly written as ‘Max-Q’) is the name of the technology and design philosophy used by Nvidia to make their graphics cards more suitable for use in laptops (i.e. thinner, lighter and less power-hungry), at the expense of performance.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all Nvidia mobile graphics cards in laptops were Max Q, but this isn’t actually always the case. The reality is slightly less clear cut.

Nvidia Max Q vs Non Max Q vs Nvidia mobile GPUs: What’s the difference?

Nvidia mobile graphics cards found in laptops are not necessarily the same as Nvidia Max-Q graphics cards: the latter once represented the lower-powered variants that are better suited to the thinner and lighter creative / gaming laptops. At least, this was the case in previous generations, though the distinction is now becoming a bit more muddy.

Ultimately, all laptop graphics cards are weaker than their desktop counterparts, even if they are in so-called ‘desktop replacement laptops’ (essentially the most powerful, but also largest gaming and workstation laptops on the market). All dedicated graphics cards in laptops (by Nvidia or AMD) are commonly referred to with ‘mobile’ added to the end of their name, to designate the distinction from the more powerful desktop variant.

Max-Q laptop GPUs however (those which have the designation as such in their spec sheet) are a sub-type which are even more stripped down, and therefore lower in power (both in Wattage terms and in-game FPS). Increasingly though the term Max-Q isn’t used in this sort of way, and is more used by Nvidia to describe their laptop graphics card technology as a whole.

How can I tell if a laptop is Max Q?

Back when they were marketing Nvidia 20-series laptops, the Max-Q designation would often clearly feature at the end of the graphics card in a laptop’s spec sheet. From the Nvidia 30-series however, most laptop manufacturers ceased to include this information in any kind of obvious place. These days TGP is the main data point the industry focuses on to see how powerful a laptop GPU is, and is what you should be looking for.

If you haven’t yet bought the laptop, then your best bet is to read an in-depth gaming laptop review (such as our own) which will break down the performance of the graphics card and tell you how powerful it is. Simply put, if a graphics card has a low TGP relative to other models with the same SKU name (e.g. RTX 3070) and is an Nvidia design, then it’s probably more what would once be referred to as Max-Q.

If you have the laptop already in front of you, then you may want to have a read of this Tom’s Hardware guide, which will talk you through the steps necessary to find the information you’re looking for.

The latest 5th Gen Max Q design

Nvidia Max Q technology 5th gen Max Q design

The latest Nvidia Max-Q design, as shown off in the Nvidia CES 2023 presentation, incorporates the following features. You can listen to the full Special Address talk here, which goes over the new features in comparison to previous gen Max-Q upgrades from around the 14:26 mark.

  • DLSS 3
  • Ultra Low Voltage GDDR6
  • Tri-Speed Memory Control
  • Ada High Efficiency On Chip Memory – doubling the bandwidth and increasing the memory to 16x

What is Max Q? Final Word

We hope this short guide has helped you better understand What is Max Q? Do make sure to have a look at our many buyer’s guides on Nvidia laptops (including Max Q variants) which can be found under Laptop > Gaming Laptop > Branded Laptop in the Mega Menu at the top of this page.

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