Nvidia graphics cards still dominate the laptop GPU landscape, though AMD Radeon 6000etc. Arc Intel, are doing their best to change that. Whether you’re looking for a gaming laptop capable of the latest ray tracing capabilities or something more in between, Nvidia offers a range of options in the best gaming laptops. But which of Nvidia’s many chips is right for you? Are you a mobile professional who plays a bit on the sidelines or a hardcore gamer looking to squeeze the most power out of your system? Or are you somewhere in between? No matter how you identify yourself, our handy explainer will help you choose the best Nvidia 30-series GPU for you.
High-end gaming, ray tracing: Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 series
Currently at the top of the heap among Nvidia graphics cards is the RTX 30 series. Based on the latest Ampere architecture, the 30 series advances the impressive ray tracing technology introduced in the previous generation 20-series cards. Let’s take a look at key stats covering seven SKUs. The top row is the name of the GPU, higher numbers in the name indicate a more powerful card. Board names ending in “Ti” are superior to the non-Ti version of the same model number.
|RTX 3080 Ti laptop graphics card||RTX 3080 laptop graphics card||RTX 3070 Ti Laptop Graphics Card||RTX 3070 laptop graphics card||RTX 3060 laptop graphics card||RTX 3050 Ti Laptop Graphics Card||RTX 3050 laptop graphics card|
|NVIDIA CUDA Cores||7424||6144||5888||5120||3840||2560||2048|
|Boost Clock (MHz)||1125 – 1590MHz||1245 – 1710MHz||1035 – 1485MHz||1290 – 1620MHz||1283 – 1703MHz||1035 – 1695MHz||1057 – 1740MHz|
|GPU subsystem power (W)||80 – 150W||80 – 150W||80 – 125W||80 – 125W||60 – 115W||35 – 80W||35 – 80W|
|Standard Memory Configuration||16 GB GDDR6||8GB GDDR6/16GB GDDR6||8 GB GDDR6||8 GB GDDR6||6 GB GDDR6||4 GB GDDR6||4 GB GDDR6|
|Ray tracing cores||2nd generation||2nd generation||2nd generation||2nd generation||2nd generation||2nd generation||2nd generation|
|Tensor cores||3rd generation||3rd generation||3rd generation||3rd generation||3rd generation||3rd generation||3rd generation|
Nvidia 30 Series Graphics Breakdown: For the Nerds and the Curious
Nvidia CUDA Cores are highly specialized processing units in Nvidia GPUs used by many programming languages to more easily harness the computing power of the GPU, which is already a very specialized component of any computer. These cores are responsible for doing a lot of floating point math, a computationally intensive process used in 3D rendering. A higher CUDA core count usually indicates a more capable GPU.
A GPU Boost clock, measured in megahertz, is the GPU’s performance speed at its peak when under the heaviest workloads it can handle. A GPU can “boost” itself to a faster clock speed for a period of time while staying within thermal and power thresholds for short-term intensive tasks. It is essentially the highest speed at which the CPU clock that governs all tasks can issue a signal or instruction. The RTX 3080, with its listed improved performance, can output up to 1.59 million instructions per second. You’ll notice that lower-numbered cards may have higher listed clock speeds, but with fewer compute cores and less available memory, the card still won’t outperform its bigger siblings.
The list Power of the GPU “subsystem”, measured in Watts, is the board’s rated power consumption range which can fluctuate as demands on the system increase and decrease. It can play a big role in laptop battery life.
the memory configuration indicates the available video RAM, measured in gigabytes, used to store necessary short-term information. While your laptop has its own RAM, modern GPUs require dedicated VRAM, often of similar amounts, to do their job. Larger VRAM pools allow a GPU to store graphics instruction data in a place where access speeds are many times faster than reading from your hard drive or SSD. A lower amount of VRAM means (relatively) slower trips to the SSD to extract that data. More VRAM is always better. All 30 Series cards come with the latest memory standard known as GDDR6 (Graphical Double Data Rate, for you nerd acronyms) which has nominal transfer speeds of 16 Gb/s.
the Ray tracing cores and Tensor cores are shown here as the current generation of these processing units. Ray Tracing Cores help with the very intensive work of rendering ray tracing effects to surfaces in games. Tensor cores are another specialized part of the GPU responsible for doing the relational calculations between vertices and matrices needed for modern 3D graphics effects and are a key part of AI systems like DLSS.
Nvidia 30 Series Summary: For Everyone Else
Don’t worry if this all didn’t land, the main takeaway is that Nvidia has seven very powerful GPUs on the market and while each higher model number usually outperforms the one below, there are some quirks in the 30 series when it comes to processor speed. That means you might not need to spend the money on a high-end RTX 3080 Ti and should check the performance ratings of specific setups before deciding that bigger is better. ‘is.
the RTX 3080 and RTX 3080 Ti are your high-end options that shouldn’t run modern gaming below 60fps. Examples include the MSI GE76 Raider for the modest sum of $4,199, equipped with a 3080 Ti and a new 12th Generation Intel Alder Lake Processor if you feel like blowing the doors off everything. In our tests, it ran Red Dead Redemption 2 at 82 fps. Then, at half price, there is the Acer Nitro 5pairing an AMD Ryzen 6 5900HX processor with an RTX 3080 for $2,300 which also performs very well with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at 64 FPS at 1080p resolution on the highest settings.
At the bottom of the scale, but still very capable are the RTX 3070 and RTX 3070Ti cards. You should expect a solid price drop without too much of a performance drop on the 3070s. alienware m15 r4 ran Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at 67 fps (see?) at 1080p, but you’re paying that Alienware premium in this case at $2,499. same game, Gigabyte Aorus 15G, same settings: 64 fps. Not too bad for $1,799, but with some quality of life caveats, as noted in the review.
Next, and once the worst performer of the 30 series cards is the RTX-3060. Laptops with these won’t break fps category records, but they shouldn’t break the bank either. If you don’t require more than a comfortable 60 FPS to run your latest games at or near high settings, a 3060 should be fine for you. On our offers pageRTX 3060-equipped laptops can be found starting at $1,199 all the way up to $1,899.
Finally, in the 30 series range, the newly added entry level RTX 3050 and RTX 3050Ti maps. These guys should get you over the 60 FPS line, unless you’re running a particularly taxing game at particularly high settings. With fewer compute cores than the big boys, the 3050s still have clock speeds that are fast enough to do business with. The best part about them, of course, is the price. Laptops with RTX 3050s can cost as little as $650 if you grab the good sale (this one is out of print, sorry for the tease!). But they’re not much higher, easily under $1,000 for most configurations. At four times cheaper, they’re certainly not four times less powerful than their 3080 counterparts, so weigh your options accordingly.
New mid-tier options coming soon
Nvidia will offer laptops in early 2022 a selection of three mid-tier graphics card options for lightweight configurations capable of some high-end graphics settings such as Ray Tracing, while maintaining power consumption, weight and heat at a low level.
Information on which brands will feature the new GeForce discrete GPUs has yet to be announced, and even some of the card specs aren’t fully known yet, but here’s what we know about these cards.
Nvidia GeForce RTX 2050: A 30-series card in everything but name
The confusingly named RTX 2050 is not based on the previous 20-series Turing architecture, as its name might suggest. The RTX 2050 cards actually run on the Ampere architecture, just like the 30-series cards, which makes the RTX 2050 for laptops more comparable to an RTX 3050 than an RTX 2060. With 2048 CUDA cores and 4 GB of GDDR6 VRAM, it matches the RTX 3050 while having a smaller memory width at 64 bits compared to 128. Comparisons with the RTX 2060 are less consistent, a 2060 has fewer CUDA cores at 1920 but a capacity of higher memory at 6GB and higher boost clock.
The aim of the RTX 2050 seems to be to deliver a low power graphics configuration on the latest Ray Tracing platform.
Nvidia GeForce MX570 and MX550: for lightweight performance
Not much has yet been revealed about the new MX GeForce laptop cards, including no announced laptops that will feature either card. The official announcement says to expect them to arrive in the spring of 2022 and in the meantime, we have some preliminary statements and some speculation to tide us over.
The MX line represents a low-spec but still significant performance upgrade over integrated graphics, so the primary comparison that MX-equipped laptops have is against laptops with no dedicated GPU at all. Although the performance of integrated graphics is much better today than not so long ago, any next-gen game still requires a dedicated GPU, like most rendering software applications.
The new MX570 will feature “more power-efficient CUDA cores and with faster memory speeds than previous MX GPUs,” according to Nvidia’s announcement. Information on the lower-spec MX 550 is no more detailed, simply stating that it will have “more CUDA cores and faster memory speeds than before.” The most recent MX GPU, the MX450, was released in August 2020 and is a Turing design with 2 GB of GDDR6 memory on a 64-bit memory bus with a base clock of 1.3 GHz and a boost clock of 1.5 GHz. So expect a generational uplift from these modest numbers.