GTX 1080 SLI Mobile Gaming – Asus ROG GX800 World’s Most Powerful Gaming Laptop
Last week I was honoured to be invited along to Nvidia’s GeForce APAC Editors Day in Bangkok. I was very intrigued as to what it was Nvidia had to show us. In the end it turned out to be a few familiar friends, repurposed for a different form factor.
Nvidia has taken their current GeForce 10 Series lineup, minus the Titan X, and focused it towards mobile gaming.
However unlike previous generations the ‘M’ postfix has been dropped from the name. This has been done because like the GTX 980, which was re-launched late last year for notebook users, the new Pascal based GeForce cards share the same specifications as the desktop variants.
Both the GTX 1060 and GTX 1080 are identical GPUs to the desktop models though they do operate at slightly lower frequencies. That said, depending on the laptop design it is possible to boost the frequency up to and even beyond the Founders Edition cards.
The GTX 1070 is actually a beefier GPU in its mobile form, boasting an additional 128 CUDA cores to help overcome the frequency deficit.
Nvidia has suggested that the mobile versions of these GPUs will be around 10% slower than the desktop models, which it amazing news for mobile gamers. Previously we found that the GTX 980M was around 20% – 30% slower than the desktop model and that was often the difference between achieving and not achieving 60 fps at 1080p.
This time things are different, much different. A base model gaming laptop configured with the GTX 1060 will match what was previously flagship level mobile gaming performance. Meanwhile those armed with the GTX 1070 or 1080 will slaughter anything previously available.
Nvidia says this is all possible thanks to the extreme efficiency of their Pascal architecture. At this point though Nvidia hardly needs to hype the product any further. Already taking up the call they have a dozen laptop manufacturers producing over 100 different models.
That means finding a GeForce 10 Series enabled gaming laptop won’t be an issue and today I have managed to find the most extreme of them all, the Asus ROG GX800 and holy crap is it something else.
This video won’t be your typical laptop review where we test battery life and cover all the nitty gritty stuff like audio quality and how loud the speakers are. Instead the focus is solely on performance, namely GPU performance. The GX800 doesn’t just feature one new GTX 1080 GPU but rather two, for some mobile 4K SLI action!
Not just that but like the GX700 before it which featured just a single GTX 980, the GX800 is also liquid cooled when connected to a special docking station. The specs are mighty impressive though as I just said for this video I am going to focus more on the performance of those GTX 1080 GPUs, than the laptop itself.
For comparison we will be using the Core i7-6700K test system which is clocked and locked at 4.5GHz. What we will be looking at is how well the GX800’s 1080’s compare to the desktop models.
Simply testing a single configuration for the GX800 wasn’t going to cover it. In the end we felt it was necessary to test at least five different configurations. Here is a table that lists how each configuration will be labeled on the graphs and what exactly the test parameters were.
Due to the fact that the GX800 can be air or liquid cooled meant that already we had to test both cooling options. There is also an XMP overclocking option which can boost the performance at the click of a button and should help the GX800 deliver desktop like performance, so obviously I also wanted to test that. It was also important to test with SLI disabled, especially given the GX800 performs better with SLI disabled when not connected to the liquid cooled dock.
Removed from the dock there simply isn’t enough power being delivered to the laptop for the SLI configuration operate correctly, so performance takes a rather large hit. In total 10 games have been tested though in an effort to keep the video as short as possible while including all the relevant info, I have picked four games to discuss. The rest of the graphs can be found on the Hardware Unboxed website, the link for which can be found in the video description. Keeping all that in mind let’s move onto the benchmarks…
Benchmarks (see more games at the bottom of the page)
First let’s look at the single GTX 1080 desktop performance, here we see an average of 43 fps. Disabling SLI on the GX800 we found the exact same 43 fps average with the laptop both liquid and air-cooled though keep in mind we were using the XMP settings. Still this is an incredible result and so far it looks like mobile gamers can enjoy desktop like performance.
Something I found odd was the fact that with SLI enabled the performance dropped massively, down to just 34 fps. At first I though SLI must have been broken or it was some kind of driver issue. However the desktop system spat out a very smooth 65fps so something was up. It then occurred to me that the liquid cooled docking station features another 230w power supply so the SLI setup was running into a power problem.
Connected to the dock the average frame rate jumped up to 60 fps and while that is a nice result at 4K it meant that SLI was scaling by just 40%. Even on the desktop we only saw scaling reach 51%, though we were able to get close to this figure using the XMP settings.
The Witcher 3
Moving to The Witcher 3 we find much better SLI scaling and now the GX800 is capable of matching and even beating the desktop system with an average of 69 fps with the XMP settings.
With SLI disabled we saw similar performance to that of a single GTX 1080 and again using SLI without the dock connected provided very poor performance.
This makes the GX800 rather impractical as users will want to make sure they manually disabled SLI when running without the extra power from the dock.
Far Cry Primal
This time we find that with SLI disabled the GX800 isn’t quite able to match a single GTX 1080 on the desktop. Still with an average of 37 fps on air the GX800 was comfortably faster than the desktop GTX 1070 configuration. Again enabling SLI while on air was a bad choice as the lack of power meant the laptop was actually slower with SLI enabled.
In it’s out of the box configuration the GX800 averaged 70 fps with a minimum of 62 fps when connected to the dock. Using the XMP settings boosted performance to that of the desktop 1080 SLI configuration which was great to see.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Testing with Rise of the Tomb Raider we see that with or without the liquid cooled dock the GX800 is comparable to our Core i7 desktop test system. This is true for both the single GTX 1080 and SLI configurations. Again the only issue here can be seen when using the GX800 without the dock with SLI enabled. It will be important from GX800 owners to manually disable SLI when it isn’t possible to connect up the dock for that extra power.
Before wrapping things up let’s check out some temperature results. At idle the GX800 ran cool regardless of the configuration. Air-cooled the GPUs idled at 41 degrees and the Core i7 CPU at 40 degrees. Using the liquid cooling dock the CPU temp dropped to 35 degrees and the GPUs down to 37 degrees.
Under full load is where the liquid cooled dock makes all the difference. Using only the fans the GX800 allowed the GPUs to reach 88 degrees while the CPU operated at 88 degrees. Disabling SLI didn’t really help to reduce the temperatures though the fans weren’t quite as loud.
Using the liquid cooled dock the CPU only dropped down to 81 degrees but the GPUs were now operating at just 61 degrees. Perhaps the biggest difference here was the operating volume as the GX800 was near silent even when gaming.
At no point did the GTX 1080’s inside the GX800 drop below 1.7GHz and when liquid cooled a 2GHz operating frequency for the SLI cards was sustained. Although the SLI configuration maintained a 1.9GHz operating frequency when on air, the resulting performance was very weak. This at first doesn’t seem to make sense, as both GPUs are operating at a very high frequency. The issue here is the power target as the entire system is being feed just 230 watts and that simple isn’t enough for two 1080’s to deliver maximum performance. Therefore they were limited to 54 fps, in fact disabling one 1080 saw the frame rate increase to 63 fps.
Well there you have it, the world’s most powerful gaming laptop. The Asus ROG GX800 is without question an awesome gaming laptop. Still I can’t help but feel it’s over the top, very over the top, to the point where it’s just too impractical.
Asus it seems, don’t totally disagree with me. In fact Asus claims they don’t create products for everyone, and with this particular product, they didn’t want to compromise. The goal for the GX800 is simple, to create the best, fastest and most extreme gaming laptop on the planet. I can safely say, mission accomplished.
In short Asus says products like the GX800 are developed not because they make sense for most people and not because everybody will want one. Instead they do it because it pushes the technology and themselves, to the limit. Asus has a lot of passion for creating these kinds of products and they get a great deal of pride out of it.
Keeping in mind that this product is still in the prototype phase, I am mostly impressed with that the GX800 delivered. It is worth noting that without the liquid cooling dock, gamers are best off disabling SLI and making do with a single GTX 1080. This does make the 4K display somewhat overkill and gamers will be best off lowering the resolution to 1440p for example.
Personally I still don’t get the point of having 3840 by 2160 pixels on a 18.4” screen, especially when you need two extremely powerful current generation GPUs to achieve 60fps performance in the latest and greatest titles. I guess this is all part of that no compromise strategy. I should point out that this custom IPS display does feature G-Sync support, though for now this feature isn’t working as the current display firmware is yet to support G-Sync.
With that said I feel a single GTX 1080 running at say 1440p would be the perfect mobile gaming solution. The fact that the GX800 really requires the dock and two massive 330 watt power bricks, makes it more of a desktop than a laptop in my opinion. Asus will no doubt offer a number of impressive single GPU GeForce 10 Series laptops, so we can’t exactly cut them down for trying something different with the GX800.
Looking past this extreme and over the top Asus implementation, it was great to see that for the most part a single GTX 1080 delivers much the same performance inside a laptop as it does in a desktop PC. This is big news for mobile gamers, previously paying a huge price premium for 20 – 30% less performance, has made gaming laptops in my opinions pretty pointless. The fact that you can now receive desktop-like performance helps to justify the investment. I am particularly interested to see what kind of prices the GTX 1060 models will go on sale for.