Gaming laptops have been going from strength to strength after Nvidia came up with its Pascal graphics architecture, which pulled mobile GeForce performance closer to that of its desktop counterpart. The Turing architecture brought in more power and ray tracing abilities filtering down from desktop GeForce cards to laptop variants.
But at CES 2021, Nvidia took the covers off the new Ampere-abased laptop-grade GeForce graphics cards. Coming in GeForce RTX 3080, RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 variations - more on the latter later - these promise to deliver not only pixel-pushing power in a laptop form but also access to the latest ray tracing and DLSS tech.
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Now we’ve seen RTX cards in gaming laptops before. But 2021’s gaming laptops are starting to look even better thanks to a helping hand from the most unlikely of places: AMD.
Nvidia’s big graphics rival revealed its Ryzen 5000 U- and H-series laptop processors, which tap into its new Zen 3 architecture that promises powerful performance even in thin and light laptops. When mixed with the new GeForce RTX 30-series graphics, we’re looking at laptops that are genuinely exciting.
Legions of Nvidia GeForce RTX laptops are coming
Nvidia claimed that some 70-plus laptops are expected to come with the new GeForce RTX graphics. And with prices starting from $999, they look to be affordable too.
Take the Acer Triton 300 SE as an example, this slim gaming laptop offers a rather easy way to get a good amount of gaming power and the GeForce RTX 3060, without the woes of trying to find where to buy the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti - the closest equivalent to the upcoming RTX 3060.
And both of these laptop markers, alongside Asus, Razer, Gigabyte, Lenovo, and more are adding RTX 30-series graphics - often alongside AMD’s new laptop CPUs - in a suite of their machines.
And both of these laptop markers, alongside Asus, Razer, Gigabyte, Lenovo, and more are adding RTX 30-series graphics, often alongside AMD’s new laptop CPUs, in a suite of their machines.
Speaking of Asus, it has gone one step further and has the ROG Flow X13, an ultraportable laptop with a new AMD CPU and a GeForce GTX 1650, which can be supercharged with a custom external RTX 3080. It’s set to cost $3,000 but that’s not too far off the mark of some RTX 3080-wielding gaming desktops, and it has a lot more flexibility.
So even if you are struggling at finding where to buy the Nvidia RTX 3080, these new gaming laptops could be the answer to ongoing graphic card shortages.
Nvidia showcased a whole lot of GeForce and gaming stuff at CES 2021, so read on for a breakdown of the most interesting news and what we learned.
Nvidia Geforce RTX 3060 beats the PS5 for $329
We knew Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 was coming, but we didn’t expect it to undercut its predecessor, the RTX 2060. But at $329, it’s the cheapest Ampere graphics card Nvidia has and should appeal to people who want to build a strong gaming PC aimed at 1440p gaming or 1080p action at super-high frame rates, yet don’t want to empty their bank account.
Nvidia touted it as 1.3x as powerful as a PS5. And compared to the GTX 1060, the RTX 3060 has twice the raster performance and 10x the ray-tracing performance. We only hope it's easier to buy than other cards in the GeForce RTX 30-series lineup.
It should be available in late February. So if you’ve been eagerly awaiting a mainstream RTX card, then the GeForce RTX 3060 could be for you.
1440p and high refresh rate displays coming to more gaming laptops
Increasing amounts of gaming laptops have been adopting high refresh rate displays, thanks to more powerful graphics allowing for high frame rates at 1080p resolutions. And with GeForce RTX GPUs for laptops, 1080p gaming can be pushed even further. So a lot more gaming laptops are coming with displays that have a 240Hz refresh rates or higher; the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE hits 300Hz.
But the power of GPUs like the GeForce RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, means it hardly breaks into a silicon sweat at 1080p. As such, we can expect more gaming laptops to come with 1440p displays.
Given that 4K is very demanding and arguably overkill for a compact laptop display, 1440p is the sweet spot, allowing for crisper visuals but enough headroom for a GPU to also push high frame rates. As such, 2021 is going to be the year of the 1440p high refresh rate gaming laptop, and we’re very much looking forward to trying as many as possible.
More ray tracing and DLSS-supporting games are coming
Given the PS5 and Xbox Series X both support ray tracing, it’s not a huge surprise that more games will come with support for the high-end light rendering technique. And Nvidia revealed that games like mall-based horror Five Nights at Freddy's will get ray tracing support, as will oddball action game FIST: Forged In Shadow Torch.
But Nvidia’s “RTX” terminology also covers its deep learning supersampling technology that uses AI tech to cleverly render a game so that it looks crisp at high resolutions but does not overly tax a GPU. It’s as clever as it is complex, but yields impressive results.
And Nvidia revealed that Call of Duty: Warzone and Square Enix's Outriders will be able to tap into DLSS, hopefully paving the way for even more games to benefit from RTX tech.
5 new gaming monitors will come with Nvidia GeForce Reflex Analyzer
Last year, Nvidia revealed GeForce Reflex, which in a nutshell helps measure and reduce system latency in competitive games - basically the time it takes to click and for your action to be displayed on-screen.
Both Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch, two vastly popular competitive multiplayer games, are getting GeForce Reflex support. But Nvidia also revealed that five new monitors are coming with G-Sync support, as well as the GeForce Reflex Analyzer, which, combined with RTX tech, can measure input latency and work out how to reduce it.
So if you have a new GeForce RTX 30-series graphics card or plan on getting a new laptop with the latest RTX tech, you might want to match it with a new display stuffed with smart Nvidia tech.
With all the above considered, it looks like 2021 is going to be a great year to be a PC gamer or get into PC gaming. With all this tech and impressive next-generation games set to debut over the next 12 months, Nvidia’s CES 2021 event wasn’t just a big GeForce showcase, but a vehicle for driving excitement for gaming this year.
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Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.