Nvidia’s rollout of Pascal technology continues at a relentless pace. After a launch presentation that included a live demo of Gears of War 4 running at 4K on Ultra settings on a GTX 1080 notebook, and Doom running on a mobile GTX 1080 overclocked to 2GHz, we were given some hands-on time with an impressive range of Pascal-based notebooks from Acer, Asus, EVGA, HP, MSI, and Razer.
Three VR demo booths were set up at the event, with HTC Vive headsets attached to the three Pascal mobile GPU variants. I was most interested in the GTX 1060, which was running on the svelte MSI GS43. I played Pool Nation VR which ran flawlessly. The laptop was clearly having no problems holding 90 FPS for VR rendering. Most remarkably, it was cool to the touch, at least around the front, on the keyboard and wrist rest. It was certainly giving out some heat at the back, but very reasonable considering the fairly high ambient temperature and the taxing environment of running VR demonstrations for several hours.
The 1070 and 1080 laptops from HP were both running Raw Data, an intense VR sci-fi shooter. Hard to say there was any difference between the two because frankly, if VR runs well, you simply don’t think about the performance and become engrossed with the task at hand—in this case despatching robotic foes. The laptops weren’t exhibiting any performance issues, so what I saw was essentially three flawless, 90 FPS VR demos. Any other day, you’d assume these were running on high-end desktop PCs.
While some of these were not completely final hardware, what struck me first was the variety of form factors and display specifications on show. The Razer Blade laptop was the most portable, with what appeared to be a similar chassis to the existing 970M-equipped model, now upgraded to a GTX 1060, followed closely by the MSI GS43, which was a similar spec 14” model. The MSI GS63 was probably the most attractive of the bunch, also using a 1060 in a thin form factor but with a ludicrously crisp 4K display. While a 1060 isn’t particularly viable for 4K gaming, it’s a stunning screen for general Windows operation, and playing Doom at 1080p scaled up to 4K looked superb anyway, running on Ultra settings at a solid 60fps.
As you’d expect, the greater TDP of the 1070 and 1080 notebooks meant they were more substantial in footprint and weight, with the Acer Predator 15 and EVGA SC17 being the standout designs at the event. The 1080-equipped MSI GT73 was running Gears of War 4 at 120Hz, which felt incredibly responsive and even more impressive in motion than the 4K demo. Laptop display technology has come a long way in the last couple of years, and every laptop was equipped with a great panel, with G-Sync and high-refresh rates being the order of the day.
Also on show was Ansel, Nvidia’s ultra high-resolution screenshot system. It’s not unique to Pascal, but this was the first time I’d seen it functional with The Witcher 3, and the implementation was flawless. Not so impressive (particularly immediately after a Vive demo) was the spherical stereoscopic images you can capture and view on a VR headset, but the effectiveness of that depends largely on the headset you decide to use.
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I was able to run a short benchmark session with the MSI GT62, running a GTX 1070 and an i7-6700HQ. Unigine Heaven at 1080p, 8xAA, max quality achieved a score of 2072, with an average of 82.2fps. The standard Shadow of Mordor benchmark at 1080p on max settings achieved 122.62fps average (min 60.04, max 211.38), and Rise of the Tomb Raider at max gave these results: Mountain Peak 119.06fps, Syria 93.24fps, Geothermal Valley 81.58fps, Overall 98.23fps.
The low heat output relative to the extreme performance on show from all of the laptops at the event was truly impressive. I use a GTX 980 in my personal desktop PC, and the idea of owning a thin and light notebook with comparable performance is very appealing, and that’s just the GTX 1060. With the 1070 and 1080 options delivering such awesome performance, some gamers will have to seriously consider whether their next PC should even be a desktop.
Disclosure: Nvidia paid for accommodations for one Road to VR correspondent to attend an event where information for this article was gathered.