Today NVIDIA has revealed that its 10-Series GPUs—the GTX 1080, 1070, and 1060—are coming to gaming notebooks from a slew of major computer manufacturers. The company says the GPUs are not mobile variants, but desktop-class chips which will mean widespread availability of ‘VR Ready’ laptops.

In years past, Nvidia has launched similarly named versions of their desktop cards with an appended ‘M’, meaning a less powerful mobile version of the namesake, designed to fit within the space, power, and heat limitations of a notebook.

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With the company’s last generation of GPUs, the launch of a full-bore GTX 980 in select notebooks was a watershed moment for mobile PC gaming last September. This Maxwell-based GPU dropped that ‘M’ designation found on GeForce notebooks, being almost identical in specification and performance to a desktop GTX 980.

Until today, the GTX 980 has remained the most powerful notebook GPU, and the only one truly viable for high-end VR. But thanks to the efficiencies of the company’s 10-Series ‘Pascal’ architecture, Nvidia is launching three VR Ready GPUs for use in notebooks: the GTX 1080, 1070 and 1060.

You won’t find any ‘M’ attached to these names; Nvidia claims that the chips are within 10% of the performance of their desktop-class brethren—in some cases equal, or even faster. Indeed, in the case of the GTX 1070 variant, it sports more CUDA cores than the desktop GTX 1070, albeit at a slightly lower clock speed. As such, all three new notebook GPUs have been classed as VR Ready, fully supporting Nvidia’s VRWorks technologies, which is great news when you start to consider the thermal envelopes relative to the previous generation:

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GTX 1080 GTX 1070 GTX 1060
CUDA Cores 2560 2048 1280
Boost Clock 1733 MHz 1645 MHz 1670 MHz
Memory Config 8GB, 10 Gbps (GDDR5X) 8GB, 8 Gbps (GDDR 5) 6 GB, 8 Gbps (GDDR5)
TDP “similar to GTX 980” “similar to GTX 980M” “similar to GTX 970M”

Laptops equipped with these processors will start at $1,300, Nvidia says. With claimed desktop-class performance, mobile PC gaming—and even mobile VR for that matter—may simply no longer be the major compromise it once was. The company further says that the mobile GTX 1080 and 1070 will support SLI.

At an event highlight the new gaming notebook GPUS, Nvidia referred to the gaming notebook market as the ‘fastest growing gaming platform’, with +30% sales growth over 3.5 years, compared to -4% and +4% for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 respectively over the same period.

Nvidia says every major gaming notebook OEM is expected to launch VR Ready systems equipped with 10-series GPUs. the company claims this is the biggest leap in performance in a single GTX generation, and further cements their total dominance of the notebook GPU market which they say holds a 95% market share.

nvidia pascal mobile 10 series gaming performance 1080

Portability is going to be a huge boon for VR enthusiasts who need to travel; perhaps the GTX 1060 is the most interesting of the three chips, as it will be available in some impressively thin and light designs (as thin and light as 18mm and 4lbs), and opens up further potential for ‘wireless’ VR backpack solutions. Nvidia says this will lead to millions of VR Ready notebooks entering the market.

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nvidia vr ready notebook laptop

While the ‘VR Ready’ branding only applies to the notebooks when plugged in, our understanding is that there’s no reason why the power management settings can’t be adjusted to achieve the same level of performance on battery, albeit at the expense of run time, for some fully ‘untethered’ VR. That said, we can expect 30% more battery life in general from these Pascal chips compared to Maxwell, thanks in part to some refinements to the BatteryBoost technology, which will also be updated soon for GTX800M and higher GPUs.

But this certainly isn’t just about VR. The new level of performance has prompted a big step forward in display technologies for gaming notebooks, and you can expect to see a large number of interesting configurations, including G-Sync at 1440p, 120Hz 1080p displays, and 4K. We were treated to a live demo of Gears of War 4 (confirmed to support DX12, G-Sync, 4K and dynamic resolution), running on a giant 4K OLED TV, powered by a GTX 1080 notebook running at 4K on Ultra settings; hugely impressive, and it never skipped a beat.

VR-Funhouse-Nvidia (10)
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With a GTX 1080 notebook (i7-6700HQ, 16GB RAM), demanding titles such as Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Overwatch, Doom, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Metro Last Light all comfortably stay above 120Hz at 1080p on Ultra settings, and they all hold above 50fps at 4K, Nvidia says.

Overclocking on Pascal has much greater potential than previous generations; where you might have struggled to find a comfortable 100MHz increase with a Maxwell notebook, you can expect Pascal to reach above 200MHz or even 300MHz in some cases. This is all thanks to the improvements in electrical design: a Dual-FET power supply (higher density), multi-phased power controllers (higher efficiency), along with factory overclocking support. At the event we were given a live demo of Doom on a GTX 1080 notebook, showing a stable overclock at 2GHz, which appeared to be holding at a remarkable 73 degrees celsius.

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All in all, it’s an exciting time for notebooks, a significant step forward in improving VR’s practicality, and perhaps most importantly, we should see the widest ever selection of VR Ready and high-performance gaming designs and specifications over the next few months.

Disclosure: Nvidia paid for accommodations for one Road to VR correspondent to attend an event where information for this article was gathered.

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The trial version of Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness probably had something to do with it. And certainly the original Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. A car nut from an early age, Dominic was always drawn to racing games above all other genres. Now a seasoned driving simulation enthusiast, and former editor of Sim Racer magazine, Dominic has followed virtual reality developments with keen interest, as cockpit-based simulation is a perfect match for the technology. Conditions could hardly be more ideal, a scientist once said. Writing about simulators lead him to Road to VR, whose broad coverage of the industry revealed the bigger picture and limitless potential of the medium. Passionate about technology and a lifelong PC gamer, Dominic suffers from the ‘tweak for days’ PC gaming condition, where he plays the same section over and over at every possible combination of visual settings to find the right balance between fidelity and performance. Based within The Fens of Lincolnshire (it’s very flat), Dominic can sometimes be found marvelling at the real world’s ‘draw distance’, wishing virtual technologies would catch up.
  • VR Geek

    We have been waiting for this. Cannot wait for the thin Razer, MacBook like Notebooks with the above GPUs to arrive.

  • MosBen

    The question, of course, is how long the Vive and Rift life cycles are. By the time these sorts of laptops are widely available we’ll be in the back half of the first year of this first generation of HMDs. By the time the next generation of VR-ready mobile GPUs, which will hopefully mean that we’ll see some sub-$1,000 VR-ready laptops, come out we’ll be well into the second year. If the second generation of HMDs doesn’t come out for five years, investing in a VR ready laptop seems like a good idea. If the second generation HMDs come out after 2 or 3 years, it starts to look like a really expensive, heavy, and hot laptop that won’t play the current generation of VR titles for long. I really wish Oculus or Valve would be less cagey about this issue.

    • Shawn

      I personally believe the 2nd gen. Rift will release in the 2018 timeframe (given Oculus’ statement that they want Rift generations to be between a console and smartphone; and CV2 technical development was confirmed to have begun at least in June 2015); if it does, Oculus will most likely still recommend a Pascal generation GPU for Rift CV2 given that’s what a large portion of the market will be utilizing on-launch. Given these mobile GPUs are said to be within 10% performance of their desktop counterparts, I’d like to believe they’d be feasible platforms for 2nd gen. VR HMDs (especially due to eye-tracking / foveated rendering which I will consider a requirement for a HMD to be considered 2nd gen. hardware).

      Planning to pick up a GTX 1070-powered laptop in Q1 next year for public demoing / portable development purposes; pretty excited to see what laptops each manufacturer showcases in the coming months!

      • DiGiCT Ltd

        Exactly, they are good for bringing out for demo’s.
        Now i’m stuck bringing the total PC case around for demo’s.
        Latops like that are perfect to do small demo’s for sure.

      • MosBen

        I sincerely doubt that this generation of video cards will be sufficient for the next generation of HMDs. Possibly the next, or the one after that. Still, if the next generation of HMDs come out in 2018 it’s not unreasonable the laptops to run them will be available in 2019, which is a fair amount of time to wait for a new tech product anyway.

        • MosBen

          Or, maybe I could be wrong about that. I could see Oculus or Valve going with some lower power equivalent of this generation of hardware if the next generation of HMDs ditch the PC entirely and go for fully on board, self-contained hardware. Everyone knows that at some point HMDs are going to need to ditch the wires, and if they can’t figure out a way to stream content to the HMDs from a PC then maybe they’ll sacrifice a large leap in graphics to go self-contained.

          • David Herrington

            You are describing the Gear VR… which is already available with poor low end graphics. Wireless VR will always be the end goal but there may be better ways to do this than putting the entire PC in the HMD. For instance, having an HMD that can stream wireless images from a PC.

          • MosBen

            That’s the dream, of course, but getting that much information from a PC to an HMD wirelessly is a pretty big problem. We can currently stream games from a PC to a device-connected TV, but doing so wirelessly is not great. Given that we know that graphical fidelity is not nearly as important to a good VR experience as other factors, it may be the case that Oculus decides that, say, the current graphical fidelity on the Rift is good enough, and that it’s more important for the next version to be wireless while maintaining the current graphics levels, rather than remain tethered and up the specs.

    • Nigerian Wizard

      There’s already rumors about Vive and Oculus v2 prototypes. No doubt the resolution will be higher. Probably will be 2560×1440. I hope they ship them with tiny ceiling clips so I can stop stepping on the obtrusive cables.

  • Can someone with the know how please design a full helmet shaped laptop with one of these in now please… it doesn’t have to look like a futuristic fighter pilots helmet but it would help :-)

  • D.L

    $1300 for a VR capable laptop makes backpack VR a far more realistic prospect…

    • Michael Davidson

      One could pretty easily develop an open air laptop harness to facilitate this. Why buy a “packback” laptop when you could get the open air backpack for $59.99 or whatever?

      • Bryan Ischo

        Because “pretty easily” is most likely NOT “pretty easily” in reality for most people, on the other hand with the laptop you just have to click a “buy” button and you have all you need.

        • Nigerian Wizard

          Actually it is pretty easy. And far cheaper too. You do realize you also just have to click a “buy” button for an open air backpack right?

          • Bryan Ischo

            An open air backpack doesn’t do anything on its own. You have to put something in it.

          • Hamish Pain

            I’ve been looking for an open air backpack for ages online for backpack VR – know where to get one? :)

  • DiGiCT Ltd

    Eventually notebooks would come with it.
    Prices are reasonable too.
    The real concern will be battery power, unless we still be walking around with a power wire attached to it instead ;-)

  • Nigerian Wizard

    $1300 my fucking ass. Newegg alone the cheapest with a 1060 is almost $1600 total not including warranty. Still far from the average consumer’s budget.

    Now someone needs to make a break through in the battery department.
    Otherwise you’ll have to play plugged into an outlet or play for 1.5

    • Nigerian Wizard

      Also 1070 laptops are $2000 and 1080 laptops are $2500+

      • CT Ruppert

        I got my Asus ROG for 1399. Yes its not 1300 like they said but this thing with the GTX 1060 is actually as powerful as my desktop with a GTX 970 oc. Just wish it ran a bit cooler but what do I expect from a 15.6in laptop and I also got it from newegg and I love the thing.

  • Kyle Nau

    I hope NVidia has the heat issue for these cards figured out. I’ve had two Alienware laptops with NVidia cards inside and both eventually cooked themselves to death. You need a hardcore external cooling tray just to keep them in a safe temperature range.

  • Rico Robinson

    A Quantum Leap isn’t something large..

    • Tony

      LOL. True; however, something small may have large ramifications.

  • Atonnis

    Make it 8lb and give me battery life that lasts for a proper session and I’ll stick it in a bag on my back and enjoy! Until battery life really takes a ‘quantum leap’ I’ll stay away for now.

    Although I suppose this could be useful for sales pitches…

  • Stephen Mink

    I just bought an MSI GS43VR with a GTX 1060 and it does not work with the Rift…even when the AC is plugged in. Oculus software just constantly dings me with a notification that the graphics card doesn’t meet minimum specs. I’m no expert, but I figured “VR-ready laptop” would mean compatible with Rift/Vive.

    • Chris Van Loo

      This is strange to say the least. Have you found a solution ? i know the rift has a problem with some GPU’s but i didn’t think the 1060 would be one of them..

      • Stephen Mink

        It’s weird – I got it to where it will run but there’s still a banner that hangs on the Oculus home screen telling me I don’t meet minimum specs. The laptop only came with two USB ports, which is a huge annoyance since Oculus needs three to use the controller. Technically, there is a third USB-C port, but that doesn’t help. I ordered a splitter so hopefully that will work. I also have to unplug and plug back in the Rift every time I take off the headset. Very buggy overall, and I don’t know who to blame, lol.

        • Chris Van Loo

          The amount of usb’s you need and the amount of usb’s you get when buying this thing is something you should have checked man ☺. But i do understand this must be quite frustrating for you. Hope the splitter helps. The 1060 should be very capable of running the rift so maybe it’s a software or compatibility issue. Are you supersampling? Or playing at higher settings? I would contact oculus if i was you.

          • Stephen Mink

            I was told by MSI there was a typo on the product description stating there were three 2.0/3.0 ports, not two. Mistakes happen, but if you’re marketing your laptop as “VR Ready” you’d think they’d feature enough ports for one of the two major players, the Rift… They told me I’d have to buy my own splitter. Is what it is I guess. I did talk to Oculus. They’re apparently working on the 1060 being qualified in the system as capable. They also said they’ve done little to no testing on laptops so far so they didn’t have many suggestions. Thanks for your concern and help!