Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 (Laptop GPU) Review
Considering the popularity and widespread use of the geforce GTX 1060 in gaming laptops, the new RTX 2060 is set to be one of the key offerings in nvidia's latest lineup. We recently reviewed the RTX 2070 Max-Q and spent some time talking about how Nvidia's naming scheme for their laptop GPUs can be very misleading for prospective buyers. That's still the case with the RTX 2060, but we're not harping on about this issue. Just know that in this generation, the RTX GPUs are named the same but performance will be slower than their desktop counterparts.
The RTX 2060 GPU used in laptops uses the same TU106 GPU as the desktop card, with the same core configuration. That means you get 1920 CUDA cores, 240 Tensor cores and 30 RT cores. It also has the same memory configuration: 6GB of GDDR6 at 14 Gbps on a 192-bit bus for 336 GB/s of bandwidth. It's still built on TSMC's 12nm process, too.
However the laptop RTX 2060 isn't clocked anywhere near what the desktop card can achieve. The desktop card has a base clock of 1365 MHz and a boost of 1680 MHz, with GPU Boost taking the GPU even higher. The laptop variant is clocked at just 960 MHz with a boost of 1200 MHz — the boost clock is lower than the desktop's base clock — Nvidia was forced to do this to shave the TDP down from 160W, to 80-90W which is more suitable for laptop designs.
Evidently, you won't get desktop RTX 2060 performance from the laptop variant, despite both having the same name. Turing laptop GPUs are also more aggressively underclocked relative to the desktop cards than Pascal ever was, so we're not expecting to see the same margins or performance improvements as on the desktop. We'd much prefer if this GPU was called the RTX 2060M instead, but enough on that…
For benchmarking the RTX 2060 we've used the new Asus ROG Strix Scar II GL504GV. A mouthful indeed, but this Asus laptop is essentially this a typical 15-inch gaming notebook. It's not a slim and lighter machine like the Asus Zephyrus, just a regular design that's 25mm thick and about 5.3 lbs heavy. There's no Max-Q RTX 2060 model, so this full GPU is most suited to these designs.
The ROG Strix Scar II is powered by Intel's six-core Core i7-8750H, the go-to offering for gaming laptops these days. The same CPU is used in our Pascal laptops and other RTX laptops we've tested so far, meaning we get to see a more straight comparison looking at GPU performance specifically.
This Asus laptop comes configured with 16GB of RAM in a single-channel configuration, but for testing we swapped that out for 32 GB in dual-channel to keep it apples-to-apples with other laptops in our database. We also used the laptop's “balanced” fan mode because we found no difference in gaming performance between that and the louder “Turbo” mode. Finally, we've done all testing at 1080p, the standard resolution for gaming laptop displays, with this unit packing a 144 Hz panel.
We're going to kick this one off with a look at Battlefield 1. It's not the most recent Battlefield title but it's one that plays well on laptops. The RTX 2060 manages to squeeze ahead of the GTX 1070 Max-Q, providing over 100 FPS on average with a similar 1% low. It's also 28% faster than the GTX 1060 6GB in this title. However it can't quite match the previous generation GTX 1070, falling 10 percent behind the older Pascal GPU.
If you've been following our desktop coverage of the RTX series, these results might seem a little strange. On the desktop side, the RTX 2060 is more than 50% faster than the GTX 1060 in this title, and more than 10% faster than the GTX 1070. However on the laptop side, the margins are much smaller and the comparisons are very different, with the new Turing GPU failing to beat the GTX 1070.
Most gamers looking at the RTX 2060 on desktop might believe their new RTX 2060 laptop will outperform an older GTX 1070 model, which is again why we feel the naming is misleading. While the RTX 2060 easily clocks above 1800 MHz on the desktop, in our Asus laptop it sits around 1450 MHz, hence the large performance discrepancy. Meanwhile our laptop GTX 1070 clocks at 1800 MHz, compared to slightly over 1900 MHz on the desktop. Pascal laptop GPUs simply clocked a lot closer to their desktop counterparts than these new Turing GPUs do.
That's not to say performance is bad overall. In Wolfenstein II, which is very favorable to Turing's architecture, the RTX 2060 comes in 34% ahead of the GTX 1060 although it still gets beaten badly by the GTX 1070.
Watch Dogs 2 is one of those games that tends to be more CPU constrained in a laptop, although we're still getting a handy 25 percent performance uplift in this older Ubisoft title. This is one of the few games we tested where the RTX 2060 performed below the GTX 1070 Max-Q.
With Far Cry 5 we're looking at a 25% performance improvement over the GTX 1060. However this time it gets to outperform the GTX 1070 Max-Q by 6 percent and only slotting in 3 percent behind the RTX 2070 Max-Q. With the RTX 2060 consistently delivering above 60 FPS at Ultra settings here, this is a handy improvement on the GTX 1060.
Resident Evil 2 is one of the newer games in our test suite. Using the Balanced quality preset, which is nearly visually identical to the maximum preset, laptops in general perform really well, achieving over 100 FPS for the most part.
The RTX 2060 is 35% faster than the GTX 1060, only 7% slower than the GTX 1070 and a decent 11% faster than the GTX 1070 Max-Q.
Hitman 2 is a punishing title for CPU constrained hardware, but current-generation laptops are still capable of a 60 FPS experience at 1080p using maximum quality settings. The RTX 2060 is 23% faster than the GTX 1060 here, but other margins are in line with what we've previously seen. Impressively, the RTX 2060 is 4% faster than the RTX 2070 Max-Q in this title.
Dirt 4 sees the RTX 2060 hold a 37% performance advantage over the GTX 1060, while still coming in 12 percent behind the GTX 1070 and 10 percent behind the newer RTX 2070 Max-Q. Even with 8xMSAA in this game at 1080p, you're in for a rock solid experience.
Probably time to throw an older title into the mix. How about Deus Ex: Mankind Divided? This game has one of the smallest margins between the RTX 2060 and the GTX 1070, with the 2060 only 7 percent behind. It's also 8 percent faster than the GTX 1070 Max-Q, and 36% ahead of the GTX 1060 6GB.
You're probably wondering about Battlefield V performance as well. Here the new RTX 2060 is 23% faster than the GTX 1060. At 1080p, paired with a high-refresh laptop display, the RTX 2060 is very capable and delivers a great experience.
Rounding this performance comparison out, we've settled on Prey. This represents a game that really doesn't benefit all that much from the faster GPU, it's only 13% faster than the GTX 1060, 7% slower than the GTX 1070 and 7% faster than the GTX 1070 Max-Q.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey is one of the hardest games to get running smoothly on a laptop, we think it's down to the CPU and for some reason Gigabyte's Aero laptops get destroyed in this title. That said, with the Very High preset you're looking at a 60 FPS average at 1080p with the RTX 2060.
The final game in our comparison: Middle-earth Shadow of War has the RTX 2060 performing 32% faster than the GTX 1060, 10% slower than the GTX 1070 and 9% behind the RTX 2070 Max-Q.
We ran additional performance summaries putting GPUs head to head in all the games we tested. We actually benchmarked a total of 20 games on the RTX 2060 and refreshed the data for a number of other GPUs just for this comparison.
RTX 2060 Laptop vs. GTX 1060 6GB
The big one here albeit probably not the best comparison in terms of value and pricing, which we'll talk about later. The RTX 2060 is a good 28% faster than the GTX 1060 6GB on average. That's a much bigger margin than we were expecting after the RTX 2070 Max-Q review which only clocked in around 10% faster than its direct predecessor, the GTX 1070 Max-Q.
RTX 2060 Laptop vs. GTX 1070 Max-Q
Speaking of the GTX 1070 Max-Q, the RTX 2060 is also faster than that GPU, to the tune of a 6% average. It's not faster in every title, but it's only in older games where it appears to struggle. Anything recent and the RTX 2060 pulls away.
RTX 2060 Laptop vs. GTX 2070 Max-Q
To our surprise, the RTX 2060 isn't much slower than the RTX 2070 Max-Q on average. We're talking 4% slower on average, with some games clocking in faster than what is supposed to be a higher tier GPU. This could place prospective RTX 2070 Max-Q buyers in an awkward position.
RTX 2060 Laptop vs. GTX 1070
Where the comparison isn't as favourable, is when comparing the RTX 2060 to the GTX 1070. The RTX 2060 is 11 percent slower on average, losing in every single game in a margin that goes from 2 percent to up to 20 percent.
And this is where we see the weakness of Nvidia's RTX laptop lineup.
On the desktop the RTX 2060 is ~53% faster than the GTX 1060 6GB. But here on the laptop realm, it's only 28% faster. This means that instead of being 10+% faster than a GTX 1070, it's 11% slower. Not a good situation for those who might accidentally use desktop data for their laptop buying decision.
Within a generation though, the comparisons make sense. The GTX 1070 is about 40% faster than a laptop GTX 1060, which is similar to the desktop margin. The RTX 2060 is 4% slower than the RTX 2070 Max-Q, and while we haven't tested the full laptop RTX 2070 yet, with desktop cards the 2060 is 11% slower than the 2070 on average. So the margins we've seen so far keep the whole series in accord.
If you're looking for a direct desktop comparison to the RTX 2060 laptop GPU, it's hard to give a specific one, but so far performance looks to be between the GTX 1660 and the GTX 1060 Ti.
Let's now focus on value and pricing of newer RTX laptops, and where they stand compared to previous generations. With the RTX 2060, we're looking at a typical price for a Core i7-8750H system of around $1,800. For much of the GTX 1060's life, you could find a typical laptop for $1,300. That's a 38% increase in price, for 28% more performance.
We're quoting typical mid-generation GTX 1060 laptop pricing there. Today, many GTX 1060 laptops are available for less than $1,100 since they are on their way out.
It doesn't get much better comparing the RTX 2060 to the GTX 1070. On the desktop, the RTX 2060 was priced higher to match the older GTX 1070, but this actually made sense as the RTX 2060 is a decent amount faster, so it's a better value and therefore the better buy in that price tier. But on laptops, it's not quite the same.
We're seeing RTX 2060 laptops coming in around the typical price for a GTX 1070 system: $1,800. But the newer GPU is actually 11% slower. With some of older-gen laptops selling at a discount today, often sitting at $1,500 or less, it's a no brainer to choose the Pascal option. It's hard to predict what will happen when GTX 1070 laptops leave the market, but right now it doesn't make sense to go for an RTX 2060 at those prices.
This situation also throws into question the RTX 2070 Max-Q. The average laptop with that GPU is ~$2,400, or 33% more than RTX 2060 laptops, for nearly no performance uplift. Of course, in this instance you're paying for the portability and often nicer build. To be completely fair, with Pascal the standard GTX 1070 laptops were considerably cheaper than slower GTX 1070 Max-Q units for the most part.
Ultimately, we feel RTX 2060 laptops need to be priced closer to $1,500 or less to be a good value. But that's a big price cut, which seems like a tough ask when competition does not abound.
Do note there are a few RTX 2060 laptops you can buy for $1,400 right now, but those models are equipped with a quad-core Core i5-8300H CPU inside, not the standard six-core 8750H. Those may seem like a better deal, but are not equivalent and we still wouldn't buy them over a $1,500 GTX 1070 system.