For the past few years, MAINGEAR has become a staple in the gaming notebook scene with their Vector and Element lineups. Year after year, we've witnessed improvements to their component selection and overall performance which has made for amazing gaming experiences on the go. This years Vector Pro 2 (2022) lineup has once again raised the bar for mobile performance beyond what we could imagine. In todays review, we will be taking a look at four of their five new Vector Pro 2 models each with unique hardware configurations.
Across the lineup, many of the specifications are similar however there are a few key areas where they differ from one another. Notable differences being the keyboard, storage capacity, battery capacity, specific CPU/GPU and variable refresh rate support.
Keyboard: The 15 inch models include an individually lit RGB opto-mechanical keyboard with a really nice tactile feel while the 17 inch models include a zone lit RGB chiclet style keyboard that is more common in notebooks. I personally prefer the keyboard on the 15 inch models, but I understand why a compromise was made for the 17 inch models. The 17 inch models are thinner than the 15 inch models to maintain portability and to reduce fatigue when traveling with the notebook throughout the day. The chiclet keyboard isn't bad by any means, but I certainly wouldn't use it if typing speed and comfort over long typing sessions are a top priority. For gaming, both keyboards are more than sufficient.
CPU: This lineup offers two different CPU options both of which offer significant gaming and productivity performance. Models with a bolded I contain the Intel Core i9-12900H processor with 6P (Performance) cores and 8 E (Efficiency) cores, along with hyperthreading on the performance cores. The performance cores can boost to a whopping 5Ghz turbo, but we will go over clock speeds more in our thermal performance and frequency stability analysis. The 12900H also includes the Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics. Models with a bolded A contain the AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX processor with 8 cores and 16 threads. This CPU can boost to 4.9Ghz which may look lower on paper, but that is only a part of the story. More to come in our thermal performance and frequency analysis. This processor sports the AMD Radeon 680M integrated graphics. If we were going off integrated graphics performance, this offering would be the clear winner, but luckily these models offer two extremely fast dGPUs to choose from.
GPU: Depending on the specific Vector Pro 2 model, you will be treated to excellent performance from either an RTX 3070 Ti or RTX 3080 Ti. Both offerings are fantastic options for the included 240Hz 1440P display but each have their own advantages and drawbacks. The RTX 3070 Ti offerings are configured for 125W (150W configurable) by default while the RTX 3080 Ti options are configured at 175W. In a surprise to absolutely nobody, the RTX 3080 Ti offering is faster than the RTX 3070 Ti offering, but the RTX 3070 Ti option operates cooler and quieter thanks to the reduction in generated heat. If you are interested in a more rounded experience with great performance and better acoustics, I would strongly recommend considering the RTX 3070 Ti offerings as its still a very excellent mobile gaming option.
Battery Capacity: You may have noticed that the 17 inch models include a smaller battery. This is primarily due to the thinner design of the 17 inch models which required some creative engineering to maintain the same performance and relatively similar battery performance in a thinner envelope. Frankly, battery life on gaming notebooks have never really been great, and its often best to think of them as uninterruptable power supplies in that regard, its still nice to see the attempt at improved battery capacities in spite of the hardware they packed into such small chassis.
Storage Capacity: This is pretty straightforward as the models containing the RTX 3080 Ti also include a 2TB NVMe SSD compared to the 1TB offered for the RTX 3070 Ti models. This is a nice added bonus for paying the premium for a better GPU. That said, there is still a free M.2 slot should you wish to upgrade the storage capacity
Variable Refresh Rate: This can be a deal breaker for most gamers as many of us have become accustomed to the smoothness offered by VRR technologies. Unfortunately only one model in this lineup offers G-Sync support (MG-VCP2-17I3080T). This is due to the implementation of Nvidia's new Advanced Optimus, which allows the dGPU to pipe directly into the display instead of routing through the iGPU. Now, this doesn't mean you can't utilize VRR technologies with an external display as all models support USB4 W/ Thunderbolt 4 as well as HDMI 2.1. It just would have been nice to see G-Sync offered across the entire product stack.
With the specifications out of the way, lets move on to software.
There isn't too much to say about software, but that is a GOOD thing. MAINGEAR has once again continued with the tradition of not including bloatware with their notebooks which results in great out-of-the-box performance for these models. All models ship with Windows 11 Pro and aside from running the usual Windows Update after getting a new system, there isn't much you have to do before gaming. That said, they do include one piece of useful software:
NODE Control Center: The NODE Control Center is extremely useful for customizing the Vector Pro 2 to best suit your needs. Under the General Settings menu, you can choose to disable integrated devices such as the touch pad, WiFi, bluetooth, etc should you ever need to do so. The Performance menu offers plenty of unique performance boosting options such as performance profiles, power limit adjustments and even GPU overclocking. Note: I don't recommend overclocking or adjusting power limits unless you are experienced as this can dramatically impact thermal performance, acoustics, general system performance and even the longevity of your system. The Battery menu offers information on battery health as well as options to improve battery life when using AC power. The Display Settings menu allows you to adjust the refresh rate of the system, though we would recommend using the Nvidia Control Panel for these changes as you have a bit more customization, though it was still nice to see this offered. The Light Settings menu is where you control the keyboard RGB lighting and the front light bar. Remember that depending on your model, you may not have control over individual key lighting so keep that in mind. Device Information is similar to what you would find under the System Information menu in Windows, but in a much nicer layout and includes a nice system monitor for thermal readouts and component usage.
Now for the part most of you are waiting for...
For our gaming benchmarks, we picked three titles that are known to scale well with both CPU and GPU performance and have integrated benchmarking to rule out human error. We ran three passes for each game and averaged the results to ensure consistency. Raytracing is disabled on all benchmarks. NOTE: The systems are shipped with MSHybrid/Optimus enabled, but the games were benchmarked in Discrete Only mode for the best performance.
Rainbow 6 Siege 1440P Ultra Preset:
Rainbow 6 Siege runs very well on these notebooks and can seriously take advantage of the 240hz refresh rate that these notebooks offer. So well in-fact, we recommend capping the framerates in this game to avoid screen tearing. You may be surprised to see that the 17 inch 3080 Ti Intel model is only slightly ahead of the 15 inch 3070 Ti Intel model. We will go over this shortly in the thermal performance and frequency stability portion, but the simple gist of it is that the thicker 15 inch model is able to run cooler thanks to the bigger exhaust vents and the lower-wattage RTX 3070 Ti. This allows the processor to maintain higher core clocks in the 15 inch model which allowed it to keep up at such a high frame rate. After all, the more draw calls your GPU requests, the more you'll need that CPU to keep pace.
The rest of the 3070 Ti models are very close to one another. Despite the Intel processor having a higher boost frequency, the AMD notebooks keep up just fine here.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Demo 1440P Ultra Preset:
One very important distinction needs to be made here. We are running the demo version of Shadow of the Tomb Raider which is an older build of the game. We felt that since the demo version is freely available to everyone, readers would be able to test their current system and compare their results. This benchmark also includes three different performance metrics, but we opted to use the "GPU" benchmark results.
Once again, the RTX 3080 Ti model outperforms the 3070 Ti offerings but this time it does so by a pretty decent margin. This particular game isn't as taxing on the processor which helps the 3080 Ti leverage more of the cooling solution for higher boost clocks. This game is extremely consistent when it comes to pass over pass runs, and the minimum/average framerates were always within 1-2 of each other which is very impressive. Max FPS isn't that important of a metric as loading screens can cause that number to artificially inflate, so seeing the minimum and average frames be this consistent on the RTX 3070 Ti models shows we are not experiencing a CPU bottleneck.
Metro Exodus 1440p Ultra Preset (RTX Off):
It is important not to get distracted by the large max FPS bar on the 3080 Ti when comparing against the 3070 Ti. We found that more VRAM/bandwidth allowed for smoother scene transitions in the benchmarking tool but had no real impact on average/minimum framerates. This is why we only see a 3fps difference between the 3080 Ti offering and 3070 Ti offering. This is still roughly a 10% improvement in performance, but when 10% only equates to 3 frames, it's hard to call that a significant performance boost. Metro is very taxing on both the CPU and GPU and it shows here.
I know many of you may be wondering why a 3080 Ti notebook isn't dramatically outperforming a 3070 Ti notebook, so lets move on to thermal performance and frequency stability.
As components become more powerful, we've encountered ever increasing demands for improved thermals. Unfortunately for the mobile sector, space is a real constraint and one that is difficult to overcome. Still, MAINGEAR has pulled out the stops on this generation and included a custom thermal solution with liquid metal on the processor and high performance traditional paste on the GPU. To keep the sensitive components safe from the electrically conductive liquid metal, they developed a special foam barrier to seal the liquid metal on to the CPU die. Because of this, thermal paste replacement is NOT user serviceable. Disassembly of the heatsink may cause damage to the system, so we strongly recommend against doing so.
Before we share thermal performance, lets establish our testing methodology:
Ambient Room Temperature: 74F
Software used: Cinebench R23.200, MSI Kombuster 188.8.131.52
Test Duration: 30 Minutes combined load
Interestingly enough, our 15 inch models had much higher CPU temperatures but lower GPU temperatures. I believe this is due to the components boosting higher in the 15 inch chassis vs the 17 inch chassis. When taking a look at CPU and GPU frequency, we can see this in action. The MG-VCP2-15I3070T maintained a CPU frequency of 2.9Ghz under the brutal 30-minute load, while the exact same processor throttled heavily down to 1.2Ghz under the same testing conditions in under 10 minutes, which also explains the significant drop in temperature. It also took much longer for the CPU to reach its idle temperatures in the 17 inch chassis which means heat is not dissipated as quickly on this model when compared to the thicker 15 inch models.
We see a similar trend with the AMD 15 and 17 inch models, but not to the same extremes. The 15 inch AMD model maintains a clock speed of 3.6Ghz under load while the 17 inch model runs at around 2.7Ghz which is lower than the advertised base clock speed of 3.3Ghz. Still, this type of thermal load is extremely unrealistic and will likely never be encountered under normal usage.
Still, if you want better thermal performance, the 15 inch models may be the better option. Regardless of the options, I would recommend capping framerates to keep power consumption and heat under control and consider exploring undervolting to improve both thermals and performance. Just be mindful that stability is still the most important part of any system and undervolting requires extensive stability testing.
Overall, I am very impressed with this Vector Pro 2 series. They've managed to pack a significant amount of hardware into an extremely small, sleek package and it does what it is designed to do very well. I do think that customers looking to do extremely demanding CPU and GPU work simultaneously would be better served with a larger notebook with a more robust cooling solution, but its hard to beat the mobility these notebooks offer. Carrying these around all day long even in my arms, I've yet to feel any fatigue and for someone that is traveling or constantly on the go, that is a serious boon.
To summarize, here are my pros and cons for each notebook.
Those of you interested in a very strong mobile gaming notebook, be sure to add these to your list of contenders and keep an eye out for when they hit the market. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions with these models or would like us to perform additional tests!
Looks like a solid batch of high-end gaming laptops again from Maingear!
Do any of these models have water cooling capabilities like other resellers (Eluktronics) of the same ODM chassis? Also wondering if there can be any images of what the laptops looks like internally. I was not expecting the 17.3" model with the 3080 Ti to have Advanced Optimus, mainly due reports the the ODM was not able to achieve functionality of it correctly.
Forgive me, but I'm a little confused. In one place in your review you mention that "Unfortunately only one model in this lineup offers G-Sync support (MG-VCP2-15I-3080T)." But then you list "G-Sync support through Advanced Optimus" as a pro under the MG-VCP2-17I-3080T. Which is correct?
Nice catch. It's only available on the 17 inch model with the 3080 Ti. Updated the article to reflect this as well.
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