Review

Gaming Laptops

ReviewGaming Laptops

Be the king of the LAN party

Which gaming-laptop is the very best? We've tested six of the craziest machines on the market.

Forget about the gaming consoles you connect to your TV. Their inner workings are often not powerful enough to handle heavy games at an adequate resolution and velocity. Real gamers play on PCs!

Unfortunately, PC gaming also means that you are bound to a large, heavy and noisy case that contains the powerful hardware. The same hardware takes up space, is pretty noisy, and generates tremendous amount of heat, which in desktop computers can be addressed with water cooling and large fans. But what if you don’t want to have a huge, energy-consuming box, are happy to bring things with you, and really just want to be able to play and work on the same machine? If that’s the case, you should consider a gaming-laptop. Several companies are competing for the customers’ affection, and the selection is greater than ever. Unfortunately, you must compromise in certain areas.

Being compact is expensive: Due to its size, the machine becomes considerably more expensive than a desktop in the same class.

The smaller chassis also means that it is harder for the processor, and especially the GPU, to get rid of the heat. It means a lot of fan cooling from small, fast and noisy fans.

And last, but not least, most laptops are an all-in-one solution where everything is integrated into the base card, and where there is little to no upgrade possibility, especially when it comes to the graphics card.

If these limitations are OK for you, there is still plenty to choose from. We’ve tested six different laptops, all of which can both be used as a workhorse as well as a gaming-laptop. All are equipped with newer Core i7 processors from Intel, plenty of RAM, and graphics cards from Nvidia’s latest Geforce GTX 10 series. They are priced accordingly. But let’s go back to the introduction. Why use a PC for gaming at all? There are a couple of good reasons for this.

Image speed

A particularly important factor when talking about gaming is the image speed, called FPS (frames per second). If the graphics are choppy, it doesn’t just look bad. In 3D shoot ’em ups, this can mean certain death. Most new PC’s have plenty of processing power and RAM. The bottleneck today is the built-in graphics card, also called the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). If you have a powerful graphics card, you have come a long way. Add a little extra RAM, and you’re where you want to be.

Resolution

Where the latest console generation has not yet settled on Full HD, due to the inner workings simply not being powerful enough, unless we are satisfied with 30 fps, PC games are better accustomed to Full HD and 60 fps. In fact, we are getting there with higher resolutions and are heading towards 4K. There is still some ways to 4K though, and it requires more than a single Geforce GTX 1080 graphics card (the current top model from Nvidia) to run the latest games in UHD. For this reason, we are puzzled that several of the test laptops are equipped with panels that have a much higher resolution than 1080p, but with graphics cards that cannot provide a satisfactory frame rate at these resolutions. If you want to game in 4K, we recommend a Geforce GTX 1080u as a minimum, or possibly two GTX 1080 – solutions which as of right now exlude laptops. At least if you disregard the extreme machines that are as hard to carry as they are affordable.

The games have changed

Fortunately, you can achieve a satisfactory speed on a laptop by adjusting the game’s graphic settings. A lot of things have happened in this area over the last ten years. While there was once a world of difference between the lowest and highest graphic settings in a game, the differences today are far more subtle and lies in the details. The main reason for this is the more powerful hardware. When you turn on the “Very High” and “Ultra”, you get a higher resolution on textures, softer and nicer looking shadows, rounded edges (anti-aliasing), and so on. Normally, we set everything to a maximum when we test a gaming PC, but it is something we have had to compromise. Fortunately, picture quality is not reduced significantly and this issue is only vital for the most demanding games.

Laptop vs. portable

We call them laptops, but a couple of the test’s machines both weigh more and are larger than what we normally associate a modern laptop with. Add to that, several of them simply do not perform optimally if they don’t have a constant power supply. Maybe the term movable is more appropriate. The reason for this is the graphics card, which either cannot draw enough power from the built-in battery, or simply drains it in no time if allowed to do so. Again a compromise that must be taken into account when dealing with this heavyweight class.

Yes, but, what now if I’m not playing games?

If you are not at all interested in games but continued reading until now, the monster machines can thankfully be used for other things. They are modern PCs in the absolute top class, which can handle even the most difficult computational tasks without breaking a sweat. They manage this due to top processors and generous amounts of RAM. However, since you have no use for the graphics card on ordinary Windows graphics, it feels like having a Ferrari just so you can drive down to the bakery on the corner. When it comes to graphics and video software designed to take advantage of the sheer power in the GPU, the gaming laptops come into their own. This applies to for example the Adobe Creative Suite programmes. If that’s the reason (or the excuse) of acquiring a gaming PC, you should look for one that also has QHD or 4K-resolution on the screen.

Facts

Acer Predator 17X GX-792 27.995 kr
Asus ROG G701VIK BA044T 32.999 kr
Alienware 13 R3 21.590 kr
MSi GS73VR-7RF 25.990 kr
HP Omen 17 w203no 19.990 kr
Razer Blade 24.000 kr

Best price

Products in this test
Asus ROG G701VIK BA044T

Asus has banked heavily on performance, which pushes the price and weight to the sky.

Asus not compromised on anything in the performance of the ROG 701, and has therefore created a machine that can fully compete with a large desktop computer. The machine contains a powerful Core i7 processor from Intel, two lightning-fast SSD drives, plenty of RAM, and most importantly, NVIDIA’s Geforce GTX 1080, which is its true claim to fame. In addition, you get a 17.3 inch display with a refresh rate of 120 Hz and Nvidia’s G-sync technology. The keyboard and track-pad have also received extra attention. The keys are large and comfortable to press, and are placed in a suitable distance from each other. The size means that there is also room for a numeric keypad and dedicated, programmable gamer buttons. The surface around the track-pad is dressed with soft rubber so it is comfortable to rest your hands.

Like a vacuum cleaner

Unfortunately, as expected, the powerful graphics card means that the machine is noisier than most, and the huge back with the cooling grill quickly kicks into gear. The noise may be drowned out with sound, but unfortunately the built-in speakers play neither particularly loud nor well. Instead, we recommend investing in a pair of good headphones. Powerful hardware has a huge need for power, which is at the expense of battery life and results in a similarly huge and heavy power supply. The machine itself weighs 3.6 kilos. If we add the 1.5 kilo heavy power supply, it becomes difficult to use the term laptop. It should also be noted that the graphics card simply doesn’t provide full power when the power supply is not connected.

Benchmark

Luckily, we can forgive Asus for the grotesque dimensions, noisy fans, bad speakers and the huge weight. The machine sweeps the competitors aside with ease, and the fewest games have trouble keeping a stable frame rate at minimum 60 fps. In fact, brand new games had no problems pushing out 120 fps, games such as Rise of The Tomb Raider, which looked dazzling on the big screen. It was a little harder dealing with Dishonoured 2, which nevertheless performed well at over 60 fps the whole time. These results naturally depend on the settings in the individual games, but you can safely turn the graphics settings up, because the computer can handle it.

Conclusion

Asus ROG G701 is a machine that fits the few who does not care about price and want no compromises on performance. It is grotesquely large, and sounds like a vacuum cleaner. There is a method in the madness. It handles all the newer games easily, and spits out impressively great graphics on its 17.3 inch screen. If you have money and want to have a machine that you in principle can take with you, it is worth considering. If you want more bang for your buck, you are still better served with a stationary computer with two 1080 cards. The solution will be more future-proof and even cheaper than the beast from Asus.

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(Photo: Manufacturer)

Operating system: Windows 10 Home, 64-bit
Processor: 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK (quad-core)
Screen: 17,3” Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) @ 120 Hz, G-Sync
Memory: 16GB
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 m. 8 GB RAM
Hard drive 2 x 256 GB SSD
Dimensions: 42.9 x 3.85 x 30.9 cm (WxHxD)
Weight: 3.6 kg.
HD-webcam, Wifi 802.11ac / Bluetooth 4.1, Gigabit Ethernet,
3 x USB 3-0, USB-C Gen2/Thunderbolt, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, LAN, headphone output, microphone input.
Price: –
www.asus.com

Benchmark
Geekbench 3: 16,047 (multi-core), 3,976 (single-core)
Basemark 3.0: 1,320.21
3DMark 15: 16,262
3DMark Time Spy: 6,644
Cinebench R15: 117.02 fps / 883 cb
HDTach: 3,528.6 MB/s
Futuremark Peacekeeper: 1:45 hours

Pris: 32999 kr
PositiveImpressive performance from a portable computer, which can be used as an alternative to a true desktop gamer PC.
NegativeThe machine is quite noisy, the built-in speakers are too poor, and it is far too heavy. In addition, it costs an arm and a leg.
MSi GS73VR-7RF Stealth Pro

A great screen and a sleek design makes the MSi a nice-looking but a costly enjoyment.

The name “stealth” fits well when you see the exterior of MSi GS73VR. The black, slim aluminium computer is almost discreet enough to be taken to a business meeting. If you ignore the luminous red dragon logo and the RGB-backlit keyboard, that is.

GS73VR is equipped with a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 card with 6GB of video RAM. The screen has 4K Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels). The processor is the latest version of Intel’s Core i7 processor at 2.8 GHz. You get 16 gigabytes of RAM, and both a physical hard drive at 2 TB and a fast SSD at 512 gigabyte. A keyboard from the Stell series and a sound card with ESS Sabre DAC are some of the other hardware goodies.

Sharp screen

The 4K screen is an unconditional advantage for graphics and video. Newer 3D games can also become extra realistic in theory. However, 4K-images require four times as much computing power to animate than a high-definition image.

The keyboard is fast and sensitive, and the RGB back lighting can be programmed to everything from a subtle glow to a flashing disco-orgy. And although the graphics card is at the almost affordable end of the scale, there is power enough to play most games in a super sharp quality. However, there is an advantage in lifting the back of the machine slightly so that there is free access to the air intake on the underside. The computer gets really hot when working with 3D!

Benchmark

MSi GS73VR is equipped with Nvidia’s Geforce GTX 1060 graphics processor. It is the newest generation, but not the top model. With a 3DMark Time Spy score of 3,761, the MSi proves that it can handle even new games. But it is still trails a bit behind Asus and Acer.

The more general tests Basemark 3.0 (score 562.88) and Cinebench R15 (94.55 fps/726 cb) prove that we are dealing with a computer that can handle web surfing and graphic rendition excellently, but which is not all that better than other i7 computers. The same applies to Geekbench, where the GS73VR performance is respectively 3,203 and 13,514 in single-core and multi-core. The built-in SSD drive is on the other hand really fast.

Finally, the battery test Futuremark Peacekeeper shows that a fast processor and a large, bright display on a lightweight computer is not the answer to using the computer away from the electrical outlet. It took only an hour and 25 minutes to drain the battery. This is rather short, even for a gaming computer.

Conclusion

Making a laptop that can be used both for gaming and every day use is a balancing act. MSi GS73VR manages it, even though we think professional gamers will look down at having to settle with the third fastest graphics card on the market. You can easily get bigger graphics muscles at the same price, but you will have to compromise on weight.

In reality, the performance still corresponds to what was found in the most powerful laptops a year ago . That means that everything except the very latest games, should run smoothly. If you belong to the small elite of truly serious gamers, you will choose a computer where a larger portion of the resources are used on the graphics.

Operating system: Windows 10
Processor: 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad-core (8 threads)
Screen: 17.3” Ultra HD, 3840 x 2160, @ 60 Hz
Memory: 16 GB RAM / 512 GB SSD, 2 TB HDD
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 m. 6 GB RAM
Dimensions: 41.2 x 2 x 28.5 cm
Weight: 2.3 kg
Integrated HD-webcam, Wifi 802ac, Bluetooth 4.1,
Gigabit Ethernet, USB-C (Thunderbolt), 3 x USB 3.0,
Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, digital audio output, microphone,
Audio input/output, card reader
Price: –
www.msi.com

Benchmark
Geekbench 3: 13,514 (multi-core),
3,203 (single-core)
Basemark 3.0: 562.88
3DMark 15: 9,714
3DMark Time Spy: 3,761
Cinebench R15: 94,55 fps / 726 cb
HDTach: 1,393 MB/s
Futuremark Peacekeeper: 1:25 hours

Pris: 25990 kr
PositivePowerful hardware in a super slim package. Processor, hard drive, keyboard and audio all come from the top shelf.
NegativeGeforce GTX 1060 card only. You may well find faster computers for the same price, but then they become bigger and heavier.
Alienware 13 R3

You should be excited about Alienware, even though the design is a bit weird.

Acer Predator 17X GX-792

Acer's contribution to a killer machine oozes with luxury, and eats your games for breakfast.

The New Razer Blade 2016

If you're fond of the Macbook, you'll definitely appreciate the Razer Blade.

HP Omen 17 w203no

Sensible, thoughtful compromises creates a computer that delivers a lot for less money.

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