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Guidemaster: How to Buy a Gaming Laptop in 2019

<img src = "https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/gwlaptops1-800×534.jpg" alt = "Against the chaos of Ars Gaming Week's testing lab, we took a moment to click a photo of some of our preferred gaming laptops. But are they suitable for you? Not required! Here, here is our careful guide to the subject. "/>
Enlarge / Against the backdrop of the chaos in the Ars Gaming Week testing lab, we took a moment to take a picture of some of our favorite gaming laptops. But are they suitable for you? Not necessarily! Therefore, here is our careful guidance on the subject.

Valentina Paladino

Welcome to Ars 201

9 Game Week! As a staff full of gamers and game lovers, we will provide additional reviews, tutorials, interviews and other game related stories from August 19-23.

Collecting the perfect gaming desktop isn't always the easiest task, but at least it's a controlled kind of chaos. When building a computer, we can individually rank each component type – from processors to GPUs, from speakers to monitors – and aspiring builders can understand their capabilities for each of the cardiac system creation guides. Barebones budgets, small formal factors, expensive beasts: we can offer tips for everyone, then let buyers mix and match these recommendations as they see fit.

The same cannot be said for gaming laptops. There is no easy way to pull out and individually test components for big-ticket laptops and take out a gaming laptop is difficult in a sector that often suffers from bulk, theft, costs and ugly designs. When you buy one good thing in a gaming laptop, you buy every other item, good and bad, with no exchange option. How much worse is this when you are fixed on a tight budget?

The resulting landscape is not necessarily ripe for the "one laptop fits all" recommendation. Instead, for this Ars Technica Guidemaster, I would like to take these realities into account and offer a guide to the "state of 2019 gaming laptops" to help you make the most informed and comfortable purchase possible.

Contents [19659011] The state of laptop power in 2019

I would argue that it's an incredible moment to dive into gaming laptops for two related reasons: leveling the world's performance at 1080p gaming and the seriously powerful wave of Nvidia's portable GPUs over the past few years. This is not limited to the impressively thin line "Max-Q" of portable GPUs. Each GTX 1050 notebook option promises comparative performance for their siblings.

As a result, almost every recent gaming laptop we've tested in our home offices or events includes a Nvidia card. I'm yet to see any of these cards struggle to launch modern 3D games with 1080p resolution and they allow laptop makers to cut the hell off their chassis.

In bad news, we're not sure AMD will beat Nvidia's mobile GPU anytime soon. If AMD is striving to integrate with its new line of Navi cards, we will have yet to see the official word on all laptop-compatible Navi models. Leaks on special sheets for possible new AMD cards do not contain clear hints of such products. Therefore, this probably means less competitively priced mobile GPUs.

But many gamers can sigh knowing that Nvidia's two-year-old GPUs are on the neck and the latest in solid 1080p performance (or 1440p, for the few gaming laptops that go so thick) . Desktop GPUs are competing to compete at 4K, but this resolution is hard to sell for 13-inch and 15-inch gaming laptop panels, so we can largely ignore that goal. And while I'm a fan of RTX-impacting effects such as ray tracing and global lighting, these are the exact types of effects that I would advise laptop buyers to reduce to save several hundred dollars.

If you're happy to run modern 3D games with 1080p resolution, "medium high" and 60 frames per second, most Nvidia models from GTX 1060 and above will be sufficient. This opens up your potential for buying laptops worth two years.

2019 Sales Table: 144Hz Displays?

There is one notable exception with regard to mobile power, and we will be discouraged from indicating how many manufacturers are targeting it in the price spectrum: higher frame rates. After all, the 1080p / 60fps threshold is usually locked and again 4K resolutions are redundant on screens smaller than 27 inches. Thus, laptop makers see 144Hz monitors as the next level of sales. How does this work in practice?

Let's start with the sales pitch. Yes, at frame rates above 60 frames per second, noticeable improvements become less visible to the human eye than, say, a jump from 30 frames per second to 60 frames per second. But a locked 144Hz refresh can effectively reduce the unnatural blurring of movement and button response by half, especially with first-person shooters. If you have racing shooter game projects like Counter-Strike or battle royal games, this performance boost may make sense. (Just because the server ticking time of the online game server does not reach 144Hz does not mean that your local control environment should not run smoother.)

Ars Technica received several 144Hz gaming laptops and one of them , Dell's Alienware m15 serves as a clear reminder that it's not just the maximum frame rate. How about his ability to juggle frame rates between them?

This late-2018 laptop powered by a 1070-Q and an Intel i7-8750H processor has enough power to launch classic shooters like the Counter-Strike at 144Hz refresh rate with most tuned settings (which, it must be said, are too profitable; competitive players exclude visual enhancements for frames and visibility). But after immersing yourself in the more beautifully presented games of the last few years, you probably won't even lock in for 120Hz refresh at that level of performance, let alone 144Hz. The result when you choose the speed of the unlocked frames is either a split or a screen break, as the uneven number of frames does not split evenly.

If the choice doesn't break your budget in one way or another, VRR support is always easier to call …

This is where the Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) panel is useful. If your laptop comes with this feature, its GPU will provide every new frame of animation as it is ready, as opposed to sticking to a hard-coded refresh cycle (which can otherwise be split into 12Hz chunks) or even 30Hz). Play a slightly more recent game with higher settings turned on, and you can barely notice when the frame rate jumps up and down between 60 frames per second and 105 frames per second, sometimes right now. (You've probably heard of VRR thanks to brand variants like Nvidia's GSync or AMD's FreeSync.)

I direct all this because the needs of your gaming laptop can very well determine how much you care. If you can save a few bucks by choosing a non-VRR 144Hz option, double check which locked refresh rates you can switch. You can get between the options in the GPU control panels of these laptops such as 120Hz, 90Hz or even 72Hz, which you can then combine with the v-sync option for a more demanding game before returning to 144Hz glory for the sake of fragmenting old school.

Conversely, if the choice doesn't break your budget in one way or another, VRR support is always an easier call, in terms of set and forget standard. Just disable v-sync in every game you play, and VRR should just work.

First of all, the jump from laptops with 60Hz to 144Hz models, with or without VRR options, can ruin your bank. The lower-powered 60Hz version of the HP Omen 15 laptop last December launched at an MSRP of $ 979, while its 144Hz + VRR brothers launched at $ 1,769. This $ 800 upgrade also includes a jump in processor, GPU, storage and RAM, but the chassis, ports, and display resolution remained the same between these models. And while I like 144Hz displays as much as the next person, I wouldn't push laptop buyers to prioritize this speed – unless they're professional gamers again who want something powerful to attract events, conferences, and the like. If it's not you, take your breath away … unless you see a crazy discount on a VRR-enabled laptop.

Crucial Features of a Laptop

With all this in mind, let me offer you some special recommendations.


The graphics department is a little easier to detach. I'll start with the GTX 1060 and GTX 1650-Q, which would rank right at the bottom of the "comfortably weak" range of discrete portable GPUs. None of them also require a lot of visual sacrifices to get modern games up to the comfortable 1080p / 60fps standard. A few newer titles make this a more complex prospect, especially the demanding hippo that is Assassin's Creed: Odyssey but you can still expect to run this demanding game on a gaming laptop from a lower class without making it look like a game from 2009.

Go lower than that – which means a 1050, 1050Ti or any GTX 900 series card – and you'll probably have to jump in there and try intensify your settings to avoid a hectic 30fps target. , Muck. But if you don't mind shaving some pixel resolution to save a few bucks (maybe up to 768p), you could very well make those older, weaker cards work for modern, portable games. CPUs

Much like desktop space, your portable gaming experience will largely revolve around your GPU, rather than your processor. And the GHz delay inherent in Moore's Law has led to an unexpected decision in this sector, largely decided by laptop sellers. Nobody is pairing newer RTX 2070-Q cards with Intel Celeron 3855U.

Moreover, Intel dominates this side of the gaming laptop equation, and that means we're looking at years of Kaby Lake processors, all offering solid multithreaded performance in the healthy range of 3.1-4.5GHz at "boost" clock speeds. Where your CPU performance may really matter if you plan to double-play your gaming laptop for video editing, when more cache, more threads and more cores will have a serious effect on your time spent in waiting for tasks to complete or render. But if you're just looking for a machine that can handle solid gaming on typical office and surfing software, just aim higher than Celeron or Pentium to ensure that you will not be constrained by the processor limitations of today's gaming. [19659029] RAM and storage

Another budgetary consideration: If you stick with 1080p resolution and want to save a few bucks, you can get away with 8GB of RAM in many modern games. I hate to tell everyone to get under 16GB of RAM, as this number has proven to be especially secure throughout the generation of PC gaming, but a limited budget for the laptop is probably better spent to ensure that there is enough storage space. If you just fill your gaming laptop with the best free players on the market, you'll fill up a 512GB hard drive (already packed with full Windows 10 files) before you know it.

Many manufacturers offer a combination of hard drives and SATA hard drives in their laptops (usually one of each), and the result is a pretty solid combination of the best of the two worlds: at least 128GB access to a high speed drive and at least 1TB of 7,200 RPM goodness. You can expect to pay even more for M2 hard disk drives whose small and slim profiles are ideal for ultra-thin gaming systems. If there is room in your budget for any of these bad guys, feel free to take in as they combine small sizes with incredible read / write performance.

Touching, feeling … songs and keys [19659039] The keyboard and trackpad of the HP Omen gaming laptop.

Valentina Paladino

  • MSI Stealth keyboard and trackpad.

    Valentina Paladino

  • Razer Blade 15. Keyboard and Trackpad

    Valentina Paladino

  • All of these elements can fall apart when packed into a chassis, which fails even for one reason. Let's start with the most obvious hardware consideration for a potential everyday driver: keyboard and mouse.

    Hardware makers sometimes treat gaming laptop trackpads as a throwing element, making the false assumption that its target audience will always drag a high DPI mouse around, so why bother? Fortunately, more hardware manufacturers have expressed their desire for this, especially since Microsoft gave manufacturers a solid specification of the precision touchpad

    . In our experience, MSI and HP have introduced themselves to some of our favorite gaming laptop tractors in recent models. I specifically took on HP to accomplish my end-of-2016 task on the HP Omen Lush Wave and fortunately, the Laptops lineup for the end of 2018 came with an upgrade that included two solid mouse buttons and an improved palm recognition. MSI also continually supplies gaming laptops with solidly running trackpads, or snap buttons, or in the case of our recently reviewed GS65 Stealth, extremely wide track pads without physical buttons.

    The good thing about both manufacturers is that their trackpads share a significant difference in positioning. If you want to take a look at your thumb while typing from the start line, this works fine. In addition, their trackpads are placed only in such a way that they allow comfortable mouse-pointing with the right hand while leaving your left hand on the WASD. This does not mean that we ever recommend trackpad as a suitable target for ultra-fast gaming, but in a pinch it is nice to miss the mouse in a slower, turnaround rate like XCOM or civilization . (The MSI GS65 Stealth ultra wide trackpad is particularly solid in this use case.)

    Putting keys is also important when gaming laptop makers get cute with their design. In 2017, Asus started selling Zephyrus, which we criticized for its abomination by a tame keyboard and strange trackpad layout. But there is also the issue of the Lenovo Legion Y740, a powerful, slim and beautiful 15 "system complete with the RTX 2070 Max-Q. However, I try to recommend it as a gaming laptop for one reason: its stupid left-aligned shortcut keys .

      The Lenovo Legion keyboard is placed on the left key column, about 0.8 cm from the QWERTY array, and it's actually too easy to get your fingers in the middle of the game, which I absolutely don't do. specialized gaming laptop.
    Enlargement / The Lenovo Legion keyboard is inserted o The left column of keys is about 0.8 cm from the QWERTY array, and it's too easy to actually accidentally reach your fingers in the middle of a game I absolutely don't want in a specialized gaming laptop.

    Sam Machkovech

    This array of extra keys is placed approximately 0.8 cm from the left edge of the standard QWERTY array, and it is a puzzling column: one pushbutton activation button, two customizable macro keys, and two keys that adjust the backlight of the keys. None of these keys can be reached quickly or neatly by turning the left wrist, and none include physical indicators (slots, textures) to indicate who is who. I love the built-in macro option for hardcore games, but this performance has obviously not been tested to account for casual presses or overall comfort and usability. Accidentally pressing the wrong key when you reach it is too easy.

    I note this otherwise solid system to remind buyers of gaming laptops: if your potential new system has a keyed keyboard layout, just say no.

    От това, което можем да кажем, лаптопите за игри все още са изход от доставката на клавиши, подобни на специална механична клавиатура. Секторът до голяма степен избира ключовете за chiclet, и по-специално продуктите на Dell Alienware се отклониха от по-дълбоките, mushier превключватели в полза на chiclets. След като изпробвах както 2017 Alienware R13, така и миналогодишния Alienware m15, мога да потвърдя, че преминаването на поне един производител към chiclets беше правилното обаждане по отношение на специфичната реакция на игрите. Харесваше ми да пиша дълги статии малко повече по клавишите на mushier на R13, но подобрената отзивчивост на по-новия модел ме очарова достатъчно.

    Надеждите ни за истински механични превключвания на геймърски лаптопи наскоро нарастваха по странна причина. Тепърва ще вървим напред с новата безжична игрална клавиатура за G915 на Logitech от $ 249, предназначена за използване на работния плот, но това е толкова тънък профил в „кофти“ клавиатури за настолни компютри, колкото някога сме виждали – и това ни дава надежда за тези видове ключовете могат да намерят своя път към геймърските лаптопи в рамките на следващите 1-2 години. Все още не.

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