The Gaming Laptops Giving Desktop PCs A Run For Their Money
It’s that time of the year again. The days are short, the weather is cold, and the shops have started selling Easter Eggs again.
But you’ll have to forgive me for not caring – I’ve had my head buried deep in three impressive gaming laptops you should seriously be considering picking up as that indulgent New Year present to yourself that you definitely deserve.
Look at it this way. You could be stuck wallowing in post-Christmas feelings of sadness, wishing this cold, dark, January would just hurry up and end. Or you could be in your lovely room playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare at a glorious 144fps on a buttery smooth 144hz display. If you ask me that’s a pretty damn easy choice.
The laptops I’ve been testing are: the Acer Predator Triton 500 equipped with GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q; the stunningly smooth 144hz Acer Nitro 7; and the sleek but surprisingly powerful Asus ROG Zephyrus G. The Nitro 7 and Zephyrus G are both equipped with mid-range Geforce GTX 1660 Ti mobile graphics cards, and they are both capable of pushing super high framerates on esports games and easily hold their own on AAA titles at max settings. But let’s talk about the high-end Predator Triton 500 first.
I love this laptop. You won’t be shocked to hear the Geforce RTX 2070 Max-Q handles every game you throw its way with ease. Borderlands 3 ran like an absolute dream, easily averaging more than 70fps on ultra. The experience with Far Cry 5 was very similar, the Triton 500 held steady at around 80fps at max settings. Competitive multiplayer games like Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive both ran at more than 150fps, making good use of the bright and impressive 15-inch 1080p 144hz LCD display. But the real joy for me as a long-time PC gamer was getting to play my games with real-time ray tracing, thanks to NVIDIA’s RTX graphics. For me, this is the real reason to buy this laptop.
If you don’t know what ray tracing is, here’s a very brief explanation – ray tracing is literally showing light and shadows in a similar way to how we experience them in real life. This hadn’t been possible to achieve in real time before, until NVIDIA launched its range of GeForce RTX cards. Any game can now use ray tracing to simulate truly realistic lighting, shadows and reflections, making the game look more realistic than ever before. The fact this is possible on a laptop blows my mind.
For a bit of context, my home PC does not have an NVIDIA GeForce RTX in it. So while I have played Remedy’s Control (and loved it), I have never played it with ray tracing before. When I loaded up the game on the Triton 500 and switched the ray tracing effects on, my jaw hit the floor. The difference is night and day. Let’s get one thing straight, Control is already a truly stunning looking game without ray tracing. But turn RTX on and it is elevated to the next level. Every reflective surface appears as it would in the real world, shadows are more natural than I’ve ever seen before, combat effects are more dynamic by constantly affecting the appearance of the environment you’re in. Even windows offer realistic mirror-like reflectivity where you can see yourself in the reflection, yet still see through the glass. It’s a level of immersion that I’ve never experienced before.
Again… this is running on a laptop. I’m sitting on my bed, PS4 controller in hand, playing what is undoubtedly the best looking game I have ever seen in my life, on a laptop. Of course, running a game with ray tracing effects you’d expect a bit of a performance hit. Without ray tracing turned on, Control hovered around the 70fps mark on high settings. With RTX on, and a few tweaked settings, I was playing at more like 40-50fps. And this is where NVIDIA’s DLSS comes in (Deep Learning Super Sampling). DLSS uses AI to boost your performance, while keeping image quality high when running a game with ray tracing effects turned on, so that you get smooth gameplay at higher fps.
The usual other stuff is all great too. The build quality is impeccable, the keyboard is a joy to type on, and the design is very good. Somehow, Acer have managed to make it look sleek and classy, while also making it obvious that it’s a high-end gaming laptop. The light up Predator logo on the back is massively appreciated. Add to this how thin and light it is, and you really have yourself a winning formula. The RRP for this amazing laptop is unsurprisingly quite high. For the model I tested with – a 2070 Max-Q, a 6 core Intel i7, and 16GB of RAM – it costs £1,899.97 and it comes with a free copy of Red Dead Redemption 2.
But do not worry. If you happen to have clicked on this article, want a new gaming laptop and have a more modest budget, these next two laptops have you covered!
The Acer Nitro 7 and Asus ROG Zephyrus G are both quite similar gaming laptops. Both have a 15-inch high refresh rate display, both are fitted with NVIDIA’s impressive mid-range GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card, and they are both very reasonably priced. These are absolutely the laptops for you if you want a capable and productive computer for your daily work, but also want it to be your complete entertainment device and play the latest AAA games at 60fps on high setting. Both laptops are restrained in their styling. Restrained to the point where if you pulled one out of your bag in the middle of a posh coffee shop and got a couple of spreadsheets on the go, no one would look twice. But the beauty lies in the fact that after necking your cappuccino and firing off a couple of emails to Darren from Accounts, you can load up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and absolutely style on your opponents at more than 80 glorious frames per second on a high refresh rate screen. Bliss.
Make no mistake, the combo of a GTX 1660 Ti and a 120/144hz refresh rate screen is a major selling point of these laptops. If you’re the type of gamer that likes to play competitive multiplayer games like Counter Strike GO, Dota 2, or Rainbow Six Siege, the Acer and Asus both offer flawless experiences. If you play any competitive games and don’t have a high refresh rate screen, I implore you, please do yourself a favour and get one.
I’ve played a lot of Dota 2 in my life, and I personally have never felt better at the game than when I’ve been playing on these laptops. The high refresh rate screens are sumptuously smooth and sharp. I feel like I can react quicker to what’s happening around me in the game. Of course, a high refresh rate screen isn’t as useful when paired with a graphics card that can’t pump out super high frame rates. So it’s lucky that pumping out super high frame rates at 1080p is exactly what the 1660 Ti does best. More than 150fps in Dota 2, Counter Strike, and Rainbow Six: Siege on a high refresh rate screen meant I could take full advantage of all those extra frames.
In multiplayer games that require you to react quickly, like shooters, high refresh rates will improve your gameplay. That’s a fact. Studies have been done. It’s quite simple really – if your screen is updating at 144hz and you turn a corner, and your opponent standing on the other side’s screen is updating at 60hz, you will see them a split second sooner. And in a game like Counter Strike or Rainbow Six, a split second is the difference between life and death. Add to this that the 1660 Ti can run AAA games like The Division 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider at more than 60fps on ultra settings, and you have a pretty compelling package.
You’ll also be glad to hear these two laptops both nail the non-gaming stuff as well. Both have excellent build quality and feel great to use. Both have better than expected battery life. Both are very light and very thin. Both have great trackpads. Both have a wide range of ports on the sides. The list goes on and on… What I’m trying to say to you is, both of these laptops are absolutely brilliant. They offer frame rates more than 60 on the newest games at 1080p for almost half the price. Of course, one downside is that both are completely incapable of ray tracing. For most people this will not be a huge issue though, as most games still look damn good without the feature switched on. Where the Predator separates itself is in its ability to really utilise the high refresh rate screen. It will hit frame rates of more than 100 in even the most demanding games. With all major game franchises now developing games with real-time ray tracing, it’s a great way to future-proof yourself.
Is the ability to use ray tracing worth the extra money? That is totally subjective. If you want a laptop you can play Modern Warfare on at well over 80 frames per second on ultra for around £1,000, then either the Acer Nitro 7 or the Asus ROG Zephyrus G should be right at the top of your list. However, if you want a laptop that can play Modern Warfare at well over 80 frames per second on ultra with the ray tracing features turned on, then you’re going to have to pay a little bit more. But for that money you can be damn sure you’re going to have one of the most jaw-dropping and eye-opening gaming experiences of your life.