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To a gamer, a little bit of lag is the difference between life and death.
Not literally, of course, but in-game — where stats, tournament standings, and Twitch streaming can be affected by even the smallest slowdowns — a laptop that won’t let you down is an absolute necessity.
It isn’t just gamers who need to worry about laptop speed. Whether you’re editing video, working on a presentation or creating your latest graphic design masterpiece, the speed of your computer system can greatly affect its performance. Nothing stalls your creativity quite like a laptop that can’t keep up — or stalls midway through a project.
Still, the most obvious place to test out your laptop speed will be through a video game, where you want the fast-motion graphics to whizz and whirl (and not bunch and blur) around the screen.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Laptop
All gamers don’t just fit under one easy umbrella. A casual gamer has completely different needs in a laptop than a hardcore one. Even if you’re not into gaming, before you go all-in on a new machine, take a minute and think about what you’ll be using it for now and in the future as well.
“The first thing to consider is your priorities,” says Nayan Ramachandran, Co-Founder of Osaka-based game publishing company, DANGEN Entertainment. “Not all gamers play every type of game, so depending on what you enjoy playing, your priorities will change. For instance, if you predominantly play indie games, you won’t necessarily need to prioritize a powerful graphics card – often referred to as a GPU. You will, however, want to have a decent amount of RAM, a solid state drive with a decent speed to help with loading, and to make sure the screen supports 1080p.”
“If you’re likely to play more recent AAA titles, especially those that push realistic graphics,” he continues, “you’ll want to find a laptop that balances a strong GPU, a fast processor, and a good amount of RAM. And since you likely won’t be able to upgrade any of these components at a later date, it’s a good idea to find the best combination when you buy the laptop.”
We’ve selected four fast, powerful and loaded laptops that meet the needs of most anyone looking for a reliable machine. From consistent gamers to occasional streamers, these four varying options have got the processing power, GPU, and RAM to make sure everything you need is running smooth and speedily.
1. Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop PC
Acer’s Predator Helios is built for speed, right to the core.
The 9th generation Intel Core i7 processor powers this beast, and gets up to 4.5GHz, with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Graphics and 6GB of dedicated GDDR6 VRAM. And since every bit of bandwidth counts, the control center’s killer DoubleShot Pro feature allows you to prioritize which applications are using it up, for an even faster experience. There’s even an easy “run with graphics processor” menu option – just right-click on which application you want and select it. Blur and lag won’t slow down you or your character either. The Predator has a blazing fast refresh rate of 144hz to support solid motion without slowdowns, and a response time of 3ms.
The 3720mAh battery gives a decently long life with everything running, about four hours total, but it’s hard to give an exact estimate since there are so many variables using it up. Another helpful feature is the PredatorSense Key, which provides the user with instant shortcuts to control and customize fan speed, overclocking, game profiles and more. And to literally keep things cool, the 4th Gen Aeroblade 3D Fan is specifically engineered to prevent overheating.
The display is plenty bright, even outdoors, with an aesthetically pleasing blend of color and contrast. The blue backlighting is a nice touch too for late-night raids, and if you’ve got a VR headset, just plug it in and you’re good to get in the game.
PROS: Lots of RAM, two slots for an SSD drive, and plenty of processing speed for gaming. Large, quiet, and full keyboard, with sensitive keys, and a slightly narrow but still very functional 10-key number pad on the right. The trackpad is also plenty roomy, with no defined click buttons giving it that extra-needed space. The laptop shell itself has a solid metal top, and plastic bottom to prevent it from overheating your lap.
CONS: There’s no direct “Display” option in the control panel, which was a minor annoyance to some users. Also, there’s no more easy access ports such as WiFi, memory, or SSD; in order to get to them, you’d have to remove the entire bottom of the shell.
2. Apple MacBook Air
We like this MacBook Air, which is sleek, speedy, and easy on the eyes with its aesthetically pleasing colors and display, chic outer shell design, and the “dark mode” option for working after-hours.
The 13.3-inch MacBook Air features Retina Display with True Tone, for a higher pixel density that provides a crisper and sharper picture on everything from iMovie projects down to each individual app icon. The convenient Touch ID feature lets you log in securely (if you don’t mind giving up your fingerprint, though it can be done with the Apple Watch too), while Apple’s T2 chip does the encryption instead of the processor, ensuring even greater security of your machine.
Considering its incredibly light weight, the Air’s speed is perfectly adequate, and fueled by a dual-core 8th-Generation Intel Core i5 Processor, with Intel UHD Graphics 617. Fast SSD Storage and 8GB memory will keep things running smoothly, and for a thin laptop, the built-in speakers provide a nice wide sound too.
The MacBook Air might have trouble keeping up with a hardcore gamer, but for everyday usage like streaming, web browsing, and photo editing, it’s a solid choice all around. Plus if the slim amount of storage is an issue, upgrading to iCloud will get you a ton more gigs for short money.
PROS: Excellently long battery life – about 10 hours. Gorgeous and detailed picture and color display, along with super light weight and fast processing speed for typical application usage.
CONS: As with every generation of Apple anything, it seems more and more convenient and practical features are removed – either because the company is future-focused and phasing out the old ways, or making it inevitable that users have to purchase a new adapter separately. Since this specific model is even more minimal than the MacBook Pro, it features no HDMI port, no SD Card reader, and not even one USB.
3. MSI GT63 G-Sync Extreme Gaming Laptop
The Titan is an absolute monster of a machine, while still maintaining a decently portable size, width, and weight. Powered by NVIDIA’s Turing GPU architecture and the high-end Intel Core i7, its RTX graphics create a big and beautiful 17″ inch display, and features a multi-color RGB backlit keyboard.
With an included 16 GB of RAM and 1000GB Hybrid Hard Drive, there’s no need to upgrade anything. Everything is fast here: load time, boot time, some users even find that it breathes new life into old games where many minutes were wasted previously on waiting for it to reload between turns. This thing won’t break a sweat even with multiple major applications running, and when it does, the fans only need to kick in and cool things down during extremely heavy usage.
PROS: Minimal bloatware, maximum speed and storage space. This is a dream machine for a gamer who needs everything to run smoothly right out of the box, but still want to keep the portability aspect of a laptop.
CONS: The power adapter is a bit bulky, which can weigh it down so much that it sometimes slips out of the port. The internal speakers are good, not great – but it’s most likely assumed that gamers will have a decent set of headphones or externals set up. Overall, unless you’re using this for serious gaming, you’re going far above and beyond what you really need.
4. Asus ZenBook Ultra-Slim Laptop
Asus has come a long way in their design, craft, and overall quality.
Their Zenbook laptop is similar to the MacBook Air in many ways: ultra slim (0.5 inches), super lightweight (2.5 pounds), and a long battery life (up to 15 hours) with a 13.3-inch display and a slightly speedier Intel Core i5 processor.
It’s also very much not similar in a few ways too — storage being one of them. The Zenbook has double the MacBook’s included gigabytes; 512 vs Apple’s 256. Ports are another. While Apple’s seem to vanish with each generation, Asus is holding strong with three different USB ports, an HDMI port, and a Mirco SD card reader.
The Zenbook handles everyday computer usage effortlessly, things like web browsing, streaming sites, even some light gaming too.
PROS: Lightweight with a long battery life, and a top choice for a travel laptop. If you’re a PC person and not quite ready, willing, or able to switch over to a MacBook Air, this is an excellent option. Plus it comes pre-installed with Windows 10 too.
CONS: While the Harman Kardon speakers aren’t bad, they’re at the bottom of the laptop, and end up sounding muffled when is use. Plug in a decent pair of headphones if you’ve got them.