MSI’s Stealth 15M Is the Most Portable 15-inch Gaming Laptop You Can Buy

Illustration for article titled MSI's Stealth 15M Is the Most Portable 15-inch Gaming Laptop You Can Buy

Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

MSI is one of the best makers of powerful but still portable gaming laptops. And with this year’s Stealth 15M, aside from a couple minor quibbles, it really feels like MSI has honed its craft. Not only is the Stealth 15M the thinnest 15-inch gaming laptop you can get right now, it features a 144 Hz screen combined with surprisingly solid battery life, so you can actually game away from home in confidence.

Instead of the loud black and red paint jobs you get on a lot of other MSI laptops, the Stealth 15M is delightfully minimalist. It has a matte carbon gray aluminum body (also available in white for a small premium), and MSI even opted for a more stealthy logo (sorry, I couldn’t resist) instead of its typical black and gold badge. The selection of ports is also good: one USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4, two USB-A 3.2 ports, a full-size HDMI 2 port, 3.5mm audio jack, and even microSD slot lining its left and right sides. And while there is some flex to its inner deck, for a system that’s thinner and lighter than an XPS 15, the Stealth 15M feels quite solid.

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When you open the Stealth 15M, you’re greeted by one of the system’s greatest strengths—although though depending on your preferences, it may also be one of its weaknesses. In keeping with the push for higher refresh rate displays, MSI includes a 1920 x 1080 144 Hz screen on all but one config (which gets a standard 60 Hz panel), which is great for players looking for that added bit of responsiveness.

However, with a tested brightness of just 250 nits, the Stealth 15M’s display is a touch dimmer than I’d like (300 nits and higher is better). It’s not low enough to be a dealbreaker, but if you’re the kind of person that likes to work or game outside, you might struggle more with the Stealth 15M compared to an XPS 15, which pumped out nearly 500 nits from its 4K screen.

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Illustration for article titled MSI's Stealth 15M Is the Most Portable 15-inch Gaming Laptop You Can Buy

Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

The other important thing to know is that the Stealth 15M comes with a matte display, which is where things can get more divisive. Compared to the glossy screens that so many people have become accustomed to, colors don’t pop quite the same on matte screens, which might result in some people thinking the Stealth 15M’s display looks slightly washed out. Though on the flip side, you don’t see any reflections, which minimizes distractions while gaming. On this system, I think going matte makes a lot of sense.

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Inside, the Stealth 15M remains understated with the same dark gray finish. But if you want to show off, you can do that, too, with MSI’s colorful (and quite comfortable) RGB-lit keyboard, which can be easily customized using the Mystic Light tab in MSI’s Dragon Center. Below the keyboard, there’s the obligatory trackpad, which is both accurate and responsive, though I do have to mention that the size of the touchpad does seem a bit small compared to the Stealth 15M’s overall dimensions.

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I have a couple other small nitpicks with the Stealth 15M. For a laptop in 2021, its huge bottom bezel looks out of place. I don’t think MSI needs to completely eliminate every single border around its screens—a small bottom bezel can help prevent your hands from blocking content while gaming—but a small reduction would be nice. In its default mode, the Stealth 15M’s fans can also get loud quick, going from a gentle whir to a miniature jet engine as soon as you boot up a game. Thankfully, there are settings in the Dragon Center that allow you to control its fan speeds, including a silent mode if you’re just browsing the web and don’t want to cause a ruckus. But if you’re looking for top performance, you’re going to have to put up with some fan noise.

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MSI is looking to fix its webcam issue across all of its laptops this year with new full HD sensors, but unfortunately the Stealth 15M currently ships with a 720p webcam that’s mediocre at best. Even in a relatively well-lit room, photos look quite noisy. The Stealth 15M can render your face on a Zoom call or livestream, but anyone who cares about image quality will probably want to get an external webcam.

Here’s a sample pic from the Stealth 15M’s webcam. It’s not good, and this was the best of the bunch.

Here’s a sample pic from the Stealth 15M’s webcam. It’s not good, and this was the best of the bunch.
Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

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However, the Stealth 15M makes up for most of that with great specs for its size, routinely delivering around 30% better graphics performance than an XPS 15. Not only does the Stealth 15M come with a new Intel Core i7-1185G7 chip, it also features an Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU compared to the XPS 15’s GTX 1650 Ti card. That advantage is visible in games, with the Stealth 15M hitting 77 fps in Far Cry 5 at 1920 x 1080 and “Ultra” settings (54 fps for the XPS 15), and 70 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1920 x 1080 and “Highest” settings (53 fps for the XPS 15). Granted, this isn’t world-shattering performance when compared to larger 15-inch systems like MSI’s own GP66, which has room for bigger and more powerful RTX 3070 and 3080 cards, but in a system this thin and light, the Stealth 15M remains a sleek and powerful package.

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Even with its beefier GPU, the Stealth 15M still offers solid battery life, coming in at 7 hours and 59 minutes, just 30 minutes less than the XPS 15 (8:28). In addition to its included power brick, the Stealth 15M can also be recharged via USB-C in a pinch, which is useful for people on the go. But because USB-C chargers typically can’t deliver the full 150 watts of power you get from MSI’s included adapter, charging isn’t quite as fast. If you want to make sure you’re getting optimal performance, you’ll still need to use the default power brick.

Illustration for article titled MSI's Stealth 15M Is the Most Portable 15-inch Gaming Laptop You Can Buy

Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

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Unlike so many gaming laptops, the Stealth 15M is a system that actually encourages you to move around. It’s got excellent performance for its size, a solid minimalist build, and pretty decent battery life to boot. I expect MSI will address the Stealth 15M’s minor issues in a future model, but even now, aside from its lackluster webcam, the 15M’s shortcomings are more like quirks than actual drawbacks. And while there are larger 15-inch gaming notebooks that can deliver a bit more graphical oomph, you’re also looking at shelling out $250-$300 extra for a Razer Blade 15 or MSI’s GP66. If you don’t mind turning down graphics settings a touch when playing new AAA titles, the Stealth 15M is a finely balanced notebook for gaming both at home and on the go.

README

  • Weighing 3.7 pounds and measuring 0.62 inches thick, the Stealth 15M is actually a tiny bit smaller and lighter than an XPS 15.
  • Thankfully the Stealth 15M’s fans are adjustable, because when taxed, things can get pretty loud.
  • The Stealth 15M is available in two colors, carbon gray and white, though white costs extra.
  • You can charge the Stealth 15M in a pinch with a USB-C cable, but if you want max performance, you’ll need MSI’s power brick.
  • If you care about built-in webcam quality, the Stealth 15M might not be for you.

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MSI’s GP66 Leopard Puts Desktop Performance in a Gaming Laptop

Illustration for article titled MSIs GP66 Leopard Puts Desktop Performance in a Gaming Laptop

Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

MSI is one of several laptop makers to update its line of gaming laptops with Nvidia’s RTX 30-series GPU—and yet that’s the least impressive part of its GP66 Leopard. Not content to just stuff new components into the same old chassis and call it day, MSI has given its Leopard model a total overhaul from its previous iteration, the GP65. I normally balk at the idea of aggressive-looking, chunky gaming laptops—it’s just not my preferred aesthetic. But MSI has won me over with its newest Leopard, because the spec list and price help, too.

The Leopard is not a slim laptop. It’s nearly an inch thick (0.92 inches), but it weighs 5.25 pounds, which is on the lighter side for a gaming laptop with its dimensions. While it’s light enough to carry around when needed, it’s still more of a desktop replacement, especially since the battery life clocks in at just four and a half hours on balanced mode. The GP66 Leopard is built for power, and its battery life falls in line with other similar gaming laptops we’ve tested in the past, like the Asus Strix Scar G15.

MSI has made some design tweaks that I appreciate. The touchpad no longer has separate mouse buttons; they’re now blended seamlessly into the touchpad itself, so the whole thing is a smooth, flat surface. MSI’s iconic dragon logo on top of the lid is no longer red, but black, and the engraved lines flanking either side of the logo are gone, too. The whole thing has a more sleek, professional look. MSI ditched the full keyboard for a 10-keyless, which bums me out a little because I like full keyboards, but going with a 10-keyless makes the entire keyboard look less cramped in the smaller chassis.

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The number and types of ports also make the Leopard a great desktop replacement. All the important ports, like the charging port and the Ethernet port, are located on the back of the laptop, so tucking the cords behind a desk is neater and easier. There’s also an HDMI port than can output up to 4K at 60 Hz, in addition to a USB-C, three USB 3.2 Gen 1, and a dual mic/headphone port. It’s all the essentials of a desktop packed into the footprint of a laptop.

The Intel Core i7-10870H processor inside is one of the newest editions to the 10th-gen family; Intel quietly released it along with the Core i5-10200H last September. It’s not much different from the Core i7-10875H that we’ve seen in a lot of higher-end laptops, like the Razer Blade 15 Advanced. Both are 8-core, 16-thread processors, but the i7-10875H has an extra 100 MHz tacked onto both its base and boost clock. It’s also more expensive than the i7-10870H, but only by about $30. And in my experience with the i7-10875H, I haven’t seen it reach its max 5.10 GHz clock frequency because it runs too hot for Intel’s Thermal Velocity Boost to kick in and squeeze out an extra 100 MHz of juice from the CPU.

The Core i7-10870H suffers from the same issue, but a 100 MHz difference is not noticeable at all while gaming (and it can reach up to a 5.0 GHz boost clock, although not consistently). The RTX 3070 in the Leopard saves the day, since it can reach desktop-level performance. Comparing some games to our previous RTX 3070 GPU tests, the mobile RTX 3070 is only about 5-10 frames per second lower than its desktop counterpart at 1080p on ultra.

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The GP66 Leopard gets 120 fps in Far Cry 5, 83 fps in Total War: Warhammer II, 118 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 79 fps in Metro Exodus with ray tracing off, and 67 fps in Metro Exodus with ray tracing on. In a game like Overwatch, the frame rate easily exceeds 300 fps at 1080p on ultra, too, so not only can MSI’s newest Leopard easily handle graphically intensive games, but competitive first-person shooter players will most likely love the high frame rates in those games. After all, this laptop can handle up to a 240 Hz refresh rate. Sure, some gaming laptops have a 300 Hz display now, like Acer’s new Predator Triton 500, but 240 Hz is still damn good for competitive FPS gaming or if you just like higher refresh rates. (They do make a difference!)

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I feel like I need to talk about thermal issues every time I review a laptop with an Intel 10th-gen mobile processor inside, and the newer Core i7-10870H is not immune from those. Running the laptop under a high load, HWInfo recorded max temperatures of 98 degrees Celsius (208.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and detected thermal throttling. This didn’t seem noticeable when running gaming benchmarks because, again, most of the games are GPU-bound, but it’s important to point out because of how well MSI’s GP66 Leopard handles those high temperatures.

Even when running back-to-back Metro Exodus benchmarks, the skin temps above the keyboard never went past 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit). And this is the best laptop that I’ve tested so far that keeps skin temps even lower when playing a game like Overwatch. Temperatures across the keyboard itself hovered around 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or lower. MSI managed to do this with a new thermal design that uses one less heat pipe than its GP65 Leopard, too. The dual fans can get a little loud at times, but that’s par for the course with gaming laptops.

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All that brings me to the price, which I would normally say is a bit much. However, considering this is a great desktop replacement and some desktop hardware components are hard to find at the moment, the $1,899 price tag on this model is in line with what you’d normally spend building your own desktop—probably cheaper. The desktop RTX 3070 can found for around $1,050 right now, which is double the MSRP thanks to a massive GPU shortage. By the time you’re done adding a motherboard, CPU, cooler, memory, storage, power supply, and case, you’re already spending more than $2,100 if you spec the desktop similarly to how this laptop is specced. If you’re thinking about going with a laptop instead of a desktop for your next rig, allow me to steer you toward the MSI GP66 Leopard. It gets everything right.

READ ME

  • Stellar performance
  • Beautiful design
  • Meh battery life
  • Pricey, but cheaper compared to how much it would cost to build a desktop

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The Stand-Out Laptops of CES 2021

Illustration for article titled The Stand-Out Laptops of CES 2021

Image: Joanna Neliu/Gizmodo, MSI, Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, Razer

It was definitely strange not being able to hold, type on, or touch the brand new laptop screens at CES as we would have in pre-covid times. There’s only so much you can tell about a product you only see or read about online, so that tangibility is an absolute necessity to figuring out what a laptop is all about. (Some benchmarking would be nice, too.) Yet as we saw, it’s entirely possible to stand out with just a hardware spec list, new features, or an interesting design.

All the below laptops did just that. While this is not an exhaustive list of every laptop announced at CES 2021, these are a few that piqued our interest. Plenty of other gadgets caught our eyes, too, from wearables to TVs, and everything cool and just plain weird in between.

Asus ROG Flow X13 Ultra Slim

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Asus hit us with a bit of a surprise this year: None of its new or refreshed gaming laptops will come with an Intel processor, save for one. Every other model will have one of the new processors in AMD’s 5000-series.

But in the spirit of last year’s CES, and its success with the Zephyrus G14 from its ROG lineup of gaming laptops (which also had an AMD processor), this year Asus merged two different laptop worlds together to create the unique 2-in-1 ROG Flow X13 Ultra Slim.

The 360-degree hinges let the touchscreen display fold completely backward to use the gaming laptop in tablet mode, yet you still get the combined power of AMD’s new Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU alongside Nvidia’s GTX 1650 GPU regardless of what mode you use it in. Currently, the laptop comes bundled with the impressive RTX 3080 inside Asus’ XG Mobile eGPU too.

It seems like Asus has designed this laptop for both the frequent and infrequent gamers who use their gaming laptops for other tasks, too. Gamers are artists, bookworms, students, teachers, etc., and a laptop that can literally morph itself to suit any working scenario is appealing.

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But while this laptop is definitely a stand-out that I would love to get my hands on, I hope Asus decides to at least sell it separately from the XG Mobile. The two together cost a whopping $3,000.

Acer Predator Triton 300 SE

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I can’t get enough of the Predator Triton 300 SE’s new design. It’s all grown up now, decked out in a gray-silver that is both subdued and professional while also being bright and inviting. But it’s packed with power underneath the hood. This is Acer’s flagship gaming laptop, and it did not go light on the specs.

Sporting a new 11th-gen Intel Core i7 H35-series Special Edition processor and an Nvidia RTX 3060, Acer did much more than stuff this laptop with new components. The all-metal chassis is thinner and lighter, just 0.7 inches thin and weighing 3.75 pounds. The battery life is substantially better, according to Acer, and there’s a 14-inch FHD IPS display with a 144Hz refresh rate, which is a solid choice for someone who’s looking for a laptop for work that can also handle a variety of games.

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It starts at $1,400, which makes me nod my head slowly and say, “Not bad, not bad.”

Dell Alienware m17 R4

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Power and a stupid-fast fresh rate are basically synonymous with Dell’s refreshed Alienware m17 R4. It’s the first Alienware gaming laptop with a 360 Hz, 17.3-inch, 1080p display, HDMI 2.1 support, and Nvidia’s new RTX 30-series cards.

To support the new GPUs, Dell has opted for Intel’s Core i7-10870H, and the Core i9-10980HK is also an option. They’ve got the core count and the performance that gamers would expect from a beastly laptop like this. (Although I would like to see one with a new AMD Ryzen 5000-series chip, too.)

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The m17 R4 is also getting slightly faster DRAM at 2933 MHz, and up to 4TB of storage so you can upload lots of games the size of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

HP Envy 14

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HP has given its popular Envy laptop series a welcome refresh, making it even more suitable for those looking for a machine for work or school—something reliable that will get the job done quickly. Not only is the Envy 14 getting Intel’s new 11th-gen Core i5 processor, but HP has also made other tweaks to the overall specs to make it better suited for some creative tasks as well.

The Envy 14 now has a 14-inch, 16:10 (1920 x 1290) display instead of a 13-inch, 16:9 (1920 x 1080) IPS touchscreen. There are dedicated keys to mute your mic or open/close the physical webcam shutter, and an AI Noise removal feature for those times you’re on a Zoom call and someone with a leaf blower walks up right next to your window. (This happens to me at least once a week.)

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The machine also claims to last an impressive 16.5 hours on a charge—if true, that means you can leave your laptop charger at home. There’s also an optional GTX 1650 Ti for those who need a little more GPU compute power than Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics.

The price isn’t too bad, either—$1,000 for the whole kit—if you’re looking for something with a more robust operating system and more oomph than a Chromebook.

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Lenovo Yoga AIO 7

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The Yoga AIO 7 is technically an all-in-one desktop PC, but I’m including it here because it has a mobile processor as its brains. And it looks really, really neat. (It’s so much more pleasing to look at than Lenovo’s Yoga A940 AIO.) It’s basically a mid-range gaming laptop disguised as an all-in-one desktop with a display that can rotate vertically, and it supports wireless casting from phones and tablets while the PC is off.

Specs-wise, the Yoga AIO 7 comes with either a Ryzen 7 4800H or Ryzen 5 4600H CPU and an RTX 2060 GPU—a step down from Asus’ Zephyrus G14, yet it should deliver similar performance. The display itself should catch the eye of some creators, too. If you opt for the higher-end version, it’s a 27-inch 4K IPS display with a DCI-P3 99% color gamut, but there is also a cheaper option with a 100% sRGB color gamut. Both are flicker-free and low blue light certified from TÜV Rheinland.

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The only downside is Lenovo has no plans at this time to release it to the North American market, which is a major bummer. I hope it reconsiders.

MSI Stealth 15M

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It’s no small thing to boast your company now makes the thinnest and lightest gaming laptop in the world, but it would seem that MSI has done it. At 0.62 inches thick and just 3.7 pounds, the Stealth 15M is lighter and thinner than both the Dell XPS 15 and Lenovo’s newest Legion Slim 7. (Both weigh more than 4 pounds and are thicker than 0.70 inches.)

MSI has found a way to fit some serious hardware into its newest Stealth 15M, too: an Intel Core i7-11375H CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3060 Max-Q GPU, along with Wi-Fi 6 support, two USB-C ports (one with Thunderbolt 3), and a full-size HDMI port.

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Compared to Razer’s newest Blade 15 (down below), the Stealth 15M is $300 cheaper and has a newer processor than the Blade’s 10th-gen chip, so it might be a more enticing option to some people. The rest of the specs are pretty much the same.

NEC LaVie Mini Concept

Illustration for article titled The Stand-Out Laptops of CES 2021

Image: Lenovo

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OK, so this isn’t a thing that you can go out and buy, nor is there even a promise of it ever launching, but my gosh is it cool! It’s way cooler than Dell’s Concept UFO from CES 2020. Lenovo teamed up with NEC to create this interesting, laptop-to-handheld gaming device concept, the LaVie Mini.

Depending on the price, I would buy this in a heartbeat. Laptop mode would be great for firing off a quick email or doomscrolling through Twitter, and when you’ve had enough bad news for one day, you can transform your mini laptop into a handheld console. It’s got the specs for it: an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU with Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, Wi-Fi 6, and a 26 WHr battery. At least, that’s how it’s designed to be configured at the moment.

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I’m assuming Windows 10 would run on it, too. So make it LTE (or even 5G) compatible along with Wi-Fi 6 and you could play games on it almost anywhere via the cloud on GeForce Now, Stadia, Luna, Xbox, Shadow—whatever!

It’s hard to tell if the controllers will fold in/out from the laptop itself, or if they will be separate. If the controllers fold in/out, that would make the LaVie Mini enticing. But for now it’s just a concept, so dreaming is going to be a lot easier than willing this sucker into reality.

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Razer Blade 15 (Base Model)

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Last but not least is Razer’s refreshed Blade 15. Keeping its signature look, the newest Blade 15 comes with a 10th-gen Intel Core i7, up to an RTX 3070, a 512GB PCIe SSD (plus one empty M.2 PCIe slot), 16GB of RAM, and a FHD 144 Hz or QHD 165 Hz display. The chassis is also about 4% smaller than the previous model, and there’s an Ethernet port.

Unlike many other gaming laptops, though, the new Blade 15 focuses on storage capacity. Razer has added a new storage module that stacks two M.2 PCIe SSDs together, which means if you wanted to put up to 4TB of storage in this laptop, you could. Both the Base and Advanced models have this feature, actually!

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If you have some more cash to burn, the Blade 15 Advanced model has a 10th-gen Intel Core i7, up to an RTX 3080, 1TB PCIe SSD with an extra M.2 PCIe slot, 16GB or 32GB of RAM, and a FHD 360 Hz, QHD 240 Hz or 4K OLED Touch display. It does swap the Ethernet port for an SD card reader, though.

Asus Revealed a New 2-in-1 Gaming Laptop, and I’m Like Whoa

Illustration for article titled Asus Revealed a New 2-in-1 Gaming Laptop, and Im Like Whoa

Image: Asus

Asus’ ROG line of gaming laptops have always stood out thanks to their flashy RGB lighting and aggressive aesthetic. Asus isn’t afraid to try something new, either. Last year, it released the well-received ROG Zephyrus G14, one of the first ROG gaming laptops powered by an AMD processor, as well all the Zephyrus Duo 15, a dual-screen gaming laptop. All of the usual suspects in the ROG gaming line-up are getting refreshed, but Asus has also thrown a new 2-in-1 convertible gaming laptop into the mix, the ROG Flow X13. Even wilder, all the gaming laptops only come with AMD as the option for a CPU. No sign of Intel anywhere.

A 2-in-1 gaming laptop isn’t something I would have ever guessed I wanted in my life, but here I am, completely intrigued. Like Lenovo’s Yoga laptops or Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1, the Flow X13 also has 360-degree hinges that allow the display to fold completely backward. The idea of gaming on my laptop at my desk, and then crawling into bed and using it as an e-reader or sketchbook is totally novel, and yet I can’t help but wonder why one of these things didn’t happen sooner. It’s a great idea!

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Ah wait—better performance means more heat, means a thicker laptop. Yeah, it’s obvious why they haven’t happened in the past. But hardware is powerful and thin enough now, so having a gaming laptop that doesn’t turn into an even bigger brick when the display is flipped back is possible; The Flow X13 weighs just 2.9lbs. and is 0.62 in. thick. Definitely the right weight and dimensions…hopefully.

The 16:10, 13-inch display comes with the option of either a 120 Hz refresh rate or Ultra HD 4K screen covered with Corning Gorilla Glass. Both choices of display also support Adaptive Sync and are Pantone Validated for color accuracy.

Inside, there’s up to an 8-core AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU that’s covered with a liquid metal thermal compound, which should help keep the CPU cooler than thermal paste. The GTX 1650 GPU is powered by a battery that gets up to 10 hours of life. The GPU is underwhelming—would have preferred something closer to a 1660 Ti at the very least—but Asus’ XG Mobile, a compact eGPU, is compatible with the Flow X13.

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Asus says the XG Mobile is 6% of the size of typical eGPUs, but can feature up to an RTX 3080. It weighs about 2.2 lbs., measures just 6.1 x 8.2 x 1.1 inches, and is cooled by a vapor chamber. It also connects directly to the CPU via a custom PCIe 3.0 x8 interface, which Asus says is faster than Thunderbolt eGPUs. It also has an integrated 280W AC adapter that powers both the XG Mobile and Flow X13, so you won’t need to carry around a separate charging cable, unless you want it just in case.

The ROG Flow X13 and XG Mobile are currently available as a bundle in North America.

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Asus also has a new Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, a special edition of its dual-screen gaming laptop. There’s an upgraded 16.5-inch main display, with either 4K UHD with a 120 Hz refresh rate, or a FHD display with a 300 Hz refresh. The smaller, 14.1-inch touchscreen display comes with either a 4K option at 3840 x 1100 or a 1920 x 550 alternative. Both use IPS-level technology, which is in-between a true IPS panel and a TN panel, and refresh at 60 Hz.

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The Zephyrus Duo 15 SE is outfitted with up to a new AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU, up to 2 TB of SSD storage, and up to 32 GB of DDR4-3200 memory.

Asus says it’s increased the cooling efficiency of its Active Aerodynamic System (AAS), which has been around since the original ROG Zephyrus. The most recent Zephyrus Duo 15 was the last to use it, which had an 28.5mm intake after tilting the touchscreen—but this upcoming SE version will allow for more airflow. Asus also said it changed the design of its fan blades (every fan now has 84 blades) and it’s also covered the CPU with liquid metal.

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This gaming laptop does not come cheap. At all. It’s currently available for pre-order in North America for an eye-popping $2,900.

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Other ROG laptops to get a refresh are the ROG Strix Scar 15 and 17, which now both feature the first optical-mechanical keyboard in a Strix laptop. The 15 is a 15.6-inch screen with a 300 Hz refresh rate, while the 17 is a 17.3-inch screen with a 360 Hz refresh rate and a IPS-level panel. Either are available with new WQHD panels that feature a 165 Hz refresh rate and a 1440p resolution.

Specs-wise, both are available with up to an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU and Nvidia RTX 3080, up to 64 GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and dual 1 TB solid-state drives in RAID 0. The memory and storage are fully upgradeable, too, and easily accessible, according to Asus. Both also boast a smaller footprint, up to 7% smaller than last year’s models, and have a battery life of just over 12 hours, says Asus.

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The ROG Strix Scar 15 and ROG Strix Scar 17 will be available in North America starting Q1 2021.

There’s also the new ROG Strix G15 and ROG Strix G17, not to be confused with the Strix Scar 15 and 17, as the Strix G is similar to the Strix Scar. This Strix 15 and 17 will feature up to an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor, up to a GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, up to a 1 TB SSD, and up to 32 GB memory. Display options are between an FHD 300 Hz screen, or a WQHD 165Hz screen. Aside from the GPU and display variants, there isn’t that much difference between the G and the Scar.

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The ROG Strix G15 will be available in North America starting Q1 2021, and the Strix G17 available for pre-order for a more palatable, but still pricey at $1,800.

We’re live from our couches covering CES 2021! Click here to read our complete coverage.

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MSI Creator 15 Review: A Well-Balanced Laptop for Games or Work

Illustration for article titled MSI Creator 15 Review: A Well-Balanced Laptop for Games or Work

Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

Creator-focused and gaming laptops can sometimes be indistinguishable from each other. Both usually have a high-end specs to transcode videos as quickly as they load graphically intensive games, enough ports to transfer raw image files from cameras and hook-up streaming equipment, and sometimes even 4K displays. But something like gaming laptop maker MSI’s Creator 15 comes with a few neat extras to make more colors pop or sounds more vibrant—things that would matter less to gamers and more to filmmakers or musicians.

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And as far as how the MSI Creator 15 is positioned among other laptops of its class, it’s one of the more reasonably priced ones too. But still not cheap. The one reviewed here comes stocked with an Intel Core i7-10875H, Nvidia RTX 2060, 16 GB (8 GB x 2) DDR4-2666MHz RAM, 1 TB NVMe SSD, and a 15.6-inch 1080p 60 Hz touch-screen display with 72% of the NTSC color gamut, which is roughly equivalent to 100% of the sRGB color gamut and pretty standard amongst costlier laptops. The max brightness is only 360 nits according to our tests, which seems on the low side for a creator-focused laptop.

All that will cost you around $1,900, although a fully-loaded model with a 4K touch-display and an RTX 2080 Super Max-Q is closer to $2,900. Compared to something like the HP ZBook Create G7, where its base-model costs $2,750, the MSI Creator 15 is way more appealing on price alone and it will still do nearly everything you need it to do. The display colors aren’t as rich, the sound of the bass not as deep as the ZBook, but that was created with professionals in mind. Professionals who are willing to pay for displays that can pump out more colors than this laptop. The MSI Creator 15 is something more for students or someone just starting their creative career journey, and it still offers more features and comparable performance than the $2,800, 16-inch MacBook Pro—though its lower-resolution display with narrower color gamut isn’t as nice as the MacBook Pro’s, which handles the wider P3 color gamut and has a 3072 x 1920 resolution.

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The chassis design is one of my favorites out of all the laptops I’ve ever tested. To be fair, I am partial to laptop designs that don’t try to emulate expensive sports cars. But the MSI Creator 15 is particularly nice, right up there with Razer’s laptops and MSI’s own GS66 stealth, one of our favorite gaming laptops. The logo on the lid blends in subtly with the all-back matte chassis, which looks sleek and professional and isn’t too much of a fingerprint magnet. The keys are large and well-spaced for nearly any sized hands, although missing my favorite feature on all keyboards, the number pad. (Years spent doing data entry and other customer service-related things made me used to one.)

The Creator 15 does have some heft to it, but the entire thing weighs only 4.6 lbs., so it’s still convenient to carry around. Most of that hefty feeling actually comes from the laptop’s thickness, which is 0.72 inches. Definitely not the thinnest laptop around, but this thing was made to do some serious creative work on the go, so I’d expect, and want, some sturdiness.

Performance isn’t bad either, although it’s hard to go wrong with an Intel Core i7-10875H and Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics cards. Sure, Intel’s 11th-gen processors with Iris Xe Graphics is starting to roll out across all major laptop brands, and Nvidia just came out with new graphics cards, but it will be a while before we start seeing RTX 3000 cards in laptops. Not to mention the Core i7 in the Creator 15 is able to hit a higher turbo frequency than the 11th-gen i7s, so you’re still getting a powerful kit for under two grand.

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In our usual array of tests, the MSI Creator 15 took 8.5 minutes rendering a 3D image in Blender, 8.75 minutes transcoding a 4K video to 1080p 30 fps in Handbrake, and its battery lasted a decent six hours and 10 minutes—not the up to nine hours of battery life MSI advertises for this laptop, but battery mileage will always vary depending on how hard you push it. However, compared to other laptops six hours is just okay; The Dell XPS 15 and MacBook Pro 13 both have battery lives of over eight hours.

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This laptop plays nice with games, too. At 1080p on ultra (or highest graphical setting), the Creator 15 averaged 65 fps in Total War: Warhammer II, 70 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 83 fps in Far Cry 5, 187 fps in Overwatch, 44 fps in Metro Exodus with ray tracing off, and did an average 7.6 ms turn-time in Civilization VI. All that is in line with what the RTX 2060 should get in a system specced like the Creator 15. And with a display that’s only 60Hz, you don’t really need a more powerful graphics card.

Like most other similar laptops with a 10th-gen Intel processor, thermals are usually a concern for me. Depending on how the cooling system is designed and what materials were used to create the chassis, skin temps around the keyboard could exceed 50 C (122 F) and the CPU could throttle a bit. MSI’s Creator 15 doesn’t run as hot as some other laptops, but it’s not immune to the heat Intel’s Core i7 puts out.

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180-degree display hinges.

180-degree display hinges.
Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

The Core i7 reached a max temperature of 98 C (208.4 F), which caused some minor throttling. Skin temps around the keyboard stayed decently cool, hitting a peak of 48 C (118.4 F). I could still feel my fingers start to clam up when held on the keyboard for several minutes, but nothing uncomfortable enough that made me want to stop playing Overwatch all together. The middle of the keyboard got the hottest, sometimes reaching up to 54 C (129.2 F). The palm rest area below stayed the coolest, barely registering any warmth on my skin.

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While the max temperature of the center of the keyboard isn’t the greatest, it’s not something you’ll have to worry about while gaming or performing any other tasks because your fingers either won’t be anywhere near there, or you’ll be doing something that doesn’t push the system nearly as much.

There are a few trade-offs in terms of the display and sound system, and if you want a more powerful graphics card you’ll obviously have to shell out some more cash. But compared to other, big-name creator-focused laptops, there’s no reason not to consider the MSI Creator 15. It does nearly everything a MacBook Pro or Razer Blade 15 Advanced can do for hundreds of dollars less. The design is gorgeous, and the thermals are better than other similar laptops. The Creator 15 is great all-around.

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README

  • Competitive price compared to other creative-focused laptops.
  • Decent amount of ports, including USB 3.0, USB-C, and SD.
  • Attractive design and well-spaced keyboard.
  • Display could have richer colors.
  • Doesn’t attract a lot of fingerprints.

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This Is the Best Gaming Laptop You Should Buy

Illustration for article titled This Is the Best Gaming Laptop You Should Buy

Image: Acer, Gigabyte, Razer, MSI, Lenovo, Gizmodo

We’ve reviewed a ton of laptops and played around with even more. While we have an entire guide dedicated to laptops, we know some people just want to game and so no matter your budget, we’ve curated some of the best gaming laptops currently on the market too. Many of them are great for other tasks besides gaming, too, like photo and video editing, and even streaming. Yet ultimately these laptops are intended for gaming and making sure you can game whether you have a budget of $4,500 or a more realistic budget of $1,000.

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Buying Forecast for Fall 2020: Things are going to be quiet in the gaming laptop arena for a bit. As we’ve noted on our other laptop buying guide, Intel recently launched its 11th-gen mobile processor with Iris Xe Graphics. Laptop manufacturers will start rolling out their productivity models first, so it’s likely that we won’t see any gaming models with the latest processors until next year…assuming we do at all.

We won’t see any gaming laptops with RTX 3070, 3080, or 3090 variants for a while, too. Companies like Asus, MSI, Acer, and others usually wait until CES to announce or start showing off their gaming laptop models with the latest GPUs. Plus we’re still waiting on AMD to officially announce that laptops with its own graphics cards are coming. Perhaps they are waiting until CES as well, or maybe they’re still fine-tuning designs. Covid-19 related production and shipping delays don’t help, either. It’s also possible that we’ll have to wait longer to see them since AMD just announced its new 6000-series of GPUs.

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At this point in time, any gaming laptop you’ll be able to find will have a 10th-gen Intel processor (or AMD 4000 series, although some models don’t have that option) and anywhere from a GTX 1650 to a RTX 2080 Super graphics card, depending on what specs are available at what price point. With the holidays around the corner, it might be a good time to pick up something as all or some of these laptops will likely go on sale.


The Best Gaming Laptop for Most People

Illustration for article titled This Is the Best Gaming Laptop You Should Buy

Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

Who Are You?

You have a decent amount of cash to throw around for a faster processor and graphics card, as well as more storage space. But anything in the high-end range is a little too bananas based on price alone. If you like to play more demanding games and need to get some video editing done, these have the features you’re looking, plus the speed, for a more reasonable price.

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Our Pick: MSI GS66 Stealth ($2,250)

Compared to the high-end gaming laptops below, there isn’t much difference between the MSI GS66 Stealth aside from the price. While there are plenty of configurations available depending on your budget, the one we love has an Intel Core i7-10875H, RTX 2070 Super, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, a 15.6-inch 300 Hz display. This laptop is a mash-up of the Blade and Strix below, but for hundreds of dollars less. Not to mention its aesthetics are just as pleasing as Razer’s.

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But for $2,250, you have to be giving up something, right? The hardware specs are top-notch, so why is the Stealth in this category other than the price? Well, the GS66 definitely gets loud like the Strix when under load, but it doesn’t stay as cool. It’s display tops out at 317 nits, same as the Strix, but it’s a full pound lighter with similar dimensions. And that’s pretty much it. You’re not giving up much with the Stealth at this price. This laptop has the most reasonable value when taking pricing, features, and specs into consideration, which is why its the one we’d recommend for most people.

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Also Consider: Acer Predator Triton 500 ($2,200)

The model we tested has slightly higher specs than the one we recommend here, but this one falls better into the price range most people can afford. This model comes with an Intel Core i7-10750H, RTX 2070 Super, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, and a 15.6-inch 300 Hz display. These specs are the general “sweet spot” as far as value goes.

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For $50 less, the main difference between this and the GS66 Stealth is just 16 GB of RAM. Between this Predator Triton model and the one we reviewed, the only difference is our review model had a RTX 2080 Super, which adds another $300 to the overall price. Everything else is the same: lightweight for a gaming laptop, loud fans but everything stays nice and cool. The 300 Hz display is great for first person shooters. The battery life is short, but if you’re primarily going to game on this, it should stay plugged in at all times anyway.

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The Best High-End Gaming Laptop

Illustration for article titled This Is the Best Gaming Laptop You Should Buy

Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

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Who Are You?

You’ll pay whatever it costs to get the best of the best. You have to have everything. Per-key RGB lighting. 300 Hz refresh rate. Blazing fast CPU and GPU. Lots of RAM, storage, and ports. But above all, it has to look sleek, modern, and maybe a little aggressive, depending on your personal taste.

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Our Pick: Razer Blade 15 Advanced ($3,000)

Or as we like to call it, the MacBook Pro of gaming laptops. Its understated, minimalist design is a force to be reckoned with: RTX 2080 Super Max-Q , Intel Core i7-10875H (8-cores/16-threads, 2.3 GHz base/5.1 GHz boost), 1 TB M.2 NVMe SSD, 16 GB DDR4-2933 MHz RAM, a 15.6-inch 300 Hz display, and to top it all off, per-key RGB. There isn’t much this laptop doesn’t have or can’t do. Along with amazing gaming performance, there’s plenty of connectivity options to set up a quick stream, or download photos and video directly from your camera. Lots of laptops forgo SD card readers these days, but this one does not!

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For a fully-loaded laptop, its dimensions are pretty svelte. It weighs 4.73 lbs., its dimensions are just 0.70 inches by 9.25 inches by 13.98 inches, and yet there’s more than enough room for a well-spaced keyboard, a massive touchpad, and speakers the run along the outside of the keyboard. It costs as much as a down payment on a car, but you get so much for the price.

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Also Consider: Asus ROG Strix Scar G15 ($2,800)

It’s just as powerful and tricked out as the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, but will save you a little bit of cash. At 5.67 lbs., it’s not the lightest laptop around, but it packs a full RTX 2070 Super graphics card, Intel Core i9-10980HK, 32 GB DDR4-3200 MHz RAM, 2 TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, a 15.6-inch 300 Hz display, and per-key RGB. It also has an Ethernet port and the numberpad is intergrated with the touchpad.

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I know, you’d think the ROG Strix Scar and Blade 15 would be flipped based on the price versus the specs. But the Scar doesn’t have nearly the same number and variety of ports as the Blade, and the Blade has a better aesthetic. For a $200 difference, each of these laptops targets two different kinds users. The Blade is more obviously designed as a multi-use laptop, while the Scar is very much designed with gaming only in mind.

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The Best Budget Gaming Laptop

Illustration for article titled This Is the Best Gaming Laptop You Should Buy

Photo: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

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Who Are You?

Price is the most important consideration when it comes to buying a gaming laptop. You want to pay as little as possible without sacrificing everything, but performance is a close second to price. These laptops are a nice balance between those two requirements, but forgo some of the fancier features.

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Our Pick: Acer Nitro 5 ($1,150)

While we haven’t written a full review of this laptop yet, we have run it through our usual benchmark tests and can confidently say this is our first pick for a budget gaming laptop. It costs a little more than the Gateway mentioned below, and has similar specs. But it does have more RAM (16 GB) with a slightly faster transfer rate, and it lasts 6 hours on a battery, which is a couple hours longer than the average gaming laptop.

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The Nitro 5 comes in a lot of different configurations, the cheapest being an $800 model with an AMD Ryzen 5 3550H and GTX 1650. But the performance jump you get for $350 more is significant. Also, all the configurations that come with a 10th-gen processor only have either a GTX 1650 or GTX 1650 Ti (same for the current-gen AMD models), whereas more of the 9th-gen models come with a RTX 2060. But the ladder isn’t a disappointing concession at all! For a budget gaming laptop, the Nitro 5 packs a punch and will net you near or over 60 fps on most games.

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Also Consider: Gateway Creator Series, Intel version ($1,000)

That’s right: the cow is back. Gateway never really disappeared, but fell deep into the shadows after it hit peak popularity in the 90s and early 2000s. Now the Acer-owned company has emerged with an entire line up of budget-conscious laptops and tablets, and it’s still living up to its reputation as a cheap yet reliable brand. Of course, to get the price this cheap, there are some concessions: only 8 GB RAM and a tiny 256GB PCIe SSD, just like the Nitro 5.

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But overall, the Gatetway a near equal to the Nitro 5. One of its main differences is a 10th-gen Intel processor instead of a 9th-gen like the Nitro. (Also, the Gateway has an i5 and the Nitro has an i9.) But performance varies little between the two. It also has much thinner bezels and has a much more modern look than the Nitro. This Gateway also comes with a AMD CPU for $200 less, but the GPU is a major concession: a GTX 1650 instead of the much faster RTX 2060 in the Intel model.

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How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

10/29/2020: This is a brand new list! – Joanna Nelius

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