The days of big gaming PCs reigning supreme appear to be fading away. More gaming laptops are appearing with components that can compete with their desktop equivalents while still fitting into a small package. Some gaming laptops even include desktop-style components, such as the CPU, along with additional cooling systems to keep up.
1. Asus TUF Dash F15
The TUF Dash F15 is another example of Asus’ TUF brand of gaming laptops, which are recognized for being inexpensive and robust.
This 15-inch gaming laptop should be able to withstand a hammering in real life while you dish out beatings on the virtual battlefield, with a couple variants around the $1,000 price mark.
The TUF Dash 15 has the look of a brand pushing military-spec MIL-STD durability standards: it isn’t a behemoth, but its rough edges and massive TUF branding on the back expect it clear that this isn’t your normal office notebook.
While it advertises itself as small and light, it is still a 15-inch gaming laptop — not as thick as some of its competitors, but far from sleek. That’s fine, though, because its size may allow it to have a little more power than similarly-specced laptops, as well as more cooling capacity.
The bottom case has a smooth black finish with a bit of texture to the right and left of the keyboard, as well as some speaker grilles that appear distinctively “TUF” along the top. (There’s also a white variant with the same embellishments.)
Because of its big size, normal key spacing, and reasonably deep 1.7mm travel, the keyboard is illuminated and enables for comfortable typing. The WASD keys are translucent, and the W key has a tiny notch so you can easily return home while gaming.
The lighting isn’t particularly configurable, with no RGB and only three animated patterns to select from – but it’ll do the job if you’re gaming at night, which is the most important thing. Volume, mic mute, and a shortcut to launch Asus’ Armory Crate software are among the extra keys along the top of the keyboard.
The trackpad is “OK” in my opinion: I didn’t have any serious accuracy difficulties with the cursor jumping around, but the surface of the trackpad isn’t as smooth as other, better laptops. While some trackpads allow your finger to glide across the surface with ease, the TUF Dash’s trackpad seemed like it dragged a little.
It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, and considering the laptop’s lower price, it’s about the amount of cost-cutting I’d expect: it’s not premium, but it’s also not super-budget. However, you won’t receive any frills like fingerprint sensors or a webcam, which is disappointing in the age of forced remote work.
With one Thunderbolt 4 Type-C port and three USB Type-A ports, as well as HDMI 2.0 and Ethernet, the somewhat bigger chassis provides enough of IO.
The Ethernet connector, in particular, is fantastic to see, as it’s missing from so many recent laptops – and it may make a major difference when it comes to downloading massive games and playing online multiplayer with little lag. Oh, and the headphone port is always appreciated, especially since the F15’s speakers aren’t particularly impressive.
Finally, the display isn’t exactly up to par. While it does have an IPS panel, I found that it only covers roughly 60% of the sRGB region, rather than the 100% we’d like to see, which means colors won’t be as true, and the 853:1 contrast ratio means blacks will appear to be dark grey.
It can attain a brightness of 350 nits, which is sufficient for most tasks, but may be a little dim if you’re working or gaming outside in direct sunlight. Overall, however, it will do the job – albeit not especially well.
Asus’ laptops don’t come with a lot of pre-installed software, which is a positive thing. The MyASUS app is useful for troubleshooting and customer service, but you’ll probably never use it, whereas Armory Crate is a gaming-focused program that lets you tweak fan profiles, RGB lighting (if you have compatible accessories), display adjustments, and hotkeys.
I’m not a huge fan of Armory Crate, and I find its power profiles to be more confusing than helpful, but you may play around with them to see if you can get a few extra frames per second (at most) out of your games – however this will almost always come at the expense of some fan noise.
However, I must commend Asus for not putting bloatware such as McAfee or other bundled trialware on this system, as so many companies do. In fact, Asus included it on the $3,000 ROG Flow X13, but I couldn’t find it on this inexpensive laptop — which is strange, but perhaps the firm is learning? Regardless, Asus deserves credit for keeping things light.
The TUF Dash F15 holds its own in games thanks to its excellent midrange hardware, achieving playable framerates in all of our benchmarks – which, recall, are performed at Ultra settings, so you can easily take advantage of the higher refresh display if you drop a few things down.
In Doom Eternal, for example, I was easily able to maintain above 100FPS on High graphics settings in the packed Super Gore Nest mission. The 144Hz monitor performed beautifully, and the RTX 3060 kept up with it with ease.
Despite having nearly identical hardware to the more expensive Acer Predator Triton 300 SE, the TUF Dash outperformed it in nearly every benchmark, owing to its larger size and cooling capabilities (not to mention a slightly higher-specified GPU – keep in mind that not all RTX 3060 laptops have the same capabilities).
While gaming, the keyboard’s deep travel provided a pleasant advantage, allowing for more defined keypresses while you dodge enemy fire.
During gaming sessions, I also found that the laptop’s chassis remained reasonably cool. In fact, despite the fact that the internal hardware warms up during gaming, it seldom thermal throttled during my benchmarks, which was surprising for such a thin and light device. (However, the fan is quite noisy, so make sure you have some nice over-ear headphones or a gaming headset on hand.)
The TUF Dash, on the other hand, is not without flaws. The trackpad, for example, was a considerable downgrade from the Triton’s super-smooth pad. If you use an external gaming mouse, this won’t be an issue, but you’ll notice it in desktop work.
The display on the Triton is likewise better, with enhanced colors and a higher contrast ratio that will make the images in your games pop. Even again, all of those features — as well as others like the webcam and fingerprint sensor – come at a significant price premium, so if you’re on a tighter budget, the TUF Dash is still worth considering.
2. HP Omen 16
You don’t need to spend several thousand dollars on a gaming laptop to have a good time. Do you require proof? I think the HP Omen laptop I’ve been testing for a few weeks will suffice. The Omen’s design isn’t particularly unique or sophisticated, but it doesn’t need to be for a $1,250 laptop.
Instead, for only a little more than a MacBook Air, you can acquire a respectable – and portable – gaming machine. It even boasts an RTX 3060 GPU to meet your gaming requirements. If an Intel Core i5 processor isn’t screaming your name, there are a few more build alternatives to consider.
For an extra $330, you can upgrade the CPU to an Intel Core i7-10870H and the GPU to an RTX 3070, bringing the total cost to little over $1,500. Of course, increasing the memory, upgrading to Windows 10 Pro, upgrading to a QHD display, or adding additional storage can all improve the build.
Instead of providing me a high-end review sample with all of the bells and whistles, HP did something I admire: it sent me the entry-level build, with the exception of the 16GB of memory, which was upgraded from the original 8GB.
It’s a $50 improvement that raises the price of the build from $1,199 to $1,249, which I’m sure most people would be prepared to pay. As I mentioned at the outset, the Omen’s general appearance is unremarkable.
The laptop is black with a gleaming Omen emblem on the lid. The red ink used on the keyboard keys is the only other burst of color, aside from the Intel and Nvidia labels. Because of the single-zone lighting, the entire keyboard is illuminated in red.
Slim bezels surround the 15.6-inch display on both sides, with a slightly larger top trim to make the 720p camera. The Omen’s camera is adequate for the job, as is the case with most laptop webcams. To put it another way, you won’t get any compliments on the quality of your video calls. On either side of the laptop’s deck, there are a plethora of ports.
A Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port, a miniDisplayPort 1.4 port, and two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports are located on the right side. A full-size SD card reader, a 3.5mm headphone jack, an HDMI port, another USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, and, finally, a gigabit Ethernet port are all found on the opposite side.
The full-size keyboard does not stretch the length of the housing. Instead, you’ll find dedicated arrow keys to the right of the keyboard, as well as a 9-key cluster that includes typical keys like Page Up/Down while also adding a shortcut key to the calculator app.
The Omen’s keyboard was fun to use. Because the keys move very little and aren’t particularly loud, you’re unlikely to irritate your roommates or partner while they work (or try to sleep) in the room around the corner.
I do want to call out one feature of the keyboard that I believe indicates HP’s consideration of the Omen as a gaming laptop. Not only did HP put small bumps on the F and J keys to help your fingers find their spot, but they also added a small hump to the W key. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen it before.
I’ve found that gaming on chiclet-style keyboards frequently results in my misplacing my fingers, but that never happened during my testing because the W key virtually called out to my middle finger.
The trackpad is centered below the keyboard, however it is not perfectly aligned with the keyboard or the Omen’s enclosure. It’s slightly to the right of the spacebar, which helps it look centered but also reminds me of those photographs when a lovely tiling pattern is broken up by one out-of-place tile.
In terms of overall size and weight, the Omen is far from light. I had no idea it weighed more than 5 pounds until I looked at the details. It weighs 5.4 pounds and has dimensions of 14.09 x 9.44 x 0.9 inches (WxDxH). It’s not excessively heavy; I just didn’t expect it to be that heavy.
An Intel Core i5-10300H processor, an Nvidia RTX 3060 Laptop GPU, 16GB of 2933MHz memory, and 512GB of SSD storage power the Omen I tested. Colors aren’t excessively saturated on the 144Hz screen, which appears clear. Instead, they’re more realistic and, some may argue, muted.
If there’s one flaw with the HP Omen, it’s its battery life. The Omen lasted 2 hours and 17 minutes in PCMark 10’s battery life test before powering down. That’ll get you through a flight movie, but don’t expect to get through a workday on a single charge.
For comparison, the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE and the Asus TUF Dash F15 powered at 6:30 and 9:10 seconds, respectively. Fast charging is one feature of the Omen that I come to love during my testing.
The battery can be charged from zero to fifty percent in 30 minutes using the provided power adapter, however the laptop must be powered down. Despite this requirement, the battery charges at a consistent rate while it is powered on.
3. Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 (Zephyrus G15)
The era of 1440p gaming laptops has arrived, but the benefits don’t stop there. I’ve been using the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 for the past two weeks, and it’s a beast of a notebook.
It has an 8-core Ryzen 9 processor and an Nvidia RTX 3070 under its sleek aluminum shell, a combination designed to give great performance whether you’re fragging foes or editing together your newest gameplay footage in Premiere Pro. Does the G15, which costs $1799, have what it takes to compete against the ever-intense competition?
One of the most quietly cool laptops I’ve used is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15. It has a slim and light design, measuring only 19mm thick and weighing 4.2 pounds, making it slightly lighter than many gaming laptops with comparable specifications. Its body is comprised of a magnesium-aluminum alloy for further rigidity, and the lid has been finely machined with over 8,000 small perforations.
This is intriguing enough on its own, but thin strips of prismatic film lie behind it, forming rainbow stripes when the light hits it just right. It’s a striking effect that gives the Zephyrus a distinct appearance.
The G15 comes in a variety of options, as you’d expect at this price point, allowing you to pick the amount of storage, pre-installed memory, and your GPU choice between the RTX 3060, 3070, or 3080. Moonlight White or Eclipse Gray are the two color options available. If you need more storage or RAM in the future, the laptop is simply upgradeable.
The back plate is secured to the chassis with 13 screws. The final screw emerges from the body, allowing the panel to be removed by hand without the aid of a pry tool (I had one on hand in the photo above but didn’t need it). The memory and SSD are both easily accessible beneath the surface, making this a very upgrade-friendly device.
When it comes to upgrading choices, the G15 offers quite a few. There are two M.2 slots, one of which is already occupied by the pre-installed NVMe SSD, allowing you to extend storage without reinstalling Windows.
However, because half of the memory is soldered onto the mainboard, there is only one memory expansion slot. Because my item had a total of 16GB, the expansion slot was filled with an 8GB Samsung chip. This arrangement is both critical and regrettable.
Memory should ideally be matched in terms of speed, capacity, and latency. Because half of the memory is soldered to the board, using a single matching kit for your entire system is impractical, raising the chance of compatibility issues. You won’t be able to use all of the 32 GB of available memory.
You can install a 16 GB chip and have a total of 24 GB, or you can try a 32 GB chip and have some of the memory go unnoticed if the system decides to support it. It appears that Asus is pressuring people to buy the 32 GB G15s.
Given how well the GA503 is suited to content creation as well as gaming, it’s a possibility worth examining. The laptop is equipped with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900 HS processor with eight cores and sixteen threads of multitasking capabilities and a maximum boost rate of 4.6 GHz.
That’s a tad slower than the Intel Core i9-5.3 10980HK’s GHz boost speed, but it comes with larger overall cache and lower power consumption. It’s worth noting that, despite its 5000-series moniker, this is a Zen 3 CPU, which means no PCIe Gen 4.0 capability.
Despite this constraint, the increased multithreaded performance means that game streaming and 4K video editing are also viable options. In those situations, the extra memory might be very useful for RAM-hungry creative apps.
But, at its core, this is a gaming machine, and it was designed specifically for that reason. My model comes with an RTX 3070 graphics card, but you can get it with a lower or higher end GPU to play on high or ultra settings, depending on your resolution.
The pre-installed 16 GB of RAM is also clocked at 3200 MHz to help push frame rates even higher — and if you’re more interested in gaming than content creation, 16 GB should be plenty for most games available today. It also includes a fast 1 TB NVMe SSD to help reduce load times.
The stunning 15.6-inch display is the true star of the show. The Zephyrus is one of the first gaming laptops to come equipped with a WQHD (1440p) display.
The resolution is in the middle of 1080p and 4K, and it appears much crisper than a conventional FHD monitor of the same size. Asus takes it a step further by increasing the refresh rate to a blistering 165 Hz for improved clarity and responsiveness.
It also has FreeSync to minimize screen tearing and a 3ms reaction time to keep ghosting at bay. It also has excellent color coverage, covering 100% of the DCI-P3 color space, making it an excellent choice for content development.
I was also surprised to discover that the ROG Armory suite downloaded a color calibration profile automatically the first time I launched the program, which is even another benefit for makers seeking a color-accurate display. The G15 impressed me on every level, and I experienced no tearing or ghosting during my testing.
Users are frequently forced to pick between performance, heat, and noise with gaming laptops. Each of these is well-balanced by the G15. During gaming, the GPU reached a maximum temperature of 82°C and usually stayed around 77°C.
The CPU, on the other hand, was noticeably warmer, hovering at 93C. Both of these temperatures are within safe limits for a high-performance gaming laptop, but what’s more impressive is that it did so while maintaining extremely good acoustics.
It was surprisingly quiet on Performance mode, but even in Turbo, where the fans might reach maximum volume, it was never loud enough to disrupt my gameplay. However, the top of the laptop gets fairly warm to the touch above the keyboard.
Even when I’m not gaming, I’ve enjoyed having the G15 with me for the past two weeks. The keyboard is excellent, despite the fact that it only has a single-color illumination.
The keys are deeper than typical chiclet-style keyboards and provide a pleasant tactility that aids in the prevention of typos. However, I could never get used to having the Fn button on the left side of the keyboard and would frequently press the Windows key instead of Alt+Tab.
The touchpad offers its own set of advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, it’s quite huge, making web browsing and even light gaming a breeze.
The size and under-surface buttons, on the other hand, caused me to click many times before realizing I needed to go further to the left or right to be in the correct position. Overall, the advantages exceed the disadvantages for each, and it provides a pleasant browsing experience.
4. Asus ROG Strix Scar II
When a review laptop arrives on my desk, I quickly scan the spec sheet to get a sense of what I’m working with and what to look for during testing. The price is the last thing on my mind.
I kept an information blackout for this Asus laptop during testing, and once I was done, I used the spec sheet with the benchmark results and my own experience with the laptop to estimate the Scar II’s pricing to be between $2,200 and $2,500. It’s only $1,999, which surprised me.
That’s an incredibly cheap price for such a powerful laptop. “This is badass,” I thought after unboxing the ROG Strix Scar II and turning it on for the first time.
One of my favorite computers in terms of design is the carbon fiber body, split in half by a crazy camouflage pattern laid on top of it, along with the RGB keyboard and light strip on the front edge of the laptop. I’d want a gaming laptop that looked like the ROG Strix Scar II if I had to buy one tomorrow.
Aside from the eye-catching patterns, the ROG Strix Scar II has a 15.6-inch FHD IPS 144Hz panel with a 3ms reaction time. The display’s top and side bezels have been reduced, prompting ASUS to relocate the webcam down below the display.
If you use it for video chats, the camera isn’t centered with the display, so you’ll have to make some adjustments. The ROG Strix Scar II weighs 5.3 pounds and is 14.2 x 10.3 x 1.0 inches. Because of its size, I’d have no trouble fitting this laptop into a backpack and bringing it about with me.
An 8th generation Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 256GB SSD, a 1TB SSHD, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 are housed inside the $1,999 model’s casing. This model is available in a variety of configurations, ranging from an Intel Core i5-8300H processor to a GTX 1060 GPU.
Best Buy, for example, now has a ROG Strix Scar II that is essentially identical to the laptop I have, but for the fact that it has a GTX 1060 GPU rather than a GTX 1070 GPU and lacks the 144Hz display. The price has been reduced to $1,699. In other words, if you like the design but don’t need or want top-of-the-line components, there are less expensive options.
You may remove the housing by turning a few screws if you want to conduct some upgrades yourself. The clean design of the WASD keys on the keyboard draws your attention. The keyboard is divided into four RGB lighting zones, each of which may be individually modified using the ROG Aura Core program.
The touchpad behind the keyboard was not given much attention by ASUS. The touchpad on other ROG models has different designs and patterns around it, however on this model, the touchpad is integrated into the entire design.
Constant desktop alerts are a strong symptom of bloatware. The Scar II, for example, includes McAfee LiveSafe, which constantly pushing me to sign up and activate the program. It was inconvenient, and clicking a prompt to dismiss it would open the software, interrupting everything for a minute, which further added to the annoyance.
The reminder from ASUS to claim the free copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 that comes with the purchase of select ROG laptops, for example, was something I didn’t mind. The only bundled application worth mentioning, aside from McAfee, is the ROG Gaming Center, which can be used to see system specs, metrics, and alter settings like fan speed and display mode (through a secondary program called Game visual).
You may also create profiles in Gaming Center that will turn off the touchpad, Windows key, and increase the fan speed when a game is loaded. The Scar II’s most noticeable flaw is its battery life, which lasted only 80 minutes in my battery rundown test.
Even on a flight, that’s not enough time to see a few movies. The Razer Blade 15 lasted 363 minutes, whereas the Acer Predator Helios 500 lasted only 93 minutes. Eighty minutes is the worst battery test result I’ve ever seen on a gaming laptop.