Should I buy a gaming laptop now?

wonder

Is it a good time to purchase your next gaming laptop? At this point, September 2018, it’s hard to recommend buying gaming laptops (more so than regular laptops) and even professional laptops with dedicated GPUs, unless you are going to need it only for a short time.

The reason is that the next generation of GPUs¬† is upon us and it’s merely a small refresh, but a significant improvement which comes after around two years. The new Nvidia Turing architecure will replace the 2 years old and successful Pascal and it brings with it some good improvements. I won’t get deep into this, but in short: (a) as expected, much better power efficiency which is critical for gaming laptop. If not for the battery running times, then for the lower heat and the ability to squeeze a little more power in the TDP and heat limited environment. (b) new tensor functionality. The new RTX NV GPUs come with new processing units alongside the ‘regular” 3D ones. This feature is for developers and will take time to be implemented and felt in actual games (some games have announced upcoming support), which allows for (c) DLSS. This functionality already prepared to be used for DLSS Anti-Aliasing which should be more efficient then current AA methods (if not better looking) and allow higher performance. (d) “Real Time” ray tracing, which should allow for much better or/and faster lighting projection in games and 3D software, making them more realistic on the fly.

As for performance, the already released Nvidia RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti were benchmarked and reviewed (1, 2). The RTX 2080 show anything between 15 to 50% performance advantage when considering GTX 1080 vs the RTX 2080, but performance in future games should be higher when the full feature-set of the RTX GPUs will be utilized (again, DLSS) and game also might look better. Although the cost effectiveness of the RTXs might not even be as good as the old GTX for current game tech for current pricing, I think that in the gaming laptops scene manufacturers will have to improve.

RTX 2080 vs GTX 1080 performance Nvidia slide
RTX 2080 vs GTX 1080 performance Nvidia slide

Saying that, considering the specs and performance differences of the GTX vs RTX, we might see good, but not amazing performance jump. The RTX 2080 draws significantly more power compared to the GTX 1080 and even the 1080 Ti under load (even though being more energy efficient when considering all) which means that would be probably the case for laptop GPUs. My guess is that the GPUs we’ll see won’t be as powerful for AI/ML/ray tracing as those full blown RTX GPUs in the $1000 gaming laptops section or we’ll simply have to live with not-that-great performance improvements for games that won’t utilize DLSS. However, for games that will use the new features smartly, performance gains could be as big as with the move from Maxwell I/II to Pascal – easily 50-80% for the same TDP and price range ($1000 GTX 970M vs GTX 1060, for example). So, there is a reason to wait.

AMD should release their Vega based GPUs refresh based on 7nm manufacturing process. The 14nm version is currently not as competitive as Pascal GPUs for laptops, requiring more power to operate fully and thus the performance is more limited for the same TDP, especially in the low and mid range gaming laptops (under $1000). It remains to be seen what AMD could bring to the table with the (quite impressive) 7nm refresh and what else will be improved with it. Since this is a big jump, it could make some of its GPUs more competitive in the laptops scene.

So, I think it’s worth waiting for the new laptop Nvidia GPUs to see what the actual performance in modern 3D heavy games will be. With the right games, you might get 50-80% easily, for the same price. That’s worth it.

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James
James
2 years ago

I’m wondering if the “very” budget segment (1050{Ti} / 150MX, give or take) is going to see something developed with the new process. If the “250MX” comes along with a modest performance improvement, better power management, and a similar price, I could wait a few months, but if they haven’t even announced anything yet, maybe it’s a good time to buy?

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  junky

I’m looking for a kid, so, pretty low. I started down the rabbit hole researching when I saw some Dell G3/G5 refurbs that would wind up under $600 shipped (!), but reviews are pretty harsh on those. I’m trying to keep it under maybe $750, but lower is better.

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  junky

I’ve got a kid currently playing Minecraft on a 7-year-old MBP, and she’s reached the point where performance is so bad she wants to put her savings (and Christmas present) into an upgrade. Of course even something with an ultrabook CPU and HD620 graphics would be a major improvement, but it probably makes sense to future-proof a bit. I figure it makes sense to get something that will run at FHD, good framerate, with reasonable draw distance, some mods, etc, and I think that rules out the cheapo back-to-school special. She’s probably less interested in fancy build quality or a… Read more »

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  junky

Thanks, that’s what I’ve been looking at. Dell Outlet has refurb G3 for under 600 (G5 under 700) with a 1050Ti. Lenovo outlet has the Y520 (last year’s model, 7xxx CPU, 1050Ti) for about 750, which I hear has better build quality and heat management. Would welcome suggestions for other outlet sites to check? I haven’t been able to find anything with a MX150 or 960/965 for cheaper — like you said upthread, I think the prices tend to be similar. Maybe that’s because the MX150 tends to be in an ultrabook (or wanna-be ultrabook) where you’re paying for thin/light,… Read more »

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  junky

Checking out the Lenovo now. My last AMD laptop had *terrible* heat issues, but that was… 10 years ago now? Yeesh. So, maybe time to give them another chance, I guess. Otherwise, sure, we can wait a bit, but if we want it for a Christmas present we’ll have to order within a month or so to make sure it ships in time. That would probably rule out waiting for the next generation, but I’ll talk to her and see if she’d rather wait.

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  junky

Hrm. I read up on the Ryzen and it looks like their “U” line has pretty bad performance when compared to the other stuff I’ve been looking at (Core i5 7xxx / 8xxx non-ultrabook), and the GPU is not up to much either. While the problem I’m trying to solve is “only” Minecraft, I don’t want to go through this again in another year or three by cutting corners just to save a hundred bucks (though, of course, the build quality on the Thinkpad looks exceptional). I’m also concerned that starting with dual-channel means limiting the possibility of future upgrades… Read more »

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  junky

I don’t expect her to care much about display quality but I guess I could be wrong — certainly, if there’s a better display available within budget, that would be a factor to consider. Still, I expect to hear complaints about performance more than complaints about display quality. I’m not surprised that the 2500U beats Intel ultrabook CPUs, because that’s a pretty low bar to clear — that’s basically the worst 3D performance you can buy today, right? Anyway, it would be one thing to buy a $500 system that gets 70% of the FPS that’s available from a $700… Read more »

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  junky

If we’re looking at refurbs, would something like this Inspiron 7000-series be a better buy in terms of the disappointing aspects of the G3/G5? (Screen, keyboard, sound, etc)

https://www.techbargains.com/deal/73878/dell-inspiron-15-7000-deals

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  junky

I can’t find the MSI you mentioned in our price range, they all look like they’re over $1K and too new to get refurb. Precision laptops also start at about $1k refurb. The Latitude series looks like it’s been discontinued (?) and the refurbs I’ve found are either more than our budget or use an MX130, which seems like too much of a tradeoff compared to getting a cheaper build quality with a better GPU. The ASUSPRO line appears to all have an MX130 as well. Now, a more reasonable tradeoff might be to step down to the MX150 instead… Read more »

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  junky

1. Those Latitudes are all integrated graphics 2. Would really like to stay under $800, under $700 would be better 3. Agreed 4. I didn’t meant that $700 was a good deal on that system, per se, but rather that the full-power MX150 (1D10 not inferior 1D12) is very hard to find in a well-reviewed system at this price point. Notebookcheck said the screen was dim but otherwise good, which is probably OK for a kid who will use it exclusively in their bedroom. 5. The HP stretches the budget but I like that you can upgrade to 1050Ti or… Read more »

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[…] these are some simple rules. At this point, I would wait for next generation GPUs (heres’ why). For exact models, please check the $1000 gaming laptops […]

calkapokole
calkapokole
2 years ago

As much as like your blog, I have to say that unfortunately this time you are mistaken. Power efficiency (AKA performance per Watt) is almost the same as for Pascal GPUs: https://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/NVIDIA/GeForce_RTX_2080_Founders_Edition/34.html Basically the Turing architecture is very similar to the Pascal architecture with additional Tensor Cores and RT Cores (this additional cores occupy a lot of space and that is why the Turing chips are so big and therefore more expensive than their predecessors). As for the performance, yes the RTX 2080 is on average 38% faster than GTX 1080 (according to the data provided by TechPowerUp), but it… Read more »