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The Nvidia RTX 3080 is pushing gaming laptops toward a resolution revolution

If given the choice between more pixels or faster frame refreshes, most gamers will always opt for refresh rate. It’s how we ended up with 1080p gaming laptops offering ridiculous 360Hz screens.

But at CES 2021, you may no longer have to make that choice. The next generation of Nvidia laptop graphics has officially arrived — the RTX 30-series, and we’re already seeing laptop manufacturers explore what new territory they can explore with this much power under the hood.

We’re on the verge of a resolution revolution, and it’s about to make gaming on a laptop so much more awesome.

More pixels or faster frames?

When the RTX 20-series launched for gaming laptops at CES 2019, dozens of gaming laptops got updated with displays with 144Hz refresh rates. At the time, the idea of laptops being able to play modern 3D games at over 60 fps (frames per second) seemed too good to be true. If you turned down the graphics settings, you could even get closer to using up the entirety of the 144Hz range.

In the years since then, we’ve seen that refresh rate number get higher and higher. First, it jumped up to 240Hz. Then to 300Hz. This year, we’re even seeing gaming laptops with up to 360Hz panels. It’s outrageous, of course. The difference between a 360Hz screen and a 300Hz screen is nearly indistinguishable.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

But who can blame them? Gaming laptops desperately wanted to offer new experiences to gamers, but making the jump beyond 1080p just wasn’t possible yet. Sure, brands like Razer or ROG offered 4K models of their laptops, but they were never suitable for gaming because they only ever had a 60Hz refresh rate. That meant that even when you wanted to lower the resolution down to 1080p to play a game, you were still stuck at 60Hz.

Thanks to the RTX 30-series, though, we’re starting to see the signs of change. Just today, Razer announced that its popular Blade 15 gaming laptop will now come in a QHD (1440p) variant with a 240Hz refresh rate. That’s incredible. Razer still offers its 1080p 360Hz model, of course. But again, you’ll likely not see the difference between playing a game at 240 fps and 360 fps.

Asus and Lenovo are both following a similar path with their gaming laptop entries this year. The Legion 7 16-inch features a 1440p screen with a 165Hz refresh rate, as does the Asus ROG Strix SCAR.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

But, of course, 4K will always be the holy grail of gaming. Don’t worry — we’re pushing the envelope there too. Asus announced the latest version of its ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE, now powered by both an Nvidia RTX 3080 and the latest Ryzen 9 5900HX processor from AMD. With those forces combined, Asus dared to include a 120Hz screen on its 4K panel. That’s right — 4K gaming at well over 100 fps.

I’ll still need to test these new graphics out myself to see if Nvidia holds up to its promises, but if we listen to the design choices being made by laptop manufacturers, we may finally be on the road to kissing 1080p goodbye for good.

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Luke Larsen
Senior Editor, Computing
Luke Larsen is the Senior editor of computing, managing all content covering laptops, monitors, PC hardware, Macs, and more.
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