After debuting at CES 2021 just weeks ago, laptops with Nvidia’s flagship RTX 3000 mobile silicon are already available. If you’ve ever wanted to experience Nvidia’s more powerful and capable Ampere graphics architecture — which until now has only been available on desktop — you can finally get a laptop that pairs Nvidia’s mobile GPU with either the latest 11th-Gen chipset from Intel or AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series mobile processors.
With the latest silicon under the hood, these laptops promise to be powerful systems that can handle serious gaming, creative projects, and more. If you’re in the market for a new, powerful gaming laptop this year, be sure to read on for our review roundup of some of the most compelling laptops powered by Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3080, RTX 3070, or RTX 3060 GPUs.
RTX 3080: 2K gaming ready
MSI has earned some solid reviews with its GS66 Stealth, a powerful gaming laptop that’s outfitted with Nvidia’s RTX 3080 Max-Q mobile GPU that delivers on its promise of 2K gaming power. The laptop can be configured with up to a 1440p QHD resolution G-Sync display, fast 240Hz refresh rate, and 16GB of RAM alongside Intel’s Core i7-10870H processor, making it a powerful system.
With the latest 3080 mobile GPU under the hood, The Verge found that the GS66 Stealth is a solid leap over the prior-generation RTX 2080 mobile. The publication found that most games played well above the 60 frames per second (fps) mark at 2K resolution. Even with ray tracing enabled, this laptop has no problems keeping up.
Titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Death Standing, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider with ray tracing and DLSS enabled all played in excess of 60 fps at 1440p, while Red Dead Dedemption 2 and Control with ray tracing and DLSS enabled were just shy of 60 fps. Where the GS66 Stealth struggled is with Cyberpunk 2077 with ray tracing and DLSS on quality mode, as the game played at just 40 fps at 1440p and 56 fps at 1080p.
Some notable complaints include loud fan noise, which could make gaming without a headphone problematic if you want to hear all the audio details from your game, along with a cramped keyboard layout and some flexing.
RTX 3070: A solid RTX 2080 Super upgrade
If you don’t need all the performance of the RTX 3080 mobile GPU, you can save some money by going with a Nvidia’s midrange RTX 3070. With solid ray tracing and competitive 1080p performance, these laptops deliver solidly for most gamers who don’t want to shell out for an RTX 3080.
During its CES presentation, Nvidia claimed that the RTX 3070 mobile chipset can handle 1440p gaming at 90 fps, These laptops are expected to be 50% faster than the RTX 2070. In contrast, the RTX 3080 laptops are rated for 100 fps with Ultra settings at 1440p.
Alienware gets amped up on Ampere
Alienware’s fourth-generation m15 gets a lot of high marks for its hardware configurations: This gaming laptop can be equipped with up to a 60Hz 4K OLED screen, a GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, and the same Intel Core i7-10870H processor as the MSI GS66 Stealth. However, given the midtier GPU — even the GS66 Stealth struggled with reaching 66 fps at 2K resolution in some demanding titles — some of the hardware seems wasted. Still, that’s not to say that the Alienware m15 R4 is any slouch.
The upgrade to an RTX 3070 from last year’s m15 R3’s RTX 2070 delivers a solid performance boost, and PCMag noted that under the Cinebench R15 test, the R4’s score of 1,692 is 350 points ahead of the R3. The new GPU led in this benchmark against laptop rivals with the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q, RTX 2080 Max-Q, and the RTX 2070. Compared to the Acer Predator Triton 500 with an RTX 2080 Max-Q, the Alienware scored 600 points higher on the same Cinebench test.
In gaming, the Alienware m15 R4 also commanded a solid lead over its peers, due largely to its more modern GPU. With normal and medium game presets at 1080p, the Alienware performed at least 10 fps higher than its rivals, and the laptop exceeded 120 fps in both Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. On ultra and very hgigh presets, the Alienware still led the pack, but its rivals were able to eat into the lead. Still, with a performance of 114 fps on Far Cry 5 and 123 fps on Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p, the laptop makes for a solid gaming rig while mobile. These results were very similar to Laptop Mag‘s benchmarks.
Surprisingly, despite going with an RTX 3070, Hot Hardware revealed that the Alienware m15 R4 was able to keep up with competitive frame rates that matched the more powerful MSI GS66 Stealth on Far Cry 5 and Middle Earth: Shadow of War.
The problem is that on more demanding titles, like Metro Exodus, the Alienware struggles to reach 60 fps at 1440p, so its configuration with a 4K display, while gorgeous, may be overkill for the potential of this laptop. PCMag noted that 4K and ray tracing may be pushing this laptop too far, and gamers can choose one or the other but not both.
Asus TUF Dash F15
Loaded with an RTX 3070, the TUF F15 features a more balanced blend of hardware befitting its graphics card, unlike the more premium Alienware m15 R4. The TUF Dash F15 is a solid choice, especially at its upgraded price of $1,699, as it boasts an FHD-resolution 15.6-inch display with a whopping fast 240Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time with G-Sync support.
Overall, if you love Alienware’s futuristic design, the new TUF Dash comes with a similar plastic-clad aesthetic and modern, stylized TUF branding on the lid in a similar white hue. And even though it bears a resemblance to the Alienware, the TUF edges out its rival with a modern quad-core Intel Core i7-11375H processor with an improved 10nm architecture.
In PCMag‘s test, the new processor manages to beat out its stablemates — like the Core i7-10750-powered Lenovo Legion 5i and the Core i7-10875H-powered Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition — in the PC Mark 10 benchmark. It even inches ahead of the eight-core Ryzen 7 4800H processor on the MSI Alpha 15, showing the strength of Intel’s new Tiger Lake H-series.
While the TUF Dash F15 remains competitive in gaming performance when compared to its rivals, its frame rates of 89 fps on normal and 85 fps on ultra on Far Cry 5 reveal that its RTX 3070 implementation is different than the more capable Alienware m15 R4. The difference in performance relates to the thermal design power rating of the cards. Here, the frame rate is very similar to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q.
So while you’re not getting the best-in-class mobile performance from a lower TDP card on the TUF, you’re getting a nice balance of power, performance, and affordability. At a starting price of $1,099, the TUF is a great gaming buy that’s more than capable at 1080p gaming. Highlights include cool and quiet operations and a great keyboard.
Gigabyte Aorus 15G
The third RTX 3070-powered laptop unveiled on launch day is the Auros 15G, a laptop with a more subdued design that features an all-black body and metal lid. With a slim chassis, the Aorus could easily disguise itself as an ultraportable.
Powered by an Intel Core i7-10870H processor and Nvidia’s RTX 3070, the Aorus also packs in a 15.6-inch FHD display with 2 a40Hz refresh rate that makes it a good choice for e-sport gaming. However, if you opt for this model, be aware that the display runs a bit dim — it peaks at just 279 nits — according to Laptop Mag’s review, and the keyboard is squishy and not as responsive. At a starting price of $1,799, these flaws could be a deal breaker for most gamers, however, despite the laptop’s solid gaming performance.
In 1080p gaming with game settings maxed out, the Aorus managed to stay above 60 fps in most titles. Laptop Mag‘s test showed that the laptop hit 62 fps on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey with Ultra settings at 1080p, which is well above the 47 fps average on most gaming laptops. Still, at 62 fps, the score wasn’t much higher than the Asus Strix Scar G14’s RTX 2070 or the MSI Raider Dragonshield’s RTX 2070 GPU, the publication noted.
In general, while this gaming laptop scored solid fps on titles like Borderlands 3, Far Cry New Dawn and Red Dead Redemption 2, it didn’t score any big wins against rival gaming laptops running an RTX 2000 series GPU, and it’s here where we’re likely to run into similar TDP issues as the Asus TUF Dash F15.
Gigabyte Aero 15
If you want a 4K OLED display and don’t care for Alienware’s aesthetic, Gigabyte’s Aero 15 matches many of the specs of the m15 R4 on our list. The Aero 15 takes a more premium approach, with an all-aluminum design, responsive keyboard, and slim bezels at a solid starting price of $2,199, according to Laptop Mag.
At this price, you’re getting a similar Intel Core i7-10870H processor alongside Nvidia’s RTX 3070 graphics paired with 32GB of system RAM. Gamers and creatives will appreciate the large 15.6-inch OLED display with a 4K resolution, though refresh rate has been tuned down to just 60Hz. Still, you’re getting a lot of power in a package that weighs just 4.4 pounds.
Gamers who like to stream their action may want to invest in a capable webcam, however, as the placement of the webcam on the Aero 15 leaves a lot to be desired. To keep the bezels slim, Aero resorted to placing the webcam on the keyboard deck, making for some awkward video angles.
Gaming performance is very similar to what you would expect on the Alienware, with both laptops exceeding 65 fps on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. This places both the Alienware m15 R4 and the Aero 15 ahead of the 51 fps on TUF Dash F15, according to Laptop Mag. While the Aero 15 remains competitive against the Alienware on a number of titles, including Grand Theft Auto V, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Far Cry: New Dawn, the Alienware led by 8 fps on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. In Red Dead Redemption 2, the Alienware led by nearly 10 fps.
RTX 3060 coming later
Nvidia promised that more than 70 laptops will ship with the company’s latest RTX 3000 series GPUs. Though the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 laptops will be available first, the RTX 3060 won’t be too far behind. During its CES presentation, Nvidia said the RTX 3060 mobile laptops will follow at a later date, though the company did not reveal a specific shipping date for the laptops powered by the entry-level RTX 3000 silicon.
At CES, Nvidia claimed that RTX 3060 mobile laptops can deliver up to 90 fps gameplay at 1080p and are capable of outperforming the RTX 2080 Super. Laptops with the RTX 3060 will start at $1,000.
With gaming laptops, actual battery life often falls short of the stated battery life quoted by the manufacturer, and these new laptops are no different. Despite the power efficiencies promised by the new silicon under the hood, most gamers shouldn’t expect long gaming times. The Aero 15 lasted for nearly five hours on a charge.
Though Nvidia promises strong gaming performance with its RTX 3000 series mobile family, the GPU maker has also added plenty of confusion to what gamers can expect this year. Though Nvidia isn’t killing branding for the slim and powerful Max-Q gaming laptops and the full mobile power Max-P GPUs, the GeForce maker is leaning on notebook manufacturers to provide the full specifications. Unfortunately, this means that complete details — and in turn, what to expect in terms of performance — may not be readily available to gamers when they’re trying to make a purchase.
“We strongly encourage to list clocks and other technologies a laptop supports, including Advanced Optimus, Dynamic Boost 2, and more,” Nvidia said in a statement addressing rumors that it will be doing away with Max-Q branding. “Ultimately, like all laptop features and specs, it is up to the [manufacturer] to market what their particular laptop configuration supports.”
Without proper labeling in place, this could result in gamers realizing that their RTX 3080 Max-Q model isn’t quite as capable as a rival’s RTX 3070 with optimal cooling in the design. Because Max-Q comes with strict requirements for noise and temperature output, many of the Max-Q GPUs operate at a lower TDP and come with lower clock speeds as a trade-off — choices that have material impact on performance.
This year, more than ever, anyone shopping for gaming notebooks will have to do their research because of Nvidia’s branding decision.
- You can now buy a gaming laptop with Nvidia’s RTX 3060, starting at just $999
- MSI GS66 Stealth (2021) review: Peak 1440p gaming
- Nvidia CES highlights: GeForce RTX 30-series mobile, RTX 3060, and more
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000: News, rumors, and everything we know so far
- The best graphics cards for 2021