Need a new laptop with GPU
So my ten year old HP workhorse has finally decided to call it quits and I'm in the market for a replacement. As I'm doing my own research I've found I've become so hopelessly behind on the new range of GPU's that I thought I'd get some opinions from the experts.
I'm looking for a lower end laptop with a GPU relatively in the "budget" range of $1000-1200 USD (<1500$ CAD). Nothing I run is particularly power hungry graphically but I would like to be able to operate at maximum settings. For reference one of the games I partake in has a minimum requirement of a GeForce GT 740, so it isn't hard to find a rig that surpasses that easily, however I would like to attempt running the game with hi-res texture packs and at ~60 fps for the first time which will require a little extra juice. Anything over 4gb of ram (preferably 8) is fine.
In addition to that I place priority on semi solid construction. I'm not looking for MacBook pro quality but I also travel a lot and work in demanding environments so a flimsy laptop isn't going to fly. Screen quality would also be a nice bonus but I don't care about 2k/4k quality, 1920x1080 is more than enough for me. I care very little about battery life as plugins are almost always available to me, the aesthetic of the laptop is also unimportant, a boring Lenovo is perfectly fine. Finally, while I don't want to carry around a brick, a thicker/heavier laptop is fine.
Any personal opinions on the topic would be greatly appreciated.
I would rethink your requirement for a dedicated graphics card; I don't think you're wrong, but it might be worth looking at how Intel's Iris Xe integrated graphics cores handle the games you care about. They're pretty good these days, far surpassing the minimum requirement you gave. This ThinkPad would likely do you just fine.
If you'd be willing to list a few games, I'd be happy to give some more targeted recommendations.
Intel's integrated Xe graphics can handle AAA games at 30-60 FPS today, but will that same be true in 2-3 years?
If OP really wants to game on their laptop, and intends for it to last more than a few years doing so, I think something with a dedicated graphics card is still a worthwhile investment. Especially if battery life is not a concern. There are plenty of options in their price range.
Not to mention the driver issues that have plagued many users trying to run some newer AAA games on Xe graphics.
On the contrary - in my opinion, GPUs are the component that age the worst, so putting the budget into other parts and getting an eGPU later makes more sense.
Interesting, I hadn't heard about that. I've had zero issues on Linux, even playing some fairly recent games, but if this is legit, it's definitely a good reason to avoid the chipset.
An external GPU is not a bad route to go, especially if you don't need portability when gaming.
I will point out that with the current GPU market situation, it is far easier to buy a laptop with a built in dedicated GPU than it is to buy a bare PC GPU to put in a thunderbolt enclosure.
That is a fair point. In that case, you have lots of options at your disposal.
Worth keeping in mind is that there is also the option to get yourself an eGPU enclosure + whatever standard desktop GPU you want for it, too. It's not exactly the most portable setup in the world, but when you're at home it can allow you to game more seriously, even on an underpowered laptop so long as it meets the requirements (Thunderbolt 3 with 4x PCIe 3.0 lanes and OPI 4GT/s mode). egpu.io has a laptop buying guide you may want to take a look at, if you do consider going that route.
Yeah, where are they going to get a desktop GPU with that budget?
You're talking to someone who just spent $1,500 to get a 3070 Ti :( ... So I am well aware of how insane GPU prices are right now.
Mentioning an eGPU was meant more for future consideration though (when GPU prices hopefully return to being more reasonable), not as something I was suggesting they immediately go out and buy. But in order for it to even be an option for later, the laptop @Loire buys now does have to meet the necessary requirements, so that's where that laptop buying guide comes in handy.
Unfortunately there are no real benchmarks available, and I don't have an Iris Xe laptop that I can personally test. This PCWorld article claims you can hit 30FPS with Iris Xe, but 60 is likely pushing it.
With that in mind, I would go with either @cfabbro's suggestion of getting an eGPU down the line, or something like this Dell G5 (on sale right now).
Yeah. I think, if you're okay buying an eGPU later, that's the road to go down.
Another vote for a Thinkpad here. They're well built (much better than Apple!), easily maintainable and upgradable, so easy to stick more RAM into if you need.
My current one has a GTX 1050 in (no idea if that's better or worse than a GT740 but it has more numbers so maybe?) which I don't think I've ever used to render a single polygon of 3D graphics, but I do use it for video rendering and the occasional CUDA-like thing and it's pretty nippy. More recent models offer a 4K HDR screen which covers around 97% of the AdobeRGB colourspace (Adobe's is much wider than sRGB) so the visual side of things is delicious too. I usually can't see the extra pixels over 1080 but I definitely can see the better colour rendering and dynamic range.
I will always recommend Thinkpads. They can cost a bit more if you buy brand-new/cutting edge, but Lenovo usually have some older models at discounted prices and used they're usually decent value as well, especially if you can find some ex-corporate ones going cheap after a few years of use. My previous one lasted me 8 years and is still in daily use by my wife for lighter duty general stuff..
Also the keyboards. That's really why I'll never buy another brand of laptop. Thinkpad keyboards are legendary and they entirely deserve that reputation.
* This post was not sponsored by Lenovo but if anyone from Lenovo wants to offer me any hardware I will take it very happily.
Hope I'm not too late. @teaearlgreycold has it about right. External GPU enclosures are expensive and so are the GPUs. And anything over $1000-$1100 for an iGPU is painful.
I figured budget discrete GPU would be the 3050Ti or an older 2060 (which would probably perform better tbh), but prices have gone up.
Then I found this 14" Asus Zephyrus, a Ryzen 9 5000 series rocking a 3060! For $1250!
That's cheaper than some of the budget 3050Ti laptops, and it's in the premium flagship body, with 16 gigs of ram. Importantly, it has more than 4 gigs of vram on the GPU, unlike the 3050 and 3050Ti, so it has at least 6 years of survivability (and realistically this thing is set to live past its supported life).
If that matches when you follow the link, is available to you and not some weird marketing trickery from BestBuy, and at all in your budget... Buy it.
This is a good laptop. It's the flagship chassis. With the flagship CPU. And the highest end GPU that still makes sense in a 14". No ram sticks have been removed for a dumb cost savings. And it's $100 cheaper than on Black Friday.
Again, no idea what's going on here, but it will definitely run the next elder scrolls game, and at 60fps 1080p I'd imagine.
Out of curiosity, did you ever end up buying a new laptop, @Loire? And if so, what did you decide to go with?
If you're purely trying to get the best gaming performance in that budget then I'd recommend a Dell gaming laptop. Just looking around for 30 seconds it appears you can get something with:
Using an external GPU enclosure will be more expensive and fiddly. There aren't many good eGPU enclosure options and you're looking at the additional cost of the enclosure, potentially a separate power supply, and a desktop GPU. Desktop GPUs will be far more expensive than equivalent laptop GPUs because they can be used in aggregate for crypto mining or in servers. Crypto miners and server farms don't want a rack full of laptops so you'll get a better deal with a gaming laptop than with desktop gaming hardware.
Edit: Random point - 2K is the same thing as 1080p
1080p is under the umbrella of 2K, but it isn't the only one.
Second comment for a second idea - you could go with Xe graphics for older or more obscure titles and use a game streaming service like GeForce Now for more demanding games. If you're in or around a major city and can game on a wired connection with fiber internet you'll probably have a pretty good experience. In the San Francisco area on fiber I get 5ms of latency to GeForce Now. The final image is noticeably compressed in Dying Light 2, a game that would be hard to compress well because of all the foliage. But that's something you can pay to improve. I'm on the free plan. But it's very playable.