Category Archives: Gaming Laptops

Acer Predator Triton 700 Details & Review

These days, there is no shortage of thin and light gaming laptops, and just as many behemoths with screaming-fast graphics cards. But only a handful of systems can claim both. One member of this rarified group is the Acer Predator Triton 700 (starts at $1,999.99; $2,999.99 as tested), which has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card capable of desktop-class graphics performance in a 15-inch chassis that weighs just 5.4 pounds and is less than an inch thick. It accomplishes this feat thanks to Nvidia’s Max-Q protocol, which throttles the GPU so that it doesn’t produce too much heat for such a small package. As impressive as that is, the Triton 700 is both bulkier and more expensive than the Editors’ Choice Asus ROG Zephyrus, which is also a Max-Q laptop with a GTX 1080.

Form Over Function?

The Predator Triton 700 is the third laptop we’ve tested with graphics that are powered by the new Max-Q techonology, a name that Nvidia borrowed from the aerospace industry term for the maximum amount of aerodynamic stress an aircraft can sustain. The technology comprises hardware and software modifications to the company’s higher-end graphics cards, which include a number of trade-offs. Most importantly, Max-Q caps the cards’ performance, limiting the power ceiling and output potential. The benefit is reduced cooling requirements, allowing them to fit into smaller laptops while maintaining as much of their native power as possible. In the case of the Predator Triton 700 and the ROG Zephyrus, the card is a GTX 1080, but that’s not the only GPU compatible with Max-Q; the MSI GS63VR 7RG Stealth Pro, for instance, has a less-powerful GTX 1070.

While Max-Q reduces the GPU’s cooling requirements, these laptops still have to manage a lot of heat, and it’s up to the laptop manufacturer to design a chassis that can provide adequate ventilation. MSI decided not to significantly change its previous designs, so the Stealth Pro shares a body with past GSVR laptops, except for the addition of a layer of felt on the bottom to shield your lap from the very hot metal. For the ROG Zephyrus, Asus came up with a unique bottom panel that lifts away from the frame about a quarter of an inch as you open the laptop’s lid. Air is sucked in through this bottom gap and perforations above the keyboard, cooling the components before being pushed out through the side vents.


Acer Predator Triton 700 1


The Predator Triton 700, meanwhile, has none of these unique design tweaks, but it does have two fans, five heat pipes, and a ton of vents to keep the CPU and GPU comfortable. In fact, there are four vents solely dedicated to pulling air into the laptop, including a very large one just above the keyboard. The exhaust air then leaves the Predator through four additional vents that run along the back and sides of the notebook.

Unfortunately, as with the MSI machine, this isn’t enough to keep the laptop cool. The underside of the Predator became extremely hot while gaming and running benchmark tests during our testing, even with the fans running at their maximum speed, leaving us longing for the felt protection of the Stealth Pro. This will make it impossible to play games with the PC on your lap, an admittedly unlikely scenario. You can program a custom speed for both the GPU and CPU fans, but you’ll need to set them to Max or Auto to get the most power from the GPU. In theory, Max-Q cards are also meant to have fans tweaked to the sweet spot of effectiveness and noise, but the Triton’s are quite loud at maximum.

All of this is taking place in a sleek, but a rather conventional-looking case that measures 0.74 by 15.47 by 10.47 inches (HWD). That’s a bit larger than both the ROG Zephyrus (0.66 by 14.9 by 10.3) and the Stealth Pro (0.69 by 14.9 by 9.8 inches), but certainly much more manageable than non-Max-Q GTX 1080 laptops like the Alienware 17 R4 (2017), a 17-inch behemoth that measures 1.18 by 16.7 by 13.1 and weighs 9.77 pounds, so Acer succeeded in terms of slimness.


Acer Predator Triton 700 Keyboard


The 15.6-inch display is full HD (1,920 by 1,080), and it comes with a matte finish, rather than a glossy one, which makes for less vivid colors but also less distracting glare from bright lights. The display uses in-plane switching for wider viewing angles, and it also supports Nvidia’s G-sync, which means that although its refresh rate can range as high as 120Hz, it’s synchronized to the GPU’s render rate to help reduce lag and tearing during gameplay. A 4K display would be a nice option to take advantage of the GTX 1080’s impressive graphics horsepower, but it’s understandable that Acer doesn’t offer one since it could push the Max-Q cooling system beyond acceptable limits. The ROG Zephyrus is also full HD-only, while MSI offers a 4K version of its Stealth Pro.

Where’s the Touchpad?

In addition to the oodles of vents, the Predator’s other defining external design feature is the odd placement of its keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard, with its accompanying number pad, is positioned at the very front of the laptop, which makes it easier to reach. That’s unconventional but by no means unprecedented, since the ROG Zephyrus features a similar design. The Predator’s board is mechanical and features pleasing tactile feedback and customizable per-key LED backlighting, but offers very short key travel that makes it uncomfortable for typing.

Unlike the Zephyrus, there’s no touchpad located to the right of the keyboard; in fact, the first time you open the Predator, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Acer simply skipped the touchpad entirely. They didn’t, of course: The narrow Gorilla Glass window at the top of the laptop, near the large vent, lets you see into the case to admire the fans and doubles as a touchpad. You can’t click it (taps only, please), and it attracts fingerprints like crazy, but you’ll probably be using an external mouse for gaming anyway, so it will likely see little use. You can also feel the high heat levels through the glass and some parts of the keyboard, but it’s just below feeling too uncomfortable.

Speakers vs. Fans

Next to the keyboard are two upward-facing speakers that deliver crisp, rich audio even though they aren’t loud enough to fill a room. You’ll want to connect a headset for serious gaming, though, since the fans running at maximum speed are loud enough to overpower the speakers.


Acer Predator Triton 700 2


The Predator’s connectivity options are adequate, if relatively sparse for a 15-inch gaming laptop, likely limited by the numerous air intakes and outlets. Along the right edge is a USB 3.0 port, a USB-C jack that supports Thunderbolt 3, and an Ethernet connector. You attach the gigantic power brick to a port on the back of the laptop, next to the DisplayPort and HDMI connectors. Finally, the left edge offers separate audio input and output jacks, two more USB 3.0 ports, and a nifty recessed USB 2.0 port that’s designed to conceal the receiver for a wireless keyboard and mouse. While you’ll likely want to connect via Ethernet for demanding gaming needs like streaming to Twitch or downloading new titles from Steam, the laptop also features 802.11ac Wi-Fi with 2×2 MU-MIMO support and Bluetooth 4.1.

Our review unit comes with a respectable 32GB of memory (the system’s maximum), but a slightly disappointing 512GB of storage spread across two 256GB SSDs. You’ll want more storage if you have a large library of games that you play frequently. Fortunately, both the memory and hard drives are user-accessible, although you’ll have to remove 13 screws on the back panel to replace them. Acer offers a two-year warranty for the Predator Triton 700.

Solid Speed, Short Battery Life

For all of the promise that the Max-Q design offers, the Predator Triton is not the fastest GTX 1080-powered laptop we’ve tested recently, at least when it comes to gaming performance. That honor belongs to the Alienware 17 R4, which achieved a score of 9,328 on the Fire Strike Extreme test, a benchmark that truly taxes the graphics subsystem. The Predator Triton 700 scored 7,581 on that test, which is respectable, but about in the middle of the pack of comparable systems. Still, all of these scores are high enough that you’ll experience flawlessly smooth gameplay. On the Heaven and Valley gaming benchmarks, the Predator displayed an average of more than 100 frames per second (fps), even with the quality settings maxed out. The only comparable system to dip below an average of 100fps was the Stealth Pro, which hovered around 90fps on these Ultra-quality Heaven and Valley tests.


Acer Predator Triton 700 Graphics Performance Chart


We perform these tests at full HD, which is the maximum resolution that the Predator’s screen supports. It’s worth noting that if you connect it to an external monitor with a higher resolution, such as 4K, you’ll likely experience a lower frame rate. You can mitigate this somewhat by activating the Predator’s unique and easy-to-use GPU overclocking feature, a novelty on a Max-Q laptop. To do so, you open the Predator software utility and switch the GPU overclocking mode to Turbo, which increases the clock speed to 1.44GHz. Your two other choices are Normal (1.29GHz) and Faster (1.37GHz). We re-ran the tests in Turbo mode, which resulted in nominally faster frame rates on the Ultra quality Heaven (114fps) and Valley (107fps) tests. You won’t be able to tell the difference on the Predator’s screen, but you might on a 4K external monitor.

If you’re spending $3,000 on a laptop, you should expect it to perform well on everyday tasks like web browsing and video streaming in addition to gaming. The Predator does not disappoint, thanks to its Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor running at 2.8GHz. It posted a class-leading score of 3,608 on the PCMark 8 benchmark, which measures such everyday tasks. It performed slightly worse on our specialized multimedia editing tests than other comparable gaming laptops, especially the Alienware 17 R4 and the New Razer Blade Pro. The Predator took a relatively pokey 3 minutes and 26 seconds to complete our array of image-editing tasks in Photoshop, coming in dead last, but its time to encode a video in Handbrake (1:01) is within a few seconds of all of its competitors.


Acer Predator Triton 700 Performance Chart


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At 2 hours and 34 minutes, battery life is woefully short, even by gaming laptop standards. The Stealth Pro, for instance, lasted almost twice as long (4 hours and 29 minutes).

Cool, but Not the Coolest Max-Q Laptop

As a thin and light gaming laptop, the Acer Predator Triton 700 is exceptional because of its GTX 1080 GPU, a graphics card that can fit inside only because of the Max-Q design and associated cooling hardware. But it’s not the least expensive Max-Q GTX 1080 laptop, nor is it the most powerful GTX 1080 laptop you can buy. As a result, it’s hard to work out exactly who will want to buy this laptop. For the legions of gamers who believe that 1080p is the sweet spot for PC gaming and aren’t interested in 4K, nearly any GTX 1080 laptop will produce more than enough graphics horsepower, so the determining factor is likely to be price, which isn’t the Predator’s strong suit. Meanwhile, if you care about achieving maximum performance regardless of price and heft, you’ll want to steer clear of the Max-Q thermal limits and buy a larger laptop like Alienware 17 R4.

9 Things Not to Buy Before Black Friday

Never pay full price. Here are some products you don’t want to buy before Black Friday.

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9 Things Not to Buy Before Black Friday

Year after year, the holidays arrive a little earlier, and 2017 is no exception. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, was traditionally the day retailers met their costs, with each sale propelling them further into “the black,” or profits. Today, Black Friday simply means great deals. “Doorbuster” offers are designed to entice shoppers into stores, where they can batter their fellow shoppers to seize the newest must-have gadget.

How do shoppers learn about these great deals? In years past, holiday advertising circulars were published in newspapers. Then enterprising young bloggers began putting them online. Now, retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy publish news of their own sales, weeks before Black Friday ever takes place.

But perhaps you don’t buy into the hype. “How much can I really save?” you wonder. Truth is, you’ll need to keep tabs on opening times and lightning rounds, but deals can be had. As a result, there are a number of gadgets you shouldn’t buy before Black Friday. Check them out below.


Razer Blade Pro (GTX 1060)

The Blade Pro is the most premium laptop in Razer’s lineup, complete with a big 4K display and Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics, but its $3,999 price tag keeps it out of the grasp of many gamers. Because of that, Razer is offering a middle ground solution that keeps the high-end chassis, but makes some sacrifices to dial back the price. The result is the new Blade Pro with a GTX 1060 and a 17-inch 1080p screen. At $2,299.99, it’s much less expensive than the original, though not exactly cheap. You can get a laptop with a slightly beefier GTX 1070 graphics card at this price, but the Blade Pro delivers solid HD gaming performance in a slim form factor with a premium design. It all comes down to this question: Do you have an unlimited budget and want to squeeze higher frame rates out of your pricey gaming laptop? Or do value a top-notch, slim build and other features more? If you lean toward the latter, especially with a limited budget, the GTX 1060 Blade Pro is worth considering.

Same Look, Smart Changes

The idea behind the less expensive Blade Pro is delivering the same premium chassis at a lower price, so it’s identical to the higher-end version. Built with quality all-black aluminum and a green Razer logo on the lid, this model measures 0.9 by 16.7 by 11 inches (HWD), same as before. Due to the internal changes, however, it weighs about a pound less at 6.78 pounds, which is light for a 17-inch laptop. The GTX 1080-bearing Origin EON17-X (2017) and the Alienware 17 R4 weigh 8.6 and 9.8 pounds, respectively, so the Blade Pro acquits itself well. It’s still fairly large for frequent travel and would take up more bag space than you’d probably want on a commute, but it is on the slimmer and lighter side for a desktop-replacement.

Razer Blade Pro (GTX 1060)

One casualty of the reduced price is the excellent low-profile mechanical keyboard you get with the $4,000 model. Typing still feels comfortable, though, and the keys deliver a good amount of travel. Each key is still individually backlit, as well, so you’re not giving up the fun customizable lighting and effects Razer is known for, all manageable through the included Synapse software. The touchpad, placed off the right of the keyboard rather than below it, also feels sturdy. The volume scroll bar, an inclusion seen on some fancier desktop keyboards, is something I now miss when it’s not around, so it’s great to have on a laptop in a convenient place. The speakers, while not booming or bassy, provide loud and clear audio that doesn’t distort at higher volumes.

The gorgeous 4K touch display becomes a non-touch 1080p screen on this version of the Blade Pro. The glossy finish is replaced with a matte one, which cuts down on reflections, but yields a duller picture. The screen is still vibrant when gaming, and 1080p is a sweet spot for smooth game performance, especially with a GTX 1060 card. The display does offer a 120Hz refresh rate, which is another appealing feature for gamers looking for the smoothest gameplay.

Razer Blade Pro (GTX 1060)

It’s worth noting that, in many ways, the fully featured Blade Pro is aimed not just at gamers, but artists and designers. The 4K version’s screen is superior for these tasks, with THX certification and high color accuracy, which you don’t get in this version of the laptop. As such, the GTX 1060 Blade Pro loses some of its other utility and more firmly establishes itself as a high-quality midrange gaming laptop. It still has discrete graphics and a fast processor for completing media tasks, so it’s not suddenly incapable, but it is less of a artist’s system.

There’s just one storage option for the less expensive model. The laptop comes with a 256GB M.2 SSD and a 2TB 5,400rpm hard drive, which should be plenty of space for most users. The lowest storage option for the premium version is a 512GB SSD (it can go up to 2TB), so you’re getting a lot more space here by default, even if less of it is speedy SSD storage. As for ports, the offerings are the same on both laptops: There are three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3, an Ethernet jack, and an SD card reader. That’s plenty of connectivity for peripherals, external storage, and virtual reality headsets. The Blade Pro integrates dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.1. Razer supports the Blade Pro with a one-year warranty.

HD Gaming…at a Premium

Even if it’s not the full-powered version, this Blade Pro’s 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor, GTX 1060, and 16GB of memory mean it’s no slouch. Its PCMark 8 Work Conventional score, which simulates general productivity speed, was on the higher end for laptops. Demanding 4K screens lower the scores for this test, so this is one area that this Blade Pro beats the more expensive model and its slightly faster processor. Normalcy is restored on the multimedia tests, where the 4K version is a bit faster all around, but this unit can still whip through your average tasks and do some content creation on the side without much holdup.

Razer Blade Pro (GTX 1060) BM New

While the GTX 1060 is a capable, well-priced card, it doesn’t fare as well in head-to-head comparisons in this price range. The Blade Pro’s slim premium build and other features bump up its price before you even get to the graphics—most laptops at this price point are getting you a GTX 1070. As such, the performance is going to be less impressive than other laptops you may spend between $2,000 and $2,500 on, so it may be hard to justify dropping that much on a GTX 1060, which often comes in laptops priced less than $2,000. Razer’s own 14-inch laptop, the 2017 Blade, includes a 1060 for $1,899, and that’s with paying extra for the form factor. Another good example is the Acer Aspire V17 Nitro, a 17-inch GTX 1060 laptop that’s only $1,699.

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That said, this Blade Pro posted solid 1080p numbers on the Heaven and Valley tests set to ultra-quality settings, averaging 65 frames per second (fps) and 72fps respectively. Newer, more demanding titles may require you to turn down a few settings to not dip below 60fps or look choppy, but for the most part you can play games at or near maximum in HD. The HP Omen 17, priced similarly to this Blade Pro, scored 90fps and 83fps on these tests, demonstrating the increased headroom a GTX 1070 gives you for more bells and whistles or more demanding games.

Razer Blade Pro (GTX 1060) BM New

Like the PCMark score, battery life is also improved by the drop to 1080p. A 4K screen drains a lot of power. This unit lasted for 7 hours and 1 minute on our rundown test, as opposed to the 4K model’s short 3:46 time. 7:01 is a great showing for anylarge-screen gaming laptop, most of which typically run out of juice much faster. On the same test, the Alienware 17 R4 ran for 3:30, the Omen 17 for 3:14, and the EON17-X for 2:17, so the Blade Pro is well ahead of the group here. The V17 Nitro is an exception here, with similar results at 7:28. The battery life helps sell the portability aspect of the slimmer design, since you’ll actually be able to use it off the charger for a while if you do bring it with you.

Cost Compromises

This less expensive Blade Pro delivers on its promise of the attractive build of the orginal model for less money, though I have some reservations about the price considering the graphics card choice. A GTX 1060 card at $2,300 is a bit hard to swallow, but at the same time, it’s boosted by thoughtful features, and this laptop is perfectly suited to 1080p gaming. This lower-price Blade Pro is an appealing option, but if you value the extra frames you’ll get with a GTX 1070 over the design, roomy storage, and 120Hz display, you can do better. Alternatives like a conservatively configured Alienware 17 R4 or Origin EON17-X (or perhaps a smaller 15-inch laptop, like the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming) will get you more performance for your dollar.

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro

Pointing and clicking is so last decade. First there were touch screens on Windows PCs, then Apple bought into the craze by adding a Touch Bar to some MacBook Pros, and now there are a half-dozen or more methods of physically interacting with your computer, from drawing with a pen to calling out to Siri or Cortana. One of the newest and most overlooked methods is eye tracking, which you’ll find on some models of the Acer Aspire V17 Nitro (starts at $1,249; $1,699 as tested). Even if you order a version without the thin eye tracking bar built into the display hinge, the V17 Nitro is still an excellent value for a 17-inch gaming laptop. If your favorite games support eye tracking, you should consider it, although you’ll be making a few compromises on ancillary features.

Look Over Here

Although eye tracking is perhaps its signature feature, you won’t notice anything unusual about the Aspire V17 Nitro at first glance. Most versions of the laptop look like many other large gaming rigs that the Taiwanese tech giant has churned out over the years. There’s no gigantic gaping exhaust grilles, illuminated red slashes, or any other features that more aggressive laptops like the Origin EON17-SLX have. This unit is even more understated because it features Black Edition styling, which includes a ribbed metal lid, a dark plastic underside, and a black etched metallic surface surrounding the keyboard and touchpad. Still, there’s no mistaking that this is a gaming machine, especially not once you notice the large “Aspire V Nitro” text that’s etched into the back of the display hinge.

It’s the front of the display hinge, however, that you’ll really want to spend the most time looking at. That’s where the eye-tracking magic happens. Acer has cleverly integrated cameras and infrared lights from Tobii into the hinge, flanked by silver metallic borders. It’s very unobtrusive, and unless the sensors are activated, you might not notice it. To activate them, you open the pre-installed Tobi app, where you perform calibration and play an asteroid-shooting demo game that shows off what the tracker can do.

Nearly 100 games support the technology, from titles like Tom Clancy’s The Division to Farming Simulator 17. There are many glaring omissions, however, including the venerable Minecraft. Still, I was able to find a Minecraft look-a-like called Unturned to test out eye tracking’s greatest combination in gameplay: the ability to look around simply by moving your eyes. It works well in Unturned, especially after I used the Tobii Gamehub app to increase the responsiveness of the in-game camera movement to where I was looking. You can use the Gamehub to see which eye-tracking features each of your installed games support, as well as adjust the responsiveness of gaze and head tracking for each title.

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro

Eye tracking is poised to expand beyond the gaming world, too. Tobii offers some rudimentary options for interacting with Windows itself, such as the ability to look at a specific point on the screen, touch and hold your finger to the touchpad, and have the cursor immediately jump to where you’re looking. Microsoft has also included more extensive native eye-tracking support in the Windows 10 Fall Creators update, including the ability to use your gaze for typing on the on-screen keyboard. While these features might be of use to someone with physical disabilities, it’s pretty clear that eye tracking’s main strength right now is for simplifying in-game movements.

A Few Minor Sacrifices

Other than eye tracking, there’s little to raise eyebrows about the rest of the Aspire Nitro V17’s spec list. That includes its 7.05-pound weight, which will certainly make your backpack straps uncomfortable, but isn’t inappropriate given its expansive screen real estate. Other 17-inch gaming laptops tip the scales around the 7-pound mark, including the HP Omen 17 (6.28 pounds) and the GTX 1060 version of the New Razer Blade Pro (6.78 pounds). There are much heavier rigs, of course—the Alienware R4 weighs 9.77 pounds and the Origin EON17-SLX is a whopping 12 pounds, which makes the Aspire Nitro V17 seem featherlight in comparison. You can ascribe part of its reasonable weight to its reasonable dimensions. At 1.09 inches thick, it’s much thinner than the Acer Predator 15 (1.52 inches), although the New Razer Blade Pro is thinner still at 0.88 inches.

With a width of 16.65 inches and a depth of 11.65 inches, there’s also plenty of room for ports, and Acer isn’t stingy. You’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C connector with Thunderbolt 3 support, an HDMI port, and a gigabit Ethernet jack on the right side, along with the connector for the power adapter. The rest of the ports are on the left edge: two USB 2.0 ports, audio input and output, an SD card reader, and a locking slot to protect the laptop against theft. The only obvious omission is a DisplayPort connector, but it’s not a deal-breaker since Thunderbolt 3 can also carry DisplayPort signals.

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro 2

To keep the Nitro V17’s price relatively low, Acer skimped on a few features that you’ll find on much more expensive gaming laptops. It’s evocative of Razer’s strategy with the GTX 1060 version of the New Razer Blade Pro: Take a popular top-of-the-line gaming powerhouse, strip out marquee features like the 4K display and the GTX 1080 GPU, and you’ve got a less-expensive but still a capable machine. Instead of a 4K display, the Aspire V17 comes with a full HD (1,920 by 1,080) panel that has wide viewing angles thanks to in-plane switching (IPS) technology, but with a matte finish that dulls colors and makes white areas like file folders or menu bars look blurry. The finish is excellent at blotting out glare, however, so if you frequently play in brightly lit environments, you’ll probably be glad to trade color vivacity for not having to worry about distracting reflections.

There’s an HD webcam, which offers adequate (if occasionally grainy) video quality, though it doesn’t support Windows face detection for logging into your user account. There’s no fingerprint reader, either, so you’ll either need to be content with typing in your password the old-fashioned way. There are four speakers on the Nitro V17, and they offer very robust, room-filling audio. At maximum volumes, I noticed some distorted dialogue, but the background soundtrack on the Heaven gaming benchmark plays with a good balance of highs and lows. The small touchpad is mostly a disappointment, with lagging, inaccurate cursor movements and a very stiff clicking mechanism. The keyboard is much more comfortable thanks to sturdy keys and decent travel, although it’s not mechanical and the only customization option for the backlighting is to turn it on or off.

One thing that Acer did not skimp on, however, is build quality of the chassis. The brushed metal that surrounds the keyboard and the ribbed display back look good, but more importantly they feel sturdy. There is minimal flex in both the keyboard and the display, no small feat for a laptop of this size and weight.

The 16GB of memory on this review unit is adequate for playing games, but if you plan to connect an external monitor and multitask during your gaming sessions, you’ll want to bump the memory up to its 32GB maximum. This Nitro V17 also comes with a total of 1.5TB of storage, spread among a 1TB conventional spinning drive and a 512GB SSD. You’ll probably want to connect an Ethernet cable for lag-free gaming, but wireless connectivity options include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Acer offers a one-year warranty.

Adequate Oomph for Full HD Gaming

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card in the Aspire V17 is the cheapest Nvidia GPU to support virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, and it delivers plenty of oomph for conventional games as well. With 6GB of dedicated memory, the GPU helped the Aspire V17 achieve respectable frame rates on our Heaven (68 frames per second) and Valley (72fps) gaming benchmarks, even in 1080p and at demanding quality settings. If you’re content to play games at this laptop’s native resolution, you’d be hard-pressed to find a game that could overwhelm it. If, on the other hand, you’re interested in connecting a higher-resolution external display, you’ll likely be disappointed, since even the GTX 1070-powered HP Omen 17 failed to produce respectable frame rates at a 4K resolution on the Heaven and Valley tests.

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Graphics Performance Chart

The Fire Strike Extreme benchmark, another grueling test of the graphics subsystem, provided similar results. With a score of 5,192, the Aspire V17 performed slightly better than the Razer Blade (4,972), but predictably lagged behind the better-equipped HP Omen 17.

The Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor running at 2.8GHz is the go-to CPU for laptops that cost between $1,500 and $2,000 (and even a bit more), and Acer does not stray from this formula with the Nitro V17. There’s plenty of power here for processor-intensive activities like image editing and background video encoding, as is evidenced by the quick 1 minute and 2 seconds it took to complete our Handbrake encoding task. The Nitro V17 even outperformed all of its peers on our Photoshop image-editing test (3:13) as well as the PCMark 8 benchmark (3,535), which measures word processing, video conferencing, web browsing, and other typical PC tasks.

Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Performance Chart

When it comes to battery life, however, the Aspire V17 will leave you disappointed if you plan on using it for a full day away from an outlet. It posted 7 hours and 28 minutes on our battery rundown test, longer than the Acer Predator 15 (5:16) and the HP Omen 17 (3:14), but shorter than the class-leading Razer Blade (10:36).

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Can You Stretch Your Budget?

If you want to experiment with using eye tracking to control your movement in a PC game, it’s easy enough to buy a standalone eye-tracking peripheral, which can be had for about $150. But if you frequently game on the go and you’re looking for a new laptop anyway, the Acer Aspire Nitro V17 is worth considering. It’s not the thinnest or lightest gaming laptop, especially in a market influenced by svelte machines like the Razer Blade, but it represents a good value for the components you get—certainly a much better deal than the $2,299.99 New Razer Blade Pro—without sacrificing build quality.

Still, there are some small sacrifices, including a less-capable webcam and non-customizable keyboard lights, as well as the fact that you won’t be able to play games comfortably on an external 4K monitor. If you can stretch your budget significantly, past $3,000, you can eliminate those sacrifices, gain a more powerful graphics card, and still have built-in eye tracking with the Alienware 17 R4.

The Best Gaming Laptops of 2017

Finding the Right Portable Gaming Rig

Purists will argue that you need a PC to truly play games, especially if you’re a fan of pushing the levels of graphics quality beyond the capabilities of a mobile phone or a mere gaming console. In this regard the gaming desktop is still king, particularly when it comes to having the kind of components and horsepower needed to smoothly run 4K games and support virtual reality (VR) setups, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. But if you want or need something you can tote around the house or over to your friend’s place, we’re here to help you choose the right gaming laptop.

How Much Should You Spend?

Gaming systems have higher-end components than run-of-the-mill consumer laptops, so their prices will be consequently higher. Entry-level gaming laptops start at $800 and can go up to about $1,250. For that, you get a system that can play games at 1,366-by-768 resolution on high graphics quality settings, or at a full HD (1080p) resolution with the details turned down some. Midrange systems give you smoother gameplay at high settings on a higher-quality 1080p screen, support for VR headsets, and range in price from around $1,250 to $2,500. High-end systems have guaranteed smooth gameplay at 1080p with graphics details maxed out, let you play at 4K resolutions or in VR, support additional monitors, add speedy components like 512GB PCIe solid-state drives (SSDs), and are priced above $2,500. Many also add dual graphics processors, 3K to 4K screens, large-capacity SSDs, and ultra-efficient cooling fans as optional extras.

Graphics are Key

The main attribute that makes or breaks a gaming laptop is its graphics processing unit (GPU). The dominant player in the field right now is Nvidia, which produces discrete cards based on its 10-Series Pascal microarchitecture that offer performance close to what you could expect from a desktop PC equipped with the same-named card. Laptops using cards from the previous-generation GTX 900 series are still available for purchase, however, and likely will be until supplies run out within the next few months. Nvidia’s chief rival, AMD, has not yet released the mobile versions of its new Polaris GPUs, so laptops based on AMD graphics are currently using older technology (represented by the Radeon R9 moniker) destined to be replaced in the near future.

That said, there are still some basic conclusions to be drawn about graphics performance. In general, the higher the model number within a product line, the higher the 3D performance. So an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 generally produces higher frame rates and higher-quality graphics than an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. A single high-end discrete GPU will let you play the latest AAA gaming titles on a 1080p screen with all the bells and whistles turned on, and be fine for entry-level VR play. Adding a second GPU will let you run the latest games more comfortably on 4K and 5K displays, or let you hook up multiple monitors to your laptop. Nvdia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync technologies will help increase quality and smooth frame rates in your games, so look for those if you’re a stickler for perfectly rendered animation.

Picking a Processor

The processor is the heart of a PC, and in most gaming laptops you’ll find a quad-core 7th Generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPU based on the Kaby Lake chipset. (8th Generation Intel chips are just starting to make their way onto laptops.) Theoretically, you may find a gaming laptop with an Intel Core i3 or one of AMD’s CPUs installed, but those are rare: Systems with Intel Core i3 and comparable entry-level AMD processors are certainly capable of playing many games, but why limit yourself from square one? If you have to make the choice between a high-end CPU and a high-end GPU, go for the graphics. For example, we’d recommend getting a Core i5 CPU over a Core i7 if the money saved could then go toward an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU instead of a GTX 1060. Spending the money on the GPU makes more sense than spending it on the CPU. Look for Core i5 processors in midrange systems, with Core i7 U, HQ, and HK processors in higher-end gaming laptops. AMD’s Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors show promise in desktop form, but laptop versions haven’t been released yet.

Display: How Big to Go

In terms of display size, a 15-inch screen is the sweet spot for a gaming laptop. You can buy larger 17-inch displays, but this can jack up the weight to way beyond 5 pounds. We’ve seen 12-pound “portables” in the gaming sector that will definitely weigh down your backpack. We recommend at least a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-resolution) screen. Larger displays are capable of giving you higher-than-1080p resolutions, but choose wisely, as QHD+ (3,200-by-1,800) resolution will boost the final cost twice: first for the panel, and second for the higher-quality graphics card needed to drive it. Because they usually require dual GPUs for the smoothest gameplay at native resolution, 4K (3,840-by-2,160-resolution) gaming laptops are becoming more common, but they’re still expensive. And keep in mind that because only the most powerful graphics cards are able to render complex animation at playable frame rates across the full screen at 4K, so a 1080p screen may actually be a better use of your money if all you do is game.

The Best PCs for Microsoft Holographic - HP Omen 17

Stick With an SSD

You should definitely consider a system with an SSD, since prices have fallen considerably over the past few years. SSDs speed up boot time, wake-from-sleep time, and the time it takes to launch a game and load a new level. Go ahead and get a gaming laptop with an SSD, but make sure you configure correctly. A small (128GB to 256GB) SSD with a large (500GB to 1TB) spinning hard drive is a good start if you also download the occasional video from the Internet. Bigger SSDs (512GB or more) are available, but choosing one will increase the purchase price of your gaming rig exponentially.

Related Story See How We Test Laptops

Remember the Memory

Before we forget, let’s talk memory. Look for a gaming laptop with at least 8GB of RAM. That will give you some breathing room when switching back and forth between your gameplay window and your messaging app, but we’d save game tip research for when you’re not playing, as each successive browser window you open eats into your RAM allotment. For a high-end system we recommend 16GB, so you can have more than one gaming session, your messaging app, several websites, a webcam program, and your video streaming program open simultaneously. A midrange gaming laptop should function fine with 8GB of memory, but be aware that many new laptops are not upgradable. You may be stuck with the amount of memory you order.

Buying the Best Cheap Gaming Laptop

If you’re shopping for a gaming system on a limited budget (in this case, roughly between $800 and $1,200), you’re going to need to be OK with some concessions off the bat. Maximizing power while staying within a limited price range is the goal, but you’ll have to accept that some of the components won’t be comparable to the more expensive laptops you’ll see while browsing. The main drop-off will be the graphics, since they’re one of the single most expensive components in a machine and the major factor in a computer’s gaming prowess. The cheaper systems are equipped with the lower-tier cards like the GTX 1050 Ti or 1060, but these modern budget cards are shockingly effective, and you’ll be able to play smoothly in HD, just not at the very highest settings in newer games. Processors are the next biggest difference—you’ll likely get a capable Core i5 instead of a faster Core i7—while the other components will be closer to more expensive machines. 1TB of storage and maybe even a small SSD alongside are common in budget laptops, the display will almost certainly be 1080p, and memory will likely be 8GB (while pricier laptops likely include 16GB).

What Else Do You Need?

Given that high-end components tend to drain battery life, don’t plan on taking any of these gaming rigs too far from a wall socket very often. Cutting-edge ports like USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 are beneficial now, and will only be more so down the road, but look for at least two USB 3.0 ports so you can plug in an external mouse and a hard drive for your saved media files. Other video ports, like HDMI or Mini DisplayPort, will be helpful if you want to play games on an external display, but aren’t absolutely necessary if your laptop’s screen is large enough. Last but not least, if you’re a professional gamer looking to buy a gaming laptop that can keep you competitive, be prepared to brown-bag your lunches for a while. That kind of high-end performance can only come from top-of-the-line components, especially in a portable package, and they don’t come cheap.

And to round out your PC gaming experience, check out the best keyboards, mice, monitors, and headsets for gamers.

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Microsoft set the bar for the 2-in-1 market with the Surface Pro line, and in 2015, began to push the market further with the even more laptop-like Surface Book. After a year that included an iterative upgrade, the full-fledged sequel has arrived in the aptly named Surface Book 2 (the 15-inch model reviewed here starts at $2,499; $3,299 as tested). This beautifully designed machine can do it all, maintaining the signature ability to detach its screen from its keyboard while now acting as a legitimate gaming laptop and delivering near-workstation levels of performance. It’s very spendy as configured, but a swath of configuration options means you’re not locked in at the highest price.

With a new 15-inch screen size and a capable Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card inside, the Surface Book 2 makes a compelling case for itself as the premium mobile computer. It offers more versatility and features, faster performance, and longer battery life than its main competitor, the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro, and is a more fully realized professional’s PC than the Surface Pro. It easily follows in its predecessor’s footsteps earning our Editors’ Choice badge.

Best of Both Worlds

For all practical purposes, the Surface Book line looks and behaves like a laptop, with the added ability of detaching the screen from its base and turning it into a tablet at the press of a button. This is the inverse of the pioneering Surface Pro’s proposition, which is more of a tablet that closely mimics the form and functionality of a laptop. It’s a fine distinction, but I think speaks to exactly what you’re expecting from each one. The Surface Pro more heavily weighs portability and handheld use over power, while the Surface Book strives for the opposite. This makes the Surface Book 2 easier to compare with standard laptops, as that represents the main experience. Also worth noting: The original Surface Book was followed up last year by a Core i7 model that includes a “performance base” with more powerful components, and this loaded version of the Surface Book 2 more closely aligns with that vision.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-Inch)

It’s immediately clear that the core design of the Surface Book 2 hasn’t changed from the previous model. That’s not a bad thing, since the original’s premium magnesium alloy build was one of our favorite aspects of it. It’s still thin, relatively light, and has that expensive feel that provides reassurance that you’re getting value for the money. The distinct dynamic fulcrum hinge is back, again leaving a gap between the screen and keyboard when the system is closed. That may bother some who worry about debris getting between the two, but that risk is pretty minimal, and it allows for versatility when detaching the tablet (more on that later). What is different is the size: Now you have your choice of 13.5 inches (the same size as the previous Surface Book) or the new 15-inch model. Our review unit is the fresh larger version, while the smaller model now starts at $1,499.

The 15-inch Surface Book 2 measures 0.9 by 13.5 by 9.87 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.2 pounds. The clamshell is angled, so it tapers down to 0.5 inches toward the front, the same thickness at both ends as the original Surface Book despite the increased power. It’s worth noting that the tablet is just 1.8 pounds when detached, which ups the portability factor. The Surface Book 2 is quite similar to the 15-inch MacBook Pro at 0.61 by 13.75 by 9.48 inches and 4.02 pounds—luxurious and light enough to be portable, but with emphasis on high performance. The slick Dell XPS 15 Touch (0.66 by 14.06 by 9.27 inches, 4.44 pounds) matches these two on design and power, but is much less expensive despite the high-end construction.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-Inch)

Whether docked or in Tablet mode, the whole experience centers around the PixelSense display. Fortunately, it’s a beautiful screen with 3,240-by-2,160 resolution in a 3:2 aspect ratio with a 1,600:1 contrast ratio and 10-point multitouch. That pixel count would qualify as 4K if it were a 16:9 display, but it technically isn’t at this cropped size (3:2 is more useful for some artists). Picture quality is very sharp, and the screen gets bright at maximum settings. The resolution is slightly higher than before, up from 3,000 by 2,000, and is much higher than the MacBook Pro’s 2,880-by-1,800.

As for that signature Tablet mode, there are a few things to keep in mind. To disengage the screen from the keyboard, you press a dedicated key on the top right of the keyboard, just like on the last model. After a few seconds, a prompt lets you know that it’s free to detach, and you can hear and feel it unlock. Some of the guts—namely the larger of the two batteries and discrete graphics card—are built into the keyboard. So when you undock, there are performance concessions that come with that, but there’s still no way to get those components into a tablet this thin. Worth noting: I did occasionally have a few issues getting the tablet to detach—in testing a notification appeared telling me I needed to resolve some applications first. This interrupted the seamless nature of switching to Tablet mode, especially since it was relatively benign programs like Edge or the Microsoft Store that were causing the issues, but they were intermittent.

Docking the tablet is easy—just line the connectors up and gently push down. It’s a breeze once you’ve done it a few times (the first couple of attempts may cause some fumbling, but you never need to push hard), and Windows will let you know when it’s attached. Other than the standard Laptop mode, you can attach the screen backward to achieve View mode like convertible laptops, where screen is pointed toward you with the keyboard behind (useful for airplane tray tables). You can also attach it backward and fold it down flat for Studio mode, in which the Surface book is shaped like a tablet but keeps the keyboard’s components in play.

Key Features

The keyboard is comfortable, with backlit keys that are satisfying to tap, quiet with a good amount of travel without feeling mushy. The touchpad is also responsive, though full click presses are quite audible (you can avoid this by just tapping). The speakers are on the two top corners of the tablet; there are none in the keyboard dock. For tablet speakers, they do an admirable job; loud enough to be heard from a moderate distance, if not exactly booming.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-Inch)

The volume rocker is located on the top left corner of the tablet, right next to the power button. Other than the headphone jack, found on the right side of the display, all of the ports are located on the keyboard dock. That includes two USB 3.1 ports and an SD card slot on the left, while the right edge holds the Surface Connect port (used for the power adapter as well as docking with the $200 Surface Dock) and a USB-C port. The Surface Book 2 is also compatible with the newest Surface Pen (which can magnetically attach to the side of the screen) and Surface Dial, both sold separately for $100 each. The two peripherals are hardly necessary, but may supplement your workflow if you’re an artist or designer. The 15-inch Surface Book 2 also has a built-in Xbox wireless controller receiver, which is handy for gamers (I, for example, had to purchase the wireless USB dongle to connect the controller to my desktop PC).

Internal storage comes in the form of a solid-state drive, the capacity of which is configurable when ordering—multiple drive options are available on each screen size. This maxed-out model uses a 1TB SSD, a very pricey add, while the lowest available is 256GB (that model is $2,499). For comparison, the $2,799 MacBook Pro we tested includes 512GB, while the 512GB Surface Book 2 costs $2,899. Although it’s a costly inclusion, 1TB of speedy SSD storage is a mouthwatering proposition for creative types and gamers, offering faster load times and plenty of room to store your files and game installs. Should you need support, Microsoft covers the Surface Book 2 with a one-year warranty.

Beneath the Surface

As mentioned, this model is fully loaded and packs an Intel Core i7-8650U processor (an eighth-generation, Kaby Lake R chip), 16GB of memory, and the Nvidia GTX 1060. These components are again more in line with last year’s “performance base” Surface Book (which included a GTX 965M and a Core i7 Skylake CPU) than the original, but the Surface Book 2 is a notch above. It showed its general productivity chops on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, producing a high score despite the ramped-up resolution—pushing more pixels lowers the results on this test. For example, the very portable Lenovo Yoga 920, our top pick for high-end convertible hybrid laptops, scored a few hundred points higher with a similar CPU because it was running at 1080p.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-Inch) BM

The Surface Book 2 was quicker overall on the multimedia tests, however, an objectively speedy system on tasks like video encoding and applying Photoshop filters. One down note is that the 16GB RAM ceiling may well be a turn-off for some professionals like video editors, who crave higher memory limits for crunching through footage. 16GB is fine for most uses, including gaming, but truly memory-intensive tasks for enthusiasts may leave you wanting more. It traded blows with the 15-inch MacBook Pro here (arguably its most direct competitor), with Microsoft’s system being faster on Photoshop, lower on CineBench, and just barely behind on Handbrake. Only something like the HP ZBook Studio G4—a pricey performance-focused mobile workstation—delivered any meaningful separation on these tests, and even then, the two were very close on PCMark and Photoshop.

The aforementioned performance difference between the Surface Book and the Surface Pro (admittedly less expensive as tested) is also made clear on these tests—not a big gap, but an extant one. All of this, and my anecdotal experience, is to say the Surface Book 2 is proficient at a variety of jobs, from multitasking with a few different programs (like a browser, a spreadsheet, and Spotify) to content creation.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-Inch) BM

Unlike most thin-and-light systems, the Surface Book 2 can handle graphics-intensive work and gaming. Its GTX 1060, a card usually found in modern midrange gaming laptops, is perfectly suited to 1080p gaming. The most comparable small and thin laptop to bear a GTX 1060 is the 14-inch Razer Blade, which doesn’t come with the Surface Book 2’s many advanced features and costs $1,899. Like other GTX 1060 laptops, the Surface Book 2 was capable of at or around 60 frames per second (fps) on the Heaven and Valley gaming tests on high settings in 1080p.

That’s a solid gaming machine (for HD—playing at the native resolution resulted in frame rates closer to 20fps), even if you must lower a couple of settings on the occasional title. Additionally, when I changed the system’s battery mode to “best performance” instead of default, it was able to average about 65fps and 72fps on the same tests, squeezing more power out of the components. (Keep in mind this mode will drain the battery faster, though.) Outside of the synthetic tests, I was able to run Destiny 2 smoothly on Microsoft’s system between 40fps and 60fps in 1080p, though the 3:2 aspect ratio sometimes makes the screen look squashed (this will vary by game support, but I was able to fix it by switching to windowed fullscreen). Tuning down a few graphics settings from maximum demonstrably bumped the frame rate up toward 60fps. The GTX 1060 is also suited to VR gaming, though since it’s the floor, you may not be able to max out settings.

Related Story See How We Test Laptops

The MacBook Pro, as expensive as it is and with a dedicated AMD Radeon card, simply didn’t stack up to the Surface Book 2 on these tests, failing to average even 30fps in 1080p. General 3D performance (which is involved in professional graphics and video work) and gaming aptitude represent the greatest gulf between the two machines. I don’t mean that just in terms of the benchmark numbers, but for purpose and functionality—the Surface Book 2 can serve as a legitimate gaming and visual content creation system, even if it’s not the best in class in either sphere. An aspirational thin and powerful gaming laptop like the Asus ROG Zephyrus and its GTX 1080 delivers superior power (and it’s not often I can recommend it as the less expensive option), but the Surface Book 2 brings much more versatility to the table. The Dell XPS 15, quite admirably, is the only real alternative that takes some of the shine off the Surface Book 2. Its GTX 1050, while not as effective, is a competent card in just as slim and nice of a chassis for less money.

This is all supported by a top-notch battery power, managing 17 hours and 12 minutes on our video-rundown test. That’s with both the keyboard’s battery and the tablet’s battery—the latter on its own ran for 4:54. The combined total is one of the longest runs we’ve tested and extra impressive given the super-high resolution screen. It bests the 15-inch MacBook Pro (15:09), the Surface Pro (13:54), the Razer Blade (10:36), the XPS 15 (6:05), and the HP ZBook Studio G4 (6:56). Some of the only longer-lasting systems around are the 2016 Surface Book (19:16 by way of its same dual-battery setup but less-demanding components) and the Lenovo Yoga 920 (22:38).

Sublime Surface

Other laptops and hybrids achieve some of the Surface Book 2’s high points independently, but its successful integration of several computer archetypes into one is a feat of design. It’s not radically different from the original Surface Book or last year’s incremental upgrade, but the 15-inch size and legitimately powerful components elevate the concept. This is the most expensive version of the Surface Book 2, so it may not shine as brightly in a more modest configuration, but you can move within $100 of the MacBook Pro just by cutting the storage capacity.

Given that, unless you’re an Apple loyalist or simply need macOS software for work, it’s hard to argue against a touch-enabled, gaming-ready system with fantastic battery life that can also become a tablet at the press of a button. It’s also a better deal than the 2016 Surface Book, which was the same price as tested, and as a true luxury system, more fully realized and faster than the Surface Pro. The Dell XPS 15 is the strongest Windows-based alternative for a desktop replacement that won’t cost nearly as much, but it lacks the convertible design, many hours of battery life, and level of 3D performance. Yes, you’ll have to pay up for the Surface Book 2, but if you’re in the market for a premium laptop, it’s a unique option that executes excellently on multiple fronts, earning our Editors’ Choice.

The Best Black Friday Laptop and Desktop PC Deals

While laptop and PC deals are popular all year round, the weeks surrounding Black Friday are awash with particularly impressive discounts. There are far too many bargains for any one person to manage this time of year, so our team has done the work for you. We’ve sifted through all our Black Friday info to date, and picked the very best laptop deals for each category.

Early Black Friday Deals

These six excellent Black Friday deals are already live on the web. Whether you’re looking for a portable gaming rig, a simple workhorse PC, or a perfect travel companion, there’s no need to hold off on your purchase.

Best Consumer Laptop
Lenovo IdeaPad 510s Intel Core i7-7500U (pictured above) 14-inch 1080p Laptop with a 256GB SSD for $569.99 at Lenovo (List price: $799.99)

Best Highly Portable Laptop
New Dell XPS 13 Intel Core i7-8550U 13.3-inch 1080p Ultra-Thin Laptop with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for $949.99 at Dell Home (Coupon code: 50OFF699 – List price: $1,299.99)

Best Gaming Laptop
New Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Intel Core i5-7300HQ Quad-Core 15.6-inch 1080p Gaming Laptop with a 6GB GTX 1060, a 128GB SSD, and a 1TB HDD for $849.99 at Dell Home (Coupon code: 50off699 – List price: $1,099.99)

Best Desktop
Dell Inspiron 3650 Intel Core i7-6700 Quad-Core Windows 7 Pro Desktop for $629 at Dell Small Business (Coupon code: INS629 – List price: $1,145)

Best Overall Value
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Intel Core i7-7500U 15.6-inch Windows 10 Pro Laptop with a 512GB SSD for $579.99 at Dell Small Business (Coupon code: ISNPSAVE320 – List price: $899)

Best Business Laptop
Asus P-Series Intel Core i5-7200u 1080p 15.6-inch Laptop with Fingerprint Reader, TPM, and a Nine-Hour Battery for $499 at Amazon (List price: $599)

Upcoming Black Friday Deals

Not every Black Friday deal is available right out of the gate. There are still plenty of laptops that haven’t gone on sale just yet, so don’t worry if you haven’t landed on just the right model. Below, you’ll find four additional deals that will either go live later today, or will launch on Black Friday.

Best Chromebook
Samsung Chromebook Plus Quad HD Six-Core Laptop with Touchscreen and Stylus at Sam’s Club (Sale starts later today for members only – List price: $449.99)

Best Convertible Laptop
MS Surface Pro Core M 128GB Tablet with Type Cover for $629.99 at Best Buy (Sale starts on Black Friday – List price: $999)

Best Mac Laptop
Apple MacBook Air Intel Core i5 13.3-inch Laptop with 8GB RAM and a 128GB SSD for $799 at Best Buy (Sale starts on Black Friday – List price: $999.99)

Best Budget Laptop
Acer Aspire E 15 Intel Core i3-7100U 15.6-inch 1080p Laptop for $349 at Amazon (Sale starts on Black Friday – List price: $499)

Note: Terms and conditions apply. Price, stock, and shipping details may fluctuate. See the individual sites for more information.

For more great laptop deals, check out

Asus VivoBook E12 E203NA

What is the Asus VivoBook E12 E203NA?

The Asus E203NA is just about as cheap a laptop as you can buy. Available for under £200, it sports an 11-inch screen and a weight of less than 1kg. Alongside a near-10-hour battery life, this makes it potentially ideal as a go-anywhere laptop.

However, a super-slow processor and built-in storage makes it frustrating to use.

Asus VivoBook E12 E203NA – Design and features

This laptop definitely benefits from a smart design. The various white finishes – pearlescent, plain matte and speckled metallic – combine well together and the dark-grey bezel round the screen completes the look nicely.

Its relatively slim form factor also helps here – it measures 16.9mm thick – and it weighs in at just 0.98kg, yet there’s a sturdiness to its build. Meanwhile, its footprint is just 286 x 193.3mm.

Related: Best laptops

One of the reasons it’s able to maintain such a slim build is that the CPU inside is so low-power that it doesn’t require a fan to cool it. This comes with the added benefit of a lack of fan noise and unsightly ventilation holes on the laptop’s underside.

Surprisingly for such a basic laptop, there are decent selection of ports. You get two USB 3.0 (one on each side), a microSD, a USB Type-C, headphone jack and even an HDMI port; the idea that someone would hook this laptop up to a TV or monitor seems pretty unlikely to me, but at least the option’s there.

There are few other extras, too: a webcam sits above the screen and a trio of LEDs to the left of the keyboard indicate power charging and Caps Lock.

Asus VivoBook E12 E203NA – Keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard on this laptop is perfectly passable. With the device being a compact size, the keyboard is a touch smaller than usual but it doesn’t feel particularly cramped. In the UK, the model features a UK layout and it’s great to see that the secondary function of the cursor keys are the PgUp/PgDn/Home/End keys. This is a really convenient and intuitive place to put them – some manufacturers put them elsewhere and use the cursor keys for volume and brightness adjustment.

Inevitably the key action is nowhere near as refined as that found on more expensive keyboards, but there’s enough of a noticeable break that you know by feel when a key has been pressed. There’s quite a lot of flex in the centre of the keyboard, but not enough to cause the annoying trampoline effect experienced on some laptops.

As for the trackpad, it’s okay. Tracking is reasonably accurate and it’s a decent size. However, the click action isn’t anything to shout about – the surface tends to drag beneath your fingers and the whole unit has a slightly wobbliness to it. Considering the price of this laptop, however, this feels like a reasonable compromise.

Asus VivoBook E12 E203NA – Webcam and audio

Another area of clear cost-cutting is the webcam. Those on the majority of laptops aren’t exactly DSLR quality, but here there’s a reduction in resolution from the typical 720p to just 480p (640 x 480). The result is a particularly low-detail, slightly washed-out looking image. You’ll recognise the person at the other end of your Skype call, but only just.

As for the laptop’s speakers, they just about pass muster. At lower volumes the lack of bass and general shrillness isn’t too off-putting, but crank them up and it’s a fairly unpleasant listen. They’re fine for catching up on your favourite vlogger, but you wouldn’t want to watch a movie or listen to music. Again, this is typical of a laptop at this price – but the step up in basic clarity you’ll get by spending £300-£400 is clear.

Related: Best monitors

Asus VivoBook E12 E203NA – Screen

At 11 inches across, this laptop’s screen is ideally matched by its resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Anymore would look too small; any lower would be impractical. That said, it’s still a fairly compact resolution that will mean some websites and apps feel cramped.

Poor viewing angles mean the screen looks very different as you move it up and down.

Otherwise, its image quality is basic but not awful. Colour balance is okay and it doesn’t look too washed out. However, with a contrast of just 487:1 and sRGB colour space coverage of 63.4%, it certainly isn’t spectacular. Plus, since it’s a basic TN panel, viewing angles are poor, with a noticeable shift in the balance of colours and contrast as you move the screen forward and back.

Suffice to say, this is a screen that’s useful mainly for basic work and play, not creating or watching.

Pixelbook hands-on

Google Pixelbook: Hands-on with the first convertible Chromebook with Google Assistant built in

Google’s Chrome OS devices are famous for one thing: being excellent value for money. But while the likes of Del, HP, Acer and Asus all make their own more wallet-friendly Chromebooks, Google always goes for inspirational products: The sorts of devices it wants manufacturers to actually built.

The Pixelbook is the first ever convertible Chromebook from Google with Assistant baked in. But what makes it atypical is that, with pricing starting at a hefty £999, it targets the same top end market as Microsoft’s established Surface Pro and Apple’s iPad Pros and MacBooks.

Considering the application limitations of Chrome OS, which locks you to use web apps and services in the Chrome store, this makes the Pixelbook a potentially hard sell for power users. But having had some hands-on time with it, the Pixelbook has piqued my curiosity and could be one of the most interesting hybrid laptops to arrive this year.

The Pixelbook has completely different design to the iPad Pro and Surface Pro, which are both unashamedly tablets first. Google’s convertible is more akin to as Lenovo Yoga, featuring a basic clamshell laptop design, with a 360-degree hinge that lets you fold the 12.3-inch, QHD touchscreen back on itself, to turn the device into a tablet or stand it in tent mode.

Whether this is a plus or bonus or hindrance will depend on what you want to use the Pixelbook for. If you’re a photographer or creative looking for a mobile editing station, the iPad Pro and Surface’s tablet focus is a blessing, that makes them wonderfully light and satchel friendly – though measuring in at just 10mm thick and weighing just 1kg, the Pixelbook isn’t exactly chunky: quite the opposite.

Related: Best laptops

But if you’re looking for something that’ll mainly run as a laptop the physical keyboard and sturdy hinge, will make the Pixelbook a far better option.

The backlit chiclet keyboard didn’t feel quite as tactile as I’d like, and travel wasn’t inspiring during my hands-on, but it was a cut above the Type Cover and iPad Pro keyboard covers. Combined with the sizable, reactive touchpad, which didn’t struggle with any of the multi-touch commands I through at it, the Pixelbook was more than comfortable enough to use during my demo.

The £100 Pen felt intuitive and comfortable to hold, but there weren’t any apps for me to properly try it out during my demo. This is one potential killer feature that remains a bit of a mystery until I get my hands on a review unit.

Ports-wise, the device is fairly limited, however. Google’s followed Apple’s example and loaded the Pixelbook with two USB-C connectors, which means a lot of people will have to invest in new cables and port hubs.

When it comes to hardware the Pixelbook is also fairly well stacked. Below you can see the three hardware configurations Google’s going to offer the Pixelbook in.

  • 8GB RAM/128GB SSD/7th Gen Intel Core i5 – £999
  • 8GB RAM/256GB SSD/7th Gen Intel Core i5 – £1199
  • 16GB RAM/512GB NVMe/7th Gen Intel Core i7 – £1699
  • Optional Pixel Pen – £100

Related: Best Ultrabooks

Personally I’d have liked to see Intel 8th-Gen CPUs in the Pixelbook, but considering how new those are it’s unsurprising Google hasn’t made the jump. The hardware will also be more than powerful enough for most users even with seventh gen. I’m also happy to see the inclusion of an NVMe SSD option, which should offer super speedy read/write data speeds and faster boot times compared to competing convertibles, which generally still use the older, slower SATA variation.

In fact, my only concern is that it’ll actually be overkill for most of the applications and services on Chrome OS. Though the hardware is lovely and the Pixelbook looks every bit like a full on Ultrabook, the truth is serious creative suites that would take advantage of the hardware are yet to make their way onto Google’s platform.

Services like Pixlr and Photoshop Express (in beta) are fine for basic touch-up work but I still wouldn’t want to use them for a large scale digital painting or colouring job. The OS also doesn’t have any 3D modelling, CAD or video editing services to speak of. If money’s no object and you just want a laptop-come-tablet then this won’t be a problem, but does leave me concerned the Pixelbook will be overkill for most people.

That said, I am excited to see Google’s directly baked its Assistant into the Pixelbook’s software. In theory this should make if fit neatly into the company’s smart ecosystem. Making it easy to control your Nest smart home tech or Home, Home Max and Home Mini smart speakers. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to test the feature during the hands-on session as background noise was too high for it to work correctly.

Related: Best tablets

Opening impressions

The Pixelbook is an interesting beast. Featuring top-end hardware that matches powerhouse Windows 10 hybrids, alongside a pleasing,  design, it could be a great choice for convertible buyers looking for a laptop that can double as a tablet, not the other way round.

My only concern is that it’s hefty starting price and a lack of professional level creative software on Chrome OS could make it an expensive luxury.

MacBook Pro

Note: This is our original review from November 2016, but we’ve updated the conclusion on the second page to reflect the state of the market

What is the MacBook Pro?

The MacBook Pro line has long represented the pinnacle of stylish and sturdy laptop design, and the overhauled edition is a huge refinement on Apple’s already great formula.

However, when it comes to value for money, the MacBook Pro is less appealing than ever. For creatives, the 13-inch MacBook Pro base model is the cheapest up-to-date entry into the macOS ecosystem – but that doesn’t mean it offers the best value. On review here is the base-model 13-inch model from late 2016. Apple has since updated the Pro with newer processors, but the fundamentals are the same: same ports, same screen battery and near-identical performance.

Watch: 13-inch MacBook Pro video review

Related: Best Laptops 

MacBook Pro 13 – Design and Build

After years of crying out for a serious makeover for the MacBook Pro, Apple has finally delivered. This is the most beautiful laptop on the market today and sets a new standard for other manufacturers. MacBook Pro 13 2016

The unibody design, machined from a single piece of aluminium, is as attractive as ever. To the delight of my colleagues Apple sent in the new, Space Grey option for review, but my personal preference is still for the classic, lighter-coloured design. However, greater choice is always a good thing.

The MacBook Pro is incredibly light at just 1.37kg, although it’s far from the lightest in its class. The Dell XPS 13 takes that honour, with its equivalent, non-touchscreen model weighing in at only 1.2kg. That machine also has a smaller footprint thanks to its tiny bezel.

Related: Intel Core i processors explained

Closed, the MacBook Pro still looks significantly smaller than your average 13.3-inch laptop – Apple has achieved this by trimming the fat around the bezel. The lid itself is thin, too, and this is likely the reason Apple has ditched the famous, light-up Apple logo for a tinted mirror in the same shape.

In terms of connections, the laptop includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports that double up as USB Type-C 3.1 ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. MacBook Pro 13 2016 2

Related: USB-C explained

Sounds simple? Not exactly. Apple has done that Apple thing of completely embracing a new connection format without a graceful transition period. While all its rivals now include one Thunderbolt port alongside a couple of regular, old-fashioned USB ports and an SD card reader, Apple has ditched the lot and expects you to deal with it. Whatever the justification, unless you’re starting afresh, you’ll have to spend extra cash on adapters while you make the transition.

Of the two included ports, one is likely to always be occupied for charging, unless you buy an external dock.  I won’t go through the full list of adapters and docks available, but if you’re buying from Apple – and you purchase a couple of them – then you’ll likely end up adding between £40-100 to your bill.

If you opt for third-party hardware, my advice is to pick a reputable brand; there are all manner of no-name accessories out there that might damage your new machine.

Let’s not forget, however, that Thunderbolt 3 is an amazing standard. It can send and receive huge amounts of power and up to 40GB/secs of data, meaning it can hook up to high-end storage arrays and monitors directly. Nobody can deny it’s an impressive piece of tech and having two on a laptop is actually pretty rare. Most laptops these days have one or none.MacBook Pro 13 2016 1

I can live with the change, but I can’t live with Apple’s refusal to include any adapters in the box. A simple USB Type-C to USB or Ethernet adapter would have been a welcome addition to the package.

MacBook Pro 13 – Keyboard and Touchpad

Apple has overhauled both the keyboard and touchpad on the MacBook Pro.

The most obvious change is the trackpad: it’s huge. Measuring in at roughly 13.5cm wide and 8.5cm deep, it’s the biggest touchpad I’ve ever used. There’s effectively limitless room for your fingers to swipe, tap and gesture. I never once bounced off the side or had to reposition my digits. MacBook Pro 13 2016

Frankly, it feels almost too big, but since the size of the trackpad isn’t compromising any other part of this machine’s physical build, it’s a fine addition. Apple has done decent work on palm-rejection tech, too, so even if your palms rest on the touchpad, it shouldn’t register an input.

The touchpad works seamlessly with macOS, with no delay at all between gestures and the action being relayed on-screen. It also uses Force Touch, which means clicks are simulated by a haptic feedback motor under the keyboard. It’s also pressure sensitive so if, for example, you press harder on the fast forward arrow on QuickTime the video will move forward more quickly than with a light touch. Force Touch actions give you extra contextual actions such as previewing a link in Safari or peeking at an app in the Launchpad.

Unlike some laptops, where it’s impossible to register a physical click a the top of the touchpad (because it’s where the hinge goes), you can click anywhere on the touchpad and get a response.

As good as Microsoft-certified Precision Touchpads have become, Apple still has the edge here.MacBook Pro 13 2016

Above the trackpad is Apple’s new Butterfly 2 keyboard. It’s an ultra-low-travel key switch design that’s unique to Apple, similar to that used on the 12-inch MacBook.

Butterfly 2 is greatly improved here, with a much more positive and definite action. It’s also quite noisy if you hit the keys with any force, but near-silent with a more gentle approach. The keys are large and tightly packed, but their grippy texture and slightly concave moulding meant I never missed a stroke.

It won’t suit everyone, and I strongly suggest you try it out in an Apple Store – but for me, the keyboard on the MacBook Pro is the best I’ve ever used.