| 2. April 2021

Best Compact Gaming Laptops in 2021

Gaming laptops have definitely risen in popularity over the last couple of years, so let’s go over the most compact ones on the market — the ones that pack mighty internals within portable enclosures! Performance will still be a top priority, but these machines need to be as small as possible without any obvious sacrifices when it comes to gameplay and the overall gaming experience.

In this case, “compact” basically means sub-15″. These machines often come at a premium, but they’re well-worth it given the amount of engineering and R&D which were necessary to bring them into existence.

But before we delve any deeper, we need to go over one of the most important elements of the equation: TDP, a hugely important acronym that stands for thermal design power.

PSA: Never Forget the TDP

The more watts a graphics card can draw, the better it’ll perform. Of course, higher TDPs incur a penalty in the form of higher temperatures (and, by proxy, fan noise), so you can’t have it both ways. Those looking for the most frames and the highest of resolutions will need to do their due diligence before whipping out their wallets and making any large investment. Otherwise, they might not get the level of performance they’re after.

Take the mobile variant of NVIDIA’s RTX 3060, for example. Its TDP ranges between 60W and 115W depending on the manufacturer and model of choice. The performance delta between them is absolutely huge as a result. And yet they look exactly the same on paper.

So do yourself a service. Roll up your sleeves, do a bit of research, and find whether that specific model you’re after has enough “juice” to power the games you want to play. Just because it’s powerful on paper (or in nomenclature) doesn’t mean it’s sufficiently cooled to sustain high temperatures and churn out those frames.

This holds true for benchmarks as well. A video where someone’s benchmarking a mobile variant of a GTX 1650 Ti is only viable information if it’s that specific 1650 Ti you’re after and has the exact same TDP. Some models are “capped” at 35W, with others having a lot more headroom (around 50W). The difference between them is huge and that’ll be evident in gaming as well.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to begin!

Gaming Laptops With 13” Screens

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop that has a screen around 13”, you’re pretty much looking for a unicorn. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any options out there, but rather that they’re few in number. And, well, there’s a good reason why that’s the case. Creating such a machine requires some insanely good engineering. Fortunately, a few companies have managed to deliver!

Asus ROG Flow X13

The first model on our list also happens to be the latest one to hit the market, and it’s quite a thing to behold. The ROG Flow X13 packs one of AMD’s most powerful H series processors along with a very respectable NVIDIA GTX 1650. It’s not of the Ti variety, but it’s still good enough for gaming if you lower the settings or are mostly focused on esports titles like Overwatch, League of Legends, Fortnite, etc.

It also comes with a touch-sensitive 16:10 screen which, for all intents and purposes, makes this laptop stand out in all the right ways. It’s not just a gaming machine but a great option for general productivity as well.

The most interesting bit, however, is that you can invest another $1200 and buy its proprietary eGPU (up to an RTX 3080, 150W) and turn this thin-and-light notebook into a gaming behemoth — 4K included, if you happen to own a 4K display, of course.

Now, that’s not a small price to pay, but even with the Asus XG Mobile added this is still the most compact gaming package on the market. Such a strong combination inevitably comes at a premium, but we’d argue that it’s well worth it.

Razer Blade Stealth 13

One of Razer’s crowning achievements. They were the first company to successfully build a thin and light gaming notebook that could actually drive enough frames for an enjoyable gaming experience. Now sure, its GTX 1650 Ti was never going to blow anyone’s mind, but it was more than sufficient for a bit of triple A gaming on the side (albeit on Medium settings).

Paired with a mouth-watering 120 Hz display and a fairly potent CPU from Intel (no AMD version just yet, unfortunately), this Blade Stealth is undeniably one of the most enticing options on the market. It is truly exceptional in a myriad of ways, and if you don’t need the highest of frame rates and have a bit of money lying around, then it’s definitely the way to go!

Gaming Laptops With 14” Screens

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

The ROG Zephyrus G14 is one of the most popular gaming laptops on the market and there’s a very good reason why. It is, in many ways, the perfect compound. It has a potent AMD processor that’s perfect for multi-core workloads, respectable build quality, a high refresh rate display (albeit with some ghosting), a comfortable keyboard, a ton of ports on each side, and a very strong RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics card.

All of this for less money than any of the laptops listed above. That’s pretty much a steal if there ever was one! It isn’t particularly quiet, though, but that’s a small price to pay and can easily be offset with a good pair of headphones!

It’s currently on sale at BestBuy for just $1,199 which is insane — with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 1TB SSD to boot! It’s not perfect, as already mentioned, but it’s darn close! And, frankly, there’s no cheaper option on the market that has the same number of bells and whistles!

Integrated GPU Options

Now, don’t frown just yet, let us explain! If you’re someone who’s only into esports titles, then there’s a good chance that an iGPU might be the way to go. An integrated graphics card would ensure longer battery life, lower temperatures, and less noise as well. Not too shabby! Both the Intel Xe graphics (96 Execution Units) and Radeon Vega ones from AMD are more than sufficient to run titles like League of Legends, Dota 2, Overwatch, Fortnite, Rocket League, and a slew of other ones at over 60 FPS at 1080p.

These laptops are not gaming machines per se, but they’re still capable of driving the most popular (free-to-play) titles in the world without skipping a beat! Whether or not that’s good enough for you heavily depends on what you’re after, but it’s still a viable option one should keep in mind while browsing the market!