One of the best parts of the continuous evolution of technology is that you can now afford increasingly high-performance computers for decreasing amounts of money. This is especially true for laptops, which used to be both expensive and not as powerful as their desktop counterparts. Modern high-performance laptops are now almost on par with desktop models, as well as being portable, and there are enough models to choose from that you are sure to find exactly what you need.
How do you pick a high-performance laptop among so many, though? The first question you have to ask is the following: exactly what kind of performance do need from your laptop? A gamer, for instance, has different needs from a graphic designer, architect, visual artist, or video editor, and also different from an office worker who deals with archives, databases and so on. As such, there are a couple of various components you need to be focusing on, and we’ll discuss these at the bottom of this article. We’ve also thought of providing you with some more practical assistance, and we compiled a list of the best high-performance laptops we could find. Take a look!
- 1 1. New Alienware 17 R4 AW17R4-7352SLV-PUS
- 2 2. MSI GE62VR Apache Pro-001
- 3 3. Asus ROG Strix GL702VM-DB74
- 4 4. MSI GL62 6QF-627
- 5 1. MSI WT72 6QN-218US
- 6 2. Lenovo ThinkPad P50 20EN001EUS
- 7 3. Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW
- 8 1. MacBook Pro 15” 2016
- 9 2. HP Pavilion 17 AB020NR
- 10 1. Dell XPS 9350-8008SLV
- 11 2. ASUS ZenBook UX330UA-AH54
1. New Alienware 17 R4 AW17R4-7352SLV-PUS
The newest device from the mother ship of all extraterrestrial computers, this 17.6” model unquestionably deserves to be at the very top of our high-performance laptop list. It’s big; it’s heavy, it looks like a sci-fi movie prop – all the ingredients for a successful gaming laptop. Not to mention that it has an astonishing UHD IPS display. It’s not even the most expensive thing you can get, but as far as performance goes, it’s at the very peak.
The New Alienware 17 is equipped with an Intel i7-7920HQ, literally the latest and most powerful Intel model, 2.9GHz and overclocked (over-overclocked, actually) to 4.4GHz, 8MB cache. It has an equally terrifying nVidia GeForce GTX 1080M, 8GB GDDR5 VRAM, also the latest model. The craziness is completed by adding 32GB DDR4 (upgradable to 64), and a 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD storage combo.
2. MSI GE62VR Apache Pro-001
MSI is a rather fresh company on the laptop market, having previously dealt with PC components and peripherals. However, when they did enter the market, they did it in full force, and their gaming laptops (i.e. almost all their laptops) are undoubtedly high-performance, on par with Asus and Alienware. This particular model manages to pack quite a punch, even though it’s only 15.6”. It has a pretty FHD IPS display, and the price tag is exactly half that of the New Alienware 17.
This VR-ready device is powered by an i7-6700HQ, common among gaming laptops, 2.6GHz and up to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost. It features the same GTX 1080M, with 6GB GDDR5 VRAM, 16GB DDR4 (upgradable to 32), and a 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD. Excellent for those who don’t have $3000 but still want to rock the latest releases.
3. Asus ROG Strix GL702VM-DB74
Asus is already a company with a long tradition when it comes to laptops, providing models for every possible demand and being the very standard of quality. The ROG (Republic of Gamers) models are Asus’ high-performance laptops, and there’s nothing to say about them other than the fact that they rock. This 17.6” model doesn’t exactly look gaming-ready, at only 0.94” thick and 6lbs (it’s thin and light even for a classic 15.6”), but worry not. The frame may be light, but the guts are quite heavy.
This ROG’s processor is the same i7-6700HQ we’ll see quite often on this list, but physical limitations exclude the GTX 1080M. As such, the graphics card is a GTX 1060M, with 6GB GDDR5, which is pretty much the same. It also has 16GB DDR4, as well as a 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD for the perfect gaming experience.
4. MSI GL62 6QF-627
The second MSI model on the list is also the best bang for the buck when it comes to gaming models. It’s really cheap compared to the others, but it can still run Far Cry Primal and Hitman 2016 on ultra and let’s be serious, what more do you need? The GL62 is a classic laptop in every aspect when it comes to design, dimensions, and weight, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to office use or Internet shopping.
The GL62’s hardware configuration includes the same i7-6700HQ, as well as a Nvidia GTX 960M with 2GB GDDR5. It has 8GB DDR4 RAM, as well as 1TB HDD, and both the memory and the storage are upgradable via free RAM and M.2 (SSD) slots. As such, if you want to give it just a little boost of 16GB DDR4 and 256GB SSD, you can do so for another $150-200.
1. MSI WT72 6QN-218US
We don’t want you to die of a heart attack while buying this, so we’ll tell you now: this model is pretty pricey. However, this is not for the average user, that much we can also tell you. Unlike 99% of consumer-grade workstations, the WT72 is ready to take on a couple of 4K videos at the same time, all while you’re also watching your favorite clips on YouTube. It has a beautiful 4K UHD IPS display and can accommodate another three 4K displays, and the performance is not far behind the Alienware 17.
This dream of any video editor contains an i7-6920HQ, 2.9GHz and up to 3.8GHz overclocked, as well as a discrete graphics card built for professional CAD and CGI applications, the latest nVidia Quadro M5500M, 8GB GDDR5. It also features 16GB DDR4, 128GB SSD, and 1TB HDD. We wish it had more of those, but there’s plenty of room for upgrades, and you can do so for only a couple hundred.
2. Lenovo ThinkPad P50 20EN001EUS
If we were to be honest, we’d say this laptop is trying to bring back the 2000’s, with the vintage design and the trademark red pointing stick. We are honest, and that’s how it looks. It is, nonetheless, a professional workstation, and that’s all that matters. After all, this is a list of high-performance laptops, not a beauty contest. It’s big and heavy for a 15.6” model, but it packs the exact punch you need when you do pro video editing and so on.
The only model here not based on an i7, this model had a professional Intel Xeon E3-1505MV5, quad-core, 2.8GHz instead and overclocked up to 3.7GHz. It also has a nVidia Quadro M2000M with 4GB GDDR5, 16GB DDR4 RAM and a 256GB SSD with upgrade possibilities. All in all, we’d say it’s an excellent choice if you’re not trying to make a Hollywood movie all by yourself.
3. Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW
A consumer-grade workstation this time, this ZenBook is also the very reason some laptops are called sexy. It’s as different from the pro workstations as chalk from cheese, but that’s in looks only. It has arguably the best display here, a 15.6” UHD IPS 10-finger multitouch, which is exactly what we’d recommend for Photoshop, CGI and so on, especially since it comes already color-calibrated.
There’s the same old processor here, the i7-6700HQ, as well as a nVidia GTX 960M, 2GB GDDR5, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD. In fact, the configuration is even better than that of our budget gaming model, though we seriously don’t advise using this for gaming.
1. MacBook Pro 15” 2016
One of the newest models from Apple, this beauty is one of the things that would make us totally love Apple if not for the annoying price. Even so, people buy it both for aesthetic reasons and for the amazing QHD+ Retina display, one of the best choices around for image editors and designers. The Touch Bar is also really helpful when it comes to some serious multitasking, and the configuration is not to be underestimated even in the world of high-performance laptops.
While the processor is the same as the rest, there’s a surprising choice coming from Apple when it comes to the graphics card: an AMD Radeon Pro 450, 2GB GDDR5, about the same as the GTX 950M. Add 16GB DDR4 and a 256GB SSD, and you get a setup that will work excellent for pretty much anything besides hardcore gaming.
2. HP Pavilion 17 AB020NR
For office use, movie watching, medium-level gaming and graphic design, there’s hardly anything that could be more appropriate than this model. It has a classy look, among the classiest high-performance laptops in spite of its massive 17.6” frame, and it’s not very thick and heavy (1.17” and 6.1lbs) for such a big model. It also has a neat FHD touchscreen, which is cool for a laptop going for this price.
This model is, performance-wise, stronger than our affordable gaming rig, although it’s not made for high-level gaming. It features the same i7-6700HQ and a GTX 960M with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM, as well as 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD. It’s an excellent overall setup and, at less than half the price of the MacBook Pro, it’s our top recommendation as an all-rounder classic laptop.
1. Dell XPS 9350-8008SLV
This little wonder is a Dell laptop to the same extent to which Alienware is not, in spite of belonging to the same company. Were this a beauty contest, it would’ve been at its very top. It’s a stunningly slim, light, and classy design, only 0.6” thick and 2.8lbs heavy, and it has a QHD+ IPS Infinity Edge wide-angle display, rated at 400nit, which is the pride of Dell laptops.
Just because it’s tiny doesn’t mean it’s not worthy to be in the gallery of the best high-performance laptops. It’s powered by an i7-6560U, 2.2GHz and up to 3.2GHz overclocked, with the Intel Iris 540 integrated graphics chip, which is designed to do the work of a workstation-oriented discrete graphics card. This XPS also features 16GB DDR3L and a 512GB SSD.
2. ASUS ZenBook UX330UA-AH54
Another serious competitor for the “prettiest laptop around,” this ZenBook model takes the cake for the slimmest and lightest laptop we’ve seen to this point, at an amazing 0.5” and 2lbs. It’s crafted from aerospace-grade aluminum, with the well-known Asus style of brushing, and its FHD IPS display is protected by Gorilla Glass 4, a very rare feature among laptops. It seems that this laptop is designed to be a long-lasting beauty.
The performance is not too shabby either. The ZenBook is equipped with an Intel i5-7200U, 2.5 and up to 3.1GHz with Turbo Boost, which comes with Intel HD Graphics 620. It also has 8GB DDR4, as well as a 256GB SSD, and it’s half the price of the XPS.
We have to begin our guide with laptops for gamers, as they have probably the highest demands regarding overall performance. If you want a high-performance gaming laptop, you will need to start with a strong CPU, and we recommend that you get an Intel Core i7. Currently, the most popular model for gaming computers is the i7-6700HQ. It’s a high-power model, which means it will drain your battery like there’s no tomorrow, but it will operate flawlessly. Other more expensive and overpowered models include the i7-6820HK and 6920HQ, as well as the newly released i7-7920HQ, the current strongest available. AMD processors are also available, and they are not bad. If you want one, though, make sure to find reviews comparing it to the performance of a similarly-priced Intel.
The most important thing for gamers, however, is the graphics card. You simply cannot do without it, as no CPU is strong enough to deal with the video requirements of the latest releases. The minimum you need for medium to hard gaming is a nVidia GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM. High-performance laptops will, however, have something like a GTX 1060M or even 1080M with 6-8GB GDDR5. They will also feature at least 16GB DDR4 RAM, and preferably even more than that.
The design of the laptop is also important. It’s not about it being pretty or not; it’s about the cooling and power supply unit demands, as well as the upgrade possibilities. Not all laptops with high-performance components are good for gaming, as slim laptops always face heating issues when supercharged, and gaming is well-known for making your computer run to the maximum.
Workstation users face similar needs. Consumer-grade workstations usually have the same setup as gaming laptops – in fact, any powerful gaming laptop can also be considered a high-performance workstation. However, truly professional ones have an Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processor, CPU series specifically designed for workstations. Similarly, the graphics card will be a workstation-oriented nVidia Quadro, such as the M5500M model, with 4-8GB GDDR5, or an equivalent Radeon model.
The other requirement for workstations, and even more so for people who use Photoshop, drawing tools, or other visual apps, is a proper display. If you just get a random HD screen, you will often find that the colors you see on it translate differently in printing. As such, a QHD or UHD IPS is a must and, if you have a larger screen (17.6”), a wide viewing angle is also essential as otherwise, you will see differently the colors at the center and the borders of the screen. At any rate, high-performance laptops have at least an FHD display and more expensive models have QHD or UHD.
This is also where you have to get SSD storage. It’s not exactly necessary for gaming, although it is recommended, you’re going to die of frustration before you finish copying 10,000 pictures on an HDD. The overall speed will also increase if you get an SSD, which is great. And speaking of storage, you also need to get enough memory, as visual apps are demanding. A minimum of 16GB is advised.
Finally, those who want a high-performance laptop for demanding office tasks such as managing archives and databases. They are the luckiest here: no discrete graphics card is required so that the price will drop by quite a bit, and so will the size and heating level of the laptop. What you need is a powerful processor, such as pretty much any i7, plenty of RAM for multitasking, a big SSD for operating tasks and an even larger HDD for data storage, a big display that doesn’t get your eyes tired, and a comfortable keyboard.
You will have to take into account the size of the laptop as well, regardless of which category you belong to. That is because it will likely force you to make a choice: power or portability? Due to certain physical limitations, high-performance laptops are for the most part bulkier, with only a few models being slimmer. Likewise, a smaller diagonal will lead to a drop in performance as well. As far as battery life is concerned, however, smaller laptops are miles ahead – they last a lot longer, up to an amazing 14 hours or so.