Gaming laptops are like other categories, with multiple sizes that meet varying user needs. And the gaming laptop industry has responded.
Some gamers want the most powerful laptop they can get to run modern titles at the highest resolutions and with all features, like HDR and ray tracing, turned on. That dictates powerful CPUs and GPUs that run hot and need a lot of room for thermal management. Then there’s screen size, where some gamers want the largest panel for the most immersive experience.
Other gamers care less about performance and would rather have a laptop that’s easier to carry around. They’re okay with a smaller screen and slower components, as long as they can play most games at reasonable frame rates and graphical detail.
It’s a balancing act, and one that has produced a variety of laptops meeting the needs of all these different kinds of users. Which is the best size of gaming laptop for you?
13-inch gaming laptops
Yes, there are 13-inch gaming laptops, and they appeal to users who want the least amount of gaming laptop to carry around but aren’t as worried about performance. Let’s face it – there’s only so much space inside such a small chassis and keeping things cool can be a challenge.
Perhaps the best example of the class is the 2023 ROG Flow X13, a brand-new 13-inch laptop announced at CES 2023. It comes with an AMD Ryzen 7000 series CPU and up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070. That’s an incredible amount of power to so easily carry around. Plug in the Asus XG add-on, and you can equip up to an RTX 4090 for a true gaming platform that’s no longer so portable.
14-inch gaming laptops
A more common highly portable gaming laptop size is the 14-inch class, which offers slightly more room inside while still being small enough to easily carry around. The 14-inch laptop has generally become more popular for adding some additional screen real estate without requiring a much larger chassis. Even so, there’s more room inside for better thermal designs and more airflow, and so 14-inch gaming laptops can most often be configured with some powerful components.
The Razer Blade 14 has been the best version for a couple of years, offering up to a very fast AMD Ryzen 9 6900HZ CPU and an RTX 3080 Ti for playing modern titles at 1440p with graphics turned up. The 14-inch display runs at up to 165Hz in the QHD version, allowing high frame rates with no tearing. There’s a reason why the Razer Blade 14 has garnered strong reviews and is at the top of a lot of best-of lists.
15-inch and 16-inch gaming laptops
The sweet spot for years has been the 15-inch laptop, actually built around 15.6-inch 16:9 aspect ratio displays. There’s been a wide range of variation in this space, with some thinner and lighter laptops and some that have been pretty hefty. But the extra chassis size provides a lot more room for faster components and better thermal management – hence, typically much faster gaming performance.
The industry has been migrating to 16-inch laptops lately, adding a bit of screen without massive increases in chassis size. It’s a lot like the adoption of 14-inch laptops over 13.3-inch machines, and for the same purpose. We’re glad to see the change, because more screen is a good thing especially in this particular laptop size. We’re also seeing most manufacturers adopting 16:10 aspect ratios, which provide taller displays and hence more room for productivity work – and after all, these machines are often using for work as much as for gaming.
The Razer Blade 15 is one of the holdouts in the 15.6-inch panel size, and it remains one of the best rated gaming laptops around. It can be configured with fast Intel 13th-gen Core i9 CPUs and RTX 4070 GPU, which means it’s not the fastest gaming machine but it’s one of the thinnest and lightest. And example of a newer 16-inch gaming machine is the Lenovo Legion Pro 7i, which in reviews has demonstrated monster performance.
17-inch gaming laptops
The largest mainstream gaming laptops come in at 17.3 inches, providing extremely large screens and in many (but not all) massive chassis. If you want some of the best thermals, highest-end components, and best keyboards and port selections, then the 17-inch class is the way to go. Just remember that they’re going to be bulky, both large in widget, depth and (typically) thickness and also the heaviest gaming laptops you can buy.
Dell’s Alienware x17 R2 is an example of a 17-inch machine that’s rather thin for the class and still offers outstanding gaming performance; in particular, its “absurd” 480Hz refresh rate has reviewers buzzing. The x17 R2 is still running previous gen Intel 12th-gen CPUs and Nvidia RTX 3000 GPUs, but it’s a fast gaming laptop nonetheless. For something comparable with current gen specs, HP’s Omen 17 is an example of a newer machine introduced at CES 2023 that has Intel 13th-gen CPUs and Nvidia RTX 4000 GPUs.
18-inch gaming laptops
If you want to go really massive, then you can opt for an 18-inch laptop. There aren’t as many to choose from and so they’re not exactly mainstream, but if you want the absolutely largest display and chassis, then they’re an option. It’s another newer gaming laptop that’s not quite available for sale, but in hands-on reviews has been impressive. It offers a mix of high-end Intel 13th-gen and AMD Ryzen CPUs and Nvidia and AMD GPUs, with an 18-inch display running at a crazy 480Hz refresh rate.
Which gaming laptop size is right for you?
There are two questions to answer when it comes to picking the right gaming laptop size. Do you want to run the newest games at the highest frame rates, resolutions, and graphical detail with features like ray tracing and HDR turn one? If so, then you’ll be looking at a 15-inch or larger laptop. On the other hand, if you want a laptop that’s easier to carry around and you’re less demanding in your performance needs, then a 14-inch or 13-inch laptop might be the ticket.