I’ve tested 11 Ryzen gaming laptops this year, now it’s time to compare them all and separate the winners from the losers to help you decide which ones are worth your money.
Ryzen 2020 recap
It was only earlier this year when AMD first announced their Ryzen 4000 series processors for laptops, which offered a serious step up over the 3000 series they had previously, making them much more competitive in the laptop space. These new processors put 8 cores into laptops below the $1000 price point for the first time pretty much ever, as Intel’s 8 core options are all much more expensive.
While in general Intel is a little ahead in terms of gaming, the differences were often comparable with not that big of a practical difference, and for multicore work on the other hand, the AMD options were typically the winners while coming in at a lower price point. The result has been well priced laptops with a lot of performance on offer, but the benefits of Ryzen can only take us so far. At the end of the day it depends on how companies like ASUS and MSI for instance are actually designing their machines.
With that in mind, I’ll start off with some of the, let’s say less good designs, before moving onto better options as we go, and I’ll cover both the good and the bad of each model along the way.
MSI Bravo 15
I’m going to start out with the MSI Bravo 15. This is one of the rare all AMD designs, where both the processor and graphics are AMD based. In this case I’ve got the RX 5500M graphics which sits somewhere in between the GTX 1650 and 1660 Ti on the Nvidia side. The issues I have with it was processor performance from the 6 core 4600H was down a little when compared to other laptops with the same CPU. This is in part due to some thermal throttling, as it can run hot. The touchpad also has an issue where it misclicks, and the keyboard has low travel and isn’t great to type with.
There’s just nothing that stands out with this one, but the main issue for me was the price. Mine was $50 cheaper than the Lenovo Legion 5, one of the better options, and it came with single channel memory, so once upgrading to dual channel the prices are equivalent, and the Legion 5 easily mops the floor with the Bravo 15, so unless the Bravo has a good sale it’s not worth considering. I’ve heard in some regions like India the Bravo is one of the better priced options, so if that’s all you’ve got available to you then just be aware of the issues noted in my review.
Quick mention on the refreshed MSI Alpha 15, unfortunately I only tested the Ryzen 3000 model with 5500M graphics last year, but it’s been refreshed with Ryzen 4000 and 5600M recently. I expect performance to be a nice step up over what was available in the older model, as I’ve found the 5600M to perform between the GTX 1660 Ti and RTX 2060 graphics on the Nvidia side. The Alpha 15 I tested had a fast screen, plastic body but ultimately failed to impress due to the higher price. The new model is $200 more but with much better CPU and graphics, but still compared to some others it looks a bit pricey, at least in the US market.
ASUS TUF A15
This one has quite a few spec options, 3 different Ryzen processors and four different Nvidia graphics options.
For the price, the TUF looks attractive, but there are some well documented issues, namely in terms of thermals. The bottom panel doesn’t have air intake vents directly above the fans. ASUS say that this is to instead force air in over the other components, .but Hardware Unboxed have gone as far as to actually cut holes in an A15 to show that it would have improved performance. Despite running on the warmer side, the performance was still decent compared to others. The 144Hz panels in my units had slow response time of around 20ms with noticeable ghosting, a far cry from the 6.9ms needed for true 144Hz.
All 3 were also a little dim and under 300 nits, not too surprising though as the screen is a common area that’s cut to keep a laptop’s price low.
Good things with the TUF include the speakers and battery life, as you can get it with a large 90Wh battery, but again like the Bravo, there are better options.
Dell G5 SE
If you thought the TUF ran hot, you haven’t seen anything yet. Dell are known for running their gaming laptops hotter, which to be fair generally does mean performance, but heat is the tradeoff to pumping in more power for higher performance. This is another all AMD option, and was the first gaming laptop to offer the RX 5600M graphics, which again I’ve found to perform between the GTX 1660 Ti and RTX 2060.
The G5 is available with 6 or 8 core processor, however due to the way AMD’s smartshift works, the cheaper 6 core option actually runs better than the 8 core model in games because the GPU is able to take more of the power budget. The 60Hz screen has a slow response time, the 144Hz one is better but still not ideal. The gray plastic design of the G5 looks a bit dated, but for a starting price of $850 USD for 5600M tier performance, again at times near the RTX 2060, it’s actually pretty decent, so just depends if you’re comfortable running in excess of 100 degrees Celsius under load. Dell apparently are, and to be fair I haven’t heard of these things dying.
Acer Nitro 5
Let’s move onto the Acer Nitro 5 next. Now to be clear, I think this is an excellent entry level gaming laptop for $670 USD, the only reason it’s lower on the list is simply that there are better options with more features, however those are more expensive as a result.
Simply put, if you’re on a strict budget, I think the Acer Nitro 5 is one of the best Ryzen options available today. It’s got the 6 core Ryzen 5 4600H processor, and my unit has Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics, so fine for playing most modern games at 1080p low to medium settings. Battery life was very impressive from this machine, though there is a fair bit of flex to the plastic chassis. The 60Hz screen doesn’t have great colour gamut and is a little dim, but it gets the job done, these are areas that had to be cut to keep the competitive price.
Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3
Next up is the Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3. This one is around $70 more expensive than the Nitro 5 just covered, but the build quality is a little better despite still being all plastic. Other differences include a faster screen with FreeSync, however battery life isn’t quite as good as the cheaper Nitro. While a little better, these features probably aren’t worth 10% more money if you’re on a tight budget over the Nitro, however it’s still priced competitively for the performance on offer.
ASUS Zephyrus G15
I’m still in the middle of reviewing the ASUS Zephyrus G15, but I’ve seen enough to place it closer to the lower side of this list. My G15 has the same specs as the smaller Zephyrus G14, but it performs worse in games despite being a larger 15 inch model, and this is due to thermal throttling, as ASUS actually included some nice features to help with cooling in the G14. For some reason ASUS have blocked off the vents on the bottom panel above the fans.
The screen in my G15 was better than the G14, it’s got a 240Hz refresh rate with 6.5ms response time, but at the same time this is generally overkill for the Max-Q graphics and HS processor combination unless you’re just playing esports titles at lower settings.
There’s just one slot for memory upgrades, as some is soldered to the board. Some positives include great battery life, fair build quality, and it’s on the thinner side, though that would be contributing to the higher temps so depends what your priority is. There’s just not really anything too special about it, it was one of the earlier Ryzen 4000 models available and we’ve since had better options come out. For an above average price point I don’t think it’s worth it compared to alternatives that are yet to come.
ASUS Zephyrus G14
The ASUS Zephyrus G14 was the first laptop I ever had for testing Ryzen 4000, it’s quite a unique machine at 14 inches, making it a little more portable than all the other 15 and 17 inch models I’m covering.
The smaller size isn’t without some compromises however. As there aren’t that many 14 inch gaming laptops, there’s simply less panel selection, and the 120Hz one used by the G14 has lower response time compared to most with ghosting, so not ideal for fast paced gaming. Less space also means less cooling, and while ASUS did all sorts of interesting things to improve thermals, they still had to use lower wattage parts which means less performance. The processors are HS, meaning they’re 10 watts lower than the regular H versions, and the 2060 Max-Q graphics in the one I tested was limited to 65 watts, so despite technically being a 2060 chip, cheaper 1660 Ti laptops are able to outperform it. That said, as mentioned with the same specs it was still outperforming the larger 15 inch G15 I covered previously.
The smaller size means the keyboard is also missing some keys which might not go too well for programmers. Like the G15, there’s one memory slot here too, so upgrades are limited based on the memory soldered to the motherboard. Basically you’re paying a premium to get a slightly smaller machine, you can often pay less to get a slightly larger 15 inch laptop with better performance and screen, which I think is a better decision for most people unless your main priority is portability.
This one is kind of awkward so I’m just going to stick it here, this is the Clevo chassis that’s sold as the THICC-15 in the US from Eluktronics, Apex 15 from XMG in Europe, or the Prime-Ai from Metabox here in Australia.
What makes this one special is that it uses the AM4 socket, so you can actually take out the CPU and upgrade it, meaning you could start with a 6 core 3600 then go to the 16 core 3950X later, crazy stuff. While not Ryzen 4000 like the other laptops in this review, it still uses Zen2 processors. Unfortunately at the time of making the review there’s still no confirmation as to whether or not it will offer support for Zen 3, aka Ryzen 5000 desktop processors, but regardless the Zen 2 chips are still able to smash down current laptop processors in multicore work due to the higher power limits that are possible in a thicker machine like this. This one is mainly worth considering as a desktop replacement, as it’s larger and heavier than all other machines covered in this review, but there’s no denying the performance, which didn’t end up being too much lower when compared to running the same processors in a desktop PC. You could argue that this is the best machine as it’s the most powerful, but I’m not awarding it that as I don’t think it’s exactly a gaming laptop for most people, so let’s continue.
I tested the Tongfang chassis known as the RP-15 from Eluktronics pretty early on, shortly after the TUF A15, and in comparison it looked amazing.
It’s a decent machine, but the build quality isn’t as good as the Omen 15 or Legion 5 which I tested later on, and it also doesn’t have FreeSync like those others. CPU performance is excellent though, one of the best tested in that regard and only slightly behind the Omen and Legion. This one does have a boosted RTX 2060 with higher 110 watt power limit, but I didn’t find this to offer too much benefit when actually testing games. It scored the same as the 80 watt 1660 Ti in the Legion 5 in Shadow of the Tomb Raider for example, and in Battlefield 5 it was just a couple of FPS ahead not especially impressive at more than $200 more expensive.
Plus you’ve got nose cam down the bottom, but hey still preferable to not having one at all like those ASUS Zephyrus laptops. I also tested the 17” version, the Core 17 from XMG, which performed a little better overall, seemingly taking advantage of the larger available space.
HP Omen 15
The HP Omen 15 is next. I tested this after the RP-15, and at the time it took the spot of best Ryzen gaming laptop that I’d tested. The build quality was better, you get FreeSync, the battery life is better and both CPU and gaming performance was similar for a very close price point, though it did have some sales putting it cheaper at times. The lid is pretty flexible, but otherwise alright build quality. HP also sells the Pavilion 15 with Ryzen processor, but unfortunately it’s been out of stock and I can’t get it.
The Omen 15 is a great machine, it just depends on the price, but there’s one machine that beats it.
Lenovo Legion 5
I’ve saved the best for last, which will be no surprise if you saw my review, the Lenovo Legion 5. I bought this for $1000 USD, but it was recently on sale for $850 which is crazy stuff for what’s on offer. I’ve got a whole review comparing this against the Omen 15 just before it if you want more specifics as to why this is better, but the summary is that they share many features, but in the end the Legion is cheaper and performs better.
The Legion lets us disable optimus which provides a speed boost in games, the only Ryzen gaming laptop I’ve tested that does that if I recall correctly.
The Legion also applies an overclock to the GPU out of the box for a nice extra boost for those that don’t know about performance tuning. You could of course use software like MSI Afterburner to overclock say, the Omen yourself, but fact is most people aren’t enthusiasts so if the machine just does this automatically and boosts performance then I see that as preferable.
The Legion also offers one of the best scores in Cinebench I’ve ever recorded, demonstrating what the 8 core Ryzen 7 4800H is capable of in a well designed machine. I was only able to get an equivalent score with the Omen by manually boosting it with Ryzen controller, this image also shows the stock Omen performance which was a little lower prior to tuning, but with some simple tweaks you can get similar results.
Again it comes down to better out of box experience for the majority of people that aren’t going to use software to boost power limits and things like that. There’s just not too much at all that’s actually bad about the Legion. Battery life is decent, the keyboard is nice, and the screen is pretty good with FreeSync. I really can’t recommend the Legion 5 enough out of these options, it’s the best Ryzen gaming laptop that I’ve tested in 2020.
So there we have it, almost every single Ryzen gaming laptop compared and roughly stacked up based on where I think they sit compared to the other options, based on my personal experience of testing all of them.
Thoughts on 2020 Ryzen laptops and future 5000 series
I think for the most part we’ve had a nice selection of Ryzen 4000 gaming laptops this year, but we still can’t get high end options above RTX 2060 graphics at the moment. Hopefully this will change next year with Ryzen 5000 laptops, based on how well Zen 2 laptops have done this year I would expect most companies to go more in on including Ryzen in more models.