The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020

JT JT 24 November 2020
The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020

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

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020It 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.The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 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

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020I’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. The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020In 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 BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020The 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

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020This 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 BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020The 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.The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 Despite  running on the warmer side, the performance was   still decent compared to others. The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020The 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

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020If  you thought the TUF ran hot, you haven’t seen   anything yet.The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 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, The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020however 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 BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020The 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

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020Let’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. The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020  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

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020Next 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. The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020While 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

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020I’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. The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020My 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. The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020For 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.The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 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 BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020The 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. The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020Less 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 BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 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.

Clevo NH58AF

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020This 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.  The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 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.The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 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.

RP-15/Core 15

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020I 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. The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020CPU 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.  The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 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  aheadThe BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 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 BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020The 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 BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020The 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

The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020I’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 BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020The 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 BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020The 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,The BEST and WORST Ryzen Gaming Laptops of 2020 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.

Final verdict

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.

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