If you are planning to buy a new gaming laptop this year, then you are in luck. All major chipset makers including Intel, AMD and Nvidia are bringing new silicon to gaming notebooks across all segments. We are also looking at adoption of faster DDR5 memory, PCIe Gen 5 SSDs and bigger screen options. Here’s a deep dive into what all you can expect from gaming laptops in 2023.
With its fierce focus on gaming, it is no surprise that there are more gaming laptops on the market with Intel processors than AMD. In fact, a large volume of consumers prefers team blue over team red.
The company’s latest offering for notebooks, the 13th-gen ‘Raptor Lake’ mobile series has already started shipping on select devices. The range is divided into the usual HX, H, P and U series classifications. Specifically for gamers, Intel is bringing more SKUs under its flagship HX series compared to the last generation. Leading the pack is the Core i9-13980HX which is now Intel’s fastest mobile processor having boost clock speeds of 5.6GHz. It also comes with a total of 24 cores (8P+16E) and 32 threads, as do the Core i9-13950HX, and the Core i9-13900HX. The HX-series has a TDP range of 55W to 157W, support for DDR4-3200 and DDR5-5600 memory as well as PCIe 5.0 x16 support that can potentially be split into 2×8.
The H-series Raptor Lake mobile processors continue to be the traditional option for gaming laptops. There are a total of eleven new H-series SKUs with the Core i9 series sitting on top with up to 14 cores (6P+8E) and 20 threads. The entire range has a base TDP of 45W with the Core i9 and Core i7 boosting up to 115W and the Core i5 going up to 95W. The H-series also comes with support for up to four Thunderbolt 4 connectors and DDR5-5200/LPDDR5-6400, or DDR4-3200 memory.
The existing crop of 12th-gen Alder Lake mobile processors is pretty impressive and was a generous upgrade over 11th-gen. It is expected that 12th-gen Intel gaming laptops will witness a small price cut once the new 13th-gen laptops take over, so they are definitely worth considering if you have a lower budget. In terms of core count, the outgoing 12th-gen HX-series comes with up to 16 cores, 24 threads and boost clock speeds of up to 5GHz on the Core i9-12950HX and the 12900HX. They also come with a similar base and boost TDP of 55W and 157W respectively, as with Raptor Lake. Even the H-series is worth the money, especially the Core i9 and Core i7 models that feature 14-cores and 20-threads (barring the Core i5-12650H).
At CES 2023 AMD launched its new Ryzen 7000 mobile processors. Apart from the obvious upgraded tech, the naming scheme for the new series has been changed and it can get confusing. To clarify, here’s a table explaining what each digit signifies.
Basically what you need to remember is that the first digit denotes the year in this case ‘7′ which is 2023, the second digit is the segment (Ryzen 9, Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 3), the third digit is for the CPU architecture (Zen 4, Zen 3, Zen 2, etc) while the fourth will either be 0 (Lower Segment) or 5 (Higher Segment). The U, HS and HX suffixes continue to define the TDP, and AMD has axed the H-series this year. In short, expect AMD gaming laptops to utilise the HX and HS processors as they come with 55W+ and 35W/45W TDPs respectively.
The Ryzen 7045 series is the most powerful and power-hungry of the lot. It is based on the TSMC 5nm node which AMD has been using for the Ryzen 7000 desktop line-up. The Ryzen 9 7945HX sits on top having a total of 16 cores, 32 threads, a boost frequency of 5.7 GHz, a configurable TDP of 55-75W+ and a large 64 MB of L3 cache. There is also the Ryzen 9 7845HX, which is a 12-core/24-thread CPU, the Ryzen 7 7745HX with 8-cores/16-threads, and the six-core AMD Ryzen 5 7645HX. The Ryzen 7045HX series will be available first on the ASUS ROG Strix, Lenovo Legion and Alienware m16 and m18 range of laptops.
Next in line is the Ryzen 7040 which is considered the true new chipset among AMD’s Ryzen 7000 mobile range. It is the company’s first Zen 4 mobile CPU built on TSMC’s 4nm process with new CPU cores, new RDNA 3 iGPU, and a dedicated AI engine to improve efficiency. AMD will initially launch 3 SKUs under the Ryzen 7040 mobile series with TDPs of 35W to 45W. The Ryzen 9 7940HS and Ryzen 7 7840HS feature 8-CPU cores and only differ in terms of clock speeds. The Ryzen 5 7640HS will have a total of 6 CPU cores. Notably, the 7040 series supports DDR5-5600 and LPDDR5x-7500 memory, but since the HX series is meant for peak performance it will be interesting to see if laptop manufacturers actually end up offering high-speed memory on the 7040 series.
There is also the Ryzen 7035 series, and while they do include some HS models, there is no clarity on whether we are going to see these chips on gaming laptops. As for the outgoing Ryzen 5000 and 6000-based gaming laptops, they are still quite viable especially when if you are looking for a powerful mid-range gaming machine with good battery life.
As a follow-up to the GeForce RTX 40-series desktop GPUs, Nvidia introduced the RTX 40-series GPUs for laptops at CES 2023. Featuring the new Ada Lovelace architecture, DLSS 3 enhancements, and 5th-generation Max-Q technologies, the new lineup of discrete GPUs will be available on various gaming laptops from leading brands such as Alienware, ASUS, Gigabyte, Lenovo, MSI, and more.
At the time of writing this, the RTX 4090 and the 4080 laptops are already available for purchase while the mid-range RTX 4070, 4060 and 4050, will be available in the coming days. Just like the previous RTX 30 series mobile GPUs, the new range will arrive with a configurable TDP. What that means is that laptop manufacturers will have the liberty to set a certain power draw limit and frequency for the GPU. OEMs are also expected to indicate GPU wattage and clock frequency in their product specifications, thus giving consumers a better idea of what kind of performance they can expect.
The new RTX 40-series mobile GPUs are said to be way more efficient and can compete against the last-gen RTX 30-series with just one-third of the power. While that is a bold claim, it is possible while gaming using Nvidia’s new DLSS 3, better known as DLSS frame generation. So while the statement holds true, you might not witness a huge performance gain in every single game. One also needs to remember that each RTX 40-series mobile GPU is not equivalent to its desktop counterpart. For instance, the RTX 4090 mobile offers a total of 9728 CUDA cores in comparison to the 16384 on the desktop version, which is a huge difference. Rather, the RTX 4090 mobile is more in line with the RTX 4080 desktop version in terms of CUDA cores, memory size, and memory interface. The only difference is that the laptop version of the RTX 4090 can only be configured with lower TDP and uses 16GB GDDR6 instead of 16GB GDDR6X memory. Another important change is that the lowest GPU in the segment, the RTX 4050, comes with 6GB of memory which is a nice upgrade from the standard 4GB from last year on the RTX 3050.
The new Ada architecture also brings high-efficiency on-chip memory that helps reduce GPU power consumption with double the bandwidth, over 10x the capacity, and improved clock gating. There is also the new tri-speed memory control that enables the GPU to switch to new, lower-power memory states dynamically, further improving power efficiency when the system is idle or using low-intensity apps. Lastly, the ultra-low voltage GDDR6 memory helps in boosting GPU efficiency via the integration of the lowest voltage graphics memory ever.
The new RTX 40-series for laptops also brings new AV1 encoders to improve livestream video encoding by enabling 4K60 at 10Mbps streams, which is more efficient than H.264 which uses 20-25Mbps for quality 4K streams. For editing video the new NVENC dual AV1 encoders (available only on the GeForce RTX 4080 and 4090) can be used in parallel to export videos at up to 2x faster.
Apart from its new line of mobile CPUs, AMD is also upgrading its mobile GPUs. The new Radeon RX 7000M and 7000S are based on AMD’s RDNA 3 6nm architecture and feature dedicated AI and 2nd-generation ray-tracing accelerators. They also come with AV1 encoding acceleration support, AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution technology (FSR) 2.2, and AMD Radiance Display Engine which is 12 bit-per-channel colour and higher refresh rate display support.
There are two 7000M GPUs which are more high-end and are said to offer a ‘desktop-class experience.’ The Radeon RX 7600M XT offers 32 compute units, 8GB of GDDR6 memory running on a 128-bit interface, 32MB of infinity cache, and clock speeds of 2,300MHz. The RX 7600M on the other hand comes with 28 compute cores and a frequency of 2,070MHz, with all other features similar to the XT variant. The RX 7000S series will be available on laptops operating at between 50-100W, so expect a performance drop when compared to the 7000M chips. The Radeon RX 7700S offers similar specs as the 7600M XT, but a lower frequency of 2,200MHz. The RX 7600S includes 28 compute units and runs at up to 1,865MHz.
According to AMD, the 7000M GPUs will offer up to 26 percent higher performance on average, while the 7000S GPUs offer 29 percent higher performance on average compared to previous generation AMD Radeon GPUs in gaming titles at 1080p resolution. These new GPUs will also use AMD SmartShift RSR technology, which is said to intelligently distribute rendering, upscaling, and presentation demands between APU and GPU resources to help deliver the best possible performance.
Although AMD is bringing improved ray tracing support and FidelityFX Super Resolution upscaling, Nvidia has a stronger hold on both of these technologies.
DDR4 had a long run but we now have DDR5 memory. The new standard not only comes with faster clock speeds, but also includes some well-needed improvements and upgrades. It consumes up to 20 percent less power compared to DDR4 and features an onboard PMIC or power management integrated circuit. This helps regulate power to the various components on the memory module. There is also improved ECC (Error Correction Code), increased banks and burst length, and dual 32-bit sub-channels.
In a separate article I mentioned how DDR5 memory is not going to bring a massive improvement in gaming performance. But considering how the pricing of DDR5 memory is not as expensive as it was during launch, it would make a lot of sense to purchase a gaming laptop with DDR5 memory. Besides, why would you want to be stuck on an older generation memory standard for a few more years?
PCIe Gen 5 storage
Modern gaming laptops feature M.2 storage with support for PCIe Gen 4 or at the least Gen 3. We saw a few models last year, like the MSI GT77 Titan 12UHS, that offered support for even faster PCIe Gen 5 SSDs. While a majority of gaming laptops in 2023 are expected to offer PCIe Gen 4 storage (at least the first half of 2023), which is perfectly fine, Gen 5 ensures transfer speeds at 10,000MBps and above, which is insane. In short, you are fine with either, but if you really want bleeding-edge performance and a future-proof laptop, make sure you get one that offers support for PCIe Gen 5 drives.
New display sizes
A few years ago we saw a new breed of 14-inch gaming laptops. While the category is still gaining momentum, be prepared for more unconventional screen sizes. Alienware, ASUS, Acer, Lenovo and Razer are preparing to launch new 16-inch and 18-inch gaming laptops in 2023 that go beyond the traditional screen size that we are used to. Of course, this means you get a larger screen real estate to play with and some of these new laptops will also come with a 16:10 aspect ratio giving you more vertical screen space.