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5 reasons to avoid gaming laptops

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Acer Predator 21 X

There’s only one good reason to buy a gaming laptop: acceptable gaming performance on the go. That’s it.

I’ve met several gamers who’d live and die with their gaming notebooks, and I too occasionally use them for casual gaming when I travel, but the cons easily outweigh the pros.

Before we begin, let’s define gaming laptops as mobile computers with midrange to high-end processors and graphics cards built in. They must also be marketed by their respective companies as notebooks for gamers — whether casual or hardcore.

With that, there’s no good reason to buy one, because…

You can barely call them laptops

From the water-cooled ASUS ROG GX800 to the over-the-top Acer Predator 21 X, gaming notebooks simply don’t care about portability. Whenever I review a unit, I must find a bag spacious enough to fit one of these monsters. The total weight can match a small desktop PC, minus the monitor of course.

Things get worse when you travel by air. Every single time I fly with one, security holds me at checkpoints to open my luggage and inspect my massive rig, thinking it’s a bomb controller or a bomb itself. Every. Single. Time. Needless to say, I’ve since been using something like this or this instead. (I’d love to try traveling with this, though.)

Size comparison: An ASUS gaming laptop next to an HP Ultrabook and curved Philips monitor

You could find much better deals elsewhere

Any serious gamer knows this: For the price of even just a low-end $1,000 gaming laptop, you could afford to build a high-powered desktop PC. I’m talking about being able to stick in NVIDIA’s $450 GTX 1070 graphics card with enough cash to spare for a decent processor and motherboard, plus lots of fast memory and storage.

Sure, it won’t be nearly as mobile as a notebook, but how often do you play while in transit or far from an electric socket? In addition, regular laptops equipped with lower-end graphics cards in the $500 to $600 range are actually good enough for casual gaming. I’ve enjoyed titles such as Child of Light, Portal 2, and I Am Setsuna on a $450 laptop sporting just a GTX 940m graphics card.

Upgrades are limited

One of the joys of PC gaming is designing a setup fit for your graphical needs. This is something you can do with gaming notebooks as well, but only at the beginning. That’s because you’re limited by whatever frame you start out with, so upgrades can only be dealt to the storage and RAM later on.

If you must go for a customizable notebook, Aftershock makes the process as simple as possible. I tried customizing a build in one of their shops in Singapore, and was able to choose from a variety of storage, display panel, and even warranty options. But again, prices begin at a whopping SGD 1,157 for the barest model, so you go back to the question, “Can’t I find a better deal elsewhere?”

You’ll have to stay near a wall

With so much power packed into a relatively small space, these types of machines consume a sinful amount of electricity when plugged in. This also means they get really hot under full load, so you can forget about the lap part in “laptop.” Trust me, I used one these as a pseudo fireplace during cold nights.

To make things worse, you have to keep it plugged in to maximize the processing potential while gaming. You see, most laptops throttle down the performance when working on battery power in order to save energy. This effectively kills the mobility aspect of your investment, and staples you to a wall socket.

This Acer Predator spent more time on a desk than in a backpack or train.

They’re simply too expensive

The starting price for “real” gaming laptops normally hovers around $1,000, and that’s for something equipped with a modest mobile version of midrange graphics cards. If you want a rig good enough for games like The Witcher 3 or the newest Tomb Raider, you must shell out at least $1,500, but even then you’ll be held back by middling performance.

If you just don’t care about your savings, going all the way up to $3,000 will guarantee you a gaming laptop strong enough to run games for the next three years at least. ASUS, Acer, Razer, and the like have notoriously jacked-up notebooks for exuberant prices. The wildest gaming laptop I ever used full-time was MSI’s GT80 Titan, which had a mechanical keyboard, two graphics cards, and a jaw-dropping $3,200 price tag.

Counterpoint: We need them for progress

Gaming notebooks aren’t just for bringing proofs of concepts to life; they’re also cauldrons for previously unthinkable engineering feats. Thanks to manufacturers creating these behemoths, realistic ideas spill over to more practical laptops.

Advanced cooling designs, accurate trackpads and keyboards, and efficient internal components were once exclusive to mobile gaming rigs. Now that the technology has matured, you can find these features on much cheaper mainstream notebooks.

[irp posts=”4303" name=”IFA 2016: Acer Predator 21 X first look”]

Best Smartphones

Best Premium Smartphones above $600

November 2019 Edition

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If you’re looking for the very best high-end smartphones available, you’ve come to the right place! Every month, GadgetMatch updates this list with the finest devices money can buy, no matter how much they cost.

Updated monthly, this list takes every newly launched flagship costing more than US$ 600 into consideration, but doesn’t discount the smartphones that continue to make an impact since their launch last year.

Here they are in no particular order:

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ (US$ 1100)

The Samsung Galaxy Note series continues to set itself apart by being the premiere smartphone that comes with a stylus. It doesn’t hurt that the smartphone is also pretty darn good at pretty much any other thing you might think of doing on a smartphone. While it’s not necessarily elite at one thing, it’s pretty darn good at everything.

HANDS-ON: Samsung Galaxy Note 10

ASUS ROG Phone 2 (Starts at US$ 500)

Nobody asked but ASUS followed up their gaming smartphone. The ROG Phone 2 maxes out every imaginable spec all while maintaining the design language of its predecessor. While the older accessories work, ASUS still introduced a few new ones. Most notably the Kunai gamepad that makes the gaming phone look almost like a Nintendo Switch.

REVIEW: ROG Phone 2

Google Pixel 3 (US$ 799)

As good as the Pixel 3 XL is, we’re recommending its smaller sibling once again. Not only is its 5.5-inch screen the perfect size for one-handed use, but the absence of a notch also makes all the difference in this era of camera cutouts. As expected, the Pixel 3 has the best single rear camera in the biz, plus the extra camera in front adds another dimension to selfies.

REVIEW: Google Pixel 3

iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max (US$ 999)

The iPhone 11 Pro made no leaps in design which is why it somewhat feels underwhelming. It does, however, make up for it with yet another faster than ever processor, and a much-improved camera system. No, Apple didn’t exactly “innovate” but the iPhone is still what you expect it to be — a smartphone who’s hardware and software just works.

UNBOXING: iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max

OnePlus 7 Pro (US$ 669)

OnePlus went all out with its latest flagship smartphone, and although the price is now firmly in the premium category, the OnePlus 7 Pro provides all the high-end featured you’d expect from even pricier phones. The combination of the stunning design, top-of-the-line specs, and impressive cameras all this phone to compete with the Samsungs and Huaweis of the world.

REVIEW: OnePlus 7 Pro

Huawei P30 Pro (EUR 999)

Yes, we are well aware that the Huawei Mate 30 Pro has been released. But one thing that the P30 Pro has over the Mate 30 Pro is Google Mobile Services that’s ready out-of-the-box. The Mate 30 Pro has superior hardware so far, but the hardware can only take you so far. The Mate 30 Pro is a fantastic smartphone, but if the software we expect aren’t readily available, it’s a tough sell.

REVIEW: Huawei P30 Pro

Motorola razr (US$ 1499)

If you’re hell-bent on owning a foldable smartphone, this is probably the easiest choice. The Motorola razr is proof that being first to get new tech out on the market isn’t as important as being the first to get it right.
It’s an old favorite, reinvented. And that’s just flat out brilliant.

HANDS-ON: Motorola razr


Update as of November 2019:

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ replaced the Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • Motorola razr has joined the list

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Best Smartphones

Best Midrange Smartphones from $200 to $400

November 2019 Edition

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When premium phones are out of financial reach and entry-level handsets just don’t make your cut, something in between is the next best thing. This is our updated list of the best midrange smartphones retailing from US$ 200 to US$ 400.

Formulating this category was tricky, since you can’t set an exact price and some of these devices are, in fact, the flagship phones of their respective brands. To simplify things, we chose a price range that simply sits between our other lists for best budget, upper-midrange, and premium smartphones.

Here they are in no particular order:

Realme XT (US$ 333)

The Realme XT is our choice for best smartphone with a 64MP camera. This smartphone produces flagship-level photos.

REVIEW: Realme XT

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE (US$ 300)

Xiaomi has always been a part of the list and the Mi 9 SE truly deserves its spot. It’s a flagship-grade phone from its design to its specs. It’s dubbed as a “compact flagship” thanks to its smaller-than-usual form factor. If you’re looking for a phone that won’t hurt your pockets both in size and price, check out the Mi 9 SE.

REVIEW: Xiaomi Mi 9 SE

Realme 5 Pro (US$ 232)

A quadruple-camera setup at this price point seems unlikely but Realme made it happen. And it’s not just the setup, the lenses actually take photos with good image quality. That would have been enough to recommend this but it also has a Snapdragon 712 AIE chip with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. If you’re looking for a great deal, this is it.

HANDS-ON: Realme 5 Pro

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 (US$ 245)

While not as affordable as its predecessor, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 still does several things most phones can’t even dream of at this price point. We get an upper-midrange chip, large 5000mAh battery, versatile cameras, and a pure take on Android.

REVIEW: ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2

Huawei Nova 5T (US$ 367)

Huawei managed to put a flagship-level chip with a glass back and with triple cameras on a midrange phone. These are things you expect from brands like Xiaomi but Huawei was able to pull it off as well.

READ: Huawei Nova 5T

Samsung Galaxy A50s (US$ 345)

Samsung’s pivot to the A series has been fantastic and the Galaxy A50s is another proof of that. It’s a refinement of everything that was good with the Galaxy A50. If you’re a die-hard Samsung fan looking for a midrange phone, the Galaxy A50s is a solid option.

REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy A50s


Update as of November 2019:

  • The Realme XT was added to this list

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Best Smartphones

Best Budget Smartphones below $200

November 2019 Edition

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Welcome to GadgetMatch’s list of the best smartphones priced below US$ 200! Each month, we update our selection with the budget-friendly phones we believe are most deserving of your hard-earned savings.

Even though the spotlight has been on high-end smartphones this entire year, there have been a few surprisingly good entry-level handsets coming out lately, as well. So good, in fact, that we had to reassess our entire list.

Here they are in no particular order:

Redmi Note 8 (US$ 155)

The Redmi Note 8 is proof that you can put quality cameras on a budget smartphone. It has a 48MP main shooter which is what you’ll find on most flagships and midrangers. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 SoC, it should also have no trouble handling basic gaming and other tasks you do on your phone.

READ: Redmi Note 8

ASUS ZenFone Max M2 (US$ 175)

We were disappointed to find out that the ZenFone Max Pro M2 went above the US$ 200 mark, but we still have the non-Pro Max M2 to buy at this price point. Fortunately, the fast Snapdragon 632 processor, large 4000mAh battery, and dual rear cameras remain.

REVIEW: ASUS ZenFone Max M2

OPPO A5s (US$ 117)

The OPPO A5s perhaps is best looked at as a transition device more than anything else. It does what you expect out of budget smartphones. It’s good to have “for now” but you might look elsewhere for a more reliable daily driver.

REVIEW: OPPO A5s

Realme 5 (US$ 154)

Realme is giving Xiaomi a run for its money on our top-of-mind easy phones to recommend. The Realme 5 is a real treat for people looking for a budget smartphone that provides more than what they need.

HANDS-ON: Realme 5

Samsung Galaxy A20 (US$ 190)

Samsung’s revived Galaxy A-series proves that the company cares about every price segment. The Galaxy A20, in particular, is the most well-rounded below US$ 200 thanks to its ultra-wide camera, AMOLED display, and hefty battery.

REVIEW: Samsung Galaxy A20


Update as of November 2019:

  • The Redmi Note 8 replaces the Redmi Note 7 on this list

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