Muscle up! The best desktop options for both work and pleasure are today's largest-screen notebooks. This guide will help you choose the best 17-inch workstation or gaming machine.
Muscle up! The most powerful notebooks of today are great desktop options for both work and pleasure. This guide will help you choose the best 17-inch workstation or gaming machine.
A laptop is essential for anyone who loves big pictures. A notebook is what you long for (the term "laptop" may be a little misleading for those bulky thigh-crushers). It can replace a desktop computer and gives you a clear, easy-on the-eyes view of your work area or play field. This means that a 17 inch model is the most popular in portable technology.
Practically, all 17 inch laptops have displays measuring 17.3 inches diagonally. This is the same as 15-inch laptops which measure 15.6 inches from corner to corner. This is enough to see full HD resolution or 1080p at 1,920x1,080 pixels. It also allows for comfortable viewing of high resolutions like 4K (3840x2,160), without having to strain your eyes.
Are you ready to take on the world? You are ready to go big? Read this article to find out our top-rated 17-inch models tested in various user groups. Then, follow up with a guide on what you should look for when choosing the best 17-inch laptop.
A 17-inch screen is a great option if you have multiple windows on your computer or your vision impairment. On the negative side, this screen size dictates a bulky machine—one that's often too big for a briefcase, requiring a special laptop bag, backpack, or roller bag, and too heavy for more than occasional transport between home and office or cubicle and conference room.
With one exception, the lightest 17 inch laptops weigh just seven pounds. The LG Gram 17 is an exceptional case, weighing in at just under three pounds. Gaming models are the heaviest and can weigh in at 10 or more pounds. In some cases that includes two AC power bricks, it may be even heavier. What about an airline tray table? Forget it. More like checked baggage.
You shouldn't expect a long battery life for a larger notebook. They are built to work on AC power for most of their life. You are lucky if your machine can run unplugged for longer than 4 hours. Take a look at our comparison table of the test runtimes for our top picks.
Are these sacrifices worth it just for the sake of a nice view? Luggables are not just large-print books for the laptop world.
No—they're also the performance leaders. They can house the fastest processors, graphics cards and cooling systems. There is plenty of space for ports and spacious keyboards that are near desktop-class.
Although they aren't recommended for frequent flyers, jumbo laptops fill an important niche. Let's take a look at the capabilities of these laptops and how to shop for them.
There are a few 17 inch laptops that can be used as general purpose computers for those who need a portable computer with large screens. However, most fall under one of two groups with different but equally dedicated audiences, mobile workstations or serious gaming laptops.
Each type can manage what most PC users consider work. This includes office productivity, email, Word, Excel and Outlook. Mobile workstations are a different story. As we have seen, they can handle even the smallest apps. They are certified by independent software vendors (ISVs) to be compatible and easy to use with applications for more difficult computing tasks, such as computer-aided designing (CAD), advanced 3D modeling, and rendering. This allows them to crunch through large engineering or scientific datasets or dive into video editing, and create virtual worlds. They rely on the latest CPU and GPU technology to accomplish this.
The exception is that GPU power is more important than CPU muscle, but GPU strength is just as crucial. Gaming rigs are the star of our buying guide and roundup. They're designed to play the latest and greatest titles at high speeds—at least 60 frames per second, double the rate recognized as providing minimally smooth gameplay—with all the visual details and eye candy turned up to 11. It won't do the trick if there is any stuttering onscreen. A fragfest can lead to fatal lag.
The 17-inch screen class is ideal for both gaming and workstation laptops. In-plane switching or indium galium zinc oxide panels are a solid choice. They offer the best colors and contrasts, along with the most off-center viewing angles. Both gamers and professionals prefer touch screens.
For high frame rates, gamers often opt for displays that are capped at 1080p. 4K gaming requires expensive, top-of the-line GPUs such as Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 Super or GeForceRTX 3070. Some workstations have the best screen resolution to replicate the desktop experience on multiple monitors, or edit 4K video. Mobile workstations can also match what you see on the screen exactly to what you want. You have the option of using sRGB for web, print, and DCI-P3 color space options. Several models made by Gigabyte and Asus have been validated by Pantone to ensure color accuracy.
Standard laptop LCDs can refresh at 60Hz and redraw the screen 60 times per second. That's fine for the human eye—television is 30Hz and most movies 24Hz—and for 90-plus percent of applications and users. For gamers, however, this is not sufficient. They have invested in graphics chips capable of producing 60 frames per second. There are many gaming laptops that can run at 120Hz or 144Hz. You can find out more information about high-refresh displays. These screens are compatible with Nvidia’s G-Sync technology. This allows the screen to synchronize its refresh rate to the GPU to create smoother visuals.
Intel's parts teamed up with discrete GeForce or Radeon RX processors are the most popular CPU options. They have a clear advantage over AMD's mobile Ryzen 7 and 5 chips that feature integrated graphics. Intel Core i7 U- and G-Series processors are lighter, more powerful options for gaming notebooks 17 inches. The mighty—and mighty costly—Core i9 chips occupy the top of the market. You can read more about choosing the best laptop CPU.
The Core i7/Core i9 processors are joined by Intel's Xeon processors. These offer server-style error correction code memory support. Although not a common feature for ISV apps ECC's ability detect and correct single-bit errors in memory is an advantage for financial, scientific, and architectural computing jobs that are sensitive to even the slightest corruption.
For most users, regular RAM that isn't ECC will work just fine. A gaming laptop should have 8GB memory, but 16GB is better. A gaming laptop should have 8GB of memory, but 16GB is a better choice if you have a lot of cash. The RAM requirements of workstations are higher than average. 16GB is the minimum, 32GB more common; some models can support 64GB and 128GB. To determine how much memory you need for a portable workstation, it is important to check the RAM requirements of any applications that you intend to use.
For an SSD-only system, half a Terabyte is acceptable storage. 1TB and 1.5TB are more common options. Some workstations have up to 3TB and 4TB respectively. A smaller SSD, such as 256GB, 500GB, or 500GB, used for the boot drive is an acceptable compromise. It can also be paired with a large hard drive. The 17-inch model is most likely to be able to accommodate both. A few 17-inch laptops may include an area that allows you to install an optional 2.5-inch drive, or an M.2 SSD. It can also be a cost-effective option.
Nvidia's RTX A series (previously Quadro) is the most common brand for mobile workstations. AMD's Radeon Pro is a less well-known. The silicon they use is optimised for different functions than their respective GeForce or Radeon parts. This includes hard-charging, constant-on rendering, calculations, and hard-charging.
Nvidia also holds a large market share in mobile GPUs on the gaming side. The GeForceRTX30 Series' current offerings are based on its "Ampere architecture." These products were first seen in desktop video cards such as the GeForceRTX3080. These GPUs are at the top end of the gaming-laptop marketplace and will be indicated with "GeForce RTX” instead of "GeForce GTX". They replace chips based upon the "Turing” architecture of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 20 Series, although you may still find laptops based on them.
Both workstations as well as gaming rigs have the same basic story: More models and more expensive means faster frames and better performance. You also get support for virtual reality (VR) features. However, midrange and top-end gaming laptop GPUs such as the GeForce RTX 1660T (Turing), and all current GeForce RTX chip, can play and explore VR worlds. High-end mobile workstation components like the Nvidia RTX A-series support VR authoring and creation.
Nvidia's 2021 gaming-laptop GPUs saw a change. It was a straightforward ladder before the 20-Series Turing and 30-Series Ampere laptop chips were launched. They climbed up from the GeForce GTX1050 to the GTX1050 Ti and then on to the GTX1060. The formerly top-end GTX 1070, GTX 1080 topped the list. These three models were eventually replaced by GeForce RTX 2060 and RTX2070 and RTX RTX 2030 (with slightly faster "RTX Super") versions. The RTX 3050 and RTX 3050T, RTX 3060 and RTX 3070 have all been discontinued. Only the last two will truly satisfy gaming hounds planning to play the latest titles at 4K resolution with all the image-quality settings dialed up, while the GTX chips and lower RTX chips have been designed for gamers with full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) screens. The RTX 2070 and RTX 20306 meanwhile are in the Full-HD and Full-HD realms.
The current chips at the lower end are the GeForce GTX 1650 and GTX 1650 Ti mobile versions, respectively. The GTX 1660 is not available in a mobile format. In early 2022, machines equipped with GeForce RTX3050 Ti and RTX3050 Ti began hitting the streets. These are the first low-end RTX class GPUs. These GPUs are now the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti's successors. If your laptop has either one of the GTX 1600-series or RTX 3050-class chips, you're getting a lower-end model.
Traditionally, very few gaming laptops were heavy and large. They carried not just one, but two GeForce GTs. This was done using Nvidia’s multi-GPU SLI technology (and the new generation NVLink). They were expensive, had a short battery life, and many games did not benefit from dual-GPU configurations. These devices are an outdated technology and you should not be surprised to see them. The Radeon RX mobile GPUs from AMD have seen some limited success in recent years in a handful of machines. However, they are more common in 17-inch machines than in the 15-inch class. Nvidia dominates laptop GPUs.
This is all I can offer in general advice. For example, keyboards: Gaming laptops come with RGB backlighting that is customizable and colorful. Some have macro keys to store frequently-used command and combat sequences. Mobile workstations also feature the middle mouse button on some touchpads and pointing sticks. This third button can be used for CAD or similar programs. We don't believe you should purchase a 17 inch laptop from either one of these categories if it doesn't include at least one Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 ports. This port combines USB C and DisplayPort functionality with daisy chainable support for external storage and docking.