On the first day of the last month of this year, it’s time for the Laptop Best Buy Guide again. This time we pay attention to the budget laptop that can cost a maximum of 500 euros, the basic laptop of 700 euros and a powerful gaming laptop for which we reserve 1400 euros.
|Gaming laptop||€ 1400,-|
On the eve of the new year, there are again some introductions of new laptop hardware in the pipeline. It is said that at CES in early January it will be time for new processors from Intel and AMD, as well as new video cards from Nvidia. The possibility of Zen 4 and Ada Lovelace in a mobile form factor sounds interesting. More than what exactly is being announced, we wonder how many laptops will come with the new hardware and how fast, and whether manufacturers will not quietly drive past the lower segment this year. Laptops under $1,000 often still don’t have a twelfth-generation Intel processor, which was announced in the early days of 2022, but an eleventh or tenth-generation chip from 2021 or 2020. AMD’s Ryzen 6000U series for Ultrabooks has, even more, to offer in the proper launch. Almost a year after the introduction, there are exactly 17 notebooks with a chip from this series in our Pricewatch, compared to more than 300 devices with a Ryzen 5000U processor.
What will come next is always difficult to predict, but the older generations of Intel and AMD can often still keep up. Now that it’s almost Christmas and the time for big purchases has come, the discount promotions that are held these months are also a nice bonus. As always, in this Best Buy Guide we have summarized what we think are the best laptops at the moment.
Up to 500 euros: Lenovo IdeaPad 3
|Lenovo IdeaPad 3 82KT00C5MH|
|Screen||14″, IPS, 1920x1080px|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 3 5300U|
|Price qwerty||€ 499,-|
|Price azerty||Other version: € 499,-|
The category up to 500 euros is an interesting one. You won’t find the fastest or flashiest laptops in it, but it is the category in which you can clearly see that you get a little more value for your money every year. Meanwhile, this means that for 500 euros you can get a laptop with a quad-core processor, IPS screen, keyboard lighting and a fingerprint scanner. You will find all this in a Lenovo IdeaPad 3 and those who read the Laptop Best Buy Guide more often will not be unfamiliar with this system.
We also found an azerty version of the IdeaPad 3 for the Flemish visitor, but that is a considerably worse deal. They are similar in terms of processor, RAM, and SSD, but the AZERTY version has no keyboard lighting, no fingerprint scanner, and is also equipped with a smaller 38Wh battery.
The IdeaPad 3 is Lenovo’s second cheapest laptop line. That means that you shouldn’t expect too much from the outside of the laptop. The housing is made entirely of plastic and you can feel that when you hold the laptop. The whole gives a somewhat cheap impression. The print on the plastic clearly refers to a brushed aluminum housing, but that’s it because you can also twist the housing a bit if you want.
The plastic housing does not keep us awake; it’s actually exactly what you expect in this price category. Sometimes you can find a laptop for 500 euros where the back of the screen is made of metal, but you can forget about an all-metal housing.
Somehow it is also an attractive housing. It looks tidy and there are no lights or large logos on it. The lighting on it can be found under the keys and that is something you hardly encounter in this price range, especially if there is also a fingerprint scanner in the housing. That scanner is incorporated in the on-off button and there is a sticker to point it out to you because otherwise, you will quickly overlook it.
To connect peripherals, there are USB-A connections on the left and right of the housing, but only the left one is a fast connection that works at 5Gbit/s. The right one works at USB 2.0 speed. Next to that port is a card reader and you don’t often come across that anymore. The right side is also empty, but on the left you will find two connections. One of them is a USB-C connection, which works at 5Gbit/s and you can only connect USB devices. Screens won’t work on it and you can’t use it to charge the laptop. Finally, there is an HDMI 1.4 connection. It has the disadvantage that you cannot connect a 4k screen at 60Hz to it. If it works at all, it is by using chroma subsampling and that does not benefit the image quality.
Lenovo provides this version of the IdeaPad 3 with a Ryzen 3 5300U processor, which is the fastest you can get in this price range. It is a processor with four cores and a maximum clock speed of 3.8GHz. The Intel counterpart that you will find in this price range is the Core i3-1115G4. Although it has faster cores, it only has two cores. In practice, you therefore benefit more from the Ryzen 3 5300U.
With all that smooth hardware, fingerprint scanner and keyboard lighting on board, you can wonder whether Lenovo has cut back on anything. That is the case indeed; the Wi-Fi card supports a maximum of Wi-Fi 5 and no Wi-Fi 6, as is currently the case.
In Cinebench Multi you can clearly see that the Ryzen 5300U is considerably faster than the Intel i3-1115G4, but in Cinebench Single it appears that a single i3 core is faster than one from AMD. In 3DMark Night Raid, the AMD and Intel GPUs appear to be evenly matched. Whichever you choose, they are not GPUs intended for gaming in any case.
Display and battery life
This IdeaPad 3 is equipped with a 14-inch screen with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. The laptop uses an IPS panel, which in turn has a matte coating.
You will find many of these types of panels in the price category up to 500 euros. They also all have one thing in common; they cannot display the full sRGB gamut. We’ve only come across a laptop that could do that once, in last June ‘s BBG . The screen of the IdeaPad 3 is simply good.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this page, there are versions of the IdeaPad 3 with a 38Wh battery and versions with 45Wh. The model tested here has the large battery and that provides a nice battery life of just over nine hours.
If you’re considering the IdeaPad 3, it’s good to know if there’s anything to upgrade if the laptop inevitably slows down over time.
Luckily you can upgrade. The laptop is equipped with 8GB of RAM, consisting of 4GB that is soldered to the motherboard, and a separate module of 4GB. You can replace the latter with an 8GB module, for a total of 12GB. There is also a 42mm long 256GB SSD, but there is room for longer SSDs, up to 80mm. Finally, the Wi-Fi card is also replaceable.
It’s not the first time we’ve named the IdeaPad 3 a Best Buy and the reason is always the same; the laptop offers great value for money. In this case, you get a laptop with a Ryzen 3 5300U processor, 8GB memory, 256GB SSD, keyboard lighting, and a fingerprint scanner for less than 500 euros.
The IdeaPad 3 also has a battery life that doesn’t disappoint and a screen that is certainly not perfect, but it is about the best you can get in this price category. There are also disadvantages, in the form of the HDMI 1.4 connection and the Wi-Fi 5 card, but in our opinion these do not outweigh the advantages, which is reason enough to crown this version of the IdeaPad 3 as Best Buy in the budget laptop category.
Up to 700 euros: HP Pavilion 14
You can see the difference between a laptop of 500 and one of 700 euros in various places in that laptop. Of course you can get a faster processor with a larger budget, but we also think that you should be able to see the price difference in the exterior and appearance of the system. Fortunately, the more beautifully finished laptops with a metal housing are now within the budget.
The HP Pavilion 14 is one such laptop. You can clearly see that this is a more expensive model than the budget laptop of 500 euros, which has plastic housing. The Pavilion 14 has a partly metal housing, is also somewhat thinner, and is of course equipped with smoother hardware. The particular configuration that caught our eye is the Pavilion 14-ec1750nd. It is equipped with a ‘renewed’ Ryzen 5 processor, 8GB memory, and a 512GB SSD. This model is exclusively available at bol.com, but there is also an equivalent that is for sale at other webshops: the ec1355nd. For this article, we looked at the 14-ec1350nd, which also has the same hardware, but a silver gray instead of dark blue housing.
|HP Pavilion 14-ec1750nd||HP Pavilion 14-ec1350nd||HP Pavilion 14-ec1355nd|
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 5 5625U||AMD Ryzen 5 5625U||AMD Ryzen 5 5625U|
|display||14″, 1920×1080 pixels, matte||14″, 1920×1080 pixels, matte||14″, 1920×1080 pixels, matte|
The Pavilion 14 is not made entirely of metal. The screen frame and the bottom are made of plastic, but that still makes it a pretty sturdy laptop. On the outside, it is also striking that it is equipped with everything you can expect on a laptop for this money. A fingerprint scanner sits on it, on the right side of the palm rest. The touchpad has a glass surface, as you would expect on more expensive laptops, and the keyboard is backlit. The lighting can be dimmed in two positions.
The webcam is located in the top edge of the screen and with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels it is adequate, but not special. Laptops from a euro or 1000 are increasingly equipped with cameras with a higher resolution, but that is not yet the case in this price category.
HP also mentions the collaboration with speaker manufacturer B&O on the laptop. The result of that collaboration is an application containing an equalizer that cannot really improve the meager sound of the small speakers. They produce a decent volume, but that says everything about the sound quality.
The Pavilion 14 is pretty well equipped with connections. On the left and right is a USB port that supports the standard transfer speed of 5Gbit/s. There is also a USB-C connection on the right. It does 10Gbit/s and you can also use it to connect a screen, but also to charge the laptop. The HDMI connection supports version 2.1 of the protocol, which is enough to drive 4k screens at 120Hz.
Hardware and Benchmarks
Our choice fell on Pavilion 14 because of the ‘new’ AMD processor it contains. ‘New’ is in quotes, because it is actually the same processor as the 5600U, but with a 100MHz higher turbo frequency, which is therefore a maximum of 4.3GHz. Fortunately, the 5600U, and therefore the 5625U, is still a very capable processor. It has six cores and twelve threads and is one of the fastest processors you can buy within this budget.
Game laptop up to 1400 euros: Acer versus ASUS and HP
During the Christmas period you might want to treat yourself or someone else to a fast all-rounder that is well suited for gaming. In this section of the BBG we look for the fastest gaming laptop for less than 1400 euros. We ended up with the combination of an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 video card and a 45W H processor from Intel or AMD, plus a minimum of 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, put in a 15.6″ to 16″ housing. This makes such a device clearly larger and heavier than most laptops, but less unwieldy than a 17.3″ model.
Acer, ASUS, and HP sent us a laptop that meets the above requirements. In the Black Friday period in which this article was written, it was difficult to predict which laptops would remain available for the right price in the future. The Acer model, the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-58-56BL in full , is currently no longer for sale in the Netherlands for less than 1400 euros. Belgians can still buy it within that budget in a configuration similar to the one we tested, but with an Azerty keyboard: the Acer Nitro 5 AN515-58-500A . Conversely, the laptop is from HP, type number Victus 16-d1350nd, only available in the Netherlands for the requested amount. The ASUS laptop is available in both countries for well below the target amount, with the note that the Dutch version that we also tested, the ASUS ROG Strix G15 G513IM-HN073W , has a different processor. The Belgian variant ROG Strix G15 G513QM-HN027T-BE has a newer Ryzen 7 5800H processor.
Casing and connections
All three laptops have a housing with a slightly raised area at the back near the screen, containing a set of large ventilation openings. The ROG Strix G15, about 100 grams lighter than the competitors, has a rather busy design with many frills. The smooth plastic around the keys shows finger grease quickly. The laptops from Acer and HP, which weigh about 2.5 kg, have a slightly rough top on which this is less noticeable, especially with the HP Victus 16 with its sharp lines and dark gray color. In all laptops, the bottom of the housing is made of plastic, but the sturdiness is not that bad. The Victus 16 is the easiest to bend back and forth, with the laptop also giving the most when pressed in the middle. The Acer Nitro 5 feels firmer and the ASUS ROG Strix G15 is the firmest.
The screen lid of the ASUS laptop also feels high-quality. Unlike both competitors, it is made of metal. The screen part of the Victus 16 is not supported by anything at the bottom corners, which means that the part on that laptop appears to be the weakest. HP also built in a slack hinge; the screen flutters back and forth quite a bit when you bump the housing. With Acer and certainly ASUS, the screen stays in place much better. A pity with the ROG Strix G15 is the limited opening angle of the screen.
Disappointing is also the lack of a webcam, as is often the case with ASUS’ gaming laptops for some reason. At least the two competitors in this article still have a simple 720p camera. ASUS does offer the option to use your phone camera as a webcam via WiFi. You must install the Link to MyASUS app on your Android or iOS device. It works in itself simple, but the image quality leaves something to be desired. The slightest movement already produces a blocky image full of artifacts. ASUS has invested the budgetary space freed up by omitting the webcam into good speakers, with decent bass and good detail for a laptop. The Victus 16 lacks a bit in the low end, but otherwise sounds fine, while sound and maximum volume are disappointing with the Nitro 5.
The Victus 16 and Nitro 5 both have a keyboard with a numpad, but an integrated power button. ASUS makes the opposite choice: no numpad and a separate power button. The ROG Strix G15 is also quite rich with RGB lighting, with lights in the keyboard (adjustable in four zones) and in a bar at the front of the housing. The logo on the hood is illuminated in white. Acer also has an RGB keyboard with four zones, where the lighting through the partly transparent keycaps stands out even more. The Victus 16 is the only one without multicolored LEDs; the keys are only illuminated in white.
The ASUS keyboard has the clearest touch of the three, with quite a lot of travel. The touchpad also feels the best: a smooth, glass-finished surface and integrated buttons with a nice click. With Acer and HP, the touchpad is rougher and springs deep on click, which makes a bit of a cheap impression. The keyboard of both devices also has a weaker feedback, but at least with the Nitro 5 it sounds nicely muffled. With the Victus 16, the housing rattles quite a bit when tapping. The flat keycaps of this model also don’t feel as nice as the more rounded keys with a very slight dimple of the competition.
The three laptops all provide a combination of gigabit ethernet and ax WiFi, in addition to three USB-A, one USB-C, HDMI, a 3.5 mm combo port for a headset, and a separate power connection for the relatively large, supplied block. The USB-C port of the Nitro 5 is the only one that supports Thunderbolt 4. HP then builds in an SD card reader, which the other models do not have. With ASUS and Acer, both video connections, HDMI and USB-C, are suitable for 4k at 60Hz. The Victus 16 has an HDMI 2.1 port, which enables 4k at 120Hz. Conversely, this model’s USB-C port seems limited; we couldn’t manage to drive a 4k screen at 60Hz without 4:2:2 color compression. Perhaps it’s because the USB-C port on this model is connected to the video card, whereas the connection is via the iGPU on the other models.
The Acer Nitro 5, ASUS ROG Strix G15 and HP Victus 16 feature a 144Hz IPS panel with 1920×1080 pixels. As the name implies, the screen of the Victus 16 is slightly larger, at 16.1″. The other models have a 15.6″ diagonal.
The test results are disappointing across the board, with the shortcomings recurring across all three models. For example, the maximum brightness is not exactly high, certainly not with the laptops from ASUS and HP, which makes the screen difficult to read in a little ambient light. For IPS panels, they are fairly contrast-rich. The ROG Strix G15 has by far the best color tuning of the three, with a nice neutral display of gray tones, but the manufacturer couldn’t do anything about the panel’s inherently limited color range in the adjustment. All three screens only show about two-thirds of the sRGB color range, like budget laptops of 500 euros, resulting in faded and unattractive colors. For almost triple the amount we had hoped for more. The response times of the screens are also disappointing. To achieve the 144Hz refresh rate, a new image must be on the screen every 6.94ms. That time is not reached by any of the three laptops for the transitions we measured with our oscilloscope, not even approximately.
System and Game Benchmarks
We have chosen the three laptops discussed above because of their RTX 3060 video card. This makes it possible to smoothly run recent titles at high settings. Ray tracing can also be done with a little goodwill and the help of DLSS upscaling. With the Acer Nitro 5 and HP Victus 16, the video card is accompanied by a modern Intel Alder Lake processor. The Core i5-12500H is a midrange variant with four large and eight small cores. The ASUS ROG Strix G15 has a two-generation old AMD Renoir processor, but one of the fastest of the then series: the Ryzen 7 4800H, with eight large and zero small cores.
|Acer Nitro 5 AN515-58-56BL||ASUS ROG Strix G15 G513IM-HN073W||HP Victus 16-d1350nd|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-12500H
|AMD Ryzen 7 4800H
|Intel Core i5-12500H
|Video card||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
|Memory||16GB DDR4-3200||16GB DDR4-3200||16GB DDR5-4800|
Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.2
Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.2
Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth 5.2
|display||15.6″ ips, 1920×1080 pixels, 144Hz, matte||15.6″ ips, 1920×1080 pixels, 144Hz, matte||16.1″ ips, 1920×1080 pixels, 144Hz, matte|
Not all laptops with the ‘same’ video card achieve the same performance, partly because there are variants with different power consumption. For example, with the Acer Nitro 5, the video card may consume 140W, while ASUS limits it to 130W and HP to only 100W.
Despite the limited tdp space, in many circumstances it is not HP’s laptop that gets the short end of the stick in the benchmarks we ran. The ROG Strix G15 is the slowest in many scenarios. The outdated processor does not offer such good single-core performance, which is important for gaming, while that is precisely a strength of the current Intel chips. Thanks to that, the Acer Nitro 5 and HP Victus 16 are sometimes almost as fast as the laptop with RTX 3070 in this chart and an AMD 5000 series processor. In a title like F1 2020, which does not rely very heavily on the GPU, they are even slightly faster than that model with lower resolutions and settings.
Due to its slower processor, the ASUS ROG Strix G15 regularly loses tens of percent in the Full HD benchmarks compared to Victus 16 and Nitro 5, and that is precisely the resolution of the built-in screen. Even if we start working with wqhd, the Victus 16 and Nitro 5 score even higher in many cases, with the Acer laptop logically winning the longest straw with its 140W TDP for the video card. Only in 4k can the ROG Strix G15 sometimes come back. In Metro Exodus, which requires the most GPU of the tested games, the ASUS laptop can already hook up in wqhd. In the 4k Ultra test, it then achieves a rare victory, but 30fps is also the highest achievable for the ROG Strix G15.