Table of contents
2020 has been an interesting year for laptops. It all started back in January when AMD announced the Ryzen 4000U and 4000H series of processors for thin-and-light and gaming laptops. Then Intel responded back with their 10th Gen Comet Lake H series, along with NVIDIA announcing their RTX Super Max-Q GPUs. Fast forward a few months and Intel announced Tiger Lake, which does claw back a lot of the performance losses of Ice Lake and does really improve in gaming. Most recently, Apple all of a sudden came out with their own Silicon chip called the M1, which supposedly offers incredible performance and power efficiency. One of the biggest highlights and challenges this year was actually finding stock of many of the laptops that you were looking for. With working from home becoming a new normal these days inventories were super tight and it seemed like everyone was looking for new devices.
One of our goals at the beginning of 2020 was to cover more laptops, both thin-and-light and gaming. We tried our best to cover devices that many of you requested, but we weren’t able to cover everything so we decided to collaborate with other creators who have had more experience to chime in with their Top 3 picks for 2020. Now if you are interested in any of these laptops, I will make sure to leave links down below because I’m aware that the holiday season is approaching and a lot of you might be shopping for a new laptops. I really hope that this article is useful for those interested and that some of the models fit your budget and your needs. Let’s dive in.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
I want to kick off with some of my top picks for 2020 and the first laptop that sticks out is the ROG Zephyrus G14 from ASUS. This machine was able to deliver a fantastic performance with Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU and the RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics card was more than capable enough to play 1080P games at buttery smooth frame rates. The 120Hz display was really good, it was also able to cover 95% sRGB and 75% DCI-P3. The size was also another amazing factor, it only weighs 3.64 lbs and it’s only 0.7 inches thick. It also had great battery life of over 9 hours with light usage. That is ultrabook category. This laptop also highlights one of the most frustrating things that seemed to plague almost every single AMD-based device this year: Finding one was almost impossible, and when it came back in-stock it was sold out super quickly. Luckily that is starting to change right now because it is back in stock, at least the last time I checked.
Dell XPS Series
Next up is the XPS 13 and XPS 15 from Dell. The XPS series has always been known for offering a premium laptop experience, and this year Dell just knocked it out of the park. The build quality and design is in a league of its own. I have yet to find a competitor that matches or beats that aspect. The display is just beautiful, it is bright and features excellent colour accuracy, so it’s perfect for creators or photographers on the go. The battery life is also amazing. All in all, this is an excellent option if you’re looking for a premium windows laptop.
However, you need to be willing to accept dongle life, because Dell has switched up their ports with USB Type-C so that is a lifestyle change that you will have to adapt. Initially, the XPS 15 had a lot of quality control issues with regards to the trackpad and the battery, but the newer batch seems to have addressed that. Now I have been using the huge XPS 17 as my daily driver, and I’m absolutely in love with this machine. Everything from the display, the keyboard, the trackpad, the speakers, it’s just a phenomenal laptop for creating content. Overall, the XPS series is hands down amazing, and definitely stay tuned for my long-term review of this bad boy very soon.
Acer Swift 3
Next up is the Acer Swift 3, this laptop surprised me a LOT, not because of its mediocre display that everyone complains about, but because of its price point and the rest of the package that Acer offers. For starters, it has a simple and streamlined design throughout the chassis. Acer didn’t sacrifice a lot in terms of build quality for $650 USD. It’s actually better than some expensive alternatives in the market. The keyboard and trackpad are good enough to get the job done, and the Ryzen 7 4700U is a great performer at multi-core tasks and put some of Intel’s offerings to shame. You also get over 13 hours of battery life under light use. I think this is an excellent option for students or maybe even a gift for your mom or dad who do casual usage.
Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7
My final pick for 2020 is the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7, featuring the Ryzen 4000U series from AMD. This was an amazing thin-and-light laptop that offered great multi-core performance, excellent build quality and design, great battery life, and a good quality display. Sounds great right? Well Lenovo decided to discontinue this model and replace it with Intel’s Ice Lake chips, which is just really unfortunate. If you want to hear me rant more about it, you can check out my review right here.
So those are my top picks for 2020, but let’s now hear from some other creators.
Matthew Moniz: You guys asked me what my favourite 13-inch ultrabooks were for 2020, and I don’t have a budget pick at 13 inches, but I do have a 14-inch one just because I reviewed mostly 14-inch budget laptops. That recommendation goes to the Acer Swift 3. This is a product that is constantly hovering around $600 USD, sometimes cheaper, that nets you great performance. The AMD CPU inside of it has insane multi-core speeds, and when you pair that with over 11 hours of battery life you just have a very solid product for its price point. The only downfall of his laptop is the display, it’s not the most colour accurate, but it’s more than fine for productivity.
Matthew Moniz: My next pick is more of a premium option and it goes to the Razer Blade Stealth 13. I just find this to be a very special product. I know it has an Intel CPU, don’t beat me up, but it’s paired with a dedicated GPU offering you a lot of performance inside of a 13-inch form factor. You pair that with nice design and a CNC aluminum body, and you end up with a very beautiful product to use. Now I thought would never say this, but my top pick for best 13-inch ultrabook is going to the brand new MacBook Air. These new M1 chips are unbelievable, the battery life paired with the performance is something I have never seen before, especially when you consider how low power the CPU’s are. If you’re looking for a good all-around’er, this is the ultrabook to get this year, I truly hope we see stuff like this on the PC side. That wraps up my top picks for best ultrabooks, thank you Hardware Canucks for having me on.
Jarrod’sTech: I reviewed a lot of gaming laptops this year, and these are my Top 3 picks for best options in 2020. Starting at under $1,000 USD, I have got to give it to the ASUS Nitro 5. $670 USD gets you a 6-core Ryzen 5 4600H processor and NVIDIA GTX 1650 graphics, so you will be set for gaming at 1080P with low to medium settings. The 60Hz screen doesn’t have the best colour gamut, and there is some flex to the plastic chassis, but I think these are acceptable trade-offs for a gaming laptop at this price.
Jarrod’sTech: Moving up to the $1,000 to $1,500 price point, and I have to say the Lenovo Legion 5 is easily a slam dunk despite coming in closer to the lower-end of that price range. $1,000 USD gets you that 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H processor and NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti, which are an excellent combination for gaming. Given this as at the lower end of the price range, with a little more budget you could go up to the RTX 2060 model. However, on average, out of 20 games that I have tested I have only found a 7% performance boost by going for the RTX 2060, so depending on the price that might not be worth it. Either way, the Legion 5 is the best Ryzen gaming laptop I have ever tested, it just offers a lot for the price. It performs better than most other Ryzen gaming laptops as it has got the option of disabling Optimum. It also has the fastest 144Hz screen I’ve ever tested at 4.6ms and that is with FreeSync as well. Battery life is good, keyboard is good, there is just not much to complain about. And of course the performance from that 8-core Ryzen chip is on another level in multi-core workloads compared to more expensive Intel options.
Jarrod’sTech: Now there is a lot of choice when we get into the $1,500+ price range, but I think the best option available is a Tongfang chassis. It is sold as the MECH-15 G3 from Eluktronics in the US or the NEO 15 from XMG in Europe, which is what I have here. For around $1,700 USD with RTX 2070 graphics, it gets almost everything right. The build quality feels excellent, it performs better than most others with the same specs, the thermals are great, and you can disable Optimus to get a performance boost in games. It also has got Thunderbolt 3 and an SD card slot, a mechanical keyboard, a large battery, and even a decent screen. Unfortunately there is no FreeSync or G-Sync, but I feel the other positives outweigh this. It is going to be one of the first laptops available with the new 1440P 165Hz screens. I know some of you won’t like to hear that it’s Intel based, but the fact is an 8-core Core i7 still does very well in games. The unfortunate fact is that in 2020 we just don’t have AMD-based laptops with above RTX 2060 graphics. Anyway, those are my picks, let me know what you think.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and if there is one thing that we have learned this year it’s the fact that there is stiff competition out there from both Intel and AMD. From a CPU standpoint, AMD has the edge, there is no room for Intel to compete. However, having taken a look at Ryzen notebooks this year, we do see a lot of potential with these devices, and it’s unfortunate to see many manufacturers playing it too safe by pricing these Ryzen laptops at a lower price point because they do sacrifice on features like pairing it with a faster GPU. As mentioned by Jarrod, the fastest GPU option right now is an RTX 2060, there are no Ryzen notebooks with an RTX 2080 Super Max-Q GPU.
Now there are some amazing examples out there, like the ASUS TUF A15, which has great performance, but it has a terrible display and the cooling could be a lot better. There is the Dell G5 15 SE, which has an exterior design from like 10 years ago and lackluster build quality. Then there is the MSI Bravo 15, which has a lot of quality control issues. Meanwhile, the Ryzen 4000U series ended up facing delays that meant really limited availability until pretty late in the year. I really hope to see that change in 2021. We know that Zen 3 is going to be rolled on it in notebooks, I can’t wait to see what that can offer. Also I would love to see better quality webcams, less sacrifices, more inventory, that would be a win-win for everybody.
Buy items in this article from Amazon at the links below:
ASUS Zephyrus G14 AMD – https://geni.us/ASUSG14
Acer Swift 3 AMD – https://geni.us/SWIFT3AMD
Razer Blade Stealth 13 – https://geni.us/BLADES13
Acer Nitro 5 – https://geni.us/NITRO5AMD
Buy from other partners below:
Legion 5 AMD – https://lenovo.vzew.net/4Oq1G
Legion 7i – https://lenovo.vzew.net/04WNE