The Best 17-Inch Laptops for 2020

If you’re a big-picture sort of person, you need a laptop to match. You yearn for a notebook (the word “laptop” is a bit of a misnomer for these bulky thigh-crushers) that not only capably replaces a desktop PC, but also gives you an easy-on-the-eyes, panoramic view of your workspace or playing field. That means a 17-inch model, one with the largest popular screen size in the portable universe.

Almost all 17-inch laptops feature displays that, technically, measure 17.3 inches on the diagonal (just as so-called 15-inch laptops usually measure 15.6 inches corner to corner). That’s enough for a magnified view of full HD or 1080p resolution (1,920 by 1,080 pixels), or a comfortable view of higher resolutions such as 4K (3,840 by 2,160), which can make you squint on a smaller screen.

Should You Really Go This Large, Though?

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.

Dell XPS 17 2020LG Gram 17, is an extraordinary case that comes in at under 3 pounds.) The heaviest, invariably gaming models, tip the scales at a back-breaking 10 pounds or more, and in some cases, that’s not counting two ponderous AC power bricks. Airline tray table? Forget it. More like checked baggage.

Nor should you expect long battery life from a plus-size notebook. These machines are designed to run on AC power most of the time. If yours can endure unplugged for more than four hours, consider yourself lucky. (Just take a look at the tested runtimes of our favorites in our spec comparison table.)

Aorus 17Work or Play: Which Way, Amigo?

A few 17-inch laptops are general-purpose PCs for people who want an occasionally portable system with a large screen. Most, however, fall into one of two camps with diametrically opposed, but equally hardcore, audiences: mobile workstations, and serious gaming laptops.

Both types can handle what many PC users think of as work: office productivity and email using Word, Excel, Outlook, Chrome, Slack, and so on. But mobile workstations, as seen in our special guide, laugh at such modest apps. Instead, they carry independent software vendor (ISV) certifications of compatibility with programs for way tougher computing jobs: computer-aided design (CAD) and advanced 3D modeling and rendering, crunching through huge scientific or engineering datasets, or delving into video editing and the creation of worlds for virtual reality. And they rely on state-of-the-art CPU and GPU power to do so.

Acer Predatortheir own buying guide and roundup that’s worth checking out). 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. Onscreen stuttering or tearing just won’t cut it. Lag can be fatal during a fragfest.

Whichever class of 17-inch machine you are considering, you’re likely drawn to it by the one big thing the two main types have in common: the screen. Let’s look at that.

The Display Panel: What to Look For

In the 17-inch class, workstation and gaming laptops alike benefit from choosing the right screen type. A solid baseline pick would be an in-plane switching (IPS) or indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) panel, which gives you the sharpest colors and contrast, as well as the widest off-center viewing angles. Touch screens aren’t very popular in either class, with both gamers and workstation pros preferring the pixel-by-pixel control of a mouse.

Asus ProArt StudioBook 17The Heart Under the Hood: CPU, Memory, and Storage

When it comes to CPUs, Intel parts teamed with discrete GeForce, Quadro, Radeon, or Radeon Pro graphics processors lead the popularity contest over AMD’s mobile Ryzen 5 and 7 chips with their integrated graphics. The most popular option for 17-inch gaming notebooks is Intel’s Core i7, in 8th, 9th, or 10th Generation guise (indicated by model numbers in the 8,000s, 9,000s, and 10,000s, respectively) with at least four processing cores. These are dubbed Intel’s H-Series chips, to distinguish them from the lighter-hitting U-Series and Y-Series that show up in thinner, lighter laptops. The mighty—and mighty costly—Core i9 chips occupy the top of the market. The first 17-inch models with 10th Generation H-Series Intel Core CPUs (under the informal “Comet Lake-H” family branding) were just hitting the market as we wrote this.

For mobile workstations, the Core i7 and Core i9 are joined by Intel’s Xeon processors, which offer support for server-style error correcting code (ECC) memory. Though outside the mainstream for ISV apps, ECC’s ability to detect and fix single-bit memory errors is a plus for scientific or financial computing jobs intolerant of even the slightest data corruption.

Regular, non-ECC RAM will serve just fine for most buyers, though. An allotment of 8GB of memory is the bare minimum for a gaming laptop, with 16GB preferable. (More than that’s not really necessary, unless you have buckets of money to burn.) Workstations have a heartier appetite for RAM, with 16GB a practical minimum and 32GB not uncommon; many models support a whopping 64GB or 128GB. In the case of a workstation portable, you’ll want to look into the specific RAM requirements of the applications you plan to run to gauge how much you should splurge on memory.

Laptop Interiorthe best PCI Express NVMe SSDs.)

Half a terabyte of storage (for an SSD-only system) is the smallest amount you should accept; 1TB or 1.5TB is more mainstream, and some workstations boast up to 3TB or 4TB of capacity. If money is a limiter, a smaller SSD (say 256GB or 500GB) as the boot drive, paired with a roomy hard drive, is a good compromise. A 17-inch laptop is the kind most likely to have room for both. Some 17-inchers may have an empty bay to let you install an aftermarket 2.5-inch drive or an M.2 SSD yourself. This can be an economical option.

Choosing a GPU: Again, the Work/Play Divide

Mobile workstations’ graphics cards are divided between Nvidia’s Quadro (more common) and AMD’s Radeon Pro (less common) brands. Their silicon is optimized for different operations than the companies’ respective GeForce and Radeon parts for gaming laptops, as well as for hard-charging, constantly-on rendering or calculations.

On the gaming side of the fence, too, Nvidia enjoys a big market lead in mobile GPUs. Its “Turing” architecture defines its current offerings, seen first in desktop video cards like the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. At the higher end of the gaming-laptop market, these Turing GPUs, indicated by “GeForce RTX” instead of “GeForce GTX,” have mostly eclipsed chips based on the “Pascal” architecture of Nvidia’s long-running GeForce GTX 1000 series, though some laptops based on Pascal silicon are still for sale.

The basic story for both workstations and gaming rigs is a familiar one, though: Higher model numbers and higher prices bring you more speed and higher frame rates. They also gain you support for features such as virtual reality (VR), though midrange and high-end gaming-laptop GPUs like the GeForce GTX 1060 (Pascal generation), the GeForce RTX 1660 Ti (Turing), and above, and all of the current GeForce RTX chips, support playing and exploring VR worlds, while high-end mobile-workstation parts like the Quadro P5000 series support VR authoring or creating them.

Alienware Area-51mReady for Our Recommendations?

That’s about it for general advice, except for matters of personal preference. Keyboards, for instance: Some gaming laptops go wild with colorful, customizable RGB backlighting and feature macro keys for storing frequently used command or combat sequences, while some mobile workstations’ touchpads or pointing sticks feature the third (middle) mouse button often used in CAD and similar applications. And we don’t think you should buy a 17-inch laptop in either of these groups that doesn’t have at least one Thunderbolt 3 port, which combines USB-C and DisplayPort functionality with daisy-chainable support for external docking and storage solutions.

Dell Precision mobile workstation

Dell XPS 17 (9700)

  • The Best For Marathon Gamers, Esports Hounds

    Acer Predator Helios 700

  • The Best For Hardcore Gamers and Pro Content Creators

    Alienware Area-51m

  • The Best For Workstation Users Seeking ISV App Power, Ray Tracing

    MSI WS75

  • The Best For Creative Pros Keen on Color Matching

    Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro 17

  • The Best For Style-Conscious Creative Pros

    Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XA

  • The Best For Desk-Bound Architects, Engineers; Pro ISV Workloads

    HP ZBook 17 G5

  • The Best For Seekers of a Lightweight Big-Screen Laptop

    LG Gram 17 (2020)

  • The Best For Value-Minded Gamers

    Aorus 7 SA

  • The Best For Extreme Gaming at Super-High Refresh Rates

    Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (G732)

    • Dell XPS 17 (2020)

      Pros: Roomy 17-inch display with option for 4K-resolution panel
      Relatively compact for a 17-incher
      Comfortable keyboard, gigantic touchpad
      Four Thunderbolt 3 ports and SD card reader
      Excellent audio quality
      Available Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics
      Long battery life

      Cons: Expensive as configured
      Occasional coil whine
      Even when plugged in, slight power drain during intense gaming sessions
      No USB Type-A ports

      Bottom Line: The 2020 resurrection of Dell’s XPS 17 is a bold, sleek laptop with a gorgeous 17-inch display, long battery life, and serious computing power.

      Read Review

    • Acer Predator Helios 700

      Pros: Excellent gaming performance. Smooth G-Sync-enabled display. Creative slide-forward keyboard with swap-out WASD keys. Includes dedicated macro buttons. Quiet cooling fans.

      Cons: So big it’s almost unportable. Meaty display bezels. Minimal battery life.

      Bottom Line: Big and bold, Acer’s Predator Helios 700 pairs excellent gaming-laptop performance with a unique sliding keyboard that transforms the user experience. This monster has everything going for it apart from portability and battery life.

      Read Review

    • Alienware Area-51m

      Pros: Astounding graphics and general computing performance.
      Desktop-class processor.
      Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU.
      Built-in eye tracking.
      Comfortable keyboard.
      144Hz display.
      Excellent component access for upgrades.

      Cons: Heavy, bulky.
      Requires two power bricks.
      Expensive.
      No 4K display option.
      Very short battery life.

      Bottom Line: Packing an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics chip and a desktop-class Intel Core i9, Alienware’s massively rejiggered flagship, the Area-51m, is the best-performing gaming laptop we’ve tested, a monster in every sense a laptop can be.

    • Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro 17 (W700)

      Pros: Beautiful 16:10 aspect ratio screen.
      Great video editing performance.
      Thin and light for a 17-inch desktop replacement.

      Cons: Uninspiring keyboard.
      Touchpad-integrated numeric keypad is handy, but too easy to trigger.
      Only one Thunderbolt 3 port.

      Bottom Line: The Asus ProArt StudioBook Pro 17 is a visually impressive desktop replacement for creative pros. The combination of a six-core Xeon processor, Nvidia Quadro RTX graphics, and a gorgeous Pantone-validated display can handle just about any of your color-critical video editing or 3D rendering needs.

      Read Review

    • Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR

      Pros: Sizzling performance
      Awesome screen
      Solid backlit keyboard
      All the ports you’ll need

      Cons: Somewhat flexible chassis
      Frustrating touchpad

      Bottom Line: The Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XA combines blazing, game-worthy performance with a 4K display that will put digital content creators in ecstasy.

      Read Review

    • HP ZBook 17 G5

      Pros: Formidable performance.
      Beautiful 4K display with color calibrator.
      Powerful sound.

      Cons: Big and heavy.
      Expensive.
      Brief battery life.

      Bottom Line: A 4K DreamColor display, six-core Xeon power, and VR-ready Nvidia Quadro graphics highlight HP’s ZBook 17 G5, an unwieldy but mighty mobile workstation.

      Read Review

    • LG Gram 17 (2020)

      Pros: Astonishingly light.
      Improved keyboard layout.
      Roomy 1TB of storage space.
      Vivid 17-inch WQXGA display.
      Ample port selection.
      Long battery life.

      Cons: Expensive.
      Stodgy design.
      No touch screen.
      Lackluster multimedia and graphics performance.

      Bottom Line: A few design improvements to the LG Gram 17 make the world’s lightest 17-inch laptop an excellent choice for frequent travelers who need all the screen real estate they can get.

      Read Review

    • MSI WS75

      Pros: Remarkably thin and light for a 17.3-inch mobile workstation.
      Speedy Core i9 CPU and Quadro RTX graphics.
      Nice battery life.
      Good array of ports.

      Cons: Less expandable than bulkier systems.
      1080p screen is merely adequate (no 4K display available at rollout).
      Slightly awkward keyboard layout.

      Bottom Line: The MSI WS75 is a big-screen mobile workstation that weighs two and a half pounds less than its rivals, while packing eight-core CPU power and Nvidia’s latest professional graphics.
      The display’s just average, but the laptop on the whole is impressive.

      Read Review

    • Aorus 7

      Pros: Great-looking 144Hz display
      Good 1080p gaming performance
      Supports two storage drives
      Removable battery

      Cons: All-plastic design
      Generic looks
      Number-pad keys aren’t full size

      Bottom Line: Gigabyte’s big-screened Aorus 7 SA provides good 1080p gaming performance at a reasonable price, though its plastic chassis makes it an uninspiring choice.

      Read Review

    • Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (G732)

      Pros: Blistering gaming performance, thanks to Core i9 and GeForce RTX 2080 Super
      300Hz display
      Loaded with RAM and storage
      Solidly built
      Attractive LED trim

      Cons: Expensive as configured
      Fairly big and hefty at 6.3 pounds
      Small touchpad and underwhelming keyboard
      No webcam

      Bottom Line: A full-strength GeForce RTX 2080 Super GPU and a 300Hz panel lead the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 to maxed-out gaming performance, but we wish the design were amped up as much as the parts.

      Read Review


    About the Author


    August 10, 2020

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