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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.
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17 Inch Laptop Without Numpad
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.
The lightest 17-inch laptops, with one major exception, weigh in at just under seven pounds. (The outlier, the LG 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.)
So, are these tradeoffs too much to suffer merely for a pleasing view? Are luggables just the large-print books of the laptop world?
No—they’re also the performance leaders. Their chassis accommodate the most powerful processors and graphics cards, the strongest cooling systems, the most memory, and multiple solid-state drives (SSDs) or hard drives for ample storage. They have plenty of room for all the ports you might need, as well as spacious, near-desktop-class keyboards with full keypads for numeric data entry.
Jumbo laptops aren’t for frequent fliers, but they fill a big niche. Let’s look at what they can do, and what to look for as you shop for one.
Work 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.
With the exception that CPU muscle is a little less important while GPU strength is paramount, much the same applies to gaming rigs (also the stars of their 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.
Gamers often choose displays capped at 1080p resolution for high frame rates’ sake; fast gaming at 4K resolution requires a costly, top-of-the-line graphics processor (GPU) like Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2070 or GeForce RTX 2080. (As we wrote this, Nvidia had just debuted ticked-up RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super versions of those last two GPUs, too.) By contrast, some workstation users enjoy the highest-resolution screen possible to mimic the desktop experience of multiple monitors or for editing 4K video. Some mobile workstations also excel at precisely matching what’s seen on screen to your finished work’s destined output, offering a choice of the web’s sRGB, print’s Adobe RGB, or cinema’s DCI-P3 palettes or color spaces.
Most laptop LCDs have a refresh rate of 60Hz, redrawing the image on 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. But it’s not enough for fanatic gamers who’ve invested in graphics chips that can crank out more than 60 frames per second. Hence the availability of gaming laptops with so-called “high refresh” 120Hz, 144Hz, 240Hz or even 300Hz displays. Shoppers in this stratosphere will also find some screens that support Nvidia’s G-Sync or (much more rarely) AMD’s FreeSync technology, able to synchronize the refresh rate of the display on the fly to the GPU’s output for smoother appearances.
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The 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 9th or 10th Generation guise (indicated by model numbers in the 9,000s and 10,000s, respectively) with at least six 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.
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.
As for storage, look for one or two M.2 solid-state drives, often joined by one or two 2.5-inch hard drives—the SSD for the operating system and favorite applications, the roomier hard drive for games and data. Most performance-conscious portables use slightly quicker PCI Express (PCIe) rather than SATA solid-state drives. In connection with PCIe SSDs, you’ll often see the acronym “NVMe” (for Non-Volatile Memory Express) bandied around, as well as a few proprietary monikers, such as HP mobile workstations’ Z Turbo Drives. Both indicate the fastest SSDs. (See our guide to the 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.
Nvidia’s gaming-laptop GPUs here in 2020 have seen a shift. Before the launch of Turing, it was a simple ladder: They climbed from the GeForce GTX 1050 to the GTX 1050 Ti, then the GTX 1060, with the formerly high-end GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 topping the line. The last three have been fading away in favor of the GeForce RTX 2060, RTX 2070, and RTX 2080 (and now, the aforementioned “RTX Super” versions of the last two). Only the last 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 have been designed for gamers with full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) screens. The RTX 2060 and RTX 2070, meanwhile, straddle the full HD and 4K realms.
With the rollout of mobile versions of 2019’s GeForce GTX 1650 and GTX 1660 Ti (there is no mobile version of the GTX 1660), plus a new-in-2020 (and laptop-only) GeForce GTX 1650 Ti, those GPUs have supplanted the GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, and GTX 1060. You’re looking at an up-to-date laptop if it has one of these GTX 1600-series chips.
A very few huge, heavyweight gaming laptops carry not one but two GeForce GPUs for ludicrous speed, using Nvidia’s SLI (and in the latest generation, NVLink) multi-GPU technology. But it’s hard to recommend them to any but the most committed (and flush!) gamers. They cost a fortune, their battery life is invariably brutish and short, and not all games benefit from dual-GPU setups, anyway. AMD’s Radeon RX mobile GPUs are making some inroads in 2020, but they tend to appear so far in 15-inch-class machines, not 17-inchers.
Ready 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.
At any rate, you’re ready to shop for the notebook of your big-screen dreams. Get started by checking out the reviews we’ve assembled here, and good luck: Flex those biceps and get your back-strengthening routine down pat. You’re going to go big. On the flip side, your eyes will be very, very happy.
Smartphone buying guide
Whether you’re thinking about purchasing your first smartphone or just upgrading from an older model, you might feel overwhelmed shopping for a new smartphone. With so many options to choose from, it’s difficult to know if you’re getting the right phone at the right price.
That’s why we’ve created this page: to guide you through the process of buying a new smartphone with as little stress as possible.
What is a smartphone?
A smartphone is a more powerful version of a regular cell phone. In addition to the same basic features, including phone calls, voicemail, and text messaging, smartphones can connect to the Internet over a cellular network. This means you can use a smartphone for the same things you would normally do on a computer, such as checking your email, browsing online, or shopping.
Wireless providers will require you to pay a monthly fee, usually called a data plan, to access the Internet with a smartphone over their cellular network.
Most smartphones use a touch-sensitive screen, meaning there isn’t a physical keyboard on the device. Instead, you’ll type on a virtual keyboard and use your fingers to interact with the display. Other standard features include a high-quality digital camera and the ability to play digital music and video files. For many users, a smartphone can actually replace things like an old laptop, digital music player, and digital camera in the same device.
Do I even need a smartphone?
Because of these convenient features, smartphones have become increasingly popular over the past several years. Smartphones can also be very expensive, however; some high-end models cost even more than a new laptop or desktop computer!
If you’re happy using your existing devices separately, you may not need a smartphone. But if you want to use just one device to access the Internet, make phone calls, take photos, and listen to music, a smartphone is probably a good option for you.
What type of smartphone should I buy?
Even if you know you want a smartphone, it can be challenging to know where to start. There are different smartphones to choose from, including Windows Phone and Blackberry. In this guide, however, we’ll focus on the two most popular options: the iPhone and Android smartphones.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so we’ll try our best to provide the information you’ll need to make the decision that’s right for you.
What is an iPhone?
The iPhone is a smartphone from Apple, which also produces the Mac line of computers. The iPhone is available in a few different models, starting at $450 and going up to $950. It’s powered by the iOS operating system, which is also used by Apple’s iPad and iPod Touch devices.
What is Android?
Unlike the iPhone, which is only available in a few different models, there are hundreds of Android devices to choose from. This is because Android is not one specific smartphone. It’s actually an operating system designed by Google. Many different companies make devices that are powered by the Android operating system, including Samsung, HTC, LG, and Motorola.
Each of these manufacturers produces different Android smartphones, each with their own custom hardware and features. As a result, Android smartphones are available in a much wider range of prices than the iPhone, starting as low as $100 for an entry-level device.
Android or iPhone?
Should you get iPhone or an Android? If you try searching for advice on this topic, you’ll find no shortage of opinions on both sides; iPhones and Android phones have strong groups of supporters, and most people place themselves firmly on one side or another. There are definite advantages and disadvantages with either option, so let’s take a look at some of the biggest factors you should consider.
Click the buttons in the chart to see our rankings, then read more about each category below.https://e.infogr.am/android_vs_iphone?src=embed
In terms of cost, the iPhone simply can’t compete with Android models. If you don’t want to spend more than $200 to $300 on a smartphone, you’ll want to choose Android over iPhone.
Unfortunately, the actual cost of a smartphone may not be immediately obvious. For example, your wireless carrier may offer certain smartphones for free if you sign a two-year contract, or allow you to spread the cost across small installments instead of one single payment. Regardless of how you pay, an iPhone will almost always be more expensive than an Android smartphone.
Because the iPhone is produced by one company instead of several manufacturers, it’s often easier to get answers and help directly from Apple’s customer support. By contrast, most Android phones work a bit differently from one another depending on the manufacturer and wireless provider you choose, which can make it more difficult to know where to look for help.
If you’re worried that you’ll need a lot of extra help once you get started, you might consider choosing an iPhone over an Android (if your budget allows).
Apps and app stores
Both iPhone and Android allow you to download applications, which are commonly known as apps, to add extra functionality to your smartphone. The Play Store for Android and the App Store for iPhone provide a huge selection of apps for you to download. Although some apps are available exclusively for one platform, most are available on both. Unless there’s a specific app you want that’s only available on one device, this shouldn’t be a significant factor in your decision.
However, if you already have another device that uses Android or iOS, such as a tablet computer, you might want to consider purchasing a smartphone that runs the same operating system. This way, you’ll be able to install any apps you’ve purchased on both devices.
Android smartphones allow for a lot more customization than iPhones. Whereas the iPhone offers a few customization options (like your phone’s wallpaper and ringtone), Android allows you to change just about everything on your device, including themes, notification widgets, and default applications.
For some users, this might not be a very important distinction. But if you want to have more control over the way you’ll use your device, we’d recommend choosing an Android over an iPhone.
Remember how we said before that Android and iPhone use different operating systems? Like desktop and laptop computers, these operating systems are updated just about every year. These updates usually include new and useful features, as well as security upgrades.
But upgrading an Android phone to the latest version can be pretty complicated. In many cases, it actually depends on when your wireless provider decides to push the update to your device. By contrast, the iPhone can be updated as soon as updates are available, regardless of your wireless carrier.
We should note that there’s nothing especially bad or dangerous about using a slightly older version of your phone’s operating system. But if you know that you always like to use the latest software as soon as it’s available, you might consider choosing an iPhone over an Android (if your budget allows).
There are a few Android models, like the Google Nexus, that allow you to upgrade to the latest version of Android more easily; however, they also tend to be more expensive than other Android smartphones.