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Ultrabooks vs Gaming laptops: Which one should you pick?

Written by R Rohit Bharadwaj & Ekanshh Praveen

We see so many new devices being launched into the market every day. A big confusion for people, especially students, is whether they should buy a lightweight productivity machine or a more powerful gaming-oriented device.


Confused?


However, these lightweight laptops simply don’t have the specifications or the thermals to support heavier tasks such as gaming, video editing, or data science applications. On the other hand, gaming devices are often very bulky and tend to neglect other aspects of the laptop, such as battery life, speakers, trackpads, etc.


While shopping within the constraints of a budget, it’s impossible to find a “jack of all trades”, which is perfect in every way. Hence people are torn between choosing between an ultrabook and a gaming laptop. This dilemma is very common amongst students who need a portable device with a long-lasting battery but could also benefit from having a machine capable of more demanding tasks.


So making this choice can often be confusing. The best way to make this decision is by understanding your usage and knowing your expectations from a laptop. Either way, some compromises have to be made, but picking a laptop with the features that are most essential to you is the right way to go.


Eg. if you’re going to be playing games, especially ones that are graphics intensive it is advisable to invest in a laptop capable of high performance. Although ultrabooks may have specs capable of running such games, they generally overheat quickly; In the long run, extended gaming can damage the device. If your usage is limited to browsing the web, creating spreadsheets, or even basic programming, ultrabooks are more than capable of handling such tasks and don’t make the compromises that gaming laptops do for the sake of maximizing performance.


So here are some of the best ultrabooks under 1 lakh INR (1335.65 USD) :

  • XPS-13 (89,990 INR)

  • LG Gram (68,990 INR)

  • MacBook Air (92,990 INR)


1) XPS-13

The Dell XPS-13 is a flagship ultrabook with, as the name suggests, a sleek 13-inch InfinityEdge bezel-less display. It is a compact and easily portable device; weighing in at 1.29 kgs. It has an aluminum body and an impressive build quality. A really unique feature that is often overlooked is the fact that it has charging ports on both sides which goes a long way in terms of convenience.


Even though the XPS-13 is one of our more expensive recommendations, it offers high-end performance with the latest 10th Gen Core-i5 processor by Intel.


The base model also offers 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD Storage which ensures a smooth experience while browsing the web and getting work done. The laptop can definitely handle some light gaming but heavy gaming could be detrimental to the laptop in the long run. (There are Iris Plus versions of the laptop available which can handle heavier gaming) Speaking of the display, it offers a crisp 4K display with great color accuracy (reproducing around 107.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut) which makes watching movies or editing videos a blast.

The XPS-13 also boasts impressive battery life with around 12.5 hours of web-surfing (although the 4K version does give around 9 hours of screen on-time).


The main issues with the almost perfect XPS-13 are the subpar speakers and a very small selection of ports. The speakers are definitely very loud but are a mixed bag when it comes to audio quality. (headphones recommended)


As far as ports are concerned, the XPS-13 comes with three USB-C ports, a micro-SD reader, and a standard 3.55mm headphone jack.


The 10th Gen Non-Touchscreen version starts at 122000 INR (1629 USD) but cheaper versions are also available like the lower performance 8th Gen Version at 89990 INR (1201 USD).


You can buy the XPS 13 here :

https://www.dell.com/en-in/work/shop/business-laptop-notebook-computers/xps-13-laptop/spd/xps-13-7


2) LG Gram 2018


The LG Gram 14 -as the name suggests- is an incredibly light notebook weighing an impressive 998 Grams, but still packs a punch in terms of specs. It comes with an 8th Gen Intel i5 8265U that can handle everyday tasks with ease. In terms of storage, it has a 256GB SSD, and 8GB of DDR4 memory. Build-wise, it boasts a full-metal body with a very sturdy build. It also has great battery life thanks to its huge 72Wh battery which is just shy of overkill for such a device.


With an sRGB color gamut coverage of 94.7 percent, the Gram’s display provides pretty color-accurate visuals with a peak brightness of 292 nits which is perfect for working outside. The Gram also has a visual color temperature of 6666K which is pretty close to the perfect 6500K standard considering its price.


The major issues with the display could be for professional photographers as the Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 color gamuts came with a coverage of only around 67.6 percent and 70.6 percent respectively which are not bad but definitely lower than the standard 80 percent required for professional photo-editing


The Gram’s port selection includes 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB-C port, an HDMI port, a MicroSD slot, and a 3.5 mm audio jack. Although it is missing a LAN port (like most ultrabooks), it does ship with a USB-C to LAN cable which is handy.


Check out the LG Gram 14 here :

https://www.lg.com/us/laptops/lg-14Z980-AAAS7U1-ultra-slim-laptop


3) MacBook Air 2020

Do we need to say much about the MacBook Air? The familiar top-notch aluminum ultra-thin build, the same 400 nit Retina display, the same best-in-class touchpad, and a new and improved speaker that’s arguably the best in the thin and light market. However, what has also remained the same is the display. On the other hand, the MacBook’s competitors have evolved to the much better screen to body ratios. However, the new MacBook does improve upon the two biggest problems the previous generation had: the problematic butterfly switch keyboard and the severely underpowered dual-core processor. While there is now an option to purchase an option with a quad-core i5 processor, It costs much more than the dual-core base model.


But Macbook Air has been a top choice for a lot of people for various generations now and is definitely one of the best laptops at this price point.


To summarize, the new MacBook Air provides a great overall user experience, with its fatal flaw being the processor that struggles to cope with anything but the most basic tasks. The “Apple premium”, to get a decently specced version is just too high to recommend this laptop to anyone.


Check out the 2020 Macbook Air here :

https://www.apple.com/in/macbook-air/


4) BONUS: Mi Notebook 14 Horizon



Xiaomi's first-ever laptop, the hyper-aggressively priced Mi Notebook 14 Horizon has made quite a splash, especially in the Indian market. This comes as no surprise since the device packs a ton of features at an incredibly economical price. It comes with a 10th Gen Intel i5 processor, 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD, and even a dedicated entry-level NVIDIA GeForce MX350, which is almost unheard of for the price. The battery life is pretty good too.


Of course, Xiaomi has cut corners to achieve this price point. The laptop doesn’t support USB-C charging, which could have been convenient. Moreover, it doesn’t have a built-in webcam, although Xiaomi does include a wired webcam in the box. Moreover, it doesn’t have a backlit keyboard, which is, unfortunately, a huge convenience, especially when using the device in a dull environment or at night. Additionally, the quality of the trackpad is quite poor, in terms of clicking as well as tracking.


Taking a step back, it’s exceedingly clear that Xiaomi has tried to create the best spec sheet possible for a laptop at this price point while hiding the flaws which are not immediately visible to a consumer at the surface level. It’s almost funny to see the dichotomy between the laptop being marketed as a “productivity machine” versus the compromises made on several aspects that are considered standard on a productivity centric laptop. The fact that the overall longevity of the laptop is unknown since Xiaomi is new to the laptop segment is just icing on the cake.


Check out the new Mi Notebook 14 Horizon here :

https://www.mi.com/in/mi-notebook-14-horizon/


Before taking a look at our picks for the best gaming laptops, let’s address the common myth that gaming laptops don’t last as long as their regular counterparts. The biggest factor which affects the longevity of a laptop is the thermals. When a machine is constantly under stress, performing at its absolute limit, it tends to reduce the life span. The simple answer is that people who purchase gaming laptops utilize all the power they get to the fullest meanwhile regular users simply don’t use their laptop to that extent. That being said, a well-maintained gaming laptop can still last for a long time if cooled properly. In this regard, a cooling pad might also be a good investment to ensure the longevity of the device.


So here are some of the best gaming laptops under 1 lakh INR (1335.65 USD) :

  • Legion Y540 (68990 INR)

  • Acer Predator Helios 300 (89000 INR)

  • HP Omen 15 15-en0002AX (86k)

  • ROG G14

1) Legion Y540


The Legion Y540 is Lenovo’s offering to the gaming laptop scene at an economical price but still with high-end specifications. The Y540’s design is pretty unconventional for a gaming laptop; it has forward-mounted hinges -similar to Dell’s Alienware series- which makes good room for I/O ports at the rear.


The base model comes with a Core i5 9th Gen 9300H Intel Processor which provides good performance considering the price point (this can be upgraded) and comes with a 4GB NVIDIA GTX 1650 Graphics Card. The display on the Y540 is a 15.6 FHD display with a max brightness of up to 300 nits and an sRGB color gamut reproduction rate of 72 percent which is a major drawback of the Y540 as the contrast and vibrancy of the color reproduction is subpar at best. The base model comes with only a refresh rate of 60hz but this can be upgraded up to a refresh rate of 144hz which offers a more smooth gaming experience.


Thermals can definitely make or break a gaming laptop and a massive pro of the Y540 is the good thermals; with minimal heating issues during prolonged gaming sessions. Unfortunately, like most gaming laptops, the Y540 has sub-par battery life with around 4-5 hours of battery life.


Overall, the Y540 is definitely a capable machine in terms of processing and is a huge cop considering the price.


Check out the Lenovo Legion Y540 here: https://www.lenovo.com/in/en/laptops/legion-laptops/legion-y-series/Lenovo-Legion-Y540-15/p/88GMY501214


2) Acer Predator Helios 300



The Acer Predator Helios 300 is a bestseller for a reason; it offers high-end performance, a classy look, and an affordable price. It has a 15.6-inch display with a clean black and blue finish on the rear. It comes equipped with powerful 59-Blade fans, which ensure a cool system during heavy sessions. The display has two main variants, mainly being the 144hz and 240hz refresh rates (the base model comes with the 144hz ), which is a huge upgrade from the Y540. Like the Y540, the Predator Helios 300 doesn't have a great sRGB reproduction rate and provides a sub-par display in terms of contrast and vibrancy. It also has a similar battery life with an average screen-time of 4-5 hours.


On the topic of ports, the Predator Helios 300 offers a great variety including two USB 3.0 Ports, an Ethernet port, a USB-C port, an HDMI outlet, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Unlike many budget gaming laptops, the keyboard and touchpad on the Predator are exceptional. It has a quiet click mechanism with ultra-responsive tracking and is surrounded with chamfered aluminum linings to give it a more premium feel. The keyboard has a standard layout with RGB backlighting and great responsive keys. The Helios 300 is definitely not the best performing machine but still offers great performance with a 6GB NVIDIA GTX 1660 graphics card and an i5 9th Generation 16 Thread Processor by Intel.


Check out the latest version of the Acer Predator Helios 300 here:

https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/predator-models/laptops/predatorhelios300


3) HP Omen 15



The newly launched 2020 version of the Omen 15 by HP is a rock-solid contender for a gaming laptop to buy. It comes with the latest i5 10th Generation Processor by Intel with 4-8 GB NVIDIA GTX 1650 graphics card (1660 model is available but has not launched yet) ensuring top-notch performance giving an FPS range of 60 to 100 for most of the games.

Although HP laptops generally don’t have great thermals, the Omen 15 2020 Edition has great thermals without major heating issues. The laptop also boasts a vibrant 15.6’’ display with a peak brightness of about 350 nits and the best sRGB gamut reproduction rate amongst all our gaming laptops at a whopping 102 percent. The keyboard and trackpad both are perfectly responsive, though a minor issue is that HP does not use Microsoft’s precision drivers in their trackpads which makes it a bit more difficult to navigate through the OS. The laptop also comes equipped with three USB 3.0 ports, an SD Card Reader, an HDMI outlet, and a 3.55 mm headphone jack.


One of the major issues with Omen 15 is the relatively small 52 watt-hr battery which only gives max 3-3.5 hours of screen-time. This can be a huge issue for people and must be noted before buying. The biggest issue with the Omen 15 though isn't the battery, but actually the wobbly build quality. Although the design is sleek and modern, there is an unmissable gap between the main body and the lid which causes the alignment to not be straight and also causes a bit of a wobble.

Overall, the Omen 15 kills it in terms of performance but has a few critical flaws which make it a bit hard to recommend over the other laptops on the list.


Check out the new HP Omen 15 here :

https://store.hp.com/in-en/default/omen-laptop-15-ek0015tx-183h1pa.html


4) Asus ROG Zephyrus G14



The Zephyrus G14 is quite a unique device, in that it is sort of a hybrid between both these categories. It is a gaming device that also tries to incorporate elements from the ultrabook/thin and light category while making the necessary sacrifices to achieve this result.


The laptop has a footprint of 32.4 x 22.2 x 1.79 cm which is significantly smaller than other gaming laptops. Part of this compactness is explained by its 14’’ display compared to other laptops that have 15.6’’ displays. Moreover, it is also lighter, weighing in at 1.6 kg and 2.2 kg with the adapter. This majorly boosts portability as most other gaming laptops in this price range weigh anywhere from 2.3 - 2.5 kg by themselves. Moreover, it has a great trackpad, crisp speakers, and a blazing fast fingerprint scanner. Moreover, it comes with an AniMe Matrix display on the back, which is essentially a network of dot LED lights that can be used to display a message or animation. However, you can also get the version without it. Moreover, it has the ergonomic lift mechanism which lifts the back of the laptop every time it’s opened. This not only helps with heat dissipation, thereby offering better performance, but also puts the keyboard at a more comfortable angle.


While performance is still great, even the highest specced variant is only comparable to the Predator Helios 300, which is around 300 USD cheaper. The biggest compromise would be the lack of webcam which has become quite important especially now.


Overall, if you want a stylish device capable of gaming, while still being sleek and handy, and can look past the lack of a built-in webcam, this laptop would be the right choice for you.


Check out the new ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 here :

https://www.asus.com/Laptops/ROG-Zephyrus-G14/


Conclusion


So in conclusion, which laptop you choose depends on your requirements and budget. If you need a slim productivity machine, an ultrabook is a right choice for you and if you need something which can handle heavier tasks, a gaming laptop is your bet. Either way, we’ve got you covered so that you can make the right choice.

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