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What Laptop Reviews Aren't Telling You

The modern Laptop PC is smaller and lighter than it’s ever been and is literally packed to the limit with some of the most advanced components available. Enthusiast-class laptops carry enough horsepower to be legitimate desktop replacements. The price tags on mobile equipment has always been higher than the equivalent performing desktop gear because of the size difference . Countless dollars and engineering man-hours are poured into the compact designs to extract the most performance possible from a diminished footprint. The battery that powers our laptops is typically seen as the major compromise that makes high-performance, portable computing possible, but within strict limits. We can take our laptop PCs anywhere, but the work or play that can be accomplished is limited by battery capacity. Top-shelf CPUs and GPUs eat power and dump heat and are designed to run as fast as possible when presented with a load. When the power delivery and cooling solutions attached to these chips can no longer keep up, your laptop will throttle performance to stay within safe electrical or thermal limits. This additional compromise presented by laptops is not often considered by prospective buyers.  Is a laptop performance review helpful if benchmarks that take throttling into consideration are not included?

In an informative opinion piece posted on NotebookCheck, Douglas Black calls for the tech journalism community to alter the way laptop reviews are presented so that potential buyers have the full story on a given machine’s performance. Black mentions that it was a topic he had considered covering for some time and made the choice to write his piece now after the site’s review of the Microsoft Surface Pro and subsequent news of severe throttling issues that plagued Microsoft’s new machine. That look at thermal throttling on Microsoft’s hybrid tablet showed as much as a 30 percent performance penalty when the laptop hit its thermal limits during extended Cinebench runs.

PC gamers that want to play their libraries on the go are paying hefty premiums to get laptops loaded with the latest Core i7 processors and cutting-edge GPUs. Less than one year ago, ASUS announced a laptop that appears to have been designed as a monument to man’s arrogance. Featuring 2 nVidia GTX 1080 GPUs and an overclocked Core i7 CPU, the Predator 21 X is pretty much a space heater you can toss in your oversized backpack. Sure, the internal components can drive the Predator’s 120Hz display at maximum settings with AAA titles, but how long can it sustain that performance once the heat output of the unit inevitably results in throttling? You would have no way of knowing before spending $9000 on the Predator 21 X because none of the top three reviews (The Verge, PCMag, or LaptopMag) listed on a Google search of the device mention throttling, thermals, or how those would affect performance during extending gaming sessions.

For those that recently purchased new laptops for gaming or other intensive purposes, have you noticed throttling during use? Would a laptop shown to throttle in normal testing dissuade you from buying? Hit us up in the comments!

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