Opinion: PC makers need to step it up and create quieter gaming laptops
When it comes to gaming laptops, we see a new one in our labs almost every week from various OEMs. It's gotten to the point where we've accepted many of their shortcomings as standard like the generally shorter runtimes or thicker dimensions. It wasn't until the arrival of the MSI GT76 Titan that made us realize fan noise hasn't improved at all even as CPUs, GPUs, and chassis designs have continued to advance. If anything, fan noise has been getting worse.
The aforementioned MSI GT76 was revealed at Computex 2019 where it boasted "exotic-car-inspired aesthetics" and enhanced air intake for what we could only assume would mean an improved cooling solution. During our actual testing, however, fan noise when gaming ended up being one of the loudest we've recorded at 57 dB(A) versus "only" ~51 dB(A) on other enthusiast gaming laptops with the same GeForce RTX 2080 GPU. We want to give MSI the benefit of the doubt because our model was a pre-production unit, but we don't have our hopes up since we recorded the exact same decibel level when gaming on the last generation GT75 as well.
The situation isn't any better outside of MSI. As another example, the old 2014 Alienware 17 with GTX 880M graphics topped out at 50.8 dB(A) when gaming compared to 51 dB(A) on the 2019 Alienware Area-51m with RTX 2080 graphics. When comparing the 2014 Asus ROG G750JZ with the 2019 Asus ROG G703GX, fan noise has actually gone up from 49 dB(A) to 52 dB(A) when running Witcher 3. Even across five years of advancements in design and performance, fan noise has barely changed.
Nvidia at least attempted to improve fan noise on gaming laptops with the GeForce Max-Q series. When Max-Q was announced at Computex 2017, the green chipmaker promised a fan noise of just 40 dB(A) when gaming to be significantly quieter than what we've become accustomed to. Unfortunately, the problem is that Nvidia does not disclose how it measures fan noise or even what it defines as "gaming load". In our own tests, Max-Q laptops like the Razer Blade Pro 17 would be just as loud as a non-Max-Q laptop like the aforementioned Asus ROG G703GX when running Witcher 3. Nvidia has fallen short of its promises in this regard.
Instead of focusing on "exotic" chassis designs and buzzwords, OEMs should dedicate more resources into the cooling solutions of their gaming laptops to offer something more revolutionary. Not every gamer will agree on the same "exotic" look, but every gamer will definitely appreciate a quieter system. Give us the "world's quietest gaming laptop" and we're certain it would generate more buzz than any gaming laptop inspired by a sports car.