Digital creatives have high demands for their equipment but making the decision on where to invest your money can be confusing, with so many options available, all screaming for your attention. You can opt for the latest version of whatever you currently use, which has the benefit of familiarity but another option would be to let the testing and experience of others lead your decision. You may balk at the idea of allowing a particular laptop manufacturer to influence your spending, which makes sense, however you could take a different route.
NVIDIA has a technology platform for creatives called NVIDIA RTX Studio, which in essence, is a badge tied to specific laptops and PCs that have been put through their paces in a series of rigorous tests. They have to meet a set of carefully selected hardware and software specifications to make sure they operate with sufficient speed and consistency to be certified for various creative applications and workflows.
NVIDIA works with developers, via SDKs, to build robust tools ensuring that each machine runs at optimum levels, using drivers written to assist designers, with power delivered when and where it is needed.
Many users know and trust the NVIDIA name with the latest RTX graphics cards offering plentiful performance for modern usage, such as realtime ray tracing in 3D applications like Unreal Engine. This is all fine and well but the GPU doesn’t make the whole system and if you want confidence that your hard earned cash is being placed where it will reward you with performance, reliability and longevity take a look at the round up below, where we look at various systems, certified as RTX Studio laptops, to make an informed decision.
We will look at the physical device, it’s ergonomics, display characteristics and similar but also look a bit deeper to see if these RTX Studio machines deliver on performance, with benchmark results to showcase each laptop’s performance.
Dell XPS 17 - £2899
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Although Dell is well known for its standard office PCs they have also gained a reputation for building solid laptops. The XPS range has been around for a while but this incarnation takes things a step beyond earlier models.
The chassis is slimline and the body is smooth silver, with a shiny finish. Opening the lid reveals a dark grey interior, coated in a soft touch rubber-feeling material, which is very pleasant underhand. The XPS comes with a GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, 8 cores of tenth gen i7, 16GB ram, a solid foundation for a creative workhorse. Physically it is attractive but not at the expense of comfort, as both the trackpad and keyboard are comfortable for extended periods of use. The display is a UHD touch sensitive display with a brightness of 500 nits. It has good accuracy but it’s real selling point is the edge to edge screen that does away with the intrusive bezels some machines still have.
Dell clearly has the buying power and that is demonstrated by the solid build quality that is obvious when you have it in hand. It feels like you could hit the road with confidence and, compared to a macbook pro you’ll find you gain confidence in your ability to create too. For example Adobe illustrator runs smoothly, even with files that include thousands of paths, gradients and effects, something you’ll be hard pushed to find in competing laptops. The implementation of the RTX Studio drivers looks like it’s working like a charm here. Manipulating handles of vectors never misses a beat and navigating a large artboard with multiple items on it is slick, with none of the shearing and lag apparent on other systems. Illustrator has a preference built in for this kind of device and when the GPU performance box is checked you get the smooth fluid experience. It’s clear that the XPS is an excellent tool for the digital illustrator and compares favourably to the macbook pro, making it a sure fire addition to your shortlist.
Razer Blade 15 Advanced - £3198
At first glance the Razer looks the part, with a sleek chassis finished in a smooth black metal, a catchless lid, opening to reveal a beautiful display. This is both touch sensitive and 4k, offering excellent contrast and clarity. Some users won’t like interacting gesturally with a glossy screen but it’s nice to have the option. If colour accuracy is critical to your work then this is the obvious choice as the OLED display covers 100% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut.
This particular GeForce RTX Studio machine is powered by the GeForce RTX 2080 Super, an 8 core i7 at 2.3Ghz and 16GB ram. In terms of measurable performance the Razer tops the chart against the macbook pro. Running the Blender Benchmarking files highlights the power of the GPU with the RTX studio drivers. The mean average of the various scenes, when completed by the Razer is 25.9. This doesn’t say much alone but when compared to a 2019 macbook pro which scores 41.3 it becomes a much clearer story. If you are a 3D animator, rendering is the task that slows down the creative process the most, meaning that the speed of the GPU to compute complex images is vital to your workflow. The NVIDIA RTX GPUs optimise rendering performance meaning you can spend more time animating, or modeling and less time waiting for the next image to clear. Iterating your ideas becomes faster, with less interruption.
It’s pretty clear that the Razer is a fantastic combination of hardware and software, the NVIDIA drivers appearing to do the job, making this laptop a true laptop for creatives. It’s hard to know what part NVIDIA’s SDK has played in the development process but it clearly provides excellent results that surpass that of the macbook pro, making it a great choice for the 3D artist looking to stay efficient and creative.
Gigabyte AERO 15 - £2498
The Aero is a stunning machine. It is as simple as that. It has a 4K, hdr screen, that has colour accuracy so good it is Pantone certified. Colour rendition is excellent, clarity is top notch and the blacks are the most detailed in this group. OLED technology makes for particularly vibrant and saturated tones, which can sometimes be a little heavy handed. The Aero might lead you to believe this is the case here, as the RGB keyboard is quite in your face and when you lift the lid you are presented with a host of stickers highlighting the showcase features, but in use the display really is excellent.
None of that matters if you stare at it, waiting for a file to open, or for a render to complete but the Gigabyte doesn’t disappoint here either. It too has the RTX Studio badge, it’s GeForce RTX 2070 Super GPU should be just right for editing in Adobe Premiere Pro.
Like others in the group it has the 10th Gen Core i9 chip with 16gb Ram, making this great fit for designers, animators and video editors working in 4k. With that in mind let's consider benchmark results from Premiere, compared to the MacBook Pro. The Aero can playback a multilayered sequence, with effects without dropping a frame, in 4k and real time (24fps) while pushing the performance beyond the project frame rate shows it can actually render the sequence, with multiple 4k source files at nearly three times realtime (61.32fps). This is nearly double that of the MacBook Pro, proving that the mercury graphics engine, combined with the RTX 2070 Super (alongside the associated Studio drivers) means that a video editor will save precious time. The performance allows for media to be encoded while allowing for editing to continue, which is a real world benefit that can’t be ignored.
It’s clear from the testing that NVIDIA has done a fine job running these laptops through the mill, with results showing that the RTX Studio certification makes for a top quality design machine, perfect for 3D, music, digital painting, film editing and grading.
If you work in any of these fields you won't go wrong adding any of these to your short list. The Macbook Pro is a bit of an outsider in this group but deserves to be considered and compared, due to its familiarity in the design field. It's a worthy contender but does fall short in the performance area as it is near impossible to spec with cards that perform as well in the critical areas needed for content creators. The RTX Studio drivers and hardware clearly form the all round package for the digital content creator.
I could do without the RGB keyboard of the Gigabyte but in balance it represents great value and could almost replace a desktop workstation, plus that display is so good!
The Dell performs well, with the benefit of a really lovely tactile feeling chassis with a soft touch coating. The screen isn’t as good as the Gigabyte or the Razer but then, as any element of this test, it’s about striking the balance between cost and performance. Apple’s retina display isn’t quite as accurate as the Razer but is a joy to work with.
The Gigabyte falls somewhere in the middle of the group. It’s nicely built, well specified but doesn’t quite feel as special as the others.
Which laptop is best? If I were spending my hard earned cash I would go for the Razer. It’s powerful, sleek and nicely built and lets you work with as little interruption as possible, staying creative, when it counts.
In conclusion, if you are a die in the wool mac user, that’s ok. There are options for you but you are missing out on the best performance available to the work you do. It might be time to reassess those views and look to the pc market for GPU performance where it counts, and any of these RTX Studio laptops are more than worthy of making your shortlist.
You can find these laptops, as well as a wider range of NVIDIA Studio certified laptops and PCs, at Scan Computers, which is one of UK's leading suppliers of computer hardware and is well versed with professional video and graphics workstations. There you’ll find everything you need from video, to audio, to laptop & system editing workstations all in one place: SCAN