Thursday, April 18, 2024

I tested the three best 14-inch gaming laptops. There’s a clear winner

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Cyberpunk 2077 running on the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Over the past few years, the category of 14-inch gaming laptops has grown tremendously. You’ll find multiple models among the best gaming laptops, but there are three key designs that are all begging to be your high-end portable gaming powerhouse.

Contents

  • Specs and pricing
  • Design
  • Keyboard and trackpad
  • Ports and connectivity
  • Display
  • Performance
  • Which 14-inch gaming laptop should you buy?Show 2 more items

I’m talking about the Razer Blade 14, Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, and HP Omen Transcend 14. All three are thin and light gaming laptops that pack the latest hardware from Intel, AMD, and Nvidia, and they all deliver an excellent gaming experience. There are a surprising number of differences between the three laptops, however, and one of them has a clear edge.

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Specs and pricing

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Out of the three, the easiest laptop to start with is the Razer Blade 14. It’s the most expensive of the trio, coming in at $2,200 for an RTX 4060 and $2,700 for an RTX 4070. Those are the only two GPU options, and Razer pairs them both with an AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS and 1TB of storage. The RTX 4060 configuration comes with 16GB of memory, while the RTX 4070 bumps that spec to 32GB.

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With only two main configurations, your options for customization are limited. You can’t get more than 1TB of storage, for example, but the design of the Blade 14 features slot-in RAM and storage, so you can replace these components on your own down the line.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is very similar. Asus also bases its design around the Ryzen 9 8945HS, and you have the option between an RTX 4060 and an RTX 4070. Similarly, Asus packs in a 1TB SSD and 16GB of memory for the RTX 4060 configuration and 32GB for the RTX 4070 configuration. It’s identical to the Razer Blade 14, but Asus’ laptop comes in significantly cheaper. The RTX 4060 model is $1,600, while the RTX 4070 model is $2,000. You’re saving anywhere from $600 to $700 compared to the Razer Blade 14 with the same specs.

 
HP Omen Transcend 14 (as reviewed)
Razer Blade 14 (as reviewed)
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (as reviewed)

Dimensions
12.32 x 9.19 x 0.67 inches
0.7 x 8.97 x 12.23 inches
12.24 x 8.88 x 0.64 inches

Weight
3.6 pounds
4.05 pounds
3.31 pounds

Processor
Intel Core Ultra 7 155H
AMD Ryzen 7 8945HS
AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS

Graphics
Nvidia RTX 4060 (90W TGP)
Nvidia RTX 4070 mobile (140W TGP)
Nvidia RTX 4070 (90W TGP)

RAM
16GB
16 GB DDR5-5600
32GB LPDDR5X-6400 (soldered)

Display
2,880 x 1,800, OLED, 120Hz
2560 x 1600, 240Hz IPS
3K (2,880 x 1,800) OLED, 120Hz, G-Sync

Storage
 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD
1TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD

Touch
N/A
N/A
N/A

Ports
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x 3.5mm headphone
2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, 2x USB4 Type-C ports, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x 3.5mm audio
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x 3.5mm, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1x USB 4 Type-C w/ 100W power delivery, 1x microSD card reader

Wireless
Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi 6E
WI-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi 6E

Webcam
1080p with Windows Hello
1080p Windows Hello with privacy shutter
1080p w/ Windows Hello

Operating system
Windows 11 Home
Windows 11 Home
Windows 11 Pro

Battery
71 WHr
68.1-Whr battery
73WHrs

Where to buy


There’s one big caveat to the Zephyrus G14’s specs, however — the RAM is soldered. You can replace the SSD down the line, but you’re stuck with the RAM configuration. That can be a liability, particularly with the configuration with 16GB of memory.

Finally, there’s the Omen Transcend 14. It’s the biggest departure from the other two in terms of specs due to the fact that it’s built around one of Intel’s Meteor Lake CPUs. You have the option between an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H, paired with either an RTX 4050 or RTX 4060, or an Intel Core Ultra 9 185H, which is paired with an RTX 4070. The first configurations come with 16GB of memory, while the RTX 4070 configuration comes with 32GB.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

HP offers many more customization options, particularly in storage. Configurations start with a 512GB SSD, but you can bump that up to 2TB. Like the Zephyrus G14, the RAM is soldered, so you can’t upgrade it down the line.

Pricing is tricky because HP provides a lot more options. It has a cheaper starting price of $1,250, but that comes with a weaker RTX 4050 GPU and only 512GB of storage. For a more direct comparison, an RTX 4060 configuration is $1,400, while an RTX 4070 configuration is $1,900.

HP offers the cheapest laptop out of the three, but it’s not much cheaper than the Zephyrus G14 for similar configurations. It’s a tie between HP and Asus for this round, with Razer’s options being far more expensive despite packing slotted memory.

Winner: Tie between HP and Asus

Design

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

It’s hard to go wrong with any of these laptops. They’re all crafted with an aluminum shell, and they all look great. There are some minor differences in design — HP goes with a clean Omen logo on the front, while Razer has an illuminated Razer logo. The Zephyrus G14 stands out most from the crowd with its Slash Lighting, allowing you to place effects on a string of LEDs situated on the laptop’s lid.

The big differences are between size and weight. The Zephyrus G14 is the thinnest and lightest of the three, coming at only 0.63 inches thick and 3.31 pounds. For reference, the HP Omen Transcend 14 is 3.6 pounds and 0.67 inches thick, while the Blade 14 is the largest at 0.7 inches thick and 4.05 pounds.

All three laptops are portable, but the Zephyrus G14 encroaches on MacBook territory with its weight and thickness. That, combined with the unique slash lighting, gives it an edge for design.

Winner: Asus

Keyboard and trackpad

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

All three of these laptops feature RGB-backlight keyboards and spacious trackpads, but there are a few small differences between them. The Omen Transcend 14 is easily the weakest of the lineup. The keyboard has a solid amount of travel, but bottoming out the keys results in a touch of mushiness. The big problem, at least for versions available right now, is the four-zone RGB lighting.

Both the Zephyrus G14 and Razer Blade 14 support per-key RGB lighting with a range of effects. The Transcend 14 is separated into four zones, vastly limiting your customization options. HP says it will release versions with per-key RGB lighting later in the year, but for right now, it takes a back seat to the other two options.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Between the Zephyrus G14 and Razer Blade 14, the laptops trade blows depending on what you’re after. The Blade 14 comes with a larger trackpad, though the Zephyrus G14 isn’t far behind. On the other hand, the Zephyrus G14 comes with more travel on the keys, making it a bit more comfortable for long typing sessions. The Blade 14 is snappier with a shorter travel.

This is a tie between the Zephyrus G14 and Blade 14. I prefer the longer travel of the Zephyrus G14, but if you want a snappier, Macbook-like response, the Blade 14 is the way to go.

Winner: Tie between Razer and Asus

Ports and connectivity

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Blade 14, Zephyrus G14, and Omen Transcend 14 come with almost identical offerings in terms of ports. All three laptops include a full-size HDMI 2.1 port, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, and two USB-C ports. The HP and Asus laptops split these USB-C ports between a single USB 4 and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 spec, while both ports on the Blade 14 support USB 4.

The main difference is that the Zephyrus G14 has a micro SD card slot, which is something both the Blade 14 and Omen Transcend 14 lack.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

You can charge all three laptops via USB-C power delivery, though the Omen Transcend 14 uses this port exclusively for charging. That means you’ll only have access to one USB-C port while you’re using the Omen Transcend 14 most of the time. The Blade 14 and Zephyrus G14 come with a larger charger and a dedicated port for it.

The Blade 14 and Zephyrus G14 are once again tied here. The Blade 14 has an edge in that both of the USB-C ports support power delivery, but the Zephyrus G14 comes with a micro SD card slot. I imagine the micro SD card slot will be more useful to more people, but it comes down to preference between the two.

Winner: Tie between Razer and Asus

Display

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Up to this point, it’s been mostly a battle between the Blade 14 and Zephyrus G14, with the Omen Transcend 14 taking a slight back seat. That changes with the displays. Both the Zephyrus G14 and Omen Transcend 14 include a 2.8K OLED display at 120Hz. That’s a resolution of 2,880 x 1,800, with support for variable refresh rate and response times quoted at 0.2ms.

It’s the exact same screen on both laptops, and the differences between the two amounts to splitting hairs. They’re some of the most color accurate laptop screens we’ve ever tested, though the Zephyrus G14 gets slightly brighter at 670 nits (the Omen Transcend 14 topped out at 606 nits). The big advantage for the Asus laptop is a MUX switch that allows you to switch between the integrated and discrete graphics on the screen.

The Blade 14 is a clear step behind. The IPS panel is color accurate and gets bright enough, but it can’t hold a candle to the inky blacks and infinite contrast granted by OLED. The main point in the Blade 14’s favor is the 240Hz refresh rate, doubling what you get on the HP and Asus laptops.

Still, HP and Asus have an undeniable lead here with their OLED displays. You’re getting a higher resolution, a speedy refresh rate, and the fantastic color and HDR that OLED brings to the table.

Winner: Tie between HP and Asus

Performance

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

All three of these laptops are decent performers, but there are a few high-level differences between them. Above, you can see an overview of a handful of games we tested across these laptops. We were only able to test the RTX 4060 configuration of the Omen Transcend 14, so the results are understandably lower compared to the two laptops packing an RTX 4070.

Our reviews for these laptops (linked at the top of this article) contain far more benchmarks, so you should look into those if you want the full breakdown of performance.

There are some notable differences when comparing them directly, however. The most glaring is that the Zephyrus G14 and Omen Transcend 14 use a lower Total Graphics Power (TGP) for the graphics card compared to the Blade 14. Even with an identical GPU on paper, the Blade 14 squeezes out more performance in games on average.

The difference is only a few frames typically, but there are cases where the gap is much larger, as showcased by Cyberpunk 2077 above.

In addition, the Core Ultra CPU in the Omen Transcend 14 is generally weaker than the Ryzen offerings in the Blade 14 and Zephyrus G14, at least for the Core Ultra 7 155H that we reviewed. The Core Ultra 9 185H will likely close the gap, but the Razer and Asus laptops have a slight edge for overall performance.

That doesn’t make a huge difference in this section, however. If you’re after the highest performance, there’s no better option than the Razer Blade 14. The Zephyrus G14 gets close, and the Omen Transcend 14 isn’t far behind in third place, but the Blade 14 still tops the charts.

Winner: Razer

Which 14-inch gaming laptop should you buy?

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Tallying up the wins, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 comes out on top. In some places, such as pricing, the Omen Transcend 14 is a bit better. In others, such as peak performance, the Blade 14 comes out on top. The Zephyrus G14 is balanced, however. It offers enough performance for a much lower price compared to the Blade 14, and it’s thinner and lighter than the Omen Transcend 14.

This is a very close fight, though. For me, the hardest decision is between the Razer Blade 14 and Zephyrus G14. After using both, I found that the Blade 14 is the better laptop — however, it’s not worth the extra $600 to $700 Razer is asking for it. Even spending an extra $200 on it is hard to justify with how great the Zephyrus G14 is.

The Omen Transcend 14 is in last place. It doesn’t feel quite as premium as the other two models, and it has a price to reflect that. It’s not a bad laptop, hitting similar marks to its two rivals here, but most people are better off with the Zephyrus G14 or Blade 14 if you have the cash to spare.

One laptop I omitted from this shootout is the Alienware x14 R2. It’s a great 14-inch gaming laptop, but it hasn’t seen an update for 2024 quite yet. If you’re waiting a bit, that’s definitely one to keep an eye on — the Alienware x16 received an update recently, so I expect an update to the x14 is in the works.

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