Help Me, Laptop: Which GPU-Display Combo Should I Get?

Every so often in tech, you see something referred to as a "bottleneck." That's when one component of a machine keeps another component from reaching its full potential. Reader xoxtrollstar is trying to buy a new gaming laptop and may have encountered one in the GPU.

xoxtrollstar is looking at two options they found online. The first is a used Asus ROG Strix GL502VS with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ, 16GB of RAM, a GTX 1070 GPU and a 60-Hz display. The second is a new Asus ROG Strix GL703 with a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with a 120-Hz display.

Our reader asks: Is it worth getting the laptop with the more powerful GPU, even though the display tops out at 60 Hz? Or should they get the less-powerful graphics card and try to push the display to 120 Hz? Could the machine even reach that potential?

Either way, something is going to bottleneck something else. A GTX 1070 could easily make full use of that 120-Hz display, but a GTX 1060 is unlikely to do so. In our testing, we've rarely, if ever, seen a GTX 1060 run a game higher than 120 frames per second at 1080p with decent settings.

Of course, with the GTX 1070, you could always connect it to an external monitor with a higher refresh rate, though that would add an extra cost to your new rig.

MORE: The Best Gaming Laptops

Each of these laptops is a year old, if not more. Panels with faster refresh rates are becoming standard on gaming laptops, although if you buy something newer, you probably won't be able to get as powerful a graphics card for a similar price.

One thing to note: When we reviewed the GL502VS, our configuration came with a G-Sync display. That's not as good as a higher refresh rate, but it will keep games running extremely smoothly.

In this case, I think I'd opt for the better GPU and slower display. Sure, a 120-Hz display is nice, but only if you can make use of it. The GTX 1070 will still be better for overall graphics performance, as well as for virtual reality.

In general, though, we don't recommend getting a machine that's more than 2 years old, and the GL502VS is approaching that age. While that GPU will last a few more years, consider hoarding your pennies a little longer instead and getting a machine that's more recent. Take a look at our dedicated page for the best gaming laptops to help you make a decision.

And if you're considering a used laptop like our reader is, be sure you know what to look for so you get the best experience possible.