Is Intel's Coffee Lake Worth It for Gaming Laptops?

Intel has just announced its Coffee Lake H-series CPUs for laptops, including the extremely powerful Core i9. With it, a whole bunch of new laptops (mostly gaming machines) that use the new chips were announced. The devices include new machines from Samsung, Dell and Alienware, Gigabyte and Aorus, MSI, Acer and more.

Most of these notebooks don't have final prices or release dates. But a few are launching now, and we've had time to use and benchmark some of these machines. And with all of the gaming notebooks taking advantage of Coffee Lake, one might wonder, do these six-core machines actually improve gaming performance at all?

The answer? Not really, no. While the new Core i7 and Core i9 processors that we tested performed incredibly on CPU benchmarks, on gaming tests, they were mostly neck and neck with laptops running 7th Gen Intel processors.

For example, the Core i9-wielding Aorus X9, paired with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, ran Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p and Very High settings at 73 frames per second, tying the Razer Blade Pro with a Core i7-7820HK CPU and the same GPU. Both had the same 32GB of RAM. The Alienware 17 R4, with the same CPU and GPU as the Blade Pro but 16GB of RAM, ran the game at 62 fps.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Aorus X9 (Core i9)Alienware 17 (7th Gen Core i7)Razer Blade Pro (7th Gen Core i7)
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Very High)73 fps62 fps73 fps
Hitman (1080, Ultra)96 fps110 fps116 fps
CPU (as tested)Core i9-8950HKCore i7-7820HKCore i7-7820HK
Graphics (as tested)GTX 1080GTX 1060GTX 1080
RAM (as tested)32GB16GB32GB

Among Core i7 notebooks, the Coffee Lake-based MSI GS65 Stealth Thin with a GTX 1070 Max-Q ran at 44 fps, below the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 with Coffee Lake and a full GTX 1070 (53 fps), but the PowerSpec 1510, with a last-generation chip and a GTX 1070, ran the game at 56 fps.

On Hitman (1080p, ultra), the Aorus X9 played the game at 96 fps, while the Alienware ran at 110 fps and the Blade Pro rendered at 116 fps.

Among the 15 inchers, the Stealth Thin ran the game at 79 fps and the Zephyrus ran it at 99, while the PowerSpec reached 60 fps.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Asus Zephyrus M GM501MSI GS65 Stealth ThinPowerSpec 1510
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Very High)53 fps44 fps56 fps
Hitman (1080, Ultra)99 fps79 fps60 fps
CPU (as tested)Core i7-8750HCore i7-8750HCore i7-7700HQ
Graphics (as tested)GTX 1070GTX 1070 Max-QGTX 1070
RAM (as tested)16GB16GB16GB

This was the case among all of our gaming benchmarks. It was all really close , and while some performed better than others on different tests, Coffee Lake-based PCs didn't beat out Kaby Lake computers by any crazy margins. Sometimes, they didn't at all.

MORE: Intel Debuts Core i9 Mobile CPUs: What You Need to Know

Most games still primarily use the GPU. You'll start seeing real graphics performance improvements whenever Nvidia and AMD announce their next-gen graphics cards. So if you're getting a brand-new gaming machine today and can get a deal, it's not a bad idea to look at something with one of last year's Intel 7th Gen Kaby Lake CPUs to save money. If you're spending extra anywhere on a machine dedicated to playing video games, put it toward a high-end GPU.

Where Coffee Lake will help you is for anything that might involve productivity. Are you streaming? That extra power will help. Are you editing gameplay video for YouTube? Coffee Lake outperformed on our Handbrake test. But purely for gaming, it's not, well, a game changer.

That is, unless you want a few other new features that have nothing to do with the CPU. Many of the laptops announced around Coffee Lake have 144-Hz displays for faster refresh rates, and more than ever seem to offer G-Sync, which helps avoid screen tearing. A lot of them are also really thin. If those features matter to you, you might want a PC with Coffee Lake, just because it has the screen or footprint that you want.

Photo Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag

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