An Overview of the Best Laptops for Zwift
Zwift is an online virtual physical training program. It’s used by cyclists all around the world to enhance their performance. It’s sort of like a video game that helps to make training from home more interactive. If you’ve heard about or ever used Zwift, you’ll know that it can even run on a mobile phone.
The optimization for this application is pretty good. But if you want to run it in the best graphical settings and get a smooth 60fps, then you’re going to have to use a somewhat powerful computer. This especially applies if you’re streaming, since you don’t want frame drops during a race just because you were live streaming.
Since Zwift is a graphically intensive software, therefore, having a good graphic card is key. You can run it on the integrated graphics of your laptop as well, but that won’t be much of an upgrade from running it on your smartphone. Therefore, having a great dedicated GPU is really important. We would recommend getting an Nvidia GPU since Radeon graphics are still not as optimized, yet. Lastly, we recommend getting a laptop with at least a GTX 1000 series or better for the best experience.
Besides the GPU, there are many other components of your laptop that take part in providing a great experience. Arguably just as important as the GPU is the CPU. Without a somewhat powerful CPU, you’ll be experiencing a lot of bottlenecks, no matter how powerful the graphic card is. Having something like a modern i5 or equivalent processor should be sufficient for providing a good experience.
The RAM is arguably the most important part of your laptop after the CPU and GPU when it comes to performance. We recommend having at least a minimum of 8 GB of high-quality RAM. If your budget allows, then you can also upgrade to 16 GB. Along with that, having a laptop with a good upgrade path is also really important.
System Requirements for Zwift
Microsoft® Windows 7 64bit or higher, or macOS® 10.10 or higher
Microsoft® Windows 8 64bit or higher, or macOS® 10.11 or higher
Microsoft® Windows 10 64bit or higher, or macOS® 10.13 or higher
Intel® Core™ 2 Duo
Intel® Core™ i5 or AMD Athlon™
Intel® Core™ i7 or AMD Ryzen™
1GB dedicated GPU, or embedded Intel® HD 4000 or AMD R5
2GB Radeon™ R9 200 series, or NVIDIA® GeForce™ GTX 650
2GB Radeon™ R9 290 series, or NVIDIA® GeForce™ GTX 970
4GB of free space
4GB of free space
4GB of free space
Source: Zwift Official Requirements Page
MSI GL65 Leopard
As previously mentioned, your number one priority when searching for a laptop for Zwift must be performance and no laptop will be better for you than the MSI GL65 Leopard 10SK-062. It has some amazing specifications to ensure that you have a smooth cycling experience.
It comes equipped with an Intel 10th Generation 6-core Core i7-10750H. It’s one of the most powerful laptop CPUs out here and the only other processor more powerful than it would be an i9, but the performance gains are really negligible. As for the GPU, you can get an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 8 with 8 GB DDR6 dedicated RAM, which like the processor is really powerful and even beats out many desktop-grade GPUs from a few years back. It also has a lot of Nvidia-specific features like Ray tracing which makes the textures and shows feel really realistic. It is safe to say that no one will have a problem with this laptop when it comes to performance.
Paired with that is a 512 GB NVMe SSD. This should be more than enough for most people out there. However, if you’re a really heavy user then you’ll be pleased to hear that you can further upgrade the storage to 1 TB.
The RAM is a total of 16 GB DDR4 2666MHz. Moreover, it’s installed in dual channel mode so there are 2 8 GB sticks. It will result in slightly faster performance than if it were only single bandwidth. Since performance is our number one priority, therefore, we need as many performances boosts as we can get. Having 16 GB should be really useful, especially if you want to stream your race or workout since that takes a big toll on the memory. Just like the storage, the RAM is also upgradeable to 64 GB and if you ever feel that your laptop is lagging or you’re getting low framerates during your cycling sessions, then installing a new RAM stick can help you get a much smoother experience. It also means that your laptop will be future proof.
The screen is a 15.6″ FHD IPS-Level 144Hz 72%NTSC Thin Bezel close to 100%Srgb. It’s really bright and has vivid colors. The major highlight of this display is the 144 Hz refresh rate. It means that the video displayed will be much smoother. A normal 60 Hz display can only display refresh rates till 60 FPS while having a 144 Hz display included means that you can experience framerates till even 144 FPS. It also means that you don’t have to invest in another external display.
The port selection in this laptop is also excellent, as you get 3 USB-A Gen 3s, 1 USB-A Gen1, 1 USB-C, 1 HDMI, 1 LAN port, 1 microphone/headphone jack, and a charging port. No matter what accessory you plan to attach, this laptop will support it. The feature list doesn’t stop here. There are a ton of other features that make this laptop much better for you. For example, you get a 720p webcam and an individually lit RGB keyboard. You even get a great cooling system so that your device can handle high-intensity tasks for an extended period of time without facing thermal throttling.
The dimensions of this laptop are 14.08 x 9.76 x 1.08 inches and it weighs about 5 pounds. Compared to Ultrabook or even just regular this is really heavy and for good reason. The top-of-the-line specifications and the cooling required for Zwift to run at the highest settings need the chassis to be thick, in order to fit the components and for proper heat dissipation. Moreover, this laptop isn’t even meant to be portable but rather supposed to be a desktop replacement. You’ll likely only be using it at home primarily for Zwift. Similarly, the battery life isn’t great either. With general use and power-saving turned on, it can provide you with an average of 4 to 5 hours, but once you start gaming, or running a power-intensive program like Zwift, this time drops down to an hour or maybe even less. That’s why we highly recommend having your laptop charged at all times, not only to keep your device running but also so there are no performance issues.
Poor battery life
High-capacity RAM and storage
Great port selection
HP Pavilion 15.6″ FHD Gaming Laptop
The next laptop on our list is the HP Pavilion. It’s supposed to be a much cheaper gaming laptop, which has some minor compromises, but provides the same great experience that higher-end laptops provide.
The CPU on this laptop is the 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H Processor (Up to 4.1 GHz). It’s a significant downgrade from the i7 found on the MSI, but not enough to notice major frame drops. You will still be getting a greatly better experience than if you were to use the Zwift companion app on your phone. What you will be noticing a lot of difference in is the GPU. You get the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Graphics with 4 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM. This is without a doubt a really powerful GPU, but when compared to the RTX series, it’s a major downgrade. You’ll still be able to cycle at somewhat high settings, with a smooth 60 FPS, but you’ll surely notice a downgrade. Moreover, you’ll be missing out on RTX features like ray tracing, although Zwift doesn’t support that so it won’t be a problem. Despite that, we understand HP’s decision not to use an RTX series card as it will significantly increase the cost, without providing the same degree of performance improvements.
You get a ton of options when it comes to the storage and memory of your laptop. There are a total of 7 different configurations for you to choose from. For the RAM, you can choose from anywhere between 8 GB to 32 GB, which is just an insane number of options. Along with that you can choose from multiple different storage options as well ranging from a 256 GB SSD to a 2 TB SSD and a 2 TB HDD. There is an obvious price jump from each of these options so you will have to select your configuration wisely. If you were to take our advice then we recommend going for the 24 GB RAM, and 1 TB HDD, and 512 GB SSD option. We think spending a bit more wouldn’t provide the same amount of value, while spending lesser would be a major downgrade, just to save a few dollars. The 512 GB SSD can be used to store your operating system for quicker boot times as well as frequently used applications like Zwift. The 1 TB HDD can be used to store bulkier files like movies or games. 24 GB of RAM should ensure that your laptop remains useable even after a few years.
For the display, you get a regular 1920 x 1080 resolution, Anti-glare Energy-efficient micro-edge WLED Screen. This is probably the weakest point of this laptop. It’s not a bad display since it’s sharp and gets plenty bright when used outdoors. But it also has pretty bad viewing angles. If you’re looking it head on then it shouldn’t provide much of a problem, otherwise, you’ll have to adjust the screen for a better viewing experience. We highly recommend using an external monitor when cycling for the best experience. Even a television should be more than sufficient for an optimal viewing experience.
The port selection on this laptop is terrific as expected from a gaming laptop of this caliber. 2 USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 HDMI, 1 headphone/microphone combo jack, 1 Ethernet RJ-45, and 1 x Media card reader. The only thing we would say is missing is Thunderbolt on the USB-C port, but we can let that go considering the low price of this laptop as well as the fact that most gaming laptops of this price range don’t come with a thunderbolt port either. There are a few extra features that this laptop has which makes it a much better deal. You get an amazing green backlit keyboard, a pretty durable body, great airflow and an included 32 GB USB stick.
The dimensions of this laptop are 14.17 x 10.35 x 0.98 inches and it weighs 4.92 pounds. The battery life is pretty average at about 3 to 4 hours of screen on time, but there is a power-saving mode if you want to use it for longer. Regardless, we will give you the same advice as we give with the MSI, that use it while plugged in during a race because no one would want their laptop to die during a race or practice session.
High storage and RAM
Many options for storage and RAM
Amazing port selection
Great backlit keyboard
Acer Nitro 5
Lastly, we will review the Acer Nitro 5. With this particular machine, Acer has made many sacrifices to achieve a price point that was previously only reserved for entry-level devices. The performance you get was previously unheard from devices even twice the price. Luckily, the sacrifices made don’t hinder the user experience too much, making this an easy laptop to recommend.
Surprisingly, despite the low price of this laptop, it has the same 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H Processor as found on the HP. We did say that HP could have included a better processor in the Pavilion, but considering the price of the Nitro 5, we think that this i5 is an amazing deal for the price. What’s even more surprising is that you get the same NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Graphics with 4 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM graphic card as well. This means that this laptop while being cheaper, performs on par with more expensive laptops.
You don’t get a lot of storage with this laptop as there is only a 256 GB M.2 SSD onboard. Acer probably did that to keep the cost down. In return, they have provided you the option to upgrade, as there are extra M.2 slots, as well as, Hard Drive Bays available. You can even spec up the storage to as much as that of the HP, although youll have to do it by yourself.
You get 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, which should be enough to run Zwift on even high settings. However, if you ever feel that your laptop is lagging, there is the option to upgrade the RAM as well. Furthermore, it also means that your laptop is much more future proof.
The display on this laptop isn’t really special either. It’s pretty much as good as the one found on the HP. Since this is a much cheaper laptop, it’s acceptable that we are getting an inferior quality display. Our advice of using an external monitor or television still applies, since it will still significantly improve your virtual cycling experience.
The port selection on this laptop is right about what you would expect from a laptop of this caliber. You get 2 USB-A 3.0, 1 USB-A 2.0, 1 USB-C port, 1 HDMI, 1 Ethernet RJ-45, and a charging port. The USB-C doesn’t support Thunderbolt, but no one expects that from a laptop this affordable. Otherwise, the port selection is excellent and should satisfy most users. There are some other features that make this laptop a much better deal. These include a red-backlit keyboard, a webcam, a rugged design, and some pretty nice speakers.
The size of this laptop is 14.31 x 10.04 x 0.96 inches and it weighs a bit more than 5 pounds. It certainly isn’t portable, but gaming laptops of this price range aren’t meant to be portable, but rather as a desktop replacement. That being said, the battery life is pretty average at about 5 hours. You will definitely have to plug this laptop during cycling sessions or if you are gaming, to ensure optimal performance as well as that it doesn’t shut down abruptly.
Amazing performance for the price
Upgradeable RAM and storage
Amazing port selection
We looked at some amazing laptops at different price points. Each of them had their own unique selling point making them a good deal for everyone. Either one of these 3 laptops can be worthy of your hard-earned money. However, if you’re still confused as to which laptops to go for then we are here to help. In the following section of the article, we have summarized what makes each type of these laptops a good purchase and what kind of people would want to buy them. In the end, we have also given our pick for what we think is the best value laptop. This should give you better clarification as to which device suits your needs the most.
Firstly, we looked at the MSI GL65 Leopard. It provides you with some amazing specifications in the form of the RTX 2070 GPU and i7 processor. It even had high quality and fast RAM and storage making it one of the best performing and snappiest laptops. It may be a bit expensive, but if you need the best performance then this laptop is your best bet.
The HP Pavilion was also another great choice. It provides you some decent specifications at a more affordable price point. The main highlight of this device has to be the amount of options you get. No matter what kind of storage and RAM configuration you want, this laptop will most likely have it. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, and still get a laptop that has decent performance, with a ton of storage and memory then this laptop can be for you.
Last comes the Acer Nitro 5. On the surface, this laptop might not seem like much, but once you look at its extremely low price tag then you’ll realize the value it provides. You get pretty much the same performance and general experience as the HP Pavilion. You only miss out on some really minor features. Overall, it’s one of the best price-to-performance ratios you can get on a consumer laptop.
It finally time to decide which of these three laptops is the best. Our pick, as some of you may have guessed, has to undoubtedly go to the Acer Nitro 5. It won’t provide you the best experience out there, but if you just want the cheapest way to set up Zwift without any problems then it’s your best bet. This laptop is pretty much identical to the HP, which goes to show the value that you get with it. However, if you want more performance, then spending a bit more to get the MSI is also worth it. It provides you with one of the best performances in that price range and is really useful for consumers who would want to use their laptops for heavier tasks other than Zwift like running games. The RTX card found on this device does the perfectly. As for the HP Pavillion, we don’t think that it’s worth it. You pretty much get the same laptop as the Acer Nitro, but at a slightly higher price. Although it’s certainly not a bad laptop and if it has some specific feature that you really need then you won’t go wrong with the HP Pavilion either.