With CES 2023 just about to get underway – that's the largest consumer technology show on the planet – there's a clear theme emerging already: 18-inch gaming laptops are the big new thing for 2023. But by 'big', are they too large? I've been privy to going hands-on with one 18-inch laptop already, the Acer Predator Helios 18, and here are my thoughts.
As I publish this article, Razer has revealed a teaser for its all-new Blade 18 gaming laptop. Presumably that's to avoid being beaten to the punch by Acer and Dell, both of which have revealed their equivalent products in full, the aforementioned Helios 18 and Alienware's M18, respectively. It's the former of those two that I've seen and handled in person, the others I've only seen in video pre-briefings so far (and the Razer I can't say anything more about at the time of first publishing this piece).
What's clear is that new panel technology has become readily available, hence all these makers jumping onto the big new thing and delivering super-size gaming laptop offerings. Except, as I quickly decided when handling the Acer Predator Helios 18 back in mid-December 2022, this new supersize laptop actually isn't too big at all.
That's because the 18-inch panel in the Acer Predator Helios 18 is a 16:10 aspect ratio, and with small screen bezels part of the package, Acer has been able to squeeze everything into the footprint of a would-be 17-inch laptop, except with a less tall screen. I'm not saying it's compact, per se, but if you never found 17-inch too large then 18-inch doesn't really make any difference from a portability point of view.
Where it does of course make a notable difference is with screen real estate, and here it's only a win for gamers. You're getting a bigger screen for your eyes to enjoy, which can only be better. The 18-inch panel in the Predator Helios 18 offers various options, too, with 1000-nits ultra-bright Mini-LED AMOLED and up to 240Hz refresh rate on offer.
The other big win comes down to the larger chassis: there's more room available to implement better cooling systems, have additional and larger vents, and keep airflow maximised so that top-end specifications can also be wrapped into the body. Want the top-end Nvidia GPUs of 2023? You got it. Latest Intel processors too? No problem. With such high-power kit you're not a million miles away from desktop-grade performance from a power perspective, so long as you can plug into a power socket.
Over the years technology has tended to go to two extremes: getting as small or as big as physically possible. Sometimes that ends up with a result that's beyond the extremes of sense or comfort. With 18-inch gaming laptops, however, it's just the next logical step – and I think these large (but not too large) and ultra-powerful machines are just the tonic that gamers will want. Well, if you can afford one anyway, as I don't anticipate these mega-laptops will come in at price points anywhere near casually affordable.