Picking the best gaming laptop is just as much a holistic choice as it is about choosing the processor that meets your needs and pairing it up with the best graphics chip that your budget will allow. You'll want to consider SSD storage, dual-channel RAM, build quality, ports, and panel to truly net yourself the best gaming laptop.
Luckily, we've distilled all that down for you below.
You've also come at a great time in mobile gaming, where being on the move no longer is about compromise over desktop power. Today's slimline gaming laptops pack gaming performance we could have only dreamed of a few years ago, offering serious GPUs, powerful CPUs, lightning-fast storage, and super-slick screens.
AMD and Nvidia have both now released their next-gen CPUs and GPUs on desktop—our top picks being the stellar Ryzen 9 5900X and RTX 3080—and at CES 2021, both companies announced their intentions regarding Ryzen 5000 mobile CPUs and RTX 30-series mobile GPUs, with new machines already appearing and greater stock expected as we head through February and March.
Your next machine
For gaming, it's AMD's Ryzen 5000 HX-series that you'll want to look out for on the CPU side, too. Though, the H-series chips will also do just fine.
In the meantime, AMD's 4000-series CPUs are bringing the fight to Intel and its 10th Gen processors, which results in some very competitively priced AMD laptops. And if you want to handle real-time ray tracing on the go, Nvidia RTX 20-series models are all over our list along with Super variants inside some premium laptops.
There's also Intel's 11th Gen chips within a few Intel Tiger Lake laptops. While not necessarily a gaming lineup per se—the Tiger Lake H-series isn't expected until later this year—the top Tiger Lake chips come with integrated graphics built using the company's latest Intel Xe architecture, and that's actually capable for low-rent competitive games or relaxed titles such as Crusader Kings III. You'll often find Tiger Lake laptops under the 'Intel Evo' branding, so keep an eye out.
There are some other things to consider with the best gaming laptops. Smaller definitely doesn't mean cheaper, for example, in PC gaming—laptops, especially thin ones, can be pricey—but the delta is narrowing. The fact that AMD, Intel, and Nvidia focus so much of their efforts on power efficiency and thermals means that the best gaming laptops are on the cutting edge of what's possible.
If you're not looking to max out your credit cards, we frequently scout out cheap gaming laptop deals too.
If you don't go with a high powered gaming laptop, we've got a list of the best laptop games you can play on low-spec machines.
Best gaming laptops
The best gaming laptop
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core | GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX 3080 Max-Q | RAM: Up to 32GB | Screen: Full HD 360 Hz, QHD 165 Hz, or OLED 4K 60 Hz | Storage: Up to 1TB SSD | Battery: 80 Wh | Dimensions: 9.25 x 13.98 x 0.78 inches | Weight: 4.63 lbs
The latest spin of the Razer Blade 15 yet again improves on one of our favorite gaming laptops. It has the same gorgeous CNC-milled aluminum chassis as its predecessor, only this time it can house one of the latest graphics chips from Nvidia—namely the RTX 30-series—and an Intel 10th Gen CPU.
We've recently checked out the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition, with its 300 Hz screen, octa-core processor, and RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics silicon. And we fell in love all over again. These latest models up the graphics processing even further, with support for up to an RTX 3080 Max-Q, which is incredible in this small a chassis.
One of the best things about the Blade 15 is the number of configurations Razer offers for it. From the GTX 1660 Ti Base Edition, all the way up to the RTX 3080 Advanced with OLED 4K panel, there's something for almost everyone. It's one of the most beautiful gaming laptops around, and still pretty powerful.
Whatever config you pick, we think the Razer Blade 15 is the overall best gaming laptop on the market right now.
Read the full Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition (2020) review.
2. Dell G3 15
The best budget gaming laptop with great battery life
CPU: Intel Core i7 9750H | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD IPS 144 Hz | Storage: 512GB SSD | Battery: 51 Wh | Dimensions: 0.85 x 14.4 x 10 inches | Weight: 5.40 lb
Let’s face it, trying to find a decent gaming laptop on a budget can be a chore. You have to make compromises in areas like performance, design, and even battery life. Thankfully, the Dell G3 15 offers decent 1080p gaming with configurations under $1,000, and the battery is actually good.
The most significant improvement from its previous model is a slimmer, sleeker design. Along with thinner bezels around a 144 Hz display, the sleeker design gives it a more high-end vibe. It’s a welcome toned-down look, in case you’re hoping for a gaming laptop that doesn’t shout ‘gamer’ as soon as you pull it out of your bag. The display itself seems the only downside, not having as rich a color range as the other gaming laptops on this list.
The best mid-range gaming laptop
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4800H | GPU: Nvidia RTX 2060 | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD IPS 144 Hz | Storage: 1TB M.2 NVMe | Battery: 90 Wh | Dimensions: 14.1 x 10.1 x 1 inches | Weight: 5.07 lbs
The Asus TUF A15 is one of the best gaming laptops around, thanks mainly to the AMD 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H APU that can be found beating at its heart. Throw in the speedy 1TB NVMe SSD and RTX 2060 graphics, and you've got yourself a hell of a workhorse for a non-workstation gaming laptop.
In our review, we called the TUF A15 an "incredibly versatile, affordable gaming laptop, with a battery life that is almost unprecedented at this price point or performance level."
The only slight downside is the price, especially when there are plenty of $999 RTX 2060 machines out there. The TUF A15's game performance, CPU power, and impressive battery life make it an excellent laptop for both work and play. Even at its current price, it still outperforms pricier mid-range gaming laptops, which is kind of wild.
Read the full Asus TUF A15 review.
The most stylish gaming laptop
CPU: Intel Core i7 8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060–RTX 2080 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB–32GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD 144Hz | Storage: 512GB–1TB M.2 SSD | Battery: 82 Wh | Dimensions: 9.75 x 14.08 x 0.69 inches | Weight: 4.14 lbs
The GS65 Stealth Thin remains year after year, one of the best gaming laptops you can find. It's a fantastic all-rounder that still packs a punch in terms of specs and design. It has the versatility of a notebook and, because it's light and sturdy, it's incredibly easy to just pop into your bag and carry around all day for whatever you need to use it for. It has a sleek matte black aluminum body with gold accents that feels sturdy and luxurious—and thankfully it's lacking in obnoxious gamer aesthetics.
Best of all, in addition to a slim, 18mm thickness, the screen's 5mm thin bezels allow for an overall chassis size that's about an inch smaller than most 15-inch laptops, while still packing the same screen real-estate.
There are other nice details on the GS65, which still makes it a great laptop: a keyboard from SteelSeries that's solid and responsive (and RGB-lit, if you care about that sort of thing), a responsive touchpad, and a webcam that's placed at the top of the screen, thankfully avoiding the abysmally unflattering "nose-cam" found on most thin-bezeled laptops like the Dell XPS 13.
The only gaming feature missing here is G-Sync, but this allows for both a lower price tag and battery life that legitimately lasts through a whole day of email, web browsing, and streaming video.
Read the full MSI GS65 Stealth Thin review.
5. Acer Predator Helios 300
The best gaming laptop for with 240 Hz display
CPU: Intel Core i7 10750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 with Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD IPS 240 Hz | Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD | Battery: 3720 mAh | Dimensions: 10.01 x 14.23 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 5.51 lbs
We loved Acer's Predator Helios 300 during the GTX 10-series era and the current generation Helios still finds manages to punch above its weight class when compared to other $1,500 laptops. The 2020 model Helios is back with an RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU and a sleeker form factor without raising the price significantly.
The new and improved Helios 300 has a 240 Hz IPS screen as well as smaller bezels, putting it more in line with sleek thin-and-lights than its more bulky brethren of the previous generation. The only real drawback is the diminutive SSD, although the laptop itself has available slots for 2x SSDs and an HDD which makes upgrading your storage as easy as getting a screwdriver.
The best laptop for raw processing power
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4-3200 | Screen: 14-inch Full HD IPS 120 Hz | Storage: 1TB SSD NVMe PCIe 3.0 | Battery: 75 Wh | Dimensions: 12.76 x 8.74 x 0.70 inches | Weight: 3.53 lbs
Not everyone needs the thinnest or the most powerful gaming laptop. Sometimes just lightweight and powerful are fine. Striking a healthy balance between portability, performance, and price is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, an RTX 2060 Max-Q notebook whose incredible CPU performance managed to impress our dedicated team of hardware testers at the top-secret PC Gamer lab.
The G14 is a great laptop, especially seeing as it can push Metro Exodus at the highest settings, with ray tracing on, at an average pace of 40fps. Despite it being loud, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a reliable 14-inch system with high-end graphics that rivals even some gaming desktops.
Read the full Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review.
7. Asus ROG Strix GL503VS-DH74 Scar Edition
The best 15-inch desktop replacement laptop
CPU: Intel Core i7 8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD 144 Hz with G-Sync | Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD, 1TB FireCuda SSHD | Battery: 64 Wh | Dimensions: 10.3 x 15.2 x 1.0 inches | Weight: 5.6
Buying a laptop usually means picking two from the list of price, performance, and portability. Where thin-and-light laptops like the GS65 offer the latter two of those three, the Asus ROG Strix GL503VS-DH74 Scar Edition instead checks the first two boxes: price and performance.
In exchange for a larger body that's on the heavy side for its size, the GL503VS packs in a regular (non-Max-Q) RTX 2060 GPU. It uses an Intel 8th Gen quad-core CPU, but that doesn't matter much in most games. The GL503VS also offers G-Sync on its 144Hz panel, but the tradeoff means you miss out on Nvidia's Optimus battery tech. As such, you shouldn't expect more than two hours of battery life. Don't forget your charger!
The best gaming laptop for power gamers
CPU: Intel Core i710750H | GPU: RTX 2080 Super with Max-Q | RAM: 32GB | Screen: 15-inch IPS-level, 300Hz, G-Sync | Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD | Battery: 84WHr | Dimensions: 0.7″ x 14.11″ x 10.04″ | Weight: 4.63 lbs
The Predator is a warm-blooded creature, running hot as it pads along, stalking the poor, unwary next-gen games from the shadows. When it strikes, it does so majestically, devouring its prey at a swift 81 FPS average. Coupled with an intensely responsive 300Hz screen, it's an apex machine, not to be trifled with. With such a slender form, you wouldn't expect it to be as powerful as it is, but that helps it blend in with its non-gaming counterparts.
The Triton 500 packs in a lot of power and performance for under five pounds. We liked the number of different configs for mid-to-high range gaming. The only real negatives that it runs hot during intense gaming, and we wish we could eke out more time out of the battery life.
How we test gaming laptops
What makes one laptop more attractive than another in the eyes of a gamer? Is it lightweight for portability between LAN parties? How about high-end hardware to facilitate the fastest frame rates? Surely connectivity matters. External displays, gaming peripherals, and direct-attached storage can make you forget you’re even using a notebook. Or maybe the value is what matters most. For a low-enough price, we’re all willing to compromise on graphics quality, right? Right?
Of course not, which is why the best builders cram in as much processing muscle as possible, even when money is tight. And at the top of the range, desktop-class components in mobile enclosures set new performance records with every generation.
We run the following tests to measure performance and productivity on gaming laptops:
- Cinebench R15
- CrystalDiskMark QD32 Read and Write
- 3DMark Fire Strike
- PCMark 10 Express
For gaming, we use the built-in benchmarks on:
- Tom Clancy's The Division 2
- Far Cry New Dawn
- Gears Tactics
- Metro Exodus
Tests are performed at 1080p using the highest available graphics preset, with V-sync and G-Sync disabled, unless the laptop in question is packing a higher resolution display (and the hardware to support playing at higher resolutions). In that case we'll generally test at FHD and QHD, or QHD and 4K. All tests are run multiple times to ensure that thermal throttling doesn't occur and to eliminate outliers/erroneous results. If scores drop on subsequent tests, the lower (throttled) scores are used.