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Best Gaming Laptops of 2021

Best Gaming Laptops
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best gaming laptops come in all shapes and sizes, for different needs and budgets. Because while a tricked out $5,000-plus model with the highest-end graphics and best display might give you the best gaming laptop experience, most of us can't afford a rig like that. And even if we could, it wouldn't be the best gaming laptop for those who travel frequently with their PC.

Thankfully, there are  more gaming laptop options now than ever, from budget-friendly to VR-ready. Some come with full-size Nvidia GeForce GTX or RTX graphics cards, while others go for the more efficient Max-Q designs that enable thinner chassis and (sometimes) quieter fans. It has become more difficult to distinguish Max-Q laptops from non-Max-Q, so check out our story on how to tell if an RTX 30-series laptop uses a Max-Q GPU (in addition, Nvidia is telling laptop vendors to start listing more detailed specifications.)

While many of the best gaming laptops come with a 1080p display and high refresh rates, some include 4K screens, so you can pick between fidelity and resolution.

There is more choice than ever in components, too. While Intel is still a popular option, AMD's Ryzen processors are becoming far more commonplace. For example, Alienware just announced its first AMD gaming laptop in over a decade. Nvidia, however, is still the go-to for graphics, and we're still waiting on more laptops with AMD SmartShift technology.

Nvidia has just released its Nvidia RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti laptops, which could lead to new some budget laptop choices. We'll also be checking out Intel's Tiger Lake-H processors. At Computex, Intel also announced refreshes of Tiger Lake-U, so we should expect those coming later this year.

To help you find the best gaming laptop today, we've compiled a list of the best models we've tested and reviewed recently. For much more on how to narrow down your list of best gaming laptop considerations, check out our best gaming laptop buyer’s guide. But here are a few quick tips to get you started down the road to the right portable gaming rig for you.

While many gamers may go to desktops to get the most performance for their money, try lugging a tower, monitor and keyboard around in your backpack. When you need a powerful rig you can take with you, there's no substitute for a gaming laptop.

Quick Gaming Laptop Shopping Tips

  • Focus on the GPU: Most games are dependent on the GPU, and those aren’t upgradeable. If you splurge on a powerful GPU now, you’ll be gaming comfortably for a few years.
  • You can upgrade some parts later: While CPUs and GPUs are almost always soldered down, most gaming laptops let you replace the RAM and storage, so you can buy cheaper now and add more memory and a bigger hard drive or SSD down the road.
  • Battery life will probably be bad: Very few gaming notebooks get 8 hours or more on a charge, and you need the power supply to get the best gaming performance anyway. However, we've seen some strong times from AMD's Ryzen processors, and Nvidia suggests its improved Optimus technology may help turn the tide.

Best gaming laptops at a glance:

  1. MSI GE66 Raider
  2. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
  3. Razer Blade 15 Advance Model
  4. Alienware m17 R4
  5. Acer Nitro 5
  6. Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition 
  7. Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 G733
  8. Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
  9. Asus ROG Zephyrus Do 15 SE GX551

Best Gaming Laptops You Can Buy Today

MSI GE66 Raider (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

1. MSI GE66 Raider

The Best Overall Gaming Laptop

CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q | Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 300 Hz | Weight: 5.3 pounds (2.4 kg)

Great gaming performance
300 Hz display
Well-executed RGB light bar
High-end build
Cramped keyboard
Tinny audio

The MSI GE66 Raider is a gaming laptop, and it’s saying it loud with a massive RGB light bar. It’s new look is aggressive, but it’s not just talk, with options going up to an Intel Core i9-10980HK and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q.

For those looking for esports-level performance in games like League of Legends or Overwatch, there’s an option for a 300 Hz display.

And while it’s not the slimmest laptop around (or even MSI’s thinnest), it does feel remarkably portable considering the power inside, and  we can’t help but appreciate high-end build quality. 

Read: MSI GE66 Raider review 

We haven't yet tested the MSI GE66 Raider with the RTX 30-series GPUs, but we did get to review the MSI GP66 Leopard. It's a very similar notebook, but with a 240 Hz display and no RGB light bar. If you want something a bit less flashy, you may want to consider that option.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

2. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

Best Thin and Light Gaming Laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 4900HS | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q | Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 120Hz | Weight: 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg)

Good looks
AMD Ryzen 4900HS offers strong performance
Stellar battery life
Comfortable keyboard
Fan sometime whirs when idle
No webcam
No Thunderbolt 3

For those looking for something slim and attractive, our pick is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. As far as gaming laptops go, the Zephyrus is unassuming in either white or gray with minimalist stylings. But with the AMD Ryzen 4900HS and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q in our review unit, you get strong productivity and gaming performance. It’s not the best performer on the market in terms of graphics, but it’s the best value for most people. 

The battery life is also surprisingly long for a gaming notebook and the keyboard is clicky and comfortable. The fan, however, sometimes goes off even when just sitting on the desktop, and this system doesn’t come equipped with a built-in webcam.

Read: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model

Best Thin and Light Gaming Laptop (Alternate Pick)

CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H | GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q | Display: 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080, 300Hz | Weight: 4.7 pounds (2.1 kg)

Thin and light
Stunning design
Great selection of ports
300 Hz Display 
Uncomfortable keyboard
Expensive

If you want higher specs and are willing to pay more for a thin and light gaming laptop, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model is a strong choice. It has a sleek design that’s easy to take with you anywhere, and has a nice selection of ports if you also want to plug in a bunch of peripherals.

While the Zephyrus stops at an RTX 2060, the Blade goes up to an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q. It also has options for a faster 300 Hz display, which is great for esports.

Instead of a Ryzen chip, Razer has opted for Intel’s 10th Gen H-series processors to power the Blade 15. It’s not as power efficient, but offers strong performance.

Read: Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model review

Alienware m17 R4 (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. Alienware m17 R4

Best 17-inch Gaming Laptop

CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK | GPU: Nvidia Geforce RTX 3080 (165W TGP) | Display: 17.3-inch 1920 x 1080 360Hz | Weight: 6.6 pounds / 3 kg

Unrivaled performance
Snappy keyboard
Attractive design
Noisy fan
Heavy

A 17-inch gaming notebook gets into the desktop replacement category, and that's exactly what the  Alienware m17 R4 is. At its top-end configurations, like how we reviewed it, it can get very pricey, but you also get the top-end Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU with 165W TGP. There are options for 4K or our 1920 x 1080 360Hz option for esports aficionados.

Other RTX laptops we've tested to date haven't touched the m17 on performance, which eschews Max-Q technologies in favor of the most powerful part you can pack in a notebook.

It also has a nice, snappy RGB keyboard and the design, at 0.87 inches, is still fairly stealthy for a notebook packing this much performance.

Read: Alienware m17 R4 review 

Acer Nitro 5 AMD 2020 (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

5. Acer Nitro 5

The Best Budget Gaming Laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4600U | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 | Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Weight: 5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg

Great value
Comfortable keyboard
Good webcam 
Dim display

The Acer Nitro 5 is the best gaming laptop for those on a tight budget. For the price, you’ll get a great value on entry level performance. While you’ll sacrifice a bright display, the  keyboard is comfortable and you even get a decent webcam.

Our review unit had an AMD Ryzen 5 4600U paired with an Nvidia GeForce 1650. We’ve seen a few Ryzen-based gaming laptops get better than expected battery life, and the Nitro 5 lasted over 11 hours.

If you’re handy, there’s plenty of room for upgrading (and you’ll want to consider it down the line with just 256GB of storage in our review unit), but for $700, you’re getting a lot for the money.

Read: Acer Nitro 5 (AMD) review 

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

6. Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition

The Best Splurge Gaming Laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX | GPU: AMD Radeon RX 6800M | Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 300 Hz, IPS | Weight: 6.61 pounds / 3 kg

Solid gaming and productivity performance
Long battery life for a gaming notebook
Dolby Atmos audio
Cool at most touchpoints 
Middling SSD
Display could be brighter
No webcam

The Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition is the first laptop under AMD's Advantage program, which pairs the company's CPUs and GPUs in premium designs meant to use solid screens and be built for comfortable gaming. The Strix delivers on several of those points by offering strong performance through the Ryzen 9 5900Hz, Radeon RX 6800M and SmartShift technology to move power between the two.

The laptop also offers powerful audio with Dolby Atmos support, and we found it to be reasonably cool at most touchpoints, even while gaming. It also lasts a long time on battery when you aren't gaming.

There are a few concerns of note, including the complete lack of a webcam, and the display, while decent, could be brighter. But for those all in on AMD and laptops with copious amounts of RGB lighting, this one's worth a look.

Read: Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition review

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

7. Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 G733

The Best Esports Gaming Laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 | Display: 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080, 360 Hz | Weight: 5.95 pounds / 2.7 kg

360 Hz Refresh Rate
Comfortable keyboard
Strong productivity performance
Bassy Audio
Divisive Design
Short charging cable

If you want to play esports like a professional, you'll want a laptop with the fastest screen you can find. The Asus ROG Strix Scar G733 offers a 360 Hz refresh rate on its FHD screen and has top-end components to power esports titles to get to frame rates that can actually use it.

The design feels premium but has an interesting mix of dark materials and clear plastic. It's reminiscent of both a hot rod car and a 90's MP3 player, which might turn some people off.

But the comfortable keyboard, strong overall performance and bassy audio all contribute to a strong gaming experience, even if you don't like seeing the inside of your laptop.

Read: Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 G733 review

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

8. Lenovo Legion 5 Pro

A 16-inch Esports Option

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 | Display: 16-inch, 2560 x 1600, 165 Hz | Weight: 5.4 pounds / 2.45 kg

Beautiful, high-res display
Strong performance
Comfortable keyboard
Bulky design
Middling Audio

If you're willing to sacrifice your refresh rate for higher resolution, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is one to check out. While some other gaming notebooks opt for 300 Hz, the Legion's 165 Hz, 2560 x 1600 screen is a stunner in its own right. It also has a 16:10 aspect ratio, which we appreciate for productivity use.

Our review unit came with a Ryzen 7 5800H and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070, which together offered competitive performance across our suite of gaming benchmarks. Our system also included 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM. 

We were also impressed with this laptop's keyboard, which seems to have benefitted from the excellence of Lenovo's business-oriented ThinkPads.

The system is, however, a bit thick. If you don't want to deal with bulk, you may want to consider other options on this list.   

Read: Lenovo Legion 5 Pro review

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550 (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

9. Asus ROG Zephyrus Do 15 SE GX551

The Best Dual-Screen Gaming Laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 | Display: 5.6-inch, 3840 x 2160 primary display, 3740 x 1100 ScreenPad Plus | Weight: 5.29 pounds / 2.4 kg

Excellent productivity performance
Bright, colorful displays
Good battery life (for a gaming laptop)
No webcam
Input devices are awkward

Asus' latest ROG Zephyrus Duo uses AMD's top-end RYzen 9 5900HX paired with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 for powerful results, while using a second screen that lifts up to provide more ventilation to improve cooling.

The two displays are both bright and colorful, and at a bit over 4 hours and 52 minutes on our battery test, it's endurance is good (for a gaming notebook, anyway).

The keyboard and mouse are in an awkward position, like most dual-screen notebooks on the market (most people will likely use an external mouse for gaming). So you'll have to decide if that second screen — which is great for chat programs, gaming guides or music apps — is worth a more difficult typing experience.

Read: Asus ROG Zephyrus Do 15 SE GX551 review 

Best Gaming Laptops Compared

CPUGPURAMStorageDisplayWeight
MSI GE66 RaiderUp to Intel Core i9-10980HKUp to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-QUp to 32GBUp to 1TB PCIe NVMe SSDUp to 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 300 Hz5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14Up to AMD Ryzen 9 4900HSUp to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-QUp to 16GBUp to 1TB NVMe SSD14-inch, 1920 x 1080, 120 Hz3.5 pounds / 1.6 kg
Razer Blade 15 Advanced ModelUp to Intel Core i7-10875HUp to Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q16GBUp to 1TB NVMe SSD15.6-inch, Up to 1920 x 1080 300 Hz or 4K OLED 60 Hz4.7 pounds / 2.1 kg
Alienware m17 R4Intel Core i9-10980HKNvidia Geforce RTX 308032GB 2,933 MHz DDR4512GB Boot, 2TB (2 x 1TB RAID 0) SSD17.3 inch 3840 x 2160 360 Hz6.6 pounds / 3 kg
Acer Nitro 5AMD Ryzen 5 4600UNvidia GeForce GTX 16508GBUp to 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD15.6-inch, 1920 x 10805.3 pounds / 2.4 kg
Asus ROG G15 Advantage EditionAMD Ryzen 9 5900HXAMD Radeon RX 6800M16GB DDR4-3200512GB M.2 PCIe Gen 3 SSD15.6-inch 1920 x 1080, 300 Hz, IPS6.61 pounds / 3 kg
Asus ROG Strix 17 G733AMD Ryzen 9 5900HXNvidia GeForce RTX 308032GB 3,200 MHz DDR42x 1TB NVMe SSDs17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080, 360 Hz5.95 pounds / 2.7kg
Lenovo Legion 5 ProAMD Ryzen 9 5900HXNvidia GeForce RTX 308716GB DDR4-3200512GB NVMe SSDs15.6-inch, 2560 x 1600, 165 Hz5.4 pounds / 2.45kg
Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE GX551AMD Ryzen 9 5900HXNvidia GeForce RTX 308032GB 3,200 MHz DDR42x 1TB NVMe SSDs (RAID0)15.6-inch IPS 60Hz 3840 x 2160 resolution primary display, 3840 x 1100 ScreenPad Plus secondary display5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg

Discounts on the Best Gaming Laptops

Whether you're shopping for one of the best gaming laptops or another model that didn't quite make our list, you may find some savings by checking out our lists of Dell coupon codes, HP coupon codes, Lenovo coupon codes, Razer promo codes or Newegg promo codes.

MORE: How to Buy a Gaming Laptop

MORE: Best Gaming PCs

MORE: Best Ultrabooks and Premium Laptops

  • abryant
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/id-3770613/gaming-laptops.html
    Reply
  • ilikegirls
    Do not buy ASUS! Even if you spend $2,000 on a laptop, you are treated like garbage and they won't fix your issue. I detailed my issues with them on this Reddit Post HERE. TL;DR - Sent laptop for repair twice, but nothing was actually done to fix the issue and they just keep requesting my laptop. Out of the 3 months I've owned this laptop, they have had it for close to 5 weeks
    Reply
  • drawingpin
    I think the amazon links for the Dell G7 15 are broken. When I click on the $800 link it takes me to a different laptop. When I searched on Amazon for the model it is roughly $1000 more expensive.
    Reply
  • prisoner37
    no 17 inch? i bought an ASUS ROG many years ago, still use it, though i have to turn the video quality down on newer titles, but i will not use less than a 17 inch display
    Reply
  • tmryldz
    Where is Origin?
    Reply
  • alsubs
    This is really a good example of why these Gaming Laptop reviews are somewhat worthless.

    I owned 4 high end MSI gaming laptops over the years (each fully outfitted and costing over 4k). The first one worked great and at the time I thought they had awesome support (which is why I gave them so many chances). The other 3 were disasters and kept shutting off from overheating (no warning or nothing, just bam your laptop shuts off). They worked good for the first year but after that something happens and they just start degrading till they just start shutting down (at least one didn't even make it through the first year).

    Nothing screws up PC components worse than overheating and overheating is always going to be an issue with a geared out desktop replacement or gaming laptop since they use desktop components (otherwise you get the bad laptop performance).

    All MSI support did was tell me to send in the laptop, which I couldn't do most of the time since I needed it for work. However, I did send one in and started to see the same problem after a few months after its return. So either way you lose.

    Of course these will review nice since they're brand new. But the real issue with these gaming laptops is how they handle overheating in the long term. 4k is way too much to spend on something that's only good for a year tops.

    Really, considering how expensive these laptops are and the time they are around, it would be nice if a site like Tom's Hardware did do a year long test or something similar to see how it handled running for hours with the graphics being pushed and the fans going full blast, etc. Exactly the kind of usage you'd see playing games on your over-priced gaming laptop. I bet you'd see the findings of these reviews change big time.

    Anyway, I learned my lesson, I'll never buy MSI again. If you don't want to spend a lot of money for a heavy door stop, I would suggest the same.
    Reply
  • alsubs
    tmryldz said:
    Where is Origin?
    Really makes you wonder doesn't it?
    Reply
  • chuck850
    Pricing is misleading. Many links take you to configurations not described in the posting. The MSI GE65 Raider link for Amazon doesn't even take you to a 2070 capable machine...

    In the budget space, the new Walmart EVOO line blows Dell out of the water. I've purchased both the 15' 1660Ti model and the 17" 2060 model and have been very impressed so far with the value out of both of those units (easily surpassing Dell in that space).
    Reply
  • JimmyT13432
    Thanks for the great review. These laptops seem to be well fit for gamers either entry level and pro. I know from experience that the Alienware M15 is a great option as well. There are so many to choose from and almost everyone catches my attention. I'm looking forward to trying the Alienware Area-51m myself.
    Reply
  • Ibuilder
    Did an actual gamer write this list? Ive owned two Dell XPS/aliwnwares and their half-life is two years. ROG is dope, so are the MSI ads on the article. I would take my Razer blade stealth or my surface pro against any of these all day.
    Reply