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.
One of the newest innovations we've seen is AMD SmartShift, which shares power between the CPU and the GPU based on need. We saw this in the Dell G5 15 SE, but no other laptops with that technology have released yet. More recently, Nvidia launched its RTX 30-series GPUs for gaming laptops, and Intel is pushing its Tiger Lake H35 part for ultraportable gaming rigs. We've started testing these laptops, and expect to see more soon.
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:
- MSI GE66 Raider
- Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
- Razer Blade 15 Advance Model
- Alienware m17 R4
- Acer Nitro 5
- Alienware Area-51m
- Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 G732
- Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15
Best Gaming Laptops You Can Buy Today
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The Alienware Area-51m, with its desktop-class Core i9-9900K and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, is the best gaming laptop for those with a big gaming budget. It offers laptop performance so strong that it will appeal to power users more used to desktops. That's assuming you can afford it without taking out a second mortgage.
It’s awesome that you can upgrade nearly all aspects of the Area-51m, and I hope more desktop replacements go this route. But Alienware still has to release details about how new GPUs will be sold or if and when that replacement program will come to fruition. Then of course there’s the question of how future graphics modules will be priced compared to their standard desktop-card counterparts.
The process to make major upgrades yourself requires some tools and patience, but the ability to replace the CPU, GPU, RAM and storage is truly impressive.
You can also see our complete teardown of the machine.
To play esports titles like the pros, you need a laptop with the fastest screen you can get. The Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 ($2,199.99 to start, $3,299.99 as tested) is a bit pricey because it pairs a 300 Hz display with the top-end parts needed to play games at frame rates that can take advantage of it. But in our testing, that meant smooth animations so you never miss a frame.
Sure, it’s a bit thicker than some competitors like the Alienware m17 R3, but it also managed to outperform them.
If you’re using this laptop to stream your games, though, you’ll most certainly want to also buy a webcam, because the Strix doesn’t have one built in.
It’s admittedly expensive with a starting price of $2,999 (and $3,699 as tested), but Asus’ dual-screen ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 gaming laptop adds a handy, eye-catching second screen while improving cooling and keeping fan noise down in the process. If it weren’t for the awkward input devices and the lack of a webcam, this would be a near-perfect portable gamer.
There are single-screen laptops that will deliver similar performance for less, with better input devices as well. But if you like the idea of a portable with a second screen for Discord chats and YouTube hints as you make your way through the latest AAA title, the Zephyrus Duo 15 is easily the best option we’ve seen yet. Rather than just slapping on another screen, Asus used the space available below its ScreenPad to improve cooling considerably, for more reliable frame rates and quieter operation.
Best Gaming Laptops Compared
|MSI GE66 Raider||Up to Intel Core i9-10980HK||Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q||Up to 32GB||Up to 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD||Up to 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 300 Hz||5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg|
|Asus ROG Zephyrus G14||Up to AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS||Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q||Up to 16GB||Up to 1TB NVMe SSD||14-inch, 1920 x 1080, 120 Hz||3.5 pounds / 1.6 kg|
|Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model||Up to Intel Core i7-10875H||Up to Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q||16GB||Up to 1TB NVMe SSD||15.6-inch, Up to 1920 x 1080 300 Hz or 4K OLED 60 Hz||4.7 pounds / 2.1 kg|
|Alienware m17 R3||Intel Core i9-10980HK||Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 Super||32GB DDR4||2x 1TB PCIe M.2 SSD (connected over RAID0)||17.3 inch 3840 x 2160 60 Hz HDR400||6.6 pounds / 3 kg|
|Acer Nitro 5||AMD Ryzen 5 4600U||Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650||8GB||Up to 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD||15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080||5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg|
|Alienware Area 51-m||Up to Intel Core i9-9900K||Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080||Up to 64GB||Up to 2TB (RAID0) + 1TB SSHD||17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144 Hz||8.5 pounds / 3.9 kg|
|Asus ROG Strix 17 G732||Up to Intel Core i9-10980HK||Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super||Up to 32GB||Up to 2TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD in RAID0||17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080, 300 Hz||6.3 pounds / 2.9 kg|
|Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15||Intel Core i9-10980HK||Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 Super Max-Q||32GB 3,200 MHz DDR4||2x 1TB NVMe SSDs (RAID0)||15.6-inch IPS 60Hz 3840 x 2160 resolution primary display, 3840 x 1100 ScreenPad Plus secondary display||5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg|
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