A gaming laptop is different than a regular laptop, MacBook or Chromebook. Gaming laptops are powerful machines designed especially to handle heavy usage, multitasking and graphic-intensive programs without a hitch.
As such, they’re not only a solid choice for gamers and gaming enthusiasts (of course) but also for professionals who can benefit from these strengths, such as animators, programmers and graphic designers.
Unlike gaming PCs, laptops designed for gaming are portable, packing optimal performance in a small and thin chassis that can sometimes weigh as little as 4 or 5 pounds. The upside is that a laptop allows you to move gaming sessions to a couch or a friend’s house, instead of being limited to a desk where your PC is plugged in. Additionally, while gaming laptops might not be as customizable as desktops, they’re still upgradable since in most cases you can install more memory and storage.
Gaming laptop buying guide
Gaming laptops have distinctly futuristic designs and higher-end components compared to regular laptops. As a result, they can perform faster and withstand the heat caused by graphics-intensive tasks.
This is why the prices tend to be higher. Whereas standard laptops are priced starting at a few hundred dollars, gaming laptops usually range from $1,000 to a little over $4,000. Nonetheless, it’s possible to find budget-friendly models that offer a decent gaming experience for about $800.
Here are some factors to consider when shopping for a gaming laptop:
• GPU. When it comes to gaming laptops, the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) or graphics card is the first thing you should consider.
Because most games are graphics-dependent and GPUs aren’t easily upgraded, it’s very important that you get a gaming laptop with a powerful GPU. Ideally, the graphics card will be capable of playing games at high settings for several years.
There are two big GPUs names out there: NVIDIA and AMD. Most gaming laptops feature NVIDIA graphic cards. Just like we recommended with gaming desktops, if you want your graphics-intensive games, like Cyberpunk 2077, to look and sound phenomenal, it’s best to pick a 20-series or 30-series NVIDIA card (GeForce RTX). However, if you just want a decent enough gaming experience to play strategy games like Civilization, you might be fine with more affordable options such as AMD Radeon and NVIDIA’s GTX line.
• CPU. The central processing unit (CPU) or processor is the brain of a computer. It handles all the background operations that don’t involve graphics and ultimately determines whether your games run without lagging or pixelation.
We recommend getting one of the latest, more powerful processors such as Intel’s 10th or 11th generation, with at least six or eight cores, or AMD Ryzen 5000 series chips.
• Display. Most computers these days feature high-definition (HD) screens. However, you might still want to pay attention to the refresh rate. Measured in hertz (Hz), this rate lets you know how many times per second it can draw a new image on the screen.
This is particularly important if you’re going to play fast-paced games, such as first-person shooters like Overwatch and Call of Duty, because it prevents image delay and overlapping frames.
Most gaming laptops already have 120Hz or 240Hz displays, which should be fast enough for most users, but if you want a cutting-edge display you can go for a refresh rate of 300Hz or more.
Or, as an alternative, if you’re planning on connecting your laptop to an external monitor, you may consider getting just the most basic refresh rate available and investing the extra money on a top-quality monitor.
• Memory. Ample Random Access Memory or RAM is essential too, especially if you plan on running multiple apps and play at the same time. You should at least get 8GB of RAM. However, if you’re a hardcore gamer or multitasker, go for 16GB or 32GB.
• Storage. Our advice is to get a gaming laptop with a solid-state drive or SSD, rather than a hard drive (HDD). A laptop with SSD storage reduces stutters and is faster, meaning it takes less time to launch and load games.
Since games take up a lot of space, consider getting at least one Terabyte (TB) of storage space. And, because storage can be easily upgraded later on, check if your laptop includes a free slot for adding a secondary SSD or hard drive.
Best gaming laptops
1. Best overall: Razer Blade 15 Advanced Gaming Laptop
CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Screen: 15.6” Full HD 360Hz | Weight: 4.5 lbs
Razer’s midsize gaming laptop features a 15.6” screen size, an impressive 360Hz refresh rate and a 1080p full high-definition display for gamers who want smoother gameplay.
The Razer Blade 15 Advanced is packed with the latest chips on the market: a powerful 8-core 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA’s latest-gen 30 series graphic cards. These GPUs are designed to be faster and render the best performance and image quality, whether you’re gaming, editing HD videos or streaming. Additionally, the Razer Blade 15 includes 16GB of memory, 1TB of storage and, best of all, an M.2 SSD slot for adding some extra storage.
We also like its attractive design. It’s thin, compact and very portable, with a customizable RGB backlit keyboard that lets you assign a color to each key.
If the hefty price tag of the Advanced model (around $2,600) is a deal breaker, take a look at the base model, which starts at around $1,700 and also features a top-of-the-line processor and graphics card.
However, if the price is not a problem and you prefer a larger screen, consider the Razer Blade Pro, which has a 17.3” screen size and similar hardware for about the same price as the Razer Blade Advanced, though it has a lower refresh rate.
2. Editor’s pick: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Ultra-Slim Gaming Laptop
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB | Screen: 14” Full HD 120Hz | Weight: 3.64 lbs
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 offers a great gaming experience, and it costs about $1,000 less than the Razer Blade 15. The AMD 4000 series processor, the Ryzen 9 4900HS, combined with NVIDIA’s RTX 2060 graphics, makes for faster-paced gaming, while consuming less power. In addition to being an all-around gaming laptop, it’s a productivity workhorse that delivers up to 11 hours of battery life.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 has a thin and lightweight 14” chassis that’s convenient for gamers who want an ultraportable gaming station. It features a high-resolution display with a narrow bezel (screen border) and built-in Dolby Atmos quad speakers, to provide a truly immersive gaming experience. Select models can even be configured with Asus optional AniMe Matrix display, a set of 1,215 mini-LED lights on the lid that can be used to display custom images and animations.
The Zephyrus G14’s main drawback is that it doesn’t have an integrated webcam, which can certainly be an inconvenience if you’re planning to stream your playing sessions or have video calls. So you may have to spend an additional $30 to $100 on an external webcam, such as the Asus ROG Eye 1080p.
If you prefer a model with a slightly bigger screen and AMD’s latest 5000 series processor, there’s the Zephyrus G15, which has a 15.6” screen and the Ryzen 9 5900HS processor, albeit for the hefty price tag of $2,400. Alternately, the Zephyrus G14 is also available with the AMD 5000 series.
3. Best for low prices: Dell Gaming G3 15 3500 FHD Laptop
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10300H | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 512GB | Screen: 15.6” Full HD (1920 x 1080) 120Hz | Weight: 5.15 lbs
If you want a good gaming laptop for less than $1,000, take a look at the Dell G3 15 3500.
For about $800, Dell’s entry-level gaming laptop offers solid performance. Equipped with Intel’s 10th generation processors (up to Intel Core i7) and NVIDIA GeForce graphic chips, it delivers smooth and uninterrupted gameplay. Additionally, a dual-fan system helps prevent overheating during extended sessions.
The Alienware Command Center software, included on every Dell G series model like this one, lets you create game profiles to calibrate controls setup and fine-tune games and system settings to your liking. This way your preferences stay the same for every game you launch.
The downsides, however, are that the Dell's plastic chassis feels flimsy, and the display, according to some reviewers, is somewhat dull — neither sharp nor bright. Nonetheless, it’s still one of the best gaming laptops you can get in this price range.
Another good contender for top budget gaming laptop is the Dell G5 15 SE, which has a sturdier design, slightly better display and all-AMD core components. It costs about $200 more than the Dell G3.
4. Best laptop for hardcore gamers: Alienware M15 R3 FHD Gaming Laptop
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Screen: 15.6” Full HD (1920 x 1080) 300Hz | Weight: 4.65 lbs
The Alienware M15 R3 is not only made by an iconic gaming laptop brand, it also offers outstanding performance for a decent price (around $1,700).
This gaming powerhouse is configured precisely to support games at the highest resolution without any frames per-second drops. It houses Intel’s 10th generation processors and NVIDIA’s 20-series graphic cards, but more importantly, it has a rapid 300Hz refresh rate for immersive gameplay and responsive display.
Additionally, it features the latest version of Alienware’s distinctive software, the Alienware Command Center, which lets you link games to specific profiles and manage settings, such as the keyboard RGB lighting, sound and the system’s temperature.
Beyond its remarkable performance and Sci-Fi-ish design, the Alienware M15 R3 is packed with 11 useful ports, including an SD card reader, two USB 3.1 Type A, HDMI output, a Thunderbolt port and an audio output for connecting a pair of headsets.
5. Best compact gaming laptop: Acer Predator Triton 300 Gaming Laptop
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB SSD | Screen: 15.6” Full HD (1920 x 1080) 240Hz | Weight: 4.41 lbs
Gaming laptops have a reputation for being heavy, bulky machines. But the Triton 300, which weighs a little under 5 pounds, is designed to take your gaming wherever you want. It’s also got a unique appearance: The chassis features the Acer Predator's distinctive Transformers-like backlit logo on the case lid.
The Triton 300 isn’t only about looks and portability. It features a 10th generation Intel processor and an NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q, a mid-range graphics chip designed to boost performance and maintain proper temperature in slimmer laptops. Additionally, with a 240Hz refresh rate, it delivers a smooth and clear display to match games with higher frames per second and minimize screen tearing (overlapping frames).
It has a full-size RGB backlit keyboard with a numeric keypad, which some gamers might find convenient for shortcuts. However, the keyboard layout is a bit cramped and the touchpad is placed slightly to the left, which may feel uncomfortable and awkward when playing.
Another setback is its short battery life. It delivers, on average, up to six hours of battery life when performing standard everyday tasks such as web browsing, but about half that when gaming. While gaming laptops aren’t known for having a long battery life, the Triton 300’s is still under the average of eight hours that most laptops deliver.
So if you get this one, you better have a power outlet nearby wherever you're gaming.