Buying a gaming laptop can be a seminal moment for your gaming experience. If you’ve been languishing on a laptop without a dedicated graphics card, getting one of the best gaming laptops will mean a much higher frame rate and detail level. If you’ve been stuck on a desktop, you can suddenly take your games with you wherever you go. And if you’ve been playing on an older gaming laptop, your battery life won’t be abysmal anymore and you won’t have to carry around a thick and bulky machine.
Modern gaming laptops are sleek, lightweight, enjoy solid battery life compared to their predecessors and offer cutting edge performance that rivals even some of the most capable desktops at the higher-end configurations. And even if you aren’t set on spending thousands on a new gaming laptop, you can still get yourself something great. (Affordable gaming laptops still enjoy many of the great features of their more capable cousins.)
Part of the reason that modern gaming laptops are so exciting is because there is so much competition. No longer do you have just one or two manufacturers to pick from. Dell, Razer, Asus and many other top brands offer excellent gaming laptop options, from the compact and capable to the massive and monstrous – and everything in between. There are even a few stealth gaming laptops that you might be able to swing as an office upgrade for some gaming in the off-hours.
Whatever kind of gaming laptop you need and whatever features you want, there’s something on this list of the best gaming laptops that will match it, and meet your budget too.
- Best Gaming Laptop Overall: Razer Blade 15
- Most Powerful Gaming Laptop: Alienware Area-51M R2
- Best Stealth Gaming Laptop: Dell XPS 15
- Best Lightweight Gaming Laptop: Razer Blade Stealth
- Best AMD Gaming Laptop: Asus Zephyrus 14
- Best Cheap Gaming Laptop: Dell G5 Se
Best Gaming Laptop Overall
Razer Blade 15
- CPU: Eight core Intel Core i7-10875H
- Graphics: Nvidia RTX 2070 Super Max-Q
- Display: 15.6-inch 300HZ 1,920 x 1,080
- Battery: 80Wh
Razer’s original pedigree may have been in gaming peripherals, but in 2020 its Blade laptops are some of the most beloved for gaming, and for good reason. Like last-year’s model, the 2020 version of the Razer Blade offers a perfect combination of power and portability, with a gaming-grade 300Hz display which won’t hold back your hardware no matter what you’re playing. If you’re a competitive gamer, those extra Hz can even let you get a slight input lag advantage on the competition. It’s not much, but when every millisecond counts, it can make all the difference.
The Intel Core i7-10875H CPU is a notable upgrade over its last-generation predecessor for its additional two cores and four threads, which helps make this CPU more future proofed for next-generation AAA games designed with next-gen consoles in mind. They also help out with heavy alternative tasks like video editing, which can really take advantage of those additional threads for improved transcoding performance.
The Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q in this particular model isn’t the most capable that Razer offers, and only improves on the last-generation RTX 2070 by a few percent, but it’s more than enough to play both Esports and AAA games at great frame rates and detail settings. If you want more, there’s always the RTX 2080 Max-Q, but it’s noticeably more expensive. More powerful gaming laptops from other manufacturers are available, but they don’t offer the same excellent overall package as the Razer Blade.
The 1080p display is perfect for high-speed gaming at this screen size, and though there is a 4K OLED option, it’s not recommended for this size of display as it will not only be hard to see the benefit, but you sacrifice a lot of battery life – a trade not worth making considering the GPU will struggle to maintain strong frame rates at that resolution in AAA games.
Battery life is above average for a gaming laptop, with 80Wh offering enough for five to six hours away from a power socket with mixed usage.
Most Powerful Gaming Laptop
Alienware Area-51M R2
- CPU: 10 core Intel Core i9-10900K
- Graphics: Nvidia RTX 2080 Super 8GB
- Display: 17.3-inch 1080p 360Hz, or 4K 60Hz
- Battery: 90Wh
17-inch laptops might be unwieldy, but they offer the pinnacle of gaming performance with extra screen space to appreciate high-end visuals, and extra physical space for higher-end components and cooling. The Alienware Area-51M R2 embodies that ideal in every part of its design, from its cutting edge components to its top-tier display options
This laptop packs a desktop Intel Core i9-10900K, the most powerful gaming processor ever made, and a full-fat Nvidia RTX 2080 Super with 8GB of GDDR6 memory. Only the new generation of RTX 3000-series graphics cards and the last generation 2080 Ti flagship offer greater performance than that, and their power and thermal demands make them unlikely candidates for even the biggest of laptops any time soon.
To take full advantage of this laptop's power, you also get the choice of a blazingly fast 360Hz 1080p display, for competitive gaming. If immersion and AAA experience games are more to your taste, though, there’s also the option of a 4K 60Hz panel, which few laptops could hope to run at playable frame rates. This is one laptop that can, and quite comfortably too.
Don’t expect great battery life from this laptop, as even at 90Wh its high-end components will eat through it in just a couple of hours. The price is high too, but when you’re buying cutting edge, you should expect to pay for it.
This laptop is upgradeable, however. You can swap the CPU and GPU for same-generation component options through Dell’s upgrade kit program, so if you want to save a little now and pay more later, you can always opt for a weaker configuration at first and improve performance down the line.
Best Stealth Gaming Laptop
Dell XPS 15
- CPU: Six core Intel Core i7-10750H
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti
- Display: 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080
- Battery: 86Wh
The XPS 15 is a surprisingly capable gaming machine and yet you'd never know it. That makes it a fantastic stealth gaming laptop for your next office upgrade, or just if you want a professional looking laptop that can still let you play games outside of business hours.
The XPS 15 9500 packs a 10th-generation Intel Core i7-10750H CPU with six cores and support for 12 threads. It’s not cutting edge, but it still hits the highest clock speed of any Intel mobile CPUs yet released, and with more cores than its 11th-generation counterparts, offers much better multi-threaded performance – a must for next-generation games. It also pairs well with the capable Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti, perfect for rendering gorgeous gameplay at 1080p resolution. There is a 4K display option, but with this type of hardware it would just tank your frame rates and reduce your battery life; which is excellent on this model thanks to its use of lower powered components and lack of extraneous lighting and extras.
Port selection is fantastic too, including USB-C and USB-A, as well as a pair of high-speed Thunderbolt 3 ports, which let you bear a more powerful external graphics card if you want better visuals and frame rates when gaming.
As with all Dell XPS laptops, the display on the new XPS 15 is magical, with fantastic color accuracy, a gorgeously broad contrast ratio, and with such slim bezels, it's incredibly immersive when gaming.
At just four pounds, too, this machine is great for gaming or working on the go — just be sure to upgrade the storage if you want to have more than a handful of games installed at any one time.
Best Lightweight Gaming Laptop
Razer Blade Stealth
- CPU: Four core Intel Core i7-1165G7
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q
- Display: 13.3-inch 1080 120Hz
- Battery: 53.1Wh
The 2020 version of Razer’s Blade Stealth maintains its status as a gaming laptop with great hardware in a supremely compact and lightweight chassis. Weighing in at just over three pounds, you’d be hard pressed to find a laptop this light with a dedicated graphics chip at all, let alone a current-generation 16-series option with a top-tier Intel Tiger Lake CPU at its side.
Most other gaming laptops have more out of the box power than this model, especially in the graphical department, but none can match its blend of performance and portability. Its light weight combines with a compact chassis that makes it great for gaming on a train or plane, and with over 10 hours of battery life per charge, you don’t even need to consider playing with the charger plugged in.
The 13.3-inch display is 1080p resolution, more than enough for that size, but with support for 120Hz, it’s buttery smooth and even makes you a little more competitive by reducing input lag compared to more traditional 60Hz panels.
Best AMD Gaming Laptop
Asus Zephyrus 14
- CPU: Eight core AMD Ryzen 4900HS
- Graphics: Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q
- Display: 14-inch 1,920 x 1,080 120Hz IPS
- Battery: 76Wh
AMD Ryzen CPUs have made team red a powerhouse on desktop and mobile space and the latest generation of AMD-powered laptops are some of its most impressive yet. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is an amazing gaming machine packing a powerful AMD Ryzen 4900HS CPU that easily keeps pace with some of the best Intel mobile chips in games, and goes far further if you use it for intensive tasks like video and photo editing, too.
Paired with an Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU, this compact laptop has all the power you'll need to display gorgeous AAA graphics at 1080p resolution, and high frame rates in independent and esports games. The 120Hz display gives you a competitive edge over gamers with slower screens, and its keyboard is both comfortable and accurate with plenty of travel for such a thin frame.
There's heaps of storage space and all the RAM you'll need for current and next-gen games. With support for the latest Wi-Fi, you'll have access to the fastest network speeds no matter where you want to play, too.
At just 3.5 pounds, this powerful little laptop won't hold you back when gaming on the go and its sleek white paint job really helps it stand out from the crowds of RGB-lit black and silver.
Best Cheap Gaming Laptop
Dell G5 Se
CPU: Six core Intel Core i5-9300H
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti
- Display: 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080
- Battery: 51Wh
There are plenty of truly budget laptops that pretend they can game, but the G3 15 is much more than that. With a more than capable CPU and a seriously powerful GPU, it can handle Esports games at high frame rates and even modern AAA games at lower detail settings, without missing a beat.
The 15.6-inch 1080p display is a perfect fit for this size and power of laptop and makes this a perfect laptop for those looking for real gaming performance without breaking the bank.
While the display isn't the brightest, it doesn't pull much from the battery either, meaning that with the lower power components inside, you can guarantee hours upon hours of gaming time without needing to recharge — something that can not be said for its more powerful cousins on this list.
Eschewing the trend of more mainstream laptops, the G3 also packs several handy ports into its slim and shapely frame. There are USB-C (with DisplayPort out) and USB-A high speed ports, an HDMI output, a rare RJ45 Ethernet port, and a headphone jack, as well as an SD card slot.
There's not much to dislike about this powerful little machine. Its bigger brother, the G5 15 offers the same solid design, hardware, and a better display, but at several hundred dollars more. The G3 15 offers the best bang for buck.
What CPU Do You Need For Gaming?
As a baseline, you want at least four cores and preferably with simultaneous multithreading for eight thread support. The ideal gaming CPU for modern games in 2020 is six cores, with eight and above offering diminishing returns for gaming performance. The only caveat there, is that next-generation games designed for upcoming Xbox and PlayStation consoles will take better advantage of higher core counts, so eight core CPUs will have greater future proofing. Although the processor isn’t the most important part of a gaming system, desktop or laptop, it still plays its part – especially at 1080p resolution. Although faster CPUs will give you greater performance, it’s more important to meet the recommended requirements for the games you want to play.
Beyond core count, per-core performance is king. Clock speed makes a huge impact in how capable a CPU is for gaming, which is why all of the best gaming laptops in this guide feature processors with high clock speeds and great per-core performance.
Although it very much depends on the types of games you want to play, with AAA games demanding more than esports titles, make sure your gaming laptop features at least an AMD Ryzen 5 3000 or 4000 CPU, or an Intel Core i5 ninth or 10th generation CPU.
What’s The Best Graphics Card For Laptop Gaming?
The graphics card or chip is the most important component in a gaming laptop, helping to drive higher resolutions, higher frame rates and higher detail settings than any mainstream laptop can manage. If you’re playing esports games, you can get great frame rates with an Nvidia GTX 1650 or 1650 Ti. If you want to push high refresh rate displays to their fullest or take advantage of higher detail settings in AAA games, a more capable GPU like the RTX 2060, 2070 0r even 2080 Max-Q offer the best performance in gaming laptops.
Although less common, more and more gaming laptops now offer AMD graphics as an alternative. The AMD 5600M is an amazing mobile gaming graphics chip, able to outperform the RTX 2060 Max-Q and mobile RTX 2060 solutions. It’s even not far behind the powerhouse that is the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, making it an excellent solution for those wanting powerful graphics, without the increased price tag associated with some top-tier gaming laptops.
Do You Need A High Refresh Rate Display?
High refresh rate displays let you take full advantage of higher frame rates in esports and other competitive multiplayer games, for smoother animations and lower input lag. While not a necessity to enjoy games, faster-paced games look and feel better for it, and they can improve your reaction speed in game too. If you’re looking for a competitive edge in your favorite player versus player games, a high refresh rate display can make a small but tangible difference.
Since laptop screens are typically much smaller than their desktop counterparts too, it can often be more beneficial to opt for a higher refresh rate than higher resolution when you’re gaming. A 4K display is mostly wasted at 15-inches or below, with very little discernible detail difference unless you are sitting inches from the screen. It’s much more taxing on your graphics chip too. In comparison, a high refresh rate display can be leveraged as long as your system is outputting frames higher than 60, and can deliver a consistently improved experience.
Is A 13-inch, 15-inch, Or 17-inch Gaming Laptop Better?
Bigger displays are almost always better when it comes to immersion and visual clarity. If you can see more of the screen, you can have a wider field of view, larger HUD elements, and take better advantage of the higher visual fidelity of modern games. The bigger you go, though, the less portable a gaming laptop is.
The main advantage of a gaming laptop versus a gaming desktop, is that you can take it with you. If you want to predominantly game on a desk surface as you would a desktop, but want the ability to do so in multiple places with the same hardware, a 17-inch gaming laptop is a great choice. It’ll be heavier and bulkier, but all that extra space gives you more room for better cooling for more powerful hardware. That makes a 17-inch gaming laptop a great desktop replacement.
For those who want to game on the move, in tight commuter situations like trains and planes, 13-inch laptops can be far more versatile. They’re lighter and more compact, making them much more portable. They also tend to use less battery life, meaning you don’t need to be tethered to a power socket like you do with the largest of gaming laptops. Their hardware isn’t typically as powerful, but on smaller screens you can get away with lower detail settings as the lack of detail simply isn’t as obvious on more pixel dense displays.
For those who want to game in a variety of situations, a 15-inch laptop is an excellent middle ground. They have the size and scope for more powerful hardware, and give you plenty of screen space to enjoy your favorite games, but they’re no way near as heavy or as bulky as their 17-inch counterparts.