Playing your favorite PC games with the detail levels and resolution maxed out doesn't mean you have to buy a big desktop rig—today's best gaming laptops pack some serious power. Here's everything you need to know to choose the right gaming-notebook monster, along with our top lab-tested picks.
Finding the Right Portable Gaming Rig
Purists will argue that you need a PC to truly play games, especially if you're a fan of pushing the levels of graphics quality beyond the capabilities of a mere gaming console. In this regard, the gaming desktop is still king, particularly when it comes to having the kind of components and horsepower needed to run 4K games smoothly and support virtual reality (VR) setups, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. But if you want or need something you can tote around the house or over to your friend's place, we're here to help you choose the right gaming laptop.
MSI GL65 9SC
Acer Predator Triton 500
Alienware m15 R2 (2019, OLED)
The best gaming laptop
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 - 2080 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD or 4K (1920 x 1080 - 4K) IPS 240Hz | Storage: 512GB M.2 SSD | Battery: 80Whr | Dimensions: 9.25 x 13.98 x 0.78 inches | Weight: 4.63 lbs
Unparalleled build quality
Wide range of CPU/GPU options
Costs more for the same
No longer thinnest or lightest
The "Advanced Model" of the Razer Blade 15 is outfitted with the same CNC-milled aluminum chassis as its predecessor, only this time it holds the latest graphics chips from Nvidia, namely the RTX family of Turing architecture-based GPUs. It's simply our favorite gaming laptop today.
Among its configurations are an RTX 2080 model, capable of running the ray-traced Metro Exodus at over 50fps with all the visual settings cranked to the top. In our testing, despite its power-hungry guts, it wowed us with an unusual 5 hour battery life. So while it's no longer the thinnest or the lightest in its class, it is the longest-lasting premium gaming laptops we've seen to date. It is also one of the more expensive.
But it's worth the premium. The touchpad is the closest thing to a MacBook trackpad you will find on a Windows notebook. That includes non-gaming laptops like the Dell XPS 13, which is met with heaping acclaim each time it's re-packaged and re-released. In just about every way, the Razer Blade 15 feels like a dream to use.
Unfortunately for its competitors, the Razer Blade 15 is available in an abundance of varieties, most of which are sensible. If you want a 4K OLED screen, it's exclusive to an RTX 2080 configuration, perhaps the only Max-Q graphics card that could hope to drive 4K graphics. More likely is that you'll opt for one of the more practical 1080p 144Hz models.
Whatever config you pick, you can take solace in the fact that the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model is the overall best gaming laptop on the market right now.
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 FHD (1920 x 1080 IPS 144Hz) | Storage: 512GB SSD | Battery: 94 Whr | Dimensions: 0.85 x 14.4 x 10 inches | Weight: 5.40 lb
Affordable configuration options
Good battery life
Not the best display
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 144Hz display, the sliimer 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 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 FHD (1920 x 1080) wide-view 144Hz | Storage: 512GB- 1TB M.2 SSD | Battery: 82 Whr | Dimensions: 9.75 x 14.08 x 0.69 inches | Weight: 4.14 lbs
Sleek and powerful
Long battery life
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 4.9mm 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.
4. Acer Predator Helios 300 - 15.6-inch
The best budget gaming laptop—GTX 1060 graphics for around $1000
CPU: Intel Core i5-9300H, i7-9750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti - RTX 2060 | RAM: 8GB-16GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz | Storage: 256GB-512GB PCIe NVMe SSD | Battery: 3720 mAh | Dimensions: 10.01 x 14.23 x 0.90 inches | Weight: 5.07 lbs
Decent battery life
Brings a 1660 Ti GPU
We loved Acer's Predator Helios 300 during the GTX 10-series era: at just over a grand, sometimes less if you could find it on sale, it offered a GTX 1060 6GB graphics card that could lock down 60 fps at near-max settings in most contemporary games. Now the newer model Helios is back with a GTX 1660 Ti GPU and a sleeker form factor for basically the same price.
The new and improved Helios 300 has a 144Hz 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. RAM speed has been bumped up to 2666Mhz as well, which is a nice improvement. The only real drawback is the diminutive SSD, although there are larger storage options (thankfully all in SSD form) if you want more space.
A brilliant RTX-capable 17-inch gaming laptop
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 17.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz | Storage: 1TB HDD; 256GB SSD | Battery: 76Wh | Dimensions: 12 x 16.2 x 0.91 inches | Weight: 6.4 lbs
Good storage options
HDR and G-Sync
Extremely small touchpad
Dated outward design
Though they've only existed for a couple of years now, Lenovo's Legion-branded laptops have made a name for themselves in the games industry, if only because they offer unprecedented value on top-notch specs.
Rather than crafting a jack of all trades, the Chinese tech company—known primarily for its ThinkPads—aims to squeeze the most performance out of the cheapest possible materials without compromising on quality and design. This principle is nowhere more evident than in the Lenovo Legion Y740, a 17.3-inch gaming laptop, which can be configured with an RTX 2060, 2070, or 2080 at a price lower than similar models from Lenovo's competitors.
It is a bit of a chunky laptop: its bezels may be thinner than the previous generation, but they're still bigger and more distracting than the norm. But the screen itself leverages technology rarely seen elsewhere. Dolby Vision HDR, for example, is in full blooming color on this fluid 144Hz IPS display. And G-Sync eliminates the need for software-based adaptive sync protocols, such as v-sync, which notoriously reeks of input lag and microstuttering.
If real-time ray tracing is your endgame, the Lenovo Legion Y740 does not disappoint. In fact, in the Metro Exodus RTX benchmark, which sees most of the in-game graphics settings cranked all the way up, the Y740 managed an impressive average of 46fps. Mess with a few of those sliders and you can bank on a buttery smooth 60fps, with ray tracing turned on, for about 30% less than the cost of its premium-priced rivals configured with the same specs.
The best all-around 15-inch RTX gaming laptop
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz | Storage: 512GB M.2 NVMe | Battery: 84Wh | Dimensions: 10 x 14.41 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 4.41 lbs
Appetizing range of prices
Top of the line performance
Fast, bright display
Lackluster battery life
Not everyone needs the thinnest or the most powerful gaming laptop. Sometimes just thin and powerful are fine. Striking a healthy balance between portability, performance, and price is the Acer Predator Triton 500, a Max-Q notebook that managed to impress our dedicated team of hardware testers at the top-secret PC Gamer lab.
This 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 45fps. And while it's doing so, you get to experience the luxury of its deeply satisfying 1.7mm keyboard travel and a Microsoft precision touchpad that we surprisingly don't hate. Despite its terrifying default boot-up noise, the Acer Predator Triton 500 is a reliable 15.6-inch system with high-end graphics.
7. MSI GL63 8RC - 15.6-inch
The best entry-level gaming laptop
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 60Hz IPS | Storage: 1TB HDD | Battery: 3-cell 41 Whr | Dimensions: 15.07 x 10.24 x 1.14 inches | Weight: 4.85 lbs
Easy to upgrade RAM and storage
No included SSD
The MSI GL63 8RC is one of our top choices for ultra-budget gaming laptops. The GL63 comes equipped with Intel’s i7-9750H, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, and one of the thinner bezels we’ve seen in this price range. The only obvious downside is the lack of an included SSD. The laptop comes loaded with a 1TB HDD, which means you’ll probably want to upgrade the storage reasonably quickly.
With its highly competitive price tag, the MSI GL63 8RC is one of the cheapest gaming laptops we could find with a GTX 1660 Ti discrete graphics card. This puts the price of the GL63 just a little bit higher than budget laptops without dedicated graphics, but for that little bit extra you get exponentially higher performance when compared to laptops with integrated graphics. If you’re working with a tight budget, the GL63 offers everything you’d need in a laptop without putting a massive dent in your wallet.
The best 17 inch gaming laptop for RTX
CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q | RAM: 32GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz | Storage: 512GB SSD | Battery: 82 Whr | Dimensions: 15.59 x 10.22 x 0.75 inches
Potent RTX graphics
Schlocky paint job
When Nvidia announced its Max-Q mobile graphics cards, the pared-down version of its top-end GPUs, it said the best gaming laptops would get thinner and lighter even as they get more powerful. If nothing else, the MSI GS75 Stealth serves as evidence to back up that claim. With its posh, black and gold design—deeply inspired by the 15-inch GS65 Stealth Thin before it—the GS75 Stealth is a handsome and perfectly good 17-inch lappy on the outside, minus its susceptibility to paint chipping. Oh, and the touchpad woes.
Snug inside its aluminum alloy chassis is a hardy GeForce RTX graphics card, spanning almost Nvidia's whole line of ray tracing products, paired with an Intel Core i7-8750H processor no matter which configuration you buy. Be that as it may, every version of the GS75 Stealth is pricey at more than two grand. It's not a budget system. We reviewed the most expensive model, which has a Max-Q-size RTX 2080 and 32GB of RAM. Decimating the competition, it ran Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 1080p at 87fps, and that was at the highest graphics preset. Pretty incredible for a portable PC weighing less than five pounds.
9. 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 FHD (1920 x 1080) wide-view 144Hz with G-Sync | Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD, 1TB FireCuda SSHD | Battery: 64 Whr | Dimensions: 10.3 x 15.2 x 1.0 inches | Weight: 5.6
Full-power (non Max-Q) GTX 1070
Poor battery life
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 a previous 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 around two hours of battery life. Don't forget your charger!