The 9 Best Gaming Laptops
This wiki has been updated 34 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Gamers tend to push their equipment harder than most other PC users, which is why there's an entire category of laptops devoted to them and the powerful hardware they demand. While one of these will cost you quite a bit if you want performance that rivals that of a desktop, there are also surprisingly capable options that don't cost an absolute fortune, yet still do a great job with modern games. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 18, 2021:
Some six months after the release of the Nvidia RTX 3000 series, a gaming laptop is, surprisingly, just about the only place most people will be able to find one of the new GPUs. So, if you're looking for something high-end, there are a few 3000-series notebooks to choose from, but you'll want to pay close attention to the exact specifications of the GPU.
One seemingly small but actually significant difference in the latest crop of gaming laptops is how the GPUs are designated. Previously, Nvidia mobile GPUs came in two configurations. The Max-Q variant was highly efficient but performed poorly, and the full-power "Max-P" worked very well, but got hot and was particularly hard to find in a laptop. The major change here is that Nvidia is no longer binning a portion of the GPUs, but rather leaving it up to the laptop manufacturers to determine clock and memory bus speeds. This isn't entirely unexpected due to consumer frustration over subpar Max-Q output. Thankfully, Nvidia is also now requiring manufacturers to list their GPU's actual specifications, and that kind of disclosure is a must-have for consumers.
With that in mind, we left off a handful of otherwise promising options that, after investigation, throttled down GPU performance by as much as 30 percent. For example, the CUK Asus ROG Strix G17 is one of the few Asus models with a TGP of over 105, as its TGP rating of 130 is nearly on a par with the best. The MSI GP66 Leopard 10UG is another such model.
At the other end of the spectrum, the entry-level 3000-series cards have not yet been released, although they should come out soon. In fact, a laptop known so far as just the Samsung 760XDA was recently discovered on GeekBench, and it will apparently come with an optional 3050 or 3050 Ti. At the moment, though, the RTX 2000 series notebooks remain viable options if you don't want to spend a fortune. The Acer Nitro 5 is one such example. Alternatively, for just a few hundred more, you can pick up the MSI GF65, although you'll almost certainly want to add an extra 8 gigabytes of RAM right away.
March 05, 2020:
There are a few main considerations when buying a gaming laptop. Gaming is highly visual, so we stuck to the 15"-17" range; that's where the overwhelming majority of gaming laptops are because anything smaller is just not very immersive. Of course, that range really only consists of two sizes -- 17.3" and 15.6" -- but there aren't any modern laptops bigger, and if you're going smaller you may not even need a dedicated gaming rig, because many of today's integrated graphics chipsets can play games at 720p. So if you need something smaller, for example, for travel purposes, and you don't play the newest AAA titles, a regular laptop should do the trick.
On the small end of the range, the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 is an extremely high-powered unit that, while expensive, should leave all but the most demanding users satisfied. On the other end of the price spectrum is the Asus Tuf, which is a good choice for those who like high frame rates but don't need the absolute most advanced technology. The Lenovo Ideapad L340 is another affordable option, although we prefer the general build quality and rugged construction of most of the stuff from Asus. The Acer Predator Helios is another medium-budget offering that measures 15.6".
But in some cases, bigger is better, and gaming is one of those cases. We won't waste any time before we mention the Razer Blade Pro; a 17.3-inch screen with a 4K resolution and 120-hertz refresh rate are basically unheard of. In fact, it's almost impossible to find anything else like it in early 2020. So if you have a few grand sitting around and want to play Halo on the bus, it's worth a shot.
Let's talk about some more interesting tech. We saw a few laptops last year tease us with these displays, but the Gigabyte Aero 15 X is one of the few readily available laptops with a high-end OLED panel, and if you're ever used this type of panel technology before, you know how nice it looks. The Dell Alienware M17 offers premium build quality and some really nice touches, including but not limited to dual 512-gigabyte NVMe SSDs in a RAID0 configuration that makes for nearly instantaneous load times. The only major drawback to most Razer, Gigabyte, and Alienware products is that they are, in many cases, insanely expensive.
Occupying the sweet spot for many dedicated gamers are an interesting pair. The HP Omen is a high-quality, brand-name option that you can trust to work well and perform even better. And while you haven't likely heard of the folks behind the Eluktronics Mech G1R, they're actually quite popular with the types of people who hang out in seedy online forums asking for laptop purchasing tips. In particular, this model is noteworthy due to its full-speed mobile GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card. A lot of laptops -- many of them good ones -- utilize a trimmed-down version of the GeForce GPU called a "Max-Q" design, and while it doesn't get quite as hot or use as much battery, it simply doesn't perform as well as the full-speed variant (known internally as "Max-P," although you won't find that name on any public marketing).
Digital Storm Nova and Avon These are a pair of smartly designed 15.6- and 17.3-inch laptops that come in a standard configuration but can be customized to meet your specific needs. They look great, combining a slightly aggressive aesthetic with a formal yet still angular chassis, and best of all, they're actually not terribly expensive despite looking, feeling, and operating like they are. digitalstorm.com
Origin PC They're one of the most recognized producers of pre-built and customized rigs, and they have two kinds of gaming laptops: thin and light models that you can actually use while on the move, and large, heavy desktop replacements that will still require a desk but can come close to the performance of actual, stationary PCs. originpc.com
Computer Upgrade King If you find a laptop you like, but it doesn't quite meet your needs, and it just needs a small tweak to be perfect, see if CUK has an upgraded version. This apparently small and low-overhead outfit takes standard public release PCs, replaces the bottleneck perpetrators with upgraded parts, and sells something that is undeniably better than what it once was. cukusa.com
Why Everyone Should Buy Gaming Laptops
This high-quality hardware directly translates to better picture, better sound, more memory, and more efficient processors for anyone who uses them.
While most gaming laptops are designed to appeal to a very specific niche, they can actually be of great benefit for nearly all laptop users. There are a few factors to consider when looking into purchasing a laptop, and gaming laptops sit comfortably at the top of all of them.
The most noticeable feature of a laptop is its speed. From powering on the computer to opening applications, a laptop's processing speed affects every aspect of performance. Gaming laptops generally have the fastest processors available for mobile computing, and always have lots of RAM. This is meant to handle the immense amounts of data that need to be processed when drawing very detail-oriented games. It is equally useful for quickly bringing up a slideshow presentation or streaming web-based tools.
Because they are so often associated with gaming, it is easy to forget that gaming laptops can do anything that regular laptops can do. They are not lacking any functions of a regular working laptop, and many are streamlined, reducing unnecessary programs often found on standard laptops.
Simply put, gaming computers are made of higher quality parts. Gamers themselves tend to be more demanding of their hardware, and if any part of a laptop is not state-of-the-art, gamers are the first to speak up. This expectancy has made gaming laptops top of their class, with improvements in hardware such as high-end graphics cards and central processing units designed to keep up with future technological advancements. This high-quality hardware directly translates to better picture, better sound, more memory, and more efficient processors for anyone who uses them.
Health Benefits Of Computer Games
While many people focus on the negative effects of gaming, including the notorious claim that playing violent video games will make children more violent, there are few people who choose to focus on the positive benefits playing video games can have. A report issued by American Psychologist actually found some positive effects of playing video games.
Easily accessible games, such as those found on a smartphone app, have been shown to improve players' moods, promote relaxation, and reduce stress and anxiety levels.
While many people maintain the viewpoint that playing video games is a sign of mental laziness, studies are showing video games may actually strengthen cognitive skills such as spatial awareness, reasoning, memory, and perception. Playing video games for a reasonable amount of time may also help the brain develop key problem-solving skills. When studied, the more adolescents reported playing strategic video games like turn-based or role-playing fantasy games, the more their abilities to problem solve improved. Children's creativity was also enhanced by playing any kind of video game, including violent games.
Violent video games, such as first person shooters, often get the worst reputation. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing these violent shooter video games actually improved a player's spatial thinking equally as well as academic courses designed to enhance these same skills. It is also important to note this enhanced thinking was not found when playing other genres of video games like puzzle games or turn-based games.
Having a relaxing distraction designed to take the mind off of the daily stress factors may actually be a great thing. Easily accessible games, such as those found on a smartphone app, have been shown to improve players' moods, promote relaxation, and reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Video Games As A Social Experience
While as much as 59 percent of the general public believe video games are a waste of time, public opinion on video games does not stop people from enjoying them. In fact, the last few decades has seen a rise in the use of video games as a social experience. From the simplest apps played on social media browsers to the most complex worlds created in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), video games have become an ever-increasing form of social interaction.
This adds to the immersive experience video game creators are constantly after, while increasing the social experience gamers crave.
This started in the early age of arcade games. Games such as boardwalk grip testers and pinball machines were some of the first arcade games on the market. They supported friendly competition by encouraging players to see if they could score better than their friends at a particular game. This may be the first form of PVP in electronic gaming. With the introduction of true video games, the competition went digital. Games such as Pong encouraged friendly competition by pitting gamers against each other for the accumulation of points.
As coin-operated computer games gained popularity, in-home gaming systems were on the rise, as well. Kids and adults alike now interacted together through a digital medium, whether by traveling to an arcade or plugging a personal gaming console into their televisions.
Technological advancements of the modern era have brought the digital social experience to new heights. Thanks to online chatrooms and in-game communication through headsets, players not only interact in person, but through the games themselves. This adds to the immersive experience video game creators are constantly after, while increasing the social experience gamers crave.