The Best Gaming Laptop of 2021
Between work, chores and social obligations, it takes immense dedication to sit down at your desktop and play competitive esports. Today’s high-performance gaming laptops offer the power of a high-performance gaming desktop in a portable body. This means your playtime doesn’t have to be confined to your home. This means finding the best gaming laptop.
Whether you’re running your setup between rooms or countries, you’ll want a gaming laptop that can survive whatever you throw at it. If you’re serious about gaming, choosing the right gaming laptop is essential to thriving over competitors in your favorite titles. There are three critical components to a gaming laptop’s performance. The graphics card (or GPU), the processor (or CPU) and amount of RAM all impact your frame rate and response time.
Top of the line graphics cards enable you to run your games at ultra settings to ensure you see every sign of enemy movement or effect particle. Fast processors maintain performance speed so that you miss a beat or stutter during gameplay sessions. Multiple gigabytes of RAM help you run multiple applications at blazing speeds without being bogged down. Arranging the highest specced of these components in a light frame with room to breathe results in one hell of a maxed-out gaming rig on the move.
Beyond these critical components are the auxiliary features. This category consists of your screen, keyboard and speakers. Depending on your genre preferences you’ll have to decide on what matters most to you. MOBA players may prioritize a solid keyboard with advanced lighting so that they don’t have to worry about bringing an external keyboard on the go. Meanwhile, a FPS player may opt for a gaming laptop that offers the monitor with the highest refresh rate and resolution.
Today’s best laptops may slap you upside the head with sticker shock due to the $3,069 price tag average. At these prices, you’re getting some of the newest desktop-level components in a portable form factor, not some mobile variants. With gaming laptops your rig also comes already assembled.
As with any roundup, the “best” gaming laptop is subjective to your playstyle and price doesn’t reflect quality. Even an affordable gaming laptop like the HP Omen 17 can hold its own against the expensive Alienware m17 R3 in certain performance scenarios. Dive into our picks below to find your next gaming laptop.
The Best Gaming Laptop
Toeing a fine line between performance and aesthetic, MSI knocked it out of the park with the GS66 stealth gaming laptop. A slick matte black outside tones down the RGB heavy body associated with gaming laptops. However, once you crack it open a finely tuned RGB keyboard made by SteelSeries ensures perfect click travel and numerous customizability options.
This per-key RGB setup is versatile for any competitive play from MMOs to FPS games as you can customize each key to your liking. During gameplay you’ll be able to see every binding you set and act quickly whether you’re queuing up a spell or cooking a grenade. SteelSeries’s GameSense technology talks directly to top esports titles to reflect stats like ammo levels, health and ability cooldowns in LED brightness levels of keys.
In addition to the masterly crafted keyboard MSI opted for a 300Hz Full HD display. This reduces blur during gameplay so you can spot targets with ease. It’s not 4K but thanks to its ability to pack up to a 2080 Super you’re getting the fastest and best-looking performance for a competitive edge.
Beyond gaming there’s a lot to love about the laptop which helps distinguish it from the pack. It’s 99.9Whr battery capacity offers hours of battery life. Thunderbolt 3 connectivity improves transfer speeds and output charging multiple times over. These added features help the GS66 stealth sneak to the top above the competition.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q 8GB GDDR6 | CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H Processor | RAM: 32GB DDR4 2666MHz | Display: 15.6-inch FHD 300 Hz | Dimensions: 14.1 x 9.6 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 4.6 pounds | Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD | Price: $2,249
The best gaming laptop for content creators
ASUS’s Republic of Gamers line continuously raises the bar of what the best gaming laptop should be, albeit at a price. The RoG Zephyrus Duo continues the brand’s tradition of innovation with its exclusive secondary 14-inch touchscreen display, the ScreenPad Plus. This second 4K screen adds a boatload of options in games and content creation that bests the competition.
In games this companion screen allows you to view chat, real-time stats and more information just below the on-screen action. The system is a lot like the Wii U, if the Wii U didn’t massively suck. Streamers who prefer a deck for broadcast controls can use this second screen on the move. You can assign buttons, feeds and chat to this display while you focus on your content. Whether you’re a gamer or content creator, anyone can benefit from multitasking benefits while browsing the web or editing photos.
The versatile display can switch between a high refresh rate competitive play beast and high resolution 4K content creation system. For professional level play, you’re getting minimized ghosting of fast-moving targets. If you need to edit clips or pictures you can easily switch to 4K mode to widen the color gamut and up the detail level.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q 8GB GDDR6 | CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK Processor | RAM: 32GB DDR4 3200MHz | Display: 15.6-inch 4K UHD IPS | Dimensions: 14.2 x 10.6 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 5.5 pounds | Storage: 2 TB PCIe NVMe SSD | Price: $3,699
The best modular gaming laptop
One of the negative aspects of going with a gaming laptop is the limited upgradability. Sure, you can add RAM to most models and some manufacturers leave SSD slots for memory upgrades. But you can’t simply swap out your processor or graphics card for a next generation experience. At least you couldn’t until Alienware solved this problem with Area 51m R2, a desktop in disguise.
Powerful, overclockable and easily upgradable, if you’re playing graphics-heavy games or need an evolving gaming laptop this is the model for you. Not only does this thing perform well thanks to a 10th Gen Intel Core i9 processor, it looks amazing when pairing a 300 Hz screen with the ray-tracing of a RTX 2080 Super. If the asking price is out of your budget you can even get a starter model at half the price and upgrade when the time is right.
With a fresh neon glow across honeycomb vents this gaming laptop looks badass in either it’s light or dark colorway variant. The 51m R2 is unashamedly a gaming laptop and a fine one at that.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super 8GB GDDR6 | CPU: Intel Core i9-10900K Processor | RAM: 32GB DDR4 2933MHz | Display: 17.3-inch FHD 300 Hz | Dimensions: 15.9 x 12.6 x 1.3 inches | Weight: 9.0 pounds | Storage: 2 TB SSD | Price: $3,723
The best gaming laptop under $1,000
Aggressively angular but with a low profile surface, the Legion Y545 is a 15.6-inch economy gaming laptop with few compromises. Cherry-picking the top features from competitors, Lenovo creates an affordable gaming laptop that doesn’t feel too limited. This gaming laptop’s light construction and thin bezels ensure a spacious view.
The wide IPS screen is perfect for offering various viewing angles but reveals a 60Hz-locked screen. If you play a lot of CS:GO or VALORANT, this is the bare minimum acceptable for a FPS since most of the competition is at 144, 240 or 300Hz. It’s perfectly serviceable, but the lower refresh rate is best suited towards other types of games.
Since this is a budget gaming laptop you’re also getting the weakest graphic card of all our picks. NVIDIA’s 1660 Ti performs well now, but may not allow you to experience games at higher settings going forward. At this point in time, Lenovo’s Legion Y545 punches well above its weight class at an unbelievably low price.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB | CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H Processor | RAM: 16GB DDR4 2667MHz | Display: 15.6-inch FHD 60 Hz | Dimensions: 14.2 x 10.5 x 1 inches | Weight: 5.1 pounds | Storage: 128GB PCIe SSD | Price: $999
5. HP Omen 17
The best budget gaming laptop
Another affordable option, the HP Omen 17 contends with the best gaming laptops thanks to advanced features like ray-tracing support and a 144HZ 17-inch display. Its entry-level price is close enough to the cheapest laptop on our list while offering an advanced graphics card. As a whole, the Omen 17 is compact, fast and powerful.
The Omen 17’s RTX 2070 Super tramples the sub $1,000 Legion Y545’s GTX 1660 Ti. You can run games at higher settings, enable ray-tracing and will be better future-proofed with this choice. There’s also plenty of storage thanks to the dual chambers for both SSD and HDDs. You can install your most-used apps on the SSD for fast boot times and load less used apps and media onto the HDD.
A lightweight durable plastic construction is just the cherry on top of this powerful budget 17-inch gaming laptop sundae.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 8GB GDDR6 | CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H Hexa-Core Processor | RAM: 16GB DDR4 2933MHz | Display: 17.3-inch FHD 144 Hz | Dimensions: 15.9 x 11.2 x 1.2 inches | Weight: 7.3 pounds | Storage: 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD & 1 TB SATA HDD | Price: $1,567
The best compact gaming laptop
Razer’s Blade Pro 17-inch laptop is an ultrathin powerhouse packing GeForce RTX 2000 series cards and 10th gen Intel Core i7 processing power in each model. Taking a page out of the GS66 Stealth’s playbook, this model utilizes a slick matte black chassis. Thanks to expert engineering the Blade Pro 17’s size is as sleek as some 15-inch laptops. While the component placement is compact, a vapor cooling chamber maximizes your heat dissipation to ensure peak performance.
For gorgeous 4K gaming powered by a RTX 2080 super card you can max out your configuration at the cost of a screen limited to 120Hz. This lower refresh rate is balanced out by a 4K touchscreen. This is good for content creators who require 100% of Adobe’s RGB color gamut for their work or play. You can also configure a 2080 Super Max-Q to a FHD 300 Hz screen (which is the one we’re covering here for $2,899).
Razer’s Blade Pro 17 maximizes display space with a small footprint. If you want maximum power you can throw in your backpack, you can stop your search here.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q 8GB GDDR6 | CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H Processor | RAM: 16GB DDR4 2933MHz | Display: 17.3-inch FHD 300 Hz | Dimensions: 15.5 x 10.2 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 6.1 pounds | Storage: 512GB SSD | Price: $2,899
7. Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR
The best HDR gaming laptop
Light and airy, Gigabyte’s Aero lineup takes a stab at Razer Blade. Other than its sleek aluminum design the Aero 17’s 4K display provides rich color and unmatched brightness. Paired with its powerful innards, you’re getting some serious performance that makes the most out of its screen.
This design-focused gaming laptop lasts all day, provides an immersive HDR viewing experience and packs powerful specs into a slick chassis. Unlike Gigabyte’s Aorus line of gaming laptop, the Aero offers impressive battery life. For those who want their games and work to pop, the Aero is the best laptop to enjoy bright HDR content.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q 8GB GDDR6 | CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H Octa-Core Processor | RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz | Display: 17.3-inch 4K UHD 60 Hz | Dimensions: 15.6 x 10.6 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 5.5 pounds | Storage: 512GB SSD | Price: $2,799
The best gaming laptop for raw power
The beefiest model in the pack, the GT76 Titan is also the most powerful thanks to it’s overclocking capabilities. If you’re a spec-oriented player who needs the latest and greatest in their rig at an affordable price, the GT76 Titan is your laptop. It’s wieldy frame is gorgeous thanks to a premium aluminum and carbon fiber blend. And if you’re into RGB there’s plenty of lighting to burn holes in your retinas.
A worthy competitor to the modular Area-51m R2, the Titan offers the most powerful components available in a gaming laptop. Sadly for the price you’ll pay you won’t be able to fully upgrade the device further down the line. If you’re looking for the most powerful gaming laptop currently available, you’ll dominate the competition with the Titan.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super 8GB GDDR6 | CPU: Intel Core i9-10900K Octa-Core Processor | RAM: 64GB DDR4 2666MHz | Display: 17.3-inch UHD 300 Hz | Dimensions: 15.6 x 12.9 x 1.3 inches | Weight: 9.3 pounds | Storage: 2 TB SSD | Price:
The best gaming laptop for style and customization
Alienware’s compact design for the m17 R3 is a welcome change from the heft of the Area-51M. If you simply want a powerful gaming laptop that won’t break your back, you can’t go wrong with the 17-inch m17 R3. Powerful performance, thin bezels and sleek customizable styling combine to make this a must-have rig.
Rocking some of the best discrete internals available in one of the lightest form factors around, you’ll be confident your investment will last at least the next half of the decade. In top esports titles you’ll thrive at 300 frames per second thanks to insane overclocking speeds. This speed is made possible by a cryotech cooling system that uses more fan blades and copper for maximum heat dissipation.
Available in a gorgeous light and dark colorway the m17 oozes style. Magnesium alloy slathered in a high-performance clear coat repels stains and fingerprints. Beyond picking your external paint job, AlienFX allows you to customize everything from sounds to the neon glow of your machine to suit your personality.
The m17 R3 is for those that want one of the most attractive-looking laptops with futuristic features. For those who travel and aren’t often near outlets, we’d recommend a different model due to this gaming laptop’s average battery life hovering around 2.5 hours.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 8GB GDDR6 | CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H Processor | RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz | Display: 17.3-inch FHD 300 Hz | Dimensions: 16.1 x 12.6 x 1.2 inches | Weight: 6 pounds | Storage: 1 TB SSD | Price: $2,750
10. ASUS ROG Mothership
The best gaming laptop for hardcore gamers & desktop purists
We’d be shocked if ASUS didn’t draw some of their inspiration from Nintendo. If the dual screens of the Zephyrus Duo didn’t raise flags, the versatility of the Mothership is quite similar to that of the Switch. Much like you can disconnect joycons from a Switch and prop up the display with a kickstand, the Mothership enables you to separate the keyboard from the display and orient the screen to your preference.
This formation enables you to create a desktop-like experience on the move. Even crazier is the desktop specs, packing a full-sized 2080 Super, the latest 10th Gen Intel i9 processor and an excessive 64GB of RAM. A full-sized keyboard and bright display make for one of the best gaming laptops available. That’s if you have $5,500 to spend of course.
This adaptable form factor makes for a pretty convincing battlestation whether you’re at home or in a coffeehouse. ASUS’s RoG mothership is a dream gaming laptop for most but is easily one of the best options on the market today.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 8GB GDDR6 | CPU: Intel Core i9-9980HK Octa-Core Processor | RAM: 64GB DDR4 2666MHz | Display: 17.3-inch FHD 144 Hz | Dimensions: 16.1 x 12.6 x 1.2 inches | Weight: 10.6 pounds | Storage: 512GB SSD | Price: $5,499
Are gaming laptops worth it?
If you play intensive games, edit multimedia content or stream often, a gaming laptop will allow you to do all of this and more from anywhere in the world. If you’re simply surfing the web, filling out spreadsheets or checking emails you can grab a cheap Windows laptop or Chromebook. For less than $500 you can run today’s most popular games on this weaker hardware using Google Stadia and a strong internet connection. Unfortunately due to the time it takes to input and receive information over the web, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage to multiplayer rivals due to input lag.
Gaming laptops offer the power of a desktop PC in a portable body. You don’t need an internet connection to work your way through meaty games like Cyberpunk 2077 thanks to powerful on board graphics cards. Unfortunately, many GPUs are discrete and cannot be upgraded (the Alienware 51m being the exception). If you want a powerful rig that can be updated for life and mainly play in one area of your home, you should buy a gaming PC. If you like to play in different venues or travel often, a gaming laptop is perfect for knocking out your Steam backlog on the go.
The average gaming laptop lasts about five years before becoming obsolete. While you’ll still be able to meet the minimum requirements to run games, your performance won’t be breathtakingly smooth. Today’s top esports games aren’t too graphically intensive and titles like CS:GO and League of Legends have had staying power for nearly a decade. Professional gamers rigs are powered by the same internals as our picks above. Unfortunately due to strict regulations, gaming laptops are rarely used in high-level play.
Are gaming laptops suitable for everyday use?
Gaming laptops are just stronger variants of productivity laptops. Powered by the most advanced components and built with maneuverability in mind, a gaming laptop is perfect for everyday use. With keyboards primed for twitch reaction speeds, the typing experience and screens for these laptops are far superior for getting work done. Now when you finish work wherever you are, you can squeeze a quick round of your favorite game in thanks to the fact that you’re carrying around a beastly rig.
Today’s gaming laptops are light and smartly cooled by advanced thermal systems. This allows you to flip from working to playing in seconds with ease. A majority of gaming laptops even have optimized profiles for work and play that maximize battery life and performance for tasks at hand. With the latest networking protocols and ethernet ports you’re able to have a rock-solid connection of a desktop. This stability enables truly competitive gameplay without lag.
Depending on the laptop battery life may be an issue. Today’s ultrabooks can survive hours on end. While a gaming laptop can last while browsing or working, gaming will take a toll on battery life. If you work near an outlet and travel in stints any of our picks should be fine. For extended periods of time away from a power source we’d stay away from the Alienware’s and MSI Titan as their power drains rapidly.