Although they can never match the power of a desktop PC (either a pre-built machine or preferably one you put together yourself), the portability and convenience that laptops can offer are where they earn their premium.
What separates a “gaming laptop” from just a laptop is not always a clear cut line, but the first basic requirement is that is has to have the graphics card and CPU power to run games at a respectable Frames Per Second: 100FPS+ as a minimum for competitive, fast-paced games and around 60FPS+ for slower, story-based games being the general rule of thumb. All of the below laptops are capable of producing this level of performance on the latest games, though of course, this may require the video settings of the games in question to be turned down first for the cheaper entries on this list.
The second most important consideration is that the display of the laptop has a fast enough refresh rate that the gamer can actually see the gameplay at that speed (e.g. 120FPS requires at least a 120Hz display). Each of the laptops listed here has a frequency of at least 120Hz – this being the refresh rate most would consider the requirement of a gaming display. The 144Hz laptop display is probably the most ideal for the majority of gamers.
We have tried to organize our recommendations into different categories which we think reflect the needs of each type of buyer on the lookout for a gaming laptop. Each of the following laptops is the best within their niche as at the time of writing. They all come from well-known brands and each has respectable build quality.
Finally, even if you’re confident around computers, we’d encourage you to have a quick scan of our Things To Consider section below before you dive into the individual reviews.
So that’s enough of an introduction, let’s get started!
Our Top Picks
The Best Gaming Laptops Of 2021
The Razer Blade Pro 17 4K contains the best technology you can get in a gaming laptop with a price tag to match. The image quality of the screen is impeccable with great color gamut and accuracy, making it suitable for visual design work. The slimline profile of the laptop belies an extremely powerful game-playing machine.
The Razer Blade Pro 17 with 4K display costs a pretty penny, but, besides its less than ideal battery life (unsurprising when you’re dealing with components this powerful), this is pretty much the only criticism you can level at it. The GPU and CPU are top of the line for what you will find in a laptop (providing you don’t mind going with Intel over AMD) and it comes with a pleasingly huge 32GB of RAM. The IPS panel is superb in terms of colors and contrast and makes it a great option for anyone interested in a gaming laptop that can be used as a workstation as well. It is slim, relatively light and comes with the full awarray of ports and sockets. If you want the best of the best and don’t mind forking out the cash for it, you can’t go wrong with the Razer Blade Pro 17 4K.
The Razer Blade Pro 17 QHD is the best 1440p gaming laptop available. The color gamut and accuracy of the screen is great, also making it well suited for visual design work and the like. Overall the image quality is superb and the 165Hz refresh rate make it great for competitive gaming. Despite being slim and light this laptop packs a lot of power.
The 165Hz Razer Blade Pro 17 QHD, with its 1440p display is a powerful machine; able to hit high FPS in games on maximum settings thanks to its Intel Core i7-10875H CPU and either the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 or GeForce RTX 3070 GPU (depending on your upgrade choice). The display on this laptop is sublime, with great colors, brightness and contrast. The laptop is thin and light, making it easily transportable despite being a 17” machine. The only real drawback here is the weaker battery life, but even this is not terrible. At the time of writing the Razer Blade Pro 17 QHD is the best 1440p gaming laptop on the market, and, we’d say, currently the best gaming laptop full stop.
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 is the ideal all-rounder for those looking for a good price mid-range gaming laptop. It is thin and light but still hits heavy thanks to its AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU and Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics card. It has a solid screen, decent speakers and the best battery life of any gaming laptop.
If you’re happy with a 14” sized screen, you won’t find a better all-rounder mid-range gaming laptop than the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14. The color replication on the 120Hz screen is wide, the gaming performance is consistently good and the AMD CPU also means it does well for workstation tasks. Despite the power it contains it is thin and light and aesthetically well designed. The biggest negative for this machine is the lack of webcam, a feature we would have expected to see, and there is not Thunderbolt 3 support either. Besides this though the ports and socket support on this laptop is solid and the battery life is simply the best out there.
The ASUS TUF Gaming A15 Laptop is simply put, terrific value for money. It brings with it a powerful AMD CPU, making it suitable for some workstation uses, as well as a very long battery life and a great 144Hz screen. You will not find a better deal on a gaming laptop than this.
Our recommended configuration of the ASUS TUF Gaming A15 gives you a 144Hz screen, an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H and a Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti at a budget price, which is not something to be sniffed at. It’s a chunky machine, and not the most easily portable, but the very respectable battery life is a great benefit for those on the move. Whilst the laptop screen has a good contrast ratio, the color gamut could be better and we wouldn’t recommend this machine for any design work where color accuracy is important; nevertheless for other low-level workstation tasks, the CPU pulls its weight. Ultimately this is a very solid gaming machine and offers the best value on the market.
The Alienware Area 51m r2 is a highly customizable machine, and this 360Hz version has the fastest display on any laptop. Powerful components, great color replication and a striking design round off a superb premium gaming laptop.
As with all Alienware products, the Alienware Area 51m r2 is not cheap. For your money however you can boast to have the fastest screen refresh rate in any laptop (gaming or otherwise)! Both the color gamut and color accuracy on this machine are great, making it suitable for any color-related workstation uses. The powerful Intel Core i7-10700K CPU and RTX 2070 Super Max-Q GPU ensure that getting 360FPS is feasible on less demanding games with the settings turned down somewhat, which is no mean feat on a laptop. Ultimately, the main drawback of this machine is the very low battery life, and the need for two power adapters if you want to get the most out of it.
An extensive guide to gaming laptop considerations can be found on our ‘What To Look For In A Gaming Laptop’ page, however below are the main things you should think about before deciding which gaming laptop to buy.
Gaming Laptops Are Expensive
The engineering required to cram the power of a desktop gaming PC into a thin, portable laptop is not only impressive, it’s also not cheap. You have to always bear in mind that the cash per performance of a laptop, in terms of its raw gaming power, is always going to be substantially less than with a desktop computer, because what you’re also paying for is the portability. No laptop on this page costs below $1,000, including our “Best Budget Gaming Laptop”, as, although cheaper laptops are available, we cannot honestly recommend them as being the best in their niche in terms of the level of gaming experience they provide.
Make Sure You Get The Right Model
As is also found with monitors, there are usually many variations and configurations of the same model of laptop that are advertised with the same name but have different specs. Often Amazon has the different configurations underneath the same listing (assuming they are in stock and not greyed out), which can be manually selected. Again as with monitors, if a precise code is available signifying the specific configuration you want you should check for this; often however this is not available, so making sure each and every specification is correct before you buy is very important. A big price difference may indicate you’re buying something different!
1080p vs 1440p Gaming Laptops
Whilst 1080p is still king when it comes to fast-paced online competitive shooters and the like, 1440p is on the way to becoming the new standard display resolution for games where squeezing every last frame is less paramount than having a visually immersive experience. For anything below a 17 inch screen however, we’d say the benefit you get for resolutions above 1080p is not massive: its noticeable, but potentially not worth the money. Remember: higher resolutions mean less FPS output from the same hardware, so if FPS is your number one priority, consider sticking to 1080p on a 15” screen. For everyone else, assuming you can afford it, 1440p on a 17” screen is a great option.
4K Gaming Laptops
All of the above points on 1440p resolution applies even more so to 4K gaming laptops. There is absolutely no point getting a 15” 4K display, unless you have specific needs for such resolutions based on visual design and other workstation uses. Even at 17” 4K is somewhat of an extravagance, and one has to consider the fact that playing demanding games at 4K resolution on even the most high-end laptop on Ultra settings is never going to get you an acceptable FPS: the technology simply hasn’t been developed yet to make this feasible in a laptop. Nevertheless, 4K gaming at lower than highest settings or on less demanding games is feasible, and you can always tweak the resolution down on those games which cannot handle it. Additionally, the non-gaming benefits of having a lush 4K screen for watching films and/or workstation use still apply – you will definitely notice a difference.
Gaming Laptop Noise Levels And Cooling
If you are playing a game on a laptop, it’s invariably going to be noisy, unless the game is not very demanding. Higher performance components means more heat generated, and this heat must be expelled. The difference therefore becomes one of degrees of noise when playing games, and this is generally much of a muchness. The bigger differentiator therefore tends to be how loud a gaming laptop is when not gaming – i.e. how useful it is for doing other tasks without becoming irritating.
Similarly heat being expelled rather than retained in the laptop is a good thing, even if it means that most gaming laptops won’t be suited to on-lap play. The biggest concern when looking at a gaming laptop is how hot the laptop itself gets under your hands whilst you’re playing.
Best Gaming Laptops
wide color gamut
great color accuracy
good amount of ports and sockets
4K laptop gaming still not feasible on demanding games at max settings
short battery life
The Razer Blade Pro 17 4K is the top-of-the-line version of Razer’s gaming laptops and comes in two variants: one with the older 2080 Super Max-Q graphics card, and the other with the newer RTX 3080 Laptop Version. The one we will be discussing here has the RTX 3080 and this is the one we recommend you go with, as for the current price difference of $100 it is definitely worth the extra power and 4K gaming requires all the oomph it can get.
On that subject, as indicated under ‘Things To Consider’, it should be noted straight away that even with this beastly machine, you should not expect to play highly visually demanding games like Metro Exodus, on Ultra settings at 4K resolution, and get an FPS above 30. Reduce either the graphical settings or the resolution though in-game and you will get blisteringly fast performance.
The 120Hz refresh rate should be fast enough for anyone who isn’t a professional competitive gamer, and the overall visual quality of the screen is superb. Colors pop, contrast is deep, and it has good brightness. The screen has touchscreen functionality, covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut and is accurate to boot, which, combined with its 4K resolution and 32GB RAM, make it an excellent choice for a workstation laptop as well as for gaming. An AMD processor would of course been our preference for workstation tasks thanks to their superior multi-core performance, but the Intel Core i7-10875H is still a powerful CPU that will handle most workstation tasks well.
Battery life on this laptop could be better, which is not surprising given the components, expect to get around 5 hours of strenuous, non-gaming usage out of it. The aesthetics of the Razer are pretty slick but reserved, making it suitable for a working environment. The weight and thin profile of the laptop also mean that for a 17 inch sized screen it is quite portable. Finally, the number and selection of ports offered by the laptop is pleasingly broad.
wide color gamut
great color accuracy
good amount of ports and sockets
short battery life
The Razer Blade Pro 17 QHD gaming laptop is part of the same series as the 4K version listed on this page and comes with the same processor (Intel Core i7-10875H), albeit with half as much RAM (16GB but this can be upgraded) and a different GPU. The GPU in question on this machine can be selected from either the GeForce RTX 3060 or the GeForce RTX 3070; the one listed here is the more powerful of the two options but costs (at the time of writing) an additional $300, making it of questionable value. Either option will give you great FPS performance at the native 1440p resolution though.
Like its 4K cousin, this Razer Blade Pro laptop is a fantastic choice for both gaming at workstation use. The 165Hz refresh rate makes it great for fast-paced competitive gaming and the power of the machine can certainly push the FPS to this level. The color gamut and accuracy of the screen, as well as its brightness and contrast are great and top of the line in a gaming laptop.
The coverage of ports and sockets on this laptop are fantastic. Battery life is not the best but this is nor surprising given the hardware the machine has to power. Expect around 6 hours for strenuous but non-gaming tasks.
Although not as expensive as the 4K version, the Razer Blade Pro 17 QHD is not cheap, but the RTX 3060 version is actually good value in our opinion for what you get: i.e. the best 1440p gaming laptop money can buy!
AMD CPU gives great workstation performance
wide color gamut
superb battery life
good amount of ports and sockets
no Thunderbolt 3 port
fans can be loud even when idle
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 is a 14 inch laptop which you should be able to pick up for less than $1,400. It offers great performance playing games at 1080p, and although it doesn’t quite lead the pack in terms of FPS for every title, it is one of the most consistent high performers overall.
The AMD Ryzen 4900HS means for multi-core heavy workstation use the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 is the best you can get in this price range, making it ideal for someone looking for a dual-gaming and workstation set up. The wide 100% sRGB color gamut and respectable color accuracy of the screen also add to this. Even the speakers, generally a weak area on laptops, are of a respectable standard, though they don’t match Macbooks in this regard.
The coverage of ports on the laptop is generally respectable, although the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 could be a problem for some. Additionally, the lack of a webcam is probably the biggest drawback of this machine. Furthermore, whilst all gaming laptops get loud when playing games, the Zephyrus G14 does have a tendency to have audible fan whine even when idling.
That being said the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 is thin, light, aesthetically well-designed and comes with the best battery life you will find in a gaming laptop, averaging around 11 hours during strenuous, non-gaming use. All-in-all, a fantastic machine!
AMD CPU gives decent workstation performance on a budget
very good battery life
good contrast ratio
narrow color gamut
only 512GB SSD
not thin or particularly portable
no Thunderbolt support or SD card reader
The ASUS TUF Gaming A15 Laptop comes in a variety of configurations, but the one we’ve chosen with the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H CPU and Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti GPU brings it just up to the $1,000 mark. Whilst a laptop at this price is stretching the description of “budget” slightly, one has to remember that laptops you can game on don’t come cheap, and if you drop your budget much below this you’re unlikely to get a particularly pleasant experience / decent FPS playing the latest games, even on medium settings. For what you get compared to other competitors on the market, the ASUS TUF Gaming A15 offers unparalleled value.
A 144Hz screen at this price point is great and at 1080p resolution you can comfortably play even the most demanding games on at least medium settings and get between 60 – 100FPS. Less demanding games will definitely see you reach the 144FPS point. The AMD CPU also gives great multi-core performance meaning it is also good for low-level workstation tasks, although this does not stretch to any graphic or color work as the color gamut of the screen is quite narrow. The contrast ratio is good however.
The A15 is not the lightest of laptops, and its chunky design means it is not the most portable out there; the fans are also noisy (even by the standards of gaming laptops), all of which limits its use as a machine you could happily use on public transport. It would have been nice to have a SD card reader and Thunderbolt support, but the lack of both isn’t really surprising for a budget machine. Importantly though the ASUS TUF Gaming A15 does have very good battery life when doing strenuous non-gaming tasks, which is often lacking in other gaming laptops.
wide color gamut
good color accuracy
extensive customization options
very low battery life
requires 2x power adapters for full performance
The specifications of the Alienware Area 51m r2 can be heavily tweaked according to your budget, it is certainly the most customizable premium laptop in terms of flexibility in the loadout. The specifications you see listed above are therefore reflective of what we would pick personally, were we to go with the 1080p 360Hz display.
About that display: 360Hz is the highest refresh rate for a laptop screen you will find anywhere on the market, and is unique to this laptop. Whether you will actually be able to get games to reach 360FPS with the 2080 Super GPU and i7 10700K CPU depends on the games you are playing and what settings you have them set to, but hitting this on CS:GO, Fortnite or COD once you’ve played around with the graphical options is certainly feasible.
The display itself has a wide color gamut and good color accuracy, albeit not quite as good as the Razer Blade Pro 17 in this department or in the contrast and brightness. The 32GB of RAM (which can be upgraded to 64GB if you wish!) combined with quality of the screen means it is certainly suitable for workstation tasks.
Unfortunately the “Desktop in Disguise” marketing tagline unfortunately extends to the battery life of this laptop – on strenuous non-gaming tasks you will be lucky to get an hour or two out of the machine. You also need to plug in two power adapters if you want to get full performance when gaming out of it, something not seen in Razer Blade laptops for instance. The laptop is fairly heavy and certainly not particularly thin. On an aesthetic level however, assuming it is to your particular tastes, theAlienware Area 51m r2 is one of the best out there.
So this has been our guide to the best gaming laptops in 2020 and 2021. We hope it has been a stimulating read and has helped you come to a decision about which laptop is right for you. Other laptop guides linked to specific price points can be found in the recommended articles alongside this page, whether you be looking for 4K, 1440p or 1080p displays on 360Hz, 165Hz and 144Hz laptops or lower.
If there are any specific laptops you would like to see reviewed, please let us know in a comment below.