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The best gaming laptops in 2020

best gaming laptop
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Choosing one of the best gaming laptops used to be very challenging indeed. You could either get a machine that really pushed the definition of ‘laptop’ or you could get something lighter and easier to carry but would struggle to run games at impressive visual settings. 

But gaming laptops have come a long way. While you can still get a monstrously powerful machine that will give all but the mightiest dekstop PC a run for its money in terms of performance, you can also get some very capable thin and light gaming laptops. 

A lot of that’s down to Nvidia’s Pascal architecture that brought in GeForce laptop graphics cards that could mostly keep pace with their desktop equivalents. And Nvidia’s Max-Q GPU design allows for some thin and light laptops to have very powerful graphics cards, even up to the mighty GeForce RTX 2080. 

All this means, it’s no longer a risky business finding a gaming laptop that’ll breeze through Doom Eternal and still be light enough to carry to work or take on holiday. But there are still plenty of machines to choose through, so read on to see which ones we’ve selected to be our choice of the best gaming laptops.  

What are the best gaming laptops right now?

Our pick for the best gaming laptop is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, which packs class-leading battery life and powerful Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics into one of the slimmest and lightest gaming laptop designs we've ever held. It's extremely rare that a gaming laptop lasts more than a few hours, but the Zephyrus holds out for more than 11, all while looking and performing great in the process.

If money is no object, the Alienware Area 51m is our favorite high-end gaming laptop. This portable monster can be oufitted with up to an Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics, and has a ton of RGB customization options that make it truly deserving of the Alienware name.

Some of the other best gaming laptops include the petite and portable MSI GS65 Stealth Thin as well as the MSI GT75VR Titan, an expensive laptop known for its otherworldly keyboard and 4K display. We also have some smart budget options, like the Acer Nitro 5, listed for frugal folks.

The best gaming laptops you can buy today

Best gaming laptop - Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

The gaming laptop to beat

Display: 14-inches, 1920 x 1080 | CPU: AMD Ryzen 9-4900HS | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Weight: 3.5 pounds

Great performance for gaming and everything else
Super portable design paired with 11-hour battery life
Great display and audio
No webcam
Keyboard has backlighting issues

Meet the new king of gaming laptops. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 sets a new benchmark for portable gaming, with an impossibly sleek design that’s complemented by some of the best battery life we’ve ever seen on a gaming notebook. This mobile powerhouse lasted an incredible 11 hours and 32 minutes on our battery test — not only is that exponentially better than the puny 3 to 4 hours we see on many gaming machines, it also keeps up with some of the best mainstream notebooks out there.

But the Zephyrus’ killer battery life is just one of many reasons it’s the best gaming laptop you can buy right now. It’s svelte design is one of the smallest and lightest out there, all while packing in an AMD Ryzen 9-49000HS processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU that can handle the latest PC games at 1080p with cranked-up settings. Factor in a swath of attractive RGB customization options, a vibrant display and strong speakers, and the ROG Zephyrus G14 is the premium gaming laptop to buy.

Read our full Asus ROG Zephryus G14 review.

Alienware Area 51m

Alienware Area 51m (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

2. Alienware Area 51m

Gaming greatness for a premium price

Display: 17.3 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 | CPU: 9th Generation Intel Core i7-i9, 3.6-5 GHz | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060-2080 | RAM: 16-64GB | Storage: 1TB-2x1TB SSDs+1TB SSHD | Weight: 8.5 pounds

More horsepower than a horse
Speedy SSDs
Upgradeable
Very expensive

For gamers who demand maximum graphics settings for every game currently on the market, the Alienware Area 51m is built to impress. It has a few different configurations, and all are built to run games as smoothly as butter. The 'weakest' GPU it offers is a GeForce RTX 2060, which is already overkill for modern games. This machine's most powerful model includes an RTX 2080, which will future-proof you for a long time. The Area 51m's CPUs range from very strong Intel Core i7s to even stronger Core i9s, with the lowest clock speeds hitting 3.6 GHz and the highest reaching up to 5 GHz. Similarly, the system's base model includes a whopping 16GB of RAM, which can be upgraded to a ludicrous 64GB.

That upgradeability is what sets the Area 51m apart. Unlike with most laptops, you can improve this machine's RAM, storage, CPU and GPU as time goes on, which gives this monster a lot of extra mileage. Not that you'd need to upgrade anytime soon; this tank's specs are designed to keep you gaming on max settings for many years to come.

Lenovo Legion Y7000

Lenovo Legion Y7000 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. Lenovo Legion Y7000

The budget-minded gaming laptop

Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080 | CPU: 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Weight: 5.3 pounds

Decent value
Solid specs
Comfy keyboard
Subpar audio
Little storage

The Lenovo Legion Y7000 is one of the best gaming laptops for hardcore gamers not looking to break the bank. This machine's Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU will ensure you can play most modern games on max settings with silky smooth frame rates, and you'll be able to play virtually all games on some mixture of medium and high. The Legion Y7000 also packs enough RAM (16GB) to keep the system relevant for a few years.

The miniscule storage space (256GB) is a big drawback, especially since certain modern games suck up 100GB by themselves. But the Y7000 offers a decent overall value that makes it one of the better gaming-laptop options for economical techies.

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

4. MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

A backpack-friendly supercomputer

Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080 | CPU: Intel Core i7-i9 | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060-2080 Max-Q | RAM: 16-32GB | Storage: 512GB-1TB SSD | Weight: 4.2 pounds

Slick and slim design
Powerful hardware
1080p display maximum
Runs very hot

MSI has gotten pretty good at making ultrapowerful portable gaming laptops — just take a look at the GS65 Stealth Thin. It's under 5 pounds and less than an inch thick, all while packing GPUs like Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2080. That's an achievement.

The drawbacks of this strong-but-slim design are twofold: Not only is the Stealth Thin priced at a premium for its compact nature (with only a 1080p display, no less), but the machine also runs hot enough to burn your bare skin. So, either place this laptop on a desk or put a fire blanket on your lap before using this machine.

Razer Blade Pro 17

Razer Blade Pro 17 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5. Razer Blade Pro 17

A cool (literally) alternative to the GS65 Stealth Thin

Display: 17.3 inches, 1920 x 1080 | CPU: 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-9750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060-2080 Max-Q | RAM: 16-64GB | Storage: Dual 512GB SSDs | Weight: 6.1 pounds

Powerful hardware
Slim design
Good audio
Bad battery life
Expensive
Runs hot

Like the GS65 Stealth Thin, the Razer Blade Pro 17 is one of the best gaming laptops for portability and power. Its 0.8-inch thick chassis and GeForce RTX GPU lineup keep it competitive with the Stealth Thin, and it holds a very slight advantage in the temperature-control department. The Razer Blade Pro 17's undercarriage can reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit during intensive gaming, so resting this machine on bare skin is still not safe, but if you're wearing shorts, there's a chance this laptop will offer a more comfortable experience than the even-hotter GS65.

Above all else, this laptop is built to be skinny and strong, and it does both these things in spades. If you're willing to shell out top dollar for a brand, you could do worse than a Razer Blade Pro 17.

Dell G7 15

Dell G7 15 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. Dell G7 15

A gaming laptop for 4K fanatics

Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 3840 x 2160 | CPU: Intel Core i5-i7 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1650-RTX 2080 | RAM: 8-16GB | Storage: 128GB SSD+1TB HDD, 1TB SSD | Weight: 5.5 pounds

Strong hardware
4K-capable
Weak battery life
Not a great value

Though the Dell G7 15 doesn't offer as much value as the other laptops on this list, in either its lower- or higher-tier configurations, it's still not an awful deal either way. For a bit over $1,000, you can net an Intel Core i5 CPU, a GTX 1650 with 4GB of VRAM, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD.

In the more expensive config, you get all the usual superpowerful hardware, including a GeForce RTX 2080, but the laptop will also come equipped with a 4K OLED display. That's not common among the best gaming laptops listed here, so if you want the most visual fidelity possible for your machine's screen, the G7 15 might be worth a look.

Alienware m17 R2

Alienware m17 R2 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

7. Alienware m17 R2

Great battery life

Display: 17.3 inches, 1920 x 1080 | CPU: Intel Core i5-i9, 2.4-2.6 GHz | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti-RTX 2080 Max-Q | RAM: 8-16GB | Storage: 256GB SSD-4TB | Weight: 5.7 pounds

Lightweight, above-average battery life
Strong hardware
Expensive (surprise!)

Like all of Alienware's gaming laptops, Alienware m17 R2 is expensive. However, for the price points of the fancier m17 R2 models, you'll get top-of-the-line GeForce RTX GPUs, Core i9 CPUs and more storage space than a U-Haul facility.

What differentiates this laptop from the others we've listed is its best-in-class battery life, clocking in at roughly 4 hours. For RTX-carrying hardcore gaming laptops, hitting the 4-hour mark is an accomplishment. Plus, at under 6 pounds, the m17 R2 isn't impossible to lug around in a backpack, making it an option worth investigating for traveling gamers who demand ultra-high graphics on the go.

Acer Nitro 5

Acer Nitro 5 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

8. Acer Nitro 5

The laptop for economy gamers and AMD fans

Display: 15.6 inches or 17.3 inches, 1920 x 1080 | CPU: 2.4-GHz 9th Gen Intel Core i5-9300H or AMD Quad Core 2.1-GHz Ryzen 5 3550H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 or AMD Radeon RX 560X | RAM: 8GB-32GB | Storage: 256GB-512GB SSD | Weight: 5.7 pounds

Affordable
Offers an AMD option
Stays cool while gaming
Bulky
Weak audio

A rarity in the gaming laptop scene, the Acer Nitro 5 offers good performance for a price that's actually reasonable to regular people: under $900 for the model with the Intel CPU and Nvidia GPU, and under $700 for the model with the weaker AMD parts. Either model can handle most modern games at max settings with frame rates near the magical 60-frames-per-second mark, and they do this at a ridiculously small fraction of the cost of other gaming laptops on this list. Check out all the positive user reviews cheering on the Acer Nitro 5 for these reasons and more.

For laptop gamers who support only AMD, the Nitro 5 also presents the rare opportunity to ditch Nvidia and Intel entirely. So, whether you're a thrifty buyer who demands good value in your technology or an ardent AMD fan who refuses to convert to the opposition, Acer's Nitro 5 has something to offer you.

MSI GT75VR Titan

MSI GT75VR Titan (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

9. MSI GT75VR Titan

A keyboard warrior

Display: 17.3 inches, 1920 x 1080, 3840 x 2160 | CPU: 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ, 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, Dual GeForce GTX 1070 | RAM: 16-64GB | Storage: 256GB SSD, two 256GB SSDs+1TB HDD | Weight: 10.1 pounds

G-Sync display
4K available
Great keyboard
Expensive
Heavy
Weak battery life

Though its specs aren't comparable to those of the GeForce RTX 2080-equipped, wallet-munching machines on this list, and though it isn't even close to "budget friendly," some unique benefits give the MSI GT75VR Titan an edge in an otherwise crowded marketplace. Chiefly, it's a laptop with a configuration that can net you an Nvidia G-Sync-enabled 4K display, meaning screen tearing will be a thing of the past while you enjoy the bleeding-edge resolutions of modern gaming.

Another big advantage for the Titan is its comfy keyboard. With this machine's 2.6 millimeters of key travel and 81 grams of actuation force, your fingers glide across the keyboard with just enough touch resistance to feel satisfying while typing. So, if you want the best gaming laptop for typing, the Titan just might scratch your particular itch. However, keep in mind that with its sub-3-hour battery life and 10-plus-pound weight, you won't want to be stuck with this machine while on the go.

How to choose one of the best gaming laptops 

Power or portability? You’ll need to consider what type of gaming and where you’ll be doing it before you decide what’s the best gaming laptop for you. Do you plan to mostly play triple-A demanding games at home and on a desk, but have the scope to occasionally move your machine, then a chunkier and more powerful gaming laptop, like the Alienware Area 51m might be best. But if you plan to carry your gaming laptop around a fair bit, say for LAN parties, then a thinner and lighter laptop like the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin could be for you. 

Budget or high-end? If you don’t want to break the bank by paying for a gaming laptop, then a budget machine, like Acer’s Nitro 5, could be for you. It won’t run the very latest games at the best frame rates, but will be more than capable for decent 1080p gaming. But if you want a real monster of a gaming laptop that’ll easily chew through the most demanding games, then a laptop like the MSI GT75VR Titan is worth checking out, but do be prepared to pay quite a bit for a high-end laptop. 

Display: The latest gaming laptops can come with 144Hz refresh-rate displays with anti-tearing features such as Nvidia’s G-Sync. But these gaming laptops can come with an expensive price tag. So you need to consider if you really want a high refresh-rate display - if you plan to connect your laptop to an external monitor then such a display might not be worth it - or if you can make do with a less advanced 60Hz display.

Gaming only, or work as well? A gaming laptop can be an expensive purchase, so you might want to use that machine for other tasks as well, such as video editing. If you also want to use a gaming laptop for work it’s worth looking at what you might need from a machine that’ll handle games as well as have the features you need for work, such as an SD card reader if you do a lot of photo editing. A laptop like the Razer Blade Pro 17 and Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 are both machines that can pull work duties as well as deliver impressive gaming performance.