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The best gaming laptops in 2021

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

If used to be a case that choosing from the best gaming laptops was an undertaking fraught with compromises; you could get a lightweight laptop with anaemic performance or a powerful machine that really pushed the boundaries of what can really be called a laptop. But gaming laptops have improved a lot over the past few years, most notably thanks to more powerful and efficient GPUs from Nvidia and AMD. 

You can even get gaming laptops that are slim and slick that can run modern triple-A games at high settings. Of course, if you still want a very powerful gaming laptop that’s designed more as gaming desktop replacement, there are plenty of great options. 

In short, it’s now easier than ever to pick one of the best gaming laptops around. Granted, there are still some things to weigh up, but take a look at our picks below and you’re sure to find a machine that suits your needs.  

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 outfitted 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 our other selections 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.

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

One of the most challenging aspects of making a gaming laptop is to create a machine that packs in enough power for true gaming performance but also is actually slim and light enough to be easily transported around and even used on your lap. It’s here that the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 come into play. It achieves this balance by making use of the AMD Ryzen 9-4900HS processor, a new laptop-grade CPU that comes with AMD’s latest tech to deliver power without draining a battery pack in moments. Add-in the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU and you’re looking at a very powerful 14-inch laptop. 

It delivers the goods in gaming but also delivers 11 hours of battery life when you’re not gaming, so makes for a decent workhorse machine as well. And at a price that ranges from $1,049 and ranging up to $1,999, the ROG Zephyrus G14 is pretty affordable depending on the spec you opt for. And even in its top specification, it’s still cheaper than other gaming laptops. You don’t get a webcam and the keyboard backlighting has some issues, but other than that this is our number one pick for the best gaming laptop. 

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
Very expensive

If you think ‘gaming laptop’ then it’s very likely that an Alienware laptop will pop into your mind. That’s because the Dell sub-brand has been creating impressive gaming machines for years. And the Alienware Area 51m is no exception. While this machine stretches the definition of what a gaming laptop is, with its huge footprint and bulky chassis, it can be specced to have a load of very powerful componente. For example, you can get it with a Core i9 processor and a top-end Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card. 

Of course, this power comes at a price as well as a hefty bulk. But for several thousand dollars, you'll get a machine with a suite of components that should keep you gaming at impressive settings for years. And while it’s not the most portable gaming laptop, you can see the Alienware Area 51m more as a desktop replacement that’s easy to move from desk to desk rather than a laptop to pop out on long commutes. Interestingly, the CPU and GPU are both upgradable, something that's not common in a lot of laptops, though you will have to opt for Alienware upgrades when it comes to getting a new GPU. 

Acer Predator Triton 500 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. Acer Predator Triton 500

Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080 | CPU: 10th gen Intel Core i7-10750H processor | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super | RAM: 32 GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Weight: 4.6 pounds

Excellent screen
Good gaming performance
Lots of ports
Short battery life
Keyboard gets hot

If you're looking for a premium gaming laptop with great performance — and an especially killer display — the Acer Predator Triton 500 is one of the best gaming laptops you can buy. The latest Triton 500 stands out with its 15.6-inch 1080p screen, which not only looks great, but packs a blistering 300Hz refresh rate for playing the top PC games at the fastest framerates possible. 

The laptop's Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super GPU can handle the latest AAA titles at high graphical settings, and its 10th Gen Core i7 CPU blows through everyday productivity tasks with ease. There's also its elegant black design, which packs in plenty of ports for connecting peripherals and external monitors. While its performance comes at the cost of battery life and heat, the Triton 500 is a great premium buy for folks who want great performance and an even greater display.

Read our full Acer Predator Triton 500 review.

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
Runs hot

The Razer Blade Pro 17 is the answer to the question: “what do you get if you cross a MacBook Pro with a gaming laptop?”. Featuring a slim design, the 17-inch laptop blends portability with power in a way few other laptops offering a screen of this size can. Despite being a mere 0.8 inches thick, it still manages to pack in GeForce RTX graphics card options, as well as powerful Intel processors and plenty of RAM. 

Its powerful hardware and slick design are supported by solid audio and build quality. It does get a little hot when running at full pelt, with it getting up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit on its bottom side during high-intensity gaming. That means you’re better off putting it on a desk when playing demanding games than leaving it in your lap. It’s also far from cheap, with prices starting at $2,499 for a model with a reasonable GeForce RTX 2060. And prices can sail beyond $3,000 for a high-end specification. But you’re paying for the design and portability as much as the power. So for that, the Razer Blade Pro 17 is hard to beat.  

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) review

Dell G5 15 SE (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. Dell G5 15 SE

Excellent gaming laptop performance for a budget price

Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz/144Hz | CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4600H/Ryzen 5 4800H | GPU: AMD Radeon RX 5600M | RAM: 8-16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB SSD | Weight: 5.5 pounds

Great overall performance
Impressive battery life
Colorful display
So-so speakers
Keyboard can get cramped

If you’re after an affordable but well-specced gaming laptop, the Dell G5 15 SE 2020 is well worth your consideration. Its distinctly un-flashy name hides a very capable machine clad in a rather neat if unassuming chassis, for less than $1,000. And despite its price, it can keep up with some of the more expensive gaming laptops, especially at 1080p. You can expect very playable frame rates in the likes of Shadow of the Tomb Raider when running at max settings.

Dell has opted to go with an all AMD configuration, with a Ryzen 5 4600H or 4800H taking care of processor duties, and the Radeon RX 5600M handling the graphics. With up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD space, the Dell G5 15 SE 2020 is a very capable gaming laptop. You'll have to pay $1,049 for the best specs, but that price also gets you a speedy 144Hz refresh-rate display. A plastic build might not scream ‘premium’ but it still looks rather sharp and could even pull double duties as a powerful work machine if needed.

Read our full Dell G5 15 SE (2020) review.

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

Offers an AMD option
Stays cool while gaming
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
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.

Dell XPS 17 (2020)

Dell XPS 17 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

10. Dell XPS 17

A premium laptop with a gaming spec

Display: 17-inch, 1920 x 1200, 3840 x 2400 | CPU: Intel Core i5-10300H, i7-10750H, i7-10875H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti, GeForce RTX 2060 | RAM: 16GB-64GB | Storage: 512GB-2TB | Weight: 5.53 pounds

Stunning, immersive display
Impressive CPU and graphics power
Attractive, slim design
Not a true gaming laptop 
Can get very expensive

OK, it’s not a gaming laptop per se, but the Dell XPS 17 can come with a decent gaming spec. Its lower-end specification comes with a 10th Gen Core i5-10300H CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti, which can run games but isn’t exactly a gaming beast. But opt for a model with the Core i7-10875H and the GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card, and you’re looking at a machine that will run modern games at 1080p resolution with relative ease. 

And with the Dell XPS 17, you’re getting a rather neatly designed and portable big-screen laptop that doesn’t scream gaming machine; it’s quite the opposite in fact, sporting a premium design that’s up there with the likes of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The downside is such a specification in such a premium body will cost you a fair bit of cash, with the top-spec XPS 17 going for $2,792. 

But for that money, you’re getting a machine for work and play and anything in between. And you also get a rather high-end 4K touchscreen display with the virtually bezel-less InfintyEdge design. 

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. 

Display:  These days there’s a wide range of display choice for gaming laptops. You can get a standard 60Hz 1080p panel that might come with built-in anti-screen-tearing features like Nvidia’s G-Sync. But if you’re willing to pay more, you can get gaming laptops with high refresh-rate displays, often sitting at 144Hz. But the latest machines can hit 240Hz, with those on the cutting-edge sporting 300Hz displays. HIgh refresh-rate displays are great for people who play fast-paced games such as Overwatch or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. But if you mostly plan to plug in an external monitor, then you might be better off saving money by going for a 60Hz Full HD screen.  

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. 

Gaming only, or work as well?  The good thing about gaming laptops is they have plenty of power for professional tasks as well, such as video rendering or CAD work. As they can be an expensive purchase, it might be worth looking at getting a machine that can pull double duties as a gaming and work laptop. Machines like the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 or the Razer Blade Pro 17 are good examples of this, offering a form-factor that’s slim enough to easily take them to work, yet also have a powerful enough specification for triple-A gaming.