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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 m15 R4 2021 review

(Image credit: Alienware)

2. Alienware m15 R4

The best Nvidia RTX 30-series gaming laptop

Display: 15 inches, 4K OLED | CPU: Intel Core i7-10870H CPU @ 2.20GHz, 2.21 GHz | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 | RAM: 16 GB | Storage: 1 TB SSD | Weight: 5.3 pounds

Sleek design
Strong performance
Decent keyboard and touchpad
Fan gets very loud
Short battery life

The Alienware m15 R4 is a sleek and functional gaming laptop, powered by an impressive Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU. While this machine can easily run you $2,500 (or more), in return, you'll get a streamlined and relatively lightweight device with a slick white chassis and an RGB keyboard. With a fast CPU, lots of hard drive space and a surprisingly good touchpad, the m15 R4 is a suitable tool for both work and play.

If you pick up this laptop, be aware that the fan can get very loud, and that the battery life isn't really long enough for sustained productivity or gaming. Those (and the price) are about the only drawbacks, though. This machine can run the latest games at demanding settings, and thanks to its cutting-edge hardware, it's sure to last you for years to come.

Read our full Alienware m15 R4 review.

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.

Razer Blade Pro 17

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

4. 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

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)

5. 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)

6. 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)

7. 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.

Dell XPS 17 (2020)

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

8. 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. 

Read all about it in our full Dell XPS 17 review.

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.