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Best gaming laptops of 2020

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With the best gaming laptop, your gaming sessions don't have to stay in one place. You can frag friends in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare at a coffee shop, get lost in Control on a plane, or train up in Mortal Kombat 11 in bed, all while enjoying blistering framerates and high-res visuals.

The best gaming laptop right now is the Alienware Area 51m, a laptop with downright excessive hardware that's custom-built to empty your bank account as well as power any games you throw at the machine.

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.

We'll be on the ground at CES 2020, where we expect to see some of the most powerful and innovative gaming laptops yet from the likes of Alienware, Razer, Asus and more. So keep in mind that many laptops on this list will soon have even better models available.

Here are the best gaming laptops you can buy now. Need something more traditional? Check out our roundup of the best laptops overall,  as well as the best laptops under $500

Alienware Area 51m

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

1. Alienware Area 51m

The best overall gaming laptop

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

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 an 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)

2. 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 an affordable, respectable laptop for hardcore gamers not looking to break the bank. This machine's 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 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)

3. 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 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)

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
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 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)

5. 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
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 an 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)

6. Alienware m17 R2

Best-in-class 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, the m17 R2 is expensive. However, for the price points of the fancier m17 R2 models, you'll get top-of-the-line 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 ultragraphics 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

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.

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701

Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

8. Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701

The semiportable laptop for Asus fans

Display: 17.3 inches; 1920 x 1080 | CPU: 4.5-GHz Intel Core i7-9750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070-2080 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | Weight: 5.7 pounds

Light and thin
Powerful hardware
Strong display
Uncomfortable keyboard
Bad battery

If you need a portable laptop and don't mind cramping your fingers a bit to type, Asus' ROG Zephyrus S GX701 (2019 edition) is a machine worth considering. Its large, 17.3-inch screen means that storing this laptop won't be a piece of cake in most laptop bags or backpacks. But the machine's thin and (relatively) lightweight nature means it's going to be easier to haul around than a lot of the other laptops on this list. Additionally, the Zephyrus has the specs to play games at ultra settings without issue, and it offers a respectable amount of storage.

As the laptop's user reviews note, the Zephyrus' strong performance is balanced out by multiple battery issues, noisy hardware and other pitfalls that hold it back from being great. Keep all this in mind when shopping.

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 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 a laptop that's great for games as well as for writing articles on "best gaming laptops," 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.