Best Gaming Laptops of 2021

Best Gaming Laptops of 2021

The best gaming laptops come in all shapes and sizes, for different needs and budgets. Because while a tricked out $5,000-plus model with the highest-end graphics and best display might give you the best gaming laptop experience, most of us can’t afford a rig like that. And even if we could, it wouldn’t be the best gaming laptop for those who travel frequently with their PC.

Thankfully, there are more gaming laptop options now than ever, from budget-friendly to VR-ready. Some come with full-size Nvidia GeForce GTX or RTX graphics cards, while others go for the more efficient Max-Q designs that enable thinner chassis and (sometimes) quieter fans. It has become more difficult to distinguish Max-Q laptops from non-Max-Q, so check out our story on how to tell if an RTX 30-series laptop uses a Max-Q GPU (in addition, Nvidia is telling laptop vendors to start listing more detailed specifications.)

While many of the best gaming laptops come with a 1080p display and high refresh rates, some include 4K screens, so you can pick between fidelity and resolution.

One of the newest innovations we’ve seen is AMD SmartShift, which shares power between the CPU and the GPU based on need. We saw this in the Dell G5 15 SE, but no other laptops with that technology have released yet. More recently, Nvidia launched its RTX 30-series GPUs for gaming laptops, and Intel is pushing its Tiger Lake H35 part for ultraportable gaming rigs. We’ve started testing these laptops, and expect to see more soon.

To help you find the best gaming laptop today, we’ve compiled a list of the best models we’ve tested and reviewed recently. For much more on how to narrow down your list of best gaming laptop considerations, check out our best gaming laptop buyer’s guide. But here are a few quick tips to get you started down the road to the right portable gaming rig for you.

While many gamers may go to desktops to get the most performance for their money, try lugging a tower, monitor and keyboard around in your backpack. When you need a powerful rig you can take with you, there’s no substitute for a gaming laptop.

Quick Gaming Laptop Shopping Tips

Focus on the GPU: Most games are dependent on the GPU, and those aren’t upgradeable. If you splurge on a powerful GPU now, you’ll be gaming comfortably for a few years.

You can upgrade some parts later: While CPUs and GPUs are almost always soldered down, most gaming laptops let you replace the RAM and storage, so you can buy cheaper now and add more memory and a bigger hard drive or SSD down the road.

Battery life will probably be bad: Very few gaming notebooks get 8 hours or more on a charge, and you need the power supply to get the best gaming performance anyway. However, we’ve seen some strong times from AMD’s Ryzen processors, and Nvidia suggests its improved Optimus technology may help turn the tide.

Best gaming laptops at a glance:

MSI GE66 Raider Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Razer Blade 15 Advance Model Alienware m17 R4 Acer Nitro 5 Alienware Area-51m Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 G733 Asus ROG Zephyrus Do 15 SE GX551

Best Gaming Laptops You Can Buy Today

MSI GE66 Raider (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

1. MSI GE66 Raider The Best Overall Gaming Laptop CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q | Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 300 Hz | Weight: 5.3 pounds (2.4 kg) Prime $2,299 View at Amazon Great gaming performance 300 Hz display Well-executed RGB light bar High-end build Cramped keyboard Tinny audio

The MSI GE66 Raider is a gaming laptop, and it’s saying it loud with a massive RGB light bar. It’s new look is aggressive, but it’s not just talk, with options going up to an Intel Core i9-10980HK and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q.

For those looking for esports-level performance in games like League of Legends or Overwatch, there’s an option for a 300 Hz display.

And while it’s not the slimmest laptop around (or even MSI’s thinnest), it does feel remarkably portable considering the power inside, and we can’t help but appreciate high-end build quality.

Read: MSI GE66 Raider review

We haven’t yet tested the MSI GE66 Raider with the RTX 30-series GPUs, but we did get to review the MSI GP66 Leopard. It’s a very similar notebook, but with a 240 Hz display and no RGB light bar. If you want something a bit less flashy, you may want to consider that option.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

2. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Best Thin and Light Gaming Laptop CPU: AMD Ryzen 4900HS | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q | Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 120Hz | Weight: 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) $899.99 View at Best Buy Good looks AMD Ryzen 4900HS offers strong performance Stellar battery life Comfortable keyboard Fan sometime whirs when idle No webcam No Thunderbolt 3

For those looking for something slim and attractive, our pick is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. As far as gaming laptops go, the Zephyrus is unassuming in either white or gray with minimalist stylings. But with the AMD Ryzen 4900HS and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q in our review unit, you get strong productivity and gaming performance. It’s not the best performer on the market in terms of graphics, but it’s the best value for most people.

The battery life is also surprisingly long for a gaming notebook and the keyboard is clicky and comfortable. The fan, however, sometimes goes off even when just sitting on the desktop, and this system doesn’t come equipped with a built-in webcam.

Read: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

3. Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model Best Thin and Light Gaming Laptop (Alternate Pick) CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H | GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q | Display: 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080, 300Hz | Weight: 4.7 pounds (2.1 kg) $2,499.99 View at Razer Thin and light Stunning design Great selection of ports 300 Hz Display Uncomfortable keyboard Expensive

If you want higher specs and are willing to pay more for a thin and light gaming laptop, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model is a strong choice. It has a sleek design that’s easy to take with you anywhere, and has a nice selection of ports if you also want to plug in a bunch of peripherals.

While the Zephyrus stops at an RTX 2060, the Blade goes up to an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q. It also has options for a faster 300 Hz display, which is great for esports.

Instead of a Ryzen chip, Razer has opted for Intel’s 10th Gen H-series processors to power the Blade 15. It’s not as power efficient, but offers strong performance.

Read: Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model review

Alienware m17 R4 (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

4. Alienware m17 R4 Best 17-inch Gaming Laptop CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK | GPU: Nvidia Geforce RTX 3080 (165W TGP) | Display: 17.3-inch 1920 x 1080 360Hz | Weight: 6.6 pounds / 3 kg $1,899.99 View at Dell Unrivaled performance Snappy keyboard Attractive design Noisy fan Heavy

A 17-inch gaming notebook gets into the desktop replacement category, and that’s exactly what the Alienware m17 R4 is. At its top-end configurations, like how we reviewed it, it can get very pricey, but you also get the top-end Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU with 165W TGP. There are options for 4K or our 1920 x 1080 360Hz option for esports aficionados.

Other RTX laptops we’ve tested to date haven’t touched the m17 on performance, which eschews Max-Q technologies in favor of the most powerful part you can pack in a notebook.

It also has a nice, snappy RGB keyboard and the design, at 0.87 inches, is still fairly stealthy for a notebook packing this much performance.

Read: Alienware m17 R4 review

Acer Nitro 5 AMD 2020 (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

5. Acer Nitro 5 The Best Budget Gaming Laptop CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4600U | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 | Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 | Weight: 5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg Prime $793.99 View at Amazon 2 Walmart customer reviews ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Great value Comfortable keyboard Good webcam Dim display

The Acer Nitro 5 is the best gaming laptop for those on a tight budget. For the price, you’ll get a great value on entry level performance. While you’ll sacrifice a bright display, the keyboard is comfortable and you even get a decent webcam.

Our review unit had an AMD Ryzen 5 4600U paired with an Nvidia GeForce 1650. We’ve seen a few Ryzen-based gaming laptops get better than expected battery life, and the Nitro 5 lasted over 11 hours.

If you’re handy, there’s plenty of room for upgrading (and you’ll want to consider it down the line with just 256GB of storage in our review unit), but for $700, you’re getting a lot for the money.

Read: Acer Nitro 5 (AMD) review

If money isn’t much of an object and you want desktop-class performance that you can update down the road, the Alienware Area-51m is the best gaming laptop for you. (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

6. Alienware Area-51m The Best Splurge Gaming Laptop CPU: Up to Intel Core i9-9900K | GPU: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 | Display: Up to 1920 x 1080, 144 Hz with G-Sync | Weight: 8.5 pounds / 3.9 kg Check Amazon Strong gaming and productivity performance Beautiful new design Upgradeable CPU and GPU Extremely pricey No 4K options

The Alienware Area-51m, with its desktop-class Core i9-9900K and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, is the best gaming laptop for those with a big gaming budget. It offers laptop performance so strong that it will appeal to power users more used to desktops. That’s assuming you can afford it without taking out a second mortgage.

It’s awesome that you can upgrade nearly all aspects of the Area-51m, and I hope more desktop replacements go this route. But Alienware still has to release details about how new GPUs will be sold or if and when that replacement program will come to fruition. Then of course there’s the question of how future graphics modules will be priced compared to their standard desktop-card counterparts.

The process to make major upgrades yourself requires some tools and patience, but the ability to replace the CPU, GPU, RAM and storage is truly impressive.

You can also see our complete teardown of the machine.

Read: Alienware Area-51m review

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

7. Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 G733 The Best Esports Gaming Laptop CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 | Display: 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080, 360 Hz | Weight: 5.95 pounds / 2.7 kg $2,999.99 View at BHPhoto 360 Hz Refresh Rate Comfortable keyboard Strong productivity performance Bassy Audio Divisive Design Short charging cable

If you want to play esports like a professional, you’ll want a laptop with the fastest screen you can find. The Asus ROG Strix Scar G733 offers a 360 Hz refresh rate on its FHD screen and has top-end components to power esports titles to get to frame rates that can actually use it.

The design feels premium but has an interesting mix of dark materials and clear plastic. It’s reminiscent of both a hot rod car and a 90’s MP3 player, which might turn some people off.

But the comfortable keyboard, strong overall performance and bassy audio all contribute to a strong gaming experience, even if you don’t like seeing the inside of your laptop.

Read: Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 G733 review

Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 GX550 (Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

8. Asus ROG Zephyrus Do 15 SE GX551 The Best Dual-Screen Gaming Laptop CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 | Display: 5.6-inch, 3840 x 2160 primary display, 3740 x 1100 ScreenPad Plus | Weight: 5.29 pounds / 2.4 kg Check Amazon Excellent productivity performance Bright, colorful displays Good battery life (for a gaming laptop) No webcam Input devices are awkward

Asus’ latest ROG Zephyrus Duo uses AMD’s top-end RYzen 9 5900HX paired with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 for powerful results, while using a second screen that lifts up to provide more ventilation to improve cooling.

The two displays are both bright and colorful, and at a bit over 4 hours and 52 minutes on our battery test, it’s endurance is good (for a gaming notebook, anyway).

The keyboard and mouse are in an awkward position, like most dual-screen notebooks on the market (most people will likely use an external mouse for gaming). So you’ll have to decide if that second screen — which is great for chat programs, gaming guides or music apps — is worth a more difficult typing experience.

Read: Asus ROG Zephyrus Do 15 SE GX551 review

Best Gaming Laptops Compared

CPU GPU RAM Storage Display Weight MSI GE66 Raider Up to Intel Core i9-10980HK Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q Up to 32GB Up to 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD Up to 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 300 Hz 5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Up to AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q Up to 16GB Up to 1TB NVMe SSD 14-inch, 1920 x 1080, 120 Hz 3.5 pounds / 1.6 kg Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model Up to Intel Core i7-10875H Up to Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q 16GB Up to 1TB NVMe SSD 15.6-inch, Up to 1920 x 1080 300 Hz or 4K OLED 60 Hz 4.7 pounds / 2.1 kg Alienware m17 R4 Intel Core i9-10980HK Nvidia Geforce RTX 3080 32GB 2,933 MHz DDR4 512GB Boot, 2TB (2 x 1TB RAID 0) SSD 17.3 inch 3840 x 2160 360 Hz 6.6 pounds / 3 kg Acer Nitro 5 AMD Ryzen 5 4600U Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 8GB Up to 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg Alienware Area 51-m Up to Intel Core i9-9900K Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Up to 64GB Up to 2TB (RAID0) + 1TB SSHD 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144 Hz 8.5 pounds / 3.9 kg Asus ROG Strix 17 G733 AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 32GB 3,200 MHz DDR4 2x 1TB NVMe SSDs 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080, 360 Hz 5.95 pounds / 2.7kg Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE GX551 AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 32GB 3,200 MHz DDR4 2x 1TB NVMe SSDs (RAID0) 15.6-inch IPS 60Hz 3840 x 2160 resolution primary display, 3840 x 1100 ScreenPad Plus secondary display 5.3 pounds / 2.4 kg

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