The best gaming laptop is your ticket to a high-end gaming machine that can slide into a satchel. But no-one makes it easy to pick the right one anymore, with so many different CPUs and GPUs, combinations of each, and different implementations. All of that means, for example, one Nvidia RTX 3080 gaming laptop can deliver entirely different gaming performance compared with another.
Then you have the choice of whether to pick an Intel 10th Gen CPU, a more core-happy AMD Ryzen 5000 HX-series chip, or even one of the new Tiger Lake H35 processors. The CPU and GPU choice is perhaps the biggy, but choosing the right mix of screen, storage, and memory can make a huge difference to your experience too.
Make no mistake, however, this is a great time to buy a new gaming laptop. They have never been more powerful, nor more portable, and they also represent one of the best ways to get hold of the latest AMD, Intel, and Nvidia hardware.
There are some other things to consider with the best gaming laptops. Smaller definitely doesn't mean cheaper, for example, in PC gaming—laptops, especially thin ones, can be pricey—but the delta is narrowing. The fact that manufacturers focus so much of their efforts on power efficiency and thermals means that the best gaming laptops are on the cutting edge of what's possible.
But, if you're not looking to max out your credit cards, we frequently scout out cheap PC gaming deals for Australians too, which includes laptops.
If you don't go with a high powered gaming laptop, we've got a list of the best laptop games you can play on low-spec machines.
Best gaming laptops
Our favorite config:
Razer Blade 15 Base | 6-core Intel i7 | RTX 3070 | AU$3,199 at Scorptec
You can, of course, go for the big boi, the RTX 3080, but in this slimline chassis the Nvidia RTX 3070 will deliver fantastic frame rates, especially at the native 1080p res of the 144Hz screen. You also get 512GB NVMe SSD and 16GB of dual channel DDR4 memory.View Deal
The latest spin of the Razer Blade 15 yet again improves on one of our favorite gaming laptops. It has the same gorgeous CNC-milled aluminum chassis as its predecessor, only this time it can house one of the latest graphics chips from Nvidia—namely the RTX 30-series—and an Intel 10th Gen CPU.
We've recently checked out the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition, with its 300 Hz screen, octa-core processor, and RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics silicon. And we fell in love all over again. These latest models up the graphics processing even further, with support for up to an RTX 3080 Max-Q, which is incredible in this small a chassis.
One of the best things about the Blade 15 is the number of configurations Razer offers for it. From the GTX 1660 Ti Base Edition, all the way up to the RTX 3080 Advanced with OLED 4K panel, there's something for almost everyone. It's one of the most beautiful gaming laptops around, and still pretty powerful.
Whatever config you pick, we think the Razer Blade 15 is the overall best gaming laptop on the market right now.
Read the full Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition (2020) review.
Our favorite config:
Dell G3 15 | Intel Core i5 | Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti | AU$1,999 at Dell
For only a little more than the cheapest $1,500 configuration you can pick up the superior GTX 1650 Ti GPU. It's not the most powerful GPU available, but it's affordable and will still deliver decent 1080p frame rates for the money. The 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM feels a little mean, but the 120Hz display is ace, and the price is great.View Deal
Let’s face it, trying to find a decent gaming laptop on a budget can be a chore. You have to make compromises in areas like performance, design, and even battery life. Thankfully, the Dell G3 15 offers decent 1080p gaming for prices that usually dip around the AU$1,500 mark, and the battery is actually good.
The most significant improvement from its previous model is a slimmer, sleeker design. Along with thinner bezels around a 144 Hz display, the sleeker design gives it a more high-end vibe. It’s a welcome toned-down look, in case you’re hoping for a gaming laptop that doesn’t shout ‘gamer’ as soon as you pull it out of your bag. The display itself seems the only downside, not having as rich a colour range as the other gaming laptops on this list.
Our favorite config:
Asus TUF Gaming A15 | AMD Ryzen 4800H | RTX 2060 | AU$1,993 at Dick Smith
It may be knocking on last-gen now, but the eight-core, 16-thread AMD CPU is still an incredible chip, and the RTX 2060 a powerful 1080p gaming GPU for the money. There are GTX 1660 Ti machines that cost more than this machine, and they won't give you a high refresh rate or 1TB SSD either.
The Asus TUF A15 is one of the best gaming laptops around, thanks mainly to the AMD 8-core Ryzen 7 4800H APU that can be found beating at its heart. Throw in the speedy 1TB NVMe SSD and RTX 2060 graphics, and you've got yourself a hell of a workhorse for a non-workstation gaming laptop.
In our review, we called the TUF A15 an "incredibly versatile, affordable gaming laptop, with a battery life that is almost unprecedented at this price point or performance level."
The only slight downside is the price, especially when there are plenty of $999 RTX 2060 machines out there. The TUF A15's game performance, CPU power, and impressive battery life make it an excellent laptop for both work and play. Even at its current price, it still outperforms pricier mid-range gaming laptops, which is kind of wild.
Read the full Asus TUF A15 review.
Our favorite config:
The MSI GS66 is one hell of a machine: It's sleek, slick, and powerful. But it's not Nvidia Ampere power without compromise, however. In order to pack something as performant as an RTX 3080 into an 18mm thin chassis MSI has had to be a little parsimonious about its power demands.
The top GPU is the 95W version, which means it only just outperforms a fully unleashed RTX 3070, the sort you'll find in the Gigabyte Aorus 15G XC. But it is still an astonishingly powerful slice of mobile graphics silicon.
It can get a little loud if left to its own devices, but thankfully you have the benefits of all the Nvidia MaxQ 3.0 features at your disposal. That includes Whisper Mode 2.0 which will bring gaming down to barely audible levels, you know, when you want to be stealthy.
While not available yet, the GS66 does also come with an outstanding 240Hz 1440p panel, which perfectly matches the powerful GPU when it comes to games. Sure, you have to make some compromises on raw frame rates in comparison with the sort of RTX 3080 you might find in a hulking workstation, but the MSI GS66 Stealth is a genuinely slimline gaming laptop.
Read our full MSI GS66 Stealth review.
Not everyone needs the thinnest or the most powerful gaming laptop. Sometimes just lightweight and powerful are fine. Striking a healthy balance between portability, performance, and price is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, an RTX 2060 Max-Q notebook whose incredible CPU performance managed to impress our dedicated team of hardware testers at the top-secret PC Gamer lab.
The G14 is a great laptop, especially seeing as it can push Metro Exodus at the highest settings, with ray tracing on, at an average pace of 40fps. Despite it being loud, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a reliable 14-inch system with high-end graphics that rivals even some gaming desktops.
Read the full Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review.
Our favorite config:
Gigabyte Aorus 15G XC | Intel i7 | RTX 3070 | AU$3,099 at Scorptec
Bagging an RTX 3070 gaming laptop for around AU$3,000 should be easy, but it can be surprisingly tough to do. The Aorus 15G, however, is affordable, gives the powerful Ampere GPU room to work its magic and comes with a lovely 240Hz IPS panel. The 512GB SSD and 32GB RAM aren't bad either.View Deal
There's a lot to like about the Gigabyte Aorus G15 XC, with only a couple points against it. The webcam is basically terrible on every level, to the point of us wondering if the machine would be better without it. The battery life is also on the underwhelming side, although if you're looking to watch movies or heaven forbid actually do some work away from a power socket then you'll get a lot more out of it.
The important question: Is the Gigabyte Aorus 15G any good at gaming? The short answer is yes. This is a solid gaming machine. While it's going to be lagging behind machines packing an RTX 3080, the fact that Gigabyte has decided to stick with a 1080p panel means that it is capable of hitting smooth frame rates in all the latest games. Which is exactly what you need to hear when dropping $1,800 on a gaming laptop. Even at the highest settings, you're going to enjoy a top-tier gaming experience with this machine.
Admittedly it isn't as aesthetically pleasing as some of the machines out there, but then it isn't held back by its chassis either. Ultimately though, this machine should be judged on its ability to game, and here it gets a definite thumbs up. While an RTX 3080-powered machine can produce higher framerates, though in some of the thinner chassis, not by much, such a system will undoubtedly cost more than the $,1800 being asked for this Aorus notebook.
Read our full Gigabyte Aorus 15G XC review.
We loved Acer's Predator Helios 300 during the GTX 10-series era and the current generation Helios still finds manages to punch above its weight class when compared to other laptops in this price range. The 2020 model Helios is back with an RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU and a sleeker form factor without raising the price significantly.
The new and improved Helios 300 has a 240 Hz IPS screen as well as smaller bezels, putting it more in line with sleek thin-and-lights than its more bulky brethren of the previous generation. The only real drawback is the diminutive SSD, although the laptop itself has available slots for 2x SSDs and an HDD which makes upgrading your storage as easy as getting a screwdriver.
Gaming laptop Q&A
Q. What's the most important gaming laptop component?
A. When it comes to gaming, the obvious answer is the graphics card, but that's where things have gotten a little more complicated recently. With GPU performance now so dependent on cooling you have to pay attention to what wattage a graphics card is limited to and what chassis it's squeezed into.
As we said at the top, an RTX 3080 confined in an 18mm chassis will perform markedly slower than one in a far chunkier case with room for higher performance cooling.
Q. Should I worry about what the CPU is?
A. That really depends on what you want to do with you laptop. An eight-core, 16-thread AMD Ryzen chip will allow you to do a whole load of productivity goodness on the road, but honestly will have little benefit in gaming. That's one of the reasons Intel has launched its Tiger Lake H35 chips; they're quad-core, eight-thread CPUs, but they're clocked high to deliver high-end gaming performance when paired with something like the RTX 3070.
Q. What about the screen size?
A. This will arguably have the most immediate impact on your choice of build. Picking the size of your screen basically dictates the size of your laptop. A 13-inch machine will be a thin-and-light ultrabook, while a 17-inch panel almost guarantees workstation stuff. At 15-inches you're looking at the most common size of gaming laptop screen.
Q. Are high refresh rate panels worth it?
A. We love high refresh rate screens here, and while you cannot guarantee your RTX 3060 is going to deliver 300 fps in the latest games, you'll still see a benefit in general looks and feel running a 300Hz display.
Q. Should I get a 4K screen?
A. Nah. 4K gaming laptops are overkill; fine for video editing on the go if you're dealing with 4K content, but for games it's irrelevant. The standard 1080p resolution means that the generally slower mobile GPUs are all but guaranteed high frame rates, while companies are slowly drip-feeding 1440p panels into their laptop ranges.
A 1440p screen offers the perfect compromise between high resolution and decent gaming performance, while a 4K notebook will overstress your GPU and tax your eyeballs as you squint at your 15-inch display.
Q. Where are the AMD graphics cards?
A. Your guess is as good as ours. There are a few gaming laptop SKUs that offered the RX 5000-series cards, but they were thin on the ground. But AMD has promised there will be RX 6000, Big Navi mobile GPUs on their way to gaming laptops in the first half of this year.