Best gaming laptop for 2019

(Image credit: MSI)

The best gaming laptop for you depends in large part on your needs, and what role you want your machine to play. Are you looking for the best laptop to carry to the cafe or on your commute with you? Something that you can take between the office and home every day, that will fit snugly into a light bag? You probably want one of the near-ultrabook style, super thin laptops (and by extention, lightest laptops) on our list, likely a machine with a Max-Q GPU that's still capable of delivering impressive performance but in a slender form factor. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum maybe you're looking for the best gaming laptop to replace your desktop. The fastest laptops are also sometimes the bulkiest, including machines now that are packing full size desktop components. This new "musclebook" class is designed not to supplement but to fully replace the best gaming PCs, and while the portability factor is definitely constrained, they deliver power on part with full size towers (often with inflated price tags to match their inflated performance). 

Best gaming laptops in 2019

1. Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model - 15.6-inch

The best gaming laptop in 2019

CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2666Mhz | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS 144Hz | Storage: 512GB M.2 SSD | Battery: 80Whr | Dimensions: 9.25 x 13.98 x 0.78 inches | Weight: 4.63 lbs

Unparalleled build quality
Wide range of CPU/GPU options
Costs more for the same
No longer thinnest or lightest

Not much has changed since the advent of the original Razer Blade 15 in spring 2018. The refreshed, so-called "Advanced Model" is outfitted with the same CNC-milled aluminum chassis as its predecessor, only this time it harbors the latest graphics chips from Nvidia, namely the RTX family of Turing architecture-based GPUs. 

Among its configurations are an RTX 2080 model, capable of running the ray traced Metro Exodus at over 50fps with all the visual settings cranked to the top. In our testing, despite its power-hungry guts, it wowed us with an unusual 5 hour and 1 minute battery life. So while it's no longer the thinnest or the lightest in its class, it is the longest lasting premium gaming laptops we've seen to date. It's also one of the more expensive. 

You could argue that's because the Razer Blade 15 aims to replace not only your desktop, but your existing laptop, too. After all, its touchpad is the closest thing to a MacBook trackpad you will find on a Windows notebook. That includes non-gaming laptops like the Dell XPS 13, which is met with staggering acclaim each time it's re-packaged and re-released. In just about every way, the Razer Blade 15 feels like a dream. Chalk it up to the engineering talent. Say what you will about the tri-serpent-parading Californian hardware company. It now makes the best gaming laptop on the market. Whether others will follow suit, taking inspiration from the well-rounded machine remains to be seen. 

Also bad for its competitors is the fact that the Razer Blade 15 is available in an abundance of different flavors, most of which actually make a lot of sense. If you want a 4K OLED screen, it's exclusive to an RTX 2080 configuration, perhaps the only Max-Q graphics card that could hope to drive 4K graphics. More likely is that you'll opt for one of the many higher volume FHD 144Hz models, lest you'll wind up playing at 1440p, thereby stymieing its true potential. 

Whatever the case, you can take solace in the fact that the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model is the overall best gaming laptop on the market right now, and until someone else steps up to the plate to contest this crowning achievement, it will continue to sit here at the top of this list. 

Read the full review: Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model

2. MSI GS65 Stealth Thin - 15.6-inch

2018's champion is still the best gaming laptop to many people

CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2400MHz | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) wide-view 144Hz | Storage: 512GB M.2 SSD | Battery: 82 Whr | Dimensions: 9.75 x 14.08 x 0.69 inches | Weight: 4.14 lbs

Sleek and powerful
Long battery life
144Hz screen
No G-Sync

The GS65 Stealth Thin is the best gaming laptop we tested in 2018. It's a fantastic all-rounder that still packs a punch in terms of specs and design. It has the versatility of a notebook and, because it's light and sturdy, it's incredibly easy to just pop into your bag and carry round all day for whatever you need to use it for. It has a sleek matte black aluminum body with gold accents that feels sturdy and luxe—and thankfully lacking in obnoxious gamer aesthetics. Best of all, in addition to a slim, 18mm thickness, the screen's 4.9mm thin bezels allow for a overall chassis size that's about an inch smaller than most 15-inch laptops, while still packing the same screen real-estate. 

While it won't do ray-tracing, the spec here is enough to handle most modern games in 2019. However, the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin models are in something of a transition right now. It's tough to track down the 1070 build, which is probably the best, unless you want a mind-boggling 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. You can still get the 1060 model, with a 16GB RAM spec and 256GB SSD, which shaves a massive amount off the price, but cuts performance a little. You can also buy the newer 2070 models, but they're super expensive too, and didn't impress as much during testing.

There are other nice details on the GS65, which still makes it a great laptop: a keyboard from SteelSeries that's solid and responsive (and RGB-lit, if you care about that sort of thing), a responsive touchpad, and a webcam that's placed at the top of the screen, thankfully avoiding the abysmally unflattering "nose-cam" found on most thin-bezeled laptops like the Dell XPS 13.

The only gaming feature missing here is G-Sync, but this allows for both a lower price tag and battery life that legitimately lasts through a whole day of email, web browsing, and streaming video.

Read the full review: MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 

3. Acer Predator Helios 300 - 15.6-inch

The best budget gaming laptop—GTX 1060 graphics for a grand

CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2133MHz | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) wide-view 60Hz | Storage: 256GB M.2 SATA SSD | Battery: 48 Whr | Dimensions: 10.47 x 15.35 x 1.05 inches | Weight: 5.95 lbs

Incredible value
Decent battery life
Brings a 1060 GPU
Gaudy aesthetics

Acer's Predator Helios 300 offers an incredible value proposition. At just over a grand, sometimes less if you can find it on sale, it offers a GTX 1060 6GB graphics card that can lock down 60 fps at near-max settings in most games from the last few years. The system's lacking in any fancy screen features like G-Sync, although you can get a model with 144Hz refresh rate, and you'll probably want to think about investing in a large HDD to back up the 256GB SSD. But those minor issues don't mean much when you factor in the super-affordable price tag. 

The Acer Predator Helios 300 is the best budget gaming laptop you can buy, without compromising on the features you need from a portable gaming device. Right now you can get the 1060 GPU version, with a 144Hz screen, 1TB HDD and 256GB SSD for $1,149 at NewEgg, saving you $300 and you get a free mouse and mousepad thrown in for good measure. That's a great price for what you're getting here, especially as the addition of that 1TB HDD tends to bump the price well beyond $1200.

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4. Lenovo Legion Y740 - 17.3-inch

A brilliant RTX-capable 17.3-inch gaming laptop

CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2,667MHz | Screen: 17.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS 144Hz | Storage: 1TB HDD; 256GB SSD | Battery: 76Wh | Dimensions: 12 x 16.2 x 0.91 inches | Weight: 6.4 lbs

Excellent, cutting-edge performance
Approachable range of prices
Extremely small touchpad
Dated outward design

Though they've existed for but a couple of years now, Lenovo's Legion-branded laptops have made a name for themselves in the games industry, if only because they offer unprecedented value on top-notch specs. 

Rather than crafting jacks of all trades, the Chinese tech company—known primarily for its ThinkPads—aims to squeeze the most performance out of the cheapest possible materials without compromising on quality and design. This principle is nowhere more evident than in the Lenovo Legion Y740, a 17.3-inch gaming laptop, whose graphics chip ranges from Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 to 2080, and for a fraction of the price of its major competitors. 

Sure, "considerably thinner than previous generations" as they may be, its bezels are bigger and more distracting than the norm. But the screen itself leverages technology rarely seen elsewhere. Dolby Vision HDR, for example, is in full bloom on this fluid 144Hz IPS display. And G-Sync eliminates the need for software-based adaptive sync protocols, such as vsync, which notoriously reeks of input lag and microstuttering

On the audio end, the Y740 is graced with another striking Dolby technology, Atmos, by way of a fine-tuned onboard soundbar that emits a wide range of crisp frequencies, valuing midrange and bass tones in equal measure. Built into its Windows 10 Home install is the Dolby Atmos software as well, paving the way for customizable EQ profiles and nearly making up for the down-firing orientation of the speakers. 

If real-time ray tracing is your endgame, the Lenovo Legion Y740 does not disappoint. In fact, in the Metro Exodus RTX benchmark, which sees most of the in-game graphics settings cranked all the way up, the Y740 managed an impressive average of 46fps. Temper a few of those sliders and you can bank on a buttery smooth 60fps, with raytracing turned on, for about 30% less than the cost of its premium-priced rivals configured with the same specs.

Read the full review: Lenovo Legion Y740

5. Acer Predator Triton 500

At long last, real-time ray tracing goes truly portable

CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2,667MHz | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS 144Hz | Storage: 512GB M.2 NVMe | Battery: 84Wh | Dimensions: 10 x 14.41 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 4.41 lbs

Appetizing range of prices
Top of the line performance
Lackluster battery life
Awful boot-up sound

Not everyone needs the thinnest or the most powerful gaming laptop. Sometimes still-thin and still-powerful is just fine. Striking a healthy balance between portability, performance, and price is the Acer Predator Triton 500, a Max-Q notebook that emerged from somewhere out of the woodwork to impress our dedicated team of hardware testers at the top-secret PC Gamer lab. Wielding an RTX 2080, the model we reviewed is priced somewhere in the middle at $2,499. However, you can find an RTX 2060 version at the $1,799 mark. 

Either way, it's well worth your while, seeing as it can push Metro Exodus at the highest settings, with ray tracing on, at an average pace of 56fps. And while it's doing so, you get to experience the luxury of its deeply satisfying 1.7mm keyboard travel and a Microsoft precision touchpad that we surprisingly don't hate. Despite its terrifying default boot-up noise, the Acer Predator Triton 500 is one for the books.

Read the full review: Acer Predator Triton 500 

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6. MSI GL63 8RC - 15.6-inch

The best entry-level gaming laptop

CPU: Intel Core i5-8300H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 4GB | RAM: 8GB DDR4-2666 | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS | Storage: 1TB HDD | Battery: 3-cell 41 Whr | Dimensions: 15.07 x 10.24 x 1.14 inches | Weight: 4.85 lbs

Thin bezels
Easy to upgrade RAM and storage
No included SSD

The MSI GL63 8RC has to be our top choice for ultra-budget gaming laptops. Priced as low as $649.99 on sale, the GL63 comes equipped with Intel’s i5-8300H, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 and one of the thinner bezels we’ve seen in this price range. The only obvious downside is the lack of an included SSD. The laptop comes loaded with a 1TB HDD which means you’ll probably want to upgrade the storage fairly quickly.

With its highly competitive price tag, the MSI GL63 8RC is one of the cheapest gaming laptops we could find with a GTX 1050 discrete graphics card. It’s priced just a little bit higher than Acer’s Aspire E 15, but the GF63 offers up to 67% higher gaming performance and exponentially higher performance when compared to laptops with integrated graphics. If you’re working with a tight budget, the GL63 offers everything you’d need in a laptop without putting a huge dent in your wallet.

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7. Gigabyte Aero 15X v8

Productivity powerhouse with longer battery life

CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2666MHz | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS 144Hz | Storage: 512GB SSD | Battery: 94 Whr | Dimensions: 9.8 x 14.0 x 0.74 inches | Weight: 4.49 lbs

Incredible battery life
Beautiful screen
Powerful laptop
Rough edges
Some driver issues out of the box

Gigabyte's Aero 15X was the first thin Max-Q laptop to catch my eye, and the 2018 Aero 15X v8 refresh remains a promising entry in the field, fixing most of the issues I had with its predecessor while keeping everything else that I love about it. Primarily, the keyboard works much better after a driver update, and the screen's been updated to a snappy 144 Hz panel. 

Compared to MSI's GS65 and the Razer Blade 15, the Aero 15X has a less attractive body with sharp edges, but wins in the productivity category on account of a bigger, 94 Whr battery. In practice—that is, our streaming video test—that larger battery lasts upwards of six hours, compared to the GS65's four and a half. With near-identical internals, gaming performance is comparable to the GS65 as well. The biggest difference, other than the body design and battery, is that the Aero 15X can be outfitted with a 4K screen. I recommend sticking with the high refresh rate 1080p screen if gaming is your primary concern, but 4K is a nice option for productivity power users who can take advantage of the extra pixels.

Read the full review: Gigabyte Aero 15X v8

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8. MSI GS75 Stealth

A great 2080 gaming laptop, at a hefty price

CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q | RAM: 32GB DDR4-2,667MHz | Screen: 17.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS 144Hz | Storage: 512GB SSD | Battery: 82 Whr | Dimensions: 15.59 x 10.22 x 0.75 inches

Slick looks
Potent RTX graphics
Schlocky paint job
Uncomfortable touchpad

When Nvidia announced its Max-Q design initiative nearly two years ago, the Big Graphics company said the best gaming laptop would get thinner and lighter yet more powerful than the beefy notebooks which preceded it. If nothing else, the MSI GS75 Stealth serves as evidence to back up that claim. With its posh, black and gold design—glarily inspired by the 15-inch GS65 Stealth Thin before it—the GS75 Stealth is a handsome and perfectly good 17-inch lappy on the outside, minus its susceptibility to paint chipping. Oh, and the touchpad woes.

Snug inside its aluminum alloy chassis is a hardy GeForce RTX graphics card, spanning almost Nvidia's whole line of ray trace-capable products, paired with an Intel Core i7-8750H processor no matter which configuration you buy. Be that as it may, every version of the GS75 Stealth exceeds two grand, making it a tough sell for budget-minded gamers. We, of course, reviewed the utmost expensive model, housing a Max-Q-size RTX 2080 and 32GB of RAM. Decimating the competition, it ran Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 1080p at 87fps, and that was at the highest graphics preset. Pretty incredible for a clamshell PC weighing less than five pounds.

Read the full review: MSI GS75 Stealth

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9. Asus ROG Strix GL503VS-DH74 Scar Edition

Bigger body, better performance

CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 | RAM: 16GB DDR4-2400MHz | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) wide-view 144Hz with G-Sync | Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD, 1TB FireCuda SSHD | Battery: 64 Whr | Dimensions: 10.3 x 15.2 x 1.0 inches | Weight: 5.6 lbs

Full-power (non Max-Q) GTX 1070
Great SSD
Poor battery life

I said at the beginning that choosing a laptop usually means picking two between price, performance, and portability. Where thin-and-light laptops like the GS65 offer the latter two of those three, the Asus ROG Strix GL503VS-DH74 Scar Edition instead checks the first two boxes: price and performance. 

In exchange for a larger shell, the GL503VS packs in a regular (non Max-Q) GTX 1070 GPU. This results in a performance improvement of around 15 percent at a slightly lower price point. It uses a previous gen quad-core CPU, but that doesn't matter in most games. The GL503VS also offers G-Sync on its 144Hz panel, but the tradeoff means you miss out on Nvidia's Optimus battery tech. As such, you shouldn't expect more than around two hours of battery life. Don't forget your charger!

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10. Dell Inspiron 15 7567

A brilliant budget laptop, ideal for indies

CPU: Intel Core i5-7300HQ | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB | RAM: 8GB DDR4-2400MHz | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256GB SSD | Battery: 6-cell 74 Whr | Dimensions: 10.82 x 15.15 x 1.0 inches | Weight: 5.76 lbs

Great for indies and other less-demanding games
Solid battery life
Not very powerful
Cheap plastic feel

If you're looking for a cheap laptop to play indies or other less-demanding titles, Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 series is just the ticket. The 7567 model features a GTX 1050 Ti, a slight upgrade over the bottom-barrel GTX 1050 model which can be had for a few bucks cheaper. Neither can handle the latest games on high or max settings, but if all you're interested in is lightweight indies or don't mind cranking the settings down, the 7567 is a great ultra-budget option.

As a bonus, the 7567 features a robust 74 Whr battery that should last upwards of four hours, depending on the workload. This makes it a great back to school laptop for gamers who need a machine that'll last through classes and then help secure Victory Royale once homework is done. 

How we test gaming laptops

What makes one laptop more attractive than another in the eyes of a gamer? Is it light weight, for portability in between LAN parties? How about high-end hardware to facilitate the fastest frame rates? Surely connectivity matters. External displays, gaming peripherals and direct-attached storage can make you forget you’re even using a notebook. Or maybe value is what matters most. For a low-enough price, we’re all willing to compromise on graphics quality, right? Right?

Of course not, which is why the best builders cram in as much processing muscle as possible, even when money is tight. And at the top of the range, desktop-class components in mobile enclosures set new performance records with every generation.

We run the following tests to measure performance and productivity on gaming laptops:

  • Cinebench 15
  • CrystalDisk QD32 Read and Write
  • 3DMark Fire Strike
  • PCMark 10 Express

For gaming, we use the built-in benchmarks on The Division 2, Total War: Warhammer II, and Metro Exodus. Tests are performed at 1080p using the highest available graphics preset, with V-sync and G-Sync disabled, unless the laptop in question is packing a higher resolution display (and the hardware to support playing at higher resolutions). In that case we'll generally test at FHD and QHD, or QHD and 4K. All tests are run multiple times to ensure that thermal throttling doesn't occur and to eliminate outliers/erroneous results. In the event that scores drop on subsequent tests, the lower (throttled) scores are used. 

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Alan's been a journalist for over a decade, covering news, games, and hardware. He loves new technology, Formula 1 race cars, and the glitter of C-beams in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. Find him @chapelzero on Twitter for lengthy conversation about CRPGs of the early 90s and to debate the merits of the serial comma.