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Best gaming laptops in 2021

Included in this guide:

Razer and MSI gaming laptops on a blue background
(Image credit: Razer, MSI)

Once the best gaming laptop meant picking a hulking brute of a notebook, one that could barely be described as portable, because only those massively heavy desktop replacement machines could house a worthwhile GPU. That's no longer the case, because today's top gaming laptops are able to squeeze desktop-level performance into impressively slight chassis. They're not as easy to upgrade, but that's about the only downside to modern laptops.

The newest models pack all the features you'll find in big desktop gaming rigs too, including powerful multicore CPUs, the latest Nvidia RTX 30-series and AMD Radeon RX 6000-series GPUs, as well as speedy NVMe SSDs, oodles of RAM, and quality, super high-refresh screens. You can even enjoy mechanical keyboards on some models, although we'd still recommend having a proper keyboard and mouse for serious gaming suggestions.

There's actually some good news for laptops in these silicon-starved times as well, in that they're often the most immediate way of securing the best gaming hardware—hello GeForce RTX 3080. Stock levels have been pretty healthy too, though we are starting to see supply getting markedly more slight as we near the times when manufacturers like to release newer models. 

While high-end gaming laptops can be pricey, there are plenty of more affordable options out there too. If you're on a tight budget, be sure to check out the best cheap gaming laptop deals. We've tested hundreds of gaming laptops over the years and continually update this guide with the latest models. What you'll find below are the laptops that stand out as offering the best balance of performance, portability, and price. Whatever you're in the market for, you should find the laptop that's right for you right here.

Best gaming laptops

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The best gaming laptop

Specifications
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i7
GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX 3080 Max-Q
RAM: Up to 32 GB
Screen: 1080p @ 360 Hz, 1440p @ 165 Hz, or 4K @ 60 Hz
Storage: Up to 1 TB SSD
Battery: 80 Wh
Dimensions: 9.25 x 13.98 x 0.78 inches
Weight: 4.63 lbs
Reasons to buy
+Unparalleled build quality+Wide range of CPU/GPU options+Looks as good as it performs+Great battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Not the fastest RTX 3080 SKU-Trackpad can be awkward

Our favorite config:

Razer Blade 15 Base Edition | 6-core Intel i7 | RTX 3070
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 RAM.View Deal

The latest spin of the Razer Blade 15 once again improves on one of the best gaming laptops ever made. It has the same gorgeous CNC-milled aluminum chassis as its predecessor, only this time it can house one of Nvidia's latest RTX 30-series GPUs and an Intel 10th Gen CPU.

We've played with the Razer Blade 15 Advanced with a 10th Gen Intel chip and RTX 3080 (95W) GPU inside it. And we fell in love all over again. These latest models up the graphics processing even further, with support for up to the 8GB RTX 3080, which is incredible in this small chassis. You will get some throttling because of that slimline design, but you're still getting outstanding performance from this beautiful machine.

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 powerful.

Whatever config you pick, we think the Razer Blade 15 is the overall best gaming laptop on the market right now, though you will be paying a premium for the now-classic design.

Read our full Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition (2020) review.

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The best laptop for raw processing power

Specifications
CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS
GPU: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Max-Q
RAM: 16 GB DDR4-3200
Screen: 14-inch IPS 1080p @ 120 Hz
Storage: 1 TB SSD NVMe PCIe 3.0
Battery: 75 Wh
Dimensions: 12.76 x 8.74 x 0.70 inches
Weight: 3.53 lbs
Reasons to buy
+Incredible CPU performance+Beautifully vibrant screen+Gorgeous design and materials
Reasons to avoid
-Looks a bit plasticky-Can be loud when pushed

Our favorite config:

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 | Ryzen 9 5900HS | RTX 3060
This combination of the new Ryzen 9 5900HS and RTX 3060 makes for a great gaming laptop with plenty of power in both gaming and raw CPU terms. You get 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for storing your games, and it's all in one of the smartest chassis around. View Deal

Not everyone needs the thinnest or the most powerful gaming laptop. Sometimes just lightweight and speedy are fine. Striking a healthy balance between portability, performance, and price is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14. The original machine was an impressive RTX 2060 Max-Q notebook whose incredible AMD CPU performance managed to impress our dedicated team of hardware testers at the top-secret PC Gamer lab. 

The G14 is still a great laptop; especially now, we're getting the RTX 3060 update in that smart chassis. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a reliable 14-inch system with high-end graphics that rivals even some gaming desktops despite being loud.

Read the full Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review.

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Razer Blade 14 gaming laptop

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Razer Blade 14 gaming laptop

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Razer Blade 14 gaming laptop

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Razer Blade 14 gaming laptop

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The most desirable compact gaming laptop

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX 3080
RAM: 16 GB DDR4-3200
Screen: 14-inch 1080p @ 144 Hz or 1440p @ 165 Hz
Storage: 1 TB Samsung 981a SSD
Battery: 61.6 Wh
Dimensions: 0.66 x 8.66 x 12.59 inches
Weight: 3.92 lb
Reasons to buy
+Looks great+Outstanding build quality+Excellent all-round performance+Ultra-portable ultrabook style
Reasons to avoid
-Only way to bag a Razer Ryzen-Pricey for 1080p gaming-Higher-spec GPUs will sacrifice performance

Our favorite config:

Razer Blade 14 | Ryzen 9 5900HX | RTX 3060 | 144Hz
As far as we're concerned, this is the ultimate configuration of the diminutive Blade 14. It's the most affordable, but it also matches the RTX 3060 GPU with a 1080p, 144Hz screen to deliver excellent gaming performance. The eight-core, 16-thread AMD CPU then gives it workstation processing power too.View Deal

I am mighty tempted to push the Razer Blade 14 further up the list here, simply because the 14-inch form factor has absolutely won me over. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 in the number two slot re-introduced the criminally under-used laptop size, but Razer has perfected it. Feeling noticeably smaller than the 15-inch Blade and closer to the ultrabook Stealth 13, the Blade 14 mixes a matte black MacBook Pro-style with genuine PC gaming pedigree.

The Razer style is classic, and it feels great to hold too. And, with the outstanding AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX finally finding its way into a Blade notebook, you're getting genuine processing power you can sling into a messenger bag.

Add in some Nvidia RTX 30-series graphics power, and you've got a great mix of form and function that makes it the most desirable laptop I've maybe ever tested. 

My only issue is that the RTX 3080 would be too limited by the diminutive 14-inch chassis and run a little loud. So I would then recommend the lower-spec GPU options, though if you're spending $1,800 on a notebook, that feels like too high for 1080p gaming. But you're not buying the Blade 14 specifically for outright performance and anything else; this is about having all the power you need in a form factor that works for practical mobility.

Read the full Razer Blade 14 review.

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4. Dell G3 15

The best budget gaming laptop with great battery life

Specifications
CPU: Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7
GPU: Up to Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 15.6-inch IPS 1080p @ 144 Hz
Storage: 512 GB SSD
Battery: 51 Wh
Dimensions: 0.85 x 14.4 x 10 inches
Weight: 5.40 lb
Reasons to buy
+Affordable configuration options+Good battery life+Powerful laptop
Reasons to avoid
-A little chunky compared to pricier thin and light options

Our favorite config:

Dell G3 15 | Intel Core i5 | Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti
For only a little more than the cheapest $699 configuration, you can pick up the superior GTX 1650 Ti GPU. It's not the most powerful GPU available, but it's affordable, available, and will still deliver decent 1080p frame rates for the money. The 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM feel a little mean, but the 120Hz display is ace, and the price is great.View Deal

Let’s face it, trying to find a quality 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 with configurations under $1,000, and the battery life is actually good.

The most significant improvement from its previous model is its slimmer, sleeker design. With thinner bezels around a 144Hz 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 color range as the other gaming laptops on this list.

Best Razer laptop for gaming | Best Acer laptop for gaming | Best MSI laptop for gaming| Best gaming keyboard | Best gaming mouse | Best gaming chair

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MSI GS66 Stealth RTX 3080

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MSI GS66 Stealth RTX 3080

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MSI GS66 Stealth RTX 3080

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MSI GS66 Stealth RTX 3080

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The most stylish gaming laptop

Specifications
CPU: Up to Core i9 10980HK
GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX 3080
RAM: Up to 32 GB DDR4-3200
Screen: 15.6-inch 1080p 240Hz or 300Hz
Storage: Up to 2 TB M.2 SSD
Battery: 99.9 Wh
Dimensions: 9.65 x 14.17 x 0.71 inches
Weight: 4.63 lbs
Reasons to buy
+Sleek and powerful+Long battery life+1440p options on the way
Reasons to avoid
-Gets loud-Slim chassis compromises fps

Our favorite config:

MSI GS66 Stealth | Intel i7 | RTX 3070
There's no getting away from it; this is a lot of laptops for a lot of money. The RTX 3070 is a quality gaming GPU, and that 300Hz 1080p screen will allow you to get the most out of it too. The Max-Q 3.0 features mean this thin-and-light gaming laptop feels slick and quick with 64GB RAM and a 2TB SSD backing it all up.View Deal

The MSI GS66 is one hell of a machine: It's sleek, slick, and powerful. But it's not Nvidia Ampere's power without compromise, however. MSI has had to be a little parsimonious about its power demands to pack something as performant as an RTX 3080 into an 18mm thin chassis. 

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 Max-Q 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.

The GS66 also comes with an outstanding 240Hz 1440p panel, which perfectly matches the powerful GPU when it comes to games. Sure, you'll have to make some compromises compared to an 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.

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Asus Rog Strix Scar 17 gaming laptop

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Asus Rog Strix Scar 17 gaming laptop

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Asus Rog Strix Scar 17 gaming laptop

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The best big-screen gaming laptop

Specifications
CPU: UP to AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX 3080
RAM: Up to 32 GB DDR4-3200
Screen: 17.3-inch 1080p @ 360Hz or 1440p @ 165Hz
Storage: Up to 2x 1 TB M.2 SSD
Battery: 90 Wh
Dimensions: 11.1 x 15.55 x 0.92 inches
Weight: 5.95 lbs
Reasons to buy
+Flashy but not obnoxious+Opto-mechanical keyboard+Quiet cooling+Incredible screen refresh rate+Fantastic battery
Reasons to avoid
-17-inch screen makes it large

Our favorite config:

Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 | Ryzen 9 5900HX | RTX 3080
You don't get much more high-performance than this beast of a laptop. With an overclocked Ryzen 9 5900HX and GeForce RTX 3080 forming an incredibly potent core, hooked up to a 360Hz 1080p display, this is portable gaming nirvana. Yes, it's expensive, but this is the pinnacle of high-end gaming. View Deal

There's absolutely no question you can buy a much more sensible gaming laptop than this, but there is something about the excesses of the ROG Strix Scar 17 that make it incredibly appealing. It feels like everything about it has been turned up to 11, from the overclocked CPU—which is as beastly as it gets—to the gorgeously speedy 360Hz screen; Asus has pushed that little bit harder than most to top our gaming laptop benchmarks.

And top the benchmarks of the best gaming laptops it does, thanks in the main to the GeForce RTX 3080 that can be found beating away at its heart. This is the 115W version of Nvidia's top Ampere GPU, which means it's capable of hitting the kind of figures thinner machines can only dream of. You can draw on Nvidia's excellent DLSS, where implemented, to help hit ridiculous framerates too.

The 17-inch chassis means the components have a bit more room to breathe compared to the competition too, and coupled with the excellent cooling system; you're looking at a cool and quiet slice of gaming perfection. This extra space has allowed Asus to squeeze an optomechanical keyboard onto the Scar 17, which is a delight for gaming and more serious pursuits.

Read the full Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 G733 review.

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A quality, affordable 240Hz gaming laptop

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i7 10750H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 with Max-Q
RAM: 16 GB DDR4-2666
Screen: 15.6-inch IPS 1080p @ 240 Hz
Storage: 512 GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Battery: 58 Wh
Dimensions: 10.01 x 14.23 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 5.51 lbs
Reasons to buy
+Great performance for price+Decent battery life+Room for 2 x SSDs, 1 x HDD
Reasons to avoid
-Average CPU performance
Your next machine

(Image credit: Future)

Best gaming PC: the top pre-built machines from the pros
Best gaming laptop: perfect notebooks for mobile gaming

We loved Acer's Predator Helios 300 during the GTX 10-series era, and the current generation Helios still manages to punch above its weight class compared to other $1,500 laptops. It may not be the best gaming laptop, but it's one of the best value machines around. The 2020 version of the Helios packs an RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU and a sleeker form factor without raising the price significantly. 

The new and improved Helios 300 has a 240Hz IPS screen and 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 has slots for 2x SSDs and an HDD which makes upgrading your storage as easy as getting a screwdriver. 

Read our full Acer Predator Helios 300 review.

Gaming laptop FAQ

What's the most important gaming laptop component?

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.

Should I worry about what the CPU in a gaming laptop is?

That really depends on what you want to do with your 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.

What screen size is best for a gaming laptop?

This will arguably have the most immediate impact on your choice of the 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 the gaming laptop screen.

Are high refresh rate panels worth it for laptops?

We love high refresh rate screens here, and while you cannot guarantee your RTX 3060 will deliver 300 fps in the latest games, you'll still see a benefit in general looks and feel running a 300Hz display. 

Should I get a 4K screen in my laptop?

Nah. 4K gaming laptops are overkill; fine for video editing on the go if you're dealing with 4K content, but it's not the optimal choice for games. 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. At the same time, a 4K notebook will overstress your GPU and tax your eyeballs as you squint at your 15-inch display.

Where are the AMD graphics cards?

Your guess is as good as ours. A few gaming laptop SKUs offered the RX 5000-series cards, but they were thin on the ground. But AMD has promised RX 6000, Big Navi mobile GPUs will be on their way to gaming laptops in the first half of this year, but so far, we've yet to see them in the labs.