The 9 Best Gaming Laptops of 2021

Playing the best video games on a laptop just got easier

The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
Introduction

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The Rundown
The 4K display offers detailed images that are color accurate at all times, and the laptop is also a touchscreen.
Its keyboard has per-key RGB backlighting which can be useful but more importantly, it feels great under the fingers.
It has an excellent cooling system that uses a combination of polymer-coated fan blades and copper pipes.
There's a 17.3-inch display that's Pantone calibrated for excellent color accuracy and a refresh rate of 300Hz.
Weighing just 2.89 pounds and measuring 0.5 inches thick, it's perfect for slipping into a backpack or tote bag for gaming on the go.
Best Storage:
Alienware M17 R3 at Dell
It supports a boot drive of up to 4TB of RAID0 SSD and a secondary 512GB SSD storage drive, so there's plenty of room for large game files.
Best Battery Life:
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 at Amazon
The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 has a battery that can provide up to 11 hours of use on a single charge.
Best Mid-tier:
HP Omen 15z at HP
If you're OK with a laptop that doesn't cut too many corners, you'll be delighted with what the HP Omen 15z can provide for its price.
It has an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage.

Desktop rigs may still dominate gaming spaces, but laptops have started to prove they can also offer the power needed to take on the latest triple-A titles, all while being far more portable. The best gaming laptops give customers a balance between memory, storage, processing power, connectivity, and battery life.

Many modern gaming laptops feature 1080p FHD displays with impressive refresh rates, while the highest-end options include 4K UHD screens, such as the Razer Blade Stealth 13. The options feel far more limitless than ever before when it comes to kitting out the ultimate gaming laptop. 

Gaming laptops require slightly different hardware than other laptops to achieve their goals. Besides powerful, portable GPUs, they also favor solid state or hybrid drives that provide plenty of storage without being excessively bulky. Innovative air-based cooling systems are crucial too, using multiple fans and exhaust vents as well as copper piping to draw heat away from vital components. Some also use vapor chambers to give you the benefits of liquid cooling rigs—a relatively new innovation for portable setups. 

No matter what games you play, there's a laptop out there to suit you. To help pick the right one, head over to our FAQ on how to pick the best laptop for your needs before settling on one of these options for the best gaming laptop.

What We Like
  • Classy yet robust design

  • Fantastic performance

  • Great 4K touchscreen

What We Don't Like
  • Incredibly expensive

  • No number pad

The Razer Blade Pro 17 is one of the most powerful gaming machines out there and still manages to be both compact and portable despite the hardware underneath the hood. It retains a cool gamer aesthetic while still looking elegant for those times you wish to be more professional.

The 4K display offers detailed images that are color accurate at all times, and the laptop is also a touchscreen for any time you want to get more hands-on with your gaming. There's an expansive and responsive keyboard and trackpad underneath, although we do miss the lack of a number pad. 

The laptop has the specs to back up its style with a 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage, and a powerful Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card. Whether you're playing the latest games like Cyberpunk 2077 at max settings or undertaking a 4K video editing project, this laptop can handle it. Overall, it's as close to perfect as a laptop can get right now. You'll pay for the privilege but it's worth it.

Screen Size: 17.3 Inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H GPU: Nvidia RTX 3080 RAM: 32GB Storage: 1TB SSD Touchscreen: No

“Much like a habitable world orbiting its star at the precise distance to support life, the Razer Blade Pro 17 inhabits that rare Goldilocks zone of the perfect laptop.”Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Razer Blade Pro 17

Lifewire / Alex Jiang

Best Keyboard: Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop

What We Like
  • High-end performance

  • Great keyboard

  • Well-priced

What We Don't Like
  • No USB-C support

  • Cooling could be better

The Acer Predator Helios 300 comes with the latest 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, and a GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card. A 15.6-inch full HD screen means it looks great whether you're gaming or watching your favorite shows. It's speedy every step of the way, too, with the promise of accelerated boot-up and in-game loading speeds.

It's not the lightest of laptops, weighing in at 6 pounds, but that means it has the capacity for a great keyboard. Its keyboard has per-key RGB backlighting which can be useful but more importantly, it feels great under the fingers. It's ideal if you'll need to frequently type on this laptop as well as game. There's also a custom-engineered cooling system, a seven-hour battery life, and VR-readiness for any time you want to try out VR gaming. All you need is a compatible headset to add on.

Screen Size: 15.6 Inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H GPU: Nvidia RTX 2060 RAM: 16GB Storage: 512GB SSD Touchscreen: No

Best Budget: Lenovo Legion 5i 15-inch Gaming Laptop

What We Like
  • Good performance for price

  • Reliable cooling

  • Keyboard has number pad

What We Don't Like
  • Older graphics card

  • Limited RAM

  • Chunky design

There's no shortage of budget-friendly gaming laptops out there, with our current favorite being the Lenovo Legion 5i. Well priced with some great options to upgrade if you can stretch your wallet a little further, the basic model offers a 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, and a GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics card. The graphics card is a little dated now and the RAM could be higher, but it's still a great deal for a budget gaming laptop.

This chunky laptop isn't the most stylish, but it's dependable and robust. It also has an excellent cooling system that uses a combination of polymer-coated fan blades and copper pipes to keep things quiet without overheating. RGB lighting on the keyboard along with a full number pad are nice extras.

Screen Size: 15.6 Inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 CPU: Intel Core i5-10300H GPU: Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti RAM: 8GB Storage: 512GB SSD Touchscreen: No

Best Splurge: ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17

What We Like
  • USB-C support

  • Great CPU/GPU

  • 7.1 virtual surround sound

What We Don't Like
  • Short gaming battery life

  • No 4K screen

  • Only supports up to 1TB SSD

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S17 might be difficult to pronounce, but it's a powerhouse of a high-end gaming laptop, provided you can afford it. It offers an Intel Core i7-10875H CPU and a Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super GPU so it won't have any trouble with the latest games. Alongside that is a massive 32GB of RAM so multi-tasking won't ever be a problem. It's even possible to add an extra 48GB of RAM if you need it. 1TB of SSD storage is plenty right now, although it's a shame you can't add more given the price of this laptop. 

Besides the specs under the hood, there's a 17.3-inch display that's Pantone calibrated for excellent color accuracy and a refresh rate of 300Hz, meaning it looks fantastic at all times. The screen isn't 4K, but it's still more than respectable. There's also G Sync support for optimized gaming graphics. 

The ROG intelligent cooling system uses four heatsinks and six heat pipes to draw excess heat away from vital components with an Active Aerodynamic System that allows you to open the area above the keyboard any time you need enhanced air intake.

There's also extensive port support with two USB-C inputs with one supporting DisplayPort 1.4 output and the other allowing for charging via portable battery packs. You may need this as battery life is just over two hours while gaming although expect up to 9.5 hours during general use thanks to Asus' Optimus mode for enhanced battery life. 

Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and Bluetooth 5.1 complete the future-proofed package nicely, alongside 7.1 channel virtual surround sound.

Screen Size: 17.3 Inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 Super RAM: 32GB Storage: 1TB SSD Touchscreen: No

Best Lightweight: Razer Blade Stealth 13

What We Like
  • Aluminum body

  • Excellent battery life

  • 4K touchscreen display available

What We Don't Like
  • Storage could be better

Gaming laptops aren't always lightweight, but the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is an exception to the rule. Weighing just 2.89 pounds and measuring 0.5 inches thick, it's perfect for slipping into a backpack or tote bag for gaming or working on the go. The chassis is made from CNC machined aluminum and an anodized black coating that's scratch-resistant as well as able to withstand fingerprint smudges, so it's well designed for portability. 

The laptop is powered by an 10th generation Intel i7-1065G7 CPU and with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU. The Razer Blade Stealth is compatible with the Razer Core X external graphics unit if you need more powerful graphics at home. 

Its 13.3-inch screen is available in both 1080p FHD or as a 4K touchscreen, with both calibrated for 100 percent sRGB calibration to give you more lifelike colors. The laptop also features four stereo speakers which use Dolby Atmos technology to produce virtual surround sound audio for a more immersive experience without the need for a headset.

Memory wise, there's 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The latter is a little stingy given the size of modern games, but it's certainly speedy. There's also a built-in infrared camera that's compatible with Windows Hello facial recognition software for password-free log-ins to your laptop and added protection. Finally, a batter life of up to 11 hours means you can use it all day long.

Screen Size: 13.3 Inches | Resolution: 3840 x 2160 CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7 GPU: Nvidia GTX 1650Ti Max-Q RAM: 16GB Storage: 512GB SSD Touchscreen: Yes

"The version of the laptop I tested (with the GTX 1650) weighs in at 3.13 pounds—not exactly featherweight for its size, but light enough to never really make portability an issue." — Jonno Hill, Product Tester

Razer Blade Stealth 13

Lifewire / Jonno Hill

Best Storage: Alienware M17 R3

Alienware m17 R3
What We Like
  • 4K UHD display

  • Great hard drive storage options

  • Stylish chassis

What We Don't Like
  • Very short battery life

  • Can't expand RAM

Processing power and graphical prowess are key parts of a gaming laptop but so is being able to install and store plenty of games. The Alienware M17 R3 offers an impressive capacity here. It supports a boot drive of up to 4TB of RAID0 SSD and a secondary 512GB SSD storage drive, so there's plenty of room for large game files.

Powered by a 10th generation Intel Core i9-1080HK CPU, it's no slouch at processing either with 32GB of memory ideal for multi-tasking. For graphics, there's an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super graphics card that's also VR-ready if you have a VR headset available. 

The 17.3-inch display is 4K UHD based and is calibrated for 100 percent Adobe RGB color ranges so you get lifelike images and fantastic detailing. It also uses Tobii eye tracking technology to bring up in-game UI elements and highlight areas of your map or game screen for Twitch viewers.

It boasts Alienware's Cryo-Tech cooling system, which uses a vapor chamber to give you the benefits of liquid cooling without bulky equipment, as well as copper-core heat pipes and heatsink fins which draw heat away from the vital components. The laptop's body is made from a clear-coated magnesium alloy for style, strength, and durability on the move.

Finally, there's Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity to help you out. The downside? The battery returns only about 2.5 hours of use on a single charge, so this isn't the most portable of gaming laptops.

Screen Size: 17.3 Inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 RAM: 32GB Storage: Up to 4TB SSD | Touchscreen: No

Best Battery Life: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14

Asus Zephyrus G14
What We Like
  • Great battery life

  • USB-C charging

  • Fingerprint reader

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • No 4K screen

Battery life is an important part of a laptop. After all, you want your gaming laptop to be reasonably portable. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 has a battery that can provide up to 11 hours of use on a single charge with the option of either charging via a traditional wall outlet or its USB-C charging ports. You can also use the USB-C port to charge your smartphone or tablet

Specifications wise, it's powered by an AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU, with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. The latter means you have plenty of room to store your favorite games, which you'll want to do thanks to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics card. While none of this is the latest in technology, it's not bad at all for the price.

The GPU uses Nvidia's Turing architecture to provide real-time ray tracing capabilities so you won't feel like you're missing out by not having a 30-series GPU. The 14-inch 1080p FHD display is Pantone validated for great color accuracy and also has a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth motion while you game. The laptop has a four speaker array which uses Dolby Atmos technology to provide virtual surround sound for extra immersion. 

The Asus Zephyrus G14 looks good too, thanks to a chassis made from CNC machined magnesium alloy and a precision-cut honeycomb design, meaning it's lightweight yet tough. It's also possible to add custom LED backlighting. Finally, a built-in fingerprint reader on the power button gives you plenty of security.

Screen Size: 14 Inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS GPU: Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q RAM: 16GB Storage: 1TB SSD Touchscreen: No

"With moderate usage, the G14 got me through a day of work without recharging." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Asus Zephyrus G14

Lifewire / Andy Zahn 

Best Mid-tier: HP Omen 15z

HP Omen 15z
What We Like
  • 144Hz display

  • Stylish

  • Solid value

What We Don't Like
  • Aging graphics card

  • Heavy to carry

The HP Omen 15z might be heavy, but it's a decent bet if you don't want to spend a fortune on a gaming laptop that's still capable of playing a fair few games. The laptop is a relatively slim, matte-black device. It's just that it weighs a little over 5 pounds without the power brick necessary to charge it. 

The laptop offers an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H processor, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. Accompanying that is a GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card. Limited RAM and an aging graphics card and processor mean you won't achieve the highest of frame rates in the latest games, but you'll still be able to play them at a middling rate. That's pretty good going for the price. 

If you're OK with a laptop that doesn't cut too many corners, you'll be delighted with what the HP Omen 15z can provide for its price.

Screen Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600H GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 RAM: 8GB Storage: 512GB SSD Touchscreen: No 

Best Value: ASUS TUF A15

What We Like
  • Excellent value

  • Upgradeable

  • Good connection options

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

  • Can fit only specific RAM kits to upgrade

With just the right specs for a mid-range offering, the Asus TUF A15 presents a great value for the price. It has an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage. We're particularly pleased to see this amount of RAM, as 8GB just doesn't cut it with gaming.

Graphics card-wise, there's a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti which isn't the latest by any means but is more than adequate for the price. The 15.6-inch display offers a high refresh rate of 144Hz, which is solid for smooth gaming.

Other useful extras include a trio of USB-A ports along with a USB-C port, so you can hook up the laptop to either a USB-C hub or eGPU. There's also a dedicated ethernet port, HDMI connection, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The laptop is a little heavy at just over 5 pounds, but it's less than an inch thick, which helps.

For those keen to get more hands-on, the A15 also has useful expansion options with the inclusion of vacant SSD and RAM slots so you can upgrade the system further down the line. An M.2 SSD will be easy to find providing it doesn't have a heatsink attached but RAM kits that will fit are a little trickier to pin down. Still, it's a useful option.

Screen Size: 15.6 Inches | Resolution: 1920 x 1080 CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4800H GPU: Nvidia GTX 1660Ti RAM: 16GB Storage: 512GB SSD Touchscreen: No

Final Verdict

With a 30-series Nvidia GPU, there's no denying that the Razer Blade Pro 17 (view at Razer) is the best of the gaming laptops here. It'll breeze through all the latest games—as it should for this price. If money is tighter, something like the Lenovo Legion 5i 15-inch (view at Amazon) is a better option. It may have older hardware, but it's better value if you can't afford to go further, and it presents a good middle-ground between performance and cost.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jennifer Allen has been writing about technology since 2010. She specializes in iOS and Apple technology, as well as video games. She's been a regular tech columnist for Paste Magazine, written for Wareable, TechRadar, Mashable, and PC World, as well as more diverse outlets including Playboy and ​Eurogamer.

Andy Zahn is a writer specializing in consumer technology, including gaming laptops. He's reviewed cameras, weather stations, noise-cancelling headphones, and more for Lifewire.

Jonno Hill is a writer who covers tech such as computers, gaming equipment, and cameras for Lifewire and publications including AskMen.com and PCMag.com.

FAQs

Why is the power adapter for this gaming laptop so big, and can you use a smaller one?

Gaming laptops use more powerful hardware than the average laptop which means they use more power. As a result, some of the AC adapters they use can be much larger than what you'd see on other laptops. These adapters can range from 180 to 230W and usually weigh more than 5 pounds, making them a serious consideration if you plan on toting your gaming laptop around with you.

What screen size should you get?

Unlike desktops, the size of your screen will usually dictate the overall size of your gaming laptop. The size you prefer will tie into how portable you want the laptop to be. If you're planning on using your laptop as a desktop replacement, portability is less important but so is the screen size as you can hook it up to an external display. However, if you're going to be relying solely on your laptop display and need more screen real estate, you may want to spring for a larger model, providing you don't have to worry about portability. It's all a matter of working out what your priorities are.

What ports do you actually need?

While having a greater variety of redundant ports is always preferable, laptops generally have a limited amount of space for extra ports. The bare essentials you want to see on a gaming laptop are a USB-C, USB-A, and an HDMI out port. This allows you to connect to an external display, as well as a mouse or keyboard, and also allows you to connect a USB-C hub for added connectivity. Some other features you may want to keep an eye out for are ethernet ports and a microSD card slot, although this will be less important if you can connect to a USB-C hub.

Razer Blade Stealth 13

Lifewire / Jonno Hill

What to Look For in a Gaming Laptop

Video Card

The single-most important feature of any gaming laptop is its video card. If you want to play games, you absolutely need a discrete video card. Look for a laptop that has an NVIDIA or AMD GPU. If you want to play a specific game, check the recommended and minimum video card specifications and choose a gaming laptop that meets (or exceeds) them. Ideally, you need your laptop to exceed the requirements, otherwise the game may run poorly.

Memory

If you buy a gaming laptop that doesn’t have a decent amount of RAM, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. 16GB is the minimum most gaming laptops need, although 8GB is adequate for a budget gaming laptop if you're willing to play games at lower settings. It’s also important that the video card has its own VRAM, so check that the GPU offers such hardware.

Asus Zephyrus G14

Lifewire / Andy Zahn

Processor

The CPU is also an essential consideration in gaming laptops, even if it does take a back seat to the GPU. Most great gaming laptops come with at least either AMD Ryzen or Intel Core i7 processors, but you may be able to get by with less. Just make sure that the processor doesn’t clock in below the recommended specifications for your favorite games, otherwise performance will be a lot slower or the game may not even run.

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