The best gaming laptops for 2020

The Razer Blade is the best gaming laptop we’ve ever tested. It’s sleek, powerful, and looks the part, with a fantastic display to boot. But it’s not the only gaming laptop we love.

We’ve tested nearly 400 laptops, carefully deliberating how each performs against one another in key areas such as performance, display, battery life, and build quality. Below you’ll find out favorite laptops for gaming. We’ve even included options for larger 17-inch gaming laptops, serious desktop replacements, and even budget offerings.

Further reading

The best gaming laptops at a glance

The best gaming laptop: Razer Blade

Razer Blade 2019 review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You want a gaming powerhouse with a MacBook-like sense of style.

Who it’s for: Gamers who need something small and light that can still pack a punch.

Why we picked the Razer Blade:

The Razer Blade offers serious gaming performance in a slim package. The system bolsters its slim design with an attractive, matte black, unibody aluminum exterior. The result is a system that looks a lot like the black MacBooks of yore (that’s a compliment). With its slick design and impressive, Chroma-lit keyboard and touchpad, it stands out in the crowd. Even more impressive is the 144Hz 1080p display, which should ensure that framerates stay high.

The latest version starts with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8750H CPU coupled with the newest RTX graphics, ranging from an RTX 2060 up to an RTX 2080 Max-Q. These are some seriously powerful gaming laptops, and they can handle pretty much anything you throw at them. Even better, Intel’s 9th-gen CPUs are also available and Razer has incorporated some interesting new display technology. The panel with a remarkable 240Hz refresh rate will entice most gamers, but the hallowed 4K OLED model is interesting in its own right for its incredible colors and unmatched contrast.

Though it has many strengths, the Blade does fall victim to the limitations of its own footprint. Historically, they’ve run hotter and louder than competitors with a thicker chassis, and it’s not as powerful as some laptops with larger frames. The price is also quite high, but if you’re willing to pay it, you get an amazing gaming machine.

Read our full Razer Blade (2019) review

The most powerful gaming laptop: Alienware Area-51m

alienware area-51m review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You want to play the latest games on a laptop at the highest settings and resolutions.

Who it’s for: Gamers who don’t mind a heavy laptop. 

Why we picked the Alienware Area-51m:

The Alienware Area-51m is unlike any gaming laptop you’ve seen. Not only does it have a bold look with its light grey exterior and sci-fi logos, but it’s also a true desktop replacement. We mean that in terms of the power this thing enjoys, as well as the actual components inside. The Area-51m comes with CPU options up to an actual desktop-class processor, the Core i9-9900K. That’s an eight-core, 16-thread CPU that makes this laptop considerably more powerful than anything else out there.

But the best part? All the components, including the GPU and CPU, can be replaced. In our review, we found that getting access to those parts wasn’t as easy as the marketing may have alluded to. All the same, it’s an insanely powerful laptop that can run nearly everything at high framerates on its 1080p 144Hz screen. Even if you plug it into a 4K monitor, you’ll be impressed by how well games run.

It’s not the gaming laptop you want if you’re taking it on the go, especially given its low battery life and hefty chassis, but if true power is what you want, look no further.

Read our full Alienware Area-51m review

The best budget gaming laptop: Dell G3 Gaming Laptop

Dell G3 Gaming Laptop Review | Fortnite close up
Nate Barrett/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s the best gaming machine you can buy for less than $1,000.

Who it’s for: Students, gamers, anyone who wants a gaming laptop but doesn’t want to break the bank.

Why we picked the Dell G3 Gaming Laptop:

This budget-friendly laptop may not seem like a gaming powerhouse, but as one of the cheapest systems with a dedicated GPU, it can’t be ignored. It’s more modest than the other systems here, coming standard with an Intel Core i5-8300H and 8GB of RAM. The real star of the show is its graphics card, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card. During our tests, it nearly kept up with more expensive laptops like the Razer Blade. It doesn’t look quite as sharp, but it has more than enough horsepower to run the latest games at high detail settings.

Our review unit handled games like Battlefield 1, Fortnite, and Civilization VI at around 60 frames per second — and that’s with settings maxed. It has a harder time with gaming in higher resolutions, but there are configuration options for the GTX 1060, which would fare better. A new version is even available, which includes 9th-gen processors and new 16-series Nvidia graphics cards.

The G3 does look like a budget system, though it’s not as bad as you might expect. It’s a bit heavy, clad in plastic and numerous shades of blue. The screen’s bezels are thick, the touchpad feels cheap, and the display is pretty dull. But if you can look past some of those compromises, you’ll find a very capable gaming laptop that delivers impressive framerates — and for most people, that’s what matters.

Our full Dell G3 Gaming Laptop review

The best gaming laptop under $1,800: Acer Predator Triton 500

best gaming laptops acer predator triton 500 review 23

Why you should buy this: It’s a powerful gaming laptop with a thin and light design at an affordable price.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants to look professional without sacrificing raw gaming power.

Why we picked the Acer Predator Triton 500:

When shopping for a gaming laptop it may seem like you need to drop tons of cash for an option that is both thin and light but still powerful enough for serious gamers. And while that may have been true in the past, the Acer Predator Triton 500 bucks the trend and offers serious horsepower while also being slim and affordable.

Starting with an i7-8750H and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU and topping out with an RTX 2080 Max-Q upgrade, the Triton 500 can stand toe to toe with many of the other laptops on this list for significantly less cash. A 144Hz G-Sync screen, comfy keyboard, and plethora of connection options only serve to sweeten the deal. The Triton 500’s design packs it all into a frame only slightly larger than a MacBook Pro 15 or Dell XPS 15.

There are some caveats. The Triton 500 doesn’t look like a standard gaming laptop, but it also lacks the eye-catching build of other thin and light gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 15. Like its aesthetics, the Triton 500’s battery performance is also underwhelming. But if you’re looking for the best gaming bang for your buck, it’s hard to do better than this.

Our full Acer Predator Triton 500 review

The best gaming laptop under $1,500: Lenovo Legion Y740 15

lenovo legion y740 15 review 14
Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: If you want fantastic 1080p gaming performance on a $1,500 budget.

Who it’s for: Gamers who want great value without sacrificing build quality or chassis design.

Why we picked the Lenovo Legion Y740 15:

Lenovo redesigned its Legion laptops in 2018, and we’ve liked the design ever since. But the 2019 version does what many gaming laptops fail to do: Keep the prices down without sacrificing performance. The Y740 comes with all the bells and whistles you expect from a high-end gaming laptop. An RGB keyboard, 144Hz refresh rate screen, RTX-series graphics, thin bezels, plenty of ports, and a six-core processor.

What does it lack then? Well, not much. Lenovo cuts some corners in storage, offering either only a 128GB SSD or a super-slow hard disk drive. But if you’re looking at saving some money, springing for either the RTX 2060 or GTX 1660 Ti models won’t leave you disappointed in terms of raw gaming performance.

Read our full Lenovo Legion Y740 15 review

Research and buying tips

How much is a gaming laptop?

Gaming laptops tend to be more expensive than more general-purpose laptops because they generally include a dedicated graphics chip for better game visuals and frame rates. But they needn’t cost the Earth.

Our favorite budget gaming laptop, the Dell G3 Gaming Laptop is well under $1,000. There are some alternative budget laptops that we like, although you’ll struggle to find something that’s great for gaming once you edge towards $500. On the higher end, you can end up spending well over $2,000 if you want the latest components and fastest screens.

What should I look for in a gaming laptop?

If you’re going to play anything other than classic games or very low-intensity indie games, you want a dedicated graphics chip. It doesn’t need to be something amazing, and AMD APUs with Vega graphics on board are worth considering at the low-end. Either way, you’ll want something more than Intel integrated graphics if you want decent frame rates in most games.

It’s also worth looking out for a high refresh rate display. We consider them more important than higher resolutions when it comes to gaming and they typically aren’t too costly an extra either.

You might also want to consider battery life if you plan to play away from a power socket, although you won’t find many gaming laptops that can last more than a few hours in intense games.

Are gaming laptops good for work?

Usually, yes. You don’t need a dedicated graphics chip for working, but the fast processors and high-speed RAM that gaming laptops are typically equipped with are just as good at handling spreadsheets and Word documents as they are crunching the numbers for the latest games.

Then again, a larger, thicker gaming laptop with RGB lighting might not be appropriate for every job setting. A more subdued design like the Razer Blade or the G-series Dell gaming laptops fits in much better, though it’s an issue to be aware of.

Are Mac laptops good for gaming?

Some aren’t bad, but most of them aren’t great. Apple only puts dedicated graphics chips in its 15-inch MacBook Pro models, and even they are underpowered compared to far more affordable Windows laptops. There’s also software compatibility to consider, as many more games are available on Windows than MacOS, even with the addition of Apple Arcade.

If all you want is a little Fortnite on the side, a 15-inch MacBook Pro will get you by, but these are not gaming machines by any means. That being said, if you really want to stick with a Mac, there’s always the option to dual-boot in Boot Camp, which lets you run Windows 10 games on your MacBook hardware.

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