Desktop gaming will always be the pinnacle of the PC gaming experience, but gaming laptops have come a long way in the last couple of years. Some even rival their desktop counterparts in power, design, and affordability. Whether you’re looking for a serious gaming laptop or just a notebook that happens to have a discrete GPU, there are more options than ever out there.
Scroll down, and join the growing ranks of laptop gaming adherents.
At a glance
|Best gaming laptops||Category||Our rating|
|Best gaming laptop overall||4.5 out of 5|
|Best 17-inch gaming laptop||3.5 out of 5|
|Best desktop replacement||4.0 out of 5|
|Best gaming laptop under $1,000||3.5 out of 5|
|Best gaming laptop under $2,000||4.0 out of 5|
The best gaming laptop
Why should you buy this: You want a gaming powerhouse with MacBook-like sense of style.
Who’s it 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 newest version packs an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8750H CPU in with the newest RTX graphics, ranging from a 2060 up to a 2080 Max-Q. These are some seriously powerful gaming laptops, and can handle pretty much anything you throw at them.
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 high, starting at $2,300 for the RTX 2060 model. You can also pick up the GTX-level “base model,” which has a cheaper $1,600 starting price and a thicker chassis.
Read our full Razer Blade (2019) review
MSI GS75 Stealth
The best 17-inch gaming laptop
Why should you buy this: If you want fantastic 1080p gaming performance and don’t mind a big laptop.
Who’s it for: Gamers who don’t mind a chunkier laptop to snag the best performance on the market.
Why we picked the MSI GS75 Stealth:
A 17-inch gaming laptop you can fit in a bag? Yeah, that’s what the GS75 Stealth promises. It picks up the similar design to the 15-inch GS65, sporting thin bezels, a simple black exterior, and touches of gold throughout. Unlike the Razer Blade, materials and build quality aren’t this laptop’s strengths, though. Instead, the GS75 is all about performance and portability.
It features a 1080p, 144Hz display, a six-core processor, and up to an RTX 2080 graphics card. It’s a common set of specs and features in 2019 gaming laptops, but the GS75 Stealth really does handle the components well. Temperatures, both internal and external, stay cool — and that’s without ever choking performance.
Read our full MSI GS75 Stealth review
The best desktop replacement
Why should you buy this: You want to play the latest games at the highest settings and resolutions.
Why should you buy this: If you want the best possible framerates on a gaming laptop.
Who’s it 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, it’s a true desktop replacement. We mean that in terms of the power this thing has, as well as the actual components inside. See, the Area-51m comes with an actual desktop-class processor, the Core i9-9900K. That’s an eight-core, twelve-thread CPU that make this laptop considerably more powerful than anything else out there.
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 well games run.
t’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
Dell G3 Gaming Laptop
The best budget gaming laptop
Why should you buy this: It’s the best gaming machine you can buy for less than $1,000.
Who’s it 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 and 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.
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 bezel 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
Acer Predator Triton 500
The best gaming laptop under $2,000
Why should you buy this: It’s a powerful gaming laptop with a thin and light design at an affordable price.
Who’s it 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 at $1,800 with an i7-8750H and Nvidia Geforce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU and topping out at $2,500 for the 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 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 back for your buck, it’s hard to do better than this.
Our full Acer Predator Triton 500 review.
How we test
When we test a laptop, particularly a gaming laptop, we leave no spec un-tested. Starting from look-and-feel and running all the way through individual hardware tests, laptops that enter our lab don’t leave until they’re put through their paces in every conceivable way.
On top of formal testing, we spend a lot of time with the laptops that come through our offices. We’ll use them for everyday work and web browsing, in hopes of catching any elusive issues that evaded our earlier testing. For more information on how we test laptops, you can read a full run-down over here.
What to expect out of a gaming laptop
Gaming laptops have come a long way in the last couple years. While some are still the big LED-clad behemoths we’ve come to know and love, it’s become easier and easier for manufacturers to cram some serious performance into small packages. Just look at the Razer Blade. It’s no bigger than other non-gaming laptops, but it’s able to deliver some seriously impressive performance.
That said, can you expect desktop-level performance out of a notebook? Well, almost. The best gaming laptops on the market come close, but there are a few areas that desktops still have an edge.
First up, desktop gaming rigs are bigger, so they’re more spacious inside. That extra space is important for heat diffusion. Even the most high-efficiency gaming laptop will still have some issues when it comes to heat accumulation. Inside a laptop’s chassis, everything is crammed together so tight there isn’t much manufacturers can do to reduce heat, other than just pump it out as fast as possible.
Similarly, gaming desktops will almost always have better processors because they don’t need to worry about battery life or the aforementioned heat issue. They can suck down as much power as they need to run those 4.0GHz octa-core processors without batting an eye. In the process, they’ll generate a massive amount of heat which is easily dispersed with air cooling.
So, when it comes to performance, a great gaming laptop will come close to a desktop gaming experience in all but those areas. It will run hotter and slower. The desktop is faster, but if you only want a laptop, you can make it work.