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The best gaming laptops for 2020

This article was last updated by Digital Trends section editor Luke Larsen on 4/1/2020.

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. We’ve even included options for the best G-Sync laptops, serious desktop replacements, and even budget offerings.

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.

Knowing which to pick up can be difficult, though, as Raze offers a wide assortment of configurations, ranging all the way up to a Studio model with the RTX Quadro 5000. A great high-end option for gamers though is the RTX 2070 Max-Q with the Core i7-9750H, 16GB of RAM, and a 240Hz 1080p screen. There’s even a wild 4K OLED model, even if that’s not the best option for gamers.

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 that doubles as a standard laptop just as well.

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

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 portable gaming laptop: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

Why you should buy this: It has great 1080p gaming performance in a surprisingly tiny package.

Who it’s for: Gamers and content creators.

Why we picked the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14:

The G14 is unlike any gaming laptop you’ve used. It’s incredibly lightweight, at just 3.5 pounds — and uses just a 14-inch screen rather than the typical 15-inch variety. The result is the smallest gaming laptop ever made, especially given how powerful this thing is.

The heart of it is AMD’s Ryzen 4000, eight-core processor. It’s a beast. Multi-threaded performance is off the chart for a laptop this small, making it a capable option for video editors, 3D modelers, and content creators of every kind.

It’s also provides excellent gaming performance, of course. You have options for either a GTX 1650, a GTX 1660 Ti, or an RTX 2060. If you can opt for the 2060, you’ll be able to play most games over 60 frame per second. You’ll have to pay an extra $500 for the fancy programmable LEDs on the lid, but the $1450 RTX 2060 model (without LEDs) is a great value.

Read our in-depth ROG Zephyrus G14 review

The best G-Sync gaming laptop: Acer Predator Triton 500

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: For gamers who want G-Sync above all else.

Why we picked the Acer Predator Triton 500:

G-Sync might kill battery life, but when it comes to smooth gameplay, it’s a must-have for many gamers. The Predator Triton 500 is a fantastic gaming laptop that just happens to include Nvidia’s important display technology.

Starting with a Core i7-9750H 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 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 with a G-Sync screen, it’s hard to do better than this.

Our full Acer Predator Triton 500 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 16-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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