Level up: 7 of the best laptops to net you a great gaming experience

Level up: 7 of the best laptops to net you a great gaming experience


Dell Gaming G3 15 3500 — $754.98

Razer Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop 2020 — $1,199.99

Alienware m15 15.6 inch FHD Gaming Laptop — $1,689.98

PC gaming is said by many to be the best way to play video games. In a lot of ways, that’s true — high-end gaming computers pack more graphical and processing power than any home console does, and they offer a level of freedom in terms of customization and game choice that you’re just not going to find anywhere else. But when it comes down to it, starting your foray into PC gaming can be extremely complicated, especially when you’re new to all of this. 

Unlike consoles that you can just pick up and play, gaming computers require an intense amount of research into each and every component. GPUs, CPUs, monitors, keyboards — it’s a lot to take in, and it’ll normally cost you a lot of money.

While desktops may deliver the best performance, laptops fit into the modern lifestyle more effortlessly. A laptop allows you to take everything you want with you, and you can find a laptop that fits nearly any and every type of gamer. Whether you’re looking for a powerhouse that can run VR, 4K resolution, and eye-popping graphics, or hoping to just balance cost with power, there’s a gaming laptop for you. 

SEE ALSO: The best gaming laptops that cost less than $1,000

Gaming laptops still take a bit of careful spec scrutinization before you buy one, but they are way simpler than their desktop counterparts. But, even with that extra simplicity, it can still be a head-scratcher of a choice if you don’t know what to look for in the first place. We’re going to help you with that part.

What to consider when looking for a gaming laptop

As with any computer — gaming or otherwise — there are a lot of components that make up any given device. You shouldn’t have to figure all that out for yourself, though. Here’s what you’ll want to take into account when shopping for a gaming laptop:

CPU: Also called a processor, your CPU is basically your computer’s brain, and will dictate how speedy your laptop can process inputs, store data, and execute on outputs correctly. Your processor is in constant communication with the other parts of your computer, so it’s important that the device’s central nervous system is a good one. 

GPU: The GPU (or graphics card) does what it sounds like it does: It ensures that your games can run at their intended graphical quality. The better the GPU, the better your laptop can render details like textures, anti-aliasing, ray tracing, and more (you can always change these settings within your games to better suit your graphics card, but the better the GPU, the closer you can get to those higher-end settings). 

System Memory (or RAM): Your RAM, like your CPU, is also extremely important in determining overall performance. RAM provides short-term memory storage for applications so that they can access data quickly, storing information that your computer is actively using. For budget gaming laptops, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than 8GB of RAM.

Storage: When it comes to storage, you’ll normally find yourself deciding between a hard drive (HDD) and a solid-state drive (SSD). HDDs can have a higher storage capacity than SSDs, but at the cost of lower performance. The good news is that some gaming laptops come with a dual-storage approach, opting for an HDD as the main storage method, with a smaller SSD built in that you can dedicate to your more performance-demanding games.

Display: That nice GPU you bought will be wasted if you don’t have a nice display to marvel at its brilliance on. You’ll mainly want to look for three things here: resolution, refresh rate, and size. For our money, we say go for a 1080p resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate (which means you can run up to 60 frames per second on your screen). The size, however, is up to your preference — gaming laptops usually come in at 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch displays.

Keyboard: The keyboard is another vital part of your overall experience with a gaming laptop. Comfort is definitely a factor, but you’ll also want to decide whether you want full-range RGB backlight settings (totally fine to skip out on the fancy stuff here), and if you like the layout of the keys themselves. For example, if you find that you desperately need a number pad on your keyboard, you’ll want to double-check to make sure that it’s there — not all gaming laptops have one (not all 15.6-inch options at least, almost all 17.3-inch laptops will have one). 

Being able to take your PC games anywhere you go is a huge benefit of gaming laptops over desktops.

Being able to take your PC games anywhere you go is a huge benefit of gaming laptops over desktops.

Image: razer

Which parts are the most important?

If all those bulleted points gave you a headache and you want an even more simplified explanation, you’ll want to put most of your focus on the computer’s GPU and CPU, or the processor and graphics card, respectively. They’ll be the two things that end up making or breaking your overall experience with your gaming laptop, as they work in tandem with each other to provide a speedy and smooth performance. If you skimp too much on them, you’ll most likely get choppy gameplay and plenty of frustration in return, so make them your main investment. 

So, what’s the best gaming laptop?

Whether you’re a budget-focused gamer who just requires the bare minimum, or you’re someone who wants to run your games in 4K with an uncapped frame rate, these laptops will serve you well as your shiny new PC gamer badge. Below are our picks for the best gaming laptops.

Best Overall

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Image: razer / mashable photo composite

The Good

Great battery life • Lots of opportunity for upgrading and customization • Eye-popping display • High-end specs and performance

The Bad

Fans can run a bit loud

The Bottom Line

The Razer Blade 15 is a gaming laptop that’s as powerful as it is sleek — while it’s on the pricey side, it’s worth the extra cash for its beautiful design and upgradability.

Razer Blade 15 Advanced

The Razer Blade 15 is like the Apple MacBook Pro of gaming laptops — sleek, powerful, and cutting edge. CPU: 10th Generation Intel Core i7-10875H GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super with Max-Q Design RAM: 16GB Storage: 1TB SSD Display: 15.6 inches, 4K OLED

$3,300 from Amazon

Just think of the Razer Blade 15 Advanced as the MacBook Pro of PC gaming laptops. With its sleek design, the Razer Blade 15 is a nearly edge-to-edge gaming machine inside of a beautiful and durable aluminum unibody chassis and display that’s upgradeable to 4K. 
This gaming laptop also has the high-end specs you’d come to expect from Razer, including an 8-Core 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10875H processor, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super with Max-Q Design graphics card, 16GB of memory, and 1TB of SSD storage. The 15 is also expandable with an open Razer Core X. 
Although its fans spin loudly when working at full capacity, the 15 features a vapor chamber cooling system that Razer developed for a substantial power boost while you’re playing. This laptop might be on the expensive side, but it’s worth it for this level of performance inside of a sleek design.

Best Budget-Friendly AMD-Powered Laptop

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Image: asus / mashable photo composite

The Good

512GB SSD is rare at this price • AMD Ryzen 7 CPU and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU make for a great combo • VR-ready

The Bad

No disc drive — if you have old PC games on disc that you want to play, look elsewhere

The Bottom Line

If you want an AMD-powered gaming laptop at the budget price point, the Asus TUF Gaming A15 is the only way to go — with the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU to boot, it’s a fantastic buy.

Asus TUF Gaming A15

The Asus TUF Gaming A15 is the best AMD powered laptop that you’ll find at this price point, especially when paired with the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU. CPU: AMD 3rd Generation Ryzen 7 GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 RAM: 8GB Storage: 512GB SSD Display: 15.6 inches, 1080p

$999.99 from B&H

If AMD processors are more your style over Intel, the Asus TUF Gaming A15 is the best AMD-powered laptop you’ll find at the $1,000-and-under price point. It’s also one of the only AMD-powered laptops running an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU at this price. 
In addition to the speedy performance from the AMD CPU and RTX 2060 graphics card, the A15 is just a well-rounded machine that serves as a great starting point for those new to the PC gaming landscape. It has a large SSD (most laptops at this price bring about 256GB to the table — this one boasts 512GB) that’ll give an extra power boost to that at CPU-and-GPU combo, a gorgeous 1080p display, and a full RGB backlit keyboard. It’s also VR-ready, just in case you’ve been thinking about picking up an Oculus Rift. 

Best High-End AMD-Powered Laptop

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Image: asus / mashable photo composite

The Good

Compact 14-inch design without shirking on power • Speedy AMD processor • Vibrant display • Hefty SSD storage

The Bad

Fans run pretty loud

The Bottom Line

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is stocked with internals that can rival much larger machines, and does it within a compact, 14-inch body — the definition of small, yet mighty.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

Looking for a balance between style and substance? You’ve found it. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is truly a pint-sized powerhouse. CPU: AMD 3rd Generation Ryzen 9 GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q RAM: 16GB Storage: 1TB SSD Display: 14 inches, 1080p

$1,315 from Amazon

If you want to ride that AMD processor train even further, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is one of the best AMD-powered gaming laptops you’re going to find, period. 
This Asus rig strikes a healthy balance between style and substance. From the outside, the ROG Zephyrus G14 sports a minimalist aesthetic in a compact 14-inch body. While small computers normally signal less power to shoppers, this laptop actually boasts incredible performance all around thanks to its AMD 3rd Generation Ryzen 9 processor and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics card. Also included is a hefty 1TB SSD and a beautifully vibrant display that’ll keep your games looking top-notch (even on such a small screen). 
The only downside to the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is that its fans tend to run pretty loud, but that’s to be expected in an ultra-compact laptop that packs such a huge punch. If you’re looking for something small, yet mighty, you’ve found it. 

Best Lightweight Gaming Laptop

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Image: msi / mashable photo composite

The Good

Compact, thin-bezel design is great for travel • Speedy performance for a smaller device • A nice lineup of components

The Bad

Screen is a bit dim, which takes away from its graphical power

The Bottom Line

If you see yourself traveling with your gaming laptop often, the MSI GF63 is really good for chucking into your backpack and playing from wherever you are.

MSI GF63 Thin

Speedy and packing good components for the price, the MSI GF63 Thin gaming laptop makes for an ideal device to travel with. CPU: Intel Core i5-8300H GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 RAM: 8GB Storage: 256GB SSD Display: 15.6 inches, 1080p

$999.99 from Amazon

Planning on traveling with your PC? The MSI GF63 Thin gaming laptop is going to be your best bet. 
We love this laptop not only for its compact, thin-bezel design that’s great for storing in a backpack, but also for its other components. At this price, you’re getting a really solid setup — an Intel Core i5-9300H processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card, 256GB SSD, and a 1080p full HD display. 
It’s fast, packs stellar visuals, and is all tied together in an ultra-portable package.

Best Budget Pick

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Image: acer / mashable photo composite

The Good

Affordable • Great components for the price • Long battery life

The Bad

Lower graphical quality than our other picks, as expected

The Bottom Line

The Acer Nitro 5 is the best *budget* budget laptop, in our opinion — the component setup and long battery life make it an awesome deal at just $700.

Acer Nitro 5

If you’re looking to spend the least money possible on your gaming laptop without buying an absolute clunker, the Acer Nitro 5 will satisfy on all counts. CPU: Intel 10th Generation Core i5 GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 RAM: 8GB Storage: 256GB SSD Display: 15.6-inches, 1080p

$749.99 from Best Buy

The Acer Nitro 5 is our favorite budget pick because, for one thing, it’s the cheapest on our list.
But that low price wouldn’t mean anything if it wasn’t also a good laptop, which it totally is. In fact, it has a lot of the same inner components as a few of the more expensive options in this roundup. Perhaps the most impressive selling point of this laptop (other than the price) is its 9-hour battery life. Most gaming laptops at this price will last 7 hours on the high end, for comparison. 
The price does come with some downsides, though. Most notably, the graphical performance in conjunction with the Intel 10th Generation Core i5 processor isn’t as great as our other picks (that’s not to say it looks bad, though). But hey, you can’t have it all, and that low price point is hard to beat. 

Best for Customization

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Image: dell / mashable photo composite

The Good

Good base internals • Lots of options for upgrades and customization • Unique aesthetic

The Bad

Battery life should be better at this price

The Bottom Line

If you want a little more control over what your laptop internals look like, the Alienware m15 R3 is the way to go — the base version is a strong contender, too.

Alienware m15 R3

You could go for the base version of the m15 R3 and still have a great gaming laptop on your hands, but where it really shines is in its customization opportunities. CPU: 10th Generation Intel Core i7-10750H GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 RAM: 16GB Storage: 512GB SSD Display: 15.6 inches, 1080p

$1,580 from Dell

If you’re a bit more familiar with the world of PC gaming and you feel comfortable enough to pick out your own parts to create a laptop that’s tailored to your needs, the Alienware m15 R3 will be right up your alley. 
The base version of the m15 R3 is already an impressive gaming laptop — it’s chock full of stellar internals, including a 10th Generation Intel Core i7-10750H processor, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card, and a 512GB SSD. But if you have some extra cash at your disposal, all of these things can be upgraded à la carte on Dell’s website, making it simple to customize the machine to your liking. Want more storage? Upgrade to a 1TB SSD. More graphical power? Bump up to the GeForce RTX 2070 instead. 
There are a lot of options for you to check out, and if you like having more say in what your laptop internals look like, you should definitely consider building out an Alienware m15 R3 of your own. 

Best Performance for the Money

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Image: dell / mashable photo composite

The Good

Impressive price-to-performance ratio • Well-rounded components make for a really good starter gaming laptop

The Bad

Some hardware issues like overheating and low battery life (which can be mitigated if you keep it plugged in)

The Bottom Line

If you don’t really care for the all bells and whistles and just want raw performance, the Dell G5 15 is a good beginner’s gaming laptop at a sweet price.

Dell G5 15

The Dell G5 15 gaming laptop prioritizes raw performance over fancy features, which becomes totally worthwhile at such a low price. CPU: 10th Generation Intel Core i5-10300H GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 RAM: 8GB Storage: 256GB SSD Display: 15.6 inches, 1080p

$881.99 from Dell

The Dell G5 15 is the way to go if you’re looking for the best price-to-performance ratio. 
The G5 15 has a really solid CPU and GPU setup for the $800 range, prioritizing raw performance over fancy bells and whistles that other gaming laptops may opt for. The Dell G-Series laptops definitely don’t reach the heights of their premium Alienware line, but on a budget, the G5 15 is the best of the Dell bunch.
The hardware is a bit chunky and has the tendency to overheat during long play sessions, but if you can stomach those issues, the speedy Dell G5 15 is a beginner gaming laptop that is well worth the money. 

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