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Best gaming laptops: Know what to look for and which models rate highest

We'll help you pick out the perfect gaming laptop.

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Adam Patrick Murray

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There are great laptops available now (as pandemic-fueled sales remain strong), and you can see our tested favorites below. But if you yearn for the latest and greatest, check out our news and reviews of laptops with AMD’s Ryzen 5000 and Intel’s Tiger Lake CPUs, and Nvidia RTX 30-series mobile GPUs. (Psst: We also have a list of the first laptops available with RTX 30-series.)

Here are the latest news and reviews, along with our top picks below. 

Latest laptop news and reviews

Here are the latest stories:

  • Razer has launched the latest generation of its Razer Blade 17 gaming PC (previous generations were known as the Razer Blade Pro 17). It will be available on July 30 in seven configurations, starting with a base price of $2,399 up through $3,699.  You can preorder now on Razer.com.
  • This isn't a gaming laptop, but we still thought you'd enjoy reading about the gaming PC Gordon Mah Ung found in the gutter.
    Trash PC Gordon Mah Ung

    Photo illustration: Yes, Gordon really found this functional 5th gen Core i7 with a GeForce GTX 1080 in a pile of trash.

  • Having your laptop stolen is stressful because you need to replace a pricey piece of hardware—and it also poses a threat to your digital security. Read on to learn about how to prepare yourself against the possibility of notebook theft, how to report the theft if your laptop is stolen, and how to protect your data after it’s in the hands of thieves. 
  • You don't already subscribe to The Full Nerd podcast for PC enthusiasts? You should! In the latest episode, we talk about AMD's Advantage laptops program, as embodied by the Asus ROG Strix G15. Check it out.

Best 15-inch gaming laptop

The Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition gets all A’s: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, AMD Radeon RX 6800M, and AMD ‘Advantage,’ meaning it’s the first machine to meet AMD guidelines designed to make mid-range gaming laptops better. And yes, it’s made by Asus, too.

If you’re on the hunt for an affordable yet stupidly fast laptop on a medium budget, just stop reading and buy the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition right now because of its stunning price-to-performance ratio. Read our full review

[$1,650 as tested at Best Buy

Best budget gaming laptop

The Acer Nitro 5 surpases what we expect of rock-bottom budget laptops. Its display is a bit dim, and its GTX 1650 graphics is only going to feel slower as time goes by. However its performance is solid overall, and its battery life is a nearly unheard-of (for gaming laptops) five hours. If you’re looking for solid budget value, or if you plan to buy cheap and upgrade more often (a reasonable plan in the ever-advancing world of gaming), this is a respectable entry-level machine. Read our full review.

[$830 as tested via Bestbuy.com]

Runner Up

The Pavilion Gaming Laptop punches well above its weight in the entry-level range. It’s every bit as sturdy and refined as its high-end counterparts, and it even has surprisingly respectable battery life. The Pavilion Haming Laptop has sacrificed a few things to hit that budget level, namely a dismal display and no mouse buttons. Still, with models starting as cheap as $800 on HP.com, you can configure this overall solid machine to fit your budget. 

[MSRP $1,600 on HP.com]

Best 17-inch gaming laptop

Gigabyte’s Aorus 17G gaming laptop, with its high-end parts and sharp-angled design, looks like it should be loud, but it’s not. It’s amazingly quiet, actually. We’ve heard ultraportable laptops produce more noise under a load than the Aorus 17G does while gaming.

It may spoil your fun a bit to know that Gigabyte achieved this feat by taking the RTX 3080 mobile GPU down a notch in performance. If you always want the ultimate gaming machine, you’ll invest in a good pair of gaming headphones and put up with a shrieking hair dryer shaped like a laptop. But if you wished gaming laptops weren’t so loud, the Aorus 17G grants your wish with a modest tradeoff. Read our full review.

[$2,700 MSRP as reviewed; available from Newegg]

Best budget 17-inch gaming laptop

HP’s Omen 17 gaming laptops have a reputation with us that can be summarized in four words: solid performance. Surprisingly affordable.

Granted, its price has actually gone up recently because of a pandemic-fueled stampede of laptop purchases. Still, the Omen 17 has its place. Is it a looker? Debatable. Is it the best gaming laptop? Definitely not. But HP always manages to cram more hardware than you’d expect under the hood, then sell the Omen 17 way below market rate.

I’m not sure how HP pulls off this bit of wizardry, but it’s made the Omen 17 a hit. And the trend continues, as the 2019 model we’re testing (poetically monikered the 17-cb0040nr) packs in some of the latest and greatest CPUs and GPUs for hundreds of dollars less than the competition. Read our full review.

[MSRP $1,798 on Amazon.com]

Best portable gaming laptop

The ROG Zephyrus G14 debuts with AMD’s stellar Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU, and we can safely say: Just give Asus your money. This laptop packs a stupid amount of performance into a stupidly small and stupidly light (3.5-pound) frame. You’re talking about a weight class that typically gives you lower-power CPUs and GPUs. Yet the G14 can hang in CPU performance with laptops that weight 10 pounds. 

Obviously the star of the show is the Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU, which we review in detail separately. But the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 as a whole package is nearly as impressive. Read our full review

Best price-is-no-object gaming laptop

Alienware’s Area-51m flagship gaming laptop is big, thick, and fast, a return to form that should reassure people who got worried when the company unveiled the thin-and-light Alienware m15 last year. The new Area-51m very well might be the first gaming laptop to bring the Holy Grail of features to consumers: Upgradable graphics and an upgradable CPU. Read our full review of Alienware’s Area-51m.    

Runner-up

The Alienware 17 R5 packs Intel’s debut high-performance Core i9 laptop chip, which turns this already beastly gaming laptop into an utter monster. The version we tested ($3,810 from Dell) pumps out more performance than we’ve ever seen in a gaming laptop with all-mobile parts. It offers over 55 percent more multi-thread performance than its already-potent direct predecessor. CPU benchmarks this fast were practically unthinkable. 

Read on for guidance on how to pick the right gaming laptop for your needs.

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