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

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

msi gs75 stealth 7
Adam Patrick Murray

Picking a gaming laptop is a lot more fun today than it was five years ago, when a “real” gaming laptop meant 12 pounds of back-breaking hardware to haul around. Check out our top picks immediately below, and keep reading to catch up on the latest news and reviews. 

With major advances in laptop CPUs and graphics technologies, you can now get great gaming performance in sizes from slender to huge, and prices from budget to sky-high. That’s where this handy-dandy buyer’s guide come in. We’ll name the best gaming laptops currently available, and we’ll highlight what to look for when buying a gaming laptop. (Check back often, as we’ll update this list as new products arrive.)

Latest gaming laptop news

Here are the latest stories:

  • We’ve now seen enough 8th-gen and 9th-gen “H”-class laptops that we can recommend that you generally not sweat whether you should buy a laptop with 8th-gen or 9th-gen Core CPU. The newer 9th-gen CPUs are slightly faster. The exception is the 9th-gen Core i9, which ups the core count to 8 cores in a laptop and is definitely worth an upgrade.
  • Did we mention that 10th-gen is here too? Yes, laptop shopper, Intel just introduced two new 10th-gen CPU lineups. The first product lines aren't for gamers, though, but rather ultrathin laptop designs. We did some early testing of 10th-gen Core laptop CPUs and ranked all the 10th-gen Ice Lake and Comet Lake CPUs so you can learn more. 
  • Nvidia launched GTX 1650 and GTX 1660 Ti GPUs for laptops in concert with Intel’s 9th-gen Core CPUs. Nvidia says the mobile GTX 1660 Ti should be up to 1.5X faster than the mobile GTX 1060, while the mobile GTX 1650 can deliver up to 1.7X better performance than the GTX 1050.

Latest laptop reviews

alienware area 51m dark side lid lunar light open Daniel Masaoka/IDG

The Alienware Area-51m will come in two colors: Dark Side of the Moon and Lunar White. 

Catch up on the latest models we’ve tested here, including: 

Best 17-inch gaming laptop

The MSI GS75 Stealth challenges that old PC laptop proverb that says you can have high performance, and you can have a 17-inch screen, and you can have light weight—but you can only pick two. Sure, at five pounds GS75 is hardly “light.” But along with its 17.3-inch display it packs an 8th-generation 6-core CPU and Nvidia’s brand-spanking new GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics inside.

The MSI GS75 is one of the first laptops to debut with Nvidia’s RTX graphics for laptops, announced in January at CES. As you’ll see in our benchmarks, the MSI GS75 is a (relatively) lightweight laptop with a heavweight wallop. The initial signs seem to point toward a lighter, faster future for mobile PC gaming.  Read our full review of the MSI GS75 Stealth.

[$2,999 MSRP as reviewed; available from MSI]

Best 15-inch gaming laptop

The Acer Predator Triton 500 model we tested features a 15.6-inch, 1920x1080, 144Hz panel, an 8th-gen Core i7-8750H with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, and a GeForce RTX 2060. It’s easily enough firepower to match laptops based on the slightly lower-cost GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, but it has the option to run DirectX Ray Tracing games, too.

If we were to ding the Triton 500, it would be for the SSD replacement. Let’s just say, adding more storage to the Triton 500 won’t be a five-minute affair. Read our full review of the Acer Predator Triton 500.

Best budget gaming laptop

The Dell G3 15 gaming laptop delivers solid performance in a package that’s a little less than an inch thick. The Model 3579 we tested is very affordable, too. 

The G3 15 has its downsides, including a Full-HD display that isn’t as bright as we’d like, frame rates that struggle to reach 60 fps on top-tier games, and a weight exceeding five pounds (although it’s not as massive as some gaming laptops). But when we compared it to the Acer Nitro 5, another budget gaming laptop we like, with an even lower price point, there was no contest. The G3 15 posted stronger benchmarks and battery life. In particular, its GTX 1050 Ti graphics showed the limitations of the Nitro 5’s mere GTX 1050. Nothing wrong with the Nitro 5, but if you can afford the G3 15 we tested, it’s the better choice. Read our full review of the Dell G3 15 3579.

[$850 as reviewed(Model 3579)]

Best portable gaming laptop

The MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 9SD we've reviewed is similar to the preceding MSI GS65 Steal Thin 8RE, but with new hardware: Intel’s 9th-gen Core i7-9750H, along with Nvida’s GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, which turns it into the GS65 Stealth Thin 9SD. (If you want your RTX hardware, you can get that in the pricier GS65 Stealth Thin 9SX.) Although it's heavier than before, it still beats many competing laptops with the same hardware, which tip far closer to five pounds. 

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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