The best gaming laptops in 2021 are astonishingly powerful PCs and as diverse as gamers themselves: no matter what kind of game you prefer to play or where you prefer to play it, there's a gaming laptop here for you.
It's quite possible to spend an absolute fortune on a gaming laptop, but that doesn't mean the best gaming laptop for you is going to take all your money. As we'll discover there are some incredibly good PCs out there at a range of price points from budget to premium, and the range of available CPUs, GPUs, displays and storage means the choice is almost infinite. And that's where this guide comes in – it has been designed to help you find the best gaming laptop for you.
These gaming systems include laptops that pack Max-Q variants of the best graphics cards on the market today, as well as the fastest SSDs and screens that match the best gaming monitors you can buy, all in one case – albeit a case that sometimes looks like the Batmobile.
If you also invest in a top-rated gaming mouse, a high quality mechanical gaming keyboard, and an audiophile-quality gaming headset, you can be sure that your gaming setup will deliver immersion and quality for many years to come.
We're not just interested in performance, though: there's no point blowing your budget on a gaming laptop that isn't going to go the distance. That's why we're focusing on manufacturers such as Dell, Razer, Asus, Acer, MSI, HP and Alienware: manufacturers with a proven track record in delivering gaming machines that deliver rock-solid reliability.
On that note of specific manufacturers, Dell is making some great laptops right now for gamers, so head on over to our best Dell laptops guide for the complete picture.
No matter what kind of gaming laptop you're looking for – the best budget gaming laptop, a good mid-range gaming laptop or the ultimate gaming laptop it's possible to configure – you'll find it here. Whether you want real-time ray tracing or something that delivers power without dislocating your shoulder if you move it, these are our favourite gaming laptops right now.
Should you buy one of these if you just want an everyday laptop? Probably not: there's no need to pay for quite so much power if the pixels you need to push are in Office apps or Netflix. If you're looking for a system that isn't gaming-orientated, head to our general best laptops guide, or our best budget laptops guide instead.
The best gaming laptops you can buy today
The Asus ROG Zephyrus 14 is a game-changing gaming laptop that delivers buckets of performance despite being compact and light. It does this thanks to its use of AMD's hot new Ryzen 4000 processors and Nvidia's RTX 2060 GPU, which when partnered with plenty of RAM and a quality 120Hz 14-inch display, makes for superb, highly portable gaming results.
The design is also really smart, with a dropped hinge screen and AniME Matrix LED display on the CNC milled, dot matrix lid radiating a futuristic aesthetic. A quad speaker system that is Dolby Atmos enabled also means that, for a laptop, the levels of audio it is capable of are remarkable and the battery life on the system, too, just runs and runs (10.7 hours of video playback). A copy of Windows 10 Pro completes the package.
It's the fact that the Asus Zephyrus 14 delivers such a quality all-round gaming package in such a compact and portable form factor that really sells it, though, making it a system that can be easily used for both work and play. It's only 1.60kg (3.53 pounds), so sliding it in a backpack is no problem at all.
The price, too, while not cheap is nowhere near the levels of what you can spend on a gaming laptop, which all in explains why consider the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 the best gaming laptop on the market today for most people. It simply does it all, and does it all for a great price point.
Oh, and the Asus ROG Zephyrus 14 has impressed so many people that it has just bagged the much-wanted Best Gaming Laptop award at the T3 Awards 2020.
Want to see how this system stacks up to our top premium choice? Then scope out T3's Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 vs Asus Zephyrus S GX701 comparison guide.
You can always rely on the Asus ROG gaming series to provide some of the best gaming laptops on the market, and the Zephyrus S GX701 in maximum spec proves the point: it's crammed with powerful components, looks the part, and will play any game out there without breaking sweat.
Admittedly you're going to have to pay a lot for this laptop, but if you've got the cash, then it's worth it. You can pack the laptop with some of the best Nvidia GeForce RTX GPUs currently available, including the mighty RTX 2080 Max-Q, store loads of games on its spacious SSD drive, and even run the most demanding VR experiences right from this laptop thanks to its powerful Intel CPU and stacks of RAM.
And what about that 17.3-inch screen too – it looks simply gorgeous from any angle, and can ramp up to a refresh rate of 300Hz, meaning that screen tearing and blur are just blown away. For gamers the world over the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 is simply a dream system, and one that while costs a lot, will last for years and years to come.
The Acer Nitro 5 is among the lowest-specced systems in our best gaming laptops list, but that in no way means it isn't capable of delivering a good gaming experience, and we recommend it so highly thanks to its excellent price point.
An Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 (6GB GDDR6 VRAM) on-board means that, while you don't get Ampere-levels of gaming performance, you'll still be able to run today's best PC games at medium to high settings without seeing your framerate plunge to single figures.
Meanwhile, the system's 256GB isn't the biggest, but is is an NVMe SSD, meaning that it is very fast and loads games quickly. The 8GB of RAM in the machine is a little light, with 16GB preferable, but in most games and applications it doesn't cause too much trouble.
The Intel Core i7-9750H (hexa-core) processor ensures that the system can crunch through any light or medium computing task with ease, too, while a battery capable of delivering 8 hours of run time on a single charge means that you've got genuine portability as well.
There's also a solid selection of ports, a built-in webcam, and an RGB backlit keyboard as well.
Yes, the Acer Nitro 5 can't compete in terms of power with many of the other laptops in this guide, but if you are shopping on a budget it is a great choice.
If you want to compare this system to our number one gaming laptop choice, then be sure to check out T3's Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 vs Acer Nitro 5 comparison feature.
It isn’t cheap, especially when you max out the configuration options, but this Alienware delivers serious gaming power: the default spec has a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti with 6GB of GDDR 6, and you can specify cards up to the GeForce RTX 2080 with 8GB. You can choose your display, too: base spec gets a 144Hz FHD but you can go for a 60Hz UHD display with eye tracking if you prefer.
It’s a similar story with RAM and storage: you can up the base 8GB to 64GB and the 256GB SSD to 2TB with up to three additional RAID drives; we clicked all the upgrade options and had to have a lie down when we saw the resulting price tag. But even in base spec this Alienware offers blistering performance and the rock-solid build quality you’d expect from a premium product.
The only real downside is that it’s pretty hefty: with a weight of between 4.1 and 4.7kg (9.04 to 10.04lbs) depending on configuration, it’s hardly a lightweight.
Overall, though, Area-51m R2 provides one of the most well-built, powerful and customisable gaming laptops on the market today, and is a system all gamers must check out while researching for their next upgrade.
To see how this system stacks up against our top premium gaming laptop recommendation, be sure to check out our Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 vs Alienware Area 51M R2 comparison feature.
If you're a gamer looking for a new system that retails at a mid-range price point then the Dell G5 15 5500 is a great option to consider.
You get a strong all-round spec including an Intel Core i7 CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card, 16GB of DDR4 RAM and 512GB of NVMe storage space.
The system also packs a fast 144Hz refresh rate screen (Full HD) and has loads of connectivity ports and some decent RGB lighting, too.
It's design, too, is rather classy (if a little fat compared to some top-end gaming systems) and does not scream gaming laptop – this is a laptop you can use both in the office and at home, something backed up by its solid typing keyboard and built-in webcam and mic.
The real takeaway, though, is that the system is capable of playing today's AAA PC games well, and with fancy lighting effects like real time ray tracing turned on, too. It's not the fastest laptop in this list, but it returns solid benchmark scores and features tech that isn't going to become obsolete in a few months.
A strong all-round laptop with genuine gaming chops.
To compare this mid-range gaming laptop to another well-rated, similarly specced system, then check out T3's Acer Nitro 5 15 vs Dell G5 15 comparison feature.
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The Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 series GPUs have arrived on laptops, and the Aorus 15G model from Gigabyte is one of the first to take advantage: if you want to make sure you've got the very best in terms of graphics capabilities under the hood, then this is very much worth checking out – as always, there are a variety of configurations and spec choices available.
Besides the wealth of power you get inside the laptop – capable of dealing with the best titles on the market right now at impressively high frame rates – you get some very polished styling on the outside too. There are plenty of ports for connecting up peripherals, while the lighting on the keyboard can be customised in all kinds of ways using the supplied software utility.
The 15.6-inch, 240Hz FHD panel looks great in operation, and while there are a few annoyances – such as the limited battery life and the positioning of the webcam – this is a laptop that we're thoroughly happy to recommend. Be sure to also check out the other options in the same Aorus line though.
MSI continues its superb work in the gaming laptop field here with the 15.6-inch GE66 Raider, a system that packs a remarkable amount of gaming power into a laptop chassis that's not overwhelming in its size, bulk, or lighting system. It's also competitively priced too.
The 240Hz panel meaning that games look fantastic – screen tearing and blurring will soon become a distant memory. No matter what types of games you're wanting to run, the GE66 Raider has enough graphical oomph to handle them, even on the higher settings.
A variety of configurations are available to fit your budget, and the top-tier option – a 10th-gen Intel Comet Lake i9-10980HK processor, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD storage and the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics card – is enough to get any gamer salivating at the prospect of having a go on this.
In our testing we didn't notice any sort of stuttering or slowdown as games raced along. The SteelSeries keyboard is excellent, with a variety of lighting effects available to you, and battery life is decent as well.
You can see the unique selling point of the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 as soon as you take it out of the box (or look at the picture above): it comes with a secondary 11-inch display, one which you can use to show system or gaming stats, or to watch some YouTube while you're gaming, or to do anything else with really.
Besides that second screen, Asus has put together a very impressive package here – an eight-core Intel Core i9-10980HK processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics card – and you shouldn't have any problems blasting through the most demanding games of 2021.
The 4K display that our model came with tops out at a refresh rate of 60Hz, which might put some gamers off, but you can swap it for a display with a 300Hz refresh rate, if you're prepared to go down to a 1920 x 1080 resolution. For a lot of potential buyers, that might be the sweet spot.
HP might be more often associated with offices and meeting rooms than gaming, but don't let the brand name put you off the Omen 15 – this is undoubtedly one of the best gaming laptops on the market right now, from the polished and bold design to the powerful specs under the hood. It is also one of the most popular systems in our gaming laptop guide.
While the Omen 15 that we reviewed came with a powerful RTX 2070 and Intel i7 combination, there are various different configurations available at various different price points – take a look around and see what suits you best. We reckon that many gamers are going to find something suitable in the range.
Besides the raw power of the HP Omen 15, it also comes with some impressive chassis cooling, a screen with a speedy 144Hz refresh rate, and customisable keyboard backlighting. Add in the very reasonable price (for what you get in return) and it's not difficult to see how the latest incarnation of this series has made its way into our best gaming laptops list.
The Dell G7 17 is a fantastic gaming laptop choice for those who are, one, shopping on a budget and, two, who need a system that they can use for non-gaming computing tasks on the go, too.
The price tag gets you a sleek, mature chassis design housing enough power to tackle your everyday requirements, as well as comfortably run most AAA games on the market today, and with RTX-powered ray tracing, too.
Indeed, you just can't argue with a 9th-generation Core i7 CPU, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 and 8GB RAM combo at this price point, and the 256GB SSD and large 17.3-inch FHD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution screen seems perfectly judged for the spec, too.
Dell markets this laptop under the slogan "slim, but savage", and we think that for once the marketing is very accurate. The best price on this system at the time of writing is directly though Dell's official store, where you can also double the system's RAM up to 16GB if you desire for just £100 more.
A great all-rounder gaming laptop at a very competitive price point.
Along with the Dell G7 17 listed directly above, if you want to jump onto the RTX bandwagon, so you can bask in the goodness that is real time ray tracing, but don't have super serious money to spend, then the Acer Predator Triton 500 is a great sweet spot.
The model tested by T3 packed in a strong Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU, 8th generation Intel Core i7-8750H, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 512GB SSD. And right now that model is retailing on Amazon at a very approachable price point.
However, if you are prepared to take a step down in the CPU and RAM department, in the UK the line actually starts with a Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD model that rings in for a significantly lower price.
And with the Triton 500's gamer-calibrated screen (the panel delivers 144Hz and an anti-ghosting approved 3ms response time), AAA gaming and much more is very much delivered as it should be. The three-sided thin-bezel design, while not quite as expansive as the four-sided beauty of the MSI GS75 Stealth, still looks modern too, while the system's overall understated finish make it a genuine work and play option.
Undoubtedly one of the best upper-mid-range gaming laptops on the market today.
From every angle, the Razer Blade 15 is a fantastic gaming laptop and one of the best in the business, as you would expect from industry veterans Razer – the performance, the build quality, the lighting, the display... it's all here.
You can pick up the Razer Blade 15 in a variety of configurations, including one with a 4K screen rather than the standard Full HD one. With the latest 10th-gen Intel chips inside and up to 16GB of RAM, performance shouldn't be a problem, and you can add to that some of the best Nvidia GPUs in the business.
Any game should soon smoothly on this setup, and Razer has managed to pack everything into a chassis that wouldn't look out of place at a boardroom meeting. Be sure to check out all the available configurations before buying.
Lenovo's latest gaming laptop variant, the Legion Y740, is quite simply a powerhouse. With some impressive muscle in the GPU department (a Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 no less), it's ready to run all your favourite PC games at ultra settings with barely a hiccup in sight. That lovely 15.6-inch screen is Full HD and comes with an 144Hz Nvidia G-Sync so your games will look incredible, wherever you're playing.
The only real area where the Legion Y740 struggles is battery life: with its Intel Core i7-8750H and that beefy GPU chugging away, the laptop does struggle to keep going for long enough. It's still very much a portable gaming machine, just make sure you've packed a power cable if you're playing away from home.
Lastly, it would be amiss of us not to mention the quality of the Y740's build quality – the chassis just feels wonderfully premium and dense in the hand. Meanwhile, the RGB backlit keyboard feels fantastic under the fingertips, be that while you're gaming or just typing out an email.
One of the benefits of gaming on the go in the modern era is that powerful components are now far more affordable – and that means new models with affordable price tags that are still able to run almost any game from your Steam library (and beyond).
With the latest version of the Acer Predator Helios 300, you're getting a beefy Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU and a lovely 15.6-inch FHD display to keep your PC gaming hunger sated, and yet it won't burn a massive hole in your savings. It's not at the very top end in terms of specs, but it'll have enough oomph for a lot of people.
We particularly like the 144Hz refresh rate panel, the one-button overclocking mode for the most casual of overclockers (it gives you more power in return for extra fan noise), and the extensive set of customisation options when it comes to the RGB lighting. Definitely worth considering.
There's something about Alienware that says gaming; you know the true purpose of the machine is to crank the resolution up as high as possible and watch as the FPS doesn't drop an inch.
The current Alienware lineup – which includes the m13, m15, and m17 – showcase this philosophy perfectly. Our preference has to be the middle option, however, as it balances having a big screen without also having a laptop that's essentially a desktop.
From the huge array of ports – from Ethernet to Thunderbolt to HDMI – to the customisable keyboard and controls, this laptop has you covered, and then some. The cooling system has been specially designed to deal with the most demanding tasks, too, ensuring you get every ounce of performance you need. It really doesn't get much better than this.
Dell's Alienware sub-brand tends to get all the attention when it comes round to the gaming laptops it produces and, while they are undoubtedly quality, Dell's own G-range of gaming laptops are actually really great machines to play on, too.
The more entry-level Dell G3 15 is a great example of this, offering a system that at base spec rings in well under 1k but comes with hardware that can run the game Fortnite at 150fps.
The hardware spec starts at base with a 9th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. The system runs a copy of Windows 10 Home and also offers a wide-array of ports including a SD card reader.
Battery life is rated at 6 hours, which isn't the strongest, but at this price point perfectly adequate, and ensures the system can be used on the go for non-gaming applications, too.
The system is also very customisable and is available in a range of models that take the graphics card right up to a ray tracing capable Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060.
Throw in a HD webcam, built-in mic and dual speakers powered by a Nahimic 3D Audio system, and it's easy to see why this is one of Dell's most popular systems – genuine gaming chops and strong work and entertainment features.
The Asus TUF Gaming A15 is a great mid-range gaming laptop, but it comes with an important caveat: Asus announced a refresh at this year’s CES, so if you’re buying the outgoing model make sure you get it for a really good price.
The incoming model will have a slightly faster Ryzen 7 and a slightly more powerful GeForce GPU, but the existing A15 is no slouch: it has a 2.9GHz, octa-core AMD Ryzen 7 4700H processor, Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics with 6GB of VRAM, 16GB of DDR4-2666 RAM and a 15.6-inch Full HD display with 144Hz refresh rate.
There’s no doubt that this is a gaming laptop: the industrial design and the orange keyboard backlighting with highlighted WASD keys mean this Asus isn’t going to be mistaken for a MacBook Air. Asus makes a great deal of its testing to MIL-STD-810G standards, and while we wouldn’t fancy the A15’s chances against a tank it’s a tough laptop that’s more than a match for everyday knocks and scrapes.
It uses Asus’s own HyperCool technology to deliver effective cooling even during the most intense firefights, although the trade-off is that fan noise can become quite intrusive when you’re really pushing the Asus to its limits.
Nevertheless this is an excellent RTX-powered laptop and deals should make it even more attractive in early 2021.
How to choose the best gaming laptop for you
What you're looking for in the best gaming laptop of 2021 is the capability to run the most demanding games of the day – graphically intensive games, throwing up all sorts of shading and effects on screen – without having to make a ton of settings compromises along the way.
Bad gaming laptops advertise themselves on their gaming credentials, but then deliver vastly inferior performance to their desktop counterparts, so it's absolutely crucial that you avoid these clunkers.
High-resolution screens are a nice added bonus on a gaming laptop as well, but it's important to keep in mind that high frame rates are far more important when gaming on the go – so it's pretty pointless plumping for a laptop with a 4K screen if it doesn't have the interior hardware to power games on it.
In other words, a very high quality, Full HD screen can beat a 4K display in some situations, especially when it's partnered with stonkingly fast internals for a superb portable gaming experience.
Other things to look out for when buying a gaming laptop include weight and portability (after all you are buying this to carry around), battery life (a perennial problem with gaming laptops), and price.
Here at T3 we think you should be spending a minimum of £800 (about $1,000, AU$1,560) on a gaming laptop to ensure a good level of performance. If you can stretch to £2,000 / $2,000 / AU$3,500 or more, that will net you something from the premium end of the scale. There are some hyper-premium systems that retail for over £3,000 / $3000 / AU$4,5000 and, well, if you can spend that money then that is the price tier where you will get the absolute best tech and future proofing.
Who are the best gaming laptop manufacturers?
In the gaming laptop field there are, as you might expect, a lot of makers. Some of these have been producing laptops for gaming for decades, and have serious pedigree, while others are newer to the game and are producing exciting and innovative new models.
Here at T3 we rate and review the finest offerings from these makers and, as such, have created our own list of what we consider the best gaming laptop makers in the world. We think it is pretty much impossible to objectively rank these makers, as each keeps outdoing the other with new systems, but we think if you buy a system from one of these firms then chances are you're going to be very, very happy.
Alienware – Dell's elite gaming-focussed arm has been turning out luxe, drool-tastic gaming laptops for 25 years now (founded in 1996). As you would expect from that legacy, that means that basically every system it makes is top-tier. There's a great attention to detail on each system's build quality, and thanks to its backing from Dell, each is often very customisable, too.
Razer – Razer's systems don't come cheap, at all, and they aren't very configurable either, but they are truly elite-tier in terms of fit, finish and style. If your pockets are deep enough you can get a system with loads of gaming power, too, and thanks to Razer's professional aesthetic, these systems can also be used in an office setting. Many models are also light and very portable.
Dell – Despite Dell having Alienware in its fold it also turns out some slightly less premium but still very capable and powerful gaming laptops under its G-range. The Dell G5 and G7 especially offer plenty of gaming performance, including ray tracing-capable GPUs, and also ring in less than Alienware, too. You also get the same levels of excellent customisation as well.
Asus – Asus, in T3's opinion, is currently killing it in the gaming laptop market, with a series of ranges covering all bases. The Asus ROG Zephyrus and Strix ranges especially have been frequent members of T3's best gaming laptop guide over the past few years, with tis systems delivering great build quality and style with raw pixel-pushing power. It's new Zephyrus G14 is highly portable, too.
Acer – Acer is an unsung hero of the gaming laptop market in T3's eyes, consistently producing very good gaming laptops that offer large doses of bling and gaming power. The Predator Triton and Helios are the two lines of note, which offer systems with different sized screens and specs, as well as cutting edge features and novel designs.
MSI – Symbolised by a dragon, MSI is probably the most exotic gaming laptop maker on the planet right now. It has a crazy amount of gaming laptop series, too, but if you shop for anything in the GT, GS or TE ranges then you're going to be very happy with your purchase. The GS Stealth laptops are especially liked by T3's staff members due to their portability as well as power.
How we test gaming laptops
Reviewing laptops is a serious undertaking as, unlike many products, they are masters at many different things and feature a myriad of components. They also cost hundreds if not thousands to buy, so making sure a system is covered comprehensively is critical to our testing process.
With gaming laptops, though, the system's actual graphics performance in modern AAA games is the foremost consideration, and that's why we always put a gaming laptop through the best PC graphics benchmarking tool in existence, 3DMark. 3DMark not only has serious heritage as a benchmark tool, being trusted by gamers and companies alike, but also has a suite of tests to run.
We run as many of these graphics benchmarks as possible, and then also look to benchmark a game with its own built-in benchmarking tool if available. We also then experientially report back our findings of actually playing games on the gaming laptop, noting how smooth the framerates were and how high the resolution and in-game graphics settings could be pushed.
Away from game-playing performance, we also test out a gaming laptop's battery life and see just what its screen is like to use in normal, non-gaming tasks. This includes watching videos, editing images in PhotoShop and browsing the internet.
Of course, we also look to ascertain the gaming laptop's build quality. Many other things like fan noise, keyboard type and RGB lighting system are also evaluated, too.
Finally, we consider the system against its piers and in terms of value for money. It is then given a star score, with 5 stars been the top score any system can receive, and it is considered for entry into our best gaming laptops buying guide.
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