Buying a gaming machine is no longer as challenging as a game of Tetris. Thanks to smaller chips and lighter hardware, now you can purchase a gaming powerhouse in laptop form without having the piece together the hardware yourself. Gaming laptops have made PC gaming so much more accessible, and you can easily find machines with high-resolution displays and the latest graphics cards without breaking the bank.
As you start your shopping journey, you’ll soon learn that not all gaming laptops offer the same perks. Some are more powerful than others, and though most can handle your favorite first-person shooter with ease, not all of them are so efficient with battery life. The same goes for budget gaming laptops, which may offer the performance you need but skimp on things like the display and keyboard comfort.
We’ve tested the latest high-performance and budget gaming laptops to figure out what’s worth the money. We evaluated everything from graphics capabilities to battery life, to whether the computer can moonlight as a productivity machine. Whether you’re looking to spend as little as $800 or as much as $2500, there’s something out that’s perfectly capable of playing all the latest titles and then some.
Our best overall is the HP Omen X 2S(available at HP Store). The X 2S is a powerful machine that’s gorgeous, fun to use, and built specifically with gamers and streamers in mind. But if having a second screen isn’t important, or if you have specific preferences related to keyboard placement and the like, we’ve reviewed plenty of other great laptops; you’ll find one that’s perfect for you on this list.
These are the best gaming laptops we tested ranked, in order:
HP Omen X 2S (i7-9750H, GeForce RTX 2080)
HP Omen 17 (i7-9750H, GeForce RTX 2060)
Razer Blade 15 (i7-9750H, GeForce GTX 1660 Ti)
MSI GS65 Stealth RTX 2060
HP Pavilion 15
ROG Zephyrus G14
Acer Predator Triton 500
Acer Nitro 7
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HP’s Omen X 2S is a joy. Not only is it one of the best-looking laptops we’ve seen recently, but it’s also an innovative machine whose bells and whistles are intuitive and fun to use. Equipped with an Intel i7-9750H processor and a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card, it’s powerful enough to run most games on high or ultra settings. Because it’s got a second screen built into the base—with touchscreen functionality—the keyboard placement is a little different than you’re probably used to. The keys run along the bottom edge of the machine, with the trackpad located in the bottom right. The X 2S comes with a sturdy but comfortable wrist rest, therefore, and it’ll take a second to get used to typing. But the trackpad positioning was an immediate adjustment for me, as natural as using a traditional PC mouse—assuming you’re right-handed.
Depending on your budget and the options you go with, this might run you north of $2,000 but the second screen’s a fantastic addition to the standard HP Omen, and it feels like the sort of hardware that’ll last a decade or more with regular use. The touchscreen acts as a second monitor where you can operate streaming software like Twitch, monitor your social-media notifications, or maybe consult a walkthrough guide while you’re playing. The Omen Command Center app also makes it simple to toggle between the laptop’s three modes: Comfort, Default, and Performance.
Its most serious drawback is battery life. In Performance mode, you could be seeing an hour of charge or less while unplugged, so don’t expect to get a lot of on-the-go use out of it.
With its elegant black-and-white color scheme, the Lenovo Legion Y545 is a gorgeous piece of hardware. It’s got a comfortable keyboard, the trackpad feels fantastic, and it delivers strong, reliable performance for something under a grand. It comes with the same 16 gigabytes of RAM and Intel Core i7-series processor you find in most of the laptops that cost twice as much. Another standout feature that may be a make-a-break proposition is the power supply, which plugs into the back center of the base, as opposed to the side. I found this to be more comfortable and convenient than most laptops, but for most users, it will probably take some getting used to.
As for frame rates, the Legion Y545 stayed locked at a steady 60 frames per second the entire time I was playing Rise of the Tomb Raider—on low as well as high graphics settings—so hardcore enthusiasts who favor higher numbers over consistency may not be fully satisfied there. That said, for a budget machine, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4GB graphics card doesn’t disappoint. And at two and a half hours, battery life is fairly unremarkable, but this laptop’s a lot of fun to use. It’s the bang-for-buck choice for players on a budget.
I'm Florence Ion, a contributor here at Reviewed. Over a decade ago, I started my career interning for a PC magazine and benchmarking powerful machines. But gone are the days I used to put together my gaming rig. I've since switched over to laptops because they're more portable and they save me a ton of room in my tiny office. And gaming laptops, in particular, offer everything I need to run my business and engage in a bit of playtime when I'm not feeling particularly motivated.
I’m Alex Kane, a freelance contributor for Reviewed. Since early 2016, I’ve been writing about video games and culture for places like Polygon, Rolling Stone, and Variety. I’m also the author of Boss Fight Books’ Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I come to gaming laptops looking for things like comfort, ease of use, and longevity. Whether I’m playing Fallout 4, Halo, or MTG Arena, I just want a machine that gets out of my way and makes gaming as joyous and headache-free as possible. But having enough power to run the latest blockbusters is equally important when you’re making this kind of investment.
To help determine a gaming laptop’s ability as a portable powerhouse, we first attempt to push each machine’s processor to its brink. These tests help us determine the responsiveness of the laptop and whether it’ll be able to handle streaming or running Google Chrome in the background with simultaneous gameplay. We then run a series of tests on the graphics card to figure out how fast graphics and images rendered on a particular machine, and whether your gameplay will run smoothly.
Since gaming laptops are smaller and thinner than full gaming rigs, we tested the heat output and fan noise of each machine during sustained gameplay. If you plan to use a gaming laptop for double-duty, you might find the sound of whirring fan blades to be a bit distracting.
Once that’s established, we run a battery test overnight. We unplug the laptop and set the display brightness to 200 nits and then we cycle through popular websites like Discord and Twitch until the battery dies. This is how we figure out how much action we can get on a single charge. The idea is to emulate daily tasks. Even if you’re buying this laptop solely to play Overwatch, you’ll also likely use it for web browsing.
Lastly, we consider the overall build quality like how sturdy the hinges feel and if there’s any flex to the display. We also take into account how light the machine is—under five pounds is ideal—and how many ports it offers.
What You Should Know About Gaming Laptops
Under the Hood
When you start your search for gaming laptops, you’ll notice that there isn’t much variety when it comes to the internal hardware. The most popular graphics cards these days are made by Nvidia. Companies like AMD also manufacture high-performing graphics cards, but most of the laptops we tested have Nvidia hardware powering their insides.
The latest Nvidia graphics cards are the 10-series, 16-series, and 20-series. The 10-series includes 1060, 1070, and 1080 cards. These tend to be more budget-friendly and they’re capable of handling the latest games at high frame rates as well as virtual reality experiences (provided you have enough RAM). Like the other cards mentioned here, they’re also compatible with Nvidia proprietary G Sync, which helps manage smooth frame rates of up to 240Hz.
The 16-series includes the 1660 Ti and 1650 and are both based on newer architecture than the 10-series. They perform well at 1080p and 1440p resolutions and offer better memory bandwidth so that graphics continually render smoothly at high frame-rates. The only caveat of the 16-series is that they tend to ship with less virtual memory, which can become a future-proofing issue down the line.
The 20-series include the RTX 2060, 2070, and 2080, and they’re considered some of the best cards in their class. The RTX in their name stands for ray tracing, which helps generate interactive images that react to lighting, shadows, and reflections, contributing to more immersive gameplay. Games like Metro Exodus support this rendering technology. The 20-series are also able to facilitate gaming on a 4K monitor, which you might consider if you’re springing for our best all-around gaming laptop picks.
The processor inside your gaming laptop won’t directly affect your gaming prowess, though this part of the configuration matters for day-to-day tasks and simultaneous streaming. Most of what you’ll find on our list come with Intel Core i7 chips, either last generation’s 8750H variant or the ninth-generation 9750H. There isn’t a significant difference in performance between the two, and you can save some money by foregoing the upgrade.
If you’re looking at budget gaming machines, you’re likely to run into Intel’s Core i5 processors. They’re capable chips, but you will see a performance difference as you push the machine to its capacity.
The standard screen size for gaming laptops is 15.6-inches with 1080p resolution. It’s enough screen for partaking in action without carting around a laptop that’s breaking your back. There are 17-inch gaming laptops available, too, but if portability matters to you, you might want to avoid that much screen.
Refresh rates make the most significance on gaming laptops. You may have noticed that a majority of our picks include a 144Hz refresh rate, with machines like the MSI GS65 Stealth with RTX 2060 graphics clocking in at 240Hz. The higher frame rate effectively smooths out gameplay and leads to less stuttering issues than on a standard monitor with a 60Hz refresh rate.
It used to be impossible to find a competent gaming machine under a grand, but not anymore. Now you can find plenty of options starting with decent processors and enough graphics power to fuel your third playthrough of The Witcher 3.
Anything over a grand belongs in the mid-range category, though that label doesn’t necessarily refer to a laptop’s specifications. You’ll be able to find machines with current generation hardware, decent battery life, lots of memory, and plenty of storage space. Some last-generation gaming laptops may also appear at this price point.
Laptops that cost well over a grand are considered top performers because they’re equipped with top-tier specs. Machines in this category also tend to offer better display options, and in some instances, allow you to upgrade components down the line.
Other Gaming Laptops We Tested
HP Omen (17-cb0070nr)
With its massive 17.3-inch display and silky-smooth keyboard, the Omen 17 offers a phenomenal gaming experience for a wide range of user needs. Averaging upwards of 100 to 120 frames per second (that’s how fast the image on screen refreshes) on even the most graphics-intensive blockbusters, this is a bulky machine designed for performance and efficient cooling. Equipped with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card and an Intel i7-9750H, this machine packs some serious power. It’s heavy and it’s loud, sure, but it runs like a dream, and your favorite games will look great. The big downside here, as with the X 2S and most other gaming laptops, is battery life: it may only last about an hour and twenty minutes in the wild.
It’s incredibly versatile, however. Like the X 2S, the Omen 17 comes equipped with the Omen Command Center app, which lets you tailor performance to prioritize between cooling, noise level, and processing power with ease. It’s an expensive machine with some size to it, but it’s a great investment for gaming enthusiasts wanting to play comfortably at home—in a chair, on the couch, or at a desk. You’ll love using it for non-gaming tasks like working from home or doing schoolwork as well.
The Razer Blade 15 is a heavy, sturdy powerhouse built for gaming. Its utilitarian shape and sharp edges are attractive—the green snake logo, perhaps, less so. Despite its considerable weight, the size and shape ought to make this an easy one to squeeze into most bags for transportation. Though it can run pretty hot on the underside while you’re playing a demanding game at higher settings—you may not want it resting directly on your legs—the fan on this one stays surprisingly quiet.
Between the crisp display and comfortable keyboard, this is a great machine for working and playing at a desk or table. The keys are illuminated, easy to read, and spaced pretty wide, offering a nice, satisfying click with each key press. The model we tested had the same six-core (Intel Core i7-9750H) processor you’ll find on a lot of current gaming-laptop models and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti graphics card. The benchmark results were impressive.
The battery, in particular, put up a nice three-hour charge in performance mode (without any power-saving settings active), so this one should be more reliable than most of the competition when you can’t find an outlet to plug into. Performance mode is just a couple clicks away, courtesy of the built-in Razer Synapse app, and lets you prioritize your hardware’s full CPU capabilities and cooling power over battery life. It’s as flashy as an energy-drink can, but if it’s a gaming laptop you’re after, the Blade 15 will deliver.
The MSI GS65 Stealth scored highly in our processor and graphic card stress tests. It comes equipped with one of the latest RTX 2060 chips, features a matte, edge-to-edge 15.6-inch Full HD display with a 240Hz refresh rate, and it also has a cool, customizable rainbow keyboard.
The GS65 Stealth performed better than the Alienware M15 in our benchmark tests, including Geekbench, 3DMark, Metro 2033, and Rise of the Tomb Raider. However, it lagged behind the Alienware M15 about an hour and eighteen minutes in our battery benchmarks, managing a little less than three hours of constant activity. It’s a relatively minor difference overall, but it’s something to consider if you’re often on the road rather than tethered to a power cable.
The Alienware M15 unit we tested has an Nvidia GTX 2070 graphics card, coupled with an Intel Core i7-8750H processor and 16GB of RAM. At under five pounds, the M15 can be used on the road or docked at your desk. It offers a ton of ports, including an HDMI port, a mini-display port, a Thunderbolt port for external hard drives, and what Alienware refers to as a Graphics Amplifier Port. The latter is part of the new trend in gaming laptops that enables you to tether an external enclosure with additional graphics hardware. We did not test that particular feature, but its mere existence helps future-proof the package a bit.
The M15’s 15.6-inch full HD display with 144Hz refresh rate and an anti-glare screen is truly a delight. It’s enjoyable for both long bouts of travel in your favorite RPG or for binge-watching the content that’s collecting dust on your streaming shelf. The M15’s keyboard is also the most comfortable of the bunch, though it doesn’t offer any fancy backlighting. The relative ease of tapping around the keyboard makes it feel like less of a machine meant for gaming and more like a laptop meant for getting things done. The battery life for this laptop is also impeccable—compared to the status quo—and managed up to four hours of continuous web browsing and playtime.
The Alienware M15 isn’t priced too high, either. It starts at $2000 for the configuration mentioned here. Or you can spend $500 more to grab the version with the latest Intel Core i7-9750H processor, which will help future-proof the laptop even further down the line.
HP’s Pavilion 15 doesn’t look that impressive—its somewhat boring black design comes with either lime-green or white accents—but it’ll run games like Apex Legends or Metro Exodus, and the price tag is appealing. Like the Lenovo Legion, the Pavilion 15’s locked at 60 frames per second thanks to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 4GB graphics card but manages some impressive benchmark scores in other areas. In the Geekbench CPU test, it actually outperformed HP’s own Omen 17 gaming laptop (earning a single core score of 5,049, as opposed to the Omen’s result of 3,709).
For a student or someone on a tight budget, this is a solid jack-of-all-trades PC in the ballpark of $750 , depending on what configuration you choose. (There are at least three different graphics-card choices available, among other options). It’s got a soft, comfortable keyboard and most of the functionality you’d expect from a laptop marketed toward young people and gamers. It just doesn’t feel like the sort of hardware that would survive a lot of wear and tear from frequent use.
The Zephyrus G14 exudes class. The first thing you notice is the color scheme—white, silver, and a hint of black—which calls to mind a two-tone paint job on a sports car. This sets it apart from the rainbow-colored lighting typical of out-of-the-box gaming laptops; you wouldn’t think twice about taking this to a quiet coffee shop to get a little work done. There is an all-black option available, though I can’t imagine choosing that version.
The keyboard feels especially durable, the touchpad’s sensitive and precise, and it’s got a stunning display. With its 14-inch high-def screen, games look great even on lower graphics settings. Text documents and web pages are smooth and crisp in a way you typically only see on Macbooks and tablets. And you’ll be amazed by how lightweight this thing is despite its formidable power; the G14 achieves a shocking balance between convenience and performance.
Most impressive of all is the battery life, which exceeded four hours running in Turbo mode without any power-saving measures active. This may well be the ideal solution for someone who really wants to game anytime, anywhere.
The Acer Predator Triton 500 has all the bells and whistles of some of the best gaming laptops available, including an Intel Core i7-8750H, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card. It also sports a 15.6-inch display with a 144Hz refresh rate, though it’s not compatible with Nvidia’s G Sync, which helps prevent tearing and stuttering on displays with higher refresh rates. This won’t matter too much if you’re playing solely with the laptop open, though it also means you won’t be able to take advantage of some external displays.
Of the laptops with RTX graphics cards, the Predator 500 lasted the longest in our productivity battery test. It managed up to nearly five and a half hours of screen time before ultimately petering out. If the battery is your primary concern in purchasing your next gaming laptop, the Acer Predator Triton 500 is a supreme choice.
Just because you’re buying a gaming laptop on a strict budget doesn’t mean you have to skimp on the features. The Acer Nitro 7 is an excellent example of how to save money and equip yourself with the kind of hardware that will play your favorite games and help you get things done.
The Nitro 7 has the latest Intel Core i7-9750H processor along with an Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card and 16GB of RAM. Like its pricier competition, it also offers a 15.6-inch Full HD display with 144Hz refresh rate, which means games run pretty smooth. It even managed to maintain high frame rates in visually-demanding games like Metro 2033 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. It boasts impeccable battery life, too, with up to four hours of continuous use before it requires a charge.
Perhaps the only caveat of the Nitro 7 is the same issue that plagues other gaming laptops. The lack of physical buttons on the trackpad makes it hard to play some games without an additional mouse.
College kids and entry-level gamers alike might find the Dell G5 with a Core i5-9300H and Nvidia GTX 1650 suits their needs for both work and play. The Dell G5 is a nice machine for resting on your desk or joining you in class. It’s comfortable to type on, can manage a little over five hours of battery life for productivity tasks, and offers a whopping 1TB of hard drive space for your data and games, in addition to a 256GB SSD for keeping Windows 10 operating smoothly.
Florence Ion is a freelance journalist and prolific podcaster. She's written for Ars Technica, PC World, Android Central, The Verge, and Engadget. Her reviews and how-tos can usually be found on Lifehacker, Tom's Guide, and Reviewed. She can also be heard weekly on All About Android on the TWiT network and Material on Relay FM.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.