Although a PC will nearly always be better for gaming, in terms of performance, not everyone has the space for a bulky tower, and some people want to be able to pack up their system and take it with them. If you are one of those people, we have good news: In recent years, gaming laptops have seen huge improvements, and the options are better than ever — for any level of gamer and (nearly) any budget.
For most gamers, the decision comes down to a balance of price, power, and mobility. Jay Boor, global head of marketing and communications at the Japanese video-game production studio, Koijma Productions, says, “If you shop around you can get a mid-level machine that delivers a quality experience. However, if you’re a gamer who wants to play all the latest releases lag free and in 4K, you will need a slightly higher budget to work with.” Kahlief Adams, host of Spawn On Me with Kahlief Adams — a podcast that highlights gamers of color — agrees. He believes paying a little more for power is the way to go. You won’t hate a better screen, either. “Sometimes, going with a screen that has a higher refresh rate is a better move, especially since you’ll be playing on a smaller screen in comparison to something on a dedicated PC or TV. Faster is usually better here,” he says. To make sure you get a laptop with the right specs, Boor suggests working backwards. “Visit the developer websites of the games you know you’re going to buy and check the system requirements,” he says. “That way, you’ll have a baseline reference point before you purchase.”
We spoke to Boor, Adams, and three more experts about the best gaming laptops you can buy right now. Here are their picks.
The most powerful gaming laptop
This 17-inch high-end laptop handles all games incredibly smoothly, according to Monica Chin, at our sister site, the Verge. She calls the Blade Pro 17 “the best choice for gamers looking for a portable professional machine.” Of the available hardware configurations, Saltzman suggests indulging in the 4K model — and even the touch display. Touch is a rare feature for gaming PCs, and not something you’d use for a high-action games, but he says it is ideal for more casual games and puzzles, if that’s something you’re interested in. The computer’s NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super graphics card gives you smooth, fast action that the 120Hz refresh rate has no trouble keeping up with. And it looks cool, with an all-black aluminum body and RGB-backlit keyboard. “This is a wink and a nod to the years of the Ultrabook. Expensive, a tad heavy (over six pounds), and classic, but all black Razer aesthetics,” Adams says.
The best gaming laptop under $1,000
“Many times, computers that are super-powerful are also thicker. On the flip side, you’ll get a thin, light model without the horsepower and graphics you want for the latest games. But the G14 gives you the best of both worlds,” says Marc Saltzman, a “technology evangelist” and the host of Tech Impact on Fox Business and Bloomberg TV. Despite being only 0.7 inches thick, it has a capable AMD Ryzen 4000-series processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card. Alexa Despenas, a device storyteller at Microsoft, calls this laptop a “powerhouse.” She also likes that it has a unique, customizable display on the lid, allowing you to scroll through words or images with the help of twelve hundred mini-LEDs. The model pictured above is capable, but entry level. For even better performance, $500 more gets you a faster processor, better graphics, and twice the memory and hard-drive space.
The most affordable gaming laptop
“This entry-level gaming laptop is ideal for younger or newer gamers who want performance but don’t want to break the banks,” Saltzman says. Cameron Faulkner at the Verge agrees, writing that the G5 15 SE is “a winner if you’re trying to get the most amount of power for the least amount of money.” The base model comes with a capable Radeon RX 5600 GPU and a 15.6-inch 60Hz 1080p display. (The upgraded model sports a gorgeous 144Hz FreeSync screen.) Despanas is also a fan, explaining that “Dell’s SmartShift technology smartly allocates power between the CPU and GPU depending on where you need it most.”
The best dual-screen gaming laptop
Adams recommends this laptop “for the super enthusiast that wants to show off a super cool dual-screen form factor that will turn heads.” And although she warns about the limited usefulness of the dual screen (seeing it more for its potential than current capability), Chin describes the Duo as “a workstation featuring top-of-the-line chips that can compete with the best portable gaming laptops on the market.” With an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q GPU, an Intel Core i9-10980HK and 2TB of storage, “it’s a very capable computer,” she says.
The best gaming laptop for eSports
The M15 R3 is well-balanced between performance and price, and it has a sleek design that includes a glowing LED ring on the back of the laptop and a RGB-backlit keyboard. Adams calls it “a great combo package” and says the “higher-end versions, which have an option for a 300hz screen with the ability to play some graphically intensive games over 100 fps at 1080p is fantastic.” With that frame rate, refresh rate, and the power of the Nvidia GeForce RTx2070 Super graphics card, Despenas says this model is a great option for eSports fans.
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