June 22, 2020

10 Best Gaming Laptops / Notebooks (Reviewed June 2020)

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Best Gaming Laptop IllustrationAsk anyone who considers themselves a purist and they will tell you that a PC is the best platform for the game playing experience. A PC goes beyond a run-of-the-mill gaming console, and allows you to push the boundaries on just about everything. To be entirely clear, gaming desktops still rule over laptops. They have both the high end components and the requisite power to play games with 4K resolution and let you set up demanding VR like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

That still doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for gaming laptops. They are portable, which gives them quite an advantage over PCs. If you want to carry your machine with you around the house or over to your friend’s, then you will definitely enjoy the utility of a laptop.

If you are in a hurry, please see the table below for my top gaming laptop picks. Scroll down to see my review for each of those, and a buyer’s guide to help you select the best gaming notebook for your gaming needs.

TOP 10 GAMING LAPTOPS

1. Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model – Best Overall

Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model

Specs

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-8750H
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080
  • RAM – 16GB DDR4-2666Mhz
  • Screen – 15.6 inch FHD (1,920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz
  • Storage – 512GB M.2 SSD
  • Battery – 80Whr
  • Dimensions – 9.25 x 13.98 x 0.78 inches
  • Weight – 4.63 pounds

Pros

  • Very high build quality
  • Wide range of options for CPU and GPU

Review

The first Razer Blade 15 came out in the spring of 2018. Not much has changed in the short time since. The advanced model we see here is really a refresher of the older great gaming laptop model, with the same aluminum chassis as the original. The main difference here is that it has the latest Nvidia Turing architecture RTX graphics card: The GeForce RTX 2080.

The RTX 2080 can run Metro Exodus, which is ray traced, very smoothly at more than 50 fps with the visual settings at maximum. We also decided to find out how well the battery would do, playing Metro Exodus with the power unplugged. Despite the fact that this laptop is power hungry, it still managed to play for a whopping 5 hours before the battery gave out.

When the original Razer Blade first came out, it was by far the lightest and thinnest gaming laptop in its class. That is no longer true, as many thinner and lighter models have been produced since. However, it is still the longest lasting in terms of battery life. It’s also a pretty expensive laptop.

Something else we like about this laptop is the fact that it checks all the boxes of what a laptop should be. A lot of gamers buy gaming laptops to stand in for gaming desktops, which means they don’t really care that the thing is heavy and bulky and has a terrible trackpad, unlike regular non-gaming laptops. This laptop, however, is just as good a replacement for your laptop as it is a replacement for your gaming desktop. The trackpad is very much like what you would find on the MacBook. It even competes in terms of aesthetics with non-gaming Windows notebooks like the Dell XPS 13.

You can get the Razer Blade 15 with a 4K OLED screen if you want, which only works with the RTX 2080 GPU. Though, if you’re going to go in that direction, we would advise you to go for one of the FHD 144Hz models with higher volume.

However you look at it, this is the best possible gaming laptop in the market at the moment. We’ll be waiting for someone to come up with something better. However, until then, we’ve got our minds made up.

2. MSI GS65 Stealth Thin – Thin and Lightweight

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

Specs

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-8750H
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q
  • RAM – 16GB DDR4-2400Mhz
  • Screen – 15.6 inch FHD (1,920 x 1080) wide view 144Hz
  • Storage – 512GB M.2 SSD
  • Battery – 82Whr
  • Dimensions – 9.75 x 14.08 x 0.69 inches
  • Weight – 4.14 pounds

Pros

  • Powerful and sleek
  • Good battery life
  • Great value for the money





Review

This powerful gaming laptop is a winner for many people and has some pretty great specs, given its price. It is quite versatile, just as a notebook should be, and is both sturdy and light. You can throw it in your laptop bag and walk around with it all day without a problem. The sleek body is made of aluminum and is matte black with gold accents, making the laptop feel like something of a luxury item. That said, we have a particular liking for it because the aesthetics are tame compared to some of the more outrageous gaming laptop designs out there. It’s at least an inch smaller than most 15-inch laptops you will find on the market, whether they are gaming laptops or not, making it a win for a 15-inch laptop.

Unfortunately, the GPU on this laptop won’t do ray tracing, since it’s a GTX GPU. That said, it’s still powerful enough to handle most of the game titles on the market. The whole series of MSI GS65 stealth thin models are transitioning into a more stable line of flavors right now. You could try to get a model with a GTX 1070 GPU, though you would have to contend with 32GB of RAM and an SSD with a capacity of 1TB, making it very expensive. If you want to save some money but still get the 1060 build, you could go for one with 16GB of Ram and 256GB SSD. This will take a huge chunk off of the price, though you will have to sacrifice some of the performance. There are also newer models with the RTX 2070 GPU, but they’re also very expensive.

Apart from the GPU, there are a lot of other details that make the GS65 a superb laptop, such as the SteelSeries keyboard with RGB lighting, the responsive touchpad, and the solid webcam at the top of the screen.

The only thing you’ll miss in this laptop is G-Sync technology. However, given the price tag and the high battery life, it is arguably a reasonable tradeoff.

3. Lenovo Legion Y740 – Best for Hardcore Gamers

Lenovo Legion Y740

Specs

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-8750H
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q
  • RAM – 16GB DDR4-2667Mhz
  • Screen – 17.3 inch FHD (1,920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz
  • Storage – 1TB HDD; 256GB SSD
  • Battery – 76Whr
  • Dimensions – 12 x 16.2 x 0.91 inches
  • Weight – 6.4 pounds

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Fair pricing

Cons

  • Unappealing external design
  • Small trackpad

Review

The Legion series of Lenovo laptops has been around for a few years now, and have managed to make a name for themselves in the gaming niche because of the amount of value they offer when it comes to affordable specs.

Lenovo is mainly known for ThinkPads, where it focuses on getting the most in terms of performance from the cheapest of materials while maintaining design and quality. This philosophy has carried over into the Legion series and seems to be working very well, especially with the Lenovo Legion Y740. This laptop has an incredibly wide screen at 17.3 inches and graphics chips that range from the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 to the RTX 2080, all extremely powerful graphics cards, and all coming at just a fraction of the price you would get from competitors.

To be honest, the bezels on Legion laptops are wider and more distracting than what is currently considered normal in this space. However, the very wide screen also uses technology that is typically rare. The IPS 144Hz display features Dolby Vision HDR and G-Sync, which means you don’t have to get software adaptive protocols.

The audio is also impressive for a laptop at this price point: Dolby Atmos. The onboard sound bar is finely tuned and emits crisp frequencies over a wide range. There is equal value assigned to both the bass tones and midrange tones. You also get Dolby Atmos software in the Windows 10 Home edition install that ships with the laptop, which means you should be able to customize your EQ settings to your preference.

If you want ray tracing in real time, then the Lenovo Legion should work just fine. It will easily play games like Metro Exodus with the graphics settings at their maximum at over 50fps. You could even get it to play smoothly at over 60fps if you played with the sliders a bit. All of this, of course, is at over 30% less than the price of its competitors with the same specs.

4. Acer Predator Helios 300 – Best Value

Acer Predator Helios 300

Specs

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-9750H
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
  • RAM – 16GB DDR4-2666Mhz
  • Screen – 15.6 inch FHD (1,920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz
  • Storage – 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Battery – 3720 mAh
  • Dimensions – 10.01 x 14.23 x 0.90 inches
  • Weight – 5.07 pounds

Pros

  • Very high value for the money
  • Features the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti GPU





Review

We really loved this laptop because it offers an extreme amount of value for the money, even though it’s a cheap gaming laptop. It has been a darling for us since the 10-series Pascal architecture era, where you could get it for about a grand and it had the GTX 1060 6GB GPU which was quite capable of smooth gameplay at 60fps and max visual setting for most games of the time. Acer decided to outdo themselves and brought the Helios back with new GPU: the GTX 1660 Ti GPU. It also comes looking sleeker, all at the same price.

This Helios 300 has a 144Hz IPS screen and smaller bezels, which makes it just as sleek and thin and light as the best of the best in the market, and much better than the generations that preceded it. The RAM speed is also pretty fast compared to its predecessor at 2666Mhz. The only major fail for this laptop is the low capacity of the SSD, though you could cough up more money if you wanted a model with a larger capacity SSD.

5. MSI GL63 8RC – Best for Low Budget

MSI GL63 8RC

Specs

  • CPU – Intel Core i5-8300H
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 4GB
  • RAM – 8GB DDR4-2666Mhz
  • Screen – 15.6 inch FHD (1,920 x 1080) IPS
  • Storage – 1TB HDD
  • Battery – 3 cell 41Whr
  • Dimensions – 15.07 x 10.24 x 1.14 inches
  • Weight – 4.85 pounds

Pros

  • The RAM and storage are upgradeable
  • Thin Bezel





Review

If you’re looking for a budget gaming laptop that truly is low budget, then it’s hard to go wrong with the MSI GL63 laptop. It comes with a Core i5 Intel CPU, 8GB of high speed RAM, and the Nvidia GTX 1050 4GB GPU. It also comes with one of the thinnest bezels in this particular price range. The only thing that we obviously did not like about this laptop, and that we suspect you might not like either, is the lack of an SSD. It comes with a 1TB HDD. The good news is that it is upgradeable, so you can purchase an SSD and upgrade it to something a little more decent.

The best thing about this laptop is the highly competitive price tag, which pegs it at one of the cheapest laptops you will find on the market with a GTX 1050 graphics chip. It actually costs just a little more than a laptop with integrated graphics, but performs exponentially better. If you have a really tight budget and still want a gaming laptop, then this particular model should give you everything you would need in a laptop plus the capability to play some decent titles.

6. Acer Predator Triton 500 – Thin and Powerful

Acer Predator Triton 500

Specs

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-8750H
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q
  • RAM – 16GB DDR4-2667Mhz
  • Screen – 15.6 inch FHD (1,920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz
  • Storage – 512GB M.2 SSD
  • Battery – 84Whr
  • Dimensions – 10 x 14.41 x 0.70 inches
  • Weight – 4.41 pounds

Pros

  • Very high performance
  • Great value for the money





Review

To be sure, not everyone wants the most powerful and the thinnest gaming laptop on the market. Sometimes, something that is just powerful enough and just thin enough to do the job is good enough. That’s what you get with the Acer Predator Triton 500: a great balance between performance, portability, and price. This notebook features Max-Q technology on an RTX 2080 GPU. If you want, you can find a cheaper model with an RTX 2060 graphics card.

Whichever version you go for, this great notebook is definitely worth your money. It can play the latest AAA titles at max settings with ray tracing on and at more than 50fps. It also comes with a Microsoft precision touchpad and a 1.7 mm thick keyboard. The only two things we didn’t like about this laptop is the noisy boot-up sound and the short battery life.

This laptop is also pretty light at 4.41 pounds. You could easily carry it around with you all day without feeling the strain. Each key on the Triton 500 has 1.7mm of travel and takes about 70 grams of force to activate. It also has RGB lighting zones, rather than a per-key lighting scheme. This isn’t a bad thing, though. Sometimes lighting zones instead of individual key backlighting is a reasonable tradeoff to make if it means the laptop gets a good design and is appealing.

7. Gigabyte Aero 15X v8 – Best for Battery Life

Gigabyte Aero 15X v8

Specs

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-8750H
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q
  • RAM – 16GB DDR4-2666Mhz
  • Screen – 15.6 inch FHD (1,920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz
  • Storage – 512GB M.2 SSD
  • Battery – 94Whr
  • Dimensions – 9.8 x 14.0 x 0.74 inches
  • Weight – 4.63 pounds

Pros

  • Very good battery life
  • Very high performance
  • Beautiful display panel

Cons

  • May have driver problems out of the box

Review

This is yet another refresh. The original Gigabyte Aero 15X v8 came out in 2018 and had quite a few issues out of the box, including driver issues. This 2019 refresh has solved most of the issues that plagued its predecessor and added some features as well.

The keyboard on the refresh works much better than what was there in the predecessor, though the drivers still show a few issues. The best solution is to update the drivers, after which everything should be working just fine. This refresh also comes with a 144Hz display panel and Max-Q technology to make for a thinner, lighter, and sleeker design.

We couldn’t help comparing this laptop to some similar models on this list, such as the Razer Blade 15 and the MSI GS65. When compared to these, the body on the Aero 15X has a much chunkier body with sharper edges. We think that takes away some of its aesthetic appeal. However, it also wins over these competitors in other areas, such as productivity. The 94 Whr battery, for example, will easily last over 6 hours while streaming videos. The GS65’s battery, by comparison, will only last for about four and a half hours. The gaming performance on the Aero 15X is also pretty similar to the GS65 since the two gaming laptops share much of the internal components. The greatest difference between the two is in battery power and external design.

The other major difference is that the Aero 15X lets you fit it with a 4K screen. Now, given the kind of graphics card it comes with, it’s not advisable to use the 4K screen for gaming. The GPU would not be able to handle it and graphics quality would be severely compromised. The high refresh rate full HD 1080p screen that ships with this laptop is more than enough for framing purposes. The only scenario where the 4K screen seems to make more sense is in non-gaming activities where you want to take advantage of greater resolution.

8. MSI GS75 Stealth – Best for Performance

MSI GS75 Stealth

Specs

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-8750H
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q
  • RAM – 32GB DDR4-2667Mhz
  • Screen – 17.3 inch FHD (1,920 x 1080) IPS 144Hz
  • Storage – 512GB M.2 SSD
  • Battery – 82Whr
  • Dimensions – 15.59 x 10.22 x 0.75 inches
  • Weight – 4.63 pounds

Pros

  • Very sleek look
  • Powerful performance

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Touchpad is uncomfortable
  • Paint chips off easily

Review

The only reason why this gaming laptop isn’t somewhere near the top of this list is its forbiddingly high price. Most of the other things about it are absolutely incredible and would make any ardent gamer swoon.

The Max-Q design was announced by Nvidia in 2017 and the idea was that gaming laptops of the future would not only be faster and more powerful, but also thinner, sleeker, and far lighter than their predecessors. The MSI GS75 is a tangible testament to this claim and has really lived up to its name.

The MSI GS75 laptop comes as an upgrade to the MSI GS65 model and has much of the same design: black and gold with an aluminum chassis. However, it has a larger screen, a sleeker look, and, of course, much more powerful specs. That said, we didn’t like the terrible paint job on this laptop as it has a tendency to chip easily. We also didn’t like the touchpad, which is surprisingly uncomfortable and makes you want to buy an external mouse immediately.

The rest though is good news. The aluminum alloy chassis houses a top of the range GeForce RTX graphics chip. This chip offers all of the ray tracing capabilities that have come to define the Turin architecture line of GPUs. It also comes with a Core i7 processor no matter which particular configuration you decide to purchase. The RAM comes in at a whopping 32 GB, which is not only good, but is overkill for gaming. The SSD also has a high enough capacity that it should be enough for gaming.

The price of this laptop is its greatest drawback. It is by far the most expensive laptop on this list and is certainly not for gamers on a budget. That said, the performance blows the competition out of the water. This machine can play some pretty demanding AAA games in 1080p full HD at max visual settings and a whopping 87 fps. Considering this beauty weighs less than 5 pounds, that’s one hell of a feat!

9. Asus ROG Zephyrus GA502 – Best AMD CPU-Powered Laptop

Asus ROG Zephyrus GA502

Specs

  • CPU – AMD Ryzen 7 3750H
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB Max-Q
  • RAM – 16GB DDR4-2666Mhz
  • Screen – 15.6 inch (1,920 x 1080) vIPS 120Hz
  • Storage – 512GB NVMe SSD x 2
  • Battery – 74Whr
  • Dimensions – 15.8 x 10.9 x 2.9 inches
  • Weight – 4.63 pounds

Pros

  • Very high build quality and design
  • Great value for the money

Cons

  • No webcam
  • Low quality touchpad

Review

This laptop is living proof that you don’t really need to spend an incredible amount of money to get a decent gaming laptop that performs just fine. For a mid-range laptop, the G502 offers a lot of value for the money and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. The design is attractive, the body is slim and sleek, and the performance is good enough that you can use it for gaming. The design is also good enough that you can use it as a normal laptop without turning heads due to an outrageous design.

On the inside, the specs might sound a little lackluster; a Ryzen 7 processor, an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, and two SSDs, each with a capacity of 512GB. These specs might not make you titillate with excitement, but they certainly aren’t to be taken lightly either. They are the specs of a gaming laptop that knows exactly what tier it lies in and what segment of the market it is targeting. It plays PC games very well at medium to high settings and provides portability along with performance.

You can play Esports titles like Overwatch, Fortnite, and Rocket League very smoothly on this laptop at high settings. For demanding and more recent games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Division 2, you will need to bring down the settings to medium for the same level of performance. However, even at that setting the game will play beautifully. Also, don’t forget that what we call ‘medium settings’ today were the high settings of previous years and still offer great beauty to the eye. It’s not the kind of compromise that can be considered a deal breaker.

There are some downsides that hold this model back, such as the loud fans and the terrible touchpad. The display panel is also vIPS, which means it’s going to be dim at full HD 1080p. However, if you turn the settings down you should still be able to enjoy your game without having to rob a bank to afford it.

10. Asus ROG Strix GL503VS-DH74 Scar Edition – Best SSD Storage

Asus ROG Strix GL503VS DH74 Scar Edition

Specs

  • CPU – Intel Core i7-7700HQ
  • GPU – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070
  • RAM – 16GB DDR4-2400Mhz
  • Screen – 15.6 inch FHD (1,920 x 1080) wide view 144Hz with G-Sync
  • Storage – 256GB NVMe SSD, 1TB FireCuda SSHD
  • Battery – 64Whr
  • Dimensions – 10.3 x 15.2 x 1.0 inches
  • Weight – 5.6 pounds

Pros

  • Great SSD storage
  • Good value for the money





Review

Usually, a laptop offers some mix of price, performance, and portability. For the laptops that have the best performance and portability, you should be prepared to pay the highest price. For those that have an affordable price, you should be prepared to compromise on either performance or portability. For the GL503VS-DH74, you will get a great price and pretty decent performance. What you won’t get is portability.

The shell on the GL503VS-DH74 Scar Edition is pretty large and heavy. It in turn packs a well-performing Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics card without Max-Q. This means you get more performance at a price point that typically wouldn’t offer that kind of performance. The CPU is also from a previous generation, though it’s still quad-core and for most games it really doesn’t matter that the CPU is from a previous generation.

Another great bit about this laptop is that it offers G-Sync technology and a 144Hz IPS display panel, which means the refresh rate is good and you don’t have to worry about the game having difficulty rendering at high frame rates. The compromise is that you will have to keep it plugged in most of the time due to the short battery life. Go more than two hours on the battery and you will definitely have to plug in your charger.

Gaming Laptop Buyer’s Guide

Who needs Gaming Laptops?

So who needs the kind of gaming laptops we have included in this review? Most people actually don’t need a very expensive gaming laptop. A simple budget gaming laptop equipped with a 1160 Ti GPU should do just fine and can run most of the games on the market today at over 60 fps (frames per second). Such a laptop costs about $1200, up to over $1000 cheaper than some of the laptops we list here, and can also perform at the same level as some of the RTX 2010 GPU enabled laptops we have on here. Don’t worry about all those GPU model names; we’ll be talking about them in a few moments.

So who are the laptops in this guide for? Well, they are for those who want something that is well-optimized for playing the most demanding games and is also portable. You will pay thousands of dollars and get a thinner profile, a lighter laptop, and an aluminum chassis.

What about Price?

Best Gaming Laptop Price

As you might expect, the kind of components you find in gaming laptops are higher end than in regular laptops. It’s only logical that they will cost more. However, even though they cost more, the range in costs between gaming laptops can be quite wide. You can get cheap gaming laptops for under $1000 and you can get gaming laptops that will set you back a cool $5000+. Budget gaming laptops, which we might talk about in a different article, will typically start at around $800 and go on up to $1200. Such laptops will give you full HD resolution at 1080p, but the details will be slightly turned down. Alternatively, they will have 1,366 by 768 graphics quality. They also either come with a hard disk drive or a solid state drive with a relatively low capacity.

If you don’t like that sort of thing, you can go for a midrange laptop. These will give you higher quality resolutions at 1080p and smoother game play, even when the settings are high. They should also typically support your VR headsets. They will range in price from about $1300 to around $2000.

When you buy a high end laptop, you get a lot more goodies. Very smooth gameplay is one of them. You can get it at 1080p with the graphic details at their maximum. This will typically come with a special screen with very high refresh rates. You might also get 4K resolution on your games if the laptop comes with the appropriate screen. Some of them even support QHD, which comes at around 2560 by 1440 pixels.

A high end laptop also shouldn’t have any problems powering your VR headsets or working with a bunch of external monitors. Storage components are also very fast and are typically PCI Express SSDs. Often there will also be a high capacity hard drive to support the solid state drive. You will also get the options to purchase top of the range cooling fans as extras. Such laptops will set you back between $2000 and $3000. Such laptops also often benefit from the latest technology, making them extremely thin, lightweight, and highly portable. Some models at the very elite level will even let you install dual graphics cards, though such machines are typically very expensive, very large, very heavy, and have a low battery life. They’re overkill in our opinion, since at that level of performance you’re bound to get more out of a gaming desktop for the same price.

The GPU is King

Best Gaming Laptop GPU

A gaming laptop is almost entirely judged on the basis of the kind of GPU it has. It is what either makes or breaks a particular brand of gaming laptop. We don’t even bother calling it a gaming laptop unless it has an Nvidia or AMD GPU.

The most popular GPU maker in the market right now is Nvidia. Nvidia has the 20-Series Turing Microarchitecture, from which it produces a wide range of mobile GPUs. It also has the 10-Series Pascal architecture, which produces a less powerful line of GPUs.

The Turin Architecture first made its way into desktop gaming computers late in 2018. By early 2019 gaming laptops were sporting these GPUs as well. It was a successor to the Pascal Architecture series. Pascal Architecture GPUs were designated as GTX while Turing Architecture GPUs are designated RTX. This designation is a reference to the kind of technology used to generate visuals. The RTX technology, or ray tracing technology, is far superior to GTX technology, providing enhanced visuals for game play.

You can see this evolution in a lot of GPUs in the market at the moment. For example, Pascal GPUs like the GeForce GTX 1070 and 1080 GPUs have now been replaced by the GeForce RTX 2070 and 2080, both on desktops and laptops. The performance comparison between desktops and laptops is pretty similar for Pascal and Turing architectures. With the Pascal architecture, you could get a mobile GPU to perform at the same level as a similar desktop GPU. It is largely the same with Turing GPUs, though there are thermal and other constraints to be put into consideration for this new breed of GPUs that make them slightly less potent in laptops than in desktops.

There are some exceptions to this dynamic. Take the GTX 1650 and the GTX 1660 Ti, for example. These GPUs were released recently and are technically Turing architecture based. However, they don’t have the same ray-tracing technology that other Turing GPUs have in order to make them more budget-friendly. That’s why they don’t have the same RTX designation. You will see a lot of these. The 1660 Ti, in particular, is becoming very popular in budget friendly gaming laptops, since it’s at the sweet spot between the GTX 1060 GPU and the RTX 2060 GPU.

Turing architecture has been around on mobile GPU for the whole of this year, which means that most gaming laptops coming out do not feature Pascal architecture. If you’re looking for the latest release of any gaming laptop, then you’re unlikely to get one with a 10-series Pascal GPU. What you’re more likely to get is a 16-Series GTX or an RTX Turing GPU.

AMD Radeon GraphicsNvidia’s main competitor is AMD, which doesn’t have many laptops using its graphics technology. There are about a handful of models currently that feature the AMD Radeon RX Vega or RX 500 Series graphics chips. Most of the time, these GPUs are an alternative to the SKU from Nvidia. Sometimes, though very rarely, AMD GPUs are used along with an Intel CPU.

There are some interesting patterns to be gleaned from everything we have just talked about. For starters, the 3D performance is directly pegged to the model number of the GPU. The higher the model number, the higher the performance. You will get better graphics and more frames per second from a GeForce RTS 2080 than an RTX 2070. The RTX 2070, in turn, will offer you superior performance to an RTX 2060. That said, a high end RTX GPU should allow you to play the very best AA games with 1080p graphics quality with all the gaming details and should also allow you to play on VR.

Interestingly enough, there was a time when an RTX 2080 looked like too much for HD gameplay. However, factors have come up over time to use up all that extra horsepower. High end machines have taken to a trend of incorporating screens with high refresh rates. Such screens allow you to display games with very high frame rates to make gameplay even smoother. For you to take full advantage of these screens, especially when playing AAA titles, you will need a very powerful GPU, and that’s where RTX 2080 GPUs come in. It’s pretty easy to know such machines because they’ll say stuff like “120Hz screen” or “144Hz screen” on the marketing brochure. For comparison, your typical laptop display screen has a refresh rate of 60Hz.

The most expensive systems today have high refresh rate screens of 144Hz or more so that they can comfortably display frame rates over 60 fps. For 144Hz screens, you can experience visuals of up to 144fps. This definitely makes gameplay smoother. However, you can’t take advantage of such screens without a powerful high end GPU. Ray tracing techniques like reflection effects and real time lighting are also very resource intensive and more video games are implementing the technology, making ray tracing GPUs more of the norm, rather than the exception.
All these are powerful reasons for you to go for a GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, or at least an RTX 2070, even if you don’t immediately see what is so demanding about playing games at the full resolution of 1080p.

Nvidia GraphicsSomething else we think you might find interesting is a new kind of rendering technique being implemented by Nvidia. We won’t go into too many details about it for the sake of brevity, but it is known as DLSS. It is designed to help ray tracing work more smoothly on the RTX 2060 and other less powerful GPUs without demanding too much. You should therefore still be able to get something decent, even if you can’t afford the very highest end GPUs. Not many games are supporting the technology just yet, but with time more and more titles will start to support it.

If you want something a little more down to earth, then you might prefer the AMD FreeSync technology or the Nvidia G-Sync technology. These technologies give you better game play quality and smoother frame rates by allowing a variable refresh rate on the screen depending on what is being output by the GPU. If you like perfectly rendered visuals, you can look for support for either of those technologies. They are certainly becoming a lot more common, especially G-Sync (Nvidia, duh!), but they also tend to be found in the more expensive machines.

The Processor

Best Gaming Laptop Processor

The heart (or brain) of the PC is the processor. In most gaming laptops today you will find either an Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 CPU. Both will typically be quad or hex core, 8th generation, and based on the Coffee Lake chipset. The Coffee Lake generation brought with it more cores. The Kaby lake generation that preceded it came with four cores at the most. The new Coffee Lake generation has up to six cores. Overall, this means more speed and high performance, particularly for multi-threaded media tasks. When it comes to gaming, however, the performance increase isn’t so significant as to be mind-blowing.

Theoretically speaking, it’s entirely possible to find a gaming laptop sporting an Intel Core i3 CPU or an AMD CPU. However, these are practically not common. While such systems are perfectly capable of playing a wide variety of games, there is absolutely no reason why you have to settle for the lowest offering available. Still, if you have to decide between a very powerful CPU and a very powerful GPU, you’re better off going for the GPU. Our recommendation is that you get an Intel Core i5 instead of a Core i7 if you can part with that extra cash you saved to get yourself an Nvidia RTX 2070 GPU over the weaker GeForce RTX 2060 GPU. Spending on a GPU is a lot better than spending on a CPU if you want to get the best gaming experience.

If you’re purchasing a mid-range gaming laptop, then you’re better off going for a Core i5 CPU. If you’re going for a high end gaming laptop, then you can consider Core i7 processors with H, HQ, and HK designations. The H-series of processors will give you more power and is typical in more expensive laptops anyway. The U-series of CPUs is typically lower power and is designed for thinner machines that are more portable. This series is different from the H-series when it comes to overall performance as well as thermal profile. A Core i7 U-series chip might actually have fewer cores than an H-Series core i7. You will rarely find a U-series chip in a gaming laptop, but they do exist. We recommend you forego them and go for the H-series.

If you want an AMD CPU, then the Ryzen 5 and the Ryzen 7 CPUs are pretty good. They have quite a few advantages. However, as might be expected of AMD, such chips are not as common in gaming laptops as Intel chips.

Display

Best Gaming Laptop Display

Display size is a common question potential gaming laptop owners mull over. Do you really need a 17 inch display? In our opinion, the sweet spot is a 15 inch display. Sure, you can go for the 17 inch displays, but this will definitely mean a heavier laptop. You can expect to carry around 5 more pounds than you really have to. There are some portables in the gaming laptop niche that weigh 10 pounds and are bound to make your backpack annoyingly heavy.

At the very least, you want a full HD screen (that is 1920 by 1080 pixels native resolution). A larger display screen should be able to give you a resolution higher than 1080p. However, be wise with your choice. Going for a resolution like QHD+ (3,200 pixels by 1,800 pixels) or 4K (3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels) will probably make you pay a lot more in the end. You will not only be paying more for the display panel itself, but also the higher end GPU you’ll need to get the most out of that display panel. What you want is to look for G-Synch screens or high refresh rate screens if what you want are smoother frame rates.

4K gaming laptops need dual GPUs for truly smooth gameplay if you’re on native resolution. This makes them an exception; a very expensive exception. You will also typically have to get only the most powerful GPU to render any complex game animations at high frame rates on a 4K screen. A better use of your money would be to go for a 1080p screen, especially if all you’re buying the laptop for is gameplay. Going for a 4K screen is not only going to cost you an arm and a leg, but your GPU will also be struggling, even at maximum horsepower to render the latest games at a 4K native resolution with high detail settings maxed out.

Max-Q

Best Gaming Laptop Nvidia MAX-Q

Nvidia wanted to increase portability and sleekness in their gaming laptops and so decided in 2017 to launch the Max-Q Design as an initiative. The term “Max-Q” actually originated in the aeronautics industry. It is a description of the highest level of aerodynamic stress that can be sustained by an aircraft. In the world of gaming laptops, however, it refers to the modifications that have to be made, on both a hardware and software level, to allow very high end GPUs to fit nicely in thin chassis that would not traditionally have been able to accommodate them. By lowering the power limit on the GeForce RTX 2080 and the GeForce RTX 2070, the very highest end Nvidia GPUs, the amount of heat produced can be reduced, which means heat dissipation and cooling components can be made smaller.

Machines with the Max-Q designation are becoming common very quickly, especially among the most powerful gaming laptops and some mid-range laptops too. Most of these Max-Q machines are very slim and lightweight, making them much more travel friendly than regular gaming laptops. The beauty is that, even though they are thin and light, they can still play games at 60fps+ with full details and have displays of 17 inches without significantly increasing the weight. There are gaming laptops out there with GeForce RTX 2080 GPUs that don’t weigh much more than 5 pounds and don’t measure thicker than an inch.

To be sure, there are trade-offs to this. The graphics cards with the Max-Q designation naturally have less power than standard GPUs as a way to keep the heat lower. They are limited in the number of frames per second they can push, being a few frames slower than standard GPUs. The tradeoff isn’t so big that it’s a deal breaker, but it can be measured. These laptops also tend to be more expensive.

If you want something that is highly portable, like what a laptop should be in the first place, and also want something that looks sleek and visually appealing, then the Max-Q line of gaming laptops should make a lot of sense. It is so far the most successful initiative for making high powered gaming laptops that are also thin and light.

SSD vs HDDs

Best Gaming Laptop Storage

We definitely recommend that you go for a system with an SSD. Such systems have seen a significant drop in price over the recent past and SSDs are far superior to HDDs. They make booting faster, they make waking up from sleep faster, and they also launch games and load new levels much faster than HDDs.

That said, while we definitely recommend that you get yourself a system with an SSD, it’s also imperative that you configure it the right way. A good place to start is to get an SSD with a small capacity, such as 128GB or 256GB, and a 1TB or greater hard drive to supplement it, especially if you download a lot of videos and other large files from the internet. That said, only the thicker range of laptops will support such dual drives. It is possible to get SSDs with higher capacities of 512GB or more. However, going for such a drive is definitely going to significantly increase the price of your gaming rig. To be sure, SSDs are very fast. However, hard drives are still better in terms of total capacity. Going for a higher-capacity SSD will have you paying a lot more.

Memory

Best Gaming Laptop Memory

Memory is yet another important thing to consider. In a gaming laptop, you want the RAM to be at least 8GB. In fact, no self-respecting gaming laptop will deliver less RAM than this. This allows your laptop to breathe as you switch from your game to other apps back and forth. However, even with that breathing room, we would still recommend that you do one thing at a time, especially when that thing is gaming, since each extra application and window you open will use more RAM.

If you’re going for a high end gaming laptop, then you’re better off with 16GB RAM. That allows you to have multiple gaming sessions, webcam programs, many browser tabs, and video streaming all running at the same time. You can do well with 8GB RAM on a midrange laptop. However, you should also note that many new laptops coming out cannot be upgraded. You may be stuck with the RAM your laptop had when you first purchased it. If you want to really invest in your laptop and future-proof it, then you should ideally go for 16GB of RAM. For most people who don’t do streaming or extreme multitasking, anything over 16GB of RAM is equivalent to killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer.

What if you want something cheaper?

If you have a limited budget of somewhere between $800 and $1200, then you can still get a gaming laptop. However, you should be prepared for a number of sacrifices. Your goal should definitely be to maximize power while keeping within your price range. However, not all of the components in your gaming laptop will be of the same quality or capacity as what you see in the high end laptops. Still, $1200 is reasonable for someone looking for a gaming laptop and you should be able to get something solid.

The greatest sacrifice you will have to make in this price range has to do with graphics. The dedicated GPU is among the priciest components of a gaming laptop and is what contributes the most to the gaming power of a gaming laptop. In fact, as mentioned earlier in this article, it single-handedly makes or breaks a laptop. It is therefore important that you pay attention to the GPU when considering your options. The good news is that even laptops in the $800 to $1200 range have capable GPUs, if less powerful ones.

Even before the Turin series of GPUs was launched, budget laptops had Pascal series GPUs. These include the GTX 1050, the GTX 1050 Ti, and the GTX 1060. The GTX 1060 is the most powerful of these inexpensive GPUs.

Turing architecture GPUs still haven’t dropped in price enough to compete with Pascal architecture GPUs in budget laptops. The entry model for the 20-Series Turing architecture GPUs is the GeForce RTX 2060. It’s definitely cheaper than its cousins, the RTX 2070 and the RTX 2080. However, it’s still out of reach for budget gaming laptops.

There are options that focus more on value, such as the GeForce GTX 1660 and the GTX 1660 Ti, but these are for desktops and have only just started being put into laptops.

If you go for either of the GTX 1050s (1050 and 1050 Ti), then you should be able to experience smooth gameplay at 1080p resolution. However, you can’t switch to the highest detail settings in the latest games. To be fair, even though the RTX 2060 can still play very well at 1080p, it would still force you to lower the settings for 60fps gameplay in some of the latest titles.

For a budget laptop, virtual reality might be a little difficult. However, the cheapest VR-capable GPU in this range is the GTX 1060, which will just barely get your foot through the door to the world of VR.

The next biggest difference in the world of cheap gaming laptops has to do with processors. There you will likely have to settle for a very powerful Core i5, as opposed to a Core i7, which would be much faster. But like we said earlier, the speed and power gains of a Core i7 over a Core i5 don’t factor much into gaming and are instead more useful for creative pursuits, such as video editing and 3D sculpting. The latest Core i5s are very fast and efficient and won’t really be a hindrance to your laptops gaming capabilities.

On the other side of the fence we have AMD processors. It’s very hard to find gaming laptops that are based entirely on AMD processors. However, if you do, you will mostly see the Radeon RX 560, the RX 570, and the RX 580. They will typically come with a CPU from the Ryzen and AMD FX series of CPUs.

Apart from the GPU and the processor, most of the other components in budget gaming laptops should be very similar to what you would expect from pricier systems. Take storage space, for example: the price difference between SSDs and HDDs grows narrower every year. However, hard drives are still more common in cheaper gaming laptops than in more expensive ones. You will typically find a small boot-drive SSD sitting side by side with a large 1TB hard drive. You might also find systems that only have HDDs. We strongly recommend against such laptops, even at this price range, as SSDs offer too many advantages to ignore.

When it comes to the display, you will definitely get a 1080p panel. The 1366pixel by 768 pixel panels are mainly found in non-gaming laptops, which are even cheaper than the cheapest gaming laptops.

The RAM will probably be 8GB at most in a budget gaming laptop. However, you might still be able to find some ideal 16GB RAM laptops in this range, toward the higher limit of the range.

Other Things you should look out for

To start with, high end components are the bane of battery life, draining it much faster than regular components. You should therefore probably keep your laptop plugged into the power outlet most of the time.

The most beneficial ports are the Thunderbolt 3 and USB Type-C ports, which will only get more and more popular as time goes by. However, you will still be okay with a laptop with at least 2 USB 3.0 ports. This should allow you to plug in both an external hard drive and a mouse.

If you want to connect a VR headset to your rig (remember the minimum is the GeForce GTX 1060 GPU), then you need a good loadout of ports for it. You will definitely need enough USB ports for the cabling involved. A good HDMI video out should also be able to accommodate it.

In case you want to attach an external display, then a mini-DisplayPort or a DisplayPort should help. However, if your laptop already has a large screen, then these won’t be necessary.

The keyboard also matters. Remember that you cannot replace the keyboard that comes with your gaming laptop. So make sure you like the feel and layout of the keys when you consider your options. A good gaming laptop should have RGB lighting and the very best even have different lighting zones or allow you to change the color of individual keys.

When it comes to speakers, even the best gaming laptops won’t typically have the best speakers. Part of the reason is that the fans will be running at all times and they can be very loud (a little quieter in Max-Q laptops). If you really want to ensure the highest sound quality, then buy a good pair of headphones.

The aesthetics also vary between laptops. Gamers have a wide range of preferences when it comes to the aesthetics of their gaming laptops. Some of them prefer something as sleek as a MacBook, others prefer race car bed style laptops with colorful RGB lighting, and yet others will go for even more outrageous aesthetics. Ultimately, we don’t have much of an opinion here. It depends on what you like. In any case, make sure the laptop is well built, has a strong case, and hinges that will last through the lifespan of the laptop.

Top Rated Gaming Laptops

Last update on 2020-06-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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