Best gaming laptops: Know what to look for and which models rate highest
November 14, 2020
The gaming laptop landscape is experiencing an earthquake-like shift. With the near-simultaneous launches of AMD's Ryzen 4000 and Intel's Comet Lake-H mobile CPUs, we have a real fight for the first time ever, focusing on Ryzen 4000's cores vs. Comet Lake-H's clock speeds. We have to say, Ryzen 4000 is looking awfully good--check out our new top budget 15-inch laptop, the Acer Nitro 5, below. Meanwhile, Nvidia has unveiled a new generation of mobile graphics technologies. Check out our top picks immediately below, and keep reading to catch up on the latest news and reviews.
With major advances in laptop CPUs and graphics technologies, you can now get great gaming performance in sizes from slender to huge, and prices from budget to sky-high.
That's where this handy-dandy buyer's guide come in. We'll name the best gaming laptops currently available, and we'll highlight what to look for when buying a gaming laptop. (Check back often, as we'll update this list as new products arrive.)
Latest gaming laptop news
Laptop news and reviews are heating up, because of new AMD and Intel mobile CPUs coming soon. Here's the latest.
Bargain alert! Acer's Nitro 5 budget gaming laptop is surprisingly good for the price ($670 at Best Buy). Don't expect the latest parts, but do expect great bang for buck. That's why it's our new top pick for best budget 15-inch gaming laptop (replacing itself in a prior generation, actually.) Read our full review.
Acer's June 23 next@acer event revealed revamps of the Predator Triton 300, Predator Helios 700, and the incredibly popular Predator Helios 300, cramming each with Intel's 10th-gen Core CPUs, Nvidia's GeForce RTX Super graphics, and blazing-fast screens primed to melt your face in CS:GO. Read the full story. Oh, and the company let us try out the Acer Nitro 7 with RTX graphics.
Latest laptop reviews
Catch up on the latest models we've tested here, including:
Okay, not everyone could afford the Acer Predator Triton 500 we just tested ($2,800 on B&H Photo), with its 6-core, 12-thread Core i7-10750H and GeForce RTX 2080 Super, all squeezed into a sublime 4.6-pound aluminum chassis with a lightning-fast 300Hz G-Sync display. But looking's free, and this is one gorgeous machine. Read our full review.
The Acer Predator Triton 500 model we tested features a 15.6-inch, 1920x1080, 144Hz panel, an 8th-gen Core i7-8750H with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, and a GeForce RTX 2060. It's easily enough firepower to match laptops based on the slightly lower-cost GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, but it has the option to run DirectX Ray Tracing games, too.
The Acer Nitro 5 surpases what we expect of rock-bottom budget laptops. Its display is a bit dim, and its GTX 1650 graphics is only going to feel slower as time goes by. However its performance is solid overall, and its battery life is a nearly unheard-of (for gaming laptops) five hours. If you're looking for solid budget value, or if you plan to buy cheap and upgrade more often (a reasonable plan in the ever-advancing world of gaming), this is a respectable entry-level machine. Read our full review.
The Pavilion Gaming Laptop punches well above its weight in the entry-level range. It's every bit as sturdy and refined as its high-end counterparts, and it even has surprisingly respectable battery life. The Pavilion Haming Laptop has sacrificed a few things to hit that budget level, namely a dismal display and no mouse buttons. Still, with models starting as cheap as $800 on HP.com, you can configure this overall solid machine to fit your budget.
If you're squinting at this story from your tiny 13-inch laptop screen, you may be like the many people who started working from home and realized that portability means nothing if you're going blind using a small display.
HP's Omen 17 gaming laptops have a reputation with us that can be summarized in four words: solid performance. Shockingly affordable.
That's particularly true for the Omen 17. Is it a looker? Debatable. Is it the best gaming laptop? Definitely not. But HP always manages to cram more hardware than you'd expect under the hood, then sell the Omen 17 way below market rate.
I'm not sure how HP pulls off this bit of wizardry, but it's made the Omen 17 a hit. And the trend continues, as the 2019 model we're testing (poetically monikered the 17-cb0040nr) packs in some of the latest and greatest CPUs and GPUs for hundreds of dollars less than the competition. Read our full review.
The ROG Zephyrus G14 debuts with AMD's stellar Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU, and we can safely say: Just give Asus your money. This laptop packs a stupid amount of performance into a stupidly small and stupidly light (3.5-pound) frame. You're talking about a weight class that typically gives you lower-power CPUs and GPUs. Yet the G14 can hang in CPU performance with laptops that weight 10 pounds.
Alienware's Area-51m flagship gaming laptop is big, thick, and fast, a return to form that should reassure people who got worried when the company unveiled the thin-and-light Alienware m15 last year. The new Area-51m very well might be the first gaming laptop to bring the Holy Grail of features to consumers: Upgradable graphics and an upgradable CPU. Read our full review of Alienware's Area-51m.
The Alienware 17 R5 packs Intel's debut high-performance Core i9 laptop chip, which turns this already beastly gaming laptop into an utter monster. The version we tested ($3,810 from Dell) pumps out more performance than we've ever seen in a gaming laptop with all-mobile parts. It offers over 55 percent more multi-thread performance than its already-potent direct predecessor. CPU benchmarks this fast were practically unthinkable.
Read on for guidance on how to pick the right gaming laptop for your needs.
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