Our pick for the best gaming laptop of 2021 is the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15. It can handle the most demanding games on the market today and also makes a great daily driver.
The early days of mobile gaming were largely desktop replacements — clunky chassis, multiple power bricks, and RGB lighting galore. But the top gaming laptops now are different. Manufacturers are finally putting powerful specs in sleeker, more portable, and more professional builds. They have excellent, fast refreshing screens that are necessary for a great gaming experience. These laptops aren’t just great for gaming, but for everyday work as well.
We’ll be updating this page regularly as new gaming laptop models hit shelves throughout this year. Some exciting updates are on the way. AMD and Nvidia have announced their next-gen series of mobile processors and mobile graphics cards — the Ryzen 5000 series and the GeForce RTX 3000 series, respectively — and we’re already seeing them in premium gaming laptops across manufacturers. Intel’s Tiger Lake H series is also on its way, though we expect to see those more frequently in lighter-weight models.
The QHD screen is another feature to watch for in the best gaming laptops. A growing number of manufacturers are releasing configurations with 1440p displays, even in gaming laptops under $2,000. These options can hit a sweet spot for many gamers: a better experience than 1080p without the price premium or raw horsepower required for a 4K display. You can expect decently high refresh rates from these panels as well, depending on the model. The upcoming Razer Blade 15, for example, will offer up to a 240Hz panel with QHD resolution.
One more thing to keep in mind with the best gaming laptops is the power you can expect. Not all chips with the same name are created equal — the RTX 3070 in one laptop may not deliver the same frame rates as the RTX 3070 in another laptop due to its wattage (as well as other factors like the processor and cooling). Nvidia now requires companies to disclose clock speeds and graphics power on each model’s product page, but plenty of manufacturers haven’t done that yet. Your best bet, if you can’t find those numbers on a company’s website, is to read some reviews and make sure the model you’re considering will deliver the frame rates you’re looking for. We will note the wattage used in any laptops we review with the new RTX graphics cards.
If you’re looking for a more multipurpose device, check out our best laptop page. If you’re an Android gamer, we’ve also got a list of the best Chromebooks you can buy.
The best gaming laptop of 2021
Asus’s ROG Zephyrus G14 was our top gaming laptop pick for quite a while. It did just about everything right, and we weren’t sure whether Asus could ever replicate its resounding success. But somehow, the company managed to make the G14 just a bit bigger, and a heck of a lot better. In doing so, it’s created the ROG Zephyrus G15, the best 15-inch rig you can buy.
At just over four pounds, the Zephyrus G15 is one of the lightest 15-inch gaming laptops you can buy. But you’re not making any compromises on performance for that portability: it’s powered by the top mobile chips that AMD and Nvidia have to offer, and includes a fast 165Hz QHD (1440p) display. Together, those components can handle even the toughest AAA titles at QHD resolution. The panel has excellent color reproduction as well, so your games will look great.
But it’s not just the gaming; almost everything else about the G15 is great, too. The audio (pumped from a six-speaker array) has strong percussion and bass, the keyboard and touchpad have a satisfying click, the port selection leaves little to be desired, and the battery can last for a whopping eight and a half hours.
The G15 won’t be the laptop for everyone. There’s no webcam, which is a significant oversight, and some may prefer something more affordable, or with a flashier aesthetic. But as a package, the G15 is the one to beat. Not only is it the best gaming laptop you can buy, but it’s also one of the best laptops you can buy, period.
The best gaming laptop in a 14-inch chassis
The ROG Zephyrus G14 is the best 14-inch gaming laptop you can buy. We most recently reviewed last year’s model, which includes AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series up to the eight-core Ryzen 9 4900HS and an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU. There’s a brand-new model out featuring the Ryzen 5000 series and Nvidia’s RTX 30-series graphics, which we’re looking forward to getting our hands on ASAP.
For well under $2,000, the Zephyrus crams one of the most powerful mobile processors on the market into a super portable 14-inch chassis. With capable cooling to boot, the laptop delivers frame rates we’ve never seen in a laptop of this size before. It handled every game we threw at it without breaking a sweat.
But aside from its excellent gaming performance, the G14 makes a great daily driver. The keyboard, touchpad, display, and port selection are all excellent. Even the battery life is good — something we almost never get to say about gaming laptops.
There are a few downsides to the G14, but they’re fairly small and user-dependent. The most significant note is that it lacks a webcam; you’ll need an external one if you plan on taking video calls. There’s also some bleed in the backlighting, there’s no Thunderbolt connectivity (since it’s an AMD system, and that’s an Intel standard), and the fans can get louder than most under load. But these are very much nitpicks that won’t have a large impact on plenty of people’s gaming experience. Overall, we have very few complaints.
The best big-screen gaming laptop
The Blade Pro 17 delivers some of the best gaming performance you can find in a laptop — but that’s not even its superpower. What makes Razer’s 17-inch flagship so impressive is it packs that unbelievable power into a thin and attractive chassis. It’s just 0.8 inches thick and only requires one charging brick — so you can carry it around in a backpack or briefcase without compromising on power.
Gaming enthusiasts can opt for a model with a 300Hz screen — the highest refresh rate you can get on a laptop — while folks who want to combine gaming with some creative work can opt for a 120Hz touchscreen configuration. Both models come with a customizable per-key RGB keyboard, which adds a touch of color to the Pro’s design without being too obnoxious for the office.
The Blade Pro 17 certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s the laptop to buy if you want the best of the best.
The best budget gaming laptop
The Dell G5 15 SE offers a great gaming experience at a price range far below that of many competitors. It’s the best gaming laptop you can buy under $1,000, and it doesn’t ask too many compromises for that price. While it only comes with a 60Hz screen, the hardware inside (especially AMD’s Ryzen 7 processor) is capable of maxing that out on all kinds of demanding games at native 1080p resolution, so you can reliably expect a playable experience from your favorite titles.
We’re also impressed by the G5’s connectivity. It includes a Mini DisplayPort, an HDMI, and an Ethernet jack — all ports you don’t see every day on laptops at this price point. Overall, if you’re looking for great value for your money, the G5 is your best bet.
A great thin and light gaming laptop
The Blade 15 isn’t as powerful as its 17-inch sibling, but it may be a more pragmatic purchase for many people. If you’re looking for a balanced combination of performance and portability, the Blade 15 may hit that sweet spot. It still packs the top chips on the market and can come with a 300Hz display, but at just 4.7 pounds and 0.7 inches thick, it’s comparable in size to a number of 15-inch productivity machines like the Dell XPS 15.
In addition to its reliable gaming performance, the Blade 15 works well as a productivity machine. We’re big fans of its keyboard, which is quite comfortable to use and has per-key RGB lighting, and the touchpad, which is roomy with a satisfying click. Our primary complaint is that this Blade got quite hot during our game testing — not only did the processor reach 99 degrees, but the hinge and palm rests were uncomfortable to touch.
The best laptop with flashy RGB
If you’re looking for a “traditional” premium gaming laptop with colorful, flashy panache, the ROG Strix Scar 15 is for you. The Strix’s keyboard isn’t just one of the most comfortable that we’ve ever tested on a gaming laptop; it also has some of the coolest per-key RGB lighting we’ve ever seen with all kinds of effects. There’s also a colorful light strip wrapped around the front of the deck (customizable as well) and a colorful glowing logo on the lid. In short: if you use this in public, people will notice.
Of course, the Strix is great on the inside as well, delivering some of the best frame rates you’ll find from a 15-inch laptop with Intel’s and Nvidia’s top chips. You’ll get the full benefit of their power with a 300Hz screen option as well. And the Strix comes preloaded with various programs to help customize your gaming experience. You can personalize color profiles, bandwidth allocation, and more based on the type of game you’re playing.
A gaming laptop with desktop-class parts
If money and desk space are no objects for you, you might be interested in the Alienware Area-51m. This hefty rig is essentially a desktop in laptop form. It pairs a desktop-class processor and a full-power mobile GPU with a 17-inch display and a full-size keyboard, delivering true desktop performance in a chassis that’s still (technically) portable. PC enthusiasts will also appreciate that you can update many of the components yourself, including the processor, RAM, and storage.
A sturdy 13-inch gaming laptop
The Blade Stealth 13 is far from the most powerful gaming rig out there, but it is one of very few gaming systems that come in a 13-inch chassis. The Stealth can run AAA titles at native resolution and comes with a 120Hz screen, but it’s comparable in size and weight to a MacBook Pro. Use it in a meeting or a classroom, and passing observers may have no idea it’s a gaming laptop.
In addition to its powerful chips, the Stealth comes with a colorful keyboard, a sturdy build, and a decent webcam. Even the battery life is pretty good. If you’re looking for a laptop that’s small but mighty, the Stealth will get the job done as a gaming rig and productivity machine in one.
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