Whether you want the ultimate high-performance gaming laptop or you just need the best portable gaming PC you can get on a tight budget, you need to find the best gaming laptop.
For your needs, anyway.
And that’s why we’re here! We’ve provided a list of our top seven gaming laptops, each covering a different key price range, and each being the best for the money in its particular range. We’ve also included some alternative picks in scenarios where the main one isn’t available or may not address your needs, wherever possible.
Some things — like 13-inch gaming laptops — we weren’t able to get our hands on, namely because they aren’t really a thing at the time of writing. But we still did our best, and we hope that this mountain of an article gives you exactly the gaming laptop recommendation you’re looking for.
What Is The Best Gaming Laptop?
In addition to our top seven picks, we’ve also included a detailed buying guide at the bottom of the article. Even if you aren’t super tech-savvy, the information we give there should help you pick the right laptop from this list for your needs. But if you have any questions left once you’re done, feel free to comment.
…anyway, enough introductions. Let’s climb this mountain.
Best Gaming Laptop Under $500
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U | RAM: 8 GB DRR4 | GPU: AMD Radeon Vega 8 (APU)| Storage: 256 GB SATA SSD | Screen Info: 15-inch, 1080p, IPS | USB Ports: 2 2.0 Type-A, 1 3.1 Type-A | Video Ports: HDMI | Ethernet Port: Yes
This Acer Aspire 5 is our pick for the best gaming laptop under $500.
While you can’t really find any laptops that are capable of cutting-edge AAA gaming in this price range, the AMD’s Ryzen APUs are still bringing an unprecedented level of performance here. The Ryzen 5 3500U dual-core CPU cores based on AMD’s Zen+ architecture and integrated Vega 8 graphics, which combine to make a machine more than powerful enough for common use and some light gaming on the side.
Playing older games or current-gen lightweight games (see: CS:GO, Dota 2, even Fortnite with the right settings) shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, if you’re willing to keep settings and resolution low, you can push Fortnite in particular well beyond a 60 FPS average!
Aside from the raw power, you also have a respectable 256 GB SSD for fast boot and load times, a fair few USB ports (including a 3.1 port that may come in handy for an external drive), and an ethernet port for a stable connection in your games.
Not bad for a cheap APU-powered laptop, right?
Verdict: Best Gaming Laptop Under $500
Best Gaming Laptop Under $800
#2. MSI GF63 9SC-614
CPU: Intel Core i5-9300H | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1650 Max-Q | Storage: 512 GB NVMe SSD | Screen Info: 15-Inch, 1080p, IPS | USB Ports: 3 USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 Type-C | Video Ports: HDMI | Ethernet Port: Yes
This MSI GF63 is our pick for the best gaming laptop under $800. For just a couple hundred bucks more than our previous option, you get a massive leap in both CPU and GPU power, one that puts you in the range of experiences on par with the PS4. Pushing high settings in your favorite eSports games shouldn’t be an issue, and most AAA games should be playable at 1080p and 60 FPS with low-to-medium settings.
In addition to the solid GPU/CPU specs, you also see an upgrade in storage here- a 512 GB NVMe SSD ensure your load and boot times are as fast as possible. While 512 GB may not be a huge amount of capacity by modern standards, you can easily supplement that by adding in extra storage to the available storage slots inside the laptop, or using an external USB 3.0 drive.
Verdict: Best Gaming Laptop Under $800
This one not available, or you want another option? Try this HP Omen instead, which has the same CPU, GPU, and screen specs but with more RAM and storage. It’s a bit more expensive, but still under $800!
Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,000
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3750H | RAM: 16 GB DDR4 | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti | Storage: 256 GB NVMe SSD + 1 TB 5400 HDD | Screen Info: 15-inch, 1080p, IPS, 120 Hz | USB Ports: 2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.1 | Video Ports: HDMI | Ethernet Port: Yes
This ASUS TUF 2019 model is our pick for the best gaming laptop under $1,000. It manages to squeeze in a sick GTX 1660 Ti and 120 Hz display for under a grand, where most laptops with the same specs retail for hundreds more. It does make a slight trade-off in CPU power to accomplish this by downgrading to a Ryzen 5 3750H instead of the Core i7s popular in this range, but for most games this shouldn’t be an issue when you want to push 100+ FPS experiences at 1080p.
This is a laptop truly specced for modern gaming- pushing high framerates at high settings in AAA games shouldn’t be an issue. Aside from raw CPU/GPU power, you also have a hybrid storage solution that totals over 1 TB (we’d recommend keeping your OS and a few favorite games on the SSD, though), which is very nice to have in a laptop.
While this laptop isn’t exactly future-proofed for the next-gen AAA titles, it should still be able to play them, so long as you’re willing to compromise on settings here and there. For modern games, this laptop’s raw CPU and GPU power exceeds that of the Xbox One X, the most powerful console currently available.
All in all, we’d say you’re well taken care of with this one.
Verdict: Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,000
Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,500
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H | RAM: 16 GB DRR4 | GPU: Nvidia RTX 2060 | Storage: 512 GB NVMe SSD | Screen Info: 15-Inch, 1080p, IPS, 144 Hz | USB Ports: 3 USB 3.1 (1 Sleep and Charge), 1 USB Type-C with Thunderbolt 3 support | Video Ports: HDMI and Mini DisplayPort | Ethernet Port: Yes
This HP Omen 2019 model is our pick for best gaming laptop under $1,500. It offers pretty much everything you’re looking for in a high-end gaming laptop in this price range: a powerful Core i7 CPU, a ray-tracing capable GPU for next-gen visuals, a 144 Hz IPS panel, and a heaping ton of RAM. There’s also the benefit of a 512 GB NVMe SSD, which should ensure things stay running smooth.
With the addition of ray-tracing and the coming future of games being developed around that feature set, we’d say this is a pretty decent option for future-proofing your setup, at least in terms of raw graphical capabilities. We wouldn’t be confident saying that this will perform on par with or better than the next-gen consoles that have yet to release, we’re pretty sure you’ll be able to get some very similar results, albeit on a slower screen and lower resolution than the next-gen 4K target.
As we climb into the higher end, you’ll start paying a lot more for performance improvements. If you buy a laptop around this price range every 4-5 years, we wouldn’t recommend stopping now: you do get some more futureproofing past here, but at a much higher cost.
Verdict: Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,500
Want the same thing in a smaller package and lower price? Get the 15-inch model instead! Note: this model also trims down the SSD to 128 GB.
Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,700
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H | RAM: 16 GB DDR4 | GPU: Nvidia RTX 2070 | Storage: 512 GB NVMe SSD | Screen Info: 15-Inch, 1080p, IPS, 120 Hz | USB Ports: 1 Type-C 3.2 with DP support, 3 USB 3.0 | Video Ports: HDMI, DisplayPort-Through-USB-C | Ethernet Port: Yes
Looks like someone wants big boy performance.
This CUK-Upgraded ROG Strix laptop is our pick for the best laptop under $1800, and we’d say it earns that position. The biggest change compared to our #4 pick is an increase in GPU power, with an upgrade from the RTX 2060 to the RTX 2070. That’s about a 30% increase in graphics performance, so we find ourselves hard-pressed to complain about the performance in this one. We’d go as far as to say that this is almost certainly a next-gen-capable machine based on the GPU power alone.
However, while it isn’t slacking in the GPU department…it kind of is elsewhere. Pretty much all of the extra money you spent compared to the previous option went into that, and it really shows. The RAM, CPU, storage, and screen specs are all virtually the exact same as our previous pick. This is a trend that you’ll notice continues as we climb into the higher end, but it’s to be expected with high-end PC hardware.
Verdict: The Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,700
Want something similar but with more RAM? Get this matching-spec HP Omen 15-inch
Want something similar but with a 17-inch screen instead? Get this matching-spec HP Omen 17-inch
Best Gaming Laptop Under $2,000
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H | RAM: 16 GB DDR4 RAM | GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 | Storage: 256 GB NVMe SSD + 1 TB 7200 RPM HDD | Screen Info: 17-inch, 1080p, IPS, 144 Hz | USB Ports: 1 USB Type-C with Thunderbolt 3 support, 3 USB 3.1 Type-A | Video Ports: HDMI and Mini DisplayPort | Ethernet Port: Yes
Congratulations: you have hit the wall of Practical Gaming Laptop options with the HP Omen 2019 17-cb0050nr.
You have a Core i7 processor, a hybrid storage solution with an NVMe SSD and desktop-grade HDD that provides the best of both worlds, and a fully-blown RTX 2080 GPU inside. You’ve certainly paid for the privilege, but you’ve made it: you’ve now met and exceeded the cutting edge. If you don’t want to worry about even thinking of getting a new PC for the next five years, this is probably the laptop for you.
Is the performance-per-dollar over our previous option there? Not…really. The leap from a mobile 2070 to a mobile 2080 is only by about 16 percent, and unless you’re playing on an external display, you were already at the stage where pushing 1080p games was no longer an issue. Until the next gen comes along, this is pretty much just a bragging rights laptop.
If you can afford it and it suits your needs, though…we can’t complain. It’s a truly stellar machine, and we have no doubt that it’ll serve you well for the next five years.
Guess that’s it, then! Guess we can wrap up the roundup here and let everyone go ho-
Oh. Oh, there’s more than this, isn’t there?
Verdict: The Best Gaming Laptop Under $2,000
Want this power in a 15-inch form factor? It’ll go a couple hundred over budget, but the CUK MSI GE63 Raider RGB is a great alternative.
Best Overall Gaming Laptop
CPU: Intel Core i9-9980HK | RAM: 64 GB DDR4 | GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 (Desktop-Grade) | Storage: 1.5 TB NVMe SSD RAID Array | Screen Info: 17-inch, IPS, 144 Hz | USB Ports: 3 USB 3.2 Type-C, 2 USB 3.2 Type-A, 1 USB 3.0 Type-A | Video Ports: 1 HDMI | Ethernet Port: Yes
You have now busted through the wall of Practical Laptop Gaming options, and are presumably laughing maniacally at the idea that anyone thought such a wall could contain you. Congratulations: you are now in the territory of people who are willing to spend anywhere from five to ten grand on a laptop, and there is nothing that any of us can do to stop you.
We do want you to still get a good-ish deal for the money, though, so we’d like to point you in the direction of this ASUS ROG Mothership laptop. Specs-wise, most laptops climbing up beyond this price point have the same CPU and GPU specs as our #6 and #5 picks, sometimes worse- it takes thousands of dollars for you to come across some real upgrades.
But you do. The ASUS ROG Mothership boasts a darn near desktop-grade Core i9 CPU, and what we’re pretty sure is just an actual desktop RTX 2080 that somebody threw into a laptop. Both the CPU and GPU are overclocked.
You also have 64 Gigabytes of RAM and 1.5 Terabytes of NVMe storage.
You know, no big deal.
Verdict: Most Powerful Gaming Laptop
Want something with an even more overpowered, desktop CPU paired with a desktop RTX 2080? Check the following listings (note: availability is very limited at the time of writing):
What to look for in a gaming laptop
In this section, we’re going to go over everything you need to know in order to make an informed buying decision and choose the right gaming laptop for your needs. We’ll also cover a few common questions that pop up around buying laptops in today’s atmosphere, where technologies have evolved and make a gaming laptop of today look a little different than one made four years ago.
Are gaming laptops worth it?
Let’s dive in.
What makes an IPS panel different?
IPS panels differ from the more traditional TN panels used by older laptops and, most likely, your current PC monitor. TN panels are much cheaper to produce than IPS panels, and were the flat panel standard for about a decade after the phasing out of CRT monitors. Most recent laptops and gaming monitors, however, are beginning to make a turn toward using IPS technology instead.
So, what’s the difference- and does it matter?
IPS Pros vs TN
- Much better color reproduction and color accuracy
- Better viewing angles for off-axis use or shared screen scenarios
IPS Cons vs TN
- Higher prices compared to TN panels
- Higher pixel response times, so slightly higher motion blur (NOT input lag, response time has nothing to do with input lag!)
In the context of laptops, especially high-end gaming laptops, TN panels have become pretty much extinct. Since a laptop is very often going to be used off-center or, say, in bed with a partner, a TN panel simply doesn’t cut it. Because of that, even today’s budget laptops prioritize IPS panels over TN wherever possible.
If you’re a truly extreme eSports gamer but you still want a laptop instead of a desktop, you’re not out of luck if you want a TN experience…but you’ll need to buy a separate monitor to make use of that. Leave a comment and let us know if you’d be interested in seeing an article on gaming monitors if that idea interests you.
60 Hz, or 144 Hz and higher?
60 Hz and 144 Hz are both measures of refresh rate, a very integral display specification if you’re a serious gamer. If you aren’t sure what those or what that even means, don’t worry: we have you covered, and chances are you already have an understanding of something very similar.
Have you ever been playing a game and noticed that, say, when a bunch of barrels explode or particle effects go flying around…the game starts feeling choppy and less responsive? That’s because the framerate, or Frames Per Second (FPS), is dropping. A steady 60 FPS will look and feel smooth to the most people, where a lower 30 FPS is considered acceptable (especially by console gamers) but may not feel as smooth, especially if the framerate fluctuates a lot.
FPS and refresh rate aren’t the exact same thing, but both are measures of how many individual images are being displayed in the span of a single second. The best way to think of the difference between the two is software and hardware. FPS measures images-per-second from the software, where refresh rate measures images-per-second from the hardware/display.
If these numbers don’t match, the experience may look or feel choppy. If your FPS exceeds your refresh rate, you also won’t see the benefits of those higher frames, since the lower refresh rate can still only show off 60 images per second.
Getting a laptop with a 144 Hz display will allow you to see a benefit when games run at framerates higher than 60. This leads to a great increase in perceived fluidity and responsiveness, and can be considered a competitive advantage in multiplayer games. To learn more about this particular topic, feel free to watch the video we’ve embedded below.
How CPUs impact gaming performance
Whenever you’re playing games on PC, you can typically turn down your graphics settings in order to achieve higher framerates…until you reach a certain point where you just can’t, especially if you have a low-end CPU. In these scenarios, you’re dealing with something called a CPU bottleneck, and that’s a bad thing to have on a laptop, where you can’t upgrade or replace any part of your hardware. If settings adjustments can’t help you, nothing can at that point.
So, what lesson is there to take away from this?
Get a good CPU today so you aren’t hurting tomorrow. Ultimately, turning down graphics settings to achieve a playable framerate is a much better sacrifice to make than not being able to play the game at all because your CPU is too weak. Your CPU will determine the maximum level of performance that you can achieve in any game, regardless of graphics settings, while your GPU will determine the best performance you can get at particular settings or resolutions.
Fortunately, most of the laptops we’ve chosen in this roundup have pretty good CPUs- more than enough for modern games at 60 FPS, at least. Once the next generation of consoles comes along and CPU requirements get higher, though, you may start wishing that you invested in a higher-end Core i7, Core i9, or Ryzen 7-based laptop.
Laptop CPU gaming performance tiers
We’ve organized all of the CPU options available in this article into different performance tiers, in order to give you a better idea of which laptop is best for your needs.
Tier 1: Entry-Level
Entries in this list are listed from weakest to strongest, but all should be more than adequate for 60 FPS gaming, so long as the matching GPU can keep up. In this price range, you’ll likely need to lower settings and resolution to 720p to maintain good framerates.
- Ryzen 5 3500U (APU)
Tier 2: High-End
Entries in this list are listed from weakest to strongest, but all should be great for 120+ FPS gaming, provided your GPU can keep up.
- Ryzen 5 3750H
- Intel Core i5 8300H
- Intel Core i7 9750H
Tier 3: Ultra High-End
Entries in this list are listed from weakest to strongest, but all should be great for 200+ FPS gaming, provided your GPU can keep up.
- Intel Core i9-9980HK
- Intel Core i9-9900K
The tiers of laptop gaming GPU performance
Like with CPUs, we’ve sorted each of our available GPU options into separate tiers, so you know what level of performance to expect in modern games. Last-gen and older titles, or particularly lightweight titles (like Dota 2 or CS:GO), will often perform even better than these tiers would otherwise indicate.
Tier 1: Entry-Level
Entries in this list are listed from weakest to strongest, but should be adequate for either 720p gaming at 60 FPS or 1080p gaming at 30 FPS or low settings.
- AMD Radeon Vega 8
Tier 2: Mid-Range
Entries in this list are listed from weakest to strongest, but are appropriate for 1080p gaming at 60+ FPS and medium-to-high settings.
- Nvidia GTX 1650 Max-Q
- Nvidia GTX 1660
Tier 3: High-End
Entries in this list are listed from weakest to strongest, but are appropriate for 1440p gaming at 60 FPS and medium-to-high settings or 1080p gaming at 144+ FPS.
- Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti
- Nvidia RTX 2060
- Nvidia RTX 2070
Tier 4: Ultra High-End
Entries in this list are listed from weakest to strongest, but are appropriate for 1440p gaming at 120+ FPS or 1080p gaming at 200+ FPS.
- Nvidia RTX 2080
- Nvidia RTX 2080 (Desktop)
How much RAM do you need?
Now, let’s talk RAM.
If you aren’t super savvy concerning hardware, chances are you probably think RAM is WAY more important than it actually is. For the most part, RAM is really just a spec that determines how good your PC will be at juggling different tasks…and in today’s era of every machine having 8 GB or more of it, your browsing and non-gaming multitasking needs will be taken care of just fine.
So, do you need 16 GB or even higher amounts of RAM?
No, not really. Not for gaming, at least.
However, you may still see a performance benefit when you opt for higher-end memory kits, especially once games built for using 16 GB of RAM start coming onto the market. For the better part of the past decade, 8 GB has been more than enough for gaming and some multitasking on the side, but the latest releases are beginning to make that look unwise. This will only get worse as time goes on.
If all you care about is playing games today and you don’t need a super futureproofed high-end AAA gaming laptop, then 8 GB will do you fine.
But if you want to future-proof your system a little bit or you plan on doing some real heavy multitasking, opt instead for a 16+ GB gaming laptop.
Understanding different SSD and HDD types
There are many different classes of storage speed to think about whenever you’re buying a laptop. While we’ve listed each of these specs for our choices above, that might not matter as much if you aren’t sure what you’re even looking at. We’ll break that down for you here.
The slowest storage is a 5400 RPM HDD. This is a traditional laptop hard drive. If you’ve ever used a laptop that didn’t have an SSD or was manufactured around the 2010s or earlier, you know what to expect here. Most experiences are fine, but initial boot times and game loading times will be long. Particularly intensive games may also have more noticeable texture pop-in when using a 5400 RPM drive, as well. This will become a big issue if you plan on playing games built primarily for the next-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X in the coming years.
The next step up is a 7200 RPM HDD. These used to only be possible with larger desktop hard drives, but more recently these are beginning to pop into the 2.5-inch form factor used by laptops. This is the standard speed you can expect from a desktop PC, and offers a decent improvement over 5400 RPM HDDs. For current-gen games, this is considered a standard, so you shouldn’t encounter any issues playing with a 7200 RPM HDD while playing current-gen games, so long as you keep your texture settings in check. Loading times will be improved, but still slower than an SSD.
The biggest leap up is a SATA SSD. SATA SSDs are massively faster than any HDD, and will result in far faster loading times in your games and boot times for your system. This will also be much closer to the standard used by the upcoming next-gen consoles, and should be able to work just fine with those games once you start playing them on PC.
The current highest tier is an NVMe SSD, which is much faster (on paper) than a current-gen SATA SSD but doesn’t make as big a difference for pure gaming purposes. You’ll also need a more powerful CPU in order to actually see a difference with storage speeds in this tier, as demonstrated by this PC Gamer article. This is the tier of storage that the PS5 and Xbox Series X will be making use of, though, so it should help future-proof your system for those games.
What difference does an Ethernet cable make?
An Ethernet cable is a must-have for gaming online, but if you aren’t familiar with the technology, you may not know why.
Let’s break it down real quick.
Most laptop users use Wi-Fi, a wireless technology, in order to get online. Wi-Fi speeds are fine, and if you’re respectably close to the router or you’re using a newer standard (like Wi-Fi AC or AX), the latency may even be there. However, nothing will match the reliability of an Ethernet cable, for one very simple reason:
Wireless interference. Wireless interference is inevitable, and so it inevitably adds a degree of variability to the signal between your machine and the game server. This isn’t a big deal if you’re watching Netflix or something, since your data will be buffered far ahead of when it’s played, and little inconsistencies or disruptions can pass without issue.
When gaming, though, this becomes a serious problem. If you’re playing online, even a full second of lag at the wrong time can get you killed and ruin whatever amazing streak you were on. It’s even worse if you’re playing with some kind of stakes (ie, competitively), where a disruption to your experience is an irreversible disruption to your record and your team’s experience.
In order to prevent issues like this, use an Ethernet cable whenever it’s possible. This will give you the best results, latency-wise, in any given situation. Enabling certain router settings related to packet prioritization, Quality of Service, or gaming may also help.
And, of course- try not to run a massive download while you’re playing a competitive game.
If you ever get a laptop without an Ethernet port, or the Ethernet port stops working for whatever reason, you aren’t out of luck! Just get a USB 3.0 Ethernet adapter to compensate for it.
And that’s it! Writing all that out felt like climbing a mountain, but we wanted to make sure that you knew absolutely everything you needed to know about buying a gaming laptop. We hope that even if you decided not to buy anything we’ve listed above, the knowledge that we gave you will help you whenever you’re browsing for laptop hardware in the future.
We’re going to take a LONG nap. But in the meantime, feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions, or even your own recommendations! We’ll do our best to keep this list updated (even in the midst of a certain disease ravaging the globe) as time goes on, but let us know if you catch us slacking or have a better option!