Best gaming laptop in 2021
The best gaming laptops are changing every year. The early days of mobile gaming were largely desktop replacements — clunky chassis, multiple power bricks, and RGB lighting galore. But the top contenders 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.
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.
We’ll be updating this page regularly as the best gaming laptops 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.
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.
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 not sure what to play on the best gaming laptops, check out our best games of 2020. 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
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 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.
This year’s model comes with an FHD 360Hz screen — the highest refresh rate you can get on a laptop. It also has a customizable per-key RGB keyboard, which adds a touch of color without being too intense 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.
A gaming laptop with a 16:10 screen
The Legion 5 Pro is the best gaming laptop Lenovo has ever made. For well under $2,000, you get exceptional performance from AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors in an attractive 16-inch chassis. It delivered respectable results on every game we tried, even at its native 2560 x 1600 resolution. And with the 165Hz display, you’ll be able to fully take advantage of the Legion 5 Pro’s power.
Performance aside, the highlight of the Legion 5 Pro is its 16:10 screen. A screen this tall is hard to find on the gaming laptop market these days, and it allows you more room for multitasking if you want to use the Legion 5 Pro as a daily driver. The keyboard is also a delight to use, with 1.5mm of travel and four-zone programmable backlighting.
The Legion’s main downside is its battery life. We only got about four and a half hours of continuous use in our testing. While that’s not the worst we’ve ever gotten from a gaming laptop, it’s nowhere near what you’ll see from the G15. However, it does charge very, very fast with the included 300W power brick. Overall, though the G15 will be a better option for folks who often work on the go, the Legion is still a solid choice—and we have to give Lenovo props for the 16:10 screen.
The best AMD gaming laptop
The ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition is one of the few gaming laptops you’ll find that includes both an AMD processor and an AMD GPU. Not to worry — it delivers gaming performance on par with what you’ll see from laptops with Nvidia’s top GPUs. It also delivers one of the best gaming battery experiences we’ve ever seen — it was able to maintain playable frame rates on Red Dead Redemption 2 for over an hour with no charger attached.
Speaking of battery, we averaged nine hours and 16 minutes of work use between charges, which makes the Strix G15 far and away one of the longest-lasting gaming laptops on the market. That’s doubly impressive because it’s powering a ton of flashy LEDs, including a per-key RGB keyboard and a colorful light strip around the front edge of the deck. If you’re looking for a jazzy, bold design and you’re all-in on AMD, the Strix G15 Advantage edition is a great gaming laptop for you.
The best gaming laptop in a 14-inch chassis
If you’re looking for a powerful 14-inch device that can keep up with the best 15-inch gaming laptops on the market, the only place you’ll find that is the Razer Blade 14. This slim and portable device includes Nvdia’s RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, Nvidia’s top-of-the-line mobile GPUs, as well as a powerful eight-core AMD chip. It’s a gorgeous device, with a QHD 165Hz display option and a classy RGB keyboard. There’s even a reasonable port selection, including HDMI 2.1 as well as two USB-C ports.
A gaming laptop with a 4K screen
There’s finally a laptop that can deliver an enjoyable gaming experience in 4K — as long as you’re prepared to fork over some real cash. The Alienware X17 (currently starting at $2,199) can run all kinds of modern titles at playable frame rates at its native 3840 x 2160 resolution. It could even stay close to 60fps with ray tracing on.
The X17’s power isn’t its only standout quality. Dell has also managed to cram that power into an impressively thin and sleek chassis. It’s just 0.84 inches thick, with an RGB keyboard that isn’t too obnoxious and a touchpad that lights up when you press it. And it’s quite cool and quiet, even under heavy gaming loads.
On the other hand, the X17 would not be a good choice to double as a daily driver (though it did do well in our Premiere Pro testing). The webcam is mediocre, and the touchpad is a bit small, especially for a 17-inch notebook. Battery life only averaged around four hours in our testing. And while the chassis is compact, it’s still not light, weighing in at over six pounds. But if you’re looking for a 4K laptop that is, first and foremost, great at running games, this device should top your list.
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 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 comes with a 240Hz QHD display, but at just 4.39 pounds and 0.62 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.