A decade or two ago, geeks would tell you, “gaming or laptop—pick one.” But that’s not true anymore. There are some fantastic portable gaming machines out there, some that don’t even weigh half a ton. Here are the best.
We’ve selected the top general models as of the latter half of 2018, with an eye towards overall quality, gaming power, and bang-for-your-buck value. You can spend as much as a house down payment on a gaming laptop from a boutique manufacturer if you feel you really need to, or just max out a Macbook Pro and run Windows on it. But the best gaming laptops are made with specific hardware choices for gamers, like screen panels with high refresh rates, boosted battery capacity, and keyboards that can take a beating.
We’ve made the best overall picks for a standard or upgraded model, the best for those on a budget, the best for those who want a desktop replacement with the biggest screen possible, or those who want a more general machine with tons of battery life.
The Best All-Around Gaming Laptop: MSI GS65 Stealth Thin ($1770+)
One of the first machines to use NVIDIA’s MaxQ system for combining thin-and-light machines with powerful discrete graphics, the GS65 Stealth Thin is hard to beat in terms of price and features. At around $1800 it includes an 8th-generation Core i7 processor, a GTX 1060 graphics card, 256GB of speedy SSD storage, and a whopping 16GB of RAM.
It’s all wrapped in one the sleekest laptop bodies around, with tiny bezels for a 15-inch screen with a 144Hz refresh rate. Support for Killer Ethernet and per-key RGB lighting out of the box doesn’t hurt, either. Upgrades can go all the way up to a GTX 1070, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD for under $2500.
The Best Upgrade Gaming Laptop: Razer Blade 15 ($1600+)
As nice as the MSI model above is, you have to give Razer props for its understated style. The Razer Blade‘s full aluminum body has drawn favorable comparisons to latter Macbooks, but it’s also using the ultra-thin screen bezels found on Dell’s popular XPS series. The base model starts at $1600, but that one’s a little more chunky than the recent revision, making room for an Ethernet port and a spinning hard drive.
The “sweet spot” for this stylish black monolith is the one with the Core i7, GTX 1070 graphics card, 512GB of storage, and the 144Hz 1080p screen. (There’s a 4K option available too, but it’s much slower.) The price for that configuration is a whopping $2600, but it’s worth it if you want to turn heads at the next tournament. If even that’s not enough for you, you can upgrade to the 17-inch Razer Blade Pro, with GTX 1080 cards, multi-terabyte drives, and prices edging up against five grand.
The Best Budget Gaming Laptop: Dell G3 15 ($750+)
Dell’s Alienware line has some pretty decent models, but you can’t beat its G-series for value. These modified Inspiron designs offer some fairly nondescript specs, but with a base model that has a GTX 1050, 8GB of RAM, and an 8th-gen Core i5, it’s a great pick for students or anyone else who wants to add some mid-range gaming to their primary machine.
The $900 model, which upgrades the discrete care to a GTX 1050 Ti, is a particularly good deal. And while previous “budget” laptops tended to be somewhat boxy and unappealing, the G3 series is surprisingly handsome, with a chassis that’s less than .9 inches thick. It also comes in three different colors. Even the top-end model is reasonable at just $1150, but you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want a Core i7 or a card better than the (still quite good) 1060.
The Best Big-Screen Gaming Laptop: ASUS ROG G703 ($2200+)
The laptops above all manage to be powerful while also being at least somewhat thin and light. This ROG behemoth from ASUS isn’t even trying. Inside its massive, two-inch-thick body you’ll find the most powerful eight-gen Core i9 processor, support for up to 64GB of RAM, three M.2 slots and four spots for SSD storage, and enough ports and adapters to connect it to the average alien spacecraft.
The massive 17.3-inch screen is only offered in 1080p resolution, but it has an ultra-fast 144Hz refresh rate and a lag of just 3 milliseconds—a best on this list—with native G-sync support. It’s no slouch in terms of audio, either, since there’s enough room for four separate speakers (two of which have internal amplifiers). The overclocked GTX 1080 graphics card with 8GB of video memory is standard, naturally. The base models for this line start at around $2200, with a fully-decked-out version running almost $5000. Just remember to lift with your legs.
The Best Long-Lasting Gaming Laptop: Dell XPS 15 ($1400+)
Okay, the XPS 15 isn’t specifically marketed as a gaming laptop. But with configurations offered with a discrete GTX 1050 Ti card and a 97-watt-hour battery, it should outlast everything else on this list in terms of battery life, whether you’re playing games or not. The aluminum-and-carbon fiber design looks pretty snazzy, too.
The $1400 model is the sweet spot for this design, offering an upgraded Core i7 processor, 8TB of RAM, a 256GB SSD (you’ll need to keep it clean), and the aforementioned NVIDIA card. Just make sure you’re getting the 1080p screen and the upgraded battery. You may want to chat with a Dell rep to clarify that it’s the bigger battery, too—it’s not an obvious feature in Dell’s online configuration tool.