Best gaming laptop in 2021 – play PC games on the go

PC gaming is portable now, provided you've got the right gaming laptop

Seven new Asus laptops announced at CES 2021 are showcased on a table together

While the perfect way to play the best PC games is on a full-sized desktop, sometimes size constraints or a nomadic lifestyle make a gaming laptop a great alternative, ensuring you get PC gaming quality wherever you go.

However, choosing the perfect gaming laptop takes a lot of commitment. When you build a gaming PC you can swap out parts later if you want an upgrade. Because laptops often feature bespoke components and aren’t designged to be tinkered with, it isn’t as simple as picking out the best graphics card and best gaming CPU to suit your personal needs. Not only is there less customisation, but you have to look at other laptop-exclusive requirements, such as battery life, screen size, resolution, build quality, and aftermarket care.

With the recent arrival of Nvidia’s mobile RTX 30 series cards and AMD’s new mobile CPUs and GPUs, the latest gaming laptops are becoming just as good, if not better than the best gaming PC builds. We’ve come up with our picks for the best laptop for gaming in 2021, whether you’re wanting to play triple-a blockbusters like Watch Dogs: Legion, or just want a laptop that can crank up the frames in Fortnite.

Here are the best gaming laptops:

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alienware m15 r3

The best gaming laptop is the Alienware m15 R3

If you want the best gaming laptop today, without waiting for the incoming wave of RTX 3000 laptops, then we recommend Alienware’s m15 R3. With Intel’s 12-thread i7-10750H processor paired with an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super graphics card, this will be able to handle any game you throw at it, and take full advantage of the 300Hz refresh rate on the 15.6-inch full HD display – perfect for competitive gaming with that refresh rate and its low 3ms response time.

The m15 is one of the more stylish laptops here, with a sleek silver design and customisable RGB lighting plastered over the back of the laptop and keyboard. It’s got 32GB of RAM onboard too, which is more than enough to play the latest titles and run memory-intensive productivity applications that 3D render or edit video. It comes with a 1TB SSD, although you have the option to run two SSDs in RAID 0 for faster speeds. Plus, its weight of 2.1kg is pretty light when considering the power hidden under the hood.

If you want to get the most out of your new laptop, you can learn how to overclock your CPU and GPU. Just make sure to go up in small increments,  as the big exhausts on the back of the Alienware M15 R3 only go so far in cooling the laptop compared to a full-sized desktop.

Alienware m15 R3 Specs
CPU 6-core Intel i7-10750H @2.6GHz
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
Display 15.6″, 1080p, IPS, 300Hz
Battery Life 3 hours
Memory 32GB DDR4
Storage 1TB SSD
Product Image 1
$2,550.00
$2,299.98
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hp pavilion 15

The best cheap gaming laptop is the HP Pavilion 15

This is a great budget gaming laptop from HP, featuring an Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card. This GPU is two generations old, but it’s still a dab hand when it comes to 1080p gaming – you just might have to tweak the graphic options down a bit in the newest titles. Processor-wise, it rocks AMD’s 12-thread, six-core Ryzen 5 4600H, with a single core boost up to 4GHz. Despite being our cheapest laptop here, there are a few nice visual touches present, with a green backlit keyboard and highlights throughout the body.

The 15.6-inch panel is full HD resolution with IPS technology, which boasts great viewing angles and the best colour possible – useful if you’re also using the laptop for tasks like photo editing. Storage-wise, it comes with a speedy 256GB NVMe SSD, plus 8GB of RAM. If you need more storage, it’s not impossible to open this laptop up and upgrade to one of the best SSDs for gaming with a high capacity. We’ve got a video tutorial here if you’re interested in doing exactly that.

HP Pavilion 15 Specs
CPU 6-core AMD Ryzen 5 4600H @3GHz
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650
Display 15.6″, 1080p, IPS, 60Hz
Battery Life 8 hours
Memory 8GB DDR4
Storage 256GB SSD
Product Image 1
$696.98
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asus tuf gaming a15

The best gaming laptop under $1000 is the ASUS TUF Gaming A15

This 15.6-inch laptop from Asus is a brilliant mid-range gaming laptop option, with a 16-thread Ryzen 7-4800H CPU, 8GB of RAM, and Nvidia’s RTX 2060 graphics card. This is about to become a last-gen card in the mobile space, but it’s one that’s actually been brought back to market for desktop PCs, making it a solid choice when it comes to 1080p gaming. Being from Asus’s TUF range, it’s designed to stand against the daily knocks and vibrations that laptops endure while getting moved about.

Apart from the same CPU and GPU, some of the configurations vary depending on where you’re purchasing from. US customers get a full HD, 60Hz IPS display with a 512GB SSD, whereas UK customers can pick up the same 1080p panel but with a much higher 144Hz refresh rate – making it even better for competitive gaming in titles like CS:GO, but storage takes a drop to 256GB. Fortunately, there’s the option to upgrade the SSD to a higher capacity one yourself without too much hassle.

ASUS TUF Gaming A15 Specs
CPU 8-core AMD Ryzen 7 4800H @2.9GHz
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
Display 15.6″, 1080p, IPS, 60 / 144Hz
Battery Life 8 hours
Memory 8GB DDR4
Storage 512 / 256GB SSD
Product Image 1
$1,009.46
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ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE

The RTX 3000 laptop that we’re most looking forward to is the ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE

Now looking towards the high-end range from Asus ROG, the Zephyrus Duo 15 is about to land on shelves with mobile versions of the top next-gen graphics cards available – Nvidia’s RTX 3070 and RTX 3080. Paired with AMD’s 16-thread Ryzen 9 5900HX, you can take full advantage of that 1080p, 300Hz, 15.6-inch IPS-level panel in all of the latest games, with ray tracing and DLSS 2.0 to boot. Storage is covered with a 1TB NVMe SSD, which should put a dent in the amount you have to uninstall and reinstall your games, and there’s 32GB of RAM to handle pretty much anything you throw at it.

The reason we’re excited isn’t just the incredibly high specification, however, but the secondary 14.1-inch built-in screen called the ROG ScreenPad Plus. This isn’t just a gimmick for all your stats and Overwolf overlays – even if that is a pretty neat aspect on its own – it also proves to be a better cooling solution. By shifting the keyboard forward and the components underneath the screen, Asus has provided a better exhaust when the Screenpad raises up.

We can’t imagine it’ll be the most comfortable to type while it’s resting on your lap, but it looks like it’ll be the perfect LAN companion and productivity laptop on the market, even if it is upwards of $2,500 and won’t be available for a while yet.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Specs
CPU 8-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX @3.3GHz
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 / RTX 3080
Display 15.6″, 1080p, IPS, 300Hz
Battery Life 6 hours
Memory 32GB DDR4
Storage 1TB SSD
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hp omen 17

The best 17-inch gaming laptop is the HP OMEN 17

Looking for the most immersive gaming experience in a laptop, or need that extra screen space for productivity? Your best bet is a 17.3-inch gaming laptop, and the Omen 17 is a great choice in that department. The full HD, IPS panel also has a 144Hz refresh rate gameplay that’s as smooth as butter. Better yet, you should be able to achieve this in most titles thanks to Nvidia’s RTX 2070.

Unlike the laptops so far in this list, the processor comes from Intel; a 12-thread, six-core i7-107050H, which is great for demanding productivity tasks like video or photo editing, not to mention gaming. That’s backed up with 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD for super fast boot times.

HP Omen 17 Specs
CPU 6-core Intel Core i7-107050H @2.6GHz
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070
Display 17.3″, 1080p, IPS, 144Hz
Battery Life 3 hours
Memory 16GB DDR4
Storage 512GB SSD
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$1,499.99
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razer blade stealth 13

The best light gaming laptop is the Razer Blade Stealth 13

If you’re looking for the last word in portability while still maintaining proper gaming capabilities, the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is a superb option, with a thickness of just 0.6in and a weight of 1.41kg. Despite how thin it is, you’ll still find an eight-thread i7-1165G7 from Intel and Nvidia’s GTX 1650 Ti graphics card packed inside. That’s not the newest mobile graphics card out there, but still perfect for gaming on the 13.3-inch screen at 1080p resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. It even has a matte coating to prevent any annoying glare during gaming.

Underneath the sturdy unibody aluminium design is 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, but its tricks don’t end there. Razer has also implemented the latest USB-C port for charging and connectivity, splashed the keyboard with its signature Chroma RGB backlighting, and even packed facial recognition tech in the built-in webcam for a swift sign-in.

Razer Blade Stealth 13 Specs
CPU 4-core Intel Core i7-1165G7 @2.8GHz
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650Ti
Display 13.3″, 1080p, IPS, 120Hz
Battery Life 10 hours
Memory 16GB DDR4
Storage 512GB SSD
Product Image 1
$1,799.99
$1,699.99
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razer blade 15

The best 4K laptop is the Razer Blade 15

4K resolution laptops may be seen as overkill by some due to the relatively small screen sizes compared to the best gaming monitors, but once you’ve experienced their unrivalled pixel density in games – and even while reading text – you’ll find it hard to go back. Plus, with more and more 4K content becoming available through both gaming and video streaming services, it’s making more sense than ever to consider a laptop with an UHD screen.

The panel here is a 15.6-inch display, running at a 60Hz refresh rate. It’s using OLED technology, for unrivalled colour contrast. It’s the best laptop display you’ll find for consuming entertainment, and is especially suited for open world games where graphical fidelity is a must.

When it comes to the internals, there’s a 12-thread Intel i7-10750H processor, paired with an Nvidia RTX 2070 graphics card, and 16GB of RAM. This will be enough for 4K gaming, but you shouldn’t expect the latest games like Cyberpunk 2077 to run them completely maxed out at 4K – you’ll need to turn some of the settings down. Once 4K laptops with RTX 30 series cards hit the market, it’s possible this will all change, however…

Razer Blade 15 Specs
CPU 6-core Intel Core i7-10750H @2.6GHz
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070
Display 15.6″, 4K, OLED, 60Hz
Battery Life 3 hours
Memory 16GB DDR4
Storage 512GB SSD
Product Image 1
$2,299.99
$1,799.99
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gaming laptop buying guide

Why would you consider buying a gaming laptop over a traditional desktop setup? If you’re constantly on the move for work or attending LAN parties, a gaming laptop is ideal, and they’re getting closer to replicating the performance of a true desktop. With the current stock situation seeing desktop graphics cards and CPUs massively inflated in price, gaming laptops are also a sneaky way to get your hands on the latest specs for a good price.

There are a few crucial considerations to make other than raw power and looks when buying a gaming laptop, such as battery life and weight. If you’re looking to use it out and about for general purposes too, without easy access to a power source, then the ultra-lightweight Razer Blade Stealth 13 with its 10-hour battery life would be a great choice. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re likely to use the laptop sat at a desk most of the time, then the HP Omen 17 gives you that large screen experience, where its 3 hour battery life and slightly hefty build are less of a problem.

Then there’s the issue of ports. As gaming laptops get thinner and thinner, they end up shedding the amount of ports they can handle. You can get an adapter to alleviate the pain, but keep an eye out for Thunderbolt 3 or 4 support if you need faster transfer speeds as this is something that can’t be fixed with an external purchase.

gaming laptop price list

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$2,550.00
$2,299.98
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$696.98
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$1,009.46
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$1,499.99
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Product Image 5
$1,799.99
$1,699.99
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$2,299.99
$1,799.99
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