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Best Gaming Laptops

Updated April 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. Read more
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How We Decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 7 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 141 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Gaming Laptops

    Last Updated April 2018

    Gaming laptops are a special breed of computer designed to deliver the high-end performance and stunning visuals required by today’s video game titles. Gaming laptops are often differentiated from typical laptops by their internal hardware, which is far more capable than most. They’re also much larger than your average notebook computer.

    Gaming laptops are perfect for hardcore gamers who love high-octane games or enjoy spending hours each day playing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). With high-end internals and flashy features like keyboards backlit in neon colors, gaming laptops are the professional race cars of the computer industry, not for the average user but certainly powerful enough for gaming pros.

    At BestReviews, we’re passionate about providing honest feedback on the products our readers care about most. That’s why we buy products, consult experts, and refuse compensation of any kind from any manufacturer. Review our shopping guide for gaming laptops to learn about the features you’ll need to pay special attention to (and the gimmicks you won’t). Then check out the featured options above to find the perfect laptop for your own gaming adventures!

    Intense video games are meant to push computer hardware to its limits, which means they generate a lot of heat. As you shop, remember that you’ll need to place your gaming laptop in a well-ventilated spot while you’re playing.

    It’s all in the (video) cards

    Video games, especially first-person-perspective games, depend on the computer’s graphics processing unit (GPU) to render the images you see while playing. Naturally, the GPU is the single biggest factor when it comes to your ability to play a game on a laptop.

    If you think of a GPU as a computer’s video “muscles,” it’s easy to see why gaming laptops need a particularly strong GPU.

    We recommend a minimum of 4GB of VRAM. Video cards are often measured by the chipset they use and the amount of built-in memory (VRAM) they have. For example, you may see a video card described as a “GeForce” series with 4GB of VRAM.

    As you’re shopping for gaming laptops, pay attention to both the chipset series and the VRAM, and make sure that both are adequate for the games you intend to play most frequently.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Most gaming laptop video cards are manufactured by NVIDIA, which has dominated the graphics market and outperformed AMD, its nearest competitor, for years.

    Gaming laptop cpus

    A gaming laptop’s second most important component is its central processing unit (CPU), which is responsible for keeping your computer running. It’s the chip that processes all the data and executes all the commands.

    While a gaming laptop’s GPU is dedicated to rendering video, the CPU is responsible for everything else, from the operating system to every last game of Solitaire. It can be difficult to keep up with CPU technologies because they evolve rapidly, but in general, consider the following when deciding what type of processor you’ll need.

    • Brand: Most laptop CPUs are made by Intel, although AMD’s newest processors (dubbed “Ryzen”) are a popular favorite among gamers. Think twice about buying a gaming laptop with a CPU that isn’t made by Intel or AMD. Off-brand CPUs rarely perform as well.

    • Generation: Most CPU manufacturers release new iterations of their best chips regularly, and each generation of chip is given a code name. For example, Intel replaced their popular “Skylake” CPUs with the “Kaby Lake” generation. When shopping for a gaming laptop, buy one with the most current CPU you can afford.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some gaming laptops support the use of multiple internal video cards. These multiple GPUs can work together to deliver faster performance, but be careful. Twice the processing power means twice the heat. Make sure the room and laptop are properly ventilated.

    Gaming laptop screen size

    As with all laptops, when you’re deciding on what size screen is right for you, you’re also deciding what size laptop is right for you, because the screen determines the machine’s footprint. Because gaming laptops are all about displaying eye-popping visuals, it’s especially important to pick a screen that you like and one that adequately renders the games you want to play.

    Gaming laptops typically come in three different screen sizes.

    • 14-inch gaming laptops often feature lower resolutions, which can mean a lot of extra scrolling and zooming in or out while playing. Pick a 14-inch model if you’re looking for an entry-level gaming laptop or you mostly play games that are less graphic-intensive.

    • 15-inch gaming laptops are by far the most common because they have screens that are big enough to show off action-packed video games but not so large as to be unwieldy. If you’re looking for a good balance between size, power, and weight, a 15-inch gaming laptop is your best bet.

    • 17-inch gaming laptops are as enormous and awkward as you might expect. While a 17-inch screen will deliver an incredible gaming experience, it will also use up much more of the battery than a smaller screen. Buy this size if you absolutely must see every pixel of your games and don’t expect to have to carry your machine around with you very often.

    EXPERT TIP

    A bigger screen doesn’t always mean a better image. A 15.6-inch screen with a 1440p resolution will be far more detailed and look much better than a 17-inch screen with a 1080p resolution.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Gaming laptop prices

    There are two main price ranges to be aware of when looking at gaming laptops.

    • $500 to $1,000

    In this price range, expect to find budget gaming laptops that use last-generation technology or cut corners by having a smaller screen. If you’re dreaming of playing a first-person shooter at 4K resolution with a chat window open and your favorite tunes playing, you’ll need to spend more to get a more capable laptop.

    That said, if you’re merely looking for a competent gaming laptop that will power your Minecraft addiction, there’s no need to spend more than $1,000.

    • $1,000 to $1,500

    In this price range, you’ll find great gaming laptops that pull out all the stops. You’ll see current-generation GPUs and CPUs alongside premium features like bigger batteries, larger screens, and gamer-friendly aesthetics.

    If you play video games for more than an hour each day, a gaming laptop in this price range is your best bet.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Most gamers purchase and download their video games from Steam, the industry’s largest online retailer for game software. If you’re looking for bargains, Steam’s winter and summer sales are famous for offering hundreds of high-quality games at surprisingly low prices.

    Tips

    • Carry your gaming laptop’s AC adapter with you. Video games use a higher-than-average amount of power, and you don’t want to run out of battery life in the middle of a gaming session when you’re playing away from home! Most gaming laptop batteries will run out after two to four hours of playing.

    • Investigate the minimum required hardware for each game you want to play. Every video game lists the technical requirements needed to run the game. Before buying a gaming laptop, verify that the model you want meets the requirements.

    • Choose a gaming laptop that lets you change the battery. Video games draw a lot of power, so if you expect to keep your laptop for more than a few years, you should plan on replacing the battery at some point. Not all gaming laptops allow users to replace their own batteries, so as you’re shopping, rule out any models that prevent you from doing so.

    • As you’re deciding what size screen is right for you, pay attention to the maximum supported resolution. For best results when gaming, we recommend a minimum resolution of 1440p.

    • When a gaming laptop isn’t powerful enough to play a game, it can freeze, stutter, or crash. If you experience odd slowing or random crashes, consider closing all other applications while you play to dedicate all your system resources to the game.

    • When comparing gaming laptop specs, be careful not to confuse the video card’s memory with the computer’s RAM or hard drive space. All are measured in gigabytes (GB), but each serves a unique purpose.

    • The most popular screen resolutions are often referred to by their abbreviated names. For example, 1920 x 1080 is often referred to as “FHD,” which stands for “full high definition.” 2560 x 1440 is known as “QHD” (for “quad high definition”), and 3840 x 2160 goes by “UHD” or “ultra high definition.”

    • Some gaming laptops are designed to allow specific user hardware updates. Many manufacturers sell complementary kits so users can swap in a larger hard drive. If you think you might want to upgrade your laptop in the future, buy one that supports user upgrades.

    Because gaming laptops typically have high-end features (like the most current generation of CPUs or GPUs), they’re much heavier than other laptops. Most gaming laptops weigh between five and ten pounds.

    Faq

    Q. How much RAM do I need in a gaming laptop?

    A. Random access memory (RAM) is the memory a computer uses to store data related to active tasks. While adding more RAM won’t make your computer faster, it will enable it to handle more tasks simultaneously, making your experience smoother and more responsive. While some low-end gaming laptops ship with 4GB or 8GB of RAM, for an optimal gaming experience, we recommend buying one with a minimum of 16GB of RAM.

    Q. Can I play virtual reality (VR) games on a gaming laptop?

    A. Yes, you can do this with additional hardware. Virtual reality games can be installed and run from any Windows-based machine, and they require special equipment like VR goggles and hand controllers (sold separately). Before investing in a VR kit, make sure your gaming laptop meets the technical requirements of the VR games you want to play.

    Q. Does Apple make a gaming laptop?

    A. While many video game developers port their most popular titles to Apple’s Mac OS X operating system, Apple does not have a laptop that’s designed specifically for gaming. However, most Apple laptops have competent GPUs that can deliver an average gaming experience. If you’re more than a casual gamer, stick with Windows. Many of the most popular gaming titles are PC exclusives.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jaime
      Jaime
      Writer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director