PC gaming can be an expensive hobby if you’re set on having the latest hardware that can run every game at full tilt. It can be tough to get into as well, given the complexity of finding the right components to cater to your specific desires. For those new to PC gaming (or perhaps those lacking in confidence to build a desktop), buying a gaming laptop might be the best move.
Sure, gaming on a laptop is more cumbersome compared to using handhelds like the Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck, or a smartphone. However, gaming laptops beat them handily with power, and by being more useful for non-gaming tasks. And, unlike a desktop, their portable nature makes it easier to connect to your TV when you want big-screen gaming in your living room.
While buying a gaming laptop is more beginner-friendly than building a desktop, there are still many factors to consider, from your preferred portability, screen size, ports, and whether you really need the very latest Nvidia GeForce RTX GPU when the previous generation still yields excellent results. If you need some recommendations, our guide contains some great gaming laptops you can buy now to suit both your budgetary and PC gaming needs.
Best overall gaming laptop
The Razer Blade 16 is the best overall gaming laptop if you want to make practically any game absolutely sing with the latest RTX 40 graphics chip and look great, too, on its crisp QHD 16-inch display that has a 240 Hz refresh rate. It’s far from the cheapest option, starting at $2,699.99, but it’s a reasonable price for those who want to play the most demanding games at their highest settings, and who want to go wild customizing Razer’s fancy Chroma RGB lighting for the keyboard.
The price goes up much higher (exceeding $4,000) if you’re after an even higher tier of the RTX 40-series graphics chips, as well as Razer’s interesting dual-mode display model where, at the click of a button, you can toggle the screen’s resolution and refresh rate between native 4K at 120 Hz and 1080p at 240 Hz display modes. While impressive, that model is made to appeal more to creators and gamers who want to have the best of both worlds, no matter the cost. And, as the pricey RTX 4090 GPU option has arguably more power than most users can fully take advantage of, you likely don’t need to shell out for the highest tier of GPU when the RTX 4060 and 4070 can run most games well, even at QHD resolution.
As game installs are getting increasingly larger, it’s nice that the Blade 16 offers an additional M.2 SSD slot, meaning you’ll be able to expand the storage if needed (it comes with a 1 TB SSD by default). Fortunately, the cost of high-speed SSDs has been coming down, so you can easily add an extra 1 TB for well under $100.
It has a slim design, though it’s not the most lightweight laptop — at 5.40 pounds, it’s a pound heavier than the Razer Blade 15 — but that added weight feels justified since it brings faster hardware, plus five ports (three USB-A, one USB-C, and one Thunderbolt) to take your experience further with other accessories.
Best portable gaming laptop
All gaming laptops are theoretically portable, but what about ones that are small and light enough to bring anywhere, and that don’t sacrifice too much power? The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 manages to strike that fine balance. Weighing just 3.64 pounds, it’s astonishingly lightweight while still holding its own against the most demanding games.
Diving into the specs, its AMD Ryzen 9 CPU and Nvidia RTX 4060 GPU should result satisfy gamers who want solid midrange performance. You’ll get lush graphics that look beautiful on its 2560x1600 display, and smooth, too, thanks to its 120 Hz refresh rate. It doesn’t skimp on a host of other niceties, including a 720p webcam (full HD would have been nice, a minor complaint), a customizable RGB keyboard, four USB ports (two USB-A, two USB-C), and a large trackpad.
Given its smaller dimensions, with a thickness of just 0.73 inches, it’s the perfect laptop for gaming when commuting and traveling. Better yet, it’s got terrific battery life. If you’re not just using it for gaming, you can expect the battery to last up to 10 hours, which is far better than most gaming laptops, though that’s probably a different story if you’re running the latest blockbuster titles at ultra settings.
The design is also low-key enough that you won’t immediately single yourself out as being a gamer, if that matters to you. There is a more expensive model that comes with Asus’ Anime Matrix feature that allows you to customize a grid of mini-LED lights on the surface of the lid (it looks like this), but if keeping costs down is important, you can do without it.
Best high-end gaming laptop
The MSI Raider GE78 HX is a bit of a mouthful, its name aptly mirroring its maximalist design and specs. But if money is no object and you’re after the ultimate powerhouse gaming laptop, this $3,399.99 laptop is our pick.
This model has a huge 17-inch IPS display that’s perfect for viewing sharp QHD graphics on, which its Intel Core i9 processor and RTX 4080 GPU are more than capable of delivering. Its 240 Hz refresh rate is just as speedy as our top all-around pick, the Razer Blade 16, ensuring you’re getting ultra-smooth performance in big and beautiful open-world games, whether you dig Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, or just want to be ready to max out Starfield when it launches in September.
The MSI Raider GE78 HX itself isn’t much of a looker compared to some of our other picks. It’s also humongous, weighing 6.83 pounds. You’ll likely struggle to fit it in most laptop bags. But if you insist on taking it with you, don’t forget its huge 330 W power supply, which is all but necessary to lug around if you want to do anything on this laptop for a few hours. You’re looking at a couple of hours of gaming time at most, so this is definitely not the most practical or portable option available. However, some of you may be happy to sacrifice these factors for the power that this model can supply.
Ultimately, it’s what’s inside that counts the most here. In addition to its powerful CPU and GPU, it comes with a 1 TB SSD and a whopping 64 GB of RAM, with more slots available if you want to boost either. It also has a mechanical keyboard from SteelSeries, proving that this really is somewhat of a desktop replacement. Going over a final few spec details, it has a 1080p webcam and mic built in, a higher resolution than what’s included with most gaming laptops. There are plenty of ports, too, including two USB-A ports, three USB-C ports (one of which is Thunderbolt 4), plus HDMI 2.1, an SD card reader, a headphone jack, and an Ethernet port.
Best cheap gaming laptop
Gaming laptops are a luxury, but they don’t always have to cost you well over $1,000. So long as you aren’t obsessed with having the latest hardware, there are some options that do a good job at keeping up with the latest game releases. At $999.99, the 16-inch Acer Nitro 16 is one of the best value options.
It’s a midrange gaming laptop, containing an AMD Ryzen 5 7640HS CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU. Bundled with its 8 GB RAM, you’ll be able to run most demanding games, like Cyberpunk 2077, at decent frame rates on its 1080p display. If you’re looking to prioritize a faster frame rate over a gorgeous-looking picture, you can turn graphical settings down a bit to take advantage of the display’s fast 165 Hz refresh rate.
It also has everything else you’d expect from a modern gaming laptop, including a good number of ports, a webcam and a mic, and a high-speed SSD — speaking of, it comes with 512 GB by default, which for most gamers will quickly fill up. Thankfully, with SSD prices coming down, it’s inexpensive to manually insert another SSD into its extra M.2 slot. The Nitro 16’s RAM can be upgraded after purchase, too, which is a nice touch.
It may be rather plain in design, and it has some minor compromises (the screen isn’t as bright as more high-end laptops). However, when it comes to affordability while still being able to play the latest games PC gaming has to offer, the Acer Nitro 16 is a good place to start.
Best affordable 16-inch gaming laptop
If you have a budget of below $1,000 and really want a QHD screen without breaking the bank, the Dell G16 is a fantastic value.
You’re getting substantially more than what the Acer Nitro 5 provides, yet sometimes it doesn’t cost substantially more. It has a more powerful Intel Core i7 processor and RTX 3060 GPU pairing. You’ll be able to get games looking great and smooth with its QHD 16-inch display that has a 165 Hz refresh rate. The keyboard is packed with features, too, including five customizable macro keys. Its F9 key doubles as a “Game Shift” key, which ramps up the power (and the fan speed) to improve your game performance by a few frames per second.
The G16 borrows several design elements from much pricier Alienware laptops. It also inherits some of their not-so-great qualities, like a middling webcam and short battery life when you’re not plugged in. If you’re planning on using this laptop for non-gaming tasks, it should serve you well for a few hours. But if you plan to do more work than play, you may want to consider the more compact Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.
If the G16 is looking like the gaming laptop for you, Best Buy and Dell take turns offering the best value on this machine. Currently, the $899.99 model at Dell includes a Core i7, RTX 3050 Ti, 16 GB of fast DDR5 RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. The price on this model has dropped by hundreds of dollars on occasion, so stay tuned for the next deal.
Update (Aug. 2): Checked links and prices for accuracy.