Gaming laptops are everywhere. It's a product category that has exploded in popularity in recent years, and with good reason. As technology continues to evolve, the gaming laptop creeps ever closer to the sort of performance and overall experience that traditionally you would only get from a purpose-built desktop PC.
Buying a gaming laptop makes a lot of sense, too. A desktop PC is glued to one location, a gaming laptop can go anywhere you do. For the majority of gamers, too, the performance from today's best gaming laptops is so good that you won't miss having a desktop, either.
But which to buy from the increasingly large selection? We're here to help with that. A collaboration from our expert reviewers has highlighted the cream of the crop right now, the very best gaming laptops you should be looking at. And perhaps a couple of surprise alternatives.
The quick list
Desktop power in laptop form. NVIDIA RTX 4090, Intel i9 HX, QHD+ 18" screen, 5 MP webcam, six speakers. The ultimate gaming laptop.
Alienware's most compact laptop is still a top performer, and while it still screams gaming laptop in its design it's a true go-anywhere PC with blistering performance.
Best desktop replacement
A true desktop PC that you can carry around with you (with a big enough bag) it's impossible to squeeze any more inside a laptop than this.
Despite the skinny chassis, Lenovo punches above its weight class with the Slim 7i, proving worthy of its high-end components. Missing some hardware that gamers might lament, but it's a solid choice for the price.
The best overall gaming laptop
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
My recommended Razer Blade 18 configuration:
This second-best variant of the Blade 18 still ranks as my top pick from the range. Anything lower drops to an RTX 4080, and one step higher is too big a jump in cost. The RAM and SSDs are user-replaceable anyway, making this a smart choice for the ultra-premium.
Razer knows a thing or two about gaming hardware, and I was blown away in my review of the Razer Blade 18. It's an incredibly powerful gaming laptop with a 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13950HX CPU, an NVIDIA RTX 4090 L GPU, a 240Hz QHD+ screen, and a sleek design that doesn't go too over the top while unmistakably keeping Razer's aesthetics. It can handle practically any game at high settings and excels with general media consumption thanks to its THX-certified speakers, 5MP wide-angle webcam, and color-accurate panel. The vapor chamber cooling system controls temperatures, but it's one of the loudest machines I've ever used.
Unfortunately, the Blade 18's mediocre keyboard has shallow key travel and a risky power button placement to offset the gigantic, beautifully responsive touchpad. There's also an issue of unimpressive battery life and a considerable amount of throttling to its components when unplugged, making portable gaming far less of a thrill, but it's still functional. External monitors can connect via HDMI and Thunderbolt USB-C, and you get an Ethernet port that supports 2.5Gb speeds, so you could hook it up as a desktop replacement if you stick with AC power.
Overall, the Razer Blade 18 is an impressive gaming laptop that delivers desktop-class performance in a (somewhat) portable form. It's expensive, heavy, and noisy, but fast, smooth, and versatile. If you're looking for a gaming beast that can handle creative work, the Razer Blade 18 is the one. However, if you've never used an 18-inch laptop, be prepared for a shock. It's a beast.
The best compact gaming laptop
2. Alienware x14 R2
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
My recommended Alienware x14 R2 configuration:
The ideal configuration of the Alienware X14 R2 pairs the capable RTX 4060 GPU with the 13th Gen Core i7 H-series CPU. 16GB RAM is plenty for gaming so it's not really worth the additional spend to double it up and you still get the same great display as on the more expensive configurations.
Alienware is one of the oldest brands in gaming laptops and has always stood out from the crowd with a distinctive, and often aggressive design. It's also a brand known for large, outrageously powerful laptops with a few exceptions. The Alienware X14 R2 continues the tradition of aggressive design but paired with being extremely portable without sacrificing on specs and features.
In true Alienware fashion there are multiple configurations, but if you're into gaming then really, it's the RTX 4060 that stands out. It's not the absolute strongest performer, but it supports NVIDIA's latest and greatest in DLSS 3 and of course, ray tracing, as well as AV1 encoding. And it'll be a solid performer in the latest games if you like to turn up the settings a little.
One of my favorite features though is the rear-mounted ports. It makes gaming when on a desk so much more convenient with the wires all heading away from you, but it also allows for the sides of the laptop to be much thinner. Since this part is always thicker anyway it makes total design sense and I'm glad Alienware went this direction!
The design will no doubts still be divisive, for example, it's really not a laptop you'd probably sit around a conference table with. But if that doesn't bother you then what you're getting here is a highly portable, strong performing gaming laptop that's also prone to Dell's regular discounts.
The best desktop replacement laptop
3. MSI Titan GT77
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
My recommended MSI Titan GT77 configuration:
While I love the spec with the RTX 4090, for most people buying with their own money the 'entry' spec is the one to get. The only real difference is the drop down to a 12GB RTX 4080, you still get 64GB RAM and a 2TB RAID setup for storage with the same amazing display. A 4080 is still more GPU than most will ever need.
The MSI Titan GT77 truly does live up to its name. This is one of the absolute most powerful, spec'd up gaming laptops on the planet. It's also one of the biggest and heaviest, so you do need to bear that in mind if you're looking for something portable. Technically this is a laptop, but I like to think of it more as a portable desktop.
It really does have everything. There's a gorgeous 4K display, Intel's most powerful mobile CPU, the most powerful laptop GPU from NVIDIA, masses of RAM and storage, along with just about every single port along its sides you can think of. For example, you have HDMI, mini-DisplayPort and Thunderbolt all as options just for external displays. With a lot of laptops today you'd need to consider a dock to expand your connectivity, but not with the GT77.
This laptop almost feels wasted on just gaming, and in truth, it probably is. That's why it's more of a desktop replacement than a pure gaming laptop. If you're a creator, a programmer, if you're working with machine learning or any other heavy workloads, this thing will absolutely eat them up. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the sublime mechanical keyboard that comes as a result of input from SteelSeries and Cherry. It's an absolute dream to type on, one of the best laptop keyboards I've ever used.
Any downsides besides its size? Well with immense performance comes a cooling system to match and it can get quite loud under load. It is also, as you'd expect, very expensive. But for the right buyer, this is everything and more besides.
The best value gaming laptop
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
My recommended Lenovo Legion Slim 7i (Gen 8) configuration:
The exact spec that Lenovo sent for review is what I would happily recommend, if only because everything else in its range is a downgrade. Since this Slim 7i enjoys discounts on its official storefront and third parties like Best Buy, I'd recommend springing for this top model.
After completing my Lenovo Legion Slim 7i (Gen 8) review, I could confidently say that despite some unusual drawbacks, it's still a gaming laptop offering impressive performance, battery life, and a subtle design for its price. It features a 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13900H CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 L GPU, a 16-inch WQXGA IPS panel supporting up to a 240Hz refresh rate with HDR, and per-key RGB keyboard backlights. It can handle most modern AAA games at high settings and moderate resolutions close to its native 1600p and even supports Tobii Horizon head tracking for a few immersive titles.
However, it lacks an Ethernet port, usually preferable for lag-free online gaming. Also, Lenovo somehow decided that the Legion Slim 7i needed a number pad, shifting the keyboard to the left and reducing the potential touchpad size. There's also an issue of loud fan noise when running in performance mode, but that's pretty common for gaming laptops. Color accuracy on the screen could be better, too, so it's not ideal for creators looking for a 2-in-1 solution for gaming in their free time.
It stood out for its impressive performance on battery power and its potential lifespan for everyday use, plus how capable the RTX 4070 laptop variant is for gaming. Overall, it's a great value machine that delivers on its promises. It's not the best gaming laptop ever, but it still impressed me enough to recommend it. It's sleek, powerful, and portable, with only minor flaws that can be overlooked or fixed with external accessories. If you're looking for a thin, light gaming machine that won't break the bank, the Legion Slim 7i is the one for you.
The best non-gaming laptop
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
My recommended Dell XPS 17 configuration:
Dell is one of our very favorite brands and for good reason. It produces powerful, market-leading laptops that are designed to impress like the XPS 17. Housing a 13th Gen Intel Core i7 13700H or i9-13900H which works in conjunction with an NVIDIA RTX 4000 Series GPU, the latest Dell XPS 17 laptop is a powerhouse capable of handling anything from intensive creative programs to demanding games with ease. In my opinion, this laptop is the ultimate all-rounder to use at school or work while also being able to handle your favorite digital hobbies like gaming or creative software.
Each of the available laptop configurations is impressive, but anyone interested in using the XPS 17 for gaming should consider the more powerful i9 chip with the RTX 4070 graphics card. Together, these processors can handle intensive graphics and more demanding features like ray tracing and G-Sync upscaling more effectively. During my playing sessions the laptop was able to reach around 60FPS and ran extremely smoothly without suffering any serious stuttering or lag.
Oddly enough, the latest XPS 17 doesn’t have the option for an OLED display. Despite this, I am blown away by the touchscreen panel’s wide color gamut and contrast ratio. After I ran a colorimeter test, the laptop proved that it produces 100% of sRGB, 100% of AdobeRGB, and 98% of P3 — amazing results that many panels are unable to attain. Every scene in the shows I watched and every area that I explored while playing my games was shown to stunning effect with plenty of color and details that pop thanks to balanced contrast.
For all of the goodness that the XPS 17 has going for it, there’s also something to be aware of. It doesn’t have a built-in HDMI port or a USB-A port. However, an adapter is included in the box which adds these connections when plugged into one of the laptop’s four USB-C ports. So, if you think you’ll frequently need to use a USB-A 3.0 or HDMI 2.0 port then you’ll want to prepare yourself to tote the adapter around with you. On the plus side, the USB-C ports are all Thunderbolt 4 meaning they have DisplayPort and Power Delivery support. Additionally for creatives, there is an SD card slot built into the right side of the laptop, so you can easily insert cards at your convenience. Seriously, this is the laptop to get if you want to stay ahead of the curb while handling a wide range of tasks.
Handheld PCs: The gaming laptop alternative
Handhelds are finally becoming a viable alternative to carrying around a gaming laptop if your priorities are to, well, game. They're purposely designed to be a console-like experience but able to play your PC games on the go. With the added bonus of costing less than most good gaming laptops.
What you lose of course is a built-in keyboard and a display big enough to do anything resembling work on. But make no mistake, these portable PCs can be hooked up to an external display, a mouse, and a keyboard, and you have yourself a fully capable PC that can also fit in (some) pockets.
There are two handheld PCs that are recommended right now if you're interested in going this route over a traditional gaming laptop.
The ASUS ROG Ally is the first Windows-powered handheld gaming PC that's truly worthy of recommendation. There have been a number of such devices prior, but all have had big reasons to avoid, be that performance or more often, price.
The ROG Ally isn't extortionately expensive and it's also a strong performer. It uses AMD's new Z1 Extreme APU which is designed specifically for this type of device. Toss in 16GB of RAM, a super-fast PCIe 4.0 SSD and a gorgeous 1080p 120Hz display, there really is nothing like the ROG Ally right now.
It isn't perfect, but as a package it's extremely compelling. Running Windows 11 means no game compatibility issues and all anti-cheat systems work fine, and its hardware is capable of playing even today's more demanding games well.
The Steam Deck is a brilliantly designed and remarkably capable portable gaming device that redefines the way players can enjoy their Steam libraries.
Buy at: Steam
The Steam Deck is what really started the handheld gaming PC boom, despite not actually being the first of its kind. But the Steam Deck has captured the imagination of gamers worldwide. It doesn't run Windows, instead using SteamOS, a customized version of Linux built by Valve. But for the most part, this doesn't interfere with gaming, as its Proton compatibility layer does an excellent job of translating Windows games.
The Steam Deck has price on its side for sure, as well as its hooks into Steam, the largest PC games platform on the planet. Not running on Windows also allowed Valve to design a custom user experience better suited to handheld use.
It isn't as powerful as the ROG Ally, but it's no slouch, using its own custom AMD APU, 16GB of RAM and PCIe 4.0 storage unless you get the base model. It's highly repairable and customizable, and there's a thriving market of accessories for the Godfather of the current handheld PC market.
How we test gaming laptops
It won't come as a surprise that most of our testing process for gaming laptops primarily relies on stress testing a series of AAA games. Specific titles, like Far Cry 6, Cyberpunk 2077, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, have built-in benchmarking modes that simulate various moments of intense CPU and GPU utilization, which can be analyzed afterward to see which settings make the most impact.
Of course, we run each model through a gauntlet of broader tests to see which components are worth the cash. Some high-end parts might sound great on paper, but if they're housed inside a gaming laptop that hasn't been adequately optimized for cooling, they'll likely suffer from performance throttling to prevent overheating. King of the castle in every respect, the Razer Blade 18 is a loud machine when it's under stress, but the vapor chamber cooling system keeps its hardware nice and cool.
Compared to pre-built gaming desktop PCs, the laptop equivalents are often short in raw performance numbers, despite displaying the same model numbers as their full-size companions. A laptop variant of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 won't perform as well as its desktop version. Still, each gaming laptop is compared against those in its category and beyond, so we'll always provide benchmark graphs to show how each performs in testing.
Picking up a gaming laptop won't net you the same across-the-board performance as the best Windows laptops, notably taking the biggest hits in the battery department. Still, thanks to the dedicated GPUs, they generally double up as excellent choices for creative types, pushing for faster video rendering and real-time image editing.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine