Best Gaming Laptops Windows Central 2021
The Razer Blade 15 has the right combination of power, style, and display to make it our top pick for the best gaming laptops on the market today. Available in Base and Advanced models depending on the performance you're looking to achieve, anyone with the budget should be able to find a Blade 15 that suits their needs. If the Blade isn't quite what you're looking for, there are plenty of other best gaming laptops available, which we've collected here.
- Our pick: Razer Blade 15
- AMD power: Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
- Great performance, great price: HP OMEN 15
- Aggressive style: Alienware m15 R6
- Best value: Acer Nitro 5
- Deep customization: Origin EVO15-S
Best overall: Razer Blade 15
Razer recently updated its Blade 15 with 11th Gen Intel Core H-series CPUs following another recent refresh at CES 2021 that brought new high-end display options. This all means that the Blade 15 is still the best gaming laptop on the market.
The laptop comes in Base and Advanced models depending on the performance hardware you're looking at. Our Razer Blade 15 Advanced review has a lot more information, but bottom line is that you can get up to an NVIDIA RTX 3080 Laptop graphics card (GPU), 11th Gen Intel Core i9-11900H CPU, 32GB of dual-channel DDR4-3200MHz RAM, and a 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 solid-state drive (SSD) with an open M.2 slot for extra storage. You won't have any issues getting a fantastic gaming experience from the Razer Blade 15.
With the CES 2021 upgrade comes a QHD display option with a 240Hz refresh rate. There's also now an FHD display with a whopping 360Hz refresh rate. NVIDIA's RTX 30-series GPUs will push frame rates in modern games, no doubt accommodating the esports crowd that relies on smooth gameplay. If you'd like to move up to 4K, there's also an OLED display available in the Blade 15 Advanced Edition.
Wi-Fi 6 connectivity is included for high-performance wireless networking, and Bluetooth 5.1 is included for connecting wireless peripherals. Despite the thin size (0.70 inches on the Advanced model and 0.78 inches on the Base model), the Blade 15 holds onto a decent port selection, including dual Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI 2.1.
The RGB keyboard can be customized for extra style. The Base model has single-zone RGB lighting (meaning you can't customize different parts of the keyboard), while Advanced models offer per-key RGB lighting for much deeper customization. And the laptop has an enormous Precision touchpad for use when you don't have an external gaming mouse connected.
Razer's new Blade 14 is also available for anyone who wants a slightly smaller device that can still tear up modern games. It's also the first Blade with AMD hardware inside, which will appeal to anyone on Team Red.
- Gorgeous 4K, QHD, and FHD display options
- Insane gaming performance
- Slim, premium build
- Decent port selection
- Enormous Precision touchpad
- Very expensive
- Keyboard travel could be deeper
Stellar AMD power: Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
The Legion 5 Pro is one the best gaming laptops Lenovo has ever released. It's powered by AMD Ryzen 5000 Mobile gaming CPUs, with up to a Ryzen 7 5800H, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, 2TB of M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage, and a NVIDIA RTX 3070 Laptop GPU. Performance is stellar — at least while the laptop is on AC power due to some AMD tuning — but the real attraction might be the display.
The screen is sized at 16 inches, with a taller 16:10 aspect ratio with 2560x1600 (QHD+) resolution. There's just the one display option available, but its thin bezel, 165Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, anti-glare finish, and more than 500 nits brightness are all keys to a great gaming experience. Testing color accuracy, I got back 100% sRGB color reproduction. NVIDIA G-Sync is also included for a smoother experience.
Overall build quality is excellent. The TrueStrike RGB keyboard feels great while gaming, and the touchpad is plenty big for easy pointing. Port selection, mostly arranged along the back edge for easy cable management, is generous. You get four USB-A 3.2, two USB-C 3.2, Ethernet, HDMI 2.1, and a 3.5mm headset jack.
- Beautiful 16-inch QHD+ 165Hz display
- Performance to crush modern games
- Smart layout for ports
- Improved keyboard and touchpad
- Stable performance
- Runs hot under load
- Performance on battery suffers
- No fingerprint reader or IR camera
- Short battery life
Great performance, great price: HP OMEN 15
HP's lineup of OMEN 15 gaming laptops was refreshed mid-2020 with a new look and some interesting new features. The laptops look a lot more modern with dual hinges and discrete lines, and OMEN has a new diamond logo. Thermal efficiency is optimized thanks to an IR thermopile sensor and up to a 12V fan with larger vent openings.
That's a good thing since this laptop has inside up to an Intel Core i7-10870H or AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU. The Intel model has up to an NVIDIA RTX 3060 Laptop GPU for best performance, while the AMD model has up to an NVIDIA RTX 3070 Laptop GPU.
Yes, there are both AMD and Intel CPU options on offer here to help serve as many gamers as possible. Up to 16GB of DDR4-3200MHz RAM can be added to the AMD laptops, while up to 32GB of DDR4-2933MHz RAM is available in Intel models. Both laptops can be configured with up to 1TB of M.2 PCIe storage.
Display options differ depending on the CPU you choose. AMD models come with up to a 15.6-inch QHD display at a 165Hz refresh rate and 300 nits brightness. Those are decent specs, especially paired with the RTX 3070 GPU. Intel models have an FHD display available with up to a 300Hz refresh rate. Though there is also a 144Hz model, the higher refresh rate makes more sense when paired with RTX 30-series GPUs. All models come with Wi-Fi 6 wireless connectivity, and all models also come with an RJ45 Ethernet port for a reliable wired connection.
Have a look at our HP OMEN 15 (2020) review for a lot more information about this PC.
- AMD and Intel hardware available
- Competitive price
- Up to a 300Hz FHD display
- NVIDIA RTX GPU options
- New modern design
- Can still find cheaper options
- Can find models with better performance
Aggressive style: Alienware m15 R6
Dell's refreshed Alienware m15 R6 comes at you with a bold, mature look that's undeniably aggressive, and it can be had in either Dark Side of the Moon finish for the magnesium alloy body. If you want your laptop to stand out at the next LAN party, the m15 R6 is certainly a top option.
The chassis measures 0.51 inches at its thinnest point, down from 0.70 inches in the R4 model. It's still stocked with ports, including RJ45 Ethernet, three USB-A 3.2, Thunderbolt 4, HDMI 2.1, and 3.5mm audio. Basic models start at about 5.35 pounds (2.42kg), putting it in line with most other gaming laptops out there. The comfy keyboard has per-key RGB customizable lighting to get the look you want, and the large Precision touchpad is useful when you don't have an external mouse connected. Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 is included in all models for fast wireless speeds.
Performance hardware hits the upper limits of what's available in modern gaming laptops, so this is another solid option if you want the best and have the budget to back it up. Add up to an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11800H CPU with eight cores and a clock speed up to 4.6GHz, 32GB of DDR4-3200MHz RAM, dual 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD, and an NVIDIA RTX 3080 Laptop GPU. There are plenty more configurations available to help you get exactly what you want.
Display options are varied as well. Basic models start with a 15.6-inch FHD display with a 165Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time. Moving up, there's an FHD option with a whopping 360Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and NVIDIA G-Sync. This is best reserved for high-end performance hardware to make the most of the high refresh rate. Finally, there's a QHD display option with a 240Hz refresh rate, 2ms response time, and NVIDIA G-Sync.
- Insane performance options
- Multiple displays to choose from, including QHD
- Per-key RGB keyboard lighting
- Thin, aggressive design
- Plenty of ports
- Prices climb quickly
- Design might be a bit too flashy for some
Best value: Acer Nitro 5
Due to the high-end hardware inside gaming laptops, most come in well above what most people are willing to pay for a single piece of tech. If you're a gamer who enjoys casual and indie games and doesn't need something that will run AAA games on Ultra settings, the Acer Nitro 5 is no doubt going to be quite appealing.
Despite the bargain price, the 15.6-inch IPS display has a smooth 144Hz refresh rate with FHD resolution. Combined with this level of performance hardware, it's a great match. Get up to an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB SSD, and an NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of GDDR6 VRAM.
The chassis weighs in at 5.07 pounds (2.3kg) and measures 0.94 inches (23.9mm) thin, allowing for plenty of room for ports. There is HDMI, Thunderbolt 4, three USB-A 3.2, 3.5mm audio, and Ethernet for a reliable wired connection. However, if you're gaming over Wi-Fi, a Wi-Fi 6 chip is included for faster speeds. Bluetooth 5.0 is included for connecting wireless accessories.
The full keyboard with a number pad has a red backlight to match the Nitro theme, and the touchpad uses Precision drivers for a satisfying typing experience when not using an external mouse. Altogether this laptop isn't going to check as many boxes as the expensive high-end machines we have listed here. However, it is going to save you a ton of money and still deliver a satisfying gaming experience for a lot of people.
- Great price
- Solid mid-range performance
- Decent port selection
- Display with high refresh rate
- Not as powerful or premium as high-end options
Deep customization: Origin EVO15-S
The Origin EVO15-S is the right laptop for anyone who wants to customize every aspect. It's a 15-inch device with up to a 4K OLED display for the best picture possible, though there are FHD options with up to a 300Hz refresh rate.
As for performance hardware, get up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10870H CPU, 32GB of DDR4-2666MHz RAM, 4TB of storage, and an NVIDIA RTX 3080 Max-Q GPU. Choose installed software, add any accessories, and even add extra security measures like a fingerprint reader.
The understated chassis includes Thunderbolt 3, Mini DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm audio, RJ45 Ethernet, and a microSD card reader. The same chassis can be customized with unique print designs. If you want to pick everything inside your laptop, this is the way to go.
- Thorough customization options
- High-end displays for gaming
- Modern GPU options
- Excellent keyboard and trackpad
- No thermal throttling
- Bad audio
- Fans can get loud
When it comes to buying one of the best gaming laptops — as with buying just about any laptop — there's a lot more involved than finding the best deal and pulling the trigger. Laptop manufacturers can easily inflate hardware abilities with fancy speech, and it might not be until you get the laptop home and try to load up your favorite game that you find it lacks in certain vital areas. For example, no gaming laptop is going to deliver excellent battery life when you're actually using it for gaming.
The Razer Blade 15 is our top pick for a gaming laptop in 2021.
That's why we've put together this collection of laptops that range from the top of the high-end spectrum to options that are far more affordable and will still satisfy casual gamers. We've tested many of these laptops ourselves, and each one has a good blend of looks and performance that match up with the asking price. No matter what level you game at or how much you have to spend, you should be able to find something suitable in this collection. However, there is one gaming laptop that continues to impress us year after year.
The Razer Blade 15 is an impressive piece of engineering, and it's our top pick for a gaming laptop. There are plenty of configuration options for CPU, RAM, storage, and GPU, including the best graphics cards from NVIDIA. You're going to be able to enjoy any modern game with a smooth framerate, made better by multiple 15.6-inch display options ranging from FHD to QHD to 4K OLED.
Be sure to have a look at our collection of the overall best Windows laptop options for more great hardware.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
Daniel Rubino is the executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009 back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.
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