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 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: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
- Great Performance, Great Price: HP OMEN 15
- Aggressive Style: Alienware m15
- Mid-Range Performance: Lenovo Legion 5i 15
- Best 17-Inch: MSI GS75 Stealth
- Best Value: Acer Nitro 5
Best Overall Razer Blade 15
With up to an NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics card (GPU), 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10875H eight-core processor (CPU), 16GB of dual-channel DDR4-2933MHz RAM, and a 1TB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), you won't have any issues getting a fantastic gaming experience from the Razer Blade 15.
The top hardware options on offer here will satisfy demanding gamers who strive to play all modern games at a smooth framerate. Razer also attempts to attract the professional crowd with an NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 GPU option. Along with a 4K OLED display with 100% DCI-P3 color reproduction and HDR400, those in design and development fields should find the laptop has the performance and screen to handle specialized work. The Blade 15 also looks a whole lot cooler than strictly professional laptops on the market today.
For the Base model, there's a 1920x1080 (FHD) resolution display available at a 144Hz refresh rate, as well as non-touch 4K OLED. If you're opting for lesser performance hardware — like an NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti GPU, for example — the FHD display makes a lot more sense. The GPU will have a much easier time pushing high frame rates at 1080p, whereas it will seriously struggle at 4K. If you're looking to game modern titles, it's recommended you stick with FHD until you get into the NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super Max-Q GPU territory or better.
At that point, you're into Advanced model territory, which has an FHD display option at 300Hz or 4K OLED touch display. Prices climb significantly with Advanced models, and no doubt, most people are going to find that the Base model still has enough to satisfy. A 144Hz refresh rate is nothing to balk at, and the added touch feature to a 4K screen you get with the Advanced model certainly isn't necessary.
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. Get three USB-A 3.2, USB-C 3.2, HDMI 2.0, Thunderbolt 3, and Ethernet on the Base model. The Advanced model is a bit different (and more geared to creatives and professionals) thanks to a UHS-III SD card reader, HDMI 2.0, three USB-A 3.2, USB-C 3.2, and HDMI 2.0.
The RGB keyboard doesn't have great key travel, but it 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.
Finally, battery size differs between the two models. The Base option has some lesser hardware, so it relies on a 65Wh battery, while the Advanced model's beefier hardware pulls from a larger 80Wh battery. Battery life, no matter the size of the battery, is still going to be poor, so don't expect to take the laptop to work in the morning and have it last through a full day without needing a charge.
- Gorgeous 4K and FHD display options
- Insane gaming performance
- Slim, premium build
- Decent port selection
- Enormous Precision touchpad
- Very expensive
- Keyboard is lackluster
Stellar AMD Power: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
AMD's eight-core Ryzen 9 4900HS is a direct competitor to Intel's Core i9 CPU, and from what we've seen it's a total game changer. It's available in the 14-inch ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14, a gaming laptop with original style. It weighs in at 3.52 pounds (1.6kg), making it relatively portable, and at 14 inches, it's an excellent option for anyone who feels 15 inches is just a bit too bulky.
It has a comfortable keyboard and sizable Precision touchpad, though be warned that some might find the inside aesthetics to be a bit too edgy. It sort of bucks the modern minimalist trend, though some people will love the look. And once you start gaming, you're not going to care.
The AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS has eight cores, 16 threads, and a boost clock up to 4.3GHz, yet it has a TDP of just 35W. It beats out single- and multi-core Intel Core i9-9980HK Geekbench 5 scores, which is quite impressive. Pairing this killer CPU up with an NVIDIA RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU, 16GB of DDR4-3200MHz RAM, and a 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD creates a potent combination, all for a great price.
The 14-inch display has a 1920x1080 (FHD) resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, and IPS panel. Those are good mid-range specs, and the performance hardware isn't going to have issues keeping up with refresh rate. And if you need a larger display, you can always connect to an external monitor with HDMI. There's also two USB-C 3.2, two USB-A 3.2, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
There's no Ethernet port, but a Wi-Fi 6 chip is included for fast, reliable wireless internet. Judging by the price, you might think this laptop is lacking extra features. However, it has a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello, solid audio from dual 2W speakers, and ErgoLift design that raises the chassis off a desk when in use, providing better ventilation.
If you love AMD and want a 14-inch gaming laptop, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 is going to blow you away. Battery life is solid, performance is excellent, and the price is hard to beat, considering all you're getting here.
- AMD Ryzen 9 is unbelievable
- Wi-Fi 6 and plenty of ports
- Thin and light 14-inch chassis
- Fingerprint reader for Windows Hello
- Competitive price
- Does get rather hot
- Might prefer full 15-inch display
Great Performance, Great Price: HP OMEN 15
HP's lineup on 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 i7-10750H or AMD Ryzen 7 4800H CPU. The Intel model has up to an NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU for best performance, while the AMD model has up to an NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti.
Yes, there are both AMD and Intel CPU options on offer here to help serve as many gamers as possible. If you don't need the high-end chips, there are also Core i5-10300H and Ryzen 5 4600H CPUs available at a more affordable price. Up to 16GB of DDR4-3200MHz RAM can be added to the AMD laptops, while up to 32GB of 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 a 15.6-inch FHD display at a 144Hz refresh rate and 300 nits brightness. Those are decent specs, especially paired with the RTX 2060 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 an NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU.
All models come with Wi-Fi 6 wireless connectivity, and all models also come with an RJ45 Ethernet port for a reliable wired connection. AMD models have otherwise an SD card reader, USB-C, three USB-A, 3.5mm audio, Mini DisplayPort, and HDMI. Intel models have an SD card reader, Thunderbolt 3, three USB-A, 3.5mm audio, Mini DisplayPort, and HDMI. Battery size is the same in all models, and life on a charge will ultimately depend on what type of performance hardware you choose at checkout.
- 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 R3
Dell's refreshed Alienware m15 R3 comes at you with a bold, mature look that's undeniably aggressive, and it can be had in either Dark Side of the Moon or Lunar Light colors for the magnesium alloy body. If you want your laptop to stand out at the next LAN party, the m15 R3 is certainly a top option.
The chassis measures 0.77 inches at its thinnest point, and it's stocked with ports, including RJ45 Ethernet, three USB-A 3.1, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, Mini DisplayPort, Alienware Graphics Amplifier port, and 3.5mm audio. Basic models start at about 4.65 pounds (2.11kg) and go up to about 5.5 pounds (2.5kg), 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 a 10th Gen Intel Core i9-10980HK CPU with eight cores and a clock speed up to 5.3GHz, 32GB of DDR4-2666MHz RAM, dual 2TB M.2 PCIe SSDs combined with another 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD, and an NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super Max-Q GPU. High-end models are incredibly expensive and are reserved for only the most die-hard gamers, while basic models will suit casual gamers much better.
Display options are varied as well. Basic models start with a 15.6-inch FHD display with a 144Hz refresh rate and can be upgraded to include G-Sync for less screen tearing. Moving up, there's an FHD option with a whopping 300Hz refresh rate and 100% sRGB color reproduction. This is best reserved for high-end performance hardware to make the most of the high refresh rate. Finally, there's a 4K OLED display option with a 60Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and solid coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut.
FHD display options no doubt make the most sense for most gamers, and they're best paired with the majority of hardware on offer. However, those who prefer the higher resolution and deep color of OLED should pair the 4K display with something like an NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super Max-Q or better.
- Insane performance options
- Multiple displays to choose from, including 4K OLED
- Per-key RGB keyboard lighting
- Thin, aggressive design
- Plenty of ports
- Prices climb quickly
- Design might be a bit too flashy for some
Mid-Range Performance: Lenovo Legion 5i 15
Lenovo's refreshed mid-range Legion 5 lineup is a great way for more casual gamers to get their hands on a quality laptop without overspending. Legion 5 15 AMD models do come at a great value, but the Legion 5i 15 (the "i" denoting Intel) has better hardware options.
For about $1,100, you can get a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H CPU with six cores and a clock speed up to 5.0GHz, 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD, and 8GB of DDR4 RAM that is user upgradeable after purchase. Most importantly, this config also includes an NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti GPU with 6GB of VRAM.
Combined with a 15.6-inch FHD display with a 60Hz refresh rate, you're going to max out FPS with most modern titles. It's not the best display compared to our other best gaming laptop picks, but you can always connect to an external gaming monitor thanks to solid port selection. If you're willing to spend a few hundred dollars more, you can upgrade to a 240Hz display with Dolby Vision and 500 nits brightness, as well as an NVIDIA RTX 2060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM. All models of the Legion 5i have four USB-A 3.1, USB-C 3.1, HDMI 2.0, Ethernet, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
If you're not keen on connecting with an Ethernet cable, Wi-Fi 6 is also included for blazing wireless speeds. As long as you have a compatible Wi-Fi 6 router, you're going to see a massive improvement over Wi-Fi 5. The Precision touchpad does a good job when you're not using a gaming mouse, and the keyboard has comfortable 1.5mm key travel and a white backlight. This is an excellent laptop for those not interested in ultra-performance. The design is modern, it runs cool, and it's available at a great price.
- Great price for performance
- Modern build and design
- Runs cool
- Comfortable keyboard
- Plenty of ports
- Display is relatively underwhelming
- Performance won't match more expensive models
Best 17-Inch: MSI GS75 Stealth
A 17.3-inch gaming laptop adds a couple of precious inches to the screen for those who like a larger picture, but the larger size means more bulk. At least that's the norm if you're not looking at something like MSI's GS75 Stealth. It measures just 0.79 inches (20.25mm) thin and weighs in at about 5.29 pounds (2.4kg). Those are specs normally reserved for a 15-inch gaming laptop.
The black chassis has gold hinge caps for a nice accent, and the SteelSeries keyboard has fully customizable RGB lighting so you can add your own style. Despite the thinness of the chassis, there's a wide selection of ports, including Thunderbolt 3, USB-C 3.2, three USB-A 3.2, RJ45 Ethernet, a microSD card reader, and HDMI. You can connect an Ethernet cable, but there's also Killer Wi-Fi 6 for fast wireless internet.
There are plenty of configuration options available, ranging from upper mid-range performance to high-end power. Add either a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H or Core i9-10980HK CPU, up to 64GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, and up to a 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD. For a GPU, start with an NVIDIA RTX 2060 and work up to an NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super Max-Q GPU depending on your budget and how much performance you need.
An IR camera adds secure logins through Windows Hello, and dual 2W speakers do a decent job of pumping out audio when you're not using a headset. As for the 17.3-inch IPS display, choose from FHD with a 240Hz or 300Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time. Those are high-end specs for a display, though it would be nice to have the option for 4K.
If you prefer not to connect to an external gaming monitor and want to nevertheless enjoy a larger picture, a 17-inch gaming laptop like the MSI GS75 Stealth is a great option. It doesn't tack on a ton of bulk and weight, and it has the power to deliver a high-end gaming experience.
- High-end performance hardware
- Relatively thin and light 17-inch chassis
- FHD display options with 240Hz, 300Hz refresh rate
- Decent port selection
- Customizable RGB keyboard
- Quite expensive
- No 4K display option
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 (AN515-55) 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 a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10300H CPU with four cores, 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM, a 512GB SSD, and an NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti GPU with 4GB of GDDR6 VRAM.
For a bit less money, a model from Best Buy is available with 10th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and NVIDIA GTX 1650 GPU. It does have a 60Hz refresh rate for the display, though, which helps cut the price.
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, USB-C 3.2, 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
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 2020.
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, with up to an NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super Max-Q for extreme performance.
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 with a 144Hz refresh rate to 4K OLED touch with perfect DCI-P3 color reproduction for a stunning picture.
Generous port selection, including Mini DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0, Thunderbolt 3, Ethernet, and three USB-A 3.2 depending on whether you're going with Base or Advanced model, allow you to connect external monitors and accessories, and the larger 80Wh battery gives you hours of playtime before needing to plug it in.
The keyboard holds it just short of being perfect. If you love something with plenty of key travel, you might want to opt for one of the other options in the roundup. However, the rest of the laptop is virtually perfect, and you're going to love what it can do for you.
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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