Best gaming laptops of CES 2019

If you're into PC gaming, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 was quite the event. NVIDIA kicked it off with the release of its new GeForce RTX series graphics cards for laptops. PC makers then showed off around 40 laptops with those cards that are set for release at the end of January.

Luckily, there was no shortage of groundbreaking new ideas, either. Our breakdown of all the laptops at CES noted a few trends, including the return of 17-inch laptops, thin bezels, and improved displays. That applies to gaming machines, which traditionally have been flashy, thick, and heavy.

But if we had to distill all those gaming laptops down to the five most interesting, this would be that list. The choices go to laptops that did something new, different, or somehow pushed the category forward.

1. Razer Blade 15 Advanced

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Razer tends to grab top honors often, and for obvious reasons. The refreshed Razer Blade 15 Advanced picks up support for the GeForce RTX 2060, 2070, and 2080 graphics cards, but much more than that, too. After years of user complaints, the function keys now have backlighting, and this laptop finally gets Windows Hello support via facial recognition.

Pricing isn't cheap – it never is with Razer – but at least now the Blade 15 Advanced finally has all the premium features you'd expect with a high-end laptop in 2019.

See at Razer

2. ASUS ROG Mothership

ASUS is no stranger to trying out new ideas, and the ROG Mothership is just that. The company realized that a gaming laptop that runs effectively upside down gets better thermals – so what if they designed a gaming PC like that on purpose?

The ROG Mothership is not only a small 17-inch gaming monster with up to 64GB of RAM and a GeForce RTX 2080, but it'll perform better than any high-end gaming laptop due to the design, according to ASUS.

Because the design is so unique, there were no off-the-shelf parts, so everything about the ROG Mothership is custom made by ASUS. It's easy to see why the Mothership caught our attention.

See at ASUS

3. MSI GS75 Stealth

MSI GS75 Stealth

MSI GS75 Stealth (Image credit: Windows Central)

Last year I reviewed the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin almost tongue-in-cheek, as I was never a fan of MSI. That laptop, though, turned out to be great, which why the bigger 17-inch version called the GS75 Stealth is so intriguing.

The new GS75 has the same design, but with a GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card, making it a thin and light 17-inch gaming laptop that you won't mind using in public. The more mature look with squared-design is modern without being garish.

And if you still prefer the 15.6-inch GS65 Stealth Thin, that too is updated with an RTX 2080 and now a wider trackpad. The reduced power consumption for NVIDIA's new graphics cards should improve battery life as a bonus.

See at MSI

4. Alienware Area 51m

Dell's Alienware Area 51m does something unusual: it lets you upgrade the CPU and GPU on your own. While that's normal for desktop PCs, it's rare that a gaming laptop encourages you to disassemble it without voiding your warranty.

Sure, the Area 51m is enormous because of that feature, but that is the tradeoff you get. While MSI's laptops are super thin, they're notoriously hard to upgrade due to the motherboard design. Dell flips that around letting you update everything inside.

While it's too early to tell if gamers will plunk down their money, we give Alienware credit for trying it out.

See at Dell

5. ASUS Zephyrus S GX701

ASUS makes a second appearance on this list thanks to the Zephyrus S GX701. Jumping from a 15-inch display to a 17-inch one without getting much bigger is always a nice feat.

The company also added GeForce RTX 2080 graphics. That display has support for 144Hz refresh rate and combines NVIDIA G-SYNC and Optimus technology - users can now switch to Intel graphics instead of using the GeForce. That makes the Zephyrus an intriguing option for those who game but who also want a typical, productivity-based laptop with decent battery life.

Because of the super thin bezels, ASUS opted for an option ROG GC21 external camera for the web instead of cramming one below the display or using a teeny one above it. That ROG GC21 camera is full HD and has a smartphone camera sensor in it, which should deliver much better quality than any other gaming laptop with a built-in camera.

See at ASUS

An exciting year for gaming

With all these new gaming laptops coming to market in the coming weeks, 2019 should be a very exciting year.

Other trends to watch for in gaming laptops? We'll see more AMOLED displays starting to arrive, as Razer was teasing a gorgeous 4K OLED for the Blade 15 Advanced.

Also, look for manufacturers to start including 240Hz displays in laptops, in addition to 144Hz becoming ubiquitous (we already saw a demo unit from Razer with a 240Hz screen).

And on NVIDIA's end expect to see more games optimized with its AI technology called Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS). That tech optimizes graphics akin to Temporal Anti-Aliasing (TAA), but without all the side effects. You'll need one of those new NVIDIA RTX cards to take advantage of that tech, so start eyeing which laptop you'll want.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.