Microsoft Flight Simulator was always a flagship title for PC gamers, if only for those interested in the niche category of controlling realistic aircraft. Although the name hardly changes, the modern PC version dropped in 2020 alongside the well-received Xbox port and often shows the release year in its name. However, an upcoming successor holds the work-in-progress title of 'Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024,' so it's understandable if you find it confusing.
Nevertheless, the game is available to play now if you can pair it with a capable gaming laptop for portable play. I've rounded up my top picks based on the recommended specifications and some personal input from playing the game myself. With each update, more complex content is added to the game, and these low-end requirements don't always reflect the best-suited components. Skip the process of building a custom desktop PC and choose from my selection of the best gaming laptops for Microsoft Flight Simulator to get you straight into the game.
Best overall for MSFS
Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) called for a GPU with 8GB of VRAM, recommending the NVIDIA RTX 2080 desktop variant as its ideal match. In my Lenovo Legion Slim 7i (Gen 8), the RTX 4070 laptop GPU proves totally capable of playing modern AAA titles alongside the 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13900H CPU, making it a reasonable modern-day equivalent without sacrificing fancy visual effects. 16GB of DDR5-5200 RAM provides a performance boost over the previously recommended 32GB of last-gen DDR4, too.
Best for max settings
Best for maximum settings
Effortlessly run any AAA game, though my Razer Blade 18 review explains the downsides to a monstrous 18-inch laptop operating as more of a desktop replacement. However, you won't find anything more powerful than this i9-13950HX CPU and RTX 4090 GPU pairing. This gaming laptop will handle Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) at maximum settings and likely perform the same for the upcoming 2024 follow-up. It's expensive, but you won't be sacrificing any graphical luxuries.
Best for portable gaming
If you're looking for a gaming laptop specifically because you want the freedom to travel and play Microsoft Flight Simulator wherever you go, the 14-inch variant of the Razer Blade (2023) can play practically anything without breaking a sweat. It played the latest AAA titles in testing during my Blade 14 Mercury Edition review and survived a reasonable amount of battery-powered gaming with some graphical settings dropped a little. On battery, it stands up with its larger siblings. The Ryzen 9 7940HS CPU and RTX 4070 laptop GPU are far above the recommended MSFS specs, with the benefit of real portability.
Best for mid-range settings
The flexible hardware configurations offered by Lenovo make this a gaming laptop that could potentially fill a few categories. Still, our Legion Pro 5i (Gen 8) review is based around a mid-range spec, making it perfectly capable of running Microsoft Flight Simulator at similar settings. The Slim 7i and Pro 5i are 16-inch options, but this model can have widely customized components, resulting in significant price reductions. It'll be plenty for most who might be tempted by flight-sim antics.
Best budget option
An AMD Ryzen 5 7640HS CPU and RTX 4050 GPU pairing are entry-level options but still above the original recommended settings for Microsoft Flight Simulator. Sticking to moderate graphical settings with some more demanding options disabled to reduce real-time fancy lighting will pair well with the DLSS upscaling tech on offer from NVIDIA. It's as cheap as it gets for modern gaming hardware that's still portable and ready for simulated flights.
Choosing the best gaming laptop for Microsoft Flight Simulator
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We've moved up a couple of hardware generations since Microsoft Flight Simulator was first released in 2020, so even entry-level equivalents have a decent chance of running the game without much stress. The Razer Blade 18, one of the best gaming laptops in general, is a gigantic beast that can play practically anything at maximum settings, including simulated flights with complex lighting effects. Still, the Lenovo Legion Slim 7i (Gen 8) offers a more realistically priced option as the best overall choice since it still packs a high-end CPU and capable RTX 4070 GPU.
Your choice ultimately comes down to your needs, so if you plan to enjoy some flight sim sessions on the go, the Razer Blade 14 is far better suited to portability with its 14-inch chassis. Even the Acer Nitro 16 can handle the game with some of its fancier visual luxuries turned down or switched off completely, and once you've taken to the skies, the graphical demands of Microsoft Flight Simulator settle down by a fair margin. On the runway, mid-range picks and above start to shine by rendering airports and other buildings with lifelike qualities.
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Ben is the channel editor for all things tech-related at Windows Central. That includes PCs, the components inside, and any accessory you can connect to a Windows desktop or Xbox console. Not restricted to one platform, he also has a keen interest in Valve's Steam Deck handheld and the Linux-based operating system inside. Fueling this career with coffee since 2021, you can usually find him behind one screen or another. Find him on Mastodon @email@example.com to ask questions or share opinions.