A gamer knows that there’s more to a gaming laptop besides raw speed. You can pack it with the best graphics card processor (GPU), tons of fast SSD storage to hold your games, a gazillion-core processor, a rock-solid hard drive for secondary storage and the fastest, most colorful display around — and it can still fall short. Those powerful components may overheat at the worst moments of hardcore gaming or you might just experience some instability. Or perhaps you don’t want to always use an , but the built-in version feels like mashed potatoes under your WASD keys.
And not all games are bottlenecked by dual cores or a last-generation GTX, so it’s not a given that you’ll need to, either.
With almost any gaming laptop, no matter how fast or slow, the compromise you make is, which can last as little as two hours. You also can’t play most complex games — GPU- or CPU-intensive ones — on battery power. The processors tend to get throttled back and screens dim, so a laptop that feels nimble when connected turns lead-footed on battery, turning your gaming experience into a battle of frustration.
But components do matter. The fastest GPU currently available in a laptop is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, followed by the RTX 2080 Max-Q; the Max-Q versions run at slower frequencies than their full-size siblings — to keep the noise and heat down and to fit into thinner designs. RTX models also accelerate ray-traced rendering and provide intelligent upscaling (DLSS) where it’s explicitly supported. If your favorite games don’t use it, the lower-end GTX 1660Ti incorporates the latest generation of Nvidia’s technology (Turing), without the extra cost burden of the RT cores, though it’s not up to the equal of the last-generation GTX 1080.
of its Max-Q technology along with mobile versions of its latest “Super” versions of the GPUs, which we haven’t yet gotten a chance to test. AMD has released its next-generation laptop GPUs, the , but we’ve yet to test any in a Windows system (a custom version of the 5500M is in the latest ). Laptops incorporating the new Nvidia and AMD parts are expected to begin shipping within the next couple of months — provided no supply issues arise due to -related complications.
On the CPU side, more cores may help, though at the moment most games still don’t make use of more than four. That’s partly Intel’s rationalization for its continued reliance on its old 14nm architecture for theprocessors; it lets the company boost single-core clock frequencies, compared with gains it would make by moving to a smaller process technology like , which is designed to support more cores on less power draw.
AMD, on the other hand, started shipping its own H processors of the Ryzen 4000 series, including a new mobile Core i9 competitor, the 8-core/16-thread Ryzen 9 4900HS. We tested it in the newand it flies on both multi- and single-core.
And then there are the screens. IFA 2019, but they’ve yet to materialize. For many a gamer, they’re not worth the wait: 240Hz max should be fine for those few times you can get frame rates above 240fps. Even 144Hz will do for many people, but artifacts like tearing, caused by the screen refresh rate becoming out of sync with the frame rate, depend on your games as much as your laptop brand and hardware.and announced laptops with a 300 Hz refresh rate at
We’re starting to seebecome available for those looking to build a gorgeous gaming rig; OLED has great color and contrast with fast response times, but they’re currently limited to 4K/60Hz on laptops, as is the forthcoming 14-inch 1440p display Asus will be offering for the G14.
Still with us? Great. If you’re a gaming beast who wants to do a deep dive into what’s out there right now and figure out which is the best gaming laptop for your desired gaming experience, check out our recommendations below.
There’s no such thing as a budget gaming laptop. But solid gaming graphics power and strong battery life are the foundation for a good gaming laptop. And the price makes this a great bargain. (The shopping link goes to the new model, which we’re in the process of testing.)
An Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 means it only delivers decent 1080p performance on high, but if you’re a gamer looking for a big screen on a budget, this one will serve you well given its sub-$900 price.
The Zephyrus G14 is a little smaller than usual for a gaming notebook at 14 inches, but you probably won’t notice much of a difference between it and a 15-inch model — especially since it packs quite a bit in for the money. Its AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS CPU blows away current Intel competitors for processor performance, and it’s capable of business-laptop battery life of up to 10 hours when you’re not gaming. Gaming performance is solid for an RTX 2060 Max-Q, and it’s matched well with the 120Hz 1080p display. In June, Asus is slated to ship a model with a 1440/60p screen if you’ve a yen for higher resolution.
Best for in-game multitasking
HP Omen X 2S
For that gamer looking for something a little extra from their display, a small second screen on this gaming laptop is great for monitoring other activities, like chats or walkthroughs, while you’ve got a little lull in your play. And it’s no slouch in the performance department, either, especially in HP’s Dynamic Power mode. I’m currently testing the Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15, though, which may unseat it as dual-screen recommendation.
Whether you prefer the sleek look of the Mercury White model or the powerful black slab version with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, an OLED 4K display and up to an RTX 2080 GPU, Razer’s understated style won’t leave bored coworkers wondering what games are monopolizing your screen during meetings. They may wonder if you’re overpaid, though, since this laptop is not cheap. The 2020 model is even more expensive. (See at B&H)
Acer crams top components — like Nividia’s RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics card and 144Hz full-HD display with 3-millisecond response time — into this relatively compact 15-inch laptop, and that makes it the on of the fastest we’ve tested in its size.
You can add some custom graphics to make the generic chassis a little more stylish, but it’s the wealth of component choices that makes this best gaming laptop an appealing buy for a gaming beast — though not a cheap one. Additionally, because the Eon17-X is basically a desktop in a laptop’s body, it’s REALLY heavy compared to the others on this list. That said, it’s also a super powerful gaming laptop, with a ninth gen Intel Core i9-9900K and the Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU for top gaming performance.
If gaming performance is your obsession, this is the fastest gaming system we’ve tested to date. Alienware’s just-short-of-mammoth 17-inch laptop uses overclockable desktop processors and supports GPU upgrades down the road.
The 17-inch Triton 900 is fast — it’s one of the top-five fastest laptops we’ve tested recently — but that’s not its superpower. It has a rotating display that you can flip over to leave the built-in keyboard behind it, which means it doesn’t get in the way when you’ve got an external keyboard attached. So if you desperately need your lucky backlit keyboard, this is the best gaming laptop for you.