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Best gaming laptops 2021: top laptops to game on

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Included in this guide:

best gaming laptops image with an Asus gaming laptop displayed
(Image credit: Future / Asus)

The best gaming laptops can give you an excellent gaming experience with the best PC games on the road or just from your couch, making them some of the most sought after Black Friday deals year after year – not to mention all the typical Cyber Monday sales we usually see on tech products.

Just because a gaming laptop has all the latest and best hardware like RTX 3080 mobile GPUs, large displays with blazing fast refresh rates, and more doesn't automatically push aside some of the more lower-specced options though. 

Some of the best gaming laptops aren't the most flashy, but they still offer a great value with solid performance at an unbeatable price. There are also some fantastic slimmer gaming laptops out there that can easily fit in the some of the best backpacks out there without trouble, letting you game away from home while keeping things fashionable – something that their beefier, bigger competitors certainly struggle with. 

So no matter your need or budget, you definitely have options when it comes to the best gaming laptops, but it can be tough to sort through all the available options to find the really quality products that will let you game on the go for years to come.

Fortunately, we're hear to help you sort the good from the bad so that you can find the best gaming laptop for your need and budget. 

How to choose the best gaming laptop for you?

Choosing the best gaming laptop is easy when you’ve got deep pockets or have a couple of thousand dollars to spare. It’s when your budget is more limited that getting a great gaming laptop becomes trickier.

Lucky for us, we’re getting plenty of more affordably-priced CPUs and GPUs that don’t compromise on power. The latest internals like the Intel Comet Lake, AMD Big Navi and the Nvidia RTX 3000 series are more capable yet also cheaper than ever. That means that gaming notebooks under $1000 can be just as capable as any gaming PC while keeping things portable and space-saving like the best Ultrabooks

Still, some components are more powerful or cheaper than others. While it’s no longer a hard and fast rule, AMD’s offerings are generally more affordable, which means that AMD Ryzen-powered laptops tend to be slightly cheaper. 

In terms of graphics cards, Nvidia is still king when it comes to performance, although which RTX card you should go for depends on the type of gaming experience you want. The RTX 3060, for example, is a terrific mid-range contender with lots of power for 1080p gaming. However, if you want that 4K goodness, an RTX 3070 or higher is the way to go.

Consider the RAM as well. There are many gaming laptops that start you off with an 8GB  DDR4 memory, which is the minimum these days. However, if you play a lot of demanding AAA titles, at least 16GB is recommended for the smoothest experience.

Other things to look at are the amount of storage, type of display, and type and variety of ports. Take a look at the battery life as well, especially if you plan on gaming on the go. Know that just because something is premium doesn’t automatically mean it’ll deliver a long battery life – the Alienware laptops are a cautionary tale. And, of course, since you do have to like how your gaming notebook looks, think about the design and whether or not you want RGB lighting.

Whichever one you pick however, we guarantee one of our picks below will let you dive into your favorite games, from the free PC games, free Steam games, and even the best cheap PC games to the best laptop games and the best PC games – all without tethering you to a desk.

Best gaming laptops 2021

Asus Zephyrus G15 on a white background, with the ROG logo on the display. The gaming laptop is at an angle.

(Image credit: Asus)

Desktop-replacement performance

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H – 9 5900HS
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 – 3080
RAM: Up to 32GB
Screen: 15.6-inch QHD (1440p), 165Hz, 3ms, 300 nits
Storage: 1TB
Reasons to buy
+Outstanding performance, especially for the price+Incredible battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of webcam might disappoint streamers

Our favorite Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 config:

AMD Ryzen 9 | RTX 3080 | 32GB RAM

AMD Ryzen 9 | RTX 3080 | 32GB RAM
There's absolutely no game this laptop won't be able to handle if you go for these specs, with a powerful Ryzen 9 processor and mobile Nvidia RTX 3080 laptop GPU. Along with 32GB of RAM, this is a gaming laptop that will last you for years.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus line has produced some of the best gaming laptops out there, and the new ROG Zephyrus G15 is no exception. Fitted with the latest and most powerful AMD Ryzen and Nvidia RTX 3000 series, they’re incredibly powerful and able to see you through the most demanding games. Of course, that legendary battery life has made an appearance, as well as that stylish chassis. If you want a high performing gaming laptop that’s affordably-priced to boot, nothing beats this one.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

The Asus TUF Dash F15 from the side, where you can see the gaming laptop's left-side ports. There's an Asus TUF logo on the display.

(Image credit: Asus)

Affordable CAN mean sheer power

Specifications
CPU: Up to Intel Core i7-11375H
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070
RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4-3200
Screen: Up to 15.6-inch WQHD anti-glare 165Hz IPS-level display with Adaptive Sync
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Battery life up to 10 hours+Strong gaming performance in a thin chassis
Reasons to avoid
-Keyboard lighting color can't be changed

Our favorite Asus TUF Dash F15 config:

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3050 Ti | 8GB RAM

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3050 Ti | 8GB RAM
The Asus TUF Dash F15 is a great affordable gaming laptop, and this one offers good specs, including a Core i7 11th gen processor and RTX 3050 Ti GPU. For 1080p gaming, this is fine, but the most important thing is the low price, making it ideal for people on a budget.

The Asus TUF line is no stranger to affordable great performers. Last year’s Asus TUF A15, for instance, was simply brilliant while keeping things accessible to budget-conscious gamers. The Asus TUF Dash F15 is back to preserve that affordability while also delivering brute strength. It brings in Intel Tiger Lake processors, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 mobile GPUs, and up to a 240Hz 1080p display without costing a fortune while also keeping things light, thin, and military-grade durable.

Read the full review: Asus TUF Dash F15

The Gigabyte Aorus 17G on a white background. The gaming laptop is open and has the Aorus 17G logo, along with a badge advertising its Omron switches.

(Image credit: Gigabyte)

New age hardware, old school vibes

Specifications
CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i7
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 Series
RAM: Up to 64GB
Display: 17.3-inch FHD 300Hz NTSC 72% IPS panel
Storage: 512 GB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Incredible mechanical keyboard+Powerful gaming performance
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy weight calls into question its portability

Our favorite Gigabyte Aorus 17G config:

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM
We love this model of the Gigabyte Aorus 17G because it comes with some killer specs, including an RTX 3070 laptop graphics card and 16GB of RAM, plus a powerful Core i7 processor. This can play any modern game with ease on its 1080p display.

A tactile mechanical keyboard and a 300Hz refresh rate display are just the beginning. The Gigabyte Aorus 17G (2021) touts an incredible gaming performance that might just be worthy of desktop gaming PCs. With one of the RTX 3000 GPUs under the hood, this will see you through the most graphics-intensive games, including competitive ones. And, because of its impressive battery life, you can do so away from a power source.

Read the full review: Gigabyte Aorus 17G (2021)

Lenovo Legion 7 (Gen 6) against a white background

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Unrivaled gaming performance at a price

Specifications
CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
Graphics: Up to Nvidia RTX 3080
RAM: Up to 32GB DDR4 3200MHz
Screen: 16" QHD (2560 x 1600) IPS HDR 400, 500 nits, 165Hz
Storage: Up to 2 TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Superb performance+Sleek design with plenty of ports
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life is lacking

Our favorite Lenovo Legion 7 (Gen 6) config:

AMD Ryzen 7 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM
The Lenovo Legion 7 (Gen 6) is not exactly cheap, but you can certainly customize one for a more down-to-earth price. For that, we like the Ryzen 7, RTX 3070 setup, which will see you through high-res at 60fps or faster gaming beautifully while knocking off a few hundred bucks/quid off the main model.

A fantastic laptop that delivered astounding performance across the board, the Lenovo Legion 7 (Gen 6) has proven itself already worth its steep price tag – even if it’s not exactly something most people can afford. This is a pricey behemoth with only about three hours of battery life, but if you’re ok with something you wouldn’t want to travel with, this is a winner. Apart from its unrivalled gaming performance, you’re also getting a bunch of RGB lighting options and a bunch of ports – three USBs, three USB-C, an HDMI 2.1 and two DisplayPort 1.4 ports – so you’ll never need a separate hub for your peripherals. 

Read the full review: Lenovo Legion 7 (Gen 6)

Alienware m17 R4 at an angle on a white background. The gaming laptop is open, with a screenshot of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. You can see the right-side ports, along with some ventilation.

(Image credit: Dell)

Big. Powerful. Beautiful.

Specifications
CPU: Up to 10th Generation Intel Core i9-10980HK
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: Up to 32GB DDR4 2933MHz
Screen: 17.3" UHD 60Hz 25ms 500-nits display
Storage: Up to 4TB SSD + 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Blazing fast performance+Stylish chassis with plenty of ports
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life of less than 3 hours

Our favorite Alienware m17 R4 config:

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM
We love this configuration of the Alienware m17 because it features amazing performance without being so expensive. The RTX 3070 is a perfect fit for the 1080p high-refresh display, and because it's the highest-power option for the 3070, you're going to get the same performance as most laptop-class RTX 3080s anyways.  

It’s not always going to be substance over style. The Alienware m17 series continues to prove this with the new Alienware m17 R4, an extremely powerful gaming laptop with plenty of ports and an extremely stylish chassis that lights up like a Christmas tree. That way, you can play all the latest AAA games smoothing and in style. Of course, this being one of the fastest gaming laptops in 2021, it won’t be cheap. However, if you have the money, you’ll be glad you chose this.

Read the full review: Alienware m17 R4 (2021)

Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition. The gaming laptop is shot from the back, showing the Asus ROG logo and the red accent on the back of the device.

(Image credit: Asus)

AMD's swing at the high-end

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 6800M
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1080pp), 300Hz
Storage: 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance+Jaw-dropping battery life of more than 11 hours
Reasons to avoid
-Has some kinks and bugs that need to be worked out

Our favorite Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition config

AMD Ryzen 9 | Radeon RX 6800M | 16GB RAM

AMD Ryzen 9 | Radeon RX 6800M | 16GB RAM
This is the configuration we got in for review, and it is perfect for playing the latest and greatest games with all the options set up. And because it's a 1080p display at 300Hz, this hardware is perfect for playing the latest and greatest esports titles.

Powerful great-value laptops aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, so when one does come out every now and then, we’re only too happy to test it out. The Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition, one of the latest best value laptops to hit the streets, is AMD’s successful swing at the high-end, boasting AMD’s top processor and GPU. But, it isn’t just its performance that takes center stage here. That battery life is astounding as well, especially considering those powerful specs.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition

Razer Blade 15 (2021) on a white background. The gaming laptop is open, and there's a colorful background with the Razer Logo in the center. It's very colorful.

(Image credit: Razer)

Still one of the nicest laptops on the market

Specifications
CPU: 11th-gen Intel Core H Series
Graphics: Up to GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: Up to 16GB or 32GB
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD 360Hz, QHD 240Hz (G-SYNC) or 4K OLED Touch
Storage: 1TB PCIe
Reasons to buy
+Still the best trackpad in a Windows laptop+Excellent performance in a beautiful design
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life

Our favorite Razer Blade 15 config

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM

Intel Core i7 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM
The Razer Blade 15 (2021) is a premium purchase, but most people will find a more affordable prospect with this more approachable configuration, which is plenty powerful for smooth 4K gaming – though you’ll have to spring for a 4K monitor separately. Those who want sheer power could always go for the RTX 3080 model.

The 2021 follow-up to the Razer Blade 15 line doesn’t fall far from the tree. It’s just as gorgeous and glamorous as ever, wearing its luxurious, thin and light design like its reputation depends on it. But, it isn’t just a beautiful piece of kit; it’s a powerful one too. Its 11th-gen chips and Series 3000 GPUs ensure that it delivers an excellent performance worthy of gamers. Razer then rounds it all out with a comfortable keyboard and among the best trackpad in a Windows laptop. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop that’s just as powerful as it is beautiful, this one’s a win.

Read the full review: Razer Blade 15 (2021)

Asus ROG Strix SCAR 17 G733 on a white background. The gaming laptop is open, and there's a pink and purple background on the screen with the Asus ROG logo.

(Image credit: Asus)

The best of AMD and Nvidia

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: 16GB – 64GB
Screen: 17.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 anti-glare – 17.3-inch WQHD (2560 x 1440) 16:9 anti-glare display
Storage: 1TB + 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance especially at 1080p+Brilliant mechanical keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Poor battery life of less than 5 hours

Our favorite Asus ROG Strix SCAR 17 G733 config

AMD Ryzen 9 | RTX 3080 | 32GB RAM

AMD Ryzen 9 | RTX 3080 | 32GB RAM
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 is another laptop that shines the most at the top-end of the spectrum. This is not the laptop you're going to want to go after if you're looking for a bargain, but it absolutely is what you want if you want ultimate performance.

One of the most powerful gaming laptops that money can buy in 2021, the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 17 G733 barely breaks a sweat. That excellent performance is due to the impressive specs it’s kitted out with, which also sadly put out of most people’s reach, price-wise. If you can afford it, however, there are a few other things you’ll love about it, including that unapologetic design that lights up like Christmas due to its resplendent RGB lighting and that optical mechanical keyboard that’s simply one of the best we've experienced on a laptop. This is among the best of the best out there, and a worthy consideration if you’re not limited by your budget.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Strix SCAR 17 G733

Lenovo Legion 5 Pro on a white background. The laptop is open, and there's a colorful background on the display with the Legion logo and what looks like black rocks surrounding it.

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Nearly perfect

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 – 3070
RAM: 16GB DDR4 3200MHz
Screen: 16-inch 2560 x 1600 IPS 500 nits, 165Hz
Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Incredible gaming performance+Excellent hardware controls
Reasons to avoid
-Fairly generic chassis that's on the heavy side

Our favorite Lenovo Legion 5 Pro config

AMD Ryzen 7 | RTX 3070 | 8GB RAM

AMD Ryzen 7 | RTX 3070 | 8GB RAM
The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is a great mid-range gaming laptop and this config is perfect for someone that doesn't want to break $2,000 to get some great gaming performance. It does only have 8GB of RAM, but you can upgrade that later.

Hands down one of the best gaming laptops we’ve tested, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro comes with all the makings of a nearly perfect portable for gaming. Its incredible performance is matched only by that gorgeous QHD IPS screen with up to 500 nits of brightness, Dolby Vision, and up to a 165Hz refresh rate. It also boasts excellent hardware controls, admirable battery life, and a full-sized keyboard. Budget-minded gamers will also appreciate the fact that while it’s among the best in its class, it’s also reasonably priced, making it a better value than its peers.

Read the full review: Lenovo Legion 5 Pro

The Razer Blade 14 on a white background with its display, keyboard and trackpad visible.

(Image credit: Razer)

Portability and performance

Specifications
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 – 3080
RAM: 16GB
Screen: 14-inch 144Hz Full HD – 14-inch 165Hz QHD
Storage: 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful yet robust chassis+Thin and light
Reasons to avoid
-Lower performance than other laptops

Our favorite Razer Blade 14 config

AMD Ryzen 9 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM

AMD Ryzen 9 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM
When it comes to Razer laptops, it's tempting for us to rave about the top-end SKU, but this one with a 1080p display, a powerful Ryzen 9 processor and 16GB of RAM is an excellent pick if you just want a portable gaming laptop that can power through anything you throw at it. 

A luxurious portable option comes in the form of a Razer, naturally. The manufacturer’s latest gaming laptop release, the Razer Blade 14, comes with lots of power with a Ryzen 9 from the 5000 series as well as the most powerful Nvidia 3000 graphics. That means you can pretty much play the latest AAA game on it without lugging around a heavy device around with you. At 0.66 inches thick and just under 4lb, that thin and light chassis is definitely a boon to gamers who often travel. Luckily, it also boasts a luxe design so you won’t hesitate to pull it out at a cafe or on a train. Of course, things are still solid, from performance to build.

Read the full review: Razer Blade 14

How we test gaming laptops

Testing a gaming laptop isn’t as easy as you might think. But, then again, neither is narrowing down your options and choosing the best one for you, which is why we take our job seriously. Even if that means gaming for hours on end – hey, someone’s gotta make the sacrifice, right?

In all seriousness, we put every gaming laptop we test through its paces to make sure it delivers as promised and is worth your hard-earned case. That means that on top of playing the latest and hottest games on it, noting things like gaming and thermal performance, we also run synthetic benchmarks like PCMark 10, 3DMark and Geekbench 5 as well as battery tests.

Because a gaming laptop is only as good as its peripherals, we take a look at how smooth and fast the display is, how comfortable and responsive its keyboard is, whether or not there are enough ports on hand, and how good its overall design is. We also test its webcam, in case users want to utilize it for game streaming. 

We then take everything we’ve learned about the gaming laptop and compare it to its price – whether or not it’s performance and features are worth that price tag, and whether or not it offers the best value to customers.

Best Black Friday gaming laptop deals in the US

Matt Hanson

Senior Computing editor

Matt (Twitter) is TechRadar's Senior Computing editor. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. If you're encountering a problem or need some advice with your PC or Mac, drop him a line on Twitter.