'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
Gaming laptops have come a long way from their origins, where the very idea of a portable gaming computer was belied by 10-pound behemoths whose battery life could be measured in minutes, not hours. In 2023, you can game just fine on a notebook that's specced out with the right components, without needing strength training to carry one around. You can even play for a few hours without the system needing to be plugged in.
While the ultimate gaming performance still requires a desktop rig that can handle the largest graphics cards and house the beefiest power supplies without concern for system weight and battery, the six laptops on this list can deliver plenty of punch while retaining some degree of portability. The latest mobile processors from Intel and AMD continue to improve performance and efficiency as the newest mobile graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia push up games' frames per second in a limited footprint.
These are housed in some stylish bodies that stand out from other notebooks and feature little touches for gamers such as customized keyboards and advanced technologies to keep systems cool as their internal parts run hot during a long gaming session. Flagship laptops aren't cheap, either: If you're watching your spending, but still want a capable gaming portable, check out our list of the best budget gaming laptops.
Also: Best gaming mouse
Specs: Display: 17.3 inches (1920 x 1080 pixel resolution) | CPU: Intel Core i9-11900H | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 1TB | Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 | Weight: 5.4lbs | Battery Life: 11 hours
The Stealth GS76 is the only laptop on this list that includes the new Core i9-11900H octa-core processor as standard rather a Core i7. That, along with 32GB of RAM, provides an extra boost in performance to go along with the GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card. Of course, you have to pay more than $3,000 for the privilege.
You get an ample 17.3 inches of screen to game on, but the GS76 manages to be over a pound lighter than the similarly sized Alienware m17 R4 listed below. MSI also claims a surprisingly high 11 hours of battery life, though you'll no doubt get much less than that playing games instead of doing general computing tasks.
Specs: Display: 15.6 inches (1920 x 1080 pixel resolution) | CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB | Graphics Card: AMD Radeon RX 6800M | Weight: 5.3lbs | Battery Life: 11 hours
The ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition comes with the same top-tier Ryzen 9 processor as the Razer Blade 14 listed below, but for several hundred dollars less. While many laptops jumping on the Ryzen bandwagon continue to pair it with an Nvidia GPU, Asus has chosen this notebook to be the first to use the new , based on its RDNA 2 technology.
Battery life is impressive at over 11 hours; also impressive is the 300Hz refresh rate for the display, though the brightness and resolution can't match that of the less expensive Lenovo Legion 5 Pro listed below. Asus has puzzlingly not included a front-facing camera on this laptop, a rare misstep with an otherwise top-quality rig.
Specs: Display: 16 inches (2560 x 1600 pixel resolution) | CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H | RAM: UP to 64GB | Storage: Up to 4TB | Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 | Weight: 5.4lbs | Battery Life: 6 hours
This laptop offers plenty of configurations for anyone who prioritizes storage space over other specs. You can get an SSD with up to 4TB of space, which means you can download huge game files like Red Dead Redemption 2 or the 2019 release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare without worrying about running out of space.
You can also configure the laptop with up to 64GB of RAM for plenty of power to run the most demanding games or model 3D animations. Each configuration is built with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card for an almost future-proof rig.
You'll also get Wi-Fi 6 connectivity as well as FreeSync and G-Sync compatibility to reduce screen tearing and stuttering. And with the 6-hour battery life, you can game all evening before needing to plug in.
CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H | RAM: 16GB DDR4 3466MHz | Storage: 1TB SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 | Display: 17.3-inch FHD | Refresh rate: 360Hz | Weight: 7.05 lbs | Battery life: 4.5 hours
This laptop from Alienware is packed to the brim with powerful components to give you a gaming experience comparable to a traditional laptop. It's built with an Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, 32GB RAM, a 1TB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU. You can expand the RAM up to 64GB if your needs change or you want your laptop to double as an animation machine. Wi-Fi 6 gives you ultra-fast wireless internet speeds and Bluetooth 5.2 provides a more stable wireless connection to peripherals like headsets and mice so you won't have to worry about losing control or dropping out of team chat in critical moments.
This laptop has been redesigned for more efficient heat dissipation, with a proprietary thermal compound and four fans and exhaust ports; this draws waste heat away from delicate components like the CPU to keep everything running at optimal temperatures for longer. The 17.3-inch display produces crystal clear 1080p resolution with support for G-Sync VRR for smoother playback and a 1ms response time for near real-time reactions to your keyboard and mouse inputs. But all of this power comes at a cost: you'll get just 4.5 hours of use on a full charge from your battery. So make sure you keep your charging cable handy if you want to game away from home.
Specs: Display: 14 inches (2560 x 1440 pixel resolution) | CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB | Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 | Weight: 3.9lbs | Battery Life: 10 hours
Razer started out as a purveyor of PC peripherals before making the move into offering actual gaming PCs, and that experience has helped it become one of the innovators in the space. The Blade 14 is its latest laptop, bridging the gap between the company's 13-inch and 15-inch systems, and is the first 14-inch notebook that is using the powerful Ryzen 9 5900HX processor. At just under four pounds and with solid battery life, the Blade 14 can be a constant travel companion whether you're gaming or not.
Part of the Razer aesthetic is a stylish, but tasteful, backlit keyboard that allows you to tweak the RGB color behind each key. With this middle configuration, you also get a bright QHD (2,560x1,440) display, though its small size doesn't equate with a small price tag. That' makes the subpar webcam a bit of a bummer, though unlike the ROG Strix G15, it at least has a webcam.
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB SSD | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650/GeForce RTX 3080 | Display: 13.4-inch 4K touchscreen | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Weight: 2.87 lbs. | Battery life: 5.5 hours/1.5 hours with dock
If money is no object in your quest for the absolute best gaming laptop, the Asus ROG Flow X13 is the best option. This 13.4-inch, 2-in-1 laptop has a 4K screen that is Pantone validated for the best color accuracy, detailing, and contrast available in a mobile gaming unit. It's powered by an AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card; and if you want even more graphics processing power, you can connect the laptop to the XG docking station that's equipped with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU.
The docking station, coupled with the 32GB of RAM gives you more than enough juice to handle the most graphically demanding titles. The integrated speakers work with Dolby Atmos for virtual surround sound without a headset, and Wi-Fi 6 gives you blazing-fast wireless internet speeds to give you the extra edge you need to win online matches. The laptop on its own gives you up to 5.5 hours of use on a full charge, but if you want to use the docking station, you'll need to stay plugged into the wall since you'll get maybe 90 minutes of power without it.
The MSI Stealth GS76 is the best gaming laptop. The Stealth GS76 is the only laptop on our list that includes the new Core i9-11900H octa-core processor as standard, along with 1TB storage and an amazing display, it's no wonder this laptop takes the crown.
Moreover, this table helps you see how the best gaming laptops compare on screen size, CPU, and battery life:
Best gaming laptop
MSI Stealth GS76
Intel Core i9-11900H
Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition
AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro Gen 6
AMD Ryzen 7 5800 H
Alienware m17 R4
Intel Core i7-11800H
Razer Blade 14
AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
ASUS ROG Flow X13
AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS
5.5 hours/1.5 hours when docking
When it comes to gaming laptops, generally the more you pay, the better performance you should expect. This comes in the form of better specs: a faster processor and graphics card, more RAM, a screen with a faster refresh rate, and so on. Your budget will factor into this balancing act -- a higher one will allow you to make fewer compromises as you spec out your rig.
There are other factors beyond what's inside your laptop, however. Selecting a screen size is a critical decision as it will impact the portability of your system. While most gaming laptops include a 15.6-inch display, many gamers prefer a bigger screen, such as 16 inches or 17.3 inches. The expansion in screen real estate increases the notebook's dimensions and weight and can also impact battery life. Quality gaming laptops can now come in smaller sizes, too, even with displays as small as 13.3 inches; portability will improve, but larger components will need to be eschewed and, of course, you'll need to game on a tinier platform.
Two other important considerations are weight and battery life, neither of which is a gaming laptop's specialty. If you're planning to take the laptop with you on the go often, a lighter system might be of greater importance to you, though you may sacrifice performance (and screen size) in the process. You also shouldn't expect miracles when it comes to battery life, as more powerful components being pushed to the max by games will chew through a charge. If staying unplugged as long as possible is crucial, serious consideration should be given to the MSI Stealth GS76 and Razer Blade 14 superior battery numbers.
Choose this best gaming laptop
If you want or are…
MSI Stealth GS76
Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro Gen 6
Best for storage
Alienware m17 R4
Best for desktop specs
Razer Blade 14
Best for balance of power and portability
ASUS ROG Flow X13
Best small size
If a laptop has powerful enough hardware -- especially a discrete graphics card -- it can handle PC gaming to some degree. In other words, you don't have to have something with gaming in its name to game on your laptop. However, manufacturers specifically make gaming laptops for a reason, so we are only including those models in our list.
Because we've already compiled a separate list of the best budget gaming laptops, we choose to look at systems above $1,000 for this list. They all are equipped with some of the latest hardware available, along with gamer-centric features like special keyboards, lighting schemes, and cooling solutions, not to mention a more eye-catching chassis design.
Gone are the days where desktop gamers could tout their superiority over laptop users. Nowadays, you can get a gaming laptop that is comparable to just about any pre- or custom-built gaming desktop; the only limitation is battery life when you're not plugged in.
You just need to make sure the laptop you have your eye on is going to have enough processing power and storage space for your favorite games.
The best gaming laptop under $1000 is the Asus ROG Strix G15. We outlined everything you need to know about the Asus ROG Strix G15 and other budget gaming laptops.
That depends on what kind of laptop you're wanting to transform. Chromebooks have integrated components, meaning you can't upgrade things like RAM and storage; and most developers don't code games with Chrome OS in mind.
However, if your everyday laptop can support at least 16GB of RAM, a discrete graphics card, and lets you upgrade storage drives, there is no reason you couldn't transform it into a decent gaming machine.
For most triple-A and indie games, you need at least 8GB of RAM; though, to get the most out of your games, you'll want 16GB. Having more RAM makes loading and launching games a bit faster and prevents annoying lag.
Some models can support up to 64GB or even 128GB of RAM, but unless you're also using your laptop to 3D model, animate, or edit photos and videos, that's hardcore overkill.
PC gaming isn't a cheap endeavor, but if you are a little light in the wallet, check out our list of best budget gaming laptops for alternatives around $1,000 or less. You'll have to deal with some compromises in game play (reduced frame rates and refresh rates), but today's cheap gaming notebooks are far more competent than their anemic predecessors.
If you want to spend a little less, or you want higher tier components for a bit cheaper, you could consider a slightly older laptop that's been discontinued but still available online. The previous generation CPU and GPU might be a touch slower than the top brand-new hardware, but they're often still better than newer midrange components, which is something to mull over if you find them in a system that's similarly priced.
Meanwhile, here are alternative gaming laptops to consider: