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Best gaming laptops of 2021: Top laptops for gaming this year

Here's how to choose the best gaming laptop and avoiding bulky, loud and battery life-poor models.
Illustrated GIF of the Asus TUF Gaming A15 laptop and someone playing on the Razer Blade 15
Tech expert Whitson Gordon explains what to look for in a gaming laptop.Asus / Razor

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Gaming laptops often get a bad rap for being bulky, loud and expensive — and all that with terrible battery life. And while plenty of gaming laptops still fit one (or all) of those descriptors, they've grown up a lot in recent years. If you're committed to gaming on-the-go, there are a few models that really can do it all.

LEARN MORE about how to choose the right gaming laptop

Best gaming laptops

Below are five gaming laptops that should answer most needs, across price ranges and features.

Best gaming laptop overall: Asus

1. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Gaming Laptop

It's hard to pick one gaming laptop for everyone but the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 has earned enough praise that it should be one of the first stops on your search. I'd recommend the midrange model. It’s powered by an AMD Ryzen 9 processor and NVIDIA's RTX 2060 Max-Q graphics card, which will play pretty much any modern title you throw at it.

Best of all, it has a battery that'll actually last you more than a few hours. It doesn't have a webcam built-in, a bit of a bummer in the Zoom age, but hey, you can always grab one of the best webcams separately, if you really need it.

There's a more affordable GTX 1650 model that'll handle more casual gaming if need be.

Best gaming laptop for portability and power: Razer

2. Razer Blade 15 Gaming Laptop

Not all gaming laptops have to be big and bulky. Razer's Blade line attempts to merge the svelte form factor of thin-and-light laptops with the graphical prowess of gaming machines. Not only is it one of the lightest gaming laptops you'll find, but it comes in a number of configurations.

You can grab the more affordable GTX 1660 Ti-equipped model or the more powerful RTX 2070 version, or beef it up all the way to "advanced" models with an RTX 2080 Super and an OLED display. If you want a bigger screen, the Blade also comes in a 17-inch variant, and new models with the latest 30-series graphics cards are available for preorder now — for those willing to wait.

Best gaming laptop for the money: Asus

3. Asus TUF A15 Gaming Laptop

Asus' TUF Gaming A15 is another solid competitor and is similarly priced per spec compared to the ROG Zephyrus. Its display isn't as good as that of the Zerphyrus, and it's a little larger, but it doesn't run quite as hot and it does offer up a built-in webcam.

You can grab it with an AMD Ryzen 7 processor and a midrange RTX 2060 graphics card, or you can save a few dollars and step down to a GTX 1660 Ti.

Best gaming laptop with a high-end display: HP

4. HP Omen 15 Gaming Laptop

If battery life isn't as important to you, the HP Omen 15 combines the power of the above models with better cooling properties and a higher quality display than the TUF Gaming provides. It's a tad more expensive, but the build quality is great and the RTX 2060 model provides enough graphics horsepower to run plenty of modern games.

You can spend a bit more for an RTX 2070 or step it down to a GTX 1660 Ti, if you so desire.

Best affordable gaming laptop: Acer

5. Acer Nitro 5 Gaming Laptop

Not everyone has $1,000 or more to spend on a gaming laptop, but that doesn't mean you have to give up gaming entirely.

You may have to give up certain games — and you'll definitely have to sacrifice a bit in the graphical fidelity department — but affordable machines like the Acer Nitro 5 can provide a solid experience for a decent price, thanks to its AMD Ryzen 5 processor and NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti graphics card.

Best gaming laptops, a simple shopping guide

While a desktop PC will always get you much better bang for your buck when it comes to gaming, there's something enticing about being able to bring those games with you. As you shop, though, you have a lot to consider.

Gaming laptop size

Most gaming laptops fall into the 15-inch to 17-inch range of screen sizes and are often built heavier than their non-gaming counterparts. While 15-inch models will be more portable (17-inch models are generally harder to stuff in a backpack) but 17-inch models can pack more power on a bigger display.

Graphics power

As is the case with any laptop, you'll want the right specs for the job. When it comes to gaming, that generally means as powerful as possible within your price range. Lower-to-midrange graphics cards like a GTX 1650 will work well enough for casual gaming, especially in older or lower-fidelity titles. But if you're looking to play the latest AAA titles at high settings and super-smooth framerates, you'll have to spring for more powerful hardware.

Keyboard and trackpad

Your laptop’s keyboard and trackpad can make or break your experience. If you plan on using them for gaming — rather than plugging in an external gaming keyboard and mouse — it's especially important that they be comfortable and smooth rather than mushy and imprecise.

Battery life of a gaming laptop

Gaming laptops aren't typically known for sporting good battery life, often demanding you plug them in for gaming sessions longer than an hour or so. But battery life is still a worthwhile spec to watch for, especially if you plan on using the laptop for work as well as play.

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