Best Gaming Laptops 2018

Sherri L. Smith ·
Editor
Updated

Thanks to their powerful graphics, gorgeous displays and great audio, gaming laptops provide an immersive entertainment experience in a portable package. Many also offer stylish designs, desktop-quality keyboards and the ability to use high-end VR headsets.  Based on our extensive testing, which includes playing several top titles, here are the best gaming laptops you can buy.

News and Updates (June 2018)

  • Our new top overall pick is the Alienware 17 R5, which improves on Alienware's beastly flagship with even more customizable LED lighting and a revamped design that stays quieter and cooler.
  • We just got our hands on Gigabyte's Sabre 15 and 17 gaming laptops, which offer premium looks and solid gaming performance at a fairly welcoming $1,299 starting price.

Best Overall
Alienware 17 R5
The Alienware 17 R5 offers a great combination of strong performance, comfortable typing, innovative eye tracking and an attractive design. It's also VR-ready so you can take your gaming to a whole new level.
View on Dell
Best Under $1,000
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming
If you're gaming on a budget, you can't do much better than the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming laptop.
View on Dell.com
Best Under $1,500
PowerSpec 1510
Typically, if you see great value in the same sentence as the words 'gaming laptop,' there's usually a catch. However, we couldn't find much to complain about with the $1,399 PowerSpec 1510.
View on Microcenter

Our Test Results

Product
Price
$1499.99Dell
$849.99Dell
$1299Micro Center
$1799Amazon Warehouse
$3499.99Best Buy
$999Www8.Hp
$1799.99Best Buy
$999.99Dell
$3506.44Newegg
OVERALL RATING
8
7
8
9
9
8
8
9
8
Display Size
17.3
15.6
15.6
15.6
17.3
17.3
14
13.3
17.3
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited
0
145053
150453
166967
158560
143313
0
105397
147565
Geekbench 4
14154
10535
14223
17184
15404
14306
13684
14231
12492
Weight
9.6
5.99
6.5
4.1
7.7
8.2
4.2
4.6
10.1
Size (Thickness)
1.2
1
1.3
0.7
0.88
1.3
0.7
1
1.2
Display Brightness (Nits)
340
233
305.6
293
320
300
310
317
276
Battery Life (Hours)
8.5
7.3
4
5.7
1.9
2
7.8
7.2
2
Best Overall
The Alienware 17 packs impressive raw gaming performance and a big honkin' 17-inch screen into a sexy intergalactic chassis that's perfect for fragging your enemies in virtual reality or watching movies with friends.
The latest version of Alienware's flagship laptop sports more customizable lighting zones than ever, as well as quieter fans and louder speakers. Factor in up to a gorgeous 2560 x 1440 G-Sync display and Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 graphics options, and you've got a gaming laptop that's as powerful on the inside as it is stunning on the outside.
Pros
  • Excellent gaming performance
  • Slimmer design
  • 13 customizable lighting zones
  • Above-average battery life
  • Impressive audio quality
Cons
  • CPU performance trails competitors
$1499.99Dell
Read the full review
Best Under $1,000
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming hits the sweet spot between power and affordability. Thanks to its Nvidia Max-Q GPU, this sub-$1000 laptop supports VR, runs most games really well and lasts over 7 hours on a charge. For an optimal experience, we recommend configuring with a 2K screen and a speedy, PCIe SSD.
It delivers smooth frame rates on the latest games (at medium settings) thanks to its Nvidia GTX 1060 (Max-Q) GPU, and it lasted more than 7 hours on our web-surfing battery test. The laptop also delivers good productivity and multitasking performance from its Intel Core i5 processor. If you're looking for a gaming laptop that can deliver solid frame rates without blasting a hole in your wallet, the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming is a great choice.
Pros
  • Affordable, especially with a 1060 GPU
  • Long battery life
Cons
  • Uncomfortable keyboard
  • Display isn't vivid
$949Dell.com
Read the full review
Best Under $1,500
The 15.6-inch laptop has an Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU for just $1,399.99, an unheard of price for such high-end specs. You also get an awesome Nvidia G-Sync display to boot.
For under $1,500, you get a 15-inch laptop with enough pop to play demanding games at high-settings or use a powerful VR headset without compromising the experience. The PowerSpec also has a vibrant, colorful screen with Nvidia's G-Sync anti-tearing technology.
Pros
  • Great price on a GTX 1070 GPU
  • Tons of ports
  • Strong performance
  • Vibrant display
Cons
  • Quiet audio
  • No helpful gaming utilities
  • Warm temps while gaming
$1299Microcenter
Read the full review
Best 15-inch Gaming Laptop
The second iteration of the Asus ROG Zephyrus is all about polish.
The new system retains the slick unique chassis from before, but improves upon a few aspects, such as the keyboard, audio quality and battery life (even though it's still a bit too short). But Asus also took the kid gloves off, outfitting the notebook with one of the first 8th Gen Core i7 "Coffee Lake" processors and a full Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU, allowing for a beastly performance in a relatively slim frame.
Pros
  • Excellent overall and graphics performance
  • Good audio quality
  • Slim, beautiful design
  • Vibrant display with generous viewing angles
  • Upgradable memory
Cons
  • Short battery life
$2199Amazon
Read the full review
Best Max-Q Design
Say hello to my skinny friend. At a mere 4.1 pounds and 0.7 inches thick, MSI's GS65 Stealth Thin is one of the company's slimmest gaming laptops to date.
It's also one of the first gaming systems to feature Intel's new 8th gen, six-core Coffee Lake processor, which promises 20 percent more performance than its predecessor, making this model a good system for productivity. But since this is a gaming laptop at its core, MSI squeezed a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU into that slim frame. It's a true jack-of-all-trades system that should be at the top of your list.
Pros
  • Great overall and graphics performance
  • Barely there bezels
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Slim, beautiful design
  • Impressive battery life
Cons
  • Gets hot while gaming
$1799Amazon
Read the full review
Best Splurge
Somehow, Razer manages to cram some of the most powerful specs in the land into razor-thin designs (pun definitely intended).
With the latest Razer Blade Pro (starting at $1,999; reviewed at $3,999), the company has added an overclocked Intel i7 processor while keeping the Nvidia GTX 1080 GPU, fantastic 4K Nvidia G-Sync display and proprietary ultra-low-profile mechanical keys. As if that weren't enough, the slim stunner is also the first mobile device to feature THX audio certification. In other words, one of the best in the business just got better.
Pros
  • Slim, attractive chassis
  • Choice between a 4K Nvidia G-Sync display and a 1080p panel with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Great overall and graphics performance
  • Excellent sound
  • 1080p version has a super-comfortable, customizable keyboard
Cons
  • Expensive
  • SSD is not very fast
  • Gets hot when gaming
$3999Amazon
Read the full review
Best 17-Inch Laptop

HP Omen 17

HP's latest entry in its Omen line of laptops gives the 17-inch gaming machine a drastic yet welcome redesign. Instead of playing it safe, the Omen 17 sports a daring, futuristic look that's sure to turn heads.
And the shock and awe don't stop there, as the company has added Nvidia's powerful GTX 1070 GPU and paired it with an equally robust Intel Core i7 processor and a crazy-fast SSD. The laptop also serves up an enticing 4K display with a nice pair of speakers. The result is a laptop capable of delivering showstopping performance, whether you're playing games or crunching numbers.
Pros
  • Avant-garde design
  • Powerful overall and excellent graphics performance
  • Fast transfer speeds
  • Vivid display
  • Upgradable specs
Cons
  • Below-average battery life
  • Plastic (instead of aluminum) lid
$1299.99HP
Best 14-inch Laptop
This sleek laptop has a powerful Intel Core i7 processor, which promises better performance and power efficiency.
Pair that with a VR-ready Nvidia Pascal GPU; a lovely display; a beautiful keyboard; and a sleek, lightweight chassis, and you've got one of the slimmest gaming powerhouses on the market. Whether it's used for work or play, the Blade is ready and able to get the job done.
Pros
  • Slim and attractive chassis
  • Great graphics and overall performance
  • VR-ready GPU
  • Bright, vivid display
  • Excellent battery life
Cons
  • Runs hot when gaming
  • Speakers could be louder
$1699Amazon
Read the full review
Best Display
You won't find a more vibrant screen on any laptop than the OLED panel on the Alienware 13.
One of the smallest VR-ready laptops, the Alienware 13 supports Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets while also delivering buttery-smooth frame rates, thanks to its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU and Intel Core i7 CPU. Its small dimensions mean that it's easy to stow the notebook in an awaiting book bag for on-the-go gaming. And just like its bigger brothers, the Alienware 13 has customizable backlighting and supports Alienware's proprietary Graphics Amplifier to help you get even better performance out of the diminutive system.
Pros
  • Slim, sleek chassis
  • Gorgeous OLED display
  • Super comfortable keyboard
  • Powerful graphics and overall performance
  • Lightning-fast transfer speeds
  • Great battery life
Cons
  • Runs a bit hot
  • A tad pricey
$1399.99Dell.com
Read the full review
Best Keyboard
The MSI GT75VR Titan Pro has the best keyboard, we've used or seen on a gaming laptop.
The 17-inch MSI GT75 Titan employs the kitchen-sink approach with great success, sporting an immensely powerful, overclockable 8th Gen Intel processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU with a blisteringly fast SSD. And if that isn't enough to pique your interest, there's the incredibly vivid 1920 x 1080 display and first-class speakers, making the Titan an undeniable juggernaut of gaming. But it's that mechanical keyboard that keeps us coming back for more. The rhythmic clicking is almost therapeutic, like a prettier, more useful version of a kinetic ball machine.
Pros
  • Excellent graphics performance
  • Super-comfortable mechanical keyboard
  • Stays extraordinarily cool when you're gaming
  • Powerful speakers
  • Vibrant Nvidia G-Sync display
Cons
  • Expensive
$3999EKXQIBF
Read the full review

How We Test Gaming Laptops

Here at Laptop Mag, we test gaming laptops using a variety of real-world and synthetic tests to give consumers the most complete picture of how a product performs. Our current tests for gaming systems evaluate graphics performance, battery life, virtual-reality compatibility, overall performance, file-transfer speed and heat, to name just a few. We also judge the laptop based on usability criteria, such as keyboard comfort, design language, audio output and screen quality.


Each laptop's results are compared with those of other systems with comparable specs, price and size, as well as the category average (which is calculated by taking the mean score from the previous 12 months of test results). Our graphics tests include running three popular current games at 1920 x 1080 on very high settings, along with three synthetic tests -- 3DMark Unlimited, Fire Strike and Fire Strike Ultra -- which are designed to test the GPU performance.

Quick Tips for Finding the Right Gaming Laptop

Depending on your budget, lifestyle and the games you want to play, you could end up spending anywhere from $800 to $5,000 on a system that's likely to weigh between 4 and 13 pounds. Here are some tips to help you find your ideal gaming rig.

  • Don't buy a gaming laptop for low-end titles like World of Warcraft or Candy Crush. These games can easily be supported by an integrated graphics card.
  • The most powerful GPU is Nvidia's GTX 1080, but you can get good frame rates from the GTX 1050. If you want to do VR, don't settle for less than GTX 1060.
  • Get a laptop with at least an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor and 8GB of RAM for gaming and multitasking performance.
  • Avoid touch screens. They're more expensive and drain the battery.
  • 17- or 18-inch laptops are typically more powerful, but you can find some 15-inch systems with serious muscle. The more portable 13- and 14-inchers are easier to carry but often lack higher-end components.
  • Make sure the keyboard is comfortable. If you can, take a trip to the store and try out the keyboard before you buy.

Graphics

The graphics card or GPU is the keystone of your gaming laptop. It delivers the images on your display by processing the data and transmitting the signal to the monitor. Because this process can be very stressful when running games, you need a discrete GPU with its own dedicated memory, called VRAM (video memory). Most gaming laptops include Nvidia GPUs, but if you're partial to AMD, you can configure your system accordingly with some laptop brands.


Nvidia's current crop of GPUs are categorized as 10-Series or Pascal chips. The GeForce GTX 1050 GPU is the entry-level chip and allows you to play most popular games at solid frame rates on medium settings. The GTX 1080 is at the top of the ladder and can pump out blistering frame rates at both 1080p and 4K.


Then there's Nvidia's Max-Q platform. A greater focus on power consumption and efficiency allows Nvidia and laptop manufacturers to squeeze a GTX 1080 Max-Q GPU into thin-and-light laptops like the Asus ROG Zephyrus without overheating the system. For more information about integrated and discrete GPUs, check out our comprehensive guide.

CPU and RAM

Your laptop's processor (CPU) handles everything that doesn't have to do with graphics, such as performing some of a game's physics calculations and controlling its nonplayable characters. It also affects the performance of all of your non-gaming applications, including your browser, OS and productivity apps. And depending on the game, it can help the GPU process all that incoming data.


RAM (random access memory) is hardware that temporarily stores data and serves as the processor's memory. The more RAM your system has, the easier it is for the CPU to process data. Don't settle for any less than 8GB of RAM. Getting 16GB is a plus but isn't as important as having a faster CPU or graphics chip.


Although a Core i5 processor can handle the rigors of gaming and multitasking, for the best results, we recommend a Core i7 chip, like the 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor. If the laptop manufacturer offers the option, we'd suggest getting an overclockable processor such as the 2.9-GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK CPU, which lets you boost the clock speed so you can squeeze every bit of performance from the processor. For more in-depth information on processors and RAM, check out our comprehensive CPU Guide and our Gaming Laptop Buying Guide.