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.

Latest News and Updates (August 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.
  • Our review of the Dell G7 15 gaming laptop is live. See how this sub-$1,000 notebook stacks up to the competition. 
  • Looking for new games to play? Check out our roundup of the best PC games.
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.
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Best Under $1,000
Dell G7 15 Gaming
The Dell G7 15 delivers strong gaming performance for a budget gaming laptop and has a slick design, but the display doesn't pop.
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Best Under $1,500
Asus ROG GU501
The Asus ROG GU501 delivers gaming graphics in a sleek package with solid audio, but the display is too dim.
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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 G7 15 Gaming pairs fresh design with mid-range specs creating a bonafide gaming system at an affordable price.
Who says that you can't get a stylish, moderately powerful gaming laptop for under $1,000? Pairing head-turning colors with sleek, sophisticated design, the G7 15 Gaming doesn't look like your typical gaming laptop. And outfitted with a Core i7 processor and a Nvidia 1060 Max-Q GPU, it doesn't perform like your typical budget gaming laptop either. The system consistently performed above expectations and is an emphatic step forward for the brand.
Pros
  • Strong overall and gaming performance
  • Striking design
  • Good battery life
Cons
  • Dim display
  • Shallow keyboard
$999.99-
Read the full review
Best Under $1,500
The Asus ROG GU501 does a lot right: It looks great, it plays games well and its audio quality is solid.
The Asus ROG GU501 does a lot right: It plays games well and its audio quality is solid. It also doesn't hurt that it looks almost identical to one of the company's pricier flagship gaming laptops, the ROG Zephyrus. Armed with its Nvidia 1060 GPU, the notebook can deliver solid mid-level performance on high settings. And thanks to its Core i7 processor, it's not too shabby on the multitasking front either.
Pros
  • Sleek design
  • Loud audio
  • VR-ready graphics performance
Cons
  • Dim display
-
Read the full review
Best 15-inch
Strap in and enjoy the ride. The Asus ROG Strix Hero II is a gaming laptop that boasts some robust specs, including an 8th Gen Core i7 processor and GTX 1060 graphics.
Strap in and enjoy the ride. Asus' ROG Strix Hero II boasts some robust specs, including an 8th Gen Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics. That means you'll have no problem playing the latest titles. And with its colorful, 144-Hz panel and mesmerizing speakers, your games will sound almost as good as they look. The keyboard is nice and comfy and optimized for fans of first-person shooters.
Pros
  • Stylish design
  • Vivid 144-Hz panel
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Awesome speakers
  • Powerful performance
  • Above-average battery life
Cons
  • Webcam stares at your chin
  • Bottom runs hot
$1699.99Newegg
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 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 Convertible
he Acer Nitro 5 Spin delivers solid multitasking power, good battery life, a comfortable keyboard and an easily convertible design.
Twist it, turn it, anyway you want it. The Acer Nitro 5 Spin is a cornucopia of versatility, able to transform at the drop of a hat. In addition to its bendy antics, the notebook offers solid multitasking power, good battery life, a comfortable keyboard and an easily convertible design. An Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU means that you'll get good frame rates while gaming -- just not at the highest game settings.
Pros
  • Stylish, versatile design
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Bright, vibrant display
  • Good keyboard
Cons
  • Graphics could be better for price
  • Gets toasty while gaming
$879.99Newegg
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
$2299.99Razer
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
$3999Amazon
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.