The best gaming laptops you can buy in 2021

Gaming laptop sales are at all-time high. Make sure you're buying the right one.

Modern gaming laptops often cost more than their business-grade counterparts but offset that premium with gaming-specific features that boost their performance when it counts most. They aren’t as pretty or light as mainstream notebooks like the Dell XPS or Apple MacBook, but they’re also a lot more powerful. These days, the list of reasons to choose a gaming laptop over the alternatives has never been longer while the caveats continue to shrink.

That’s probably the reason why sales for gaming laptops are at an all-time high. Nowadays, nearly every big name in computers has a gaming sub-brand fighting for consumers’ attention and dollars.

Despite that popularity, manufacturers haven’t made much progress in making the process of finding the best gaming laptop your money can get you any more straightforward. We’re here to help fill in the gaps.

1. ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15

The best gaming laptop overall

ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 (GA503) review - Design
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 specs
From $2299Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060Nvidia GeForce RTX 306016GB DDR4-3200 RAM15.6-inch WQHD display w/ 165Hz refresh rate512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD

The original ROG Zephyrus was the gaming laptop that put ASUS’s ROG PCs on the map as a serious contender. The Zephyrus G15 lives up to that reputation and then some. Despite a uniquely compact form-factor that sits closer to the cutting edge than most gaming laptops, buyers still get to reap the benefits of both a best-in-class AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor and Nvidia’s latest GeForce RTX 3000 Series GPUs.

Beyond these top-of-mind details, the ROG Zephyrus 15 also boasts several everyday quality-of-life improvements such as a larger touch-pad plus ASUS’ typical ergo-lift hinge design that makes it more comfortable to type on. There’s also Dolby Atmos speakers, an intelligent cooling system and a 90Whr battery.

All told, the ROG Zephyrus G15 is leaner, cheaper and provides more bang for your buck than most laptops in its weight class. If you’re serious about getting a gaming laptop but don’t want to break the bank, it’s a standout that you shouldn’t walk past without serious consideration.

2. Dell G5 15 SE

The best budget gaming laptop

Dell G15 SE - Best budget gaming laptop
Dell G5 15 SE specs
From $1358AMD Ryzen 5 4600HAMD Ryzen RX 5600M 8GB DDR4-3200 RAM5.6-inch FHD w/ 120Hz refresh rate512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD

The Dell G5 15 SE is one of the best budgets buys out there when it comes to gaming laptops right now, particularly if you opt to grab it through Dell’s online storefront.

You won’t be able to push your in-game settings as high as you would with one of the more expensive gaming laptops out there. Still, the bundling of both AMD’s mobile processing and graphics hardware found inside the Dell G5 15 pays dividends when it comes to performance.

The Dell G5 15 is more than capable of delivering solid frame rates for live service games like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, Fortnite or League of Legends. Throw in SSD storage, Killer Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, Nahimic 3D Audio and 120Hz screen, plus support for AMD’s FreeSync, and you’ve got a comprehensive gaming-centric package that’s surprisingly lean when it comes to the asking price involved.

If you’re the kind of PC gamer who cares more about how a game plays than how it looks, the Dell G5 15 SE is the best budget-friendly option out there.

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Tips to speed up your gaming laptop

Unlike most other computer tasks, gaming requires the right hardware and optimised settings to run smoothly. Check out our guide to speeding up your gaming PC for great setup tasks to do when you get your hands on a new gaming laptop.

3. ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15

Best high-performance gaming laptop

ASUS ROG Strix Scar G15 (G533Q) review - design
ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 specs
From $4299AMD Ryzen 9 5900HXNvidia GeForce RTX 308032GB DDR4-3200 RAM15.6-inch FHD w/ 300Hz refresh rate1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD

ASUS’ ROG Strix Scar 15 might be a little expensive for the enthusiast or everyday consumer. Nevertheless, buying in gets you a Ryzen 9 mobile processor that’s more than a worthy match for Intel’s i9 processors. You also get 1TB of SSD storage, 32GB of RAM, a 300hz display and support for ray-tracing courtesy of Nvidia RTX 3000-Series hardware.

The optical-mechanical switches in the keyboard keep things feeling tactile. Meanwhile, the liquid metal thermal-management system lets you push the powerful hardware even further and make the most of the laptop’s ROG Boost overclocking capabilities.

By the standards of high-performance gaming laptops, the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 delivers a best-in-class experience with few compromises at a price point that gives it a narrow edge over Alienware, Razer and others. While the 300Hz display here falls short of the glitzy 1440p or OLED-enhanced picture quality found in some of the competition, it is about $1500 cheaper, and it hits a level of performance that’s just as good, if not superior.

4. Dell G5 15

Best Dell gaming laptop

Dell G5 15 specs
Starts at $1698Intel Core i7-10750HNvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 108016GB DDR4-2933 RAM15.6-inch FHD display w/ 120Hz refresh rate512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD

Unless you’re attached to the idea of a larger 17.3-inch display (or looking to save some money by going with the G5 SE), the Dell G5 15 is the obvious highlight of Dell’s G-Series gaming laptops.

The base model doesn’t break the bank but delivers more than enough performance for a decent enthusiast gaming experience. Then, if you do want to pay a little extra, you can bump things up from the baseline Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070. At that point, feats like 4K, VR and ray-tracing become a genuine possibility for the humble Dell G5 15. Whichever way you go, you’ll still end with one of the best Intel Core i7 processors of its generation and a sleek design that’s a little more inconspicuous than other gaming laptops.

Dell’s G5 15 is the gaming laptop that’s light on flair but easy to make your own.

5. MSI GE66 Raider

Best MSI gaming laptop

MSI GE66 Raider - Best MSI Gaming laptop
MSI GE66 Raider specs
Starts at $2199Intel Core i7-10870HNvidia GeForce RTX 307016GB DDR4-3200 RAM15.6-inch FHD w/ 240Hz refresh rate1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD

MSI has always been great at picking the right parts, but they’ve sometimes struggled to bring things together and make the sum of those parts compelling. The MSI GE66 Raider solves this problem and looks good while doing it. It’s thin, light, and stacked with high-end hardware designed to make gaming that little bit better. Some of these inclusions sound small, like Wi-Fi 6E connectivity and high-speed memory. However, combined with MSI’s house-brand Cooler Boost technology, they help the MSI GE66 Raider make good on its potential as a gaming laptop powerful enough to dethrone your desktop.

Within MSI broader gaming laptop portfolio, the MSI GE66 Raider makes a strong case for itself as the Goldilocks option. It’s not the most powerful nor the most compact machine in MSI’s stable, but it’s going to be ‘just right’ for the price for most consumers.

6. ASUS ROG Strix G15

Best ASUS gaming laptop

ASUS ROG Strix G15 - Best ASUS Gaming Laptop
ASUS ROG Strix G15 specs
Starts at $2799AMD Ryzen 7 5800HNvidia GeForce RTX 30708GB DDR4-2933 RAM15.6-inch FHD w/ 300Hz refresh rate512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD

The ASUS ROG Strix G15 isn’t as thin and light as the Zephyrus (nor as beefy as the Strix Scar) is, but it makes up for it by bundling in a higher-refresh-rate display (300Hz), more robust cooling tech and a desktop-inspired keyboard. For just shy of $3000, the ASUS ROG Strix G15 will let you crank the fidelity on pretty much any modern game as high as it can go. Comparable efforts from Razer, Alienware and others either compromise on specs or come in at a significantly higher price.

Accounting for stuff like form-factor, the ROG Zephyrus G15 might be the better buy, but if we’re talking about ASUS’ best gaming laptop, then the ROG Strix G15 is the reigning champ.