Gaming computers have been some of the most interesting PCs for a few years now. They have naturally become smaller and lighter, but they have also become much more powerful and efficient, making them good for both work and play. They’ve used some risky new ideas, like rotating hinges and customization that’s almost as easy as on a PC. PC makers can try out new things with gaming computers.
If you’re a worker looking for a powerful new computer and you like to play Apex Legends every now and then, you might want to get a gaming notebook instead of an Apple MacBook Pro workstation or something similar. You’ll still have enough power to encode videos and create 3D models, and you may end up paying less. We’ll help you figure out which is the best gaming laptop for you, from cheap ones like the Dell G15 to high-end ones like the Razer Blade 15, and everything in between.
What’s your budget?
How much you’re willing to spend on a laptop is the first and last step in the process of getting one. Not a big surprise. The good news is that gamers of all budgets have a lot of choices. We’re seeing a lot of great options for entry-level PC games under $1,000, like Dell’s G15 line. In this price range, a cheap gaming laptop will definitely feel a bit more flimsy than more expensive ones, and it will probably have less RAM, storage, and total power. But most cheaper laptops should be able to run most video games at 1080p at 60 frames per second, which is the bare minimum you’d want from any machine.
When you look at the best gaming computers in the mid-range price range, which is $1,000 and up, things get more interesting. Then you’ll start to see PCs like the ASUS Zephyrus ROG G14, which is one of our favorite game laptops. In general, you can expect much better build quality than with cheap computers (metal cases! ), better graphics power, and enough RAM and storage space to run even the most demanding games. We’d suggest these gaming machines to most people because they’ll keep you playing games and doing work for years before you need to think about upgrading.
If you’re ready to spend around $1,800 or more, you can start looking at higher-end options like Razer’s Blade. Expect cases that are perfectly polished, gear that is the fastest on the market, and designs that are way too thin. The sky is the limit here. Alienware’s Area 51m is a huge beast that can cost up to $4,700 and is very adjustable. Few people need such a high-end machine, but if you’re a gamer with extra cash, you might want to look into some of these more expensive systems.
What kind of CPU and GPU do you want?
Once upon a time, the answer to this question was easy: just get an Intel chip with an NVIDIA GPU. But in the last few years, AMD has stepped up its game with its Ryzen notebook processors, which are better at handling multiple jobs at once (like streaming to Twitch while shooting fools in Fortnite). Intel replied with impressive 12th- and 13th-generation chips, but it’s nice to have good Ryzen AMD alternatives, especially since they’re often cheaper than similar Intel models.
But AMD is still playing catch-up when it comes to video cards. Its Radeon RX 6000M GPU works great in laptops like the ASUS ROG Strix G15, but it’s not as good as NVIDIA’s when it comes to newer features like ray tracing. We haven’t had a chance to try out AMD’s new Radeon 7000 series mobile hardware yet. At the very least, a laptop with a Radeon GPU can come close to the general gaming speed of an NVIDIA RTX 3070 or 3080 GPU.
If you want to make sure your buy will work in the future, or if you just want to see how much better your games can look with ray tracing, you’re probably better off with an NVIDIA video card. They are in a lot more computers, and it’s clear that their ray tracing technology is better tuned. The DLSS technology in NVIDIA GeForce RTX GPUs uses AI to make games look better at higher levels. That will let you play games like Destiny 2 in 4K with faster frame rates. That helps if you want to get the most out of a monitor with a high update rate.
There are still a lot of computers on the market with NVIDIA’s older RTX 30-series GPUs, and they still work very well. But if you want to be safe, you should probably go with the newer RTX 40-series systems, which handle the newer DLSS 3 technology and offer a lot of performance improvements. (If you look around for the best deals, you can definitely find some killer RTX 3070 laptops.) The RTX 4050 is a good starting point, but if you want to get the most out of your framerates on faster screens, you should get a 4060 or 4070. Both the RTX 4080 and RTX 4090 are very powerful, but most users can’t afford the high prices that come with them.
It’s important to remember that NVIDIA’s mobile GPUs are not the same as its more powerful desktop hardware. PC makers can also change voltages to improve game performance in a thinner case. Don’t be surprised if notebooks with the same GPU work very differently, even if they all have the same GPU.
What kind of screen do you want?
When comparing gaming notebooks, the size of the screen is a good place to start. In general, 15-inch laptops are the best compromise between intensity and portability, while 17-inch laptops are heavier but have more screen space. There are some 13-inch game laptops, like the Razer Blade Stealth, but oddly enough, you often end up paying more for those than for 15-inch laptops that are just a little bit bigger. There are also a lot of 14-inch choices, like the Zephyrus G14 and Blade 14, which are usually bigger and heavier than 13-inch laptops but are still pretty portable.
But these days, screen size isn’t the only thing to think about. One example is refresh speeds. Most computers refresh their screens at 60Hz, which stands for 60 times per second. That has been the norm since NTSC black-and-white TVs. But displays have changed a lot over the past few years. Now, 120Hz 1080p screens are the very least you’d want in a game laptop. There are faster screens with 144Hz, 240Hz, and even 360Hz refresh rates. All of this is done for one reason: to make sure that everything on your screen looks as smooth as possible.
For games, faster refresh rates also help get rid of screen tearing and other things that could get in the way of your frag fest. And for everything else, it just makes everything better to watch. Even reading a web page is very different on a 120Hz or faster screen than on a 60Hz screen. Everything moves smoothly, like you’re unfolding a glossy paper magazine, so you don’t see a jumbled wall of text and pictures. When you go above 120Hz, the game looks even more responsive, which gives some players a small edge.