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The Best Gaming Laptops for 2021: Razer, Alienware, Predator

The Razer Blade is the best gaming laptop we’ve tested. It’s sleek, powerful, and looks the part, with a fantastic display to boot. But it’s not the only gaming laptop we love.

We’ve tested nearly 400 laptops, carefully deliberating how each performs against one another in key areas such as performance, display, battery life, and build quality. We’ve even included options for the best G-Sync laptops, serious desktop replacements, and even some cheap gaming laptops. Below are our picks for the best gaming laptops.

The best gaming laptops at a glance:

The best gaming laptop: Razer Blade

Why you should buy this: You want a gaming powerhouse with a MacBook-like sense of style.

Who it’s for: Gamers who need something small and light that can still pack a punch.

Why we picked the Razer Blade 15:

When you think about the best laptops for gaming, you might think of a thick chassis, accented with aggressive angles and vents everywhere possible. But not the Razer Blade 15. It changes your perception of just how sleek a gaming laptop can be, without sacrificing any of the performance you expect. It’s not much larger than a MacBook Pro 16-inch or Dell XPS 15, yet packs in a powerful Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics card.

The Razer Blade 15’s gaming experience is as much about the screen as it is about the GPU. A 300Hz refresh rate screen might sound like overkill, but it ensures that your GPU is never held back by your display. The result is insanely fast and fluid gaming, no matter what genre you play. There’s a 4K OLED option as well, but the 1080p 300Hz model is the best choice for gamers.

Of course, the Razer Blade 15 is famous for being a gaming laptop that does more than gaming. With up to an eight-core 10th-gen Intel processor, there’s plenty of performance to handle tasks like video rendering. Thanks to how thin it is, you won’t mind taking your work (and gaming), anywhere you need it.

Read our in-depth Razer Blade 15 review

The best budget gaming laptop: Dell G5 SE Gaming Laptop

Why you should buy this: It’s the best gaming machine you can buy for less than $1,000.

Who it’s for: Students, gamers, anyone who wants a gaming laptop but doesn’t want to break the bank.

Why we picked the Dell G5 SE Gaming Laptop:

You can’t expect a sub-$1,000 gaming laptop to sport a cutting-edge design. But thanks to the Dell G5 SE, you can expect top-notch performance. It’s an all-AMD solution, featuring the latest Ryzen 4000 processors with 8 cores and 16 threads. These are killer gaming and content creation chips, and the G5 SE makes great use of them.

The Radeon RX 5600M is the graphics card choice, even available in the $880 configuration, which easily beats the Nvidia GTX 1650 that shows up in many gaming laptops at this price.

The G5 SE also comes with the option for a 1080p 144Hz screen, as well as four-zone RGB backlighting. It may look clunky and outdated, but the Dell G5 SE Gaming Laptop is the best bang-for-your-buck gaming laptop you can buy.

Read our in-depth Dell G5 SE Gaming Laptop review

The best portable gaming laptop: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

Why you should buy this: It has great 1080p gaming performance in a surprisingly tiny package.

Who it’s for: Gamers and content creators.

Why we picked the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14:

The G14 is unlike any gaming laptop you’ve used. It’s incredibly lightweight, at just 3.5 pounds — and uses just a 14-inch screen rather than the typical 15-inch variety. The result is the smallest gaming laptop ever made, especially given how powerful this thing is.

The heart of it is AMD’s Ryzen 4000, 8-core processor. It’s a beast. Multi-threaded performance is off the chart for a laptop this small, making it a capable option for video editors, 3D modelers, and content creators of every kind.

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 also provides excellent gaming performance, of course. You have options for either a GTX 1650, a GTX 1660 Ti, or an RTX 2060. If you can opt for the RTX 2060, you’ll be able to play most games over 60 frames per second. You’ll have to pay an extra $500 for the fancy programmable LEDs on the lid, but the $1,450 RTX 2060 model (without LEDs) is a great value.

Read our in-depth Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review

The most powerful gaming laptop: Alienware Area-51m

alienware area-51m review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You want to play the latest games on a laptop at the highest settings and resolutions.

Who it’s for: Gamers who don’t mind a heavy laptop. 

Why we picked the Alienware Area-51m:

The Alienware Area-51m is unlike any gaming laptop you’ve seen. Not only does it have a bold look with its light grey exterior and sci-fi logos, but it’s also a true desktop replacement. We mean that in terms of power, as well as the actual components inside. The Area-51m comes with CPU options up to an actual desktop-class processor, the Core i9-10900K. That’s an eight-core, 16-thread CPU that makes this laptop considerably more powerful than anything else out there.

Paired with an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super (not the power-limited Max-Q variant found in thinner laptops), the Area-51m is as close to desktop performance as we’ve seen.

But the best part? All the components, including the GPU and CPU, can be replaced. In our review, we found that getting access to those parts wasn’t as easy as the marketing may have alluded to. All the same, it’s an insanely powerful laptop that can run nearly everything at high frame rates on its 1080p 300Hz screen. Even if you plug it into a 4K monitor, you’ll be impressed by how well games run.

The Alienware Area-51m is not the gaming laptop you want if you’re taking it on the go, especially given its low battery life and hefty chassis. But if true power is what you want, look no further.

Read our in-depth Alienware Area-51m (2019) review

The best G-Sync gaming laptop: Acer Predator Triton 500

Why you should buy this: It’s a powerful gaming laptop with a thin and light design at an affordable price.

Who it’s for: For gamers who want G-Sync above all else.

Why we picked the Acer Predator Triton 500:

G-Sync might kill battery life, but when it comes to smooth gameplay, it’s a beloved feature for many PC gamers. The Predator Triton 500 is a fantastic gaming laptop that just happens to include Nvidia’s important display technology.

It comes with an Intel Core i7-10750H and up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU and topping out with an RTX 2080 Super Max-Q upgrade, the Triton 500 can stand toe to toe with many of the other laptops on this list for significantly less cash. As if G-Sync wasn’t enough, the Triton 500 also ships with up to a 300Hz refresh rate.

There are some caveats. The Acer Predator Triton 500 doesn’t look like a standard gaming laptop, but it also lacks the eye-catching build of other thin and light gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 15. Like its aesthetics, the Triton 500’s battery performance is also underwhelming. But if you’re looking for the best gaming bang for your buck with a G-Sync screen, it’s hard to do better than this.

Our in-depth Acer Predator Triton 500 review

Research and buying tips

How much is a gaming laptop?

Gaming laptops tend to be more expensive than more general-purpose laptops because they generally include a dedicated graphics chip for better game visuals and frame rates. But they needn’t cost the Earth.

The cheapest options start at around $700, though you can’t expect great performance at that level. Our favorite budget gaming laptop, the Dell G5 SE, can be found for under $1,000. There are some alternative budget laptops that we like, although you’ll struggle to find something that’s great for gaming once you edge towards $500. On the higher end, you can end up spending well over $2,000 if you want the latest components and fastest screens. With Cyber Monday laptop deals, you should be able to find some pretty decent discounts this year, though.

What should I look for in a gaming laptop?

If you’re going to play anything other than classic games or very low-intensity indie games, you want a dedicated graphics chip. It doesn’t need to be something amazing, and AMD APUs with Vega graphics on board are worth considering at the low-end. Either way, you’ll want something more than Intel integrated graphics if you want decent frame rates in most games.

If you expect to hit frame rates over 60 FPS, it’s also worth looking out for a high refresh rate display. We consider them more important than higher resolutions when it comes to gaming and they typically aren’t too costly an extra either.

Are gaming laptops good for work?

Usually, yes. You don’t need a dedicated graphics chip for working, but the fast processors and high-speed RAM that gaming laptops are typically equipped with are just as good at handling spreadsheets and Word documents as they are crunching the numbers for the latest games.

Then again, a larger, thicker gaming laptop with RGB lighting might not be appropriate for every job setting. A more subdued design like the Razer Blade or the G-series Dell gaming laptops fits in much better, and it’s an issue to be aware of.

Are Mac laptops good for gaming?

Some aren’t bad, but most of them aren’t great. Apple only puts dedicated graphics chips in its MacBook Pro 16-inch models, and they come at a hefty price premium. There’s also software compatibility to consider, as many more games are available on Windows than MacOS, even with the addition of Apple Arcade.

If all you want is a little Fortnite on the side, a 16-inch MacBook Pro will get you by, but these are not gaming machines by any means. That being said, if you really want to stick with a Mac, there’s always the option to dual-boot in Boot Camp, which lets you run Windows 10 games on your MacBook hardware.

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