Take into account your gaming needs and budget when choosing from the best gaming laptops 2021 has to offer. More important than any cool design, funky RGB lighting and the newest features are just how much power you need and how much you can stretch your budget, after all. Especially because these days, you need not have the priciest and most powerful internals to see you through an immersive gaming experience.
In fact, thanks to this ongoing battle amongst component manufacturers, processors and graphics cards are getting more powerful while also getting cheaper. That means that the best gaming laptop for you could mean a laptop under $1000, something that has the greatest innards and all the trimmings, or one that sits somewhere in between.
So, first thing’s first: figure out what kind of gaming experience you want and how much you can afford to spend. The rest, you can leave up to us as we gathered a short list of the best laptops for gaming right here for every need and budget, alongside tips on how to choose the right one for you. Guaranteed, you’ll find something here that ticks off most, if not all, of the things on your checklist.
How to choose the best gaming laptop for you?
Choosing the best gaming laptop is easy when you’ve got deep pockets or have a couple of thousand dollars to spare. It’s when your budget is more limited that getting a great gaming laptop becomes trickier.
Lucky for us, we’re getting plenty of more affordably-priced CPUs and GPUs that don’t compromise on power. The latest internals like the Intel Comet Lake, AMD Big Navi and the Nvidia RTX 3000 series are more capable yet also cheaper than ever. That means that gaming notebooks under $1000 can be just as capable as any gaming PC while keeping things portable and space-saving like the best Ultrabooks.
Still, some components are more powerful or cheaper than others. While it’s no longer a hard and fast rule, AMD’s offerings are generally more affordable, which means that AMD Ryzen-powered laptops tend to be slightly cheaper.
In terms of graphics cards, Nvidia is still king when it comes to performance, although which RTX card you should go for depends on the type of gaming experience you want. The RTX 3060, for example, is a terrific mid-range contender with lots of power for 1080p gaming. However, if you want that 4K goodness, an RTX 3070 or higher is the way to go.
Consider the RAM as well. There are many gaming laptops that start you off with an 8GB DDR4 memory, which is the minimum these days. However, if you play a lot of demanding AAA titles, at least 16GB is recommended for the smoothest experience.
Other things to look at are the amount of storage, type of display, and type and variety of ports. Take a look at the battery life as well, especially if you plan on gaming on the go. Know that just because something is premium doesn’t automatically mean it’ll deliver a long battery life – the Alienware laptops are a cautionary tale. And, of course, since you do have to like how your gaming notebook looks, think about the design and whether or not you want RGB lighting.
Whichever one you pick however, we guarantee one of our picks below will let you dive into your favorite games, from the free PC games and the best free games on Steam to the best laptop games and the best PC games – all without tethering you to a desk.
Best gaming laptops 2021
Our favorite Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 config:
AMD Ryzen 9 | RTX 3080 | 32GB RAM
There’s absolutely no game this laptop won’t be able to handle if you go for these specs, with a powerful Ryzen 9 processor and mobile Nvidia RTX 3080 laptop GPU. Along with 32GB of RAM, this is a gaming laptop that will last you for years.
The Asus ROG Zephyrus line has produced some of the best gaming laptops out there, and the new ROG Zephyrus G15 is no exception. Fitted with the latest and most powerful AMD Ryzen and Nvidia RTX 3000 series, they’re incredibly powerful and able to see you through the most demanding games. Of course, that legendary battery life has made an appearance, as well as that stylish chassis. If you want a high performing gaming laptop that’s affordably-priced to boot, nothing beats this one.
Read the full review: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
Our favorite Asus TUF Dash F15 config:
Intel Core i7 | RTX 3050 Ti | 8GB RAM
The Asus TUF Dash F15 is a great affordable gaming laptop, and this one offers good specs, including a Core i7 11th gen processor and RTX 3050 Ti GPU. For 1080p gaming, this is fine, but the most important thing is the low price, making it ideal for people on a budget.
The Asus TUF line is no stranger to affordable great performers. Last year’s Asus TUF A15, for instance, was simply brilliant while keeping things accessible to budget-conscious gamers. The Asus TUF Dash F15 is back to preserve that affordability while also delivering brute strength. It brings in Intel Tiger Lake processors, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 mobile GPUs, and up to a 240Hz 1080p display without costing a fortune while also keeping things light, thin, and military-grade durable.
Read the full review: Asus TUF Dash F15
Our favorite Gigabyte Aorus 17G config:
Intel Core i7 | RTX 3080 | 32GB RAM
We love this model of the Gigabyte Aorus 17G because it comes with some killer specs, including an RTX 3080 laptop graphics card and 32GB of RAM, plus a powerful Core i7 processor. This can play any modern game with ease, and is ideal for streamers who need to multitask.
A tactile mechanical keyboard and a 300Hz refresh rate display are just the beginning. The Gigabyte Aorus 17G (2021) touts an incredible gaming performance that might just be worthy of desktop gaming PCs. With one of the RTX 3000 GPUs under the hood, this will see you through the most graphics-intensive games, including competitive ones. And, because of its impressive battery life, you can do so away from a power source.
Read the full review: Gigabyte Aorus 17G (2021)
Our favorite Alienware m17 R4 config:
Intel Core i7 | RTX 3070 | 16GB RAM
We love this configuration of the Alienware m17 because it features amazing performance without being so expensive. The RTX 3070 is a perfect fit for the 1080p high-refresh display, and because it’s the highest-power option for the 3070, you’re going to get the same performance as most laptop-class RTX 3080s anyways.
It’s not always going to be substance over style. The Alienware m17 series continues to prove this with the new Alienware m17 R4, an extremely powerful gaming laptop with plenty of ports and an extremely stylish chassis that lights up like a Christmas tree. That way, you can play all the latest AAA games smoothing and in style. Of course, this being one of the fastest gaming laptops in 2021, it won’t be cheap. However, if you have the money, you’ll be glad you chose this.
Read the full review: Alienware m17 R4 (2021)
Our favorite Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition config
AMD Ryzen 9 | Radeon RX 6800M | 16GB RAM
This is the configuration we got in for review, and it is perfect for playing the latest and greatest games with all the options set up. And because it’s a 1080p display at 300Hz, this hardware is perfect for playing the latest and greatest esports titles.
Powerful great-value laptops aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, so when one does come out every now and then, we’re only too happy to test it out. The Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition, one of the latest best value laptops to hit the streets, is AMD’s successful swing at the high-end, boasting AMD’s top processor and GPU. But, it isn’t just its performance that takes center stage here. That battery life is astounding as well, especially considering those powerful specs.
Read the full review: Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition
Our favorite Razer Blade Pro 17 config
Intel Core i7 | RTX 3080 | 32GB RAM
When it comes to the Razer Blade 17, you should go big or go home. The top-end SKU of this laptop will absolutely destroy any game you throw at it and look good while doing it.
If you’re looking for an absolute beast, the best gaming laptop for you might just be this follow-up to Razer’s 17-inch leviathan. More than just a gaming portable, it makes for an excellent mobile workstation for creators as well – although gamers who have the cash will appreciate the RTX 3000 GPU, up to 64GB of memory, and display with fast refresh rates. It’s pretty expensive, though, so unless you need all that power or you just have the money to throw away, you really have to make sure you’ll make the most of it.
Read the full review: Razer Blade Pro 17 (2021)
Our favorite Asus ROG Strix SCAR 17 G733 config
AMD Ryzen 9 | RTX 3080 | 32GB RAM
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 is another laptop that shines the most at the top-end of the spectrum. This is not the laptop you’re going to want to go after if you’re looking for a bargain, but it absolutely is what you want if you want ultimate performance.
One of the most powerful gaming laptops that money can buy in 2021, the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 17 G733 barely breaks a sweat. That excellent performance is due to the impressive specs it’s kitted out with, which also sadly put out of most people’s reach, price-wise. If you can afford it, however, there are a few other things you’ll love about it, including that unapologetic design that lights up like Christmas due to its resplendent RGB lighting and that optical mechanical keyboard that’s simply one of the best we’ve experienced on a laptop. This is among the best of the best out there, and a worthy consideration if you’re not limited by your budget.
Read the full review: Asus ROG Strix SCAR 17 G733
Our favorite Lenovo Legion 5 Pro config
AMD Ryzen 7 | RTX 3070 | 8GB RAM
The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is a great mid-range gaming laptop and this config is perfect for someone that doesn’t want to break $2,000 to get some great gaming performance. It does only have 8GB of RAM, but you can upgrade that later.
Hands down one of the best gaming laptops we’ve tested, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro comes with all the makings of a nearly perfect portable for gaming. Its incredible performance is matched only by that gorgeous QHD IPS screen with up to 500 nits of brightness, Dolby Vision, and up to a 165Hz refresh rate. It also boasts excellent hardware controls, admirable battery life, and a full-sized keyboard. Budget-minded gamers will also appreciate the fact that while it’s among the best in its class, it’s also reasonably priced, making it a better value than its peers.
Read the full review: Lenovo Legion 5 Pro
Our favorite MSI Pulse GL66 config
Intel Core i5 | RTX 3050 | 8GB RAM
Budget gaming laptops are becoming harder and harder to find, but this MSI Pulse GL66 config is the sweet spot, with its RTX 3050 and Core i5. It’s not the most powerful laptop on this list, but it’s cheap and doesn’t suck.
If a powerful mid-range gaming laptop that does the job and doesn’t burn a big hole in your pocket is what you had in mind, the MSI Pulse GL66 might prove to be an appealing option. This affordable prospect still boasts some of the latest and greatest components without stepping into the premium sphere, giving those who’ve been wanting an RTX 3000 GPU an easier way in. Naturally, sacrifices had to be made, as is always the case. That battery life, for example, is sad by today’s standards – but considering the pricey Alienware line is plagued with the same issue, it’s not a deal-breaker here. Just remember to pack that charger.
Read the full review: MSI Pulse GL66
Our favorite Razer Blade 14 config
AMD Ryzen 9 | RTX 3060 | 16GB RAM
When it comes to Razer laptops, it’s tempting for us to rave about the top-end SKU, but this one with a 1080p display, a powerful Ryzen 9 processor and 16GB of RAM is an excellent pick if you just want a portable gaming laptop that can power through anything you throw at it.
A luxurious portable option comes in the form of a Razer, naturally. The manufacturer’s latest gaming laptop release, the Razer Blade 14, comes with lots of power with a Ryzen 9 from the 5000 series as well as the most powerful Nvidia 3000 graphics. That means you can pretty much play the latest AAA game on it without lugging around a heavy device around with you. At 0.66 inches thick and just under 4lb, that thin and light chassis is definitely a boon to gamers who often travel. Luckily, it also boasts a luxe design so you won’t hesitate to pull it out at a cafe or on a train. Of course, things are still solid, from performance to build.
Read the full review: Razer Blade 14
How we test gaming laptops
Testing a gaming laptop isn’t as easy as you might think. But, then again, neither is narrowing down your options and choosing the best one for you, which is why we take our job seriously. Even if that means gaming for hours on end – hey, someone’s gotta make the sacrifice, right?
In all seriousness, we put every gaming laptop we test through its paces to make sure it delivers as promised and is worth your hard-earned case. That means that on top of playing the latest and hottest games on it, noting things like gaming and thermal performance, we also run synthetic benchmarks like PCMark 10, 3DMark and Geekbench 5 as well as battery tests.
Because a gaming laptop is only as good as its peripherals, we take a look at how smooth and fast the display is, how comfortable and responsive its keyboard is, whether or not there are enough ports on hand, and how good its overall design is. We also test its webcam, in case users want to utilize it for game streaming.
We then take everything we’ve learned about the gaming laptop and compare it to its price – whether or not it’s performance and features are worth that price tag, and whether or not it offers the best value to customers.