(Pocket-lint) – Gaming laptops have moved on dramatically in recent years, with the unwieldy designs of the past now being replaced by refined gems with ever-improving power and capabilities.

So, instead of the heavy and LED-encrusted monsters that once would crush your femurs – should you dare rest it on your thighs – the typical form factor is now a slightly bumper-sized notebook. There’s no need to compromise on specs, either, with elite-level refresh rates, graphics cards, keyboards and trackpads all available.

With the modern gamer having so much choice at their disposal now, though, and with gaming laptops typically not coming cheap, which are the ones you really want to be considering?

That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve tested the latest and greatest options in order to deliver a list of recommendations for different types of users, as well as providing a dedicated section for those looking for advice before they buy.

Here are our choices for the top gaming laptops on the market right now, for those who’d rather buy than build.


What are the best gaming laptops?

  1. Razer Blade 14.
  2. Asus ROG Zephyrus M16
  3. Lenovo Legion 7 
  4. Alienware X17 R1 
  5. Gigabyte Aero 15

Our Top Pick: Best Gaming Laptop

Pocket-lint

Razer Blade 14

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For

  • Superb performance considering its size and weight
  • Sharp and colour-rich screen
  • Much more refined-looking than other gaming laptops

Against

  • It costs… a lot!
  • Webcam is not great

Razer’s Blade laptops were a bit of a revelation when they debuted a few years back. Since then, they’ve been constantly refined, and the 2021 model Blade 14 might be the best one yet.

The Razer Blade 14 has a design reminiscent of older generation MacBook Pro models, and the only thing that screams gamer is the LED illuminated Razer logo on the back of the screen. 

The Blade 14 is lightweight and exceptionally well put together. On the inside it packs seriously high-end hardware, all crammed into a very slim chassis.

If you’re after the best build quality, then this is the one. Unfortunately, it comes with an eye-watering price tag, too.

Gaming laptops we also recommend

While the Razer Blade 14 is at the peak of this list, it’s not necessarily the right gaming laptop for everyone – and certainly not everyone’s wallet. That’s why we’ve also selected the following devices for you to consider. 

Pocket-lintBest Gaming laptops on the market right now photo 21

Asus ROG Zephyrus M16

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For

  • Compact for a big-screened laptop
  • All the ports you could need
  • Practical and attractive design

Against

  • The battery will only last 4.5 hours when away from the plug
  • Fans get really loud under load

This 16-inch gaming laptop is surprisingly portable, thanks to its thin bezels and clever hinge. Whilst it keeps the bulk down, it doesn’t skimp on the ports, giving you everything from a card reader to Thunderbolt 4 connectivity.

The 2021 Zephyrus M16 has a more subtle aesthetic, but still retains some of that gaming flair. The front cover has a matte black surface half-covered in tiny machined holes, and when shining a light at it you see a flash of rainbow colour coming through from the underside.

With the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16, you get an accomplished gaming machine and a solid work laptop in one. The only downside is the battery life at four-and-a-bit hours per charge maximum, but that’s not unusual for a gaming machine.

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Lenovo Legion 7

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For

  • High-resolution and very bright screen
  • Surprisingly effective and quiet cooling
  • Classy metal casing

Against

  • Shallower keyboard than the Legion 5 Pro
  • The display doesn’t have the deepest blacks

The Lenovo Legion 7 is a superb performer. It has an excellent cooling system that offers high performance without the usual high pitch noise from overworked fans. Its speakers are a cut above your average laptop, too.

The chassis design is premium. Made of mostly metal and, with its lighting turned off, it looks like a rather sensible workstation. With it turned on, it’s a different story. The Legion 7 has per-key RGB lighting on its keyboard as well as LED strips running around the edges and even shining through the vents. It’s all highly customisable too, letting you set the lighting to your taste.

If you love LEDs and need the power of the RTX 3080, the Legion 7 is one to look at.

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Alienware X17 R1

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For

  • Serious specs
  • Superb 4K screen
  • Excellent RGB lighting accents

Against

  • Not nearly enough USB-A ports
  • The backlit trackpad may be distracting for some

As Alienware is essentially a gaming brand, this list would be amiss without one.

There’s no hiding the gaming prowess of the Alienware X17 R1, it sports the tried and tested Alienware aesthetic with its ‘Lunar Light’ off-white finish and glowing accents. Combined with large honeycomb vents for cooling, it looks like it means business.

Luckily, the specs back it up, it features an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 graphics on a 17.3″ 1080p or 4K screen, an Intel Core i7 processor, and 32GB RAM.

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Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED

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For

  • Extreme power – especially considering its size and weight
  • Good keyboard
  • Fab 4K OLED display

Against

  • Fans spin almost constantly
  • Some hinge wobble
  • Bass-free speakers

The Gigabyte Aero 15 is a serious performance laptop that is 50 per cent gaming, 50 per cent workstation. It ditches the gamer looks and opts for something that wouldn’t look out of place in the office.

The OLED model we tested is perfect for creatives but we think gamers might want to go for the 144Hz LCD variant.

The Aero 15 is relatively thin and light, especially considering the hardware that’s packed in, so if you need a portable powerhouse it could be a great choice.

Other products we considered

When trying to figure out what we believe to be the best gaming laptops currently available, we spent hours testing and researching. We consider a range of factors when it comes to recommending devices – and also when a new device enters our top five selections. This isn’t just our own testing, either, but also consumer reviews, brand quality and value.

In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don’t make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we’ve listed them below.

How to choose a gaming laptop

There’s a frankly ridiculous amount of gaming laptops on the market at any given time, and finding the right one for you can be an uphill battle. Before you get bogged down in spec sheets, here are some questions you should ask yourself before splashing the cash.

What games will you be playing?

Obviously, if you’re looking for a gaming laptop, you’re going to need it to handle your favourite games. This will mostly fall under CPU and graphics card performance, but there are a few other factors to consider, as well. 

If you love more graphically demanding games like GTA V and Cyberpunk, then you’ll want to focus on finding a laptop that’s filled with top-end hardware. If you’re more into strategy games like Crusader Kings, or casual titles like Fall Guys, then you may be satisfied with a more mid-range configuration. Our gaming laptop reviews always test performance on some popular titles, so they should give you a good idea of what to expect.

The other things to consider are the keyboard, which may be very important if you plan to use it for first-person shooters and equally the monitor’s refresh rate. If you play a lot of reaction-based competitive games, then a 120hz and the above screen will be ideal for you. If you prefer single-player games, you can save some money by purchasing a 60hz option.

What do you need it to do outside of gaming?

One of the best things about PC gaming is that you can use your PC for all manner of tasks outside of gaming. Thanks to the high-end hardware found in these devices, they’re particularly suited for creative tasks like video editing, graphic design, 3D rendering and live broadcasting.

Video editors will want a display with a high degree of colour accuracy, and usually a resolution greater than 1080p. Whereas those who want a gaming laptop that can double up as an office machine will likely want to focus a bit more on webcam quality and battery life.

Where will you be using it?

If your gaming laptop will spend most of its life on your desk, then it doesn’t particularly matter if it weighs half a tonne. However, if you’ll be lugging it around in a backpack, then you’ll want to keep a keen eye on the device’s portability. Battery life, too, is a big factor here, and it’s worth noting that performance can differ significantly when running on battery as opposed to mains power. 

You will also want to consider the connectivity options. If you want to plug in multiple monitors and a host of peripherals, then your ideal laptop should accommodate those. Luckily, in the gaming laptop space, we’re usually well covered with connectivity, and rarely have to resort to dongle life.

What about audio on gaming laptops?

Most hardcore gamers prefer to use a headset for maximum audio fidelity, so they might not care much about a laptop’s speakers. However, as we’ve said, a PC can be used for many things. If you’re likely to watch a movie on the thing, then you’ll definitely want to look at the speaker performance – there’s nothing worse than a tinny, quiet speaker to ruin the immersion, after all. This is an area where options differ wildly, ranging from barely audible to pretty darn good. Check out some of our headphone guides for in-depth comparisons.

How much can you spend?

The sky really is the limit when it comes to a gaming laptop, and, while ultra-premium options are often in the region of multiple thousands, there are some great budget options, too. This is an area where a higher price usually means higher performance components, but there are a few things to watch out for.

To get the most out of your money, you might want to look at a lower resolution display. A 1080p gaming experience will still look great on a laptop’s relatively small screen, and won’t need such a beefy graphics card to run. 

Most gamers won’t need shed-loads of RAM. You can usually get away with about 16GB on even the most demanding titles. So as long as you’re not planning any heavy-duty video rendering, you can avoid overspending by cutting down on the system memory.

More about this story

Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.

Buying a gaming laptop is a big investment, so we’ve used all the options on this list extensively to see how they hold up in the real world. We’ve tested real gaming performance, rather than just benchmarking, and given you all the data you need to help with your buying decisions.

Of course, pricing is a big factor, as is build quality and reliability. Being sufficiently portable, too, can make a gaming laptop less of a chore to fit into your lifestyle.

As with any roundup, it’s not possible to deliver a list that works for every type of user, but we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team – as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above – in order to do our best in this regard.

What we always tend to avoid when compiling these picks are needless spec comparisons and marketing lines; we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each gaming laptop is like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity. Rest assured all the things on this list have been fully tested.

Writing by Luke Baker. Editing by Conor Allison.





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