After the past year, it really is a different world out there. So it should come as no surprise that the old, time-tested PC Shopping Wisdom doesn’t really apply today like it did even a few years ago. Gaming laptops? A good deal? Arguably, yes, they are now. Lack of component availability due to chip shortages, scalping, cryptocurrency mining, and more has made building a capable desktop PC for a reasonable price (or at all) close-to-impossible.
There are also, however, the inherent benefits of laptops: portability, peripherals being included with the part purchase, smaller form factor, and the device coming fully pre-assembled. These are just a handful of the most prominent areas where laptops have always come out on top.
So, between the new benefits (actually being able to buy a gaming PC for a price that isn’t horrendously exorbitant) and the old benefits (listed a moment ago), laptops are currently a great choice for getting into PC gaming. For that reason, in this article I have compiled a group of my personal recommendations for gaming laptops across a wide range of budgets. Just keep in mind that it is always a good idea to double-check reviews from multiple sources (i.e. not just us) before pulling the trigger on a purchase, so you can feel really confident in your decision.
Now then, from lowest cost and power to highest cost and power, here are the machines:
Acer Nitro 5 ($800)
[i5-9300H, GTX 1650]
Acer’s Nitro 5 stands strong in the realm of sub-$1000 gaming laptops. A GTX 1650 and a 9th-gen i5 make a modest team that should be able to dish out a comfortable 60 FPS on medium to high settings on most titles at 1080p. 8GB of RAM and a 60 Hz display ensure a smooth gaming experience all around.
The (relatively low) 256GB of total storage capacity is the only big flaw this laptop has. Nevertheless, that is easily upgradable with its extra M.2 and 2.5-inch bay.
Acer Predator Helios 300 ($1500)
[i7-10750H, RTX 3060]
The Acer Helios serves as a great mid-tier gaming machine that should have no problem pushing 60+ frames at its native 1080p resolution on ultra quality in any game out now. The 144 Hz display, RTX 3060, and i7-10750H (not the best CPU performance, but it certainly gets the job done) make this a pretty good value package.
Furthermore, the Helios comes with 16GB of ram and a 512GB NVMe SSD. That means storage is still a bit on the low side, but it’s much better than in the laptop above, and once again it is easily upgradable (with support for 3 three M.2 drives).
Construction-wise, the Helios is quite premium. The metal chassis stands head-and-shoulders above its mostly plastic competitors. The keyboard is also solid, and has a few interesting RGB add-ons.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 ($2500)
[Ryzen 9 5900HS, RTX 3070]
The G15 hits right in the sweet spot for gaming laptops. A Ryzen 9 paired with a RTX 3070? Check, for incredible performance. Exceptional battery life? Totally. An affordable price for the specs? Well, in light of the current GPU market, yep! And all of that in a thin, sleek design? You got it.
Other than not having a webcam (which some paranoid security-minded users may deem a virtue), there is very little blame to find in the G15. The keyboard might not be up everyone’s alley, being TKL (10-keyless, like many popular mechanical keyboards). But otherwise, ASUS managed to create a great laptop that brings everything together in an arguably perfect package. This is also the first laptop in this lineup to feature a 1440p monitor (at 165 Hz) instead of a 1080p. And storage-wise, the G15 comes with a comfortable 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM.
MSI GS66 Stealth ($2900)
[i7-10870H, RTX 3080]
Who said that thin cannot be powerful? Well, whoever that was, the GS66 would blow them completely out of the water. The top-of-the-line RTX 3080 paired with the i7-10870H land neatly in overkill territory for 1440p mobile gaming.
Sure, the i7 may not be the best CPU out there—no laptop-variant CPU really is, unfortunately—but when paired with the RTX 3080 it shouldn’t cause much of a bottleneck for gaming. (An i9 variant is available, however, if CPU performance is a priority.) Nevertheless, squeezing in so much power into such a small package still has a performance cost. The 3080 inside is limited in boost clock and TDP, so performance relative to desktop gaming machines with similar hardware is on the lower side. The rest of the system includes: a 1440p display at a whopping 240 Hz, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD.
But what it lacks in max-clocked performance on its hardware, it makes up for by being an ‘Ultrabook.’ In other words, it offers unparalleled portability and style. If performance on-the-go is what you’re after, then the GS66 is a very strong option in terms of balancing portability and sheer power.
Alienware M17 R4 ($3600)
[i9-10980HK, RTX 3080]
Thin little Ultrabooks are nice and all, but if your priority is pure performance then the M17 is the laptop for you. An i9 paired with an RTX 3080 in a more reasonable physical form factor turns everything into shreds, no question. The display is also more geared toward performance-hungry users, as it favors refresh rate over high resolution: it sports a 1080p, 360 Hz display (and no, we don’t know why the product image under-reports this as 300 Hz).
Although this is a lower resolution than both the G15 and GS66 discussed above, the combination of this display and this hardware will mean that the M17 will be delivering absolutely maximal frame rates, generally without ever exceeding the (absurdly high) speed that the monitor can display. And it even has G-Sync, which should match the refresh rate to the frame rate any time the frame rate is below 360. In other words, for those that play online competitive games, this one is strongly optimized for you.
As for the rest of the specs, the M17 comes with 2TB of M.2 SSD storage space (achieved via two drives in RAID 0) and 32GB of RAM. As is typical of these ‘performance above all else’ laptops, however, battery life is quite abysmal. And so is the size of the power brick. On a more positive note, while this is not in the exact model linked here, the keyboard can be upgraded to a Cherry low-profile mechanical keyboard for a premium mechanical typing experience. The M17 is ‘portable,’ but only in the sense that you can technically use it for a bit without power. Nevertheless, the M17 brings the strongest, no-compromise raw gaming performance in a laptop form factor.
These are some of our favorite laptops that focus on different priorities across the spectrum of gamers. There’s a budget option, a few midrange options with balanced features and specs, and a high-end option that throws out everything except for pumping your frame rates to their highest heights. If you are looking to get into PC gaming (or looking to upgrade your experience), you should consider one of these as a possible new machine.
On the other hand, you may have gone through all this, only to conclude, ‘That’s nice, but even if I’m not building my own PC because of hardware shortages, I still want a desktop PC!’ Well, if that describes you, you’re in luck: our previous blog post may be just what you’re looking for.