What kind of screen do you want?
Screen size is a good starting point for judging gaming laptops. In general, 15-inch laptops will be the best balance between immersion and portability, while larger 17-inch models are heavier. , but naturally give you more screen space. And of course, there are 13-inch gaming laptops out there, like the Razer Blade Stealth, but ironically, you’ll often end up paying more for these than the slightly larger 15-inch options.
But these days, there are a lot more features to consider than just screen size. Take refresh rates into account: most monitors refresh their screens vertically 60 times per second, or 60 Hz. This is a standard in use since black and white NTSC televisions. But over the past few years, displays have evolved dramatically. Now, 120Hz 1080p displays are the bare minimum you’d want in any gaming laptop – and there are faster 144Hz, 240Hz, and even 300Hz displays. All of these ever-growing numbers are at the service of one thing: to make everything on your screen as smooth as possible.
For gaming, higher refresh rates also help eliminate screen tears and other artifacts that could hamper your fragmentation party. And for everything else, it just leads to a better viewing experience. Even scrolling a webpage on a 120Hz or higher monitor is a stark difference from a 60Hz screen. Instead of seeing an unstable wall of text and images, everything runs seamlessly, as if you were unrolling a glossy magazine. Going beyond 120Hz makes the gameplay even more responsive, which for some players gives them a slight edge.
Not to complicate matters, but you should also keep an eye out for NVIDIA’s G-SYNC and AMD’s FreeSync. These are two adaptive sync technologies that can match your screen refresh rate with the frame rate of your game. It also helps reduce screen tearing and make gaming run smoother. Think of them as nice bonuses on top of a high refresh rate monitor – they aren’t necessary, but they can still provide a slight visual enhancement.
One more thing: Most of these suggestions relate to LCDs, not OLEDs. While OLED makes a phenomenal choice for TVs, it’s a bit trickier when it comes to gaming laptops. They’re limited to 60Hz, so you won’t get the smoothest performance you’ll find on a high refresh rate screen. And these are usually 4K panels; you’ll need a ton of GPU power to run games natively at this resolution. OLED laptops still look amazing, with the best black levels and the best contrast around, but we think most buyers would be better off with an LCD gaming laptop.
Some other takeaways:
Get at least 16 GB of RAM. And if you’re planning on doing a ton of streaming multitasking, 32GB is worth considering.
Storage is always a major concern. These days I would recommend aiming for a 512GB M.2 SSD, which should be enough space to juggle a few big titles like Destiny 2. Some laptops also have room for standard SATA drives, which are much cheaper than M.2 and can hold more data.
Normally we recommend that you get your hands on a system before you buy, but it’s difficult because we are in the middle of a pandemic. I would recommend getting your favorite system from a retailer with a straightforward return policy, like Amazon or Best Buy. If you don’t like it, you can always send it back easily.
Don’t forget the accessories! You will definitely need a good mouse, keyboard, and headphones.
The best gaming laptop for most people: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
Starting price: $ 1,050
Recommended Spec Price (Ryzen 9, RTX 2060): $ 1,450
If you can’t tell right now, we really love the Zephyrus G14. It’s compact, at just 3.5 pounds, and features AMD’s new fast Ryzen 4000 series chips paired with NVIDIA graphics. It’s an incredibly compact machine, and while its 14-inch screen is a bit smaller than our other recommendations, it looks great and has a fast 120Hz refresh rate. We also love its retro design. future (some setups have tiny LEDs on its back panel for added flair). The G14 also starts out relatively inexpensively, at around $ 1,050, but we recommend the Ryzen 9 / RTX 2060 model specified for $ 1,450. The only downside: it doesn’t have a webcam, which can be annoying in the age of endless Zoom calls. Still, it is not that difficult to connect an external camera.
Buy ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 at Best Buy – $ 1450
The best budget option: Dell G5 15
Starting price: $ 824
We’ve been fans of the Dell G5 line since it first appeared a few years ago. Starting at just $ 824, it features all the latest hardware, such as 10th Gen Intel processors and NVIDIA’s GTX and RTX cards. (You can also find AMD’s Ryzen 7 and Radeon RX 5600M graphics in the Special Edition model whenever it’s back in stock.) It’s a bit heavy, weighing over five pounds, but it is a solid laptop otherwise. And you can even bring it into mid-range gaming territory if you specify up to the RTX 2070.
Buy the G5 15 from Dell – $ 824
The best high-end gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15
From 1600 $
Recommended model (RTX 2070 on sale): $ 1900
Razer continues to do an outstanding job of delivering the latest hardware in a sleek package that would make Mac users jealous. The Blade 15 has just about everything you want, including NVIDIA’s fastest mobile GPU, the RTX 2080 Super Max-Q, as well as Intel’s 10th generation octa-core processors and a 300Hz display. 1080p. You can easily save money by going for a mid-range option like the ASUS G14, but these won’t be as polished as the Blade.
Buy Blade 15 from Razer – $ 1,900
A complete and solid option: Acer Predator Triton 500
Starting price: $ 1,700
While we’ve seen some wilder concepts from Acer’s like its Triton 900 equipped with a 360-degree hinge, the Triton 500 is a more affordable bread and butter option that doesn’t break the bank. It’s relatively thin, weighs less than five pounds, and can be outfitted with the latest 10th gen Intel processor and NVIDIA’s RTX 2080 Super Max-Q. Acer’s build quality is more rugged than ever and it has most of the standard features you need in a gaming laptop.
Buy Predator Triton 500 at B&H Photo – $ 2100
Most Configurable Gaming Laptop: Alienware Area 51m r2
Starting price: $ 2,300
We were excited about the 51m area when Alienware first introduced it last year. Mainly because Alienware was positioning it as a gaming laptop that would be as configurable as a desktop. You can upgrade its processor, graphics and other components all down the line. While we had our issues with the first gen model, the second gen R2 has the benefit of coming with even faster hardware, as well as the ability to move between AMD and NVIDIA GPUs. While there are limits to how much you can upgrade to the 51m area, it’s still a great option if you want a machine that’s also easily repairable.
Buy Alienware Area 51m from Dell – $ 2300