As the games we play grow to be more complex, both visually and mechanically, it makes sense that the best gaming laptops begin to distinguish themselves as more than just “laptops that can also play games.” These specialty PCs are not only powerful – almost always sporting discrete graphics from Nvidia or AMD – but our personal favorite gaming laptops are also highly mobile. Those that marry thinness and lightness with pixel-pushing performance are top-shelf candidates for the title of best gaming laptop 2019 has to offer.
Last spring, Nvidia revealed its Max-Q initiative to the world, promising that the high-end notebooks of the future would abandon the unwieldy chassis of the past in favor of slim and compact gaming laptop designs reminiscent of Intel Ultrabooks. While not every gaming laptop can afford such luxuries (squeezing a GTX 1080 into an enclosure that’s under an inch thick obviously comes at a premium expense), those that can have overtaken many of our discussions leading into our best gaming laptops consensus. The verdict is in, and it’s that we prefer the best of both worlds: a healthy balance between power and portability.
At the same time, budget plays a crucial role in determining what is the best gaming laptop for you. How much money you’re willing to spend on a new PC depends on how much money you have allocated to the cause. So, in some cases, you may find yourself limited to meatier gaming laptops that take some extra strength to lug around. No matter your financial standing, the best gaming laptops are those with the fastest processors and RAM, as well as the most capable GPU, comfiest keyboard and sharpest screen, for your routine. In the end, buying a gaming laptop is a decision so personal that it’s best you decide from our top picks yourself. And if you're not 100% convinced you need a laptop, here's our guide to the best gaming PCs.
1. Razer Blade 15
The best gaming laptop of 2019
CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 – 1070 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB – 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD | Screen: 15.6-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) – 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) matte IPS display
At the time of its release, the Razer Blade 15 was the smallest 15-inch gaming laptop ever created. Whether or not that holds true today is irrelevant considering it measures just 0.68 inches thick and still houses an Intel Core i7 processor paired with a slimmed down Nvidia Max-Q GPU. Though its Pascal series graphics chip is starting to show its age in more demanding games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the Razer Blade is still powerful enough to run all your favorite triple-A blockbusters, albeit with some of the visual settings ticked down.
Despite being known for its triple-headed green serpent logo, Razer kept the Blade 15 relatively subdued and elegant. The bezels are so narrow that this 15-inch notebook is only 14 inches wide, and the CNC-milled unibody aluminum shell makes for an industrial aesthetic that looks – and feels – premium. The keyboard is far from perfect, however, as the standard QWERTY layout we all know and love has been tweaked to accommodate the up-arrow key, which is now located between right-shift and forward-slash. On the upside, the glass touchpad is spacious and precise, a welcome departure from the usual treatment of inputs as an afterthought.
2. Lenovo Legion Y740
Value proposition characterized by value itself
CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 – 2080 | RAM: 16GB – 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 512GB NVMe SSD | Screen: 17.3-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) G-Sync HDR IPS display
Lenovo has historically, albeit silently advocated for subtlety when it comes to gaming laptop designs. If you were hoping for a dazzling RGB light show from the Legion Y740, you will be sorely disappointed. While this laptop is blessed with up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card, or at least its downsized Max-Q equivalent, flashy cosmetic trappings are limited to the per-key backlighting of the Corsair iCUE-powered keyboard and a few smaller lighting zones on the sides and back. Otherwise, stylistically, the Lenovo Legion Y740 differs very little from the company's non-gaming products.
It's pretty bland, sporting a plain gray finish on its all-aluminum chassis. But if you'd rather your laptop not loudly proclaim, "I'm a gamer" every time you enter a room, perhaps this is a good place to start. And that goes without mentioning the primo guts, which you're getting for a bargain here. For nearly 30% less than what you'd pay for a shinier, arguably better looking piece of kit from, say, MSI, the Legion Y740 incorporates Nvidia G-Sync adaptive sync technology and Dolby Vision HDR into the display while integrating Dolby Atmos into the onboard speaker system. In terms of value, so long as you don't mind its so-so looks and inferior touchpad, the Legion Y740 is a mobilized tour de force.
3. MSI GS65 Stealth Thin
Gold diamond cut posh, but not as pricey
CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 – 1070 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB – 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB – 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD | Screen: 15.6-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) anti-glare wide view angle display
Although it’s a little flashier than the overall best gaming laptop on this list, spec-for-spec the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin is more affordable as well. One of the first Max-Q laptops to convince us that it’s finally time to bury our MacBooks, the Stealth Thin weighs a mere 4.14 pounds and measures 0.69 inches thick. No matter which configuration you buy, you can bank on a fast and fluid 144Hz refresh rate, perfect for gaming at high frame rates. Unfortunately, in order to take advantage of this facet of the panel, you'll have to lower some of the graphics settings in most triple-A games, as even the GTX 1070 model can't squeeze out 144fps at the Ultra preset.
As for the inputs, the keyboard bears a total travel distance of 1.4mm, making it quick and snappy for typing or firing off in-game commands. Unlike the punchier Alienware m15 keyboard, the one on the GS65 Stealth Thin doesn't offer much in the way of bounce or resistance. But similar to the m15, the plastic touchpad is much too small and flimsy to be accurate, and the quality of the onboard speakers? Well, let's just say they leave something to be desired. Audiophiles beware: you might want to peruse the PC headsets for gaming before committing to MSI’s featherweight powerhouse.
4. Alienware m15
Thermal management boasts of ‘epic’ proportions
CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 – 1070 Max-Q | RAM: 8GB – 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 1TB SSHD; 8GB SSD – 2TB M.2 PCIe SSD | Screen: 15.6-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) – UHD (3840 x 2160) narrow-border IPS display
In many ways, the Alienware m15 is a return to form for Dell’s science fiction-themed, gaming-centric subsidiary. It’s another thin and light gaming laptop, complete with Nvidia Max-Q graphics, albeit one that prides itself on 'superior thermal management'. The M15's cheapest config may lack the 144Hz refresh rate displays we’ve seen in other 15-inch gaming laptops, but then again, it's priced more aggressively than some of its biggest competitors. Spec-for-spec, you can find the m15 for hundreds of dollars cheaper than our top pick, the Razer Blade 15. The keyboard on the Alienware is better, too.
That said, other aspects of the build quality were clearly compromised in achieving its compelling price point. With the charging cable, for instance, part of the metal connector sticks out no matter how hard you try to press it all the way in. And don't get us started on the bezels around the display. They look like they were, in a move that seems suspiciously on-brand, abducted from 2009. Still, we applaud Alienware for actually making an effort to improve battery life. Leveraging what the company calls Cryo-Tech 2.0, Dell claims the Alienware m15 can last up to 10 hours and 40 minutes with the optional 90Whr battery equipped.
5. MSI GS75 Stealth
Svelte alternative to the high-end gaming desktop
CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 – 2080 Max-Q | RAM: 16GB – 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB – 512GB NVMe SSD | Screen: 17.3-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) – 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) matte IPS display
Presenting itself as a departure from the usual compromised experience of gaming on a laptop, the MSI GS75 Stealth foregoes the cramped screen real estate and diminished performance we've come to know from Nvidia's Max-Q design language. Instead of limiting itself to a 15-inch display, it ups the ante to 17.3 inches. Rather than capping the graphics at GTX 1070, it wields the might of the Turing architecture's RT cores, giving it the strength necessary to render only the most realistic lighting and shadows technology can afford. Taking a number of design cues from the aforementioned GS65 Stealth Thin, the GS75 Stealth is a visual spectacle. Its gold accents perfectly accentuate the otherwise inconspicuous plain black finish.
Yet, despite its devilishly handsome looks, one glimpse of its price tag would leave the vast majority of middle-class consumers feeling perplexed. You want us to pay how much to play video games? Even in its least expensive configuration, the GS75 Stealth is a punch in the wallet, costing over two grand for a laptop with an RTX 2060. Step it up to the top-end RTX 2080 model and you're racking up six times the credit card debt you'd incur with the purchase of an Xbox One X. Be that as it may, the Xbox One X doesn't have a punchy built-on keyboard, nor does it have an iPhone X-size touchpad in its possession. In short, weighing less than five pounds, the MSI GS75 Stealth is a primo powerhouse whose high barrier of entry is justified by a sheer lack of competitive undercutting.
6. Razer Blade Stealth
For when mobility is the number one priority
CPU: Intel Core i7-8565U | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 – Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB – 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) – 4K (3840 x 2160) matte IPS display
Amid the beastly desktop replacements and Max-Q designs of the world exists the gaming Ultrabook, for which a space was carved out by none other than Razer. Arbiter of the aforementioned Blade 15, Razer has made a name for itself birthing and inspiring the fabrication of increasingly lean and airy clamshell gaming rigs. Differentiating itself from the all-capable Razer Blade 15, the Razer Blade Stealth line has always favored portability over raw pixel-pushing power. The 2019 edition is a slight departure from the usual Blade Stealth strategy, as it employs an Intel "Whiskey Lake" processor paired with an energy-efficient Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU, at least in two of its three configurations.
Although it's a bit more gamer-friendly out of the box than is standard procedure for a Razer Blade Stealth, don't expect to run every major triple-A release at the highest settings out of the box. In our own testing, we discovered the discrete graphics chip models max out at around 15fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at the highest possible preset. Still, it's a perfectly suitable companion for playing indie gems or adaptable battle royale – such as Fortnite or Apex Legends – on the go. Weighing just 2.82 pounds (less than a 13-inch MacBook Pro), the Razer Blade Stealth is small and light enough to store in a backpack, absent concern for spinal injury. And if you want to squeeze out a higher frame rate, it's fully compatible with external graphics card enclosures such as Razer's own Core X.
7. Dell G3 17
Economically plus-sized and ready to drive
CPU: Intel Core i5-8300H – i7-8750H | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 – 1060 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Storage: 1TB HDD – 2TB HDD; 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD | Screen: 17.3-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) anti-glare IPS display
For well under a grand, it’s rare to see a 17-inch gaming laptop take the floor, much less one put out by a manufacturer as revered as Dell. Behind us are the days when Dell gaming laptops were relegated to the Alienware and ‘Inspiron Gaming’ monikers. The G3 17 provides a way to game on a bigger screen without the towering cost. On the outside, it resembles an ordinary, non-gaming laptop, albeit with a handful of light blue accents that complement its overall restrained design. We will admit, the plasticky build could use some retooling in future renditions. But we understand that corners have to be cut to stay within a certain price range.
Crack open the Dell G3 17 and you’ll discover a well-rounded piece of kit. Nvidia discrete graphics are used in conjunction with either an Intel Core i5 or i7 H-series processor, paving the way for high-end triple-A gaming on the go. Like some other laptops we've reviewed, not every variant of the G3 is capable of maintaining a steady 60fps in The Witcher 3 at Ultra settings. You may have to rely on Nvidia's GeForce Experience software or dig into the graphics options yourself to find the sweet spot. Nevertheless, 17-inch laptops are a dying art, and these days, they don't come much more affordable than this at well under 1,000 gees.
What's next for gaming laptops?
Back in January, hardware makers from all over the world congregated to show off the next generation of gaming laptops at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Whereas 2018 was defined by low-profile laptops outfitted with downsized versions of Nvidia's nearly three-year-old Pascal graphics, 2019 is seemingly the year we branch off into new territories.
Dell, for instance, has revived the Alienware Area-51m, a whopping 8.5-pound monstrosity whose internal GPU is interchangeable. Meanwhile, MSI has a 17-inch reimagining of the GS65 Stealth Thin – aptly dubbed the GS75 Stealth – which measures under 0.75 inches thick and still manages to fit an RTX 2080 and up to three SSDs inside. And the upcoming slate of laptops from Asus and Acer is geared toward those who crave versatility. The ROG Mothership, a Surface Pro-like detachable gaming laptop, is joined by the Predator Triton 900, which rotates on a uniquely designed hinge for use in four different modes.
Making its way to our office fairly soon is the Origin EVO16-S, the company's self-proclaimed "ultra thin" notebook. Quite frankly, its weight and dimensions would be par for the course if a 15-inch laptop is what you're after. But, interestingly enough, the EVO-16S bears a peculiarly sized 16.1-inch screen. Its guts comprise a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor and an Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics chip. Lastly, Razer has launched an "Advanced" model of its oft-praised 15-inch Blade from last year. It's thinner, has per-key backlighting on the keyboard and it supports ray tracing of all things, by way of either an RTX 2070 or 2080 GPU.
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