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 2018 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 of the year.
1. Razer Blade 15
The best gaming laptop of 2018
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 this lappy measures just 0.68 inches thick and still houses an Intel Core i7 processor paired with Max-Q-sized Nvidia graphics. Despite being known for its triple-headed 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 unibody aluminum shell makes for an industrial aesthetic that looks – and feels – premium. It’s expensive, sure, but its lofty price tag is largely justified.
2. 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. The quality of the onboard speakers does leave something to be desired, however, so audiophiles beware: you might want to peruse the PC headsets for gaming before committing to MSI’s featherweight powerhouse.
3. 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. Its cheapest config may lack the 144Hz refresh rate displays we’ve seen in other 15-inch gaming laptops, but then again, the base model Alienware M15 is priced more aggressively than some of its biggest competitors. It’s another thin and light gaming laptop, complete with Nvidia Max-Q graphics, albeit one that prides itself on ‘superior thermal management’. 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.
4. MSI GT75 Titan
Gargantuan antithesis of the thin and light Ultrabook
CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H – i9-8950HK | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 – 1080 | RAM: 16GB – 32GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB M.2 SATA SSD; 1TB HDD – 1TB NVMe SSD; 1TB HDD | Screen: 17.3-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) anti-glare – 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) eDP IPS display
As appreciative as we are for Nvidia’s Max-Q efforts, the MSI GT75 Titan throws ‘thin and light’ out the window in favor of a big beefy boy of a clamshell that hones in on the performance benefits that PC gaming entails. Weighing 10.5 pounds and measuring 1.22 inches thick, the GT75 Titan sure isn’t the most convenient option for travel or work, but it’s so powerful it can practically replace your desktop if you’re eager to free up some desk real estate. Brandishing up to an Intel Core i9 processor and GTX 1080 graphics, it’s apparent this mammoth of a machine was built to run the latest triple-A games at upwards of 60fps. The trade-off, of course, is a battery life that’s so short you’ll have to keep the system plugged in all the time.
5. Lenovo Legion Y530
Goodbye red and black, hello dignity
CPU: Intel Core i5-8300H – i7-8750H | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 – 1060 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD – 2TB HDD | Screen: 15.6-inch, FHD (1920 x 1080) anti-glare IPS display
Hands down the best gaming laptop for those on a budget, the Lenovo Legion Y530 ditches the red and black color scheme you’ll find on most notebooks in this price range. Instead, the Y530 is graced with an all-black silicone finish, which is as subtle as many of its rivals are garish. Its specs are modest, with nothing more than a GTX 1060 in tow for pushing pixels. That said, it is competitively priced and expertly crafted. Measuring less than an inch thick and featuring a vast array of ports, the Legion Y530 is portable and functional on top of looking handsome as heck. Even with its flaws, it’s certainly the most mature gaming laptop we’ve come across yet.
6. 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. Crack it open 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.
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