Best gaming laptops in 2019

Best gaming laptops of 2019

The best gaming laptop is ultimately the one that best suits you. Do you want a big, beefy musclebook with killer performance parts to replace one of the best gaming PCs on your desktop? Or are you looking for an ultra-thin, super light machine you can tuck into your book bag and take to school/work? Regardless of what category you're shopping, we rounded up the best gaming options for each, at prices that (hopefully) won't made you shiver with buyers remorse after you add-to-cart. 

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(Image credit: Dell)

Just because the Prime Day madness has subsided doesn't mean you can't still get a great laptop for less. The MSI G75 Stealth, one of the best RTX-powered laptops on the market, is currently available at Amazon for $1,900.

So what should you prioritize when you're looking for the best gaming laptop? If you do want a desktop replacement, you'll want something with powerful components. Games rely much more on the graphics card in a machine than the CPU, so on the high end you'll want one of the RTX cards from Nvidia. In laptops, Nvidia has two versions of their cards. The Max-Q line is slightly less powerful but smaller, great for those thin ultrabook style machines, but they also pack some nearly full-desktop size parts into some laptops. These beefy machines perform better but inevitably make for a thicker machine. If you prefer a slender machine, Max-Q is the way to go, and you can probably get away with some less powerful performance parts (unless it's your only machine).  Whichever route you choose, we've included a range of options to help you sort through the crowded gaming laptop marketplace.

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Razer Blade 15

1. Razer Blade 15

The best gaming laptop of 2019

CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q - RTX 2060 | 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

Contemporary outward design
Specs fit for gaming
Insufficient battery life

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.

Lenovo Legion Y740

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

Digestible range of prices
Cutting-edge display tech
Comically small touchpad
Uninspired design

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.

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

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

Slender, lightweight form factor
Competitive performance
Touchpad could be better

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. 

Acer Predator Triton 500

4. Acer Predator Triton 500

At long last, ray tracing goes truly portable

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

Appetizing range of prices
Top of the line performance
Lackluster battery life
Awful boot-up sound

In a world dominated by garish aesthetics, few gaming laptops have mastered the art of subtlety. The Acer Predator Triton 500 is an exception. Retaining the angular chassis design that defines the Predator lineup, this Max-Q-ified lappy foregoes extraneous lighting in favor of a potent balance between performance and value. Starting at $1,799, it's still pricey, sure, but it's less unaffordable than its closest rivals, and its premium price tag is justified by the high frame rates it produces. 

In our own independent testing, for instance, the Triton 500 squeezed out an average of 83fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a fairly demanding triple-A action game, at the highest preset. In Metro Exodus, with ray tracing cranked all the way up, it pulled off a 56fps average. Although its battery life is considered weak by most metrics, having survived but 2 hours and 57 minutes in our Twitch downstream test, the Acer Predator Triton 500 ultimately pulls its own weight. It does, after all, weigh little more than a Radeon Pro 555X-equipped 15-inch MacBook Pro, at 4.41pounds. And its meager 0.7-by-14.41-by-10-inch frame makes it easy to carry around in a normal-size backpack. Plus, it has a fantastic keyboard, with 1.7mm of travel.

Alienware m15

5. 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

Extensive battery life claims
Soft-spoken, yet sci-fi-inspired design language
High refresh rate options are expensive
Antiquated base model storage

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.

MSI GS75 Stealth

6. 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

Upscale, minimalist aesthetic
Supremely powerful
Exorbitant price
No 4K screen option

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. 

Razer Blade Stealth

7. 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

Sleek, maneuverable design
Remarkable build quality
Weak-sauce graphics
Lacks per-key backlighting

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. 

Dell G3 17

8. 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

Respectable 17-inch screen
Muted design
Limited graphics threshold
Unexceptional build quality

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.  

Best gaming laptops 2019: What's next? 

Later this month, hardware makers from all over the world will congregate to show off the latest happenings in tech at the Computex computing expo in Tapei, Taiwan. While every major vendor is promising "exclusive never before seen products," whispers in the laptop space, specifically, suggest a heavy emphasis on AMD. 

At Computex, the California-based chipmaker – known best to console gamers for its contributions to the PS5 – is not only rumored to reveal a new wave of 7nm graphics cards based on the forthcoming Navi architecture, but it will reportedly announce its Ryzen 3rd Generation processors in an official capacity. Chances are, both will be integrated in an upcoming swarm of gaming laptops. Gigabyte in particular is teasing AMD parts for its next generation Aorus notebooks. Emblazoned on its "0 day press event" invite is the tagline "Next Gen Meets Next Level" just below an AMD logo. Other laptop manufacturers are sure to follow suit.

Otherwise, I recently visited the Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, California for an exclusive first look at its 9th generation mobile Core processors for laptops. In an article for PC Gamer, I called the upgrade "iterative rather than transformative," but that I look forward to the chipmaker's more ambitious long term efforts. Project Athena, for instance, is a proof of concept promising extensive battery lives for high performance machines. Imagine playing Anthem for several hours at a time without a charger in sight. If done right, we could start to see Nintendo Switch levels of portability for PCs. 

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