The DDoS attacks reported by the FCC last year didn't actually happen
The best gaming laptop is no longer a hulking, monstrous beast outfitted with gigantic fans that scream under even the lightest loads. No, gaming laptops have evolved into sleek powerhouses with the gaming guts to rival a powerful desktop.
Choosing the right gaming laptop depends a lot on what's most important to you: portability, performance, or price? In general, you can only pick two. Some machines are light and powerful, but also extremely pricey. At the other end of the spectrum, you can get excellent performance at a reasonable price tag, but it'll come in a bulkier form factor.
Whether you're looking for a thin and light portable powerhouse, a desktop replacement in a notebook form factor, or the best budget gaming laptop to play indies on the road, we have recommendations for every gamer at every price point.
MSI GS65 Stealth Thin
Elegant. Portable. Powerful. The best gaming laptop you can buy
The GS65 Stealth Thin delivers everything I want in a gaming laptop. It has the convenience and portability of a productivity notebook—light and thin enough that I can toss it in my backpack, tote it to meetings, and comfortably use it on the couch—married with the internal guts of a gaming PC—powerful enough to play the latest games at high or max settings once the workday is over.
It has a sleek matte black aluminum body with gold accents that feels sturdy and luxe—and thankfully lacking in obnoxious gamer aesthetics. Best of all, in addition to a slim, 18mm thickness, the screen's 4.9mm thin bezels allow for a overall chassis size that's about an inch smaller than most 15-inch laptops.
Performance-wise, the GS65 doesn't disappoint. The base spec features a GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU, but I recommend the GTX 1070 (again Max-Q) model for a few hundred dollars more. It brings with it an upgraded SSD and Killer wireless networking. This spec lets the GS65 maintain framerates above 60 fps in most of the latest games with settings maxed out. And by tweaking a few settings and disabling some of the more demanding, less visually-impactful options, you can easily push your framerates up to 100 fps and above, taking advantage of the system's 144Hz display.
There are other nice details, too: a keyboard from SteelSeries that's solid and responsive (and RGB-lit, if you care about that sort of thing), a responsive touchpad, and a webcam that's placed at the top of the screen, thankfully avoiding the abysmally unflattering "nose-cam" found on most thin-bezeled laptops like the Dell XPS 13.
The only gaming feature missing here is G-Sync, but that's a forgivable offense as the omission allows for both a lower price tag and battery life that legitimately lasts through a whole day of email, web browsing, and streaming video.
Gigabyte's Aero 15X was the first thin Max-Q laptop to catch my eye, and the 2018 Aero 15X v8 refresh remains a promising entry in the field, fixing most of the issues I had with its predecessor while keeping everything else that I love about it. Primarily, the keyboard works much better after a driver update, and the screen's been updated to a snappy 144 Hz panel.
Compared to MSI's GS65, the Aero 15X has a less attractive body with sharp edges, but wins in the productivity category on account of a bigger, 94 Whr battery. In practice—that is, our streaming video test—that larger battery lasts upwards of six hours, compared to the GS65's four and a half. With near-identical internals, gaming performance is comparable to the GS65 as well. The biggest difference, other than the body design and battery, is that the Aero 15X can be outfitted with a 4K screen. I recommend sticking with the high refresh rate 1080p screen if gaming is your primary concern, but 4K is a nice option for productivity power users who can take advantage of the extra pixels.
I said at the beginning that choosing a laptop usually means picking two between price, performance, and portability. Where thin-and-light laptops like the GS65 offer the latter two of those three, the Asus ROG Strix GL503VS-DH74 Scar Edition instead checks the first two boxes: price and performance.
In exchange for a larger shell, the GL503VS packs in a regular (non Max-Q) GTX 1070 GPU. This results in a performance improvement of around 15 percent at a slightly lower price point. It uses a previous gen quad-core CPU, but that doesn't matter in most games. The GL503VS also offers G-Sync on its 144Hz panel, but the tradeoff means you miss out on Nvidia's Optimus battery tech. As such, you shouldn't expect more than around two hours of battery life. Don't forget your charger!
Acer's Predator Helios 300 offers an incredible value proposition. At just over a grand, sometimes less if you can find it on sale, it offers a GTX 1060 6GB graphics card that can lock down 60 fps at near-max settings in most games from the last few years. The system's lacking in any fancy screen features like a high refresh rate or G-Sync, and you'll probably want to think about investing in a large HDD to back up the 256GB SSD. But those minor issues don't mean much when you factor in the super-affordable price tag. The Acer Predator Helios 300 is the best budget gaming laptop you can buy.
Dell Inspiron 15 7567
Ultra-budget gaming for indies and lightweight titles like Fortnite
If you're looking for a cheap laptop to play indies or other less-demanding titles, Dell's Inspiron 15 7000 series is just the ticket. The 7567 model features a GTX 1050 Ti, a slight upgrade over the bottom-barrel GTX 1050 model which can be had for a few bucks cheaper. Neither can handle the latest games on high or max settings, but if all you're interested in is lightweight indies or don't mind cranking the settings down, the 7567 is a great ultra-budget option.
As a bonus, the 7567 features a robust 74 Whr battery that should last upwards of four hours, depending on the workload. This makes it a great back to school laptop for gamers who need a machine that'll last through classes and then help secure Victory Royale once homework is done.
Acer Predator Triton 700
The most powerful thin-and-light laptop around
CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Max-Q | RAM: 32GB DDR4-2400MHz | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS 120 Hz with G-Sync | Storage: 256GB M.2 SATA SSD | Battery: 3-cell 54 Whr | Dimensions: 10.47 x 15.47 x 0.74 in | Weight: 5.4 lbs
Acer's Predator Triton 700 has a lot to love about it. The overall chassis is a sleek sci-fi-inspired aesthetic with a solid clam shell design (and thankfully no hinge opening like on the ROG Zephyrus). This amounts to the most portable GTX 1080 laptop around (albeit a GTX 1080 Max-Q GPU).
This system crushes benchmarks and games, offering about the same or slightly higher power level as a desktop-class GTX 1070. The one drawback is the abysmal touchpad location, a glass panel that sits above the keyboard. It's terrible for anything other than brief usage, so just be sure you never forget an external mouse.
MSI GT75 Titan
The behemoth desktop replacement
CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 | RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4-2666MHz | Screen: 17.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) wide-view 120 Hz with G-Sync | Storage: 512GB M.2 SATA SSD, 1TB HDD | Battery: 8-cell 90 Whr | Dimensions: 12.36 x 16.85 x 2.28 inches | Weight: 9.92 lbs
While MSI's GS65 is the king of thin-and-light, the GT75 conquers the other end of the spectrum: massive and heavy. This behemoth desktop replacement is outfitted with a full-size (chiclet-style) SteelSeries mechanical keyboard, a robust (albeit loud) cooling system, and booming speakers. All paired, of course, with the desktop-class internals of a Core i7-8750H (an upgraded version with an i9 processor is available as well), GTX 1080 GPU, and up to 64GB of DDR4-2666 RAM. If you want everything a desktop offers in a foldable, semi-portable form factor, the GT75 Titan crushes the competition.What makes one laptop more attractive than another in the eyes of a gamer? Is it light weight, for portability in between LAN parties? How about high-end hardware to facilitate the fastest frame rates? Surely connectivity matters. External displays, gaming peripherals and direct-attached storage can make you forget you’re even using a notebook. Or maybe value is what matters most. For a low-enough price, we’re all willing to compromise on graphics quality, right? Right?
Of course not, which is why the best builders cram in as much processing muscle as possible, even when money is tight. And at the top of the range, desktop-class components in mobile enclosures set new performance records with every generation.
We run the following tests to measure performance and productivity on gaming laptops:
CrystalDisk QD32 Read and Write
3DMark Fire Strike
PCMark 10 Express
For gaming, we use the built-in benchmarks on Rise of the Tomb Raider, Total War: Warhammer II, and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Tests are performed at 1080p using the highest available graphics preset, with V-sync and G-Sync disabled. All tests are run multiple times to ensure that thermal throttling doesn't occur. In the event that scores drop on subsequent tests, the lower (throttled) scores are used.