The Best Gaming Laptops of 2020

Browse our top picks of the best gaming laptops of the year based on expert research and reviews and find a laptop to suit your needs and your budget.

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Welcome to LaptopNinja and our pro guide to the best top rated gaming laptops based on user reviews, expert tech coverage and in-depth product research.

Through an extensive database of products hand picked by our team of editorial gurus and curated through their hardware power, user and critic reviews and value for money, we are here to set your mind at ease when going for that ever elusive ultimate mobile gaming rig. Many avid gamers once scoffed at the idea of using a computer laptop. Those days are nearing an end. The rapid advance of computer hardware has allowed laptops to catch up with their bloated desktop brethren in hardware power as we push more and more power out of smaller and smaller components. PC Gaming is growing year in and year out as a force to be reckoned with and with it come waves on waves of fresh new laptops for gamers to test their mettle in the online arena or at home.

Below you will find our top picks of the moment in their price category.  Let your budget be your guide. If you already know what your budget is then head over to either our budget gaming laptops under $500, gaming laptops under $1000, gaming laptops under $1500 or VR-ready high-end laptops guides depending on what your wallet allows. If you are a fan of MSI our best MSI gaming laptops guide also features creme of the crop MSI line laptops. If you are still considering a desktop you may also want to checkout out our best high-end gaming PC’s and best cheap gaming PC’s guides over on our sister site DesktopNinja.

How We Decide

Our weekly updated guides contain hundreds of products across various budgets and price categories designed to provide a one stop resource for those looking to stop wasting precious time on unnecessary product research. Our team work around the clock to understand the market and find the best prices best performing rigs at their lowest possible price. We work with cold, hard data, which is why our laptops are scored using our unique scoring algorithm that takes into account thousands of user reviews and expert critic reviews across the web. Of course, no laptop is perfect, and if you aren’t sold yet on our top  picks there are dozens of other excellent options available in our buying guides for your to browse. Let the gaming begin.

The Best Gaming Laptop Under $300

HP 7MP80UA 14-inch

Pros

  • Modern hardware for cheap
  • Long battery life
  • Portability
  • Snappy day to day performance

Cons

  • Only 4GB of RAM for limited multitasking
  • Limited 128GB storage space
  • Not suitable for resource heavy apps

Specs

  • 14 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels (TN)
  • Windows 10 S
  • 8 hours battery life
  • 3.2 lbs

Summary & Score

The HP 7MP80UA provides fast performance for day to day tasks at a budget price with great portability and battery life. Although performance will struggle for demanding apps or games, it’s hard to argue with the 7MP80UA’s attractive price tag.

HP 7MP80UA 14-inch
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(as of 14-04-2021 19:14 UTC) Details

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The Best Gaming Laptop Under $500

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 81W0003QUS 14-inch

Pros

  • Powerful value for money AMD hardware
  • Radeon RX Vega 8 graphics
  • Professional design
  • Lightweight and portable

Cons

  • Flimsy touchpad
  • Poor viewing angles

Specs

  • AMD Ryzen 5 3500U 2.1 GHz
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 [View Framerates]
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • 14 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 3.3 lbs

Summary & Score

The Lenovo Ideapad 3 81W0003QUS provides very powerful hardware for the price and only a few compromises, making it an affordable all-round laptop capable of light gaming and handling day to day tasks with ease.

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 81W0003QUS 14-inch
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(as of 14-04-2021 19:12 UTC) Details

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The Best Gaming Laptop Under $1000

Lenovo Legion 5 82B1000AUS 15.6-Inch

Pros

  • Powerful graphics card
  • Very powerful octa-core CPU that can compete with desktop level performance
  • High quality 144Hz display with good brightness
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Value for money hardware
  • Fans relatively quiet

Cons

  • Can run hot under load
  • Mediocre touchpad
  • Relatively plain design / no RGB keyboard

Specs

  • 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels (IPS)
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 5 hours battery life
  • 5.41 lbs

Summary & Score

Although it may not have the design flare of some competing gaming laptops, the Lenovo Legion 5 82B1000AUS offers excellent performance, premium build quality and a practical design in an affordable package cementing its position as one of the best mid-range gaming laptops of 2020.

Lenovo Legion 5 82B1000AUS 15.6-Inch
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(as of 10-11-2020 22:05 -07:00) Details

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The Best High-End Gaming Laptop

Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-53-72XD 15.6-inch

Pros

  • Powerful GeForce RTX 2060 6GB graphics card
  • High quality 144Hz display
  • Excellent heat management
  • Quality RGB backlit keyboard

Cons

  • Plastic construction
  • Mediocre touchpad
  • Fan noise under heavy load
  • Short battery life

Specs

  • 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels (IPS)
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 6 hours battery life
  • 5.07 lbs

Summary & Score

Although it may lack the premium build construction of more high-end gaming laptops, the PH315-53-72XD offers extremely attractive hardware at a price that's ahead of the competition.

Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-53-72XD 15.6-inch
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(as of 14-04-2021 18:24 UTC) Details

More Gaming Laptops Under $1500 >>

Gaming Laptop Hardware

Before we can even begin to look at each of the individual hardware components that you must consider, we need to address a few issues that will impact your entire search for the perfect laptop.  First, you must determine the budget for your new laptop.  Remember, laptops that are powerful enough to run video games are more expensive than just an every day laptop that runs Word and Excel, so keep that in mind when you are creating your budget.

Second, you must look at your gaming needs.  If you only play one particular style of game, you may not need certain types of hardware.  For example, if all you enjoy playing are games on Facebook or maybe even a basic turn-based strategy game, then you won’t need the most powerful laptop on the market.  If, however, you prefer to play the latest Call of Duty or maybe even Grand Theft Auto, then you will definitely want to look into hardware that is more powerful in order to guarantee a seamless and smooth experience while you play.

In the end, a good part of the selection process comes down to your habits, what you like to play and how much you spend.  So before you start examining the internal components of one single laptop, take a few minutes to determine these factors as they can help guide you through the entire process as you take an in depth look at what is inside the gaming laptops you are considering purchasing.

Hardware You Will Need

Unlike basic laptops that are designed to provide users with the tools they need to create documents, send emails and surf the Internet, gaming laptops need much more powerful hardware.  That is because the games that run on PC are much more power applications that push high end graphics to provide the realistic and fun experiences that we have all come to know and love.  Because of this, a gamer must examine the hardware details of a laptop much more carefully if they hope to make the right decision with their laptop purchase.

Now, let’s examine all the different hardware you will need in order to get the graphical and audio performance you will want and need in your games so each play session runs smoothly.

3D Graphics

Hands down this is by far the most important decision you will make when buying a gaming laptop.  Currently, I’m a fan of the NVIDIA line of video cards, but AMD isn’t a slouch either with their Radeon lines.  What you want to make sure of is that you get the laptop with the highest end video card you can possibly find and afford.

It is the powers of that card that can make or break the gaming performance of your laptop.  I have seen many people simply overbuy and pick up a video card when they don’t play any games, and I have seen gamers buy laptops that just wouldn’t work because they weren’t experts in the world of computer hardware.

In most cases, you should seek a card that has a decent amount of memory and speed to back it up.  In most cases you will notice that NVIDIA often has a leg up on AMD and their Radeon cards.  But the high powered cards made by both these manufacturers often do a very good job of powering games on laptops.  Just remember, they won’t be like desktop video cards, so you won’t find any out there with as much power and speed that you can find in the most recent cards built for desktop computers.  Still, with a little work, you can find a card that will drive almost every video currently on the market with relative ease.

Make Your CPU Choice

The second most important choice you will make, the CPU is the heart of your computer.  While it doesn’t have anything to do with how fast your graphics are processed, it does impact load times and how fast the game will run even while it is processing graphics.  So, you shouldn’t really skimp on the processor you choose, assuming you want superb gaming performance.

When choosing a processor for gaming, I would go with either an i5 or i7 from Intel as they are currently the fastest on the market.  You will be hard pressed to have a bad experience using one of these processors on your system.  While not the most important part of your gaming system, the CPU is still the heart of your computer so the faster the processor, the better your overall experience when you are gaming or even just surfing the net.

A Few Words About RAM

One of the biggest questions I often get from gamers looking to choose a laptop is how much RAM should they buy.  While this answer can be a difficult one to answer, I will say that anything over 16 GB is probably overkill these days.  What I mean is, you more than likely won’t see that much of a boost in performance based on the cost.

That being said, most gaming laptops today are equipped with somewhere between 8 GB and 16 GB of RAM, although you will see some that double that capacity with 32 GB of RAM.  How much you choose is really up to you.  The more complex the games you run and the more apps you would like to run alongside your games really is the determining factor.  If you want to run more at one time and still maintain your speed, then increase your RAM.  If you are shopping on a budget, go with something that has between 8 GB and 16 GB for the best bang for your buck.

What’s in a Hard Drive

With the rise of the SSD, choosing a hard drive has become more difficult for gamers, especially those trying to buy a new laptop on a budget.  How big of a drive do you need?  How fast do you want it to be?  These are all questions that only you can answer.  I can say that if you want the fastest speeds, you should choose the solid state (SSD) drives.  If you need lots of room to store files and games, go with a traditional hard drive.  Just make sure it is the 7200 rpm model.

Personally, I would use two hard drives if it is in your budget.  The first drive would be a solid state drive that is around 256 GB.  Use this drive to load your operating system, apps and any games that you have.  By doing this, you will get all the fastest load streams possible on your computer when you open, close and use apps.  For your data, I would use a fast 7200 rpm hard drive that is at least 1 TB in size.  This allows you to store virtually as much as you want on that drive without having to worry about losing it to an unexpected hard drive crash.

How’s That Screen

Honestly this one is the least important on this list as you can almost always connect your laptop to your television or a high end monitor at home for an even better gaming experience.  But, if you are playing strictly on your laptop, you will want to choose a laptop that comes with a decent screen.  When choosing a screen, make sure you find one that is at least Full-HD or one that maybe even has better resolutions available.  Check out reviews about the screen and see how crisp and clear it is and double check on the color accuracy as well, as you don’t want a monitor that is fuzzy with colors that don’t match the rest of the world.

Peripherals to Enhance Your Experience

Now that you have selected everything you need on your laptop, you need to take a few minutes to consider the peripherals you will need for your gaming experience.  These often include keyboards and mice and even game controllers that you will need to play all of the games in your library well with the best controls.  These additions aren’t always necessary, of course, but you may want to consider them while you are shopping so you can pick one that you know is compatible with your laptop as well as the games you play.

All of these choices combine to form the laptop that could be yours for a few years to come, so make sure you buy the hardware that you want.  Choose wisely, a you will likely have to live with your choice for quite some time.

Pro Tips For Making Your Decision

There are various things to lookout for that may influence your purchasing decision when deciding on the ultimate gaming laptop. You have to consider your budget and FPS (frames per second) you will get on your laptop while running various games on different settings. This is key to understanding what kind of machine you’ll need and now is the time to think these things through on top of figuring out what games you intend on playing and what the limitations of your budget are. We have listed some key pointers under our top picks below to help you while browsing our guides.  Having adequate power to run the games you want to play at decent framerates is a prerequisite for a quality gaming experience.

Budget Gamers

Budget laptops tend to have extremely limited gaming performance and get a heavy wrap from serious gamers. That said, don’t be fooled as if you are happy playing older games from 2013 or earlier you’ll generally have no problem if you pick a laptop with the right GPU. For example virtually all of the most popular games in the world, including Dota 2, League of Legends, World of Warcraft and Minecraft, will run perfectly fine on a sub-$500 gaming laptop. That said, if you are a slave to lush next-gen visuals and saving up is an option you might want to go for something under $1000 instead. Our under $500 guide features laptops with the NVIDIA GeForce 940M, AMD Radeon HD 8650G and AMD R6 / R5 integrated graphics. For under $600 you can also find laptops with NVIDIA GeForce GT 820M, which offers a pretty serious boost in performance at the expense of portability and battery life.

Mid-Level Gamers

Just like the budget market, the mid-range gaming laptop market has also exploded in recent years. Today for under $1000 you can get yourself a laptop capable of running virtually all modern titles at medium settings, a trend that is set to continue as modern hardware overtakes the demands of even the most intense new graphics engines on the market. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M based laptops come in comfortably under the $1000 mark and for under $1100 GeForce GTX 960M based laptops offer even better frame rates for next-gen titles. While you won’t quite be able to max out new games like the Witcher 3 on these machines, you will get a comfortable 30-40FPS on medium settings, which is more than playable for most users and with some performance tweaks you can find a nice balance without compromising on eye candy too much. While the next generation of NVIDIA cards are already out on the market, you will struggle to find a gaming laptop that features a GeForce GTX 1060 laptop edition for under $1000. Luckily there are both the GeForce GTX 1050 and the slightly more powerful GeForce GTX 1050 Ti which can now be found in a selection of laptops that are priced under $1000.

High-End Gamers

If you simply won’t settle with turning down your graphics and compromising on your gaming experience and you have the cash to blow, then it’s probably time to checkout our high-end gaming laptop guide. For under $2000, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M is the graphics setup to look out for. It will get a healthy 45 FPS for demanding titles such as the Witcher 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition on high settings. Still want more? The NVIDIA GTX 980M is currently the GPU of choice for $2000+ premium gaming laptops. It will squeeze an immersive 80FPS for the Witcher 3 at high settings. STILL not satisfied? Alright then. If you have $3000+ to spend and you’re ready to YOLO on your mobile gaming rig, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M SLI dual setup is the way to go. With a double up on the single 980M, this setup is capable of maxing out quite literally any current game on ultra settings at 100FPS+. If you want even more performance, then NVIDIA’s latest GeForce GTX 1070 and GeForce GTX 1080 laptop edition cards are worth looking out for. The GeForce GTX 1070 performs slightly better than the GTX 980M, while still being cheaper than the previous generation’s top of the line card. If you want a laptop that offers true future proofing, then the GeForce GTX 1080 is the graphics card that you want. The GeForce GTX 1080 scores 7% higher on 3DMark’s Fire Strike Graphics benchmark than the GTX 980M SLI setup, making it an extremely powerful card.

Hardware + Benchmarks

As we’ve outlined above hardware of your laptop, specifically the GPU, will make or break your laptop gaming experience.   We’ve rounded up the latest contenders from low-end to high-end along with links to relevant benchmarks powered by Notebookcheck  and CPUBenchmark so you can check them out yourself.

Best Laptop Graphics

Graphics power is the backbone of any gaming rig. While you get away with a relatively underpowered processor, there is simply no skimping when it comes to your GPU (graphics processing unit) if you hope to get the most value for money and the best gaming experience possible. AMD and NVIDIA are the two dominating forces currently shaping the market and they compete neck and neck with their technology. In the budget gaming graphics department AMD generally offers superior integrated graphics performance, whereas on higher end machines NVIDIA dedicated cards will usually take preference. The memory of your GPU is also an importer factor – the more memory the better, with higher end GPU’s starting with at least 2GB.

Budget GPU’s – Fastest to Slowest

Mid-Range GPU’s – Fastest to Slowest

High-End GPU’s  – Fastest to Slowest

For graphics processors that aren’t in this list checkout Notebookchecks full laptop graphics card comparison chart for a full list of all available laptop graphics cards on the market.

Best Gaming Laptop Processors

While not nearly as important for gaming as your GPU, your CPU (central processing unit) can still seriously affect gaming performance and should be your next biggest consideration after your graphics power. As above we have listed all current popular CPU’s in various price brackets to help you easily compare speeds based on available benchmarks. As with GPU’s, Intel and AMD are the big players here.

Budget CPU’s  – Fastest to Slowest

Mid-Range CPU’s – Fastest to Slowest

High-End CPU’s  – Fastest to Slowest

Gaming Laptops RAM Requirements

Although we haven’t focused too much on RAM (random access memory) yet, your laptops memory also plays a huge role in ensuring you get the optimal performance out of your CPU and GPU to prevent system bottlenecking. Having less than 8GB on a gaming rig can seriously hamper performance. Most RAM today is standardized DDR3 RAM, although not all RAM is equal and on high-end rigs you will find faster RAM. Although it’s not necessary to include benchmarks here, as a general rule 8GB of RAM is recommended as a minimum for gamers, with 16GB optimal for most high-end machines. Although some machines increase to over 16GB, this won’t necessarily increase performance unless you are doing some serious multitasking. For budget laptops that come with 4GB of RAM we recommend purchasing additional ramming and installing it yourself where possible.

Hard Drives

Most budget to mid-range laptops will offer standard HDDs (hard disk drives) with space varying from 500GB to 1TB upwards at a standard speed of 5400RPM. More high-end laptops may come with faster 7200RPM HDD’s and, ideally, SSDs (solid-state drives) which help prevent bottlenecking due to the data transfer speed when accessing your game files on your hard drive. Wherever possible, larger SSD’s are recommended, although SSD’s will only boost performance for files stored on the desk. This means you should install Windows and all of your games files on the SSD and keep media and other files on your regular hard drive. Depending on how many games you have you may need anywhere from a 128GB to a 512GB SSD to store all of your games, though larger SSD’s come with a serious price premium when it comes to laptops. As a general rule, 5400RPM hard drives are the slowest, 7200RPM are ideal for mid-range laptops, and high-end rigs should almost always include an SSD where possible.

Gaming Laptops Display & Screen Quality

The display quality of laptops vary drastically, with budget laptops generally suffering from inferior TN displays (Thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal) and more pricey machines coming with superior IPS displays (In-plane switching). All your really need to know minus the technical details is that as a rule TN displays suffer from poor viewing angles (when looking at your screen from the side) and inferior color reproduction compared to IPS displays, and in an ideal world all laptops would ship with IPS displays out the box. You will need to check reviews and feedback for each laptops display when doing your research, as not all displays are created equal and a below-par display can seriously hinder your gaming experience even if your hardware is the best there is. Often manufacturers will pack high performing hardware at the expensive of a poor quality screen.

The other coreelement of your display is your screen resolution. Modern budget gaming machines will generally come with a 1366 x 768 resolution, while more pricey alternatives will ship with a ‘full HD’ 1920 x 1080 resolution and a handful of laptops hitting the middle ground with a 1600 x 900 resolution. As always, bigger is generally better, although higher resolutions also require additional graphics power to run which is generally at the expense of your laptops portability and size. As always, some people are simply more-ish, and for these denizens we can now praise the new 4K resolution, which comes in at a whopping 3840 x 2160. While serious users living on the bleeding edge can look out for many new high-end 4K rigs at exorbitant prices, it’s also worth noting that most games are currently not fully optimized for 4k and the higher resolution will also wreak havoc on most mobile graphics cards with framerates suffering badly. At this stage of the game we’d only recommend going 4k if you plan on getting an SLI setup for your laptop, in which case enjoy you lucky bastard.

Although less important, there are also two different kinds of screen finishes – ‘matte’ and ‘gloss’ finishes. Matte screens are designed to provide the best viewing angles and reduce glare, where gloss screens provide much worse glare but generally provide more accurate color reproduction in optimal viewing conditions. For more on matte vs gloss displays checkout this article on HowToGeek.

Most gaming laptops come with screen sizes ranging from 15 inches to 17-inches, with a larger display being preferable for obvious reasons in order to create a more immersive gaming experience.

Design & Features

It’s great to talk about the ins and outs of laptop gaming hardware as if it’s the be all and all, but there is a another key element of the laptop mix that needs to be addressed too – design. As a general rule, most high-end gaming rigs are designed as a desktop replacement and as such are large, bulky, and, unless you are hitting the gym religiously, are bound to feel like a sack of bricks when carried around in your laptop case. Luckily there is still hope for portable users, with many leading manufacturers such as Alienware and Razer coming up with new 13-inch models aimed at striking a decent balance between portability and performance. Budget gamers are also in luck, as the integrated AMD graphics found in low-end gaming rigs means there is no dedicated graphics card to bulk things up. These budget AMD based rigs are general a lot more portable with better battery life’s than their high-end counterparts.

Other features worth noting are mechanical keyboards found in high-end gaming netbooks, such as SteelSeries partnership with MSI in their latest G-Series line-up  as well as backlit keyboards and other programmable LED lights for ensuring your opponents are ready to wet themselves if you ever head over to your friends house for a LAN or at your local Esports gaming tournament. While not a prereuqisite for a great gaming experience, these finishing touches can make or break your decision when comparing two similarly specced machines.

Happy gaming!
The LaptopNinja editorial team

By LaptopNinja Editorial Team

The LaptopNinja editorial team are dedicated to helping you choose the right laptop for your needs and spreading knowledge about everything tech. Founded in 2012, our motley crew of tech specialists spend countless hours every week scouring the best deals across the web to help save you time and money based on more than half a decade of experience researching and recommended the top value for money and high performing laptops on the planet.

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