Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024


Gaming laptops are the perfect combination of power and portability, allowing gamers to enjoy their favorite titles anywhere. If you’re looking to take gaming on the road or don’t want a computer tower taking up space, there are many great and powerful laptops for various budgets.


UPDATE: 10/19/2023

We’ve reviewed our recommendations and have updated our picks for the best budget, the best under $500, the best under $1000, and the best overall gaming laptops. Check it out!

What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop in 2023

Gaming laptops aren’t cheap, even if you come across great deals on occasion. Not only do they need to pack in a bunch of powerful hardware, but they also need to be durable, reliable, and boast a build that can take a beating after years of unforgiving travel.

However, having the option to play all your favorite games wherever you go can’t be understated—and the convenience of gaming laptops continues to make them one of the most popular products for PC gaming.

Unfortunately, shopping for a gaming laptop isn’t nearly as easy as gaming on one. Hundreds of models have flooded the market over the past few years, and there’s no shortage of marketing jargon to cut through before you can compare different models. However, understanding a few key aspects of a good laptop will make finding the perfect gaming laptop a breeze.

Above all else, pay close attention to the graphics processing unit (GPU) on your prospective rig. If it boasts a GeForce RTX 40 series GPU, you’ll likely have a device running popular games for years to come. You’ll also want to look for at least an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, as these are powerful enough to play just about all of today’s most demanding releases.

Keep in mind that mobile versions of GPUs are not the same as their desktop counterparts, even if the name is identical. For example, a mobile RTX 4070 Ti has a performance closer to a desktop RTX 4060 Ti. While the difference isn’t huge, it is there if you compare your gaming rig directly to a gaming laptop.

Buying a laptop with a high-end GPU and processor isn’t cheap, so you’ll need to consider your budget carefully. We wouldn’t recommend spending too much on a gaming laptop, as they often feature components that can’t be upgraded, meaning you’ll be purchasing a new rig sooner than you think. This is wildly different from gaming desktop PCs, which allow you to swap out individual components as needed.

Another important factor with modern gaming laptops is the GPU’s TDP (Thermal Design Power) rating. Two laptops may have the same GPU on paper, but the one with higher TDP will perform better. So be sure to look for benchmarks for any laptop you’re considering to ensure it plays your favorite games adequately.

If your game library consists of just a handful of games, you can save a few bucks by opting for a laptop without much internal storage space. Alternatively, you can purchase an external SSD or HDD to house a growing catalog. The best option is always internal storage, as it loads games faster than external solutions, but these often carry higher price tags.

In short, pay close attention to your prospective gaming laptop’s GPU, processor, and SSD. Remember that you’ll probably need to make a few compromises unless you’re willing to break the bank.

There are plenty of other aspects to consider when buying a gaming laptop, but the five products below offer the best combination of performance, pricing, and reliability for their respective category.

How Did We Research

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How-To Geek’s product recommendations come from the same team of experts that have helped people fix their gadgets over one billion times. We only recommend the best products based on our research and expertise. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product. Read More »

Lenovo Legion Pro 7i Gen 8
Lenovo

Pros

Cons

Fantastic 240Hz screen on all configurations

Battery life isn’t the best

Per-key RGB backlit keyboard

Can be loud

Excellent performance for the price

Design is subtler than other gaming laptops

A great gaming laptop isn’t just about performance—if it was, you’d buy a desktop PC and call it a day. A great gaming laptop needs a solid build, a fast, reliable screen, and enough ports to let you plug in any peripherals you want to use. The Lenovo Legion Pro 7i Gen 8 easily meets all of those criteria and then some.

You can spend quite a bit on the Legion Pro 7i, depending on which hardware specifications you choose, but the base configuration isn’t too pricey and is quite formidable in the hardware department. You get an Intel i9-13900HX CPU, which features eight Performance cores and 16 Efficiency cores for a total of 24 cores and 32 threads. For graphics power, you also get an NVIDIA RTX 4070 GPU, as well as 16GB DDR5 RAM, and a 1TB M.2 SSD.

Unlike some other gaming laptops, choosing the basic configuration doesn’t mean you’re stuck with an inferior screen. Regardless of which configuration you choose, you get the same display: a 16-inch, HDR-capable IPS display with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and a refresh rate of up to 240Hz. The display is non-touch and features a maximum SDR brightness of 500 nits.

As with any gaming laptop worth its salt, you get an RGB backlit keyboard, in this case with per-key RGB lighting. You also get a fair number of ports, including two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports that support DisplayPort and USB power delivery. These are joined by a pair of USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, and a proper wired Ethernet port.

If you want to push beyond the basic configuration, you can upgrade the GPU, RAM, and storage, but the CPU remains the same across every option. While the RTX 4070 is capable, you can upgrade to either a 4080 or even a 4090. You can also max out the RAM at 32GB and the storage at 2TB.

Lenovo Legion Pro 7i Gen 8

Lenovo Legion Pro 7i Gen 8

Best Gaming Laptop Overall

With plenty of portable power and an understated, professional look, the Lenovo Legion Pro 7i Gen 8 is the perfect laptop to use for work during the day and then kick back with the newest games at the day’s end.

Acer Nitro 16
Acer

Pros

Cons

DLSS 3 brings major performance gains

Plenty of pre-installed bloatware

Bright, colorful 165Hz display

Solid performance

Excellent port selection

In many cases, choosing a budget gaming laptop means being comfortable with a few significant sacrifices, whether modern game compatibility or stable frame rates. The Acer Nitro 16 Gaming Laptop does make a few tradeoffs, but the gaming performance is so good— especially with modern games—that you won’t end up caring about those few areas where it’s lacking.

We’re looking at the base configuration of the Nitro 16, and at first glance, the hardware specs aren’t exactly mind-blowing. You get an Intel i5-13500H CPU and a GeForce RTX 4050 GPU, which doesn’t look as impressive on paper as the RTX 3060 the Nitro 16’s predecessor shipped with. These are paired with 8GB DDR5 RAM and a 512GB SSD.

The Nitro 16’s real party trick comes in the form of DLSS 3, introduced with NVIDIA’s 40-series cards. In supported games like Cyberpunk 2077, this can lead to massive frame rate gains, even at higher settings and with ray tracing included. The downside is that many games don’t support DLSS 3, but more are adding support for this key feature over time.

Unlike previous Nitro models, which left you to guess the screen size, the Nitro 16 does indeed feature a 16-inch screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1600. This screen features a refresh rate of up to 165Hz, something that may seem like overkill at first, but with the frame rate gains from DLSS 3, you may find games hitting that limit more often than you’d initially expect.

While the Intel version of the Acer Nitro 16 limits you to a simple RAM upgrade, opting for the AMD version of the Nitro 16 opens up several options. This lets you pair the Ryzen 7 CPU with up to an RTX 4070 GPU for even more gaming power.

Acer Nitro 16

Acer Nitro 16 (2023)

Best Budget Gaming Laptop

$950 $1200 Save $250

While it may not look so impressive on paper, the Acer Nitro 16 delivers fantastic gaming performance, even with the most affordable configuration. For modern games on a budget, there aren’t many better choices.

Best Gaming Laptop Under $1000: Acer Nitro 5

Acer Nitro 5
Acer

Pros

Cons

Great performance for the price

The touchpad isn’t great

144Hz refresh rate

Good keyboard

It’s easy to spend thousands of dollars in the quest for the perfect gaming laptop, but not everyone wants to spend this type of money. One of the easiest ways to snag a bargain laptop with all the power you want is to buy a slightly older model, like the Acer Nitro 5. It may be older than the Nitro 16, but it’s actually more powerful in certain regards.

The CPU in the Nitro 5 is an Intel Core i5-12500H, currently one generation old but still plenty powerful. Combine it with the GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Laptop GPU, and you’ve got a laptop that won’t shy away from most modern games. It also has plenty of memory and storage, with 16GB RAM and a 512GB Gen 4 SSD.

The screen is a 15.6-inch full-HD IPS model with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz. The slightly lower resolution combined with the power of the 3050 Ti graphics card means that you’ll often see performance near or even surpassing the newer model, at least in situations where the Nitro 16 can’t make use of the advantages of DLSS 3.

You’ll find a port for nearly anything you can think of on the Nitro 5. You get a Thunderbolt 4 port with support for USB charging, as well as a USB-C 3.2 port that features DisplayPort. You also get older-style USB-A ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, and a wired Ethernet port.

If you’re looking to save a little money, you can opt for a somewhat lower-spec version of the Nitro 5 that only has an RTX3050 card and 8GB DDR4 RAM. That said, the main configuration we’re looking at here will provide the most bang for your buck.

Acer Nitro 5

Acer Nitro 5

Best Gaming Laptop Under $1000

$785 $900 Save $115

The Acer Nitro 5 may be a generation old at this point, but it’s still a fantastic gaming laptop, even compared to the newer competition. Generation-old hardware may be more affordable, but it will last you for years to come.

HP Pavilion 15.6
HP

Pros

Cons

Good hardware performance for the price

Integrated graphics only

Plenty of RAM and storage

Sleek-looking build

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop under $500, you will need to adjust your expectations somewhat. You’re certainly not going to be running modern games with ray tracing, but there are plenty of powerful low-cast laptops out there that can outperform your expectations. For a great example, look no further than the HP Pavilion 15.6”.

To get this out of the way, this model doesn’t feature a dedicated GPU, instead using integrated graphics. That said, instead of focusing on what you don’t get, focus on what you do, like the AMD Ryzen 5 5500U processor. This is still quite powerful, especially at this price, and when you combine it with 16GB RAM and 512GB of storage, you’re looking at a capable laptop for the price.

The screen isn’t going to have you tossing your dedicated monitor in the trash, but again, for the price, it’s impressive. As the name implies, it has a 15.6-inch display with a full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1080. You don’t get a super-high refresh rate or HDR, but you do get a fairly respectable brightness of 250 nits.

The Radeon integrated graphics in the Ryzen 5 5500U are undoubtedly the weak point when it comes to modern games, but for casual and older games, it may do better than you expected. If you’re looking to run an older game that still has plenty of players, like Final Fantasy XIV, this laptop will do quite well.

For modern games, things get trickier, but this laptop is more than quick enough to use cloud gaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming or NVIDIA’s GeForce Now. Especially for games that don’t require the absolute fastest reaction times, you may be surprised at how much gaming you can get done for such a low price.

HP Pavilion 15.6

HP Pavilion 15.6-inch

Best Gaming Laptop Under $500

$450 $483 Save $33

The integrated graphics don’t make the HP Pavilion 15.6-inch the best option for modern games, but the powerful CPU and plenty of RAM will work great for older games. Plus, this is a great pick for game streaming services.

TimeSpy 3DMark Benchmark running on the Razer Blade 18
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

Pros

Cons

The Intel Core i9-13950HX is a beast

Expensive

Plenty of connection ports

Opposite of travel-friendly

2.5Gbps LAN, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3

The keyboard’s cramped

Top-notch build quality

Software-related display issues

Available with four different RTX 4000 GPUs

Enough power to be a proper desktop replacement

Top tier speakers with THX Spatial Audio

Brilliant display overall

The best gaming laptops blend performance with mobility—as such, the 15.6-inch form factor that many of our choices conform to is the most popular. However, there’s no denying that a bigger laptop means a bigger (and often better) screen, so the extra size can be worth the extra bulk.

When it comes to a great bigger laptop, you can’t go wrong with the 2023 model of the Razer Blade 18. As the name may suggest, this is even bigger than a 17-inch laptop, with a brilliant 18-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio, 2560 x 1600 resolution, 240Hz refresh rate, and up to 500 nits of maximum brightness.

But despite having the bigger screen, the laptop’s overall form factor manages to be smaller than many 17-inch laptops, thanks to thin bezels cutting down on the Blade 18’s total size. You don’t need to worry about the thin bezels making the laptop more fragile, though, as the all-aluminum chassis has top-notch build quality.

Looking at the CPU and the GPU, you’ve got the flagship Intel Core i9-13950HX CPU that will handle any task you throw at it, combined with a selection of RTX 4000 GPUs ranging from the RTX 4060 to the flagship RTX 4090.

While the Razer Blade 18 is expensive, it’s packed with features that justify the price. In this laptop, you get a computer that balances strong GPU and CPU for a multimedia extravaganza. That, coupled with an incredible speaker system, refresh rates of 240Hz, and a QHD+ resolution, makes it perfect for consuming (or creating) all forms of media.

Of course, no laptop is perfect, and the Razer Blade 18 is no exception. Downsides include less than stellar battery life, a cramped keyboard, and a bulky form factor—no amount of bezel shaving can make this laptop particularly portable.

razer blade 18
Razer

Razer Blade 18

Best 17-inch Gaming Laptop

$2699 $2900 Save $201

The 2023 Razer Blade 18 packs a flagship Intel CPU, a selection of RTX 4000 mobile GPUs, a brilliant 18-inch screen, lots of ports and storage, and a slick aluminum body.



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By John P.

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