Man playing game on laptop

The Best Gaming Laptops of 2021

By Austin Meadows Laptops2 Comments

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Whether you’re blasting away on Fortnite, blissfully building on Minecraft, or causing a ruckus on Rocket League, it’s nice to be able to game on the go. Today the best gaming laptops are better than ever, often rivaling the performance of their desktop counterparts.

As always, there are several factors to consider when you’re looking to buy one. Graphics, CPU, cooling, and memory are perhaps the most important considerations, but battery life and the physical size and weight also matter. You should also consider the kind of games you play: you don’t really need a $3000 laptop if you’re mostly playing Among Us or Old School Runescape

Finally, consider your budget. Unlike desktop PCs, gaming laptops are difficult to build yourself, so you’ll be unlikely to save money by going the DIY route. Instead, consider the specs you truly need to play the games you enjoy, and then search for a reasonably priced laptop with appropriate specs for those games.

There are many companies that build quality gaming laptops, with Razer, Dell, and MSI among the best of them. Based on our detailed research and analysis, these are our picks for the best gaming laptops of 2021.

Best Gaming Laptop: Razer Blade 15 Base
  • Weight: 4.6 lbs
  • Display: 15 inch 120Hz FHD
  • Battery Life: Up to 6 hours
  • Specs: Intel Core i7-10750H, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, NVIDIA RTX 3070

Best Budget Gaming Laptop: Dell G3 15
  • Weight: 5.2 lbs
  • Display: 15 inch 120Hz FHD
  • Battery Life: Up to 7 hours
  • Specs: Intel Core i7-10750H, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti

Best 17 Inch Gaming Laptop: Alienware M17 R4
  • Weight: 5.5 lbs
  • Display: 17 inch 360Hz FHD
  • Battery Life: Up to 2.5 hours
  • Specs: Intel Core i7-10870H, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, NVIDIA RTX 3070

Best Laptop for Gaming and Work: MSI GS66 Stealth
  • Weight: 4.6 lbs
  • Display: 15 inch 240Hz FHD
  • Battery Life: Up to 2.5 hours
  • Specs: Intel Core i7-10750H, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, NVIDIA RTX 2070 Max-Q

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Best Lightweight Gaming Laptop: Razer Blade Stealth 13
  • Weight: 3.3 lbs
  • Display: 13 inch 120Hz FHD
  • Battery Life: Up to 7 hours
  • Specs: Intel Core i7-1165G7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q

Best Gaming Laptop: Razer Blade 15 Base

Razer Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop 2021: Intel Core i7-10750H 6 Core, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070, 15.6' FHD 1080p 144Hz, 16GB, 512GB SSD - CNC Aluminum - Chroma RGB Lighting - Thunderbolt 3

For several years, the Razer Blade 15 has been one of the best-selling lines of gaming laptops, and it’s not hard to see why. The Blade 15 strikes a nice balance between performance and price, making it accessible to a wide variety of gamers and budgets.

Known for excellent build quality, it’s also quite slim at 0.78″ thick, and weighs 4.6lbs. This makes it the best thin gaming laptop, and helps propel it to the top of the list overall in our opinion.

The Razer Blade 15 is also a decidedly slick looking laptop. It has definite “gamer vibes,” but it’s still plain enough to use in a coffee shop or the office without looking like you just crawled out of a LAN party. The keyboard uses the signature Razer Chroma backlighting, an RGB color schematic that syncs with other Razer devices. Backlighting can also be turned off, which greatly simplifies the look of this model. 

The Blade 15 Base is available in a number of different configurations. All versions (of the Base model) use the same processor: the 10th-gen Intel i7-10750H. The main differences between the different configurations are in the graphics cards (RTX 3060, 3070 and 3080 are available), storage (512GB SSD vs 1TB SSD), and display (144Hz or 360Hz.)

For most gamers, the standard model will be sufficient, and that’s what we’re recommending here. This uses the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, a 512GB SSD, 144Hz FHD display, and 16GB of RAM. This is sufficient for most modern games at near-max settings. For serious gamers, however, the upgraded versions may be worth considering. 

The main downside of the Razer Blade 15 line is that the trackpads are known to be a bit finicky. Of course, most of the time you will likely be using a portable gaming mouse anyway, so this isn’t too big of a concern for most gamers.

Pros
  • Excellent build quality
  • Wide range of configurations
  • Strong gaming performance
  • Sleek, stylish design
  • Slim design
Cons
  • Trackpad can be finicky
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Best Budget Gaming Laptop: Dell G3 15

Dell G3 15

If you’re looking for the best cheap gaming laptop, look no further than the Dell G3 15. This budget-friendly model has adequate specs for casual gaming, along with solid battery life and a well-rounded build that makes it good general-purpose machine as well.

The Dell G3 15 uses the 10th-gen Intel i7-10750H processor, alongside NVIDIA GTX 1650 Ti graphics. 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD round out this solid entry-level machine. These specifications are usually sufficient for casual gaming at moderate settings, but you’re not going to be able to run modern games at max settings. 

The Dell G3 15 also makes for a good general-purpose machine because it doesn’t really look like a gaming laptop. Its simple design is as well suited to office or coffee shop use as it is to home gaming, and you won’t feel out of place editing documents, browsing the web, or doing other typical work/study tasks. 

Surprisingly, especially for Dell, the G3 15 doesn’t offer customizable configurations. The company has a few other models in a similar price range, however, with both the G5 15 and G15 also being solid options for anyone looking for a gaming laptop under $1000.

Pros
  • Subtle, sleek design
  • Affordable
  • Decent performance
  • Solid battery life
Cons
  • Only one configuration option

Best 17 Inch Gaming Laptop: Alienware M17 R4

Alienware M17 R4

For those who prefer a larger screen, the Alienware M17 R4 is perhaps the best 17” gaming laptop. The huge 17.3” FHD display has a 360Hz refresh rate, paired with NVIDIA-G SYNC technology for stunning visual performance. 

The base model of the M17 R4 comes with an Intel 10th-gen i7-10870H processor and GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card, along with 16GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. There are several configurations available, ranging all the way up to an i9-10980HK and RTX 3070. We recommend the mid-tier model, which includes the worthwhile upgrade to the RTX 3070, plus a doubling of SSD storage capacity to 512GB. 

Alienware’s advanced Cryo-Tech cooling system ensures a safe temperature range is maintained without excessive fan noise. This system, combined with the impressive specs (even on the base model) mean that you can run nearly any modern game with high-end performance. For even more speed, use the built-in Alienware Command Center to overclock instantly, temporarily boosting processing power. 

This is a powerful, beautiful machine. As you might expect, it’s a bit pricey, which is the only real drawback to this laptop.

Pros
  • 360Hz display refresh rate
  • Advanced cooling
  • High-end performance on almost any game
  • Five versatile configuration options
  • Easy overclocking
Cons
  • Pricey

Best Laptop for Gaming and Work: MSI GS66 Stealth

MSI GS66 Stealth

If you want to use just one laptop for work/school as well as gaming, the MSI GS66 Stealth is a great option. It’s an excellent gaming laptop, with the GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics card and a 10th-gen Intel Core i7 10750H.

It can run most modern games at mid-range or higher settings, although the graphics card may struggle to perform at max settings for some intensive games. The laptop is available in a variety of configurations, letting you tweak the specs to suit your needs and budget.

The thing is, it doesn’t look like a gaming laptop. That’s why they call it the Stealth, I guess. The simple, black design gives nothing away, making this laptop suitable for just about any task and location. Despite being fairly portable at 4.6lbs and .71” thick, it has the processing power to complete any work task you might face, even resource-heavy activities like video editing. 

This model is also priced very reasonably, given its specs. The only downside is the cooling fans, which are a bit on the noisy side. They typically only kick in during periods of high CPU demand, though, so while you may notice more noise while gaming, your fans won’t bother your coworkers while you’re checking email at the office.

Pros
  • Fairly portable
  • Discreet, simple design
  • Strong build quality
  • Affordably priced
Cons
  • Noticeable fan noise at times

Best Lightweight Gaming Laptop: Razer Blade Stealth 13

Razer Blade Stealth 13 Ultrabook Gaming Laptop: Intel Core i7-1165G7 4 Core, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q, 13.3' 1080p 120Hz, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, CNC Aluminum, Chroma RGB, Thunderbolt 4

Many gaming laptops are downright bulky, weighing four, five or even six pounds. If you’re planning to move around and use your laptop outside the house, this can become a problem. On the flip side, you have models like the Razer Blade Stealth 13, which weighs in at just 3.26 lbs. The compact design and durable yet lightweight aluminum frame helps make it the best thin and light gaming laptop on the market today. 

This is an ultrabook-style laptop with gaming-ready specs. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q graphics card is suitable for both light gaming and content creation, while the 120Hz FHD display makes games look great despite the smaller 13” screen. 

The default model has a 1080p display with that 120Hz refresh rate. You can also opt for an OLED touchscreen display, with resolution up to 4K UHD. This touch screen model drops the refresh rate to 60Hz, however, and bumps the price up substantially. 

Impressive battery life also bolsters the versatility of this computer, particularly with the standard display. Overall, it’s perhaps the best portable gaming laptop on the market, at least as long as you aren’t playing the latest and greatest titles.

The downside? It’s rather expensive, especially considering its moderate gaming specs. For a similar price, gamers could opt for a 15″ model with equal or better specs. With this model, you really are paying a premium for portability.

Pros
  • 13″ ultrabook style with gaming specs
  • Lightweight
  • Up to 4k resolution
  • Durable aluminum frame
Cons
  • Expensive for its specs
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Main image via Shutterstock, product images via Dell, MSI, and Amazon

About the Author
Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows

Austin is a digital nomad with a passion for exploring alternative lifestyles and testing the latest technological innovations. Rarely under the same roof for long, when he's not sampling wine and cheese in Bulgaria or downloading the latest travel app, you can find him running, gaming, or cooking up something delicious.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    This is a great list of laptops although I noticed that there were no laptops with Ryzen 5000 series processors even though they absolutely crush their intel counterparts in all stress tests and games, along with being a lot more power-efficient.

    1. Dave Dean

      Yeah, gaming manufacturers have been a bit slow to release models with Ryzen 5000 processors, but we’re now starting to see a few show up. If you’re happy with a 14″ screen, you might want to check out Razer’s Blade 14, which has a Ryzen 9 5900HX chip inside. It’s currently a bit more expensive than either the Blade 15 or Blade Stealth 13, which is why it’s not on this list at the moment, but a decent price drop compared to those models in the future will likely change that.

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