Gaming on the go has never been easier. Here are our pick of the best gaming laptops for every budget
Now that the latest Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series and AMD Radeon RX7000 graphics cards have made their way into portable PCs, the best gaming laptops are more powerful than ever. And now, thanks to the latest upscaling technology from Nvidia (DLSS3) and AMD (FSR3), they can deliver triple-digit frame rates when running AAA games, even at high detail levels.
These new GPUs represent a significant step up in performance, meaning gaming laptops housing them offer an authentic next-generation experience, complete with stunning graphics and super-smooth frame rates. In addition to that supreme performance, we’re now seeing more console exclusives being ported to PC, while Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass for PC gives players the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of premium titles for a monthly fee.
That combination of factors means there’s no better time to buy one of the best gaming laptops and join the huge community of PC gamers. You could, of course, build your own desktop gaming setup, but if you want to play your games on the go, then buying one of the best gaming laptops is the way forward.
Best laptops: At a glance
|Best gaming laptop overall||Asus ROG Strix Scar 16||Check price at Amazon|
|Best value big-screen gaming laptop||Acer Nitro 17 (2023)||Check price at Acer|
|Best budget gaming laptop||Medion Erazer Crawler E40||Check price at Currys|
|Best mid-price gaming laptop||Asus TUF A16 Advantage Edition||Check price at Very|
How to choose the best gaming laptop for you
There are a number of things to consider when buying one of the best gaming laptops. Below, you will find a checklist of the key features to look out for along with an explanation as to why they’re so important.
GPU: The graphics processing unit (GPU) is a gaming laptop’s single most important component. As the name suggests, GPUs handle the manipulation of graphics and image processing. When buying a gaming laptop, you want to look for a device that features a dedicated GPU rather than one that is built on the same die as the processor.
Nvidia is the big name to look for in GPU manufacturing, while AMD also produces some potent graphics chips. Generally, the higher the model number in a product line, the better performance you can expect. For example, Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 4080 is superior to the RTX 4070, while the RTX 4090 is better than both. The same is true of the AMD 7600S and 7700S.
Remember that despite the same name, portable GPUs are less powerful than their desktop brethren. Case in point: The laptop GeForce RTX 4090 is less potent than the desktop version.
You need to watch for TGP levels, too (Total Graphics Power). A laptop running an Nvidia RTX 4050 with a TGP of 75W won’t be able to run games as quickly as one with a TGP of 140W. Laptop makers are not always upfront with GPU power levels, so we always check them.
Processor: A laptop’s central processing unit or CPU is another core component. CPU power is measured in GHz and dictates how quickly a laptop retrieves information and executes commands. Newer processors with a greater number of cores and a higher max clock speed are more effective at running multiple processes simultaneously. Pretty much every decent gaming laptop houses a CPU made by either Intel or AMD.
RAM: Random Access Memory (RAM) is your gaming laptop’s short-term data storage and the more your device has available, the better. For gaming laptops, you will want 8GB RAM at an absolute minimum, though we recommend 16GB if your budget allows.
Storage: The more storage your gaming laptop has the better. Given the size of many modern games, some of which can easily take up over 100GB, a Solid State Drive (SSD) of 1TB or above is what you should be looking for. Most gaming laptops let you add a second SSD, but some do not. We always try to open up our review samples to see if there’s an option to upgrade the storage, add to it, and increase the memory.
Display: Your gaming laptop could house extremely powerful internal components, but they would be wasted if your device doesn’t have a display capable of doing them justice. You will want a display with at least Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080p) although QHD+ (2,560 x 1,600) is better yet, while 4K displays (3,840 x 2,160p) are starting to become more common but are significantly more expensive.
Bear in mind that your GPU needs to be pretty powerful if it’s to render graphics at playable framerates at native 4K resolution, although upscaling systems such as DLSS3 and FSR3 are starting to make 4K gaming a possibility with mid-range GPUs.
Pay attention to the display’s refresh rate, too, as this dictates how many frames per second it can display. Refresh rates are measured in Hz, with a higher figure resulting in smoother onscreen action. Budget gaming laptops often only have 144Hz displays. Pay a little more and you’ll get 165Hz. High-end machines should offer at least 240Hz or sometimes even 360Hz or 480Hz though these are really only necessary if you are a hardcore eSports competitor.
If you want a good HDR gaming experience you’ll need one of the latest Mini-LED displays that feature Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) for the super-bright high contrast display. OLED gaming laptops are not a thing right now but there are some multi-purpose machines with OLED displays and discrete GPUs.
Lastly, consider the size of the display. Traditional 15.6in machines are now being superseded by 16in models with a 16:10 rather 16:9 aspect ratio which gives games more on-screen room. Similarly, at the top end, 17.3in 16:9 models are being replaced by 18in 16:10 machines. The larger the display the more screen real estate but the heavier the device becomes.
Connectivity: You’ll always want to connect headphones, keyboards, mice to a gaming laptop so a good selection of ports is more important than with regular machines.Keep an eye out for Thunderbolt 4 and USB-C 4.0 spec USB-C ports here and, if you plan on connecting your laptop to an external monitor, make sure the USB-C ports support DisplayPort video output. All gaming laptops have an HDMI video output but sometimes they can’t deliver the full potential frame rate whereas DisplayPort always can.
Keyboard: If you’re not using an external controller, a gaming laptop’s keyboard becomes an extremely important feature. Most gamers favour mechanical keyboards over their membrane counterparts as they’re more precise and tactile.
Keyboards are also where a lot of gaming laptop manufacturers like to incorporate some form of RGB lighting. This adds a colourful twist to your device and many allow you to customise the colours of each key individually. While far from a necessity, those who want a personalised portable gaming experience will want to ensure their gaming laptop sports RGB lighting in some form.
Battery life: If gaming laptops have one big weakness, it’s battery life. The power required to run demanding games means they won’t last very long when not plugged into the mains. This isn’t a big deal if you’re going to spend most of your time gaming at your desk but it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re looking for a device to use portably.
How much should I spend on a gaming laptop?
Gaming laptops don’t come cheap. The powerful internal components needed to run AAA titles mean that even budget options will set you back around £1,000. Very few machines worth owning cost much below that figure. There are a couple of exceptions, though, so choose carefully if you want a satisfying gaming experience but are strapped for cash.
Decent mid-range options tend to cost in the region of £1,200 to £2,000, while premium devices designed for gamers who want top-end specifications and all the bells and whistles can expect to pay anything between £2,000 and £4,500.
How we test gaming laptops
A gaming laptop isn’t all that much different from a regular laptop, so the core part of our testing stays the same. We test using our own benchmarking tools, plus a mix of third party benchmarking tools to give a balanced view of overall performance. We also test display quality in the same way, using an X-rite colorimeter, and we test battery life by playing a video on loop in VLC until the battery dies.
For gaming laptops, however, we also make sure we run a series of gaming benchmark tests. Our core test titles are Metro Exodus, Cyberpunk 2077, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Returnal, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Serious Sam 4 and Hitman 2 but we also run the Car Chase test in the GFXBench test so we have data for cross-platform comparisons.
Of course, no gaming laptop review would be complete without actually using it to play our favourite titles; this way we can assess how good other aspects are, such as the speakers and webcam, the keyboard and the touchpad, the range of ports and their locations, plus other features such as RGB keyboard backlighting and game launchers.
READ MORE: Best budget gaming laptops
The best gaming laptops you can buy in 2023
1. Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 (2023): Best gaming laptop overall
Price when reviewed: £3,400 | Check price at Amazon
In both looks and performance, the ROG Strix Scar 16 is the doyen of gaming laptops. Gaming performance is stunning thanks to a 175W GeForce RTX 4080 GPU and it’s stonkingly fast in every other way, courtesy of a 24-core Core i9-13980HX processor, 16GB of RAM and lightning-fast Raid0 SSD storage. In the Expert Reviews’ 4K multimedia benchmark test, it scored 632, which is frankly stunning.
The display is the icing on an already imposing cake. The 2,560 x 1,600 Nebula HDR screen has a 1,042 zone Mini-LED lighting array which gives near-OLED levels of contrast and HDR brightness peaks of over 1,000cd/m2. The screen also supports wide colour and is very colour-accurate. With a response time of just 3ms, the display also demonstrates excellent motion handling with very little ghosting or smearing.
Battery life is not bad for a hardcore gaming laptop at 5hrs 30mins, the keyboard is top-notch and comes with per-key RGB lighting, the speaker system is loud and bassy, and it’s a cinch to whip the bottom off and add more memory or storage. It may not be cheap but it is supremely capable and hugely desirable.
Read our full Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 review
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i9-13980HX; Display size: 16in; RAM: 16GB; Display: 2,560 x 1,440 Mini-LED IPS; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080; Refresh rate: 240Hz; Storage: 1TB SSD; Dimensions: 354 x 264 x 30mm (WDH);Weight: 2.6kg
2. Acer Nitro 17: Best affordable big-screen gaming laptop.
Price when reviewed: £1,349 | Check price at Acer
If you want as much screen real estate as possible for as little money as possible, the entry-level Nitro 17 is just what you’ve been looking for. For £1,349, you get an RTX 4050 GPU with a maxed-out 140W TGP, a Raptor Lake Core i5-13500H CPU and 16GB of RAM, which is a combination easily able to deliver reliable 1080p gaming performance.
The GPU’s efforts are piped to a 144Hz 17.3in Full HD IPS screen that is bright, colourful and very colour-accurate. Motion handling is good thanks to a display overdrive feature, and you get Nvidia’s G-Sync and Advanced Optimus auto-MUX system, which are far from a given at this price. The speaker system is also much better than you might expect.
The Nitro 17 has a primarily plastic chassis but it’s well-made and solid, while the keyboard is excellent and comes complete with emboldened WASD, full-size cursor and Nitro Sense CP-launch keys. Storage is a little on the low side at 512GB, but you can easily remove the bottom panel to access a pair of SSD bays and you can increase the RAM to a maximum of 32GB as well.
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-13500H; GPU: Nvidia RTX 4050; RAM: 16GB; Display size: 17.3in; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080: Display Type: IPS 144Hz; Storage: 512GB SSD; Dimensions: 400 x 251 x 29mm (WDH); Weight: 3.3kg
3. Alienware m16: The most customisable gaming laptop
Price when reviewed: £2,110 | Check price at Dell
When ordering an Alienware m16, you can choose from three CPUs (two Intel, one AMD), five GPUs (four Nvidia, one AMD), four levels of RAM, seven storage options, three different displays and an optional mechanical keyboard (although only in US-layout) and prices start from a highly reasonable £1,699 and run to a stratospheric £4,670. No other laptop manufacturer offers anything like that degree of choice in specifications and price.
The machine we were sent to test paired an Nvidia RTX 4070 GPU with an AMD Ryzen 9 7845HX CPU and a 2,560 x 1,600 240Hz display, which proved to be an impressive and potent gaming combination for £2,110. The screen boasts expansive colour reproduction and excellent motion handling with little ghosting. The speaker system is positively thunderous, which can lead to some distortion at maximum volume but there’s plenty of bass to make up for that.
The m16 is stylish in a typical Alienware way and comes complete with per-key RGB lighting and a bright LED strip around the rear port array. It’s well made and solid, too, although at 3.3kg, it is on the heavy side. The big drawback is the dismal battery life. Our standard video rundown test drained the 86Wh battery in less than three and a half hours.
Read our full Alienware m16 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 7845HX; Graphics: Nvidia RTX4090; RAM: 32GB; Display size: 16in; Resolution: 2,560 x 1,660; Type: IPS 240Hz; Storage: 1TB; Dimensions: 369 x 290 x 25mm (WDH); Weight: 3.3kg
4. Medion Erazer Crawler E40: Best budget gaming laptop
Price when reviewed: £799 | Check price at Currys
While it’s perfectly possible to buy a gaming laptop for less than £1,000, the odds are that some part of it will be severely sub-par. Shockingly, not only is the new Medion Erazer Crawler E40 devoid of any major faults, but you can easily pick it up for under £800, which represents stunning value.
For your money, you get a decent 144Hz 15.6in display that (for the price) is very colourful and colour-accurate. Ther’s an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU inside with a TGP of 100W, 16GB of RAM and an Intel Core i5 Core i5-12450H CPU which, if not the latest word in CPU tech, is hardly ancient. There’s also a good array of I/O ports and 6GHz Wi-Fi. All that tech is wrapped up in a smart and solid case topped off with a good-quality keyboard with a single-zone RGB backlight.
Of course, the E40 isn’t perfect. While there is space for a second SSD, the connectors are missing; the battery life is poor, with the 52Wh pack lasting just under 4 hours. The sequential write speed of the Phison SSD in our test machine was low, too, at just 837MB/sec. Those niggles aside, nothing else comes close to the E40 for the price.
Read our full Medion Erazer Crawler E40 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-12450H; Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050; RAM: 16GB; Display size: 15.6in, Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080: Display Type: IPS 144Hz; Storage: 512GB; Dimensions: 361 x 241 x 28 (WDH); Weight: 2.3kg
5. Asus ROG Zephyrus M16: Best gaming laptop for power users
Price when reviewed: £4,099| Check price at Asus
Describing the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 runs the risk of running out of superlatives. With an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU under the hood, plus an Intel Core i9-13900H CPU and 2TB of fast storage, it’s arguably the most powerful laptop on the market. It is capable of epic – nay, astonishing – feats of performance. The SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D modelling test ran at 195fps at 1080p, a feat only Alienware’s truly monstrous m18 can (almost) match.
This laptop’s 16in, 2,560 x 1,600 Nebula HDR display has a Mini-LED backlight and can top the 1,000cd/m2 mark in HDR playback and there’s colour aplenty with 97.2% coverage of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and excellent colour accuracy. Compared to Asus’ ROG Strix Scar 16, this laptop looks more grown-up and has a far superior 1080p webcam with facial recognition security.
The last superlative has to be reserved for price: £4,099 is a heck of a price for a laptop, no matter how good (although we have seen it for as low as £3,199 at times). Only this and poor battery life lets it down, the M16 spluttering and dying after five and a quarter hours in our video rundown test.
Read our full Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i9-13900H; Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090; RAM: 16GB; Display size: 16in; Resolution: 2,560 x 1,600; Type: Mini-LED 240Hz; Storage: 2TB; Dimensions: 355 x 246 x 23mm (WDH); Weight: 2.3kg
6. Asus TUF A16 Advantage Edition: Best mid-price gaming laptop
Price when reviewed: £1,199 (Ryzen 7 model); £1,399 (Ryzen 9) | Check price at Very
If you see the words Advantage Edition on a laptop, it means you’re getting a machine with an AMD CPU and GPU. AMD reckons this delivers a level of integration you just don’t get from attaching an Intel and an Nvidia GPU to the motherboard and hoping for the best. AMD Smart Access Memory is one of the headline features of this integration, allowing the CPU to access the video RAM when needed to aid performance.
The result in the A16 is a nicely balanced package with strong gaming performance from the 95W RX 7600S GPU, especially in titles that support AMD’s new FSR3 upscaling technology. The 16in QHD+ display is impressive, with good motion handling and plenty of colour and the speaker system isn’t half bad either, pumping out a balanced and pleasant sound with plenty of bass.
The TUF A16 also offers good battery life (over 8hrs 30mins in our tests), the option to add a second SSD and more RAM post-purchase, and is MIL-STD-810H-rated, so it should shrug off the odd knock. It also comes with a USB 4.0-spec USB-C port, which makes up for the typical lack of Thunderbolt 4 on AMD laptops. The keyboard is typical Asus TUF, which means very good, and the whole package doesn’t look overly “gamey”, making it perfect for serious work, too.
Key specs – Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS; Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 7600S; RAM: 16GB; Display size: 16in; Display resolution: 2,560 x 1,600: Display Type: IPS 240Hz; Storage: 1TB; Dimensions: 355 x 252 x 27mm (WDH); Weight: 2.2kg
7. Alienware m18: Best big screen gaming laptop
Price: £3,429 | Check price at Dell
“Desktop replacement” is a phrase bandied about with rather too much abandon, but the monstrous Alienware m18 genuinely deserves that epithet. Not only does it perform like a desktop, it weighs about the same: a whopping 4kg. Performance from the Intel Core i9-13900HX and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 silicon is similarly epic, while physically the m18 is in equal parts imposing and impressive, and has a great selection of I/O ports.
The m18 is not available in as many iterations as its m16 sibling because the AMD models are currently US-only. However, you can still choose from a wide selection of Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs, which makes the price of entry much lower than the 18in competition from Razer and Asus ROG. The keyboard is a cracker, complete with full-sized numeric and cursor keys and per-key RGB lighting, while the speakers are excellent.
The display has wide colour representation, sheer size and excellent motion handling on its side, but it isn’t particularly bright, maxing out at 313cd/m2, and the only options are QHD+ 165Hz and Full HD 480Hz. I’d have liked the former to run at 240Hz to make the best use of the frame rates the GPU can produce. It’s a small niggle though, that doesn’t knock the shine off a hugely impressive, and, indeed, huge bit of kit.
Read our full Alienware m18 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i9 13900HX; Graphics: Nvidia RTX 4090; RAM: 32GB; Display size: 18in; Display resolution: 2,560 x 1,600; Display Type: IPS 165Hz; Storage: 1TB; Dimensions: 410 x 320 x 27mm (WDH); Weight: 4kg
8. Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip: Best Gaming Chromebook
Price: £699 | Check price at Amazon
A Chromebook for gaming? Have they gone mad? No, they haven’t. The idea behind the Gaming Chromebook concept is to build an affordable machine with the connectivity and display quality to take full advantage of the latest game streaming services like GeForce NOW and Xbox Cloud Gaming rather than build a ChromeOS laptop with a powerful GPU buried inside. The clue to the CX34’s gaming ambitions can be seen in the bright red WASD keys.
A 2-in-1 convertible design, the Vibe CX34 is built around a 14in 1,920 x 1,200 IPS touchscreen running at a 144Hz maximum refresh rate. As well as handling motion brilliantly, the CX34’s panel is also very bright and colourful. In all ways, it does full justice to the latest gaming titles, which, thanks to that 16:10 format, looks more spacious than you’d expect, given the size of the panel.
Inside the Vibe CX34, you’ll find an Intel Core i5-1235U, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, but you can have a Core i7-1255U version if you need more power. That hardware is enough to run demanding Linux apps and stream games, providing your wireless connection is up to snuff. Connectivity is good with two USB-C, one USB-A port and 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E and the battery life is excellent. Weighing just 1.8kg and certified to meet MIL-STD-810H this is a fascinating take on the concept of the gaming laptop.
Read our full Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 review for more details
Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-1235U; Graphics: Iris XE; RAM: 8GB; Display size: 14in; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,200; Display Type: IPS 144Hz; Storage: 256GB; Dimensions: 320 x 235 x 21mm (WDH); Weight: 1.8kg