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Best gaming laptop 2021: The fastest and most portable gaming laptops you can buy

Andy White
19 Jan 2022

Gaming on the go has never been easier. Here are our pick of the best gaming laptops for every budget

Now that Nvidia's GeForce RTX 30-series graphics chips have made their way to portable computers, the best gaming laptops are more powerful than ever.

Nvidia's new GPUs represent a significant step up in performance from the RTX 20-series, meaning gaming laptops housing them offer a true next-gen experience, complete with stunning graphics and super-smooth framerates.

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.

Our team of experts are regularly testing the latest and greatest gaming devices and you'll find our pick of the best gaming laptops listed below. Each has undergone an extensive range of benchmarking tests, which include our in-house 4K processing test, read and write speed tests, graphical tests and a battery rundown test.

Before we jump into our list of the best gaming laptops on the market right now, we've put together a handy buying guide detailing all the things you should take into consideration before splashing out on new gaming hardware.

READ MORE: The best laptops money can buy | Best PC gaming headsets | The best budget gaming laptops

The best gaming laptops: At a glance

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'll 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 at the processor.

Nvidia is the big name to look for in GPU manufacturing, while AMD also produces some very powerful graphics chips. As a general rule, the higher the model number in a product line, the better performance you can expect. For example, Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3080 is superior to the cheaper RTX 3060.

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 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'll 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. A Solid State Drive (SSD) of 512GB or above is enough for most people but consider a device with more storage if you don't want to have to delete games to make room for new ones.

Display: Your gaming laptop could house extremely powerful internal components but they'd be wasted if your device doesn't have a display capable of doing them justice. You'll want a display with at least Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080p), while 4K displays (3,840 x 2,160p) are starting to become more common but are significantly more expensive. Bear in mind, your GPU needs to be very powerful if it's to render graphics at playable framerates at native 4K resolution.

Pay attention to the display's refresh rate as this dictates how many frames per second it can display. Refresh rates are measured in Hz, with a higher figure resulting in smoother on-screen action.

You'll also want to think about the size of the display. 15.6in is typically the sweet spot for gaming laptops, though there are plenty of 17in models out there, too. The larger the display the more screen real estate but the heavier the device becomes. If you plan on using your gaming laptop while on the go, you'll want to avoid larger options.

Connectivity: Gaming laptops encourage the use of peripherals such as headsets, speakers mice and external hard drives. Make sure the laptop you buy has the corresponding ports to support such accessories and that it also supports Bluetooth if you plan to use peripherals wirelessly. USB-A ports are always useful, while newer connection standards like USB-C and Thunderbolt are worth keeping an eye out for.

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 that 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 their 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 £700. We don't recommend dipping much below that figure if you want a satisfying gaming experience.

Decent mid-range options tend to cost in the region of £1,000 to £1,500, while premium devices designed for gamers that want top-end specs and all the bells and whistles available can expect to pay in excess of £2,000.

The best gaming laptops to buy

1. Razer Blade 14: A terrific gaming ultrabook

Price: £2,800 | Buy now from Razer

There aren't all that many 14in gaming laptops on the market right now as manufacturers (and gamers) tend to favour larger displays. But if you want a compact laptop capable of delivering first-rate gaming performance, you'll be hard pushed to find a better option than the Razer Blade 14. At 1.78kg, it's the lightest entry on this list, build quality is great and there's a decent array of connection ports, including two USB-A, two USB-C and an HDMI 2.1.

The 165Hz QHD display on the top-of-the-range model we tested is bright, extremely sharp and its matte finish is effective at reducing reflections. Colour accuracy could be better but there's impressive coverage of both the sRGB and DCI-P3 colour spaces. In terms of productivity and gaming performance, the Razer Blade 14 breezed through our various benchmark tests and its battery lasted a commendable 11hrs 14mins.

In fact, aside from costing rather a lot for the highest-spec model and not being able to upgrade its RAM, the Razer Blade 14 is a pretty much faultless gaming laptop.

Read our full Razer Blade 14 review for details

Specifications - Processor: Octa-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX; Display size: 14in; RAM: 16GB; Display resolution: 2,560 X 1,440; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080; Refresh rate: 165Hz; Storage: 1TB SSD; Weight: 1.78kg

Buy now from Razer

2. Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45): The best gaming laptop around £1,000

Price: From £999 | Buy now from Amazon

This iteration of the Acer Nitro 5 redefines what you can expect from a gaming laptop costing around £1,000. We reviewed the model housing Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 graphics chip along with AMD's Ryzen 7 5600 and it performed astoundingly well, returning the second-highest 4K media processing test result we've ever received. Its multi-core performance proved equally impressive, only losing out to the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15, which cost more than twice as much.

The Nitro 5's gaming benchmarks didn't quite match that of laptops housing more powerful RTX 3070 and 3080 GPUs but it's still capable of rendering ray-traced visuals well above 60fps at a native 1080p without the need for AI upscaling. For a machine costing in the region of £1,000, that's remarkable.

That raw power comes at a cost - battery life is poor and the Nitro 5's 15.6in, FHD display isn't the brightest, nor does it reproduce colours with particularly good accuracy. However, a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz ensures smooth on-screen action and with such stunning performance for the money, the Nitro 5 can be forgiven a couple of minor shortcomings.

Read our full Acer Nitro 5 (AN515-45) review for details

Specifications - Processor: Hexa-core AMD Ryzen 5 5600-H; Display size: 15.6in; RAM: 8GB; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 with 6GB dedicated memory; Refresh rate: 144Hz; Storage: 512GB SSD; Weight: 2.3kg

3. Asus ROG Strix Scar 15: The ultimate gaming laptop

Price: £2,700 | Buy now from eBuyer

Those looking for something even more powerful than the Asus ROG Strix G15 above need look no further than the ROG Strix Scar 15. The Strix Scar 15 we reviewed houses the fastest mobile CPU AMD produces - the Ryzen R9 5900HX - along with Nvidia's top-end GeForce RTX 3080 GPU with 16GB dedicated memory. You'd expect such a setup to perform extremely well but we were blown away by how it scored in testing.

It came out on top in nearly every benchmark we ran - this truly is a gaming laptop capable of running AAA titles at its native 1440p without having to tone down the settings. But it doesn't just shine in the performance department. The 15.6in display is superior to that of the G15 despite having a slower refresh rate, offering superb coverage of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and delivering it with first-rate colour accuracy. The keyboard is sensibly laid out and employs Asus' optical mechanic switches, which feel precise while providing just the right amount of travel and a satisfying click when pressed.

The lack of a webcam and fingerprint reader are our only real grumbles and given how well the Strix Scar 15 does just about everything else, they're easy to overlook. If you're after the very best gaming laptop money can buy, this is it.

Read our full Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 review for more details

Specifications - Processor: AMD Ryzen R9 5900HX; Display size: 15.6in; RAM: 32GB; Display resolution: 2,560 x 1,440; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080; Refresh rate: 165Hz; Storage: 2TB PCIE SSD; Weight: 2.3kg

Buy now from eBuyer

4. Alienware x15 R1: The most powerful gaming laptop we've tested

Price: From £2,149 | Buy now from Dell

This is the first gaming laptop from Dell's gaming arm Alienware that we've tested for some time and it certainly didn't disappoint. In fact, it proved the fastest gaming laptop we've ever tested, recording a staggering score of 350 during our in-house 4K benchmarking test. It runs harder and faster than most high-power gaming notebooks and even remains remarkably quiet when all four fans all working at full tilt.

You'd expect a gaming laptop with such potent performance to be large, heavy and perhaps unattractive, but not so the x15. This is a cleaner, more refined version of Alienware laptops of the past and is just shy of 16mm thin. The keyboard is spacious and supports per-key LED RGB lighting, while the QHD display on the review model we were sent is nothing short of phenomenal. With a refresh rate of 240Hz, fantastic coverage of both the sRGB and DCI-P3 colour gamuts and decent peak brightness, it's a screen that should satisfy any gamer.

Battery life could be better and the port selection could be wider but if best-in-class performance is what you're after, this is the gaming laptop to buy.

Specifications - Processor: Intel Core i7-11800H; Display size: 15.6in; RAM: 32GB; Display resolution: 2,560 x 1,440; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080; Refresh rate: 240Hz; Storage: 512GB SSD; Weight: 2.36kg

Buy now from Dell

5. Lenovo Legion 5: A mid-range masterpiece

Price: From £999 | Buy now from Lenovo

We've seen a number of great mid-range gaming laptops released in the first half of 2021 but the Lenovo Legion 5 edges ahead of the Acer Nitro 5 and Asus Tuf Dash F15 in terms of looks and raw gaming performance.

The Legion 5 achieved excellent results in our in-house 4K media benchmark test but really shone in the gaming-specific tests, recording top-notch framerates across a range of games running at various settings. Design-wise, it doesn't deviate too far from previous iterations of the Legion, but that's no bad thing. Most of the connection ports are grouped sensibly at the rear of the device and the aluminium body is reassuringly solid.

The laptop's keyboard is pretty much perfect, too. It's spacious, has a numeric keypad and full-size cursor keys, while the travel is just right for both typing and keyboard controls while gaming.

Battery life and audio quality are inferior to the Asus TUF Dash F15 so the Asus is a better choice if they're key considerations for you, but if you favour performance and build quality, opt for the Lenovo Legion 5.

Read our full Lenovo Legion 5 review for more details

Specifications - Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H; Display size: 15.6in; RAM: 16GB; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070; Refresh rate: 165Hz; Storage: 512GB SSD; Weight: 2.35kg

Buy now from Lenovo

6. Asus TUF Dash F15: A great value-for-money gaming laptop

Price: £1,319 | Buy now from Amazon

The TUF Dash F15 is the cheapest Asus gaming laptop we've reviewed in 2021 and is probably the best value purchase of the lot. The model we tested comes equipped with an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 processor backed by 16GB RAM and houses Nvidia's beastly GeForce RTX 3070 graphics chip and a 1TB SSD. That's a lot of laptop for the asking price.

The performance proved strong despite the GPU being clocked down and the Dash F15's chiclet keyboard is well-spaced, solid and has just the right amount of travel in its keys. It's backlit in aquamarine, which our reviewer found a little lurid, but that's hardly a dealbreaker. Battery life clocked in at over 12 hours during our in-house rundown test - an undeniably impressive figure that's achieved by the laptop switching from the Nvidia GPU to the integrated Intel graphics once unplugged.

Read our full Asus TUF Dash F15 review for details

Specifications - Processor: Intel Core i7-11370H; Display size: 15.6in; RAM: 16GB RAM; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070; Refresh rate: 240Hz; Storage: 1TB; Weight: 2kg

7. HP Victus: Solid performance in a smart 16.1in package

Price: £1,249 | Buy now from Currys

The HP Victus stands out from its competitors by managing to squeeze a 16.1in display into a frame similar to that of most 15.6in gaming laptops. The screen itself is a little drab but fortunately, the Victus makes up for this in other areas.

It looks smart, the keyboard is well laid-out and precise to type on and the internals are upgradeable to a maximum of 32GB RAM and 2TB of storage. Audio quality is also impressive, with the Bang & Olufsen-tuned speakers helping enhance the gaming experience to a notable degree. Battery life fell a little short of the Asus TUF Dash 15 but outlasted the Acer Nitro 5 and Lenovo Legion 5, while results across our 4K media benchmark and graphical performance tests proved highly competitive.

There's very little to separate the HP Victus from the three rivals mentioned above, save the larger screen. If you're happy to sacrifice colour accuracy for the extra 44cm2 of screen real estate, the Victus is an excellent value proposition.

Read our full HP Victus review for details

Specifications - Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H; Display size: 16.1in; RAM: 16GB RAM; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060; Refresh rate: 144Hz; Storage: 512GB; Weight: 2.5kg

Buy now from Currys

8. Asus ROG Zephyrus G15: The perfect gaming laptop for grown-ups

Price: £2,166 | Buy now from Amazon

The ROG Zephyrus G15 is another superb gaming laptop from Asus offering top-end specs and impressive performance. But what sets it apart from the Strix and Strix Scar models listed above are its design and dimensions. It's a fair bit lighter than its stablemates at 1.9kg and at first glance, it would be easy to mistake the Zephyrus for an ultrabook rather than a gaming laptop.

The keyboard is surprisingly conventional, too. It's of the chiclet variety rather than mechanical and there's no RGB lighting - keys are backlit in white and the only special effects of note are two pulse styles: breathing and strobing.

Both the laptop's 15.6in display and audio quality are first-rate. Colours look vibrant, rich and are reproduced with decent accuracy, while the panel matte-finish IPS panel has a refresh rate of 165Hz. A six-speaker setup incorporating four tweeters and two woofers delivers plenty of volume, commendable detail and a decent helping of bass.

Supremely versatile, the ROG Zephyrus is an excellent laptop that appeals to gamers, creatives, media bingers and business users alike.

Read our full Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 review for details

Specifications - Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS; Display size: 15.6in; RAM: 32GB; Display resolution: 2,560 x 1,440; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080; Refresh rate: 165Hz; Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD; Weight: 1.9kg

9. Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC: A workstation capable of doubling up as a gaming laptop

Price: £2,499 | Buy now from Currys

Although this laptop is primarily aimed at creatives, it packs enough power to play games at 4K resolution if you're willing to drop the settings down a little - we managed to hit a steady 62fps at 4K while playing Wolfenstein: Youngblood with Ray Tracing turned off. That's all thanks to its incorporation of Nvidia's new GeForce RTX 3070 graphics chip working in combination with 10th-gen Intel silicon.

The Samsung-manufactured OLED display is absolutely stunning and covers 100% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut but is limited to a refresh rate of 60Hz. If you want a 144Hz display there's a model available with one, but it's FHD rather than 4K so you're going to have to make a sacrifice somewhere along the line.

The Aero 15 OLED CX's keyboard feels a little cramped for typing on, but for gamers that favour a mouse and keyboard setup, the close proximity of keys may actually prove a boon. Our other gripes with the Aero 15 are its middling battery life and poor webcam, which captures images and video at an unflattering angle and in murky mage quality is lacklustre, too. But neither of these factors detract too much from its gaming credentials - most of the time you'll be playing while hooked up to the mains, far too engrossed in the on-screen action to care about how you look on Zoom.

Read our full Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC review for details

Specifications - Processor: Intel Core i7-10780H; Display size: 15.6in; RAM: 32GB; Display resolution: 3,840 x 2,160; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070; Refresh rate: 60Hz; Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD; Weight: 2kg

Buy now from Currys

10. Lenovo Legion 7: A truly outstanding gaming machine

Price: From £1,499 | Buy now from Lenovo

The Lenovo Legion 7 is the big brother of the Legion 5 listed above and in this instance, it's definitely a case of bigger being better. Battery life aside, the Legion 7 excels in all the key areas, delivering muscular performance, a superb display and a near-faultless keyboard.

The model we tested houses the same processor as the Legion 5 but packs Nvidia's top-of-the-range GeForce RTX 3080 GPU and has a larger screen boasting a 2,560 x 1,660 resolution and 165Hz refresh rate. The display is not only pixel-rich but is bright, colour accurate and the 16:10 aspect ratio lends itself particularly well to gaming.

Build quality is excellent, with the laptop's body crafted from aerospace-grade aluminium. This gives the Legion 7 real heft but it remains an attractive device, particularly when the keyboard's RGB light shows are in full swing. The keyboard itself is delightfully laid out and features a numeric pad along with distinct cursor keys, while the trackpad is about as good as it gets. A fingerprint scanner for logging in would have been the cherry on top of the icing on the cake but even without one, the Legion 7 cements itself as a remarkably good gaming laptop.

Read our full Lenovo Legion 7 review for details

Specifications - Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H; Display size: 16in; RAM: 16GB; Display resolution: 2,560 x 1,660; GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080; Refresh rate: 165Hz; Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD; Weight: 2.5kg

Buy now from Lenovo

11. Medion Erazer Crawler E10: The best cheap gaming laptop

Price: £700 | Buy now from eBuyer

The Medion Erazer Crawler E10 is a shining example of a rare breed - that of the decent, affordable gaming laptop. Sure, its display is a little drab and its speakers are sub-par, but there's little else to dislike about the E10 given its price tag.

It's capable of playing most AAA titles at or close to 60fps in Full HD, isn't unduly heavy at 2.2kg and features an excellent keyboard. Typing and gaming on it is a pleasure thanks to a spacious layout, dampening on the keys is spot on and there's a numeric keypad on the righthand side along with an offset trackpad that works perfectly.

The Erazer Crawler E10 may not come with the bells and whistles the other entries on this list do but at under £800, you wouldn't expect it to. It's a no-nonsense gaming laptop catering for those seeking a mobile gaming experience on the cheap. If you fall into that category, the E10 is well worth a look.

Read our full Medion Erazer Crawler E10 review for details

Specifications - Processor: Intel Core i5-10300H; Display size: 15.6in; RAM: 8GB; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti; Refresh rate: 59Hz; Storage: 256GB SSD; Weight: 2.2kg

Buy now from eBuyer