There are more gaming laptops to choose from than ever, but there’s never been so much to consider when it comes to buying a potent, playable portable.
On the outside, you’ve got to think about the screen, the build quality, the keyboard and the trackpad – and the weight and the dimensions if you want to carry your machine around. And then, on the inside, there’s the graphics, the processor and the battery – all important factors.
While it’s tempting to search for a machine to tick every box, though, buying a gaming laptop usually involves compromise – which is why it’s worth examining every aspect before taking the plunge. And, in case you were wondering, it’s just not possible to get a good gaming laptop for under £500. If that’s your budget, we recommend saving up more as our budget options starts at £800.
What to consider when buying a gaming laptop
Your first port of call should be to identify which graphics card you’re going to need. New Nvidia cards are now firmly entrenched in the majority of laptops, and top of the laptop stack is the RTX 2080. It’s always tempting to want the best hardware, and it’s worth seeking that chip out if you want to play at top graphics settings, at 4K or at high frame-rates. However, if you’re an esports gamer or want to play older titles then it’s going to be overpowered, and not worth the cash.
The RTX 2070 is a great, balanced option that will handle virtually everything, while the RTX 2060 is a capable chip for 1080p gaming at the highest quality levels. You’ll also find cheaper laptops with last year’s Nvidia chips – ideal for esports and modest 1080p games.
If you’re going to be running tough games or want to do some work on your machine, you’ll also need a Core i7 CPU. It’s always worth getting 16GB of memory if you can afford it, and you should find a laptop with an SSD unless you’re on a very tight budget.
There’s a lot to think about on the outside. You’ll need to consider the screen: a 1080p panel won’t be as sharp as a 4K display, but it’ll be easier to run games at the former resolution. Similarly, it’s only really worth opting for a high-refresh-rate panel if you have a GPU that can run games at beyond 100fps.
Take a close look at the dimensions and weight if you’re going to take the machine on the road, and if you want to connect a mouse and other peripherals make sure you’ve got plenty of USB connections. Also examine the display outputs, because only certain connections will properly output to high-resolution screens or VR headsets.
The inevitable compromises of gaming laptops
If you’re buying a gaming laptop then you’re almost certainly going to have to accept poor battery life, especially during games. Most gaming laptops with Nvidia RTX 2060, 2070 or 2080 graphics cores will struggle to last beyond 90 minutes during gaming, with many not making it to an hour. Indeed, if you want a proper gaming session then you’re going to have to stay close to the mains.
Many gaming laptops will last between three and five hours if you’re running web browsers, office applications or media software. That’s better – enough for a movie or two – but you’re still not going to manage a cord-free day.
There are ergonomic concessions, too. Most gaming laptops have chiclet keyboards. They’re broadly fine for most games, but don’t have the snap, speed or firm typing action of mechanical keyboards – so keen gamers may not be satisfied. Similarly, most trackpads don’t have the precision or speed to compete with a USB gaming mouse. Thankfully, it’s easy to plug one of those in.
Despite all of this, there are loads of fantastic gaming laptops around – and they’ll suit all kinds of budgets and people. Let’s take the plunge and find out which is best for you.
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WIRED Recommends: MSI GE75 Raider 8SG
Pros: Fantastic all-round performance; surprisingly quiet operation; good chiclet keyboard; punchy, vibrant screen
Cons: Some fan noise; poor battery life
This brand-new MSI GE75 Raider 8SG (£2,699) pairs familiar design with high-end technology in every department – and a high £2,699 price. The full-fat RTX 2080 is rarer than the cheaper, cooler but weaker RTX 2070, and its inclusion means you’ll be able to run any game on this machine, from esports titles to demanding single-player games at beyond 100fps.
The quality 17.3-inch diagonal display proves more immersive than 15.6-inch machines, and the 144Hz refresh rate delivers smooth gaming. Colour quality is excellent so games always look vibrant and while contrast could be better, it’s still good enough.
Elsewhere, there’s the familiar Core i7-8750H CPU, 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD alongside a 1TB hard disk – all components with enough power to support the GPU and handle day-to-day productivity tasks. Impressively, we were able to hammer through games without too much noise. The GE75 is noticeably quieter than most rivals, and the modest aural output can be easily masked with a headset or with the punchy, decent speakers.
MSI’s machine looks good, with a familiar blend of brushed aluminium, red accents, a tiny screen bezel and illuminated USB ports. The SteelSeries keyboard offers more snap than many chiclet units – so it’s more satisfying than many rival units. Pleasingly, the trackpad has responsive, discrete physical buttons.
This machine’s downsides are not unexpected. It’s a tad chunky, at 2.7kg, and it’s 28mm thick. Battery life is mediocre, and the metal exterior is a little weak. Our pro tip: use a protective sleeve.
In every other department the MSI GE75 is superb: the RTX 2080 blasts through games, other components are powerful, and this machine is impressively cool and quiet. The keyboard is good, the screen is large and vibrant, and even the speakers impress. It’s not cheap, but this is one of the best gaming laptops around today.
Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere if you want to save some money, either. More affordable GE75 Raider models come with RTX 2060 or RTX 2070 GPUs, with prices dropping down by £400 or more.
Price: £2,699 | Check price on Amazon.co.uk
Best cheap gaming laptop under £1,000: HP Pavilion 15-cx0001na
Pros: Supremely affordable; capable of 1080p and esports gaming; solid keyboard; attractive design Cons: Middling GPU ability; average screen quality; sometimes underwhelming build strength
The HP Pavilion 15-cx0001na (£800) is the cheapest laptop here, but it doesn’t look like a budget offering. The keyboard has eye-catching green accents with a matching backlight, and above that is a smart, patterned speaker grille. It’s made from smart aluminium and the hinge is slatted and stylish.
It weighs 2.3kg, which isn’t bad for a 15.6-inch laptop – it’s certainly easy to find machines that weigh more. Its maximum thickness of 25mm is mediocre, and build quality is middling – but use a sleeve to protect this machine and it’ll be fine. The keyboard and trackpad aren’t bad either. The keyboard has a numberpad and a pleasing snap to its buttons, and the trackpad is a little too soft – but it’s no disaster. Around the edges you get a USB Type-C port, a card reader and Gigabit Ethernet.
The budget only begins to bite when you examine the components. On the inside you get an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU, an Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB of memory. There’s no SSD, which means slow loading times. The GTX 1050 will handle single-player games at 1080p if you cut the graphics settings back, and it’ll run esports titles easily. However, it won’t be able to output to higher resolutions, or VR headsets. The Core i5 CPU won’t bottleneck those games, either, and it won’t have any issues with web browsing or basic work.
The 1080p screen has reasonable quality considering the price, which means it’s fine for gaming – even if the contrast and colour accuracy could be better. Battery life isn’t brilliant, but the lack of longevity and the middling screen are expected compromises at this price – just like the modest GPU. However, it can still handle gaming and esports, and it comes inside a chassis that punches above its weight. The Pavilion 15 is a great choice if you’re on a tight budget.
Price: £800 | Check price on Amazon.co.uk
Best all rounder: Razer Blade Pro
Pros: Excellent screen options; stunning aluminium design; loads of power; mechanical keyboard Cons: Heavy; often expensive; last-gen GPUs
Don’t just pigeonhole Razer as a pure gaming company. The Razer Blade Pro (from £1,780), which has prices that range between £1,780 and £3,349, can handle work, play and everything in-between. You can pick between two 17.3-inch displays – one Full HD version with a 120Hz refresh rate or a THX-certified 4K touchscreen for increased crispness and clarity. The 4K model also has Nvidia G-Sync for smoother gaming.
Impressively, Razer has slimmed down mechanical keyboard hardware for this machine – so the Blade Pro’s keyboard has more snap and speed than most of its chiclet-based rivals. The trackpad is installed to the right of the keyboard, too, in an unusual but intuitive move that mimics sitting at a desk.
You get Thunderbolt and USB 3 ports around the edges, and on the inside there are Core i7 processors, capacious SSDs and either GTX 1060 or GTX 1080 graphics. Those chips may be last year’s hardware, but they’re still capable of handling plenty of games at 1080p and 4K – and for scything through work applications, too. You won’t be able to play today’s most demanding titles at their top-quality levels, or run software that needs a workstation, but that’s it for limitations.
The Blade Pro looks brooding and subtle, and it’s milled entirely from aluminium. It’s not particularly small thanks to weights that range between 3kg and 3.5kg, but it’ll get the job done – whether that involves the latest games or doing some actual work.
Price: From £1,780 | Check price on Amazon.co.uk
Best for battery life: Razer Blade 15
Pros: Impressive gaming power; stylish and slim design; good screen quality
Cons: Occasionally hot and loud; relatively expensive; shallow keyboard
Razer’s other high-profile gaming machine, the Blade 15 (from £1,480), has undergone a subtle redesign since its previous, award-winning iteration.
The machine has been upgraded with Intel and Nvidia’s latest components, and it’s a tiny bit bigger – but it still remains one of the slimmest and lightest gaming laptops around. Its 2.1kg heft is about half a kilo less than many 15.6-inch machines. It’s still only 18mm thick, too.
The Blade continues to look fantastic, with a body hewn from black aluminium and a bright, accurate screen. The panel has tiny bezels, too, because its 15.6-inch diagonal is crammed inside a 14-inch chassis. The keyboard is fast and light, but a little too shallow for keen gamers.
There’s a fair amount of versatility when it comes to the specification. The cheapest model costs £1,480, and it includes an older GTX 1060 GPU. A Full HD model with an RTX 2060 is £2,200, and two versions with the RTX 2070 aren’t much more. The priciest Blade, at £2,849, includes the RTX 2080.
The 80Wh battery – only included in Blades with RTX graphics – will last for two hours when gaming and around five hours in applications. That’s better than the majority of gaming laptops – so it’s the best option if you need a bit of extra longevity.
It’s not all good news: the CPU isn’t quite as quick as it could be, and the keyboard may be too shallow for some. Like almost all gaming laptops, the Blade creates a bit of noise when its components are pushed. They’re not issues unique to the Blade, though, and this machine still delivers reliable power inside a chassis that’s slimmer, lighter and more stylish than almost anything else – and with better battery life, too.
Price: From £1,480 | Check price on Amazon.co.uk
The money-no-object option: Asus ROG G703GX
Pros: Vast gaming and application power; high-quality screen; enviable build quality; decent keyboard
Cons: Huge, heavy design; quite loud during games; eye-wateringly expensive
The Asus ROG G703GX (£4,499) is one of the most outrageous gaming laptops around. It’s 51mm thick and weighs 4.7kg, and it’s built from black aluminium. It’s accented with brushed metal, burnt orange and copious numbers of RGB LEDs. In short, the Asus will attract loads of attention when you heave this tank from a hefty backpack, and you’ll need a hefty bank account, too – this machine costs a mighty £4,499.
That money doesn’t just get you a machine with world-class build quality and imposing physical design. Gaming power comes from Nvidia’s flagship RTX 2080, and, in the model we tested, it’s paired with a Core i9-8950HK processor with a Core i7 version also available. Both components are overclocked, and good software means you can tone it down if the fan noise is a bother or ramp it up even further.
Three SSDs in RAID 0 deliver benchmark-breaking loading times, there’s 32GB of memory and a 1080p screen with 144Hz Nvidia G-Sync tech for sharp and smooth visuals, and impressive quality levels. The keyboard is good for a gaming laptop, too.
Of course, there are downsides. The size, weight and price are vast, and battery life is terrible. The G703GX is louder than many of its rivals. There’s the rest of the market to consider, too. If you’re willing to ditch the SSDs, the Core i9 CPU and the extravagant design you can get an RTX 2080 inside a slimmer, lighter and cheaper laptop.
There’s unrivalled versatility and power here, though, and the G703GX’s issues just won’t bother the people who want to buy the biggest and most powerful gaming laptop they can get their hands on. If that’s you, then, rest assured that this heavyweight contender will draw eyes and destroy games for years to come.
Price: From £3,499 (i7), £4,499 (i9) | Check price on Amazon.co.uk
Best for 4K gaming: Gigabyte Aero 15-X9
Pros: Hugely powerful for games and work; high-quality 4K screen; subtle, smart design
Cons: Expensive; too much grunt for many gamers; a tad too flimsy
The Gigabyte Aero 15-X9 (£3,299) is one of the most expensive laptops on this list, despite its unassuming design, which incorporates black aluminium and a little bit of carbon fibre.
It’s got a 4K screen, and when that resolution is stretched across a 15.6in diagonal it delivers incredibly crisp images – great for games, movies and work in equal measure. Quality levels are high, with huge brightness and excellent contrast levels being particular highlights, and the bezel is pleasingly narrow. The screen also has X-Rite Pantone certification, and models are available with Full HD 144Hz screens if that’s what you’d prefer.
The Aero 15 has Nvidia’s RTX 2070 Max-Q, which means you get a more efficient version of the chip, alongside a Core i9 processor with six unlocked cores – just like the Asus ROG G703GX.
It’s also possible to find this machine with beefier RTX 2080 graphics or weaker Core i7 processors, in which case expect the price to alter accordingly. You won’t be able to play all your games at 4K without reducing the quality settings, but it’s always easy to cut back the resolution – and it’s still a hugely versatile specification for work and play.
Elsewhere, you’ve got Thunderbolt, dual-band Wi-Fi and a rapid SSD. There’s a crisp keyboard and a reasonable trackpad. The 94Wh battery delivers good longevity, too – although you still won’t manage a full day away from the mains with this machine. And, despite all of this, the Aero 15 weighs 2kg and is only 18mm thick.
The Gigabyte Aero 15-X9 is a tremendous laptop, but it’s not for everyone – a lot of gamers just won’t need a 4K screen or a Core i9 processor, and so could save plenty of money by shopping around. However, it’s certainly worth considering if you want a gaming laptop that’s got a dash of extra workstation ability.
Price: £3,299 | Check price on Amazon.co.uk
Best for customisation: PC Specialist Recoil II RTX
Pros: Solid, consistent performance; decent screen quality; mechanical keyboard included; loads of customisation options
Cons: Underwhelming aesthetics; a little larger than rivals; poor battery life
The PC Specialist Recoil II RTX (£1,699) doesn’t come from one of the big, global companies that dominate the laptop market, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.
It’s built by a UK-based company, and there’s plenty to like. This is one of the cheapest laptops around to include an RTX 2070, for instance, and it’s the full-fat version, not the cut-back Max-Q chip. It’s paired with the familiar Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD. It’s easily powerful enough to play games at high frame-rates on the 1080p, 144Hz screen, and the panel delivers consistent contrast and colour accuracy scores.
You get plenty of ports and a low-profile mechanical keyboard that offers better snap and speed than conventional chiclet hardware – which is great for gaming. Build quality is reasonable, although the lower budget does mean that the PC Specialist is a little chunkier than rivals. It also has wider screen bezels than competitors and a battery that only lasted for just over an hour.
The Recoil is all about substance rather than style, though, and PC Specialist also offers admirable versatility. Head to the firm’s website and you can alter the memory, graphics and storage configurations to make huge differences to the machine’s price and ability. You can upgrade the networking, change the keyboard language and even order a spare battery.
The PC Specialist Recoil II RTX is not particularly stylish or lightweight, but it does have power to spare, a great keyboard and a surprisingly low price. No big tech brand can compete with this machine when it comes to component versatility. The Recoil II RTX is ideal if you don’t want to spend loads of money or if you want to fine-tune the specification before you place an order.
Price: £1,699 | Check price on PC Specialist
Best for £2,000: Aorus 15-X9
Pros: Excellent 1080p gaming performance; solid specification; decent screen quality and ergonomics; slick external design
Cons: Can be too loud; keyboard is a tad shallow
The Aorus 15-X9 (£1,999) has a similar naming strategy to the Gigabyte Aero 15-X9 – no surprise, because Aorus is owned by Gigabyte.
The two machines have similar looks, too, with the Aorus also relying on a design of dark metal, with a slick central hinge and a couple of metallic slashes on the lid. Both also have admirable build quality, with little give in their aluminium panels. Get closer, though, and the machines diverge. The Aero was a £3,299 monster, while the Aorus is far more affordable at £1,999.
Gaming ability comes from the familiar Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070, which will play all of today’s top titles at 1080p and at good quality settings. It’ll also play most games at beyond 100fps and it’s partnered with a Core i7-8750H processor. Neither components are ground-breaking, but they’re excellent – there’s a reason why they’re found in hundreds of different laptops. You get a 512GB SSD, 16GB of memory, dual-band wireless, a microSD card slot and three USB 3.1 ports alongside a Type-C connector.
The 1080p screen runs at 144Hz, but it doesn’t have Nvidia’s smoothing and sharpening G-Sync tech. Nevertheless, gaming will be smooth, and the panel serves up tremendous colour accuracy alongside acceptable contrast. The keyboard has a solid base and a snappy action, and the trackpad does an excellent job of mimicking the light, fast response of a proper gaming mouse.
By default, the Aorus runs in its maximum fan mode, which is far too loud. Use the X9’s normal mode, and the noise is more manageable. It’s much easier to mask, and without a significant reduction in gaming performance. That’s this machine’s only misstep.
Elsewhere, it’s excellent. It has lashings of power, a good screen, solid ergonomics and great design, and the £1,999 price isn’t bad. This is one of the best gaming laptops around, and a superb 15.6-inch alternative to the test-winning MSI and its 17.3-inch screen.
Price: £1,999 | Check price on Amazon.co.uk
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