In the bad old days gaming laptops where a serious luxury that came with all manner of hardware compromises.
But in the last few years they’ve come on a long way, with advancements in CPU, GPU and memory technology meaning gaming laptops now come in a multitude of shapes and sizes and hit multiple price points.
Sadly the wealth of choice is a two edged sword that has made it much more difficult for regular buyers to know which gaming laptop is best for them. Here to help we’ve tested all the big and small players’ wares to offer you the definitive list of the best gaming laptops currently available.
Make sure to check out our in-depth buying guide before scrolling down to the full list to ensure you’re hunting for the right laptop for your specific needs.
Gaming Laptop Buying Guide – What should you look for?
Gaming laptops are special because of the performance they manage to pack in a small body. You not only have to consider how they perform now, but ensure they’re future-proofed for at least a couple of years. Unlike desktop PCs you can’t easily or cheaply upgrade the specification of a gaming laptop. Paying for that extra performance now is often sensible in the long term.
Right now, Nvidia graphics cards are found on the overwhelming majority of new gaming laptops. You’ll generally find laptop specific parts on machines launched in 2014 and 2015 (such as 950M, 960M etc), but from this year all Nvidia laptops get full desktop-level GPUs. This is because the company’s ‘Pascal’ architecture is so efficient it can squeeze into the same space as an old-style laptop GPU without needing extra cooling. Look out for 10-series cards such as the GTX 1050, GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080.
Related: Best graphics cards
The choice of CPU is also important. All the laptops on this list come equipped with quad-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with ‘HQ’ or ‘HK’ at the end of their model names, but you’ll find some cheaper models on the market that only have a ‘U’ suffix. This denotes a much lower-power, dual-core processor that can prove to be a huge bottleneck in games if you have a high-end graphics card.
All gaming laptops come with at least 8GB of RAM and, right now, that’s a very happy medium between a paltry 4GB and 16GB, which is overkill for many games. Don’t confuse RAM for VRAM used by your graphics card: Lower-end models get 2GB, while the more expensive models will get 4GB, 6GB and 8GB of VRAM for better performance.
Related: Best laptop deals
The table below shows the most common laptop graphics chips found in 2015, 2016 and 2017 gaming laptops. We’ve lined them up in order of year, then in order of the sort of performance you can expect from the biggest games of 2016 and 2017 (think Ghost Recon and Watch Dogs 2).
|Laptop years||Laptop graphics||Max Memory||2017 AAA game performance|
|2014/2015||Nvidia GTX 940M/MX||4GB||720p, low|
|Nvidia GTX 950M||4GB||720p, medium; Full HD, low|
|Nvidia GTX 960M||4GB||Full HD, low/medium|
|Nvidia GTX 970M||6GB||Full HD, medium|
|Nvidia GTX 980M||8GB||Full HD, medium/high|
|Nvidia GTX 980||8GB||Full HD, high; 1440p, medium|
|2016/2017||Nvidia GTX 1050||2GB||Full HD, low/medium|
|Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti||4GB||Full HD, medium|
|AMD RX 470||8GB||Full HD, high|
|Nvidia GTX 1060||6GB||Full HD, high|
|Nvidia GTX 1070||8GB||Full HD, 1440p, high|
|Nvidia GTX 1080||8GB||Full HD, 1440p, high; 4K medium/high|
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