Let’s be real: PC gaming offers the best possible experience for gamers. High-end gaming computers pack more graphical and processing power than any home console, and they offer a level of freedom in terms of customization and game choice that you’re just not going to find anywhere else. But when it comes down to it, do you want your gaming sessions to be tied to your desk?
While desktops can deliver elite performance, the best gaming laptops fit into the çağdaş lifestyle more smoothly. It’s convenient to be able to take your gaming rig with you on the go – whether that’s to a friend’s place or just to another room. Plus, there’s a gaming laptop to fit every type of player. Whether you’re looking for a powerhouse that supports eye-popping visuals, a lightweight notebook to fit snugly in your backpack, or hoping to find the best budget gaming laptop, we promise there’s a machine for you.
The best laptops to buy in 2024
Yet, finding the best gaming laptop for your needs and budget can be tricky. They may be easier to parse than their desktop counterparts, but gaming laptops still require a fair bit of careful spec scrutinization. These are no consoles — you can’t just pick the latest generation system off the shelf and get playing. Choosing between the many graphics cards, processors, storage sizes, and screen types can be a real head-scratcher. That’s where we come in.
Mashable Shopping experts have tested and reviewed a lot of gaming laptops over the years, and we know exactly what to look for. Read on to find our recommendations for the best gaming laptop of the year.
Testing the Lenovo Legion Slim 7i gaming laptop for this guide.
Credit: Callum Bains / Mashable
What to consider when looking for a gaming laptop
As with any computer — gaming or otherwise — there are a lot of components that make up any given device. You shouldn’t have to figure all that out for yourself, though. Here’s what you’ll want to take into account when shopping for a gaming laptop:
CPU: Also called a processor, your CPU is basically your computer’s brain, and will dictate how fast your laptop can process inputs, store data, and execute commands. Your processor is in constant communication with the other parts of your computer, so it’s important that the device’s central nervous system is a good one. In general, the newer the CPU, the better the processing power.
GPU: The GPU (or graphics card) does what it sounds like it does: It ensures that your games can run at their intended graphical quality. The better the GPU, the better your laptop can render details like textures, anti-aliasing, ray tracing, and more (you can always change these settings within your games to better suit your graphics card, but the better the GPU, the closer you can get to those higher-end settings). Right now, the Nvidia RTX 4090 is considered the graphics card to beat, with AMD and Radeon making some of the most popular alternatives.
System Memory (or RAM): Your RAM, like your CPU, is also extremely important in determining overall performance. RAM provides short-term memory storage for applications so that they can access data quickly, storing information that your computer is actively using. Even the best budget gaming laptops should have a minimum of 8GB of RAM.
Storage: When it comes to storage, you’ll normally find yourself deciding between a hard drive (HDD) and a solid-state drive (SSD). HDDs can have a higher storage capacity than SSDs, but at the cost of lower performance. The good news is that some gaming laptops come with a dual-storage approach, opting for an HDD as the main storage method, with a smaller SSD built in that you can dedicate to your more performance-demanding games.
Display: That nice GPU you bought will be wasted if you don’t have a nice display to marvel at its brilliance. You’ll mainly want to look for three things here: resolution, refresh rate, and size. For our money, we say go for a 1080p resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate at minimum. That said, the higher the frame rate, the smoother the action. The size, however, is up to your preference — gaming laptops usually come in at 16-inch,15.6-inch and 17.3-inch displays.
Keyboard: The keyboard is another vital part of your overall experience with a gaming laptop. Comfort is definitely a factor, but you’ll also want to decide whether you want full-range RGB backlight settings (totally fine to skip out on the fancy stuff here), and if you like the layout of the keys themselves. For example, if you find that you desperately need a number pad on your keyboard, you’ll want to double-check to make sure that it’s there — not all gaming laptops have one (not all 15.6-inch options at least, though almost all 17.3-inch laptops will have one).
Testing the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 gaming laptop for this guide.
Credit: Callum Bains / Mashable
Among all of those considerations, the most important are a laptop’s GPU and CPU. These will ultimately determine whether it can run the latest, most dazzling games, and do so at a reasonable performance. They’re also usually the parts that will hold your laptop back when it gets old and dusty. Remember: Prioritize a speedy processor and graphics card above all else.
Below, our picks for the best gaming laptops in 2024.