Best Gaming Laptop for 2023 – CNET

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Gaming laptops are great for playing PC games on the go. They’re also great if you’d rather have a (relatively) compact system than a desktop PC. But to choose the right one, you have to consider more than just a laptop’s raw power and raw specs. And there are a lot of important nuances not reflected by a list of features.

A laptop with the best graphics card, solid-state drive and processor may have the specs to blow your mind, but it could all underperform if the components overheat easily — or it throttles back performance to prevent that from happening. And though you probably don’t always use an external mechanical keyboard with per-key RGB backlighting, a laptop’s WASD keys can feel like mashed potatoes under your fingers. 

Quality doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re on a tight budget and know where to compromise — such as looking for a model with components you can upgrade later to make your upfront cost a little lower, or opting for a screen that’s lower resolution and a slower refresh rate — you can still get something that’ll ensure a good gaming experience.

Plus, advances in cloud gaming mean you can play more games on lower-end hardware than ever before. So it’s not a given that you’ll need to bust your budget to pay for a new laptop. With cloud gaming, you do have subscription fees, so make sure to factor that in.

Check out our recommendations for best gaming laptops below. This list is periodically updated as we test and review products so you can find your own best gaming laptop.

Our picks

dell-g15-3

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Dell’s G15 has been a favorite budget gaming laptop for the past few years, along with the HP Victus line. In late 2022, a 16-inch G16 joined the veteran 15-inch G15. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop bargain, the G15 is the way to go. But if you can afford to spend a couple of hundred dollars more and don’t mind the step up in size, the G16 is a better bet for longevity.

Acer Nitro 5

Josh Goldman/CNET

The Acer Nitro 5 comes in both 17.3- and 15.6-inch sizes. A 17-inch cheap gaming laptop is a rarity with entry-level gaming laptops; most sub-$1,000 gaming laptops have 15.6-inch displays, and the Acer’s larger screen lets you sink in and get lost in your chosen gaming world. The 17-inch version we reviewed starts at less than $900 with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600H,1080p screen and an GTX if you’re OK with 8GB RAM. If you can manage about $200 more though, you can get a significantly better system, with an i7-11800H, RTX 3050 Ti and 16GB RAM.

One of the first of the new generation of 18-inch laptops, the m18 can get expensive if you push it up to a high configuration — an RTX 4090 and Core i9-13900HX will get you to $3,300 even without a lot of memory or storage. But if the big screen is most important to you, it starts at $2,000 with a respectable i7-13650HX and RTX 4050. And don’t expect great battery life, and the fans can get loud when you’re pushing it.

Razer Blade 14 2021 open, angled to the right and viewed from above

Lori Grunin/CNET

A smaller version than the 15-inch staple, the 14-inch Razer Blade delivers a lot of gaming power for its size without feeling small — an important consideration for a gaming laptop. It also offers decent battery life, a nice size for travel and a subtle design (for a gaming laptop) that’s buttoned-up enough for sitting in a meeting with the top brass or clients.

Corsair Voyager a1600 gaming laptop open on a purple background.

Josh Goldman/CNET

Thin, fast and Corsair’d up with Elgato streaming controls and wireless for Corsair accessories, the Voyager laptops are best in a class of their own. Corsair ships a few preconfigured models of its own, but the company’s Origin PC subsidiary offers an Origin Pro Edition that you can configure with its custom UV printing as well as memory and storage capacity. Keep in mind that the Corsair utilities can sometimes confuse the hell out of you.

asus-rog-flow-x13-and-xg-mobile-dsc00809

Lori Grunin/CNET

Asus pairs an ultraportable 13-inch two-in-one that has a relatively powerful AMD CPU with an optional external GPU dock equipped with a near-top-of-the-line Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 mobile processor (though ), and the result is an incredibly flexible system for both work and play that outperforms many bigger, clunkier gaming laptops. Because it’s a two-in-one, you can comfortably use an external gaming keyboard without the built-in keyboard getting in the way. The stand-alone model has gotten an upgrade to an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti since I reviewed it, but the bundle with the XG Mobile still has a GTX 1650.

Former favorites

Old picks never die, well, at least until you can’t buy them anymore.

Victus HP Laptop 16-d0097nr

James Martin/CNET

The HP Victus 16 is a strong, affordable option. It offers a respectable balance for people with different needs for play and work. Spending more will likely get you better build quality and more enjoyable audio. But if you can get past the screen wobble, the Victus can hold its own against pricier models.

Other notable gaming laptops we’ve tested 

We’re working our way through a raft of 2023 systems, and we’ll update here with those that stand out — just not quite enough for a blanket recommendation.

Razer Blade 18 (starts at $3,000): It has Razer’s iconic slim Blade design and it’s big and fast, which makes it ideal for a power laptop for work as well as gaming, but it’s not the fastest we’ve tested and it’s quite expensive. Read our Razer Blade 18 review.

Gaming laptop FAQs

Do you still have to compromise on battery life?

Gaming laptops have traditionally had to compromise on battery life, which typically lasted as little as two hours of nonstop gaming. You also couldn’t play most complex games — GPU- or CPU-intensive ones — on battery power. Processors would get throttled back and screens dim during hard-core gaming sessions, so a laptop that felt nimble when connected became a slog on battery power, turning your epic battles into battles of frustration.

That’s been changing recently, as Intel, AMD and Nvidia have concentrated on improving their power management technologies. No, you still can’t play for 10 hours on battery power, but now you can find some great gaming laptops with 10-hour battery lives — albeit not for playing — to make gaming on the road more feasible.

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The Asus ROG Flow X13 and the optional Mobile XG: A small, lightweight laptop with a powerful AMD Ryzen 5900HS CPU and an Nvidia GTX 1650 GPU for lightweight gaming. The external dock incorporates an RTX 3080 mobile GPU and extra connections.

Lori Grunin/CNET

What do I need to know about a gaming laptop’s GPU (beyond speed)?

The fastest graphics processor currently available in a laptop is the Nvidia Geforce RTX 4090, with the usual Max-Q variants. The Max-Q versions run at slower frequencies than their full-size siblings — that keeps down the noise and heat and allows them to fit into thinner designs. RTX models also accelerate ray-traced rendering and provide intelligent upscaling (also known as DLSS) where it’s explicitly supported. If your favorite games don’t use it, the lower-end Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti incorporates Turing, the last generation of Nvidia’s technology, without the extra cost or power burden of the RT cores.

Does a gaming laptop’s CPU matter?

Yes, but not always. In general, sims benefit from faster clock speeds and more cores since those are required for the heavy calculations when worlds get complex. More and more AAA games are also starting to balance loads better between the CPU and GPU where possible as well. And if you bounce back and forth between a game and the rest of Windows, it can help speed that kind of multitasking a bit.

What do I need to know about screen size and refresh rate?

There’s lots to know if you’re choosing a new gaming screen. All the major companies bumped their flagship 1080p configurations to 360Hz, but for many a gamer, they’re not essential: 240Hz max should be fine for those few times you can get frame rates above 240fps. Even 144Hz will do for many people. But artifacts like tearing, caused by the screen refresh rate becoming out of sync with the frame rate, depend on your games as much as your laptop brand and hardware.

How we test computers

The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computer-like devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device’s aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both those objective and subjective judgments.

How we test laptops

The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computer-like devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device’s aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both those objective and subjective judgments. 

The list of benchmarking software we use changes over time as the devices we test evolve. The most important core tests we’re currently running on every compatible computer include: Primate Labs Geekbench 5Cinebench R23PCMark 10 and 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

A more detailed description of each benchmark and how we use it can be found in our page on how we test computers

For gaming laptops we run a variety of performance tests, and in the individual product reviews you’ll see more meaningful performance results than the ones we present here. In reviews we provide apples-to-apples results — products from the same pool that you’re trying to choose from, with similar prices and configurations — rather than the fruit salad sampling of results here.

Because these laptops stretch back to 2021 models, two of our most universally consistent benchmark datasets are 3DMark Time Spy and Fire Strike Ultra, which have been in the 3DMark Benchmark Suite and part of our core testing for a long time, and which are more stable as performance measures than in-game benchmarks for comparing hardware. (Game-based benchmarks, like application-based benchmarks, can change as the developers improve their algorithms over time.)

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CNET

Time Spy measures 1440p performance of games using Windows’ DirectX 12 API — the programming layer that Windows and Xbox game developers use for the heavy lifting of frame rendering — which came out around 2016 and is still being used by game developers. It’s the lowest common denominator of the API, which doesn’t include more recent features like DXR (ray tracing) and more; those are part of the newer DX12 Ultimate, aka version 12.2.

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Fire Strike Ultra tests 4K gaming performance for Windows’ DirectX 11 API, circa (roughly) 2009 to 2015. That makes it relatively representative of games created during that period, such as the first few in the Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed and Tomb Raider series.

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