I test gaming laptops for a living — 3 I'd pick and 1 I'd skip

 Alienware m18 review unit on desk running Cyberpunk 2077
Alienware m18 review unit on desk running Cyberpunk 2077

I’m both a lifelong gaming enthusiast and a professional hardware reviewer. Because of that, I have a good idea what to look for in the best gaming laptops.

To be specific, any machine I’d recommend or would consider buying needs to have a bright and vibrant display, powerful specs and a relatively understated design. And while it’s worth investing in something that’ll last you for years, finding a good deal on a powerful rig is also important.

With that in mind I've hand-picked a select list of the gaming laptops I think are great buys right now. In this list are machines that not only excel at playing the best PC games, but are also ideal for word processing, video/audio editing and basic everyday computing.

I’ve also included one gaming rig you should avoid at all costs, to give you a sense of what to watch out for.

Three gaming laptops I'd pick

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2023)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review on a desk
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review on a desk

This year’s Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 comfortably sits at the top of our gaming laptops buying guide for several reasons. As said in our review, this portable gaming laptop powerhouse hits that perfect sweet spot between smart design and high-end gaming thanks to its dazzling mini-LED screen and RTX 4090 laptop GPU. It can play modern games in high quality at buttery-smooth frame rates without breaking a sweat.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2023): $3,299 @ Best Buy
The latest iteration of the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a powerhouse gaming laptop. This configuration features a 14-inch 165Hz display, an AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS CPU, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. While this rig is expensive, it's worth every penny.View Deal

Like the laptop listed below, the ROG Zephyrus G14 features an understated design that could make you forget it’s a gaming laptop. Our review unit’s industrial grey coloring and faux-metallic finish make it look and feel premium — as do its ultra-thin bezels. This is a gaming laptop that won’t draw unwanted attention, which is a plus for those who value privacy. Few companies put together such a compelling package as this ROG laptop.

Alienware m18

Alienware m18 review unit on desk running Doom Eternal
Alienware m18 review unit on desk running Doom Eternal

The Alienware m18 is one of the biggest, most powerful gaming laptops we've ever tested. It's too heavy, hot and loud to be much use on the go, but when plugged in it runs the latest games as well as some of the best gaming PCs, truly earning the term desktop replacement.

Alienware m18: $2,999 @ Amazon
If you want one of the biggest gaming laptops, the Alienware m18 is worth considering. This monster features an 18-inch 480Hz display, an AMD Ryzen 9-7845HX CPU, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4080 GPU, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of SSD storage. This laptop could legitimately replace your desktop.View Deal

Even if it isn’t exactly portable, the Alienware m18's top-of-the-line components make it a powerhouse gaming machine. It's certainly in the same price range as some of the best gaming PCs and delivers comparable performance in the latest games. And despite its gargantuan size, its all-black chassis doesn’t immediately identify it as a gaming rig. If you need a gaming laptop that screams “go big or go home,” you can’t go wrong with the Alienware m18.

MSI Cyborg 15

MSI Cyborg 15
MSI Cyborg 15

I wanted to include the MSI Cyborg 15 in this article since it changed my mind about budget gaming laptops. If the two recommendations above are too pricey but you still want to have a fun gaming experience without too many compromises, the MSI Cyborg 15 is worth considering.

MSI Cyborg 15: $929 @ Amazon
The MSI Cyborg 15 delivers an enjoyable gaming experience without breaking the bank. This configuration features a 15.6-inch 144Hz display, a GeForce RTX 4060 GPU, an Intel Core i7-12650H CPU, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. This is a great entry-level laptop for folks interested in PC gaming.View Deal

The Cyborg 15 might not have the most impressive specs or performance, but for a gaming laptop that costs just under $1,000, it’s a machine I can confidently suggest to budget-minded gamers. It stands out thanks to its translucent sides and base. It’s reminiscent of old-school third-party gaming peripherals from the late ‘90s / early 2000s, which gives the laptop a retro-futuristic look. And despite being a budget device, it delivers excellent performance thanks to its RTX 4050 laptop GPU and 16GB of RAM.

The MSI Cyborg 15 isn’t a landmark device but it made me realize that budget gaming laptops don’t have to suck.

One gaming laptop I'd skip

Corsair Voyager a1600

Corsair Voyager a1600 on desk
Corsair Voyager a1600 on desk

Most of the recent gaming laptops we’ve reviewed at Tom’s Guide have been decent at worst. But there’s one gaming laptop we’ve reviewed that I’d steer people away from, despite the well-known name on the box — the Corsair Voyager a1600.

Corsair has produced some of the best gaming mice, best gaming keyboards, best gaming headsets and even some of the best gaming PCs over the past few years. Because of that, we had high hopes for the company’s first-ever gaming laptop. Unfortunately, the Voyager a1600 disappoints due to its poor performance and awkward design. Even its Cherry MX keyboard can’t make us recommend this device.

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