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Buying a gaming laptop isn’t nearly as simple or straightforward as one would expect. You’d think that having a budget and some kind of preference in regards to size and performance would be enough, but that really couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are so many different manufacturers, components, panel technologies, generations of hardware, materials, certifications, power limits, so many different particularities and obscure jargon which, to the uninitiated, means absolutely nothing. And yet it’s all of paramount importance. A small difference or two can easily result in you ending up with an insufficiently capable laptop.
And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, a metric ton of marketing hogwash is being thrown out by OEMs both large and small in an attempt to lure you in and make you believe that their product is superior to the ones made by their competitors.
Now, as far as expectations go, gaming laptops are always faced with an uphill battle. They are expected to deliver in a myriad of different workloads, not sound like a jet engine taking off and, if possible, actually last more than just a couple of hours on a single charge.
Needless to say, that’s quite a tall order. Most models simply aren’t engineered and tuned well enough to deliver a satisfactory experience — to tick all the right boxes, if you will. Others come excruciatingly close, only to miss the mark in the most baffling of ways. There’s always a compromise one has to deal with, but some of them are easier to accept than others.
The point of this article is to give you a very detailed rundown on all the biggest “players,” their strengths, weaknesses, and also the corners which they most often tend to cut. That last bit, one could argue, is of paramount importance as most gaming laptops — regardless of their price — have an Achillees’ heel.
And so, with that little introduction out of the way, let’s begin!
Gaming Laptops — You Get What You Pay For
Good gaming laptops are never cheap, and the best ones always impose a hefty price tag. Your budget, therefore, will dictate what kind of device (and of which quality) you’ll eventually end up with. There’s definitely a point of diminishing returns, though, which only further complicates things.
Gaming laptops, much like any other piece of hardware, can be divided into three distinct categories: entry-level, mid-range, and high-end. That being said, a high MSRP doesn’t always guarantee a top-tier experience (or product, in this case). There are many different models out there which, despite their astronomical price tags, don’t warrant the investment.
They’re all good and capable on the surface, but powerful internals aren’t the only thing worth focusing on.
You also need to be mindful of the laptop’s display, its brightness, color accuracy, refresh rate, response time, and so on and so forth. The hinge, too, warrants a mention, alongside the laptop’s build quality, keyboard, trackpad, and I/O. Its cooling assembly, too, is of the utmost importance. An insufficient thermal module will result in ample throttling whenever you start pushing your laptop to its limits. This, as a by-product, will result in much higher internal and external temperatures and, as if that wasn’t enough, a ton of fan noise.
And so, with all of that in mind, really think twice before making any kind of purchasing decision. There’s definitely no shortage of options out there, but once you’ve made the investment there’s no going back. This, in essence, underlines the importance of siding with good, trusted brands and OEMs which actually know what they’re doing engineering- and design-wise.
Best Gaming Laptop Brands — Tier List
Down below you’ll find a fairly comprehensive list of all OEMs that happen to be competing in this particular segment of the market. They’re all large, well-known corporations and entities, and they all compete on the same fronts: budget, mid-tier, and high-end.
That being said, they’re not all equally as successful in their endeavors. Some OEMs, like Acer and HP, for instance, have historically been a lot more competitive in the budget realm, with very few “winners” in the upper-echelon. This in no way diminishes their overall value, but it is something worth keeping in mind.
S Tier — Gaming Laptop Brands
This tier is reserved for the brands which always end up delivering. They’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they do have a series of endlessly alluring gaming laptops, some of which are — without a doubt — amongst the most alluring on the market.
Lenovo — The Most Well-Rounded
This venerable OEM has been dominating for years and that, in today’s hyper-competitive market, speaks volumes. Lenovo is amongst the most prolific manufacturers out there, and has been selling exceptional gaming laptops for what feels like an eternity.
Its LEGION laptops are always packed to the gills with the latest and greatest components, jaw-dropping screens, and adequate thermal modules. These machines are by no means the most snazzy design-wise, but whatever they might lack in pizzazz, they more than make up for in sheer consistency and well-roundedness.
They’re also appropriately priced which, frankly, is a rare occurrence. Most OEMs tend to impose an obscene price tag on their gaming laptops, with Lenovo being one of the few (if not the only) to go for more reasonable MSRPs. That’s not to say that their offerings are cheap, but rather that you won’t have to sell an arm and a leg so as to attain one of its better models.
All in all, LEGION laptops are well-built, they come with upgradeable RAM, very respectable (if not amazing) displays, and are about as well-rounded as they come. They’re also well-tuned performance-wise and, for the most part, don’t come with any overheating issues or glaring QC problems.
They’re the “go-to” pick for millions of gamers across the globe and, well, there’s a very good reason why.
A Tier — Gaming Laptop Brands
We only have two OEMs populating this particular tier and, well, that’s with good reason. These two brands have numerous different (at times unique) virtues, but also a few quirks and flaws which may well end up being dealbreakers.
ASUS — Quality Control Woes
ASUS has been “In Search of Incredible” for many a year now and is, in many ways, the most perplexing and infuriating OEM out there. ASUS gaming laptops are a sight to behold. They are a bit “extreme” aesthetics-wise, but they’re also astoundingly powerful and, in most cases, imbued with the latest and greatest bells and whistles money can buy.
So why isn’t ASUS ranked any higher? It’s rather simple: over the last few years, ASUS’ quality control has gone down the drain. Users have reported extreme light bleed issues, crackling speakers, keys not functioning, physical issues with the chassis, botched BIOS updates, and everything in between. And, to make things even worse, these things occur with even the very best and most expensive laptops, which makes it all the more inexcusable.
And that, in short, is the only reason why we cannot, in good conscience, put ASUS any higher. This Taiwanese-based giant makes some of the best and most alluring gaming laptops on the market, but they’re also on the pricier side. They’re well-built, they have great displays, spectacular keyboards, ample I/O, and very high power limits, but those strengths and virtues — respectable though they are — aren’t always accompanied with appropriate quality control.
With that being said, ASUS is always a solid choice (to say the least). Its ROG line is nigh legendary amongst gamers, and so are the TUF and Scar. Heck, ASUS even has a couple of wholly unique “hybrid” gaming devices under the Flow umbrella — a 2-in-1 gaming tablet (Flow Z13), and a 13” convertible that punches way above its weight-class (Flow X13 and X16).
ASUS, to its credit, is one of the most original and forward-thinking OEMs out there. It’s just a shame that, based on numerous different reports, their laptops don’t always work as well as they should.
Razer — Insanely Expensive, Insanely Good
Putting Razer in second place is surely a polarizing decision, but it’s not without reason. Razer’s Blades have always been some of the finest, most well-built laptops on the market. They’re CNC machined from a single piece of aluminum, much like Apple’s MacBooks, and their build quality and overall sturdiness tell the same tale.
They’re premium, stylish, and capable beyond measure. Razer, also, isn’t nearly as large as most other OEMs on this list, so its laptops simply have to be more expensive because they cannot leverage the economy of scale. And, to Razer’s credit, they never even attempted to play it safe. They always went for the biggest, baddest, most impressive designs and configurations and, naturally, they didn’t always stick the landing.
Some of Razer’s laptops run way too hot to the touch. Others are way too loud when under load (a common trait amongst gaming laptops, to be fair). Others still can’t really sustain their peak performance over prolonged periods of time. They’re not perfect gaming laptops by any stretch of the imagination, but they sure do stand out from the crowd.
If you’re okay with spending a little extra (or a lot, depending on your region and the way in which Razer’s laptops are priced), then there’s no doubt you’ll be satisfied with any of Razer’s top offerings. Just make sure to read and watch as many reviews as you possibly can as they’re not all created and engineered equally. There’s a fair bit of variance performance-wise, so knowing what to expect from any particular model would be for the best — lest you end up with an overpriced gaming laptop that fails to deliver on its promise and raison d’etre.
Note: Razer, too, is known for having QC issues. Things have gotten a bit better over the last couple of years but it’s still something worth keeping in mind.
B Tier — Gaming Laptop Brands
Brands found within this tier are all good if not even great at times. Still, most of their offerings come with some kind of asterisk. Some of them are overpriced. Others simply aren’t built well. Others still run way too hot and loud. It all varies from one model to the next, which stresses the importance of reading and watching as many reviews as possible.
HP — Positively Middling
Talking about HP’s gaming laptops is always a daunting task. They get so many things right and then, at the most random of moments and the most unexpected of areas, they tend to drop the ball or underwhelm. Most of its OMENs and Victuses come with egregiously bad hinges — hinges which are wobbly beyond measure — and their overall build quality leaves a fair bit to be desired as well.
They sport stellar looks and are, at times, very well-rounded, but it just feels like HP tends to prioritize a select few areas and then cut as many corners as possible so as to bring the price down. That, too, warrants a mention — HP is known for decently priced gaming laptops which, even better, often tend to go on sale. That, however, doesn’t mean they’re all worth the investment.
Most of them run a bit too hot, whereas others have woeful displays; dim, washed out, and nowhere near color accurate enough for an enjoyable experience. They’re very good products overall, but it just feels that, for the asking price, one really ought to go with Lenovo or ASUS, as there’s very little — if anything — that would persuade one to side with HP (in spite of its revered status in the industry).
Alienware — Great, With an Asterisk
Alienware gaming laptops are a sight to behold. They’re unlike anything else on the market visually speaking and that, more often than not, brings in tow an astronomical price tag. Most models are also packed to the gills with top-of-the-line components — components which aren’t always appropriately cooled.
If you’re after a spec’d-out gaming beast (and have the funds to sustain such a need), then it’s hard to argue against Alienware. Their offerings are rarely well-priced, and they’re nowhere near as big from a value perspective. Still, they’re powerful, well-built, have ample I/O, and will easily chew through any title you might want to throw their way.
Just make sure to do a bit of research on the particular model you’re interested in, as some Alienware laptops are nowhere near as well-tuned as they ought to be for the asking price. We’re talking insanely high temperatures and cooling assemblies that simply cannot handle the load. It varies from one generation to the next, though, so make sure to do a bit of digging before whipping out your wallet and making an investment.
And, in all frankness, if it’s price-to-performance you’re after, you’d really be better off going with Lenovo or, say, ASUS.
C Tier — Gaming Laptop Brands
All brands found below are good but rarely, if ever, great. They’re not exactly bad picks per se, but there are more viable choices out there, regardless of your budget. Still, they do warrant a mention.
Acer — Good Enough
Acer has always been the “go-to” option for budget-oriented gamers and, while their laptops are nowhere as flashy or well-tuned, they’re actually surprisingly good performers. They’re good overall and it’s hard to complain much given the asking price. They could be better built, they could have better cooling assemblies and screens but, overall, they’re a pretty good option if you’re only looking to spend, say, a thousand dollars/euros or so.
Acer’s entire portfolio has recently been refreshed for 2023 and, needless to say, they’re all a lot more alluring (and beautiful) than was the case just a year or two ago. They’re still not the kind of machines one dreams of owning, but they’re nonetheless well-rounded and, perhaps most importantly, worth the investment.
MSI — Overpowered and Undercooked
If there’s one thing MSI gaming laptops don’t lack, it’s sheer horsepower. This OEM has devised some of the most devilishly powerful laptops imaginable, but it didn’t always follow through with cooling and quality control. MSI is also notorious for having woeful customer service (which, to be fair, varies wildly from one region to another) and its RMA procedures aren’t much better either.
Its budget offerings are dreadful in every conceivable way, whereas its most alluring models don’t really stand out in any which way. They’re not exactly better than competing products but they nonetheless command a very high price. And, as is the case with many other OEMs, MSI’s laptops, too, often exhibit inexcusable quality control issues.
And so, with all of that in mind, you’d really be better off going with any of MSI’s competitors. Its best gaming laptops, powerful and fast though they are, simply aren’t worth the asking price.
Dell — To Be Avoided
First of all, no OEM will ever intentionally make a bad gaming laptop. That’s just a fact. Some will miss the mark, but that sure won’t happen for a lack of trying. Dell, as a company, really needs no introduction. It’s been a staple pick in regards to its business-oriented models and ultrabooks, but its budget gaming laptops (the G series) should, without a shadow of a doubt, be avoided.
They might be palatable price-wise, but they are not worth the investment whatsoever. They’re subpar and underwhelming in each and every single way, and they’re not that much cheaper — if cheaper at all — than competing products from other OEMs.
Conclusion — Best Gaming Laptop Brands
There are many different brands and OEMs out there, and they’re all, for the most part, competing on the exact same fronts. They all have a bunch of different gaming laptops on offer, but only a few of them are actually worth exploring and, by proxy, the heavy investment that comes in tow.
If you’re after an incredible level of performance, you’ll simply have to deal with high temperatures and, by proxy, fan noise. But it’s how these OEMs handle this ever-present predicament that makes them stand out from their competitors. The best ones have been using liquid metal and vapor chambers for their top-of-the-line offerings for years and it has made a difference. Others are still employing “traditional” heat pipe assemblies which, while by no means cutting-edge, are still sufficient. Still, there’s a fair bit of variance and nuance in how those cooling solutions are implemented as well.
With gaming laptops, it’s all about the minute details and quality of life improvements that often end up defining the overall user experience.
The way in which an OEM tweaks and tunes any particular gaming laptop is of the utmost importance. It’s not an easy endeavor, and only a few of the companies and brands covered above have historically managed to find a way to tame their portable gaming behemoths and their astoundingly powerful internals.
There are no bad brands, just bad products. This holds true for gaming laptops as much as it does for any other piece of hardware. It is, therefore, incredibly important for you to both do your research before making any kind of investment and to buy your gaming laptop of choice from a reputable retailer — one with a very lenient return policy — like Amazon or Best Buy.
Quality control issues have become more and more prevalent over the years, and having the ability to return your recently purchased laptop (assuming you end up getting a faulty unit) is incredibly important. Spending a tremendous sum of money doesn’t always guarantee you a well-functioning, well-built product, so having a failsafe of sorts to fall back on is crucial.