Gaming laptops are becoming a viable choice for PC gamers who also want the elegance and small form factor advantages of a portable machine. While you can have pretty much any performance level you want if you can afford it, the real action is happening at the low- and mid-range of gaming laptops. You can check out my reviews of both cheap and high-end gaming laptops, if those are your budget considerations, but the laptops we’re looking at here are the ones most people will actually be buying.

What Counts as Mid-range?

As I’ve mentioned in my other laptop roundups, what counts as “mid-range” is a little arbitrary. Gaming laptops, like gaming desktops, are expensive in absolute terms. My cheap gaming laptop roundup set the cap on price at $1000, putting those machines in the same price range as a pro console variant with a small TV thrown in. So, obviously, mid-range gaming laptops in my mind cost more than $1000, but less than the $3000 starting price of the elite machines we looked at as well. That’s a pretty big price delta, so I have tried to cover machines that span that range evenly.

Apart from the price criterion, these machines have to be marketed as gaming laptops to count. I also don’t want to see components that are specifically meant for the low-range segment. No GTX 1050 Ti GPUs here, although such gaming laptops exist in this price range. Other than that, anything goes. So here are the laptops I think are worth looking at for most people.

Razer Blade 15 (2019)

Ever since it first launched, the Razer Blade has been a rather famous machine. While just about anyone can build a competent gaming laptop these days, the idea of a gaming ultrabook is still one many manufacturers can’t get right, much less excel at.

Razer set the bar high with the first Blade, and this 2019 refresh keeps it there. The laptop has an aluminum body that’s just 0.7” inches thick. Pretty svelte, but then take into account that it packs an RTX 2070 and a six-core i7 and things start to beggar belief. This is possible thanks to a very clever cooler design, although of course you can expect boost clock for both CPU and GPU to fall somewhat short of laptops that offer more breathing room.

While the laptop is pretty thin, it’s a normal 15.6” unit when it comes to screen size. The bezels are minimal, but you don’t have to sacrifice screen size for its compact nature. The panel is a real beauty too, with a 240Hz refresh rate and factory color calibration for more serious work. You only get 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, which is a shame at this price point, but boy – is it thin and light.

Thanks to Thunderbolt 3 you can also hook it up to some more powerful future GPU and, hilariously, you can also opt for a model with an RTX 2080 and/or a 512GB SSD. There’s also a 4K panel option, but even with the RTX 2080 I would not recommend it. It makes little sense at this screen size and the refresh rate is only 60Hz on that option. Other than that, Razer maintains its crown as the best gaming ultrabook maker.

MSI GS65 Stealth-002

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of an MSI fan. The company has built a formidable reputation among gamers; these days it’s a brand that I trust completely, whether we’re talking specific components or complete devices like this laptop.

The MSI GS65 Stealth-002 sits around the middle of our total price range, which is to say that it isn’t cheap but not particularly expensive in gaming laptop terms. When you look at the specs, however, it quickly becomes obvious that this laptop represents amazing value for money.

Let’s get some of the styling and form factor issues out of the way first, before messing around under the hood. This is a 15’6” machine, which is a perfectly good size when on the go, but I prefer to hook up to something more substantial when using it as a desktop replacement. The 17.3” form factor is a better all-rounder, especially if external monitors are not an option, but there is definitely a place for this more standard laptop size.

That being said, the screen bezels of the GS65 are almost non-existent, with just 4.9mm of plastic around the LCD panel. That means you get a great ratio between screen size and overall shell dimensions.

Speaking of the display, in this configuration you get the full-fat 144Hz experience. The latency, however, is 7ms – more than twice the 3ms spec we usually see on high-end machines. In practice you won’t notice, but having 144Hz at this price point is fantastic. Resolution-wise it’s a 1080p panel, which seems a mismatch with the GPU. However, a 1440p panel is a bit of a waste at this screen size, so it’s a decent place to cut specs.

On to the internals then. That aforementioned GPU is the RTX 2070 Max-Q. It’s the same basic silicon as the desktop RTX 2070, but with the clock rates cut down and other tweaks made to reduce power consumption and thermals. The end result is a chip that doesn’t quite hit the same performance as the desktop version, but still smacks any game known to man around at 1080p and beyond, while also not melting the laptop in the process. It’s paired with the very versatile i7-8750H – a hexa core CPU with very respectable boost clocks, with 12 threads. A 500GB SSD and 32GB of RAM rounds this out into a gaming laptop that’s amazing today and will be relevant for at least five years. If you really must access more GPU grunt in the future, this machine comes with Thunderbolt 3.

So, it’s thin and light and packs some serious horsepower. For the asking price, this is a hell of a lot of laptop!

ASUS TUF (2019) Gaming Laptop

The “TUF” series of products from Asus is relatively new, but I already like a lot of what they’re doing. In fact, I recently added the Asus TUF RTX 2060 to my own gaming PC, because it offered such a great blend of cost vs performance. So what about this particular TUF gaming laptop? It’s price comes in just above the “budget” segment, but not by much. However, it makes a HUGE difference in terms of specifications.

Instead of a 1050 Ti, we get one of the new 1660 Ti GPUs. This is essentially the perfect contemporary 1080p GPU and will max out most games at that resolution, while making the 120Hz panel refresh rate more than just window dressing. A lot of money has been saved by opting for a AMD Ryzen quad core. It’s a bit disappointing to only have four cores on tap, but at this price point I think it’s acceptable and the Ryzen 7 is no slouch. Another cut comes at the expense of SSD size, with only 256GB of space along with a 1TB mechanical drive. That does mean having to transfer your current demanding titles between drives, but that’s not too much of a hassle these days.

Asus has made a machine here that is specced almost perfectly to act as a gaming machine almost anyone will love. The cuts are deep in some places but, crucially, never have an impact on the core experience.

I also like the slim build, black and gold styling, and lack of unnecessary “value added” features. If this was about 10% cheaper, it would be the greatest budget laptop on the market. As it stands, it’s the best low-mid range machine you can buy. You’ll have to spend quite a bit more to get something that justifies a higher price tag.

Omen 15 (2018)

The thing about Omens is that there can be both good and bad ones. So when it comes to the HP Omen 15, which is it?

This Omen 15 is the 2018 revision of the popular gaming laptop series, but don’t let that put you off. I included this precisely because it’s offering some of the best mobile gaming technology of earlier years at a much more palatable price.

It’s especially appealing to gamers who don’t want to pay for features that they aren’t going to use – specifically, the new RTX GPUs from Nvidia and their ray tracing features. Those chips come at a premium and the technology is not very mature at all.

This HP Omen sports the GTX 1070, which is only about 10% slower than the RTX 2060 but has received a decent reduction in price since it’s previous generation hardware. Couple that with a six-core i7 and 32GB of RAM and you’ll have no trouble pushing the latest games to the max on the 1080p screen. It’s a great option if your budget is towards the lower end of the mid-range, but you’d still like premium performance.

I think the styling of the Omen is also worth mentioning. There’s something very appealing about the aggressive stealth styling of the Omen’s chassis and I really like how high the screen hinge stands off the main body. It’s something different and you’ll definitely turn some heads.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S

I’ve looked at the Zephyrus S in high-end trim and really liked it there. Here we have a model that’s priced in the middle of the mid-range, but retains many of the things I loved about the high-end model.

Like the Razer Blade, the Zephyrus S is a slim gaming laptop, although it doesn’t come across quite as svelte as the offering from Razer. However, the spec sheets list this laptop at 0.6 inches, which is less than the Blade. So, looks can be deceiving.

The laptop is quite a looker and I very much like the keyboard and trackpad design. It’s becoming more and more common for laptops to have the keyboard at the lower edge of the chassis, with a trackpad to the right. While you still can’t really play most games with a trackpad, it’s way more ergonomic to have the pad off to the side rather than below the keyboard. It also means the cooling system can be efficiently centralized in the upper part of the chassis. I’m a fan of this design.

The specs on this version of the Zephyrus are really great for the asking price. You get the six core i7 model, close enough to the top that you don’t have to worry about petty things like bottlenecking. It’s paired with the RTX 2070, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. The 15.6” monitor is a 144Hz FHD IPS panel that will do that high-end GPU justice.

They’ve done quite a bit of polishing to make this even more appealing as a gaming machine. It has a proper stereo speaker setup that faces the user just as it would on a desktop machine. Overall, this machine is almost perfect as a midrange machine with upper-end specs. The cooling is also exceptional, with people reporting great temperatures even after hours of gaming. There are some complaints about some units suffering from backlight bleeding beyond what’s acceptable, but that’s an issue for warranty returns.

Middle of The Road Ain’t So Bad

Not too long ago, spending this sort of money on a gaming laptop would only buy you disappointment. As you can see from these lovely machines, that’s no longer the case at all. Any one of these laptops is likely to satisfy even hardcore PC gamers. You almost wonder why you’d spend more – that is, until you actually see those ultimate gaming laptops in action.