Top gaming laptops for back to school

Gaming laptops and everyday laptops you might use for school used to be two very different animals. The power needed for mobile gaming once meant a big, heavy laptop that was the proverbial “boat anchor.” Battery life was miserable as well. Meanwhile, students wanted laptops that were thin, light, and easy to carry. They needed battery life that didn’t require lugging a power adapter to school. Thanks to big advances in mobile processor and GPUs there is no longer a need to make the difficult choice between gaming and school. I’ve put together a list of gaming laptops that will make the most of AAA titles, and also be right at home sitting in the library, running Word or Excel.

Besides performance, gaming laptops offer other advantages. They tend to be packed with the latest technology from high-speed solid state drives, to Wi-Fi 6. While many ultra-portable laptops skimp on ports, gaming laptops are usually well equipped with a mix of input and output ports to support video, external drives, thumb drives, peripherals, and accessories. They are also known for their responsive (and frequently backlit) keyboards—critical for gaming, but also important for typing essays.

One quick word about remote learning. Gaming laptops don’t always include a built-in webcam. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them for video conferencing and remote learning.

Simply plug in a USB webcam. It’s a little less convenient than a built-in webcam, but this offers the advantage of being able to position the camera perfectly (you can even use a tripod), and most standalone webcams offer a superior picture to built-ins.   

ASUS ROG Strix G15

The first laptop on this list proves that gaming laptops are also defying old assumptions about cost. You don’t have to pay a big premium to get a good mobile gaming experience.

The ASUS ROG Strix G15 is equipped with a 10th generation, quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU with 8GB of DDR4 RAM. Its NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti graphics card (with 4GB of DDR6 RAM) pushes the pixels on a Full HD IPS display with anti-glare and a 144Hz refresh rate. 512GB of M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 storage ensures fast booting, fast load times, and plenty of storage for games, videos, and assignments. The full-sized RGB backlit keyboard is optimized for gaming, but also provides an excellent typing experience for school assignments. The laptop is equipped with a full complement of ports and Wi-Fi 6 provides the fastest possible wireless connectivity.

HP Pavilion 15.6-inch gaming laptop

HP is another company with a very compelling, entry-level gaming laptop. The HP Pavilion 15.6-inch in Shadow Black offers the performance of a hexa-core AMD Ryzen 5 5600H processor paired with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card. A combo that’s ideal for gaming and multitasking. Its lithium-ion polymer battery offers up to 8 hours of gaming on a single charge.

This gaming laptop also embraces style with a 15.6-inch Full HD, micro-edge bezel display, front-firing speakers with Audio by B&O, a shadow black case with acid green chrome logo, and an acid green backlit keyboard. Unlike many gaming laptops, this one comes with a built-in webcam—an HP True Vision 720p HD camera with integrated dual array microphones.

ASUS ROG Strix G17

As you move into the mid-range of gaming laptops, the capabilities and features become much more impressive. The ASUS ROG Strix G17 is a perfect example.

The display is a massive 17.3-inch Full HD panel with ant-glare and a 144Hz refresh rate. You’ll see all the action in buttery smoothness and you have the room to have multiple windows open for researching that essay. The ROG Strix G17 is powered by the potent combination of a 3GHz AMD Ryzen 7 5800H octa-core processor with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card with 6GB of RAM. With that RTX 3000-series mobile GPU, you’ll be able to take advantage of advanced features like DLSS (learn more here), and real-time ray tracing. It’s also ready to take on virtual reality.

The ROG Strix G17 is loaded with ports for all your new and legacy accessories, it has both Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi 6, dual-band Bluetooth 5.1 (able to effectively manage multiple wireless accessories), a massive 1TB PCIe solid state drive, and a four-zone RGB backlit chiclet keyboard. You’ll also see an LED light bar for “underglow” effect beneath the laptop. The 4-cell li-ion rechargeable battery has a capacity of 90Wh.

ROG Zephyrus G14

How do you make a gaming laptop as friendly as possible for students who need to carry it to school? Make it as compact as possible. The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 gaming laptop epitomizes this design strategy. It’s equipped with a 14-inch display, with an ultralight design and a super thin profile. That equates to a gaming laptop that’s just 1.95cm thick and weighs only 1.68kg (3.7 pounds).

Don’t mistake its diminutive size for meaning it can’t keep up. This pint-sized gaming laptop is a performance powerhouse. 

Besides all the ports you might want plus the latest in wired and wireless connectivity, it’s equipped with a 3.1GHz AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS octa-core processor with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card with 6GB of RAM. The display may be only 14 inches, but it’s a Full HD panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, 72% NTSC colour coverage, and anti-glare treatment. Games, videos, and image will pop with bright and accurate colours, motion is smooth, while text will be crisp.

MSI GP76 Leopard 17.3-inch gaming laptop

Finally, a monster of a gaming laptop that still somehow manages to be portable enough that you can slip it in a backpack. 

The MSI GP76 Leopard 17.3-inch gaming laptop is built around a big, bright, Full HD display with 99.99% RGB coverage and a 240Hz refresh rate. The components inside offer the maximum performance possible in a mobile form factor. This includes an octa-core Intel Core i7-11800H processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX3070 graphics card with 8GB of RAM, 512GB of solid state storage, Killer 2×2 Wi-Fi 6E, Killer 2.5GB Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.2, and a full range of I/O ports (including HDMI and 3 x USB3.2 Gen 1).

Anyone who is taking classes that require high performance computing power—2D and 3D rendering, for example—will appreciate the extreme power of the MSI GP76 Leopard. Of course, that 17.3-inch display and will also provide plenty of screen space for working on Excel spreadsheets and Word docs.

Whether you shop online, or choose a safe, in-store experience at your local store, Best Buy has everything needed for a successful school year.

[Editor’s note: this is an updated version of an earlier article. The gaming laptops mentioned have been updated to reflect products that are currently available.]

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