If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
To a gamer, a little bit of lag is the difference between life and death.
Not literally, of course, but in-game — where stats, tournament standings, and Twitch streaming can be affected by even the smallest slowdowns — a laptop that won’t let you down is an absolute necessity.
It isn’t just gamers who need to worry about laptop speed. Whether you’re editing video, working on a presentation or creating your latest graphic design masterpiece, the speed of your computer system can greatly affect its performance. Nothing stalls your creativity quite like a laptop that can’t keep up — or stalls midway through a project.
Still, the most obvious place to test out your laptop speed will be through a video game, where you want the fast-motion graphics to whizz and whirl (and not bunch and blur) around the screen.
Do You Need a Faster Laptop?
All gamers don’t just fit under one easy umbrella. A casual gamer has completely different needs in a laptop than a hardcore one. Even if you’re not into gaming, before you go all-in on a faster laptop, take a minute and think about what you’ll be using it for now and in the future as well.
“The first thing to consider is your priorities,” says Nayan Ramachandran, Co-Founder of Osaka-based game publishing company, DANGEN Entertainment. “Not all gamers play every type of game, so depending on what you enjoy playing, your priorities will change. For instance, if you predominantly play indie games, you won’t necessarily need to prioritize a powerful graphics card – often referred to as a GPU. You will, however, want to have a decent amount of RAM, a solid state drive with a decent speed to help with loading, and to make sure the screen supports 1080p.”
“If you’re likely to play more recent AAA titles, especially those that push realistic graphics,” he continues, “you’ll want to find a laptop that balances a strong GPU, a fast processor, and a good amount of RAM. And since you likely won’t be able to upgrade any of these components at a later date, it’s a good idea to find the best combination when you buy the laptop.”
What Are the Fastest Laptops?
We’ve selected six fast, powerful and loaded laptops that meet the needs of most anyone looking for a reliable machine. From consistent gamers to occasional streamers, these laptops have got the processing power, GPU, and RAM to make sure everything you need is running smooth and speedily.
1. Razer Blade 17 Laptop
If you’ve got cash to spend, the Razer Blade 17 is one of the fastest laptops you can buy right now. Its speed and its sleek, 17.3-inch anti-glare screen isn’t even the best part about this pick: it’s packed with features even professional gamers only ever dream of.
First off, you’ve got a refresh rate as high as 360Hz — the highest refresh rate you can get in a laptop (note you can only get 360Hz on the FHD version). The display can be either full HD or even 4K if you’re willing to shell an extra few bucks and there’s NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics for clear, immersive visuals on all your games.
That’s not all: There is a quad-speaker array with support for 7.1 surround sound so all your in-game music and sound effects will feel highly realistic. Your new laptop will keep from overheating as well with an integrated vapor cooling system so feel free to load up all the heavy-duty games you want.
You’ll even like the keyboard design and functionality which features Razer’s flagship RGB lighting allowing you to customize your laptop in any way you please (and switch it up whenever you want).
It’s not the lightest option though, weighing about six pounds, so if you’re looking for something with more portability get the Razer Blade 14.
2. ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 Laptop
For a more portable pick that still delivers fast performance, get the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14. This 14-inch laptop features Full HD resolution and a decent 10-hour battery life to get you through the day — though keep in mind it drops to under two hours if you’re continuously gaming.
Under the hood, you’ve got an AMD Ryzen processor which means you’ll be able to game as well as multitask with ease without your device giving out. There’s also NVIDIA graphics for crystal clear images and with Ray Tracing, you’ll see some pretty great lighting visuals on games with deep shadows. Some customers did say the fan tends to get a little loud, but this helps keep your laptop relatively cool which is good. (You can also adjust the fan speed through the Asus Armory Crate software — accessible on the keyboard — and set it to silent if you’re using this laptop for something other than gaming).
Since it weighs about 3.75 pounds it’s just portable enough without putting too much weight on your shoulders. It’s also incredibly thin with slim bezels so it should fit in your backpack with no issues.
3. MacBook Air
We like this MacBook Air, which is sleek, speedy, and easy on the eyes with its aesthetically pleasing colors and display, chic outer shell design, and the “dark mode” option for working after-hours.
The 13.3-inch MacBook Air features Retina Display with True Tone, for a higher pixel density that provides a crisper and sharper picture on everything from iMovie projects down to each individual app icon. The convenient Touch ID feature lets you log in securely (if you don’t mind giving up your fingerprint, though it can be done with the Apple Watch too), while Apple’s M1 chip does the encryption instead of the processor, ensuring even greater security of your machine.
Considering its incredibly light weight, the Air’s speed is perfectly adequate, and fueled by a quad-core Intel Core i7 Processor, with an 8-core GPU for up to five times faster graphics. Fast SSD Storage and 8GB memory will keep things running smoothly, and for a thin laptop, the built-in speakers provide a nice wide sound too.
The MacBook Air is great for gamers, and for everyday usage like streaming, web browsing, and photo editing. Plus if the slim amount of storage is an issue, upgrading to iCloud will get you a ton more gigs for short money.
You get gorgeous and detailed picture and color display, along with super light weight and fast processing speed for typical application usage. Plus: Get up to 18 hours of battery life — one of the longest-lasting gaming laptops on our list.
4. Dell G15 Laptop
The fastest laptops are not all expensive — you can get top performance even at a lower price point. Enter: the Dell G15 laptop which will cost you under $1,000 on most models.
You can pick either an AMD Ryden model or an Intel version, depending on which processor you prefer (right now, the starting price for the AMD Ryzen model is about $100 cheaper). The display is a wide 15.6 inches on both versions and features FHD resolution like many of the other more expensive options in this list.
There are also decent NVIDIA GeForce graphics for upgraded visuals and up to 16GB of RAM if you’re willing to spend a little more (although for casual gamers 8GB is perfectly fine). The brand also claims your laptop should stay cool as you game or work and Dell shoppers agreed that the performance is both fast and quiet.
Sure the graphics may not be as great as one of the more expensive laptops on this list, and you’re missing out on the flashy design most gaming laptops boast but at its price, this is the best mid-range laptop you can buy.
5. Acer Predator Helios 300 Laptop
Acer’s Predator Helios is built for speed, right to the core.
The 9th generation Intel Core i7 processor powers this beast, and gets up to 4.5GHz, with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Graphics and 6GB of dedicated GDDR6 VRAM. And since every bit of bandwidth counts, the control center’s killer DoubleShot Pro feature allows you to prioritize which applications are using it up, for an even faster experience. There’s even an easy “run with graphics processor” menu option – just right-click on which application you want and select it. Blur and lag won’t slow down you or your character either. The Predator has a blazing fast refresh rate of 144hz to support solid motion without slowdowns, and a response time of 3ms.
The 3720mAh battery gives a decently long life with everything running, about four hours total, but it’s hard to give an exact estimate since there are so many variables using it up. Another helpful feature is the PredatorSense Key, which provides the user with instant shortcuts to control and customize fan speed, overclocking, game profiles and more. And to literally keep things cool, the 4th Gen Aeroblade 3D Fan is specifically engineered to prevent overheating.
The display is plenty bright, even outdoors, with an aesthetically pleasing blend of color and contrast. The blue backlighting is a nice touch too for late-night raids, and if you’ve got a VR headset, just plug it in and you’re good to get in the game.
With lots of RAM, two slots for an SSD drive, and plenty of processing speed for gaming, this is an easy pick up for gamers. The large, quiet, and full keyboard, with sensitive keys, is super intuitive and a slightly narrow but still very functional 10-key number pad on the right helps to save space. The trackpad is also plenty roomy, with no defined click buttons giving it that extra-needed space. The laptop shell itself has a solid metal top, and plastic bottom to prevent it from overheating your lap.
Keep in mind that there is no direct “Display” option in the control panel, which was a minor annoyance to some users. Also, there’s no more easy access ports such as WiFi, memory, or SSD; in order to get to them, you’d have to remove the entire bottom of the shell.
6. Alienware X17 Laptop
Another fast laptop option with ample screen space is the Alienware X17 which boasts a gorgeous 17.3-inch FHD display. (Note: a UHD model is also available).
It’s pretty sleek and packs high-quality Nvidia GeForce graphics and an Intel Core CPU for powerful, seamless performance. RAM capabilities run as high as 32GB, so you know you’ll be able to multitask and play all the AAA games you want with ease.
As for design, you’ve got an RGB keyboard that looks great in the dark and a fingerprint-resistant outer shell for a clean look. You’ll also like the smooth, responsive keys equipped with anti-ghosting technology which means no matter how quick of a gamer you are, your new laptop will never miss a beat.
You’ll get refresh rates as high as 360Hz on the FHD model as well as extremely quick response times.
There’s also the Alienware command center which can modify sound, lighting, thermal management and more. It does run a little heavy at about 6.65 pounds but it is thin enough to fit in your everyday bag.