Gaming laptop half closed

Whether you’re a seasoned PC gamer or just getting to grips with the specs you need, a gaming laptop can be a great way to enjoy your favourite titles wherever you go. With powerful graphics cards, high-refresh-rate displays, and long battery life, these laptops are designed to handle even the most demanding games.

While Windows laptops have long been the go-to system for playing the latest games via Steam, Xbox Game Pass for PC, and more, other systems like MacBooks and Chromebooks are coming into the fold – albeit with some limitations.

This buyer’s guide will give you a breakdown of the best gaming laptops in NZ and a list of key factors you should consider to find the right gaming rig that fits your budget. Looking for more of the best laptops for students? We’ve got you covered.

Best Gaming Laptop NZ

1. Asus ROG Strix Scar 16

Best gaming laptop

Price: From $5,200
CPU: Intel Core i9-13980HX
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 1TB
Display: 16in, QHD+ (2560 x 1600), 240Hz

Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 (2023) Lead Image

I’m a big fan of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 (2023). It has everything you could want in a gaming laptop: a high-end 13th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU, the latest RTX 4080 GPU, a 16-inch QHD+ display with a 240hz refresh rate and a boatload of RGB lighting.

These are dream-like specs, and Asus has done a phenomenal job fitting this kind of power into a 16-inch gaming laptop (with style). If you’re the type who enjoys pushing graphics and performance to their limit, the ROG Strix Scar 16 lets you do that without breaking a metaphorical sweat. Be prepared; this laptop will put a literal dent in your wallet.

Its specs make it pricey, bulky and short on battery life. However, as with all of Asus’ ROG Strix lineup, this is a heavy-duty rig made for demanding triple-A gaming and multimedia tasks, and the Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 doesn’t try to deny being anything else.

The Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 prefers to call its home on your desk rather than your backpack, and if that’s what you’re looking for (and have a lot of extra cash lying around), then you’ll be more than satisfied with what this 16-inch beast has to offer.

If we’re talking about one of the best gaming laptops to get in New Zealand, not including the price, the Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 fits the bill.

Here’s our Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 (2023) review.

2. Dell G15 (2023)

Best budget gaming laptop

Price: From $1,999
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060
RAM: 16GB DDR5
Storage: 512GB
Display: 15.6in, FHD (1920 x 1080), 165Hz

Dell G15 (2023)

Finding a good gaming laptop with current-gen specs at a fair price is challenging, but the Dell G15 (2023) sees the right balance. With an RTX 4060, 16GB of DDR5 RAM, and a solid 15.6-inch bright display with a 165Hz refresh rate, this laptop ticks all the right boxes for anyone who wants to game without spending a fortune.

While its bulky and sharp-edged design isn’t ideal for carrying around between classes or lectures, it still offers a solid build with top-tier specs. Speaking of, these specs aren’t just great for gaming; working on this laptop is a breeze with multi-tasking power, a large display so you’re not squinting at words, and a fine keyboard (although the trackpad is too small).

You may not max out graphics settings in AAA games, but you can play all the most popular titles, including competitive games such as Apex Legends, Valorant, and Overwatch 2.

For just under $2,000, the Dell G15 has many tricks up its sleeve for a budget gaming laptop.

3. Lenovo Legion Pro 7i

Alternative best gaming laptop

Price: From $3,469
CPU: Intel Core i9-13900HX
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 / 4080 / 4090
RAM: 16GB / 32GB
Storage: 512GB / 1TB
Display: 16in, WQXGA (2560 x 1600), 240Hz

Lenovo Legion Pro 7i

There’s no denying the Lenovo Legion Pro 7i Gen 8 is a powerful gaming machine. Packing a 13th Gen Intel i9 CPU, up to a Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU, and plenty of ports capable of multiple 4K displays, this gaming laptop entertains to the highest degree.

It isn’t as if there aren’t other potent machines with these specs flooding the market, too. But the Legion Pro 7i offers a decent price compared to the rest. The blistering power of an Intel Core i9 CPU and RTX 4090 working together on a well-designed 16-inch rig is something to applaud. But I can hear more cheers for its RTX 4080 configuration thanks to its appealing price tag.

It’s unfortunate the build, keyboard and battery aren’t up to scratch, but these aren’t dealbreakers when you’re getting top-of-the-line specs showcased on a gorgeous 16-inch QHD+ display with a 240hz refresh rate. Plus, if you’re after a low-key gaming laptop, the Legion Pro 7i nails that design.

Going after the best specs in a gaming laptop will set you back a fair amount, but the right configuration on the Legion Pro 7i will put less of a dent in your wallet compared to other premium gaming laptops.

Here’s our full Lenovo Legion Pro 7i review.

4. Acer Chromebook 516 GE

Best Chromebook for gaming

Price: From $1,600
CPU: Intel Iris Xe
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060
RAM: 8GB DDR4X
Storage: 256GB
Display: 16in, WQXGA (2560 x 1600), 120Hz

Acer-Chormebook-516-GE

It isn’t easy finding a Chromebook in NZ, but if you want to try out the perks of cloud gaming (affordable top-tier graphics) in a well-built design, search for the Acer Chromebook 516 GE. Its specs may not be impressive for a gaming laptop, but they don’t need to be when gaming on the cloud with fast internet speeds.

Utilising Nvidia GeForce NOW, you can play the latest games with the power of an RTX 4080 and 4K resolution. You can also expect smooth 120 frames per second, thanks to its fantastic 16-inch WQXGA (2560 X 1600) IPS display with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 100% sRGB colour gamut coverage.

Its list of ports is what can make it a gaming powerhouse, with a HDMI 2.1, 2.5G Gigabit Ethernet LAN port, dual USB-C 3.2, and a USB-A 3.2. That LAN port is great for high-speed internet and crucial for a gaming Chromebook, but it also boasts Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity for wireless gameplay.

The RGB keyboard with anti-ghosting tech is a bonus, and you can play a few PC games through Steam on ChromeOS Alpha. If you have a speedy internet connection and are after a low-cost gaming laptop, the Acer Chromebook 516 GE should be at the top of your list.

5. MacBook Pro 16 (M3 Pro/Max)

Best MacBook for gaming

Price: From $4,799
CPU: Apple M3 Pro/Max
GPU: Apple M3 Pro/Max
RAM: 16GB / 32GB / 64GB / 96GB
Storage: 1TB/ 2TB / 4TB / 8TB
Display: 14.2/16.2in, 3456 x 2234 resolution

Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (2023) M3 review

The 2023 M3 MacBook Pro is a powerhouse generally aimed at professionals in demanding fields like VFX and 3D animation. However, Apple has been pushing the envelope on its custom chip’s gaming capabilities, and its M3 Max chip shows off its potential.

Thanks to Metal 3 powering hardware-accelerated graphics, expect big titles like Baldur’s Gate 3, Hades, Resident Evil, and more in crisp detail. It helps that this MacBook boasts a mesmerising 16-inch XDR display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 1,600 nits of peak brightness.

Throw in its 18 hours for the M3 Pro and M3 Max models, the usual comfortable keyboard, large trackpad, and minimalist design, and you have yourself a powerful, compact laptop that can game – albeit on the pricey side. We don’t recommend getting a MacBook Pro purely for gaming, but if you’re a creative professional who enjoys a good gaming session, there’s no better MacBook to get – especially if you have the cash to splash.

Here’s our MacBook Pro 14 (2023) M3 review.

6. Alienware m18

Best 18-inch gaming laptop

Price: From $4,403
CPU: Intel Core i9-13900HX / i9-13980HX
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 / 4080 / 4090
RAM: 32GB / 64GB DDR5
Storage: 1TB/ 2TB
Display: 18in, QHD+ (2569 x 1600), 165Hz

Alienware m18

Dell’s Alienware gaming laptop range is famous for delivering the best specs in the industry, and the Alienware m18 stands as a testament. With up to 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13980HX, an RTX 4090, 64GB of DDR5 RAM, and a 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD, this big-screen gaming laptop can handle anything.

Its gorgeous 18-inch QHD+ (2560 x 1600) with a 165Hz refresh rate, low 3ms response time, and 100% DCI-P3 coverage makes graphically intense games shine, making it an excellent pick for a desktop replacement. This size also contributes to how bulky and heavy this laptop is, so it’s best placed on a desk rather than carried around in a bag or used in public settings. Plus, its battery life is lacking (4-5 hours while not playing games).

Regardless, the Alienware m18 continues the brand’s legacy of powerful gaming laptops with a premium design, and its starting price is reasonable enough for an RTX 4070 model.

Best Gaming Laptop: Buyer’s Guide

When buying a gaming laptop, consider these key factors:

Windows, MacBook, or Chromebook?

Until recently, Windows laptops reigned supreme as the go-to laptop for PC gaming. Now, Chromebooks and MacBooks are coming into the fold in their own ways.

Chromebooks have become a popular choice for casual gamers due to their affordability, portability, and focus on cloud gaming service support. Platforms like Nvidia GeForce NOW and Amazon Luna allow owners to stream games from powerful servers (up to an RTX 4080) straight to their Chromebooks without needing a high-end graphics card or powerful CPU. Note that you’ll still need to pay for a subscription to these services.

Windows laptops offer a wide variety of options from different brands that often come with configurable, high-performance hardware. From low-cost machines that give you fantastic performance in popular titles like Fortnite and Minecraft to the latest and greatest hardware that lets you play AAA games at the highest settings, Windows laptops offer the most benefits. Plus, there’s the de facto PC gaming client, Steam.

MacBooks are premium ultraportables that aren’t mainly used for gaming, but that doesn’t mean they can’t dish out excellent performance. These laptops don’t have a vast library of titles, but Apple continues to push the MacBook’s gaming potential further. Expect to play more tactical RPGs and indie titles on MacBooks, such as Baldur’s Gate 3, Disco Elysium, Hades, and more.

Know your budget

There are plenty of powerful laptops for creatives, programming students, and PC gamers without needing to overspend. For gamers, it is rare to find a gaming laptop under $1,000, meaning spending a lot is a given. However, you don’t have to sell an arm and a leg to get what you need.

Gaming laptop prices range from below $1,000 to well over $10,000. Some thrive as budget machines that offer more bang for your buck (like gaming Chromebooks), while others are pricey powerhouses packed with the latest CPUs and GPUs that will last for years to come. 

If you only need a decent display, a comfortable keyboard to type on, and a strong internet connection to scroll endlessly online, then a low-price Windows laptop or first-rate Chromebook will do the trick. These aren’t made demanding, on-device gaming but are perfect for online activities. You can grab these for around $1,000. 

Then there’s the more established category of laptops, which includes premium ultraportable gaming notebooks and mid-range gaming laptops. These systems pack plenty of heat under the hood and are great for multitasking, general photo and video editing, churning out spreadsheets, and more. These will range anywhere from below $1,500 to over $3,000. 

Finally, the heavy hitters. These laptops, such as the M3 MacBook Pro or Lenovo Legion Pro 7i with RTX 4090 power, are made for gamers who want it all. You can expect impressive specs like 64GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD storage and impressive displays boasting QHD+ (3200 × 1800) resolution with 240Hz refresh rates. But these can go up to over $10,000, which will put a dent in anyone’s wallet.

All in all, know what you need in a laptop and set the right budget for it.

Know your CPU

Intel or AMD? An Intel Core i5 or i7? M1 or M3 Max? CPUs and their names can be a bottomless pit of confusion, but they can also be easily summed up.

First off, 13th Gen Intel and AMD Ryzen 7000 series CPUs are the latest generation of mobile processors, so watch out for these if you’re after more recently released laptops. That’s not to say that 12th Gen Intel and Ryzen 6000 chips are obsolete, as they can still dish out impressive processing power. 

For basic tasks, an Intel i3, Celeron, Pentium or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU will do the job but lack enough power for heavy multitasking. Intel i5 and Ryzen 7 are your mid-range chips, while Intel i7 or i9 and Ryzen 9 are more for power users.

As for Apple’s custom ARM-based M-series chips, you can expect more than enough processing power no matter which chip you choose. The M1 is still seen as a versatile CPU that can handle a majority of tasks, but the M2 and M3 range bumps up this performance. With the M3 Pro and M3 Max, multimedia professionals can expect to glide through power-hungry tasks. However, the M1, M2, or M3 chip should be more than enough for casual and intermediate users. 

Know your GPU

You’ll likely already know what you’re looking for if you’re a gamer. Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 Series mobile GPUs and AMD Radeon RX 7000 series GPUs are the latest and greatest, but RTX 30 Series and Radeon RX 6000 series are still extremely powerful graphics cards. 

As for everyone else, there is a wave of GPUs available that laptop manufacturers can put in. If you’re not using your notebook for gaming or graphics work, graphics cards like Intel iris Xe or Intel UHD graphics are fine.

Know your displays

Over the years, laptops have seen different screen sizes soar in popularity. Because of this, however, we now have several display size options to pick from, along with the various resolutions and refresh rates they boast. 

If you’re looking for a portable machine to carry around effortlessly, a 13-inch or 14-inch display will suit you perfectly. Moreover, modern laptops are seeing very thin bezels, making the most of the display’s real estate. You may find 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution displays in these sizes, but a 13 or 14-inch size is still too small to see any real difference in quality compared to a bright and vivid 1920 x 1080 resolution display. Furthermore, 1080p screens generally offer higher refresh rates, going up to 360Hz – and that’s great for competitive multiplayer games.

A 15-inch display is just the ticket for something between mobility and stationary. Not too big to stuff into a bag, but not too small to fully enjoy a wider, better-defined binge-watch session. 15-inch laptops are getting thinner and lighter, but they are more suited for sitting on desks the majority of the time rather than taking them out in a café or on transport. Laptops with a 16-inch display are also a good shout, as some will come with a 15-inch chassis. 

With 17-inch and 18-inch laptops, you’re getting into desktop replacement territory. Hardly ever seen without a desk to sit on, these sizeable laptops are all about giving people more screen space to fully engage in editing, gaming or split-screening. Display resolution can play a bigger role here, with UHD (2560 x 1440) and 4K offering gorgeous visuals. We’re now seeing higher resolutions boasting high refresh rates, too, with 4K offering 144Hz and QHD bringing 240Hz to the table. Although, expect to pay a pretty penny.

One final point. A 16:9 aspect ratio is perfectly fine for laptops, but those with a 16:10 ratio offer a little more wiggle room for a more comfortable visual experience.

Know your RAM

A laptop’s RAM (Random Access Memory) is its lifeblood. The more you do – like live streaming while playing demanding AAA games – the more RAM a system needs. 

Generally, 8GB of RAM is the standard for casual tasks such as browsing the internet, writing documents, watching videos, and even some light gaming. If you do anything more at the same time, your laptop may struggle to keep up, resulting in slower performance. 

With 16GB of RAM, you can expect to do moderate multitasking. It’s usually more than enough for many, as it lets them watch videos in the background with a bunch of tabs open, play many of the latest games, work away on documents and spreadsheets, and more. You can also expect to do some editing, albeit not as efficiently as laptops with higher RAM. 

32GB of RAM and beyond are for those who perform high-demanding tasks. For intensive gaming, editing, graphic designing and multitasking, this amount of RAM will handle it with ease. Of course, the more RAM a laptop has, the more expensive it will be, so keep in mind what you’ll need your laptop for.

As a side note, you should keep an eye out for DDR5 RAM, as this is one of the most capable types of memory.

Know your storage

Well, how much do you plan to store? Unless you’re a gamer, 256GB of SSD (Solid State Drive) storage will be more than enough to save your files.

Adding more storage, going up to 512GB, 1TB, or even up to a whopping 8TB, is available to those who need the space to access a selection of large files quickly. Games, videos and multimedia projects can sometimes be over 100GBs, so if you don’t want to reach the storage ceiling anytime soon, you’ll need as much as you can get. Plus, full internal storage makes for a slower laptop. 

Looking for more space? The good news is you can easily grab an external SSD to expand your laptop’s storage.

Know your battery life

Several factors can affect a laptop’s battery life: power-hungry CPUs and GPUs, large displays or simply older specs. Laptops were made for portability, so their battery is a key feature. The same can’t be applied to gaming laptops, as their specs under the hood often suck up battery life within a couple of hours or less. Gaming laptops are best used by planting your laptop on a desk and having it plugged in.

Still, you don’t want a system that will die when not tethered to an outlet. A good laptop should have at least 8 hours of battery life, which should get you through an average working day. The best will go beyond 12 hours, and these are generally the ultraportables with high-performing specs. For example, Apple’s MacBooks claim to last up to 22 hours.

For gamers, finding a machine you can play for 5 hours or more when not plugged in is trickier – especially if you’re playing the latest titles. Gaming zaps a laptop’s battery, so it’s understood that gaming laptops are plugged in more often than not. That said, thanks to next-gen processors, gaming rigs are becoming more efficient, meaning they can go beyond 5 hours (depending on the game you play). It’s best to leave it plugged in while gaming for optimal performance.