Best Laptop For Gaming And School Work for Your Needs

Need help making a decision or have a question about a product? Our dedicated tech expert team is here to help. We’ve included our favorite budget-friendly model in this best Laptop For Gaming And School Work roundup but we have a list of more-affordable Laptop For Gaming And School Work that you can check out as well.

Why you can trust our picks

For each category, we carefully considered the needs and wants of each market segment. For example, the business traveller will need quite a different set of features from the pro PC gamer. We then assembled a list of available models in the American marketplace, bearing in mind that iteration in the laptop space means that often older units may sit available for some time at retail, even given that a newer model may have emerged from a given manufacturer.

Where we had a direct review of a given laptop, we used that as our primary guide, but where we didn't, we looked across reputable review sites and consumers review ratings to quantify our picks. Even for those units where we had a review, secondary sources were considered in order to reduce any potential bias or missed features or issues with a given laptop model.

Laptop design is a key criteria across any type of notebook computer. Here, we consider both the build quality of a given laptop – you don't want it falling apart on day one, after all – but also features like the quality of the keyboard and trackpad, carrying weight, external ports, network connectivity and screen quality. Again, your need for these features will vary by usage type and budget.

Performance will vary by model, but the reality in the network space is that most manufacturers are working from standardised parts from makers such as Intel and AMD, so we look carefully at both real-world and benchmark results to assess any given laptop. Many manufacturers also extend the feature set of given laptops with additional software. Sometimes this has genuine value, while in other cases it can clutter up a notebook, requiring a tedious uninstall process if all you want is that basic computer experience without frills or pester boxes for unwanted subscription software.

While the laptop market has significantly overtaken that of desktops, portability is still an important factor for any laptop, whether you need that portability to encompass travelling across the planet or just across the living room. That's where a careful assessment of battery life comes into play, especially for ultraportable and 2-in-1 models where a degree of portability is assumed. We test with a range of benchmarks to get a baseline figure for each laptop we review, as well as assessing third-party reports on battery life where we haven't reviewed a specific model to come to our conclusions.

Finally, of course, there's price. While it's feasible to score a bargain on just about any given laptop – yes, that does include Apple models, although that's almost always through third-party retailers – we work from the manufacturer's recommended retail price to balance laptops against each other and against the expectations of that market segment. Notebooks are a very mature market category and the differences in expectations and pricing for a budget laptop are immensely different from a Pro-grade workstation laptop or gaming laptop, for example.

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias, but Gaming Eon may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

Types of laptops

You have two main options to consider when choosing a laptop:

  • Laptop computers. Also known as a notebook computer, a laptop offers all the functionality of a desktop computer in a portable, lightweight device. It features a screen that's usually somewhere between 11 and 18 inches, a touchpad mouse and a keyboard. Options in this category include laptops from brands like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo, as well as Apple's range of MacBooks and Google Chromebooks.
  • 2-in-1 laptops. Also known as convertible or hybrid laptops, 2-in-1 models can be used just like an ordinary laptop, but can also be converted to a tablet whenever the need arises. They feature touchscreens, detachable or flip-around keyboards and slimline designs to make them as portable as possible. The Microsoft Surface Pro is one of the biggest names in the 2-in-1 space, while other manufacturers like Dell, HP and Lenovo all offer their own convertible devices.

If you'd prefer the portability and convenience of a tablet, check out our tablet buying guide. Alternatively, if you're in the market for a more traditional desktop device, our desktop computer buying guide has plenty of useful info. If you're a hardcore gamer who's undecided as to which type of computer is best, check out our complete guide to gaming PCs vs gaming laptops.

Operating systems

Most laptops come with one of the following operating systems:

  • Windows 10. Windows is available on a wide range of laptops, from cheap entry-level models right through to top-spec machines of $4,000 or more. Known for its flexibility and ability to run an extensive range of programs, Windows is a popular and familiar choice for many buyers.
  • macOS. Formerly known as OS X, the macOS operating system runs on Apple MacBooks. It's known for its user-friendliness and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used previous Mac operating systems.
  • Chrome OS. This web-based option from Google comes on Chromebook laptops and is designed to offer a simple, streamlined operating system. If you've got an Android phone, you shouldn't have any trouble using Chrome OS.

Consider the other computers, smartphones and tablets you have around the home to ensure compatibility. For example, if you run a Windows desktop PC and Android phones and tablets, choosing a MacBook Pro as your laptop could make it tricky to move files and programs between devices.

Three things to consider

Make sure you consider the following factors before deciding on the best gaming laptop for you:

  1. Processor. A good gaming laptop should have a powerful processor, such as an Intel Core i7 or an AMD Ryzen. This will ensure that the laptop can handle demanding games and other tasks.
  2. Graphics card. A dedicated graphics card, such as an NVIDIA GeForce or an AMD Radeon, is essential for smooth and high-quality gaming. Look for a laptop with a dedicated graphics card rather than an integrated one, as integrated graphics are not as powerful.
  3. Memory. Make sure the laptop has enough memory (RAM) to support the games you want to play. 8GB is a good amount for most games, but more demanding games may require 12GB or more.
  4. Other things to consider include the size and weight of the laptop, the quality of the display, and the availability of ports and connectivity options. It's also a good idea to consider the battery life and the overall build quality of the laptop.

How to compare laptops

When choosing a laptop, consider the following factors:

PriceYou can pick up an entry-level laptop for between $300 and $500. Adding more features and higher specs, such as a bigger screen, faster processor, more RAM and greater storage capacity, will see prices rise pretty quickly. Top-spec general-use laptops max out at around $4,000, while gaming laptops can be priced up to $5,000 and beyond. 2-in-1 laptop prices start at around $400, while you could pay $4,000 or more for a top-spec model.
Screen size and resolutionLaptop screen sizes generally range from 11-18 inches, with the 14-15 inch being the most popular choice. Look for the right balance between portability and the optimum display size for your needs. 2-in-1 screen sizes tend to be smaller for more portability. In terms of resolution, a 4K screen might be a handy addition if you're a gamer or you stream a lot of video content. However, high-resolution screens are expensive and can drain the battery quickly. Also, think about whether you want a laptop with a touchscreen.
CPUThe CPU plays an important role in ensuring your laptop's efficient performance. Intel and AMD are the main processor manufacturers, and you can compare CPUs by considering their processing speed, number of cores and price. If you're a gamer or you run powerful video editing software, look for a high-end processor. However, if you'll only be using your laptop for basic tasks like checking emails, web research and word processing, a cheaper CPU will suffice.

RAM (memory)Measured in gigabytes, RAM helps your computer multitask and run programs quickly. The more RAM you have, the better performance you can expect. 8GB is a good starting point for most users, while gamers might want as much as GB for optimum performance.
Graphics cardsIf you intend to run graphically demanding applications such as high-end video games, 4K video editors or graphic design software, it's imperative to check the laptop's GPU (short for 'graphics processing unit'.) Unlike desktop PCs, these are usually sealed to the laptop's motherboard, which makes it very difficult to upgrade. In other words, you're basically stuck with your onboard graphics card, so choose wisely! If you want a high level of performance in this area, choose a laptop with a discrete graphics card instead of an integrated GPU. This means the laptop has a dedicated processor just for graphics. Brands to look for in the specs include Nvidia’s GeForce GTX range and AMD’s Radeon RX series.
Storage spaceNext, consider how much space (measured in gigabytes or terabytes) the laptop offers for storing your files, photos, music and documents. Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) are most commonly used and more affordable with the greatest amount of storage space. Solid-state drives (SSDs) more expensive but they also run a lot faster and help minimise the weight and bulk of a laptop. 
Ease of useIf possible, head in-store to try before you buy and find out just how user-friendly a laptop is. For example, is the screen easily visible? If you're shopping for a 2-in-1, what do you need to do to convert from laptop to tablet mode? Is the keyboard well laid out or does it feel too cramped when you try to type? Is the touchpad smooth and responsive, but at the same time not overly jumpy?
Ports and connectivityMake sure the laptop comes with all the ports you need to connect to other devices. For example, how many USB ports do you need? USB-C ports are a common inclusion on modern laptops, while USB 3.0 and up (or Thunderbolt 3) offer the fastest performance. Consider whether you need an HDMI out port for video, and which wireless standard does the laptop support?
WarrantyFind out what level of confidence a manufacturer has in its products by checking the warranty that comes with a laptop. How long does it offer protection and what exactly is included in the cover?