Which Dell gaming laptop is best?

Few PC and peripheral manufacturers have as great of a reputation as Dell. It’s been practically synonymous with dependable computing equipment for decades. And while building custom desktop PCs at home is more popular than ever, you’ll still need to find a reputable company such as Dell if you want a gaming laptop.

The Alienware x17 R2 is the best gaming laptop Dell currently makes and one of the best on the entire market. As long as you get it straight from the manufacturer, it comes with a huge range of customization options that are certain to meet your needs.

What to know before you buy a Dell gaming laptop

Are Dell and Alienware the same?

None of Dell’s best gaming hardware is actually sold under the Dell name. In 2006, Dell completed the purchase of the Alienware brand a decade after its founding. While Alienware was a reputable name in gaming for its short history, Dell’s financial and engineering support pushed the brand to new heights.

Today, Dell continues to market its most premium offerings under the Alienware logo. To that end, Alienware gaming laptops have more potential in terms of performance but consistently cost more than mere Dell-branded gaming equipment. This is as true of Dell’s performance gaming monitors as its laptops.

Make no mistake, though: While Dell gaming devices aren’t quite as premium as Alienware offerings, both brands boast the same design and manufacturing expertise.

They’re actually reasonably priced

Despite Dell’s great, long-standing reputation, its gaming hardware isn’t usually exorbitantly priced. There are plenty of powerful configurations available that won’t break the bank. For the top-end models, though, you will still have to make a significant investment.

What to look for in a quality Dell gaming laptop

Screen resolution

Even at 17 inches, a Full HD or 1080p resolution looks relatively crisp. If you want an added measure of clarity, moving up to QHD or 1440p is a good idea.

Then there are the premium configurations that offer 4K displays. If you demand the best, those are the ones to consider, but they have a few downsides. First of all, they cost a lot. Second, 4K displays use more electricity than lower resolutions in most cases. Finally, they require significantly more processing power. It’s never worth it to pair a premium, 4K display with anything but high-end hardware.

Panel refresh rate

A higher refresh rate means a smoother gaming experience. You’ll notice a massive difference moving from 60 frames per second to 120. Beyond that, though, it takes a more experienced eye to see a huge difference. Demanding gamers will appreciate that Dell offers some of the fastest laptop displays globally, capable of displaying up to 360 FPS.

CPU and GPU combination

The central processing unit computes game data, including physics and camera information, and the graphics processing unit tells the monitor what to draw. If either one is significantly faster than the other, it creates a bottleneck, where the PC doesn’t make the best of the more powerful chipset.

Generally speaking, moderately high-end CPUs such as the Intel Core i7 and AMD Ryzen 7 tiers pair well with RTX 3060 to 3080 GPUs. Also, keep in mind that the Intel K-class and AMD X-class designations mean your CPU has been tested for high performance and supports overclocking.

How much you can expect to spend on a Dell gaming laptop

Dell gaming laptops start at slightly under $1,000 and range as high as about $2,500 in their most premium configurations.

Dell gaming laptop FAQ

Are Intel or AMD CPUs better?

A. There’s no definitive answer to this question. In fact, this question is the source of nearly infinite online bickering among heavily invested gamers. When it comes to laptops, AMD’s Ryzen family has seen heaps of praise in recent years. However, Intel’s 12th-generation Core lineup introduced a novel combination of efficiency and performance-oriented cores, giving it a slight edge. Not to be outdone, here comes AMD with its Ryzen 6000-series mobile CPUs, which should give the Intel 12th-gens a run for their money.

All that is to say that there’s not a consistent and objective winner. Performance changes from chipset to chipset and even from game to game. Your best bet is to stick with the latest-generation CPU possible. Any of the current CPU families will deliver years of great gaming performance.

Are there any mobile AMD graphics cards?

A. They exist but are extremely rare. AMD has always manufactured a fraction of the volume as Nvidia, and with recent chip shortages plus excessive demand, it’s nearly impossible to find an entirely AMD-powered gaming laptop. Interestingly Dell is among the few laptop producers to supply gaming rigs with AMD GPUs. The Alienware m17 R5 offers the option of a Radeon RX 6700M graphics processor. That’s one of three AMD mobile GPUs worth considering, along with the even rarer 6800M and 6850M XT.

What’s the best Dell gaming laptop to buy?

Top Dell gaming laptop

Alienware x17 R2

Alienware x17 R2

What you need to know: It represents the top of Dell’s gaming laptop lineup and competes with flagship models from other premium manufacturers.

What you’ll love: When ordering directly from Dell, you have access to a significant range of configuration options. That includes the top-of-the-line RTX 3080 Ti graphics chipset and ridiculously fast, overclocking-ready K-Class Intel CPU. There’s even a 4K, 120-hertz variable refresh rate screen variant, which is essentially unrivaled among gaming laptops.

What you should consider: This top-of-the-line notebook PC will set you back a sizeable amount of cash.

Where to buy: Sold by Dell and Amazon

Top Dell gaming laptop for the money

Alienware m17 R5

Alienware m17 R5

What you need to know: It has nearly the same amount of firepower as Alienware’s top offering but costs significantly less.

What you’ll love: It’s currently Dell’s only 17-inch gaming laptop aside from the relatively pricey x17 R2. As such, it’s second in terms of an immersive gaming experience, and there are nearly as many hardware configurations to choose from on Dell’s website. This generation of the m17 is built around an AMD CPU and sports the high-speed system memory that only Ryzen CPUs can take full advantage of. It’s also one of the extremely rare laptops right now with an optional AMD Radeon RX 6700M GPU.

What you should consider: While 17-inch laptops deliver a superior gaming experience, they tend to be more expensive and less portable than 15-inch models. That’s especially true in this case since Dell doesn’t currently offer a 17-inch version of its entry-level G series laptops.

Where to buy: Sold by Dell

Worth checking out

Dell G15

Dell G15

What you need to know: It’s Dell’s most affordable gaming laptop by a large margin, although demanding gamers might not prefer its 15-inch display.

What you’ll love: The raw performance per dollar is about as good as a Dell laptop gets, even if you opt for midrange components such as an RTX 3060 GPU. There are three display options to consider, with the middle one offering the best price to performance ratio. Its 165-hertz Full HD panel is capable of 300 nits of brightness and will make games look good even in relatively well-lit areas. We’ve highlighted the AMD version because Ryzen mobile CPUs have a great track record in gaming laptops. If you prefer Intel-based systems, though, the Intel version is just about the same price.

What you should consider: It’s an economical choice, but fans of graphically intensive games such as first-person shooters may not be happy with just a 15-inch screen.

Where to buy: Sold by Dell

 

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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