The best gaming laptops can transform how you play your favorite games. With the right machine, you can enjoy desktop-level hardware, high frame rates, top detail settings and even ray tracing in compatible games—all on-the-go, if you so choose.
Today’s best gaming laptops are faster than ever, and gone are the overweight designs of yesteryear. In fact, these gaming-focused machines are almost as lean as some of the top laptops on the market—and some could be considered lightweight. You don’t need to spend a ton on a new portable, with some gaming laptops under $500 that can handle less demanding gameplay. There are definitely compromises in that price range, so you can also pay more for a premium gaming laptop with high-end components. Either way, these laptops can be perfect for LAN parties or switching f4romwork to play at any time.
Whether you’re searching for a top-of-the-line machine for the latest AAA games, or an affordable option for esports and other games, here are some of the best gaming laptops of 2022.
Best Gaming Laptop Overall
High-End Hardware In a Streamlined Chassis
Best 17-inch Gaming Laptop
Big, Bold And Beautiful
Best Gaming Laptop Under $500
Gaming On A Budget
Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,000
A Great Gaming Laptop That Won’t Break Your Wallet
Best Laptop for Gaming and School
Good At Everything
Best Budget Gaming Laptop
An Affordable Gaming Laptop With Real Power
Best 300Hz Gaming Laptop
Blazing Fast Refresh
Who Makes The Best Gaming Laptops?
Modern gaming laptops are more mainstream, with many of the players in all-purpose laptops having a contender among gaming systems, too. You’ll also find a number of brands that specialize in systems fine-tuned for gaming.
The best brands for gaming laptops today include Razer, Asus, Acer, Dell Alienware, MSI and Lenovo. Most of these manufacturers have gaming laptop lines, but some also have options not branded as for “gaming” that can capably play games as well. Some companies focus on designs that are both lightweight and powerful, while others go all-in with more powerful systems that can rival some gaming desktops.
Do I Really Need A Gaming Laptop?
If you just want to do a little light gaming in the off hours, you don’t need a gaming laptop. In fact, you don’t need a gaming laptop to play games at all, but if you want to play newer games, higher-end games (often referred to as AAA games) with detailed graphics—or play anything at higher resolutions—then gaming laptops offer the best combination of powerful graphics hardware and capable cooling.
You might find similar hardware in workstations, but those systems tend to be more expensive and lack the most current specs. Creative-focused laptops with 4K screens are more than you need for gaming, and the most lightweight and portable everyday laptops just don’t have the component performance for the latest games.
The best gaming laptops are designed for a specific purpose and have a discrete graphics GPU to make graphically intense games shine. Some of the most recent and best designs can dynamically shift power between the CPU and a dedicated GPU to maximize your performance in-game. You aren’t going to find those sorts of features on non-gaming laptop designs.
What CPU Do You Need For Gaming?
Intel and AMD are the main processor brands used for any computer, and the only two you want for a gaming computer. Their chips have gone through huge revolutions in design and performance potential in recent years. Chips continue to gain in efficiency and battery life is better than ever.
As a general rule of thumb for buying a gaming laptop, look for an AMD Ryzen 3000, 4000, 5000 or 6000 CPU will be excellent. Among Intel processors, look for at least an 11th or 12th generation processor; a 10th generation processor may be a choice if you find one at a good deal. Intel has multiple processor tiers, with system prices and performance increasing as you move up the line from Core i5 to Core i7 and Core i9.
Note that higher-end Core i9 or Ryzen 9 processors will give you a slight performance bump at lower resolutions, and you might as well get the best of the best if you can afford it. Or, look for a mid-range CPU with the best graphics card configuration you can find.
The types of games you play has a big impact on the type of processor you need. If you’re a casual gamer or playing simpler indie games, then you likely won’t need anything too powerful.
What’s The Best Graphics Card For Laptop Gaming?
The graphics card or chip is the most important component in a gaming laptop, helping to drive higher resolutions, higher frame rates and higher detail settings than any mainstream laptop can manage.
At the most entry-level end of the spectrum, for lightweight esports and indie games, integrated graphics may suffice, but better to find an Nvidia GTX 1650 or AMD Radeon RX 6400—either is a great option. These GPUs are perfect for simple 1080p gameplay at high frame rates and low detail settings. If you want to play more demanding games, you’ll need to step it up to Nvidia’s RTX 3000 range, with an RTX 3060 or 3070, or an AMD Radeon RX 6700M. For 4K gaming you’ll want the best you can afford, like Nvidia’s 3080 Ti or AMD’s 6800M.
For more stealth gaming laptops, AMD’s new range of RX 6600X, 6700S and 6800S offer great gaming performance without such heavy power draws. Nvidia’s Max-Q and Max-P designs do something similar.
Is $1,000 Good For A Gaming Laptop?
The best general purpose laptops usually start around $1,000 and that’s not too dissimilar for gaming laptops. With that kind of laptop, you’ll typically get a solid 1080p gaming machine which won’t be the best for the latest and greatest games, but will give you great frame rates in esports games.
If you want to play at higher resolutions, you’ll have a much better chance at around the $1,300 mark; though again, the higher you go, the better performance you’ll get. The best gaming laptops can cost $2,000 or more, with many of the most elite models costing north of $3,000. So your budget is your only limitation once you get into the high-end models.
Do You Need A High Refresh Rate Display?
High refresh rate displays are a great way to improve your gaming experience, especially if you’re playing esports or older games at higher frame rates. With a high refresh rate display and a high frames per second, you can enjoy smoother animations and a more responsive gaming experience, with limited input lag. That means that as well as making your games look and play better, it can actually make you play better too, giving you a light performance advantage in competitive gaming.
Higher refresh rates are often a more beneficial upgrade than a higher resolution, especially on the smaller displays on most gaming laptops. While you won’t see a huge difference between 1080p and 4K on a 15-inch screen, you will be able to tell the difference between 60Hz and 144Hz. The difference between that and 240Hz or 360Hz isn’t as pronounced, but you should still be able to feel it, even if it isn’t super obvious.
Is A 13-inch, 15-inch Or 17-inch Gaming Laptop Better?
Bigger displays are almost always better when it comes to immersion and visual clarity. If you can see more of the screen, you can have a wider field of view, larger HUD elements and take better advantage of the higher visual fidelity of modern games. The bigger you go, though, the less portable a gaming laptop is.
The big reason to buy a gaming laptop is that your gaming machine becomes portable. While 17-inch gaming laptops with the top hardware aren’t going to be comfortable to carry around in a backpack all day, they still let you take your gaming PC to a friend’s house or LAN party easily enough.
For those who want to game in a variety of situations, a 14- or 15-inch laptop is an excellent middle ground. These laptops have the size and scope for more powerful hardware and give you plenty of screen space to enjoy your favorite games, but they’re nowhere near as heavy or bulky as their 17-inch counterparts.
Is A Gaming Laptop Worth The Money?
If you use your laptop primarily for gaming, absolutely. Playing on any gaming laptop is an upgrade from a non-gaming laptop. And if you can buy one of the best gaming laptops available, it can make a huge difference. That kind of investment might feel expensive, but today’s gaming laptops will still be playing the latest games a few years from now. Any laptop not running today’s best games is going to feel very outdated in the not-too-distant future.
On top of better performance, gaming laptops more responsive displays, and often more storage space and more comfortable keyboards than your average laptops. They typically don’t have the best battery life and aren’t as portable as the most lightweight everyday laptops, but the best gaming laptops are fantastic machines no matter what you want to do with them.