Playing your favorite games on one of the best gaming laptops can be transformative. You’ll be playing on desktop-level hardware, enjoying high frame rates, top detail settings, and even a little ray tracing in compatible games, all on the go if you so choose. The top gaming laptops are faster than ever, and they no longer make major sacrifices for it like they once needed to.
Gone are the overweight designs of yesteryear too. The best gaming laptops aren’t just fast, but they’re almost as lean as some of the best laptops period, and some could even be considered lightweight. You don’t even need to spend a whole ton with gaming laptops under $500 that are able to keep up well enough depending on the games you like to play. With high-end components, a great gaming laptop can feel like taking your desktop with you wherever you go—perfect for LAN parties or being ready for a game at any time.
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get a cutting edge gaming laptop though. You should do that if you want to play the most demanding games at 4K with ray tracing enabled, but if you have a smaller budget or play lightweight games and just need a decent laptop with a high refresh rate display, there are plenty of those at much more affordable prices. Here are the best gaming laptops you can buy in 2022.
Best Gaming Laptop Overall
Cutting Edge Hardware In a Streamlined Chassis
Best 17-inch Gaming Laptop
Big, Bold, And Beautiful
Best Gaming Laptop Under $500
A Decent Budget Gaming Laptop
Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,000
A Great Budget Gaming Laptop
Best Lightweight Gaming Laptop
Super Portable And Super Powerful
Best 4K Gaming Laptop
Best Laptop for Gaming and School
Good At Everything
Best Budget Gaming Laptop
An Affordable Gaming Laptop With Real Power
Best 300Hz Gaming Laptop
A Last-Gen Flagship
Who makes the best gaming laptops?
Part of the reason that modern gaming laptops are so exciting is because there is so much competition. There are no longer just a couple of decent brands.
The best brands for gaming laptops today are Razer, Asus, Acer, Dell, MSI, and Lenovo, though you’ll also find a few options from HP, and certainly Dell’s sub-brand, Alienware is always worth considering.
Most of these manufacturers have a few clean-cut dedicated gaming laptops, but some also offer more modest stealth designs, which are both lightweight and powerful, while others are more overt with a focus on bigger and more powerful systems that can even rival some gaming desktops.
Do I Really Need A Gaming Laptop?
If you want to play the latest games on your laptop, then you need a gaming laptop. Although there are some business laptops with capable onboard graphics chips that can game as well as work, that’s not what they’re designed for, and performance will suffer. Those laptops also tend to be very expensive for what you get, as they’re built for durability and meeting higher standards than are strictly necessary for gaming.
Gaming laptops are designed for gaming, so you’ll be investing your money in things that help you game better, whether that’s a more powerful graphics card, more SSD storage space, more RAM, a better and faster display, or better system cooling. You’re less likely to get a quiet system, or one with extensive battery life — although there are gaming systems that offer that — because gaming laptops aren’t designed with that in mind.
If you want to game and everything else is secondary, a gaming laptop is a great investment.
What CPU Do You Need For Gaming?
Whether you prefer AMD or Intel, as a baseline, you want at least four cores and preferably with simultaneous multithreading for eight-thread support. The ideal gaming CPU for modern games in 2022 is six cores, with eight and above offering diminishing returns for gaming performance.
The only caveat there is that next-generation games designed for the new-generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles will take better advantage of higher core counts, so eight-core CPUs will have greater future proofing. Although the processor isn’t the most important part of a gaming system, desktop or laptop, it still plays its part–especially at 1080p resolution. Faster CPUs will give you greater performance, but it’s more important to meet the recommended requirements for the games you want to play.
Beyond core count, per-core performance is king. Clock speed makes a huge impact in how capable a CPU is for gaming, which is why all of the best gaming laptops in this guide feature processors with high clock speeds and great per-core performance.
The types of games you play has a big impact on the type of processor you need, as if you’re playing much older or indie games, then you won’t need anything to powerful. That said, as a general rule of thumb for buying or building a new PC, an AMD Ryzen 3000, 4000, 5000, or 6000 CPU will be excellent. For Intel processors, at least a Core i5 from the 10th generation is best, though you’ll see a big leap in performance from the 11th or 12th generations.
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 have the money to burn, but you won’t see a huge difference between a good mid-range CPU and a top of the line chip when it comes to high-resolution gaming.
Does A Gaming Laptop Last Long?
There are two factors which determine the longevity of a gaming laptop: The build quality and its performance. Most gaming laptops are built well enough that they can go for years without breaking down, but if its hardware is weak, it may no longer be able to play the latest and greatest games.
High-end gaming laptops with powerful components can last for five years or more and still act as capable gaming machines. Those with more entry-level hardware, particularly those without dedicated graphics, are only going to be able to play contemporary games for 2-3 years or so before they really start to show their age.
As long as you buy a gaming laptop from a reputable brand—like Razer, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, HP or MSI—you should be able to enjoy your gaming laptop for many years to come. Just bear in mind that you may have to start playing at lower settings, or accept they you can’t play the latest games after a few years.
Some gaming laptops do allow upgrades, specifically memory and storage, and those laptops can remain competitive gaming machines for a bit longer — especially if you have an ever-expanding game library you need to cater for. There are some very-niche laptops that allow CPU and GPU upgrades, but those rarely have options for more than an additional generation or two, so are rarely worth purchasing for that feature alone.
Is $1,000 Good For A Gaming Laptop?
For $1,000 you can get a great general purpose laptop, and though it doesn’t go quite so far with a gaming laptop, there are still plenty of capable machines for under $1,000 that will let you play just about anything. The MSI GF65 is the best laptop under $1,000 you can buy right now, and at a heavy discount, it brings mid-range gaming hardware into a much more affordable price bracket.
If you can raise your budget to $1,300, or even $1,500, you’ll get quite a lot more for your money. It’ll give you a much better GPU and more storage space, maybe a fancier display. All of that will help your gaming experience now, but will also significantly improve the longevity of your gaming laptop, helping it to stay relevant for newer games in years to come.
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, an Nvidia GTX 1650 or AMD Radeon RX 6400 are great options. They’re 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.
Do You Need A High Refresh Rate Display?
High refresh rate displays let you take full advantage of higher frame rates in esports and other competitive multiplayer games for smoother animations and lower input lag. While not a necessity to enjoy games, faster-paced games look and feel better for it, and they can improve your reaction speed in game too. If you’re looking for a competitive edge in your favorite multiplayer games, a high refresh rate display can make a small but tangible difference.
Since laptop screens are typically much smaller than their desktop counterparts, it can often be more beneficial to opt for a higher refresh rate than higher resolution when you’re gaming. A 4K display is mostly wasted at 15-inches or below, with very little discernible difference in detail unless you are sitting inches from the screen. It’s much more taxing on your graphics chip too. In comparison, a high refresh rate display can be leveraged as long as your system is outputting frames higher than 60, and can deliver a consistently improved experience.
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.
There are also plenty of smaller, lightweight gaming laptops that you can cart around with you for gaming on a train or on a long car ride. Those tend to be not as powerful, but they’ll give you the kind of battery life that lets you be a truly mobile gamer, rather than one restricted to only gaming when there’s a power socket within reach.
For those who want to game in a variety of situations, a 14 or 15-inch laptop is an excellent middle ground. They 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 take your gaming seriously and would rather play on a laptop than a desktop, then buying a gaming laptop can be a great investment. They come with the kind of components you need to play the latest and greatest games and have high refresh rate displays to help you stay competitive in fast paced esports games.
Their battery life isn’t typically as good as mainstream laptops, and you’ll pay a bit extra for fancy features like RGB backlit keyboards and a fast and responsive keyboard, but they give you excellent performance and decent cooling so you can enjoy that added power for sustained gaming sessions. Some non-gaming laptops may have a powerful CPU and a decent GPU, but rarely do they have the kind of cooling you need to play intense games for long periods of time without thermal throttling impacting your performance, and therefore how well your games play.