The best gaming laptops can make on the go gaming easier, faster and more comfortable. They won’t make you a better gamer, but some can give you a little edge, and with modern CPUs and GPUs under the hood, they let you experience the latest generations of AAA and esports games at higher frame rates and resolutions like never before.
Gone are the overweight designs of yesteryear too. The best gaming laptops aren’t just fast, but they’re lean, and some could even be considered lightweight. 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 $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
Asus Zephyrus 14
Best Budget Gaming Laptop
An Affordable Gaming Laptop With Real Power
Best 300Hz Gaming Laptop
A Last-Gen Flagship
Best Gaming Laptop Under $500
A Decent Budget Gaming Laptop
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.
Today, Dell, Razer, Asus and many other top manufacturers offer excellent gaming laptop solutions; from desktop equivalents with the most powerful components, to sleek powerhouses with long battery life–and everything in between. There are even a few stealth gaming laptops that you might be able to buy as part of an office upgrade for some gaming when the work day is done.
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 help focus your money into the features and specs that matter: A powerful CPU and GPU, plenty of memory and fast storage, a high refresh rate display, and a comfortable keyboard. If you’re just playing light esports and indie games, you can get by with a laptop that isn’t designed for gaming, but without a dedicated graphics chip, you are seriously limiting yourself in the types of games you can play and how good the games you can play will actually look.
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.
Although it very much depends on the types of games you want to play, with AAA games demanding more than esports titles, make sure your gaming laptop features at least an AMD Ryzen 5 3000 or 4000 CPU, or an Intel Core i5 10th generation CPU. 11th-generation Tiger Lake CPUs have come a long way since their first release, offering much better clock speeds and capable gaming performance for more high-end gaming, but the newer 12th-generation Alder Lake processors are the best for gaming in 2022. AMD’s new generation Ryzen 6000 series are excellent too, but can’t quite measure up. Its Ryzen 5000 series have fallen behind a little, but are still solid gaming CPUs in more affordable laptops.
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.
You will get a lot of extra performance and some nice-to-have features at the $1,300 and even $1,500 level, so if you can afford to spend a little more, it can be worth it for that added power and future proofing. But if you just need a decent gaming machine to get you off and running, $1,000 is more than enough for a great gaming laptop.
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.
If you’re playing esports games, you can get great frame rates with an NVIDIA GTX 1650 or 1650 Ti. If you want to push high refresh rate displays to their fullest or take advantage of higher detail settings in AAA games, you need Nvidia’s latest-generation RTX 3000 series GPUs: the 3060, 3070 and 3080, as well as their higher-power Ti counterparts. Their Max-Q and Max-P options offer excellent performance with a reduced demand on your battery.
Although less common, more and more gaming laptops now offer AMD graphics as an alternative. They offer comparable performance to Nvidia’s GPUs—apart from at the very high end—and can often be quite competitive on cost. Ray tracing performance isn’t as good though, and AMD GPUs aren’t as common as the NVIDIA competition.
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 main advantage of a gaming laptop versus a gaming desktop is that you can take it with you. If you want to predominantly game on a desk surface as you would a desktop, but want the ability to do so in multiple places with the same hardware, a 17-inch gaming laptop is a great choice. It’ll be heavier and bulkier, but all that extra space gives you more room for better cooling for more powerful hardware. That makes a 17-inch gaming laptop a great desktop replacement.
For those who want to game on the move in tight commuter situations like trains and planes, 13-inch laptops can be far more versatile. They’re lighter and more compact, making them much more portable. They also tend to use less battery, meaning you don’t need to be tethered to a power socket like you do with the largest of gaming laptops. Their hardware isn’t typically as powerful, but on smaller screens you can get away with lower detail settings as the lack of detail simply isn’t as obvious on more pixel dense displays.
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.