The Best Gaming Laptops of this year will shine brightly in what could be a challenging year for PC technology. Great gaming laptops will not be far behind when new Intel, AMD, and Nvidia GPUs and CPUs are released. Maybe even some that aren’t too expensive.
Pick the Best Laptops for Gaming of 2022
Razer Blade 15
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Razer Blade 14
Acer Predator Helios 300
|Dell G3 15|
|Lenovo Legion 5 Pro|
Asus ROG Strix Scar 17
|MSI GS66 Stealth|
With multicore CPUs, Nvidia RTX 30-series and AMD Radeon RX 6000-series GPUs, and fast NVMe SSDs to top it off, the latest portable powerhouses have all the bells and whistles of high-end gaming PCs. Under the hood, you’ll find plenty of RAM and super-fast refresh displays… mechanical keyboard laptops, such as the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15, are even available
While getting a new graphics card, as well as some fancy DDR5 RAM or even good CPU silicon, may be difficult this year, gaming laptops appear to have mostly evaded the chip shortage. However, this does not imply that manufacturers have shifted their focus to high-end products. As a result, intermediate and budget models may have fewer options. At the very least, there are enough models to meet demand.
Over the years, we’ve tested hundreds of gaming laptops and will continue to update this guide as new models are released. The laptops we tested that offer the best blend of performance, portability, and pricing are listed below. Whatever you’re looking for, there should be a laptop here that fits your needs.
1. Best Gaming Laptops – Razer Blade 15
|Capacity||16 GB DDR4 RAM | 1 TB SSD|
|Screen Size||15 Inches|
|CPU||Intel 11th Gen|
The Razer Blade 15’s latest iteration improves on one of the best gaming laptops ever created. It boasts the same beautiful CNC-milled aluminum chassis as its predecessor, but it now has room for one of Nvidia’s new RTX 30-series GPUs and an Intel 12th Gen Core i9 CPU.
We tested the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, which features a 10th Gen Intel processor and an RTX 3080 (95W) GPU. And we fell in love all over again, and we’re excited to get our hands on the Intel Alder Lake models with the RTX 3080 Ti inside.
These new models, as you can see, have improved graphics processing even more than prior models, with support for up to a 16GB RTX 3080 Ti, which is astounding in such a small chassis. Because of the slimline design, there will be some throttling, but this attractive machine will still provide excellent performance.
One of the best aspects of the Blade 15 is the variety of options available from Razer. There’s something for practically everyone, from the RTX 3060 Base Edition to the RTX 3080 Ti Advanced with a 144Hz 4K panel. It’s one of the most visually appealing gaming laptops on the market, and it’s also one of the most powerful.
We believe the Razer Blade 15 is the greatest gaming laptop on the market right now, regardless of configuration, albeit you will pay a premium for the now-classic design.
2. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Best Laptop for Gaming
|Capacity||8GB RAM | 512GB PCIe SSD|
|Screen Size||14 Inches|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 4800HS(beat 10th Gen Intel Core i7|
Not everyone requires the lightest and most powerful gaming laptop available. Sometimes just being light and quick is enough. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 strikes a good balance between portability, performance, and pricing. The initial system was an amazing RTX 2060 Max-Q notebook, whose incredible AMD CPU performance impressed our top-secret thegaminglaptop lab’s devoted team of hardware testers.
The G14 is still a fantastic laptop, especially now that the RTX 3060 is available in that clever chassis. Despite being loud, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a dependable 14-inch PC with high-end graphics that can compete with certain gaming PCs.
3. Razer Blade 14 – Best Gaming Laptops
|Capacity||16 GB DDR4 RAM | 1TB SSD|
|Screen Size||14 Inches|
I’m tempted to move the Razer Blade 14 up the list solely because the 14-inch screen size has completely won me over. In the No. 2 slot, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 reintroduced the criminally under-utilized laptop design, but Razer has nailed it. The Blade 14 is notably smaller than the 15-inch Blade and more akin to the ultrabook Stealth 13, with a matte black MacBook Pro-style design and true PC gaming pedigree.
The Razer design is timeless, and it feels fantastic in the hand. And now that the amazing AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX has finally made its way into a Blade notebook, you can get real processing power that you can sling into a messenger bag. Soon, you’ll be able to get your hands on the Blade 14 with the brand new Ryzen 9 6900HX chip, which will be able to preserve battery life while on the go thanks to its RDNA 2 based onboard graphics.
Add in some additional Nvidia RTX 30-series graphics power—now up to an RTX 3080 Ti, but wear earplugs—and you’ve got a fantastic balance of style and function that makes it the most desired laptop I’ve ever examined.
My main concern is that the RTX 3080 Ti would be restricted by the 14-inch chassis and would be noisy. So I’d recommend the lower-spec GPU options, albeit $1,800 for a notebook seems excessive for 1080p gaming. However, you’re not buying the Blade 14 for its outright performance; rather, it’s about having all the power you need in a form factor that allows for practical mobility.
4. Acer Predator Helios 300
|Capacity||16GB DDR4 RAM | 512GB SSD|
|Screen Size||15.6 Inch|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-11800H|
During the GTX 10-series era, we adored Acer’s Predator Helios 300, and the current generation Helios continues to punch above its weight class when compared to rival $1,500 laptops. It isn’t the best gaming laptop, but it is one of the most cost-effective. The newest Helios features an RTX 3060 GPU and a smaller form factor without considerably increasing the price.
The Helios 300 has a 144Hz screen and smaller bezels, making it more in line with sleek thin-and-lights than its previous generation’s bulkier brethren. The only significant flaw is the little SSD, but the laptop offers ports for two SSDs and an HDD, making storage upgrades as simple as picking up a screwdriver.
5. Dell G3 15 – Best Gaming Laptops
|Capacity||16GB DDR4 RAM | 512GB SSD|
|Screen Size||15.6 Inch|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-10750H 10th Gen|
Let’s face it: finding a good gaming laptop on a budget might be difficult. Compromises must be made in areas such as performance, design, and even battery life. Thankfully, the Dell G3 15 delivers good 1080p gaming for about $1,000, and the battery life is actually quite good.
The thinner, sleeker design is the most notable change over the previous iteration. The slimmer design, which features narrower bezels around a 144Hz panel, offers it a more high-end feel. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop that doesn’t scream “gamer” as soon as you take it out of your bag, this is a nice change. The only drawback appears to be the display, which lacks the same colour gamut as the other gaming laptops on this list.
6. Lenovo Legion 5 Pro (16″ AMD)
|Capacity||32GB RAM | 1TB PCIe SSD|
|Screen Size||16 Inch|
|CPU||Ryzen 7 AMD 4.40 GHz Gen 6|
The Legion Pro 5 demonstrates that AMD is a strong contender in the gaming laptop market. When you combine the mobile Ryzen 7 5800H with the RTX 3070, you have a laptop that can handle not only recent games but also more serious adventures.
The QHD 16:10 165Hz screen is a real standout, and it makes gaming and just using Windows a pleasure. It’s also an IPS panel with a peak brightness of 500nits, so whether you’re gaming or watching movies, you won’t be disappointed.
When it comes to gaming, the Legion Pro 5 is a beast, with the high-powered RTX 3070 (with a peak delivery of 140W, it’s faster than some 3080s) being a perfect complement for that bright screen. You’ll be able to play the vast majority of games at their native resolution of 2560 x 1600 at maximum settings without missing a beat. The fact that you can use DLSS and get some ray tracing enhancements for the money adds to the overall appeal of this package.
7. Asus ROG Strix Scar 17
|Capacity||32GB DDR4 | 1TB SSD|
|Screen Size||17.3 Inch|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX 5th Gen|
There’s no doubt that you can get a lot more sensible gaming laptop than the ROG Strix Scar 17, but there’s something about the ROG Strix Scar 17’s excesses that makes it immensely alluring. From the overclocked CPU—which is as monstrous as it gets—to the beautifully fast 360Hz screen, it feels like everything has been turned up to 11. Asus outperformed the competition in our gaming laptop benchmarks by a hair.
does it by topping the benchmarks of the finest gaming laptops, due in large part to the GeForce RTX 3080 at its heart. This is the 115W version of Nvidia’s highest Ampere GPU, meaning it can achieve results that slimmer computers can only dream of. You can also use Nvidia’s fantastic DLSS, if it’s enabled, to help you attain insane frame rates.
The 17-inch chassis also gives the components more breathing room than the competition, and when combined with the fantastic cooling system, you’ve got yourself a cool and quiet piece of gaming heaven. Because of the increased space, Asus was able to include an optomechanical keyboard onto the Scar 17, which is ideal for gaming and other important tasks.
8. MSI GS66 Stealth – Best Gaming Laptops
|Capacity||16GB RAM | 1TB NVMe SSD|
|Screen Size||15.6 Inch|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-11800H|
The MSI GS66 is a beast: it’s sleek, smooth, and incredibly powerful. However, Nvidia Ampere’s power does not come without a cost. To fit something as powerful as an RTX 3080 into an 18mm thin chassis, MSI had to be a little frugal with its power demands.
The top GPU is the 95W model, which only just beats out a fully unlocked RTX 3070 like the one found in the Gigabyte Aorus 15G XC. However, it remains an incredibly capable piece of mobile graphics silicon.
It can get a touch loud, but you have access to all of the Nvidia Max-Q 3.0 features, so it’s not all bad. This incorporates Whisper Mode 2.0, which reduces game sound to barely detectable levels for unobtrusive gameplay.
The GS66 also features a stunning 240Hz 1440p panel that perfectly complements the strong GPU in games. Sure, you’ll have to make some concessions compared to a monstrous workstation with an RTX 3080, but the MSI GS66 Stealth is a true slimline gaming laptop.
How to buy the best gaming laptop overall?
It’s a jungle out there, and it’s very hard to get around. Start here to learn how to make sense of all the different CPUs, GPU, storage, and other specs.
A lot has changed about gaming laptops to make them better than desktop PCs for most people, except for the most powerful setups. Most of what you need to start playing games is in that one case. You don’t want to use the touchpad, so you’ll need a separate mouse. Batteries for 14- and 15-inch laptops, at least, have lasted a lot longer. We hope that 16- and 17-inch models will soon do the same.
Laptops are great because they’re all in one, but they also have a lot of drawbacks. A desktop doesn’t. There are a lot of things you can do to make it better, but over time you’ll be stuck with the GPU and CPU, and maybe even the memory and storage if it can’t be upgraded.
You can also buy a gaming laptop that has the best graphics card, the fastest processor, a lot of fast solid-state storage to store your games, and a lot of fast memory. But even if it has all the best parts, it might not be enough. Those powerful parts might overheat at the worst times, your battery might run out, or you might have a problem that affects your gaming performance. If new parts that fix problems come out six months later, you probably won’t be able to use them.
It’s not a given that you’ll have to spend a lot of money on a gaming laptop to buy one. But if you don’t shop around, it can be hard to play games on a budget. If money is tight, you might want to go with a desktop, where you can start out cheap and upgrade as you need to overtime. You might also want to see if your favourite games can be streamed from the cloud if you want to save money.
How is a gaming laptop different from a standard laptop?
There isn’t a single “definition” of a gaming laptop, and you’ll see a lot of different types of laptops being sold for that purpose. So, part of the reason is that there are so many different types of games out there, from low-requirement games to high-end games that use a lot of power. As a last resort, I’ve drawn my own lines to keep myself from going crazy.
At least for me, the most important thing about a computer is whether or not it has a separate GPU, which is a separate processor from the CPU, even though we’re seeing a lot more interconnects for sharing memory between the two. Ideally, it should have at least 2GB of VRAM. As far as laptops go, that’s down to a GeForce MX450 from Nvidia or something like that. You can play games on a laptop with a built-in GPU, but for most games, any laptop that isn’t too slow will do. There are a lot of PC games that won’t work unless they also have a separate GPU.
There are certain requirements for laptop displays that make them good for gaming: They must be at least 100Hz with a refresh rate of at least 5ms, and they must have a pixel response time of less than 5ms.
Is a laptop as good as a desktop PC for gaming?
It can be, but only if you have the right accessories and extra monitors around it. It’s still not possible to get the same level of parts in a laptop as you can on a desktop. That’s because laptops have to make a trade-off when it comes to power draw. The amount of electricity they can put into the CPU and GPU, especially at the same time, is limited by how much space there is in the chassis. Laptop parts have to be made to run at a lower power level. They may have the same number of cores, for example, but they can’t run them at the same speed or for as long as a desktop would.
In the same way, when it comes to cooling down. It’s hard for laptop manufacturers to come up with cooling systems that can keep up with fast-moving parts because there isn’t a lot of space for airflow and ventilation. The power and cooling constraints mean that you won’t find the most powerful parts running at full speed in anything smaller than a 16-inch screen.
Don’t be blinded by thin, sleek designs unless you’re willing to compromise on performance either for those reasons.
What specs make a laptop good for gaming?
You should think about how much money you want to spend before you look at the specs. Even if the sky’s the limit, that’s fine. When you start looking for a job, you need to narrow down the field. This is the best way to figure out what your options are for a given price range. Plus, it helps you figure out where you’re willing to make trade-offs. Start with the easiest thing to do. You can always throw it out when you know what you want, but it’s the easiest way to start.
There are a lot of things to think about when you play games. The GPU is the main thing that affects frame rates. If you’re going to use the computer’s built-in screen instead of an external monitor, then the screen’s specs come in second. An RTX 3060 and a 360Hz 1080p display might not be a good match. You won’t be able to get very high frame rates with that GPU, so the screen refresh rate is unnecessary. You also need to pay attention to how much video memory it has because that can be a problem when you want to load big textures and play games at a high level.
If you’re not a power player, you don’t need a top-of-the-line CPU. I wouldn’t buy too cheap, either. Game genres that don’t use the CPU very much are changing over time, as the chips, development tools, and operating system programming interfaces get better at distributing the load between the CPU and the GPU. This is especially true when it comes to offloading tasks that require a lot of power from the GPU.
Storage is also an important thing to think about. You need a fast, enough SSD to store big games and load them quickly. In the end, you don’t need a lot of space, even though games can be big. If you also need a lot of space for other things, that’s fine. Are there other things to do than play games? I think 2TB is a good compromise. You can always use extra storage in the future for things that don’t need to be done quickly.
While the amount of system memory isn’t very important, I wouldn’t get less than 16GB because it could slow down Windows, which could affect how well you play the game.
Ports could be very important. Most accessories still use USB-A, and I don’t think you should use a hub to connect your controller, keyboard, or mouse. Connecting through a hub, on the other hand, could cause latency and connection problems that you don’t want to deal with while you’re playing a game. If you want to connect two monitors to your computer, having a separate HDMI or DisplayPort port can help.
When you buy a laptop, you usually don’t have a lot of options to choose from. Because of a company’s marketing decisions, you can’t do anything.
What do I need to know about a gaming laptop’s GPU (beyond speed)?
On a laptop, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti is the fastest graphics card. It has the usual Max-Q versions. The Max-Q versions may run at a lower frequency than their full-size counterparts, which helps keep noise and heat down and makes them easier to fit into small designs. There are also RTX models that speed up ray-traced rendering and provide intelligent upscaling (called DLSS) where it’s allowed. You can get the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti even if your favourite games don’t use Turing, which is the last generation of Nvidia’s technology. It has Turing, but it doesn’t have the extra cost or power draw of the RT cores.
For the next generation of Max-Q, Nvidia is going to launch in 2020. This new architecture includes Advanced Optimus. It’s smarter because the integrated and discrete graphics don’t have to switch the pipeline to the screen, so there’s no need to reboot. But Advanced Optimus requires a lot of changes to system designs, so laptops that can use Advanced Optimus are still coming out two years after they first came out.
If you want to play games on your laptop, you’ll need a computer with an AMD graphics card, like the Radeon RX 6600M, 6700M, or 6800M. These aren’t as good as the fastest Nvidia cards, but the 6800M is getting close. New versions of the Radeon RX 6850M XT, RX 6650M XT, and RX 6650M were announced at CES in January. We haven’t had a chance to play with them, though.
Intel is getting closer and closer to shipping its first generation of Arc discrete high-performance GPUs, which were finally announced at CES 2022, but they haven’t yet been made. Those aren’t the laptops that the first versions are going to. They’re not really meant for gaming.
If you’re going to play games on your laptop, does its CPU matter?
No, not always. Sims are usually better off with faster clock speeds and more cores because they need to do a lot of calculations when the worlds become more complicated, so that helps. AAA games are also getting better at distributing the load between the CPU and the GPU where possible. There are still a lot of games that don’t use more than six cores. First-person shooters in particular don’t use more than six cores.
What do I need to know about the screen size and refresh rate before I buy gaming laptops?
Screens follow. Everyone who makes high-end 1080p displays now runs them at 360Hz, but many gamers don’t need them: 240Hz should be enough for the few times you get frame rates close to 240fps. Even 144Hz will work for many people, but artifacts like tearing, which happens when the screen refresh rate is out of sync with the frame rate, depending on the games you play as well as the laptop brand and hardware. A lot of high-end laptops have screens that can run at 120Hz (4K) and 165Hz or 240Hz QHD (1440p). We’re also seeing more 17-inch and 15-inch laptops with these screens. The latter is my favourite because they have a high resolution, which is enough for a laptop screen. They also have a good refresh rate, which is good for playing games.
For the first time ever, laptops will be able to run G-Sync and FreeSync with their built-in screens. This is because this year’s laptops will have better GPU architectures. If you’re going to be playing games on your laptop screen, you should think about those.
Do you have to compromise on battery life?
Battery life has been a compromise you’ve had to make in the past. It usually only lasts for about two hours of nonstop gaming. You also couldn’t play the most complicated games, like ones that use a lot of power from the GPU or the CPU, on battery power. A laptop that felt quick when connected turned into a slog on battery power when you played a lot of games. This turned your epic battles into battles of frustration.
Those things have been changing recently because of the work Intel, AMD, and Nvidia have done to improve their power management technologies. On battery power, you can’t play for 10 hours at a time. But now there are some great laptops that can play for 10 hours. And if you can play games from the cloud, your system does the least amount of work, which means that your battery lasts longer.
How to choose the best gaming laptop for you?
When you have a large budget or a few thousand dollars to spare, picking the finest gaming laptop is simple. Getting a quality gaming laptop becomes more difficult when your budget is limited.
Fortunately, there are lots of more affordable CPUs and GPUs on the way that don’t skimp on performance. The latest internals, such as Intel’s Comet Lake, AMD’s Big Navi, and Nvidia’s RTX 3000 series, are more competent than ever while also being less expensive. As a result, gaming notebooks under $1000 can be just as capable as any gaming PC while remaining portable and space-saving, similar to the greatest Ultrabooks.
Some components, however, are more powerful or less expensive than others. While there is no hard and fast rule, AMD’s offerings are normally more economical, which implies AMD Ryzen-powered laptops are slightly less expensive.
Nvidia is still the king of graphics cards when it comes to performance, but which RTX card you should get depends on the type of gaming experience you desire. For example, the RTX 3060 is a fantastic mid-range contender with plenty of graphics power for 1080p gaming. However, if you want to play at 4K, you’ll need an RTX 3070 or above.
Take into account the RAM as well. Many gaming laptops come with an 8GB DDR4 memory module, which is the bare minimum these days. However, if you plan on playing a lot of demanding AAA games, a minimum of 16GB is advised for the best performance.
The amount of storage, the style of display, and the type and diversity of ports are all items to consider. Examine the battery life as well, particularly if you intend to game on the go.
Be aware that just because something is high-end doesn’t imply it will have a long battery life – the Alienware laptops are a case in point. Of course, because you just like the appearance of your gaming notebook, consider the design and whether or not you want RGB lighting.
Whichever one you choose, we guarantee that one of our suggestions below will let you play your favorite games without being tethered to a desk, from free PC games, free Steam games, and even the best inexpensive PC games to the best laptop games and the finest PC games.
How Much Should You Spend on a Gaming Laptop?
Gaming systems contain higher-end components than regular consumer laptops, so their pricing will be more as a result, but the price range is huge: from under a grand to $4,000 and up. Gaming laptops on a budget start at roughly $750 and go up to around $1,250.
You get a system that can play games at full HD resolution (1080p) with most settings toned down, or at top quality settings in simpler games, for that price. A hard drive or, more likely, a small-capacity solid-state drive could be used for storage (SSD). A solid-state drive (SSD) as the boot drive is always preferable, and hard discs are now generally used as secondary drives in bigger laptops.
Do you want something more? Midrange computers should support VR headsets and provide smoother gameplay at high or maximum settings on a better-quality 1080p screen (which will enable high refresh rates; more on that later). These versions will cost between $1,250 and $2,000, depending on the model.
Meanwhile, high-end PCs should ensure seamless gameplay at 1080p with all graphics details turned on, always on a high-refresh screen. If your screen allows it, they might even let you play in 4K resolution.
A high-end model should be capable of powering a VR headset as well as supporting several external monitors. These workstations are usually equipped with fast storage components such as PCI Express solid-state drives, and they cost more than $2,000, if not more.
As optional extras, some laptops of this class include QHD (2,560-by-1,440-pixel) or 4K displays, a hard drive to supplement the SSD, and ultra-efficient cooling fans. Thanks to technological advances, a growing number of them are even thin and portable.
You’ll either pay a premium for high-end performance in a tiny chassis or pay a premium for the most possible power in a chunkier build with laptops in this grade.
Put the GPU First: Which Gaming Laptop Graphics to Get?
The graphics processing unit is the main feature that makes or breaks a gaming laptop (GPU). Unless a laptop contains a discrete graphics chip from Nvidia or (less typically) AMD, we don’t consider it a gaming laptop.
For the uninitiated, here’s a fast crash course: The higher the number in a GPU series, the more powerful it is in general. An Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, for example, will often provide faster frame rates and higher-quality graphics than an RTX 307. So on down the stack, with the “30” indicating the generation.
Currently, Nvidia is the major player in the field, with discrete mobile GPUs based on its “Ampere” microarchitecture. Ampere GPUs were first released in laptops in early 2021 under the GeForce RTX 30-Series designation (i.e., the RTX 3070 or RTX 3080).
This platform replaced the preceding “Turing” (20 Series) generation, and 20-Series GPUs (such as the RTX 2070) will be scarce in 2022. They may be found in older laptops that are still available from some internet stores, but they will not be found in new systems. Unlike previous generations, the top-end GPUs offered on new laptops are labeled “RTX” rather than “GTX,” a tribute to the platform’s ray-tracing technology for improved in-game images (with games that support it).
Ampere laptop GPUs don’t match their desktop counterparts in terms of performance, but they’re still extremely good, and they’re better at ray-tracing than Turing. However, we’ve discovered that depending on the power sent to the GPU by laptop manufacturers, there might be significant performance differences between the same GPU in one laptop and the same GPU in another.
Read our mobile Ampere testing page to learn more about why this is the case. This makes shopping for a laptop a little more difficult than merely looking at the GPU name on paper. It is now more vital than ever to examine each system individually.
With the RTX 3070 Ti and RTX 3080 Ti, Nvidia raised the bar for high-end laptop GPUs at CES 2022. We’ve only examined a few systems with these so far, but they, like the RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super, push the power ceilings higher than the standard GPUs, allowing laptop manufacturers to choose even more granular performance and pricing points for different systems.
Let’s take a look at the power structure from the bottom up. The GeForce RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti, which arrived in spring 2021, sit immediately below the RTX 3070 and 3080. At the bottom of the 30 Series stack are the GeForce RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti.
The recently announced RTX 2050 joins them, filling in the gaps between these and the previous generation. That’s a little unusual, but its last-generation nomenclature and odd date reflect 30 Series GPU supply limitations.
These GPUs, in comparison to the premium RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, are available in more budget-friendly gaming laptops (or in the base configurations of more premium machines), bringing Ampere architecture and, most importantly, ray-tracing to entry-level devices. (For more information on ray-tracing on the PC, see our primer.)
The GeForce GTX GPUs described earlier are listed underneath the RTX 3050. The GTX 1650, GTX 1650 Ti, and GTX 1660 Ti are GPUs that do not support ray tracing and are based on the Turing architecture.
These nevertheless deliver good full HD/1080p gaming performance while excluding GeForce RTX-specific capabilities such as ray-tracing to save money. (We’ll go over this in more detail below in the section on cheap gaming laptops, where it’s most relevant.)
These GTX GPUs are older and less powerful, yet they are still useful. These GPUs will continue to be used in low-end gaming laptops and non-gaming systems that seek to give some discrete GPU capability, but the GeForce RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti will eventually replace them in most low-cost gaming laptops.
The GTX 1650 Ti, for example, maybe found in compact gaming laptops like the Razer Blade Stealth 13, as well as non-gaming laptops like the Dell XPS 15.
Nvidia is still the market leader in graphics, although AMD’s share of the market is growing. Radeon RX 5000 or 6000 Series GPUs are becoming more common in gaming laptops. Radeon GPUs are sometimes used in conjunction with Intel processors, however, AMD graphics are being used with AMD processors more frequently than before.
(A few AMD-on-AMD CPU/GPU computers were available from Dell and MSI, for example.) GPUs like the Radeon RX 6800M, RX 6700M, and RX 6600M are the most recent, but we’ve only seen and tested them in a few systems, such as the MSI Delta 15.
Despite the complexity of the situation, we may nevertheless draw some basic generalizations concerning graphics performance. In 2022, a single midrange or high-end discrete GPU will be capable of running the most recent AAA games on a 1080p screen with most of the bells and whistles turned on, as well as supporting VR.
Smooth 1440p gaming has become the standard thanks to the RTX 3070 and 3080, and the latter GPU in particular has enabled 4K gaming on laptops much more feasible than before.
When used in conjunction with a rendering technique known as DLSS, high-end GPUs can even push ray-tracing to greater resolutions in some games. More demanding games may not get 60 frames per second at 4K, especially if ray-tracing is enabled, but with these high-end choices, it’s much more likely to do so on its own. When the RTX 3080 Ti becomes available, we’ll see how much better it is.
The Panel: How High a Refresh Rate to Get in a Gaming Laptop?
Previously, the power of an RTX 3070 or RTX 3080 would appear to be overkill for gaming at 1080p, but new elements can absorb that extra potential. Most gaming laptops now come with a high-refresh-rate screen, which enables a full display of high frame rates to smooth out the apparent action. To make use of the benefits of a high-refresh panel with demanding games, you’ll need a powerful graphics chip.
You’ll be able to spot these computers if they advertise a 120Hz, 144Hz, or 240Hz screen, for example. (A regular laptop display runs at 60Hz, but new gaming versions will all have displays that run at 100Hz or more.)
The most common is a 144Hz panel, but we’re now seeing 240Hz and even 360Hz possibilities in more expensive models, allowing them to display more than 60 frames per second (for example, up to 144fps, in the case of 144Hz screens). This makes games look smoother, but in many cases, only high-end GPUs can exceed those limitations.
Furthermore, ray-tracing techniques (think real-time lighting and reflection effects) are resource-intensive, and the more video games that use the technology, the more you’ll want you could turn them on.
As a result, even if playing games at full HD (1080p) resolution doesn’t appear to be overly demanding on paper, you have several reasons to choose an RTX 3070 or RTX 3080. DLSS can also assist less powerful hardware like the RTX 3050 run or enable ray-tracing with limited drawbacks, so you’re not completely out of luck if you can’t buy the top-end CPUs. Although DLSS support isn’t yet widespread, it’s becoming more common in games.
The G-Sync and FreeSync technologies from Nvidia and AMD are more practical. They improve the gaming experience and smooth out frame rates by allowing the laptop screen to rewrite the image onscreen at a variable rate based on the GPU’s output (rather than the fixed rate of the screen).
If you’re a stickler for flawlessly rendered visuals, look for support for one of those technologies. These technologies, together known as “adaptive sync,” are becoming more popular, but they tend to appear in more expensive devices, with G-Sync being far more prevalent.
The Processor: Which CPU to Get in a Gaming Laptop?
The first 11th Generation “Tiger Lake H” processors (commonly referred to as the “H35” class) were released in early 2021, with the rest of the higher-powered chips following in May. These were basically the only CPUs available in Intel-based gaming laptops by the end of 2021.
(We’ll come back to AMD in a minute.) They’ll still be around in 2022, but Intel’s 12th Generation “Alder Lake H” CPUs were revealed at CES 2022, and they’re expected to dominate the gaming laptop market this year. We initially tested this platform on a hefty Core i9 processor in early 2022, followed by our first review of an Alder Lake-H laptop in the Alienware x14.
For the time being, the majority of laptops listed here have Tiger Lake Core i9 processors for enthusiasts, Core i7 processors for thin-and-light gaming laptops, and new Core i5 processors for budget machines.
Unlike the first wave of CPUs, these more powerful chips have at least six cores and 12 threads, with the Core i7 and i9 models having eight cores and 16 threads. As the year progresses, Alder Lake laptops will undoubtedly begin to replace them.
Even Alder Lake’s upcoming Core i5 processors will have up to 12 cores and 16 threads, albeit it’s no longer as simple as counting raw cores and threads. Intel will use its Performance Hybrid design, which combines Efficiency and Performance cores, just as it did with the popular Alder Lake desktop chips (or E-cores and P-cores).
That’s not to suggest that core and thread count aren’t important: Six P-cores and eight E-cores make up the top-tier Core i9-12900HK, which will have 14 cores and 20 threads. The Core i7-12800H, which will undoubtedly become one of the most popular of these chips, uses the same core mix. We’ll put laptops powered by these chips to the test as soon as they arrive in our hands in 2022.
More cores and faster clock speeds boost overall efficiency and performance on multithreaded applications such as media projects, but they’re less important for gaming, thus the Tiger Lake H family is a suitable choice.
More threads don’t always help to game as much as they help other media chores, but they sure don’t hurt. By the end of 2021, the Intel Core i7-11800H, with eight cores and 16 threads, had become the standard for most high-end gaming laptops.
You might theoretically find a gaming laptop with an Intel Core i3 processor, but they’re rare: Although systems with Intel Core i3 and comparable entry-level AMD CPUs are capable of playing a wide range of games, why start at the beginning? If you must choose between a high-end CPU and a high-end GPU, though, go with the graphics.
For example, if the money saved could be used toward an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU instead of an RTX 3060, we’d recommend getting a Core i5 CPU over a Core i7. If gaming is your primary concern, spending the money on the GPU makes more sense than spending it on the CPU.
In midrange systems, look for Intel Core i5 processors, with Core i7 H, HQ, and HK processors in higher-end gaming laptops. Higher-powered H-series processors are found in more expensive gaming laptops, whilst lower-powered U-series processors are designed for thinner, more portable computers.
In terms of thermal profile and overall performance capability, they are considerably different; a U-series Core i7 CPU may not even have the same number of processing cores as an H-series Core i7 processor. (Intel added a “G” suffix to its U-Series processors in the 11th generation to indicate enhanced integrated graphics, although they are still U-Series processors.)
Although U-series CPUs are uncommon in true gaming laptops, they do exist. His superior. Core i9 H-Series CPUs, which are also superior for media workloads, will be available in the most expensive and largest gaming laptops available. Later this year, Alder Lake U-Series laptops will be released.
On the AMD front, things are shifting. Previously, AMD’s Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors for mobile devices were a distant second to Intel’s offerings. They have their own performance benefits in desktops and laptops, but they’ve been far less frequent in gaming laptops than Intel’s offerings in the past.
Things have changed since AMD debuted its new generation of mobile processors based on the Zen 2 architecture in 2020, coinciding with the popularity of its desktop chips. The 4000 Series, followed by the Zen 3-based 5000 Series in 2021, has been really outstanding, and we saw more AMD laptops in 2021 than we have in the previous years.
These processors outperformed Intel’s counterparts in media tasks and provided comparable gaming performance at a lower price. AMD also provides Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 processors, which have shown to be as capable.
On both laptops and desktops, AMD’s Zen 3 has given CPU dominance over Intel, and while Alder Lake has the ability to wrest it back, AMD is not backing down. At CES 2022, Team Red revealed the “Rembrandt” Ryzen 6000 Series, which was released in laptops in February.
Our early Ryzen 6000 Series testing findings and analysis can be found here. For the time being, our top options are largely Tiger Lake H and Ryzen 5000 laptops, but as we get into 2022, they’ll be replaced with Alder Lake H and Rembrandt-based notebooks.
Display Size: What Screen Size to Get in a Gaming Laptop?
A 15.6-inch screen is a sweet spot for a gaming laptop in terms of display size. Models with larger 17-inch displays are available, but they will almost probably increase the weight to well over 5 pounds, putting portability in jeopardy. However, when it comes to resolution, there’s less of a question: Whatever the screen size, a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) native-resolution screen is the default minimum at this point.
Also worth noting is that in 2022, 14-inch panel sizes, as well as 16-inch ones that are slightly larger than the 15-inch class, will begin to appear on the market as third and fourth classes of gaming-laptop displays, rather than one-offs. 14-inch gamers are now available from major manufacturers such as Acer, Alienware, Asus, and Razer.
Higher-than-1080p resolutions are possible with larger displays, but choose wisely: a resolution of QHD (uncommon), QHD+ (3,200 by 1,800 pixels, even less common), or 4K (3,840 by 2,160 pixels, slightly more common) will increase the final cost twice: first for the panel, and then for the higher-quality graphics chip you’ll need to drive it to its full potential.
If you prefer smoother images, seek increasingly prevalent G-Sync or high-refresh-rate screens (as noted before).
Gaming laptops with a 4K screen (3,840 by 2,160 pixels) are still an oddity, and they’re still pricey because they demand the most powerful GPUs for seamless gameplay at native resolution.
Keep in mind that only the most powerful graphics cards can produce sophisticated game animations at playable frame rates across the full screen at 4K, so if you only play games, a 1080p screen could be a better investment (particularly if you can also get a high refresh rate screen).
Despite the fact that the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 are significantly more capable of 4K gaming than any laptop GPU before them, we don’t believe it’s worth the money to seek out 4K gaming in laptops. However, the screens do look great, especially since they’re frequently combined with OLED technology.
Gaming Laptop Storage: Stick With an SSD
Because prices have dropped significantly in recent years, you should absolutely consider a system with a solid-state drive as the boot drive. SSDs reduce boot time, wake-from-sleep time, and the time it takes to load a new level in a game. Only older laptops and those on the low end of the price spectrum will feature a hard disc as the boot drive.
Get a gaming laptop with an SSD if you like, but make sure you configure it correctly. If you download videos from the internet on a regular basis, a small-capacity (256GB) SSD with a large (1TB or higher) spinning secondary hard drive is a smart place to start.
(Dual-drive configurations like this are typically only supported by bulkier gaming laptops.) High-capacity SSDs (1TB or more) are available, but they will raise the cost of your gaming machine significantly. For a basic gaming laptop, a 512GB boot SSD is a fair compromise.
SSDs are speedy, but hard drives provide you with a lot more storage space for your money. Adding more SSD capacity can quickly raise the price. Recognize, though, how large modern game downloads may be (tens of terabytes) and shop appropriately. If your SSD is too small, you may find yourself constantly transferring games on and off the drive.
How Much Memory to Get in a Gaming Laptop?
Let’s talk about the memory before we forget. Look for at least 8GB of RAM on a gaming laptop. (In practice, no model worth its salt will come with anything less.) That will give you some breathing room when moving between your games window and your messaging app, but we recommend saving researching game tips for when you’re not playing, as each additional browser window you open consumes RAM.
We recommend 16GB for a high-end machine so you can have multiple gaming sessions, your chat software, many websites, a webcam program, and your video streaming program all open at the same time.
With 8GB of memory, a midrange gaming laptop should be acceptable, but keep in mind that many new laptops are not upgradeable. You can be stuck with the RAM you ordered. More than 16GB is overkill for most people who aren’t avid streamers or multitaskers, so 16GB is the optimal target for an investment-grade gaming laptop.
Buying the Best Cheap Gaming Laptop
You’ll have to make some compromises if you’re buying a gaming system on a tight budget (approximately $700 to $1,200 in this example).
The idea is to maximize power while maintaining within a budget, but you’ll have to accept that some of the components won’t be equal to those found in more expensive laptops. However, $1,200 is a respectable upper limit for what some buyers are willing to pay for a gaming laptop, and a good system can still be had for that price or less. (For more information, see our list of the best affordable gaming laptops.)
Because the specialized graphics chip is one of the most expensive components in a system and a big element in a computer’s gaming capabilities, the graphics will be the first to suffer. When looking at laptop alternatives, the graphics chip practically single-handedly defines the class of laptop you’re dealing with, therefore it’s crucial to pay attention to that element. Fortunately, today’s GPUs are capable of handling even the most basic tasks.
Previously, cheap systems were virtually entirely equipped with Nvidia Turing GPUs such as the GTX 1650, GTX 1650 Ti, and GTX 1660 Ti. As previously stated, the GeForce RTX 3050 and 3050 Ti have begun to replace these in laptops starting at $799. These, along with the new RTX 2050, are now the entry-level RTX GPUs, bringing the powerful ray-tracing lighting technology that the “RTX” name signifies to budget gamers for the first time.
The GTX 16-Series will continue to be available as a starting choice in certain new budget laptops, as well as mainstream laptops that require any discrete GPU, but the two new RTX 30-Series GPUs should be the expectation in new laptops in 2022.
You’ll be able to play smoothly at 1080p with the GTX 1650 and GTX 1650 Ti, but not at the top settings in recent titles. If you choose that path, the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is less of a concern because it’s remarkably capable in 1080p/full HD for the price, but you’ll still have to accept turning down a few settings for 60fps gaming in some games. (This is not the case with the RTX 3060.)
Virtual-reality gaming may be a stretch in this price range, but the GTX 1660 Ti is currently the most affordable VR-capable mobile GPU, so certain laptops at the higher end of this price range will (barely) get you in the door.
Processors are the next most significant distinction. Instead of a speedier Core i7, you’ll most likely get a decent Core i5. Still, some of the advantages of an i7 machine aren’t as important for gaming as they are for video editing and other creative applications, so an i5 will suffice.
At its most basic level, the latest generation of these CPUs is quick and efficient, and it won’t be a bottleneck for gaming. Despite its popularity in some higher-end or ultraportable gaming systems, we’ve seen more Ryzen chips in cheap, general-use laptops than in cheap gaming laptops over the last year.
Budget gaming laptops with AMD GPUs are far less frequent than those with Nvidia GPUs. The few new ones we’ve seen in a previous couple of years have mostly used the Radeon RX 5500M or 5600M with an Intel CPU, but there haven’t been many. (The nice MSI Bravo 15 is an uncommon case.) There are more all-AMD laptops on the market than in the past, but not all of them are gaming machines, and even fewer are affordable devices.
Aside from the graphics card and processor, the rest of the components should be closer to those found in more expensive PCs than you might think. The price difference between hard drives and SSDs is shrinking in terms of capacity, but hard drives are holding on more tenaciously here than in other gaming-laptop classes.
Budget laptops typically have a 1TB hard drive with a small boot-drive SSD, but keep an eye out for machines that are hard-drive-only; even at this price point, we highly prefer an SSD boot drive. Because 1,366-by-768-pixel screens are now reserved primarily for low-cost non-gaming PCs, the display will almost probably be 1080p. Budget laptops will most likely have 8GB of RAM, but you can find some (better) 16GB laptops in this price range.
What Else Do You Need to Up Your Game?
Because high-end components deplete battery life, you won’t be carrying any of these gaming setups too far from a wall plug. Although cutting-edge ports like USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 are useful now and will become even more so in the future, look for at least two ordinary-shaped (aka, “Type-A”) USB 3.0 ports so you can connect an external mouse and a hard drive to save your saved media files.
If you want to use a VR headset with your GeForce GTX 1660 Ti or better computer, make sure it has the right ports. You’ll need a well-placed HDMI or DisplayPort video out (which one you’ll need depends on the headset) as well as enough USB connections to avoid a hydra-head of cabling. Other video connectors, such as DisplayPort or mini-DisplayPort (which can be implemented over a USB-C port), are useful if you wish to play games on an external monitor, but they aren’t required if your laptop’s screen is large enough.
So, Which Gaming Laptop Should I Buy?
As we evaluate new models, our list of favourites changes. At each of the two primary gaming laptop screen sizes, we’ve divided our selections into our current favourites in the budget (under around $1,200), midrange (between budget and $2,000), and high-end ($2,000 and up) categories (15-inch and 17-inch). Smaller gaming laptops are classified as “ultraportable gaming,” and we’ve chosen a few more favorites based on factors like the overall value and unique designs (such as twin-screen models). If the base model starts at a lower price, we may designate a model in a different price class than the one we tested it in.
Given the silicon shortages and supply-chain concerns that have plagued the industry since the pandemic began, the budget class suffered some price inflation from 2021 to 2022. Previously, we would have set a hard limit of $999 for budget gaming machines, but prices at the lower end of the market are increasing. As a result, the price ceiling for this category of gaming machines has been raised.
FAQ for Best Gaming Laptops
What’s the most important gaming laptop component?
When it comes to gaming, the graphics card is the apparent answer, but things have recently gotten a little more difficult. Because GPU performance is now so reliant on cooling, it’s important to know what watts a graphics card can handle and what chassis it can fit into.
As previously stated, an RTX 3080 crammed into an 18mm chassis will perform significantly worse than one housed in a much larger case with more area for high-performance cooling.
Where are the laptops with AMD graphics cards?
We’ll take your guess as good as ours. The RX 5000-series cards were available in a few gaming laptop SKUs, although they were scarce. However, AMD has stated that the RX 6000 and Big Navi mobile GPUs will be available in gaming laptops in the first part of this year, but we have yet to see them in the labs.
Should I get a 4K screen on my laptop?
Nah. 4K gaming laptops are overkill; they’re fine for video editing with 4K footage, but they’re not the best option for gaming. Because of the usual 1080p resolution, even slower mobile GPUs can almost always achieve high frame rates, while 1440p panels are steadily making their way into laptop lineups.
A 1440p screen is the ideal combination of high resolution and good gaming performance. A 4K notebook, on the other hand, will overwork your GPU and strain your eyes as you squint at your 15-inch display.
Should I worry about what the CPU in a gaming laptop is?
What you want to do with your laptop will determine this. An AMD Ryzen chip with 8 cores and 16 threads will allow you to do a lot of work on the road, but it won’t help you much in terms of gaming. That’s one of the reasons Intel released the Tiger Lake H35 processors; they’re quad-core, 8-thread CPUs with a high clock speed to give high-end gaming performance when partnered with the RTX 3070.
What screen size is best for a gaming laptop?
This will, without a doubt, have the biggest impact on the build you choose. The size of your laptop is largely determined by the size of your screen. A 13-inch display will be a thin-and-light ultrabook, but a 17-inch display will very certainly be a workstation. You’re looking at the most common size of the gaming laptop screen, which is 15 inches.
Are high refresh rate panels worth it for laptops?
While you can’t ensure your RTX 3060 will achieve 300 frames per second in the latest games, you’ll notice a difference in the overall look and feel when using a 300Hz monitor.