Update, 08/02/2022: We’ve reviewed our recommendations for the best gaming laptops. Our best overall and best 17-inch picks are updated to the newest Razer Blade versions, while our new best budget recommendation is the MSI Katana.
What to Look for in a Gaming Laptop in 2022
Gaming laptops aren’t cheap. Not only do they need to pack in a bunch of powerful hardware, but they also need to be durable, reliable, and boast a screen that can take a beating after years of unforgiving travel.
However, having the option to play all your favorite games wherever you go can’t be understated—and the convenience of gaming laptops continues to make them one of the most popular products for PC gaming.
Unfortunately, shopping for a gaming laptop isn’t nearly as easy as gaming on one. Hundreds of models have flooded the market over the past few years, and there’s no shortage of marketing jargon to cut through before you can start comparing different models. However, understanding a few key aspects of a good laptop will make finding the perfect gaming laptop a breeze.
Above all else, pay close attention to the graphics processing unit (GPU) on your prospective rig. If it boasts a GeForce RTX 30 series GPU, you’ll likely be purchasing a device that will run popular games for years to come. You’ll also want to look for at least an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, as these are powerful enough to play just about all of today’s most demanding releases.
Keep in mind that mobile versions of GPUs are not the same as their desktop counterparts, even if the name is identical. For example, a mobile RTX 3070 Ti has performance closer to a desktop RTX 3060 Ti. While the difference isn’t huge, it is there if you’re directly comparing your gaming rig to a gaming laptop.
Buying a laptop with a high-end GPU and processor doesn’t come cheap, so you’ll need to carefully consider your budget. We wouldn’t recommend spending too much on a gaming laptop, as they often feature components that can’t be upgraded, meaning you’ll be purchasing a whole new rig sooner than you may think. This is wildly different from gaming desktop PCs, which allow you to swap out individual components as needed.
Another important factor with modern gaming laptops is the GPU’s TDP (Thermal Design Power) rating. Two laptops may have the same GPU on paper, but the one with higher TDP will perform better. So be sure to look for benchmarks for any laptop you’re considering, to ensure it plays your favorite games adequately.
If your game library consists of just a handful of games, you can save a few bucks by opting for a laptop without much internal storage space. Alternatively, you can purchase an external SSD or HDD to house a growing catalog. The best option is always internal storage, as it loads games faster than external solutions, but these often carry higher price tags.
In short, pay close attention to your prospective gaming laptop’s GPU, processor, and SSD. Remember that you’ll probably need to make a few compromises unless you’re willing to break the bank.
There are plenty of other aspects to consider when buying a gaming laptop, but the five products below offer the best combination of performance, pricing, and reliability for their respective category.
- ✓ GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
- ✓ 12th Gen Intel Core i7
- ✓ Crisp QHD display
Razer is consistently churning out high-end gaming products, and the Razer Blade 15 is no exception. A variety of configurations are available, but we’d recommend opting for the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti and Intel Core i7 to get the most out of your money.
As one of the most powerful GPUs money can buy, the RTX 3070 Ti lets this portable behemoth run today’s most demanding games without batting an eye. The action is captured on a 15.6-inch QHD display with a refresh rate of 240Hz, offering buttery smooth performance that wouldn’t be out of place on a bulky desktop rig.
Completing the package is a spec list that never seems to end. Vapor chamber cooling, Wi-Fi 6E, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD are packed inside an intricate aluminum chassis, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-looking laptop.
If you don’t mind the price tag, the Razer Blade 15 as close to a perfect gaming rig as you can get.
Best Gaming Laptop Overall
Razer Blade 15
The Razer Blade 15 is a premium laptop with premium hardware. An RTX 3070 Ti and 12th Gen Intel Core i7 will serve you well for years to come, although it’s a bit on the pricey side.
- ✓ Great mix of specs for the price
- ✓ Eye-catching design
- ✓ 17.3″ display in a budget laptop is a nice bonus
- ✗ Keyboard backlighting only has one color
- ✗ A 240Hz 1080p panel would make it better for eSports
MSI is mainly known for making high-end gaming laptops with exceptional build quality and generous extras when it comes to ports. The Katana series of laptops is their attempt at entering a more budget-friendly space while still retaining some of that quality and design flair the company is known for.
The Katana is a laptop that looks far more expensive than it is. It’s not audacious by any measure, but it treads the line between cyberpunk and a work-friendly laptop perfectly. While the keys have a red backlight that can’t be changed, overall it’s an understated-looking gaming laptop.
This is also a 17.3-inch system, which is a great bonus at this price. MSI does make a 15.6-inch version of the Katana if this screen size is too big for you, but the bigger model isn’t particularly thick or bulky.
The latest 12th-generation Intel CPU technology means you’ll get more battery life, less heat, and more performance compared to older 11th Gen systems. The 12th Gen hybrid architecture CPUs represent a significant leap, so don’t think it’s just a small bump compared to a slightly cheaper model from last year.
While the RTX 3060 on offer here is decidedly mid-range, it’s still great for the 144hz 1080p display. Although Esports players may prefer a model with a higher refresh rate, 144hz is plenty for most gamers.
Best Budget Gaming Laptop
MSi Katana GF76
Big, beautiful, and with enough horsepower to fully utilize its 17.3-inch 1080p display, the MSI Katana gives budget gamers a taste of the premium gaming laptop life.
Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,000: Acer Nitro 5
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ AMD Ryzen 5
- ✓ Reliable and durable construction
- ✗ GTX 1650 might leave you wanting more
- ✗ Underwhelming 256GB SSD
Often available well below the $1000 price point, Acer has managed to pack a ridiculous amount of firepower into a budget-friendly package. A few shortcuts had to be made to stay below that price mark (such as a meager 256GB SSD), but you won’t find a better product than the Acer Nitro 5 in this price range.
The Nitro 5 won’t get you a coveted RTX 30 series GPU, but it does come with a GTX 1650. This highly rated last-gen graphics card should be more than capable of handling today’s most popular games with settings turned to medium or high, and it does it with style on a 15.6-inch FHD display.
Acer continues its tradition of making reliable products with the Nitro 5, although you’ll have to get used to its ultra-aggressive “gamer” design. Red backlit keys accent its all-black design, and there’s no doubt it’ll draw attention if you open it at the library or coffee shop.
Best Gaming Laptop Under $1000
Acer Nitro 5
It only includes 256GB of internal storage, but a GTX 1650 and Ryzen 5 should give you enough firepower for today’s most demanding titles.
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ AMD Ryzen 3
- ✓ 10-key number pad
- ✗ Underpowered Vega 3 GPU
- ✗ Won’t run today’s most popular games
Finding a gaming laptop under $500 isn’t easy. And even though the Acer Aspire 5 Slim checks a lot of boxes, there’s still a lot of limitations to a product in this price range.
The most noticeable sacrifice is the Vega 3 GPU, which won’t let you run anything above low settings. In fact, most of today’s most popular games probably won’t even be playable with the GPU—although you can probably get away with a few last-gen games with the settings turned down. If you mostly play indie games with lower graphical loads, though, the Aspire 5 Slim will be a worthwhile purchase.
If you can look past the Vega 3, the Acer Aspire 5 is a solid laptop. The Ryzen 3 CPU continues to be an affordable solution for low-end gaming, the 4GB DDR4 lets you pull off a bit of multitasking, and it’s all wrapped up with a premium design and full HD display.
We’d highly recommend saving up a bit longer to pick up another gaming laptop on this list if you want modern gaming, but if you don’t mind being relegated to games from another era, the Aspire 5 might be a perfect fit.
Best Gaming Laptop Under $500
Acer Aspire 5 Slim
It’s not quite a bonafide gaming laptop, but it’s slim pickings at this price range. You might be better off saving for a more expensive rig, but the Aspire 5 Slim can at least handle a bit of light gaming.
- ✓ Excellent specifications at a reasonable price
- ✓ Large, comfortable monitor
- ✓ Much more power efficient than previous Blade 17s
- ✓ Excellent IO selection
- ✗ The top specification option is not cheap
- ✗ It’s portable, but not exactly mobile
In most cases, the best gaming laptops are the ones that blend performance with mobility. The 15.6-inch form factor is almost always the right choice for a balance between system size and performance, but there’s no denying that a 17-inch gaming laptop feels fantastic in comparison.
17-inch laptops are especially good for gamers who don’t connect their gaming laptops to a large external monitor at their desks. The 2022 Razer Blade 17 fits that use case perfectly and it’s priced well enough to make this screen size a matter of personal preference rather than price.
Packing a 12th-gen 14-core i7 CPU (with an i9 option), you also get significant power consumption benefits when not gaming, or when playing lighter titles. The 12th Gen CPUs offer a mix of performance and efficiency cores, so if you’re just browsing the web your battery should last much longer than you’d expect from a machine with these specifications.
Likewise, the 3070 Ti GPU in the new 17 isn’t that much faster than the older mobile 3070, but it uses significantly less power. That translates to a quieter gaming laptop that has longer battery endurance. It’s a win-win situation.
There are various screen options for the Razer Blade 17, including a 144Hz 4K option. On a small17-inch monitor, 4K is not a major upgrade for the price, so our recommendation is the 1440p QHD 240Hz option for a great mix of crisp resolution and high refresh rates.
To round things off, there are plenty of premium features here that elevate the Blade 17 above cheaper laptops with similar core specifications. For example, it has an HDMI 2.1 port, which is rare on PCs. This allows you to get 4K 120hz output to an external monitor or TV.
There are two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and even an SD card slot, making the Razer Blade 17 a great choice for those who also work as content creators.
Best 17-inch Laptop
Razer Blade 17 Gaming Laptop (2022)
The 2022 Razer Blade 17 is a true weapon with few compromises. This is a great desktop replacement system that handles just about everything, but you’ll sacrifice some mobility for it.