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Updated August 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

30
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177
Consumers
Consulted
8
Hours
Researched
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Buying guide for Best gaming laptops

If you game at home or on the go, a gaming laptop is a great way to take the latest games anywhere. The specs of gaming laptops vary widely, and not all laptops are as easy to upgrade to maintain top performance.

For playing the latest games at top performance, you need a machine that is powerful enough to meet your needs. The screen size and resolution are important considerations, as is the GPU when it comes to visuals and framerate. The CPU and RAM determine how quickly your computer will perform and how many tasks it can handle at once. You should also find a gaming laptop with a style that suits your taste.

Any gaming laptop is a moderate to major investment and should keep you gaming for years. As a result, it’s important to consider every aspect of your gaming machine, so you can play your favorite games at their highest performance level.

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Intense video games are meant to push computer hardware to its limits, which means they generate a lot of heat. As you shop, remember that you’ll need to place your gaming laptop in a well-ventilated spot while you’re playing.

It’s all in the (video) cards

Video games, especially first-person-perspective games, depend on the computer’s graphics processing unit (GPU) to render the images you see while playing. Naturally, the GPU is the single biggest factor when it comes to your ability to play a game on a laptop.

If you think of a GPU as a computer’s video “muscles,” it’s easy to see why gaming laptops need a particularly strong GPU.

We recommend a minimum of 4GB of VRAM. Video cards are often measured by the chipset they use and the amount of built-in memory (VRAM) they have. For example, you may see a video card described as a “GeForce” series with 4GB of VRAM.

As you’re shopping for gaming laptops, pay attention to both the chipset series and the VRAM, and make sure that both are adequate for the games you intend to play most frequently.

Expert Tip
If you’ll be playing your gaming laptop on a couch or in an armchair, consider getting a desk tray so you don’t have to rest it on your legs. Gaming laptops get warm, and some trays even include built-in vents and fans to keep everything running cool. 
BestReviews Electronics Expert

Gaming laptop CPUs

A gaming laptop’s second most important component is its central processing unit (CPU), which is responsible for keeping your computer running. It’s the chip that processes all the data and executes all the commands.

While a gaming laptop’s GPU is dedicated to rendering video, the CPU is responsible for everything else, from the operating system to every last game of Solitaire. It can be difficult to keep up with CPU technologies because they evolve rapidly, but in general, consider the following when deciding what type of processor you’ll need.

  • Brand: Most laptop CPUs are made by Intel, although AMD’s newest processors (dubbed “Ryzen”) are a popular favorite among gamers. Think twice about buying a gaming laptop with a CPU that isn’t made by Intel or AMD. Off-brand CPUs rarely perform as well.

  • Generation: Most CPU manufacturers release new iterations of their best chips regularly, and each generation of chips is given a code name. When shopping for a gaming laptop, buy one with the most current CPU you can afford.

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Expert TIp
If you’re using any wireless peripherals with your gaming laptop, like a wireless gaming headset or a wireless mouse, be sure to pick up extra batteries so they don’t run out mid-game.
BestReviews Electronics Expert

Gaming laptop screen size

As with all laptops, deciding on what size screen is right for you also means deciding what size laptop is right for you because the screen determines the machine’s footprint. Since gaming laptops are all about displaying eye-popping visuals, picking a screen that you like and one that adequately renders the games you want to play is important.

Gaming laptops typically come in three different screen sizes.

  • 14-inch gaming laptops often feature lower resolutions, which can mean a lot of extra scrolling and zooming in or out while playing. Pick a 14-inch model if you’re looking for an entry-level gaming laptop or you mostly play games that are less graphic-intensive.

  • 15-inch gaming laptops are by far the most common because they have screens that are big enough to show off action-packed video games but not so large as to be unwieldy. If you’re looking for a good balance between size, power, and weight, a 15-inch gaming laptop is your best bet.

  • 17-inch gaming laptops are as enormous and awkward as you might expect. While a 17-inch screen will deliver an incredible gaming experience, it will also use up much more of the battery than a smaller screen. Buy this size if you absolutely must see every pixel of your games and don’t expect to have to carry your machine around with you very often.

Expert Tip
If your gaming laptop doesn’t have a lot of ports, pick up an adapter that adds more. Many laptops include a USB-C port and omit others because they’re built with the assumption that you’ll connect any peripherals with a multi-port adapter.
BestReviews Electronics Expert

Accessories

Laptop cooling pad: Gaming can cause your laptop to heat up, which isn't comfortable on your lap, nor is it great for your laptop. A laptop cooling pad can effectively keep your laptop cooler.

Gaming headset: Immerse yourself in your game with a good gaming headset.

Gaming laptop prices

There are two main price ranges to be aware of when looking at gaming laptops.

$500 to $1,000

In this price range, expect to find budget gaming laptops that use last-generation technology or cut corners by having a smaller screen. If you’re dreaming of playing a first-person shooter at 4K resolution with a chat window open and your favorite tunes playing, you’ll need to spend more to get a more capable laptop.

That said, if you’re merely looking for a competent gaming laptop that will power your Minecraft addiction, there’s no need to spend more than $1,000.

$1,000 to $1,500

In this price range, you’ll find great gaming laptops that pull out all the stops. You’ll see current-generation GPUs and CPUs alongside some premium features like bigger batteries, larger screens, and gamer-friendly aesthetics.

If you play video games for more than an hour each day, a gaming laptop in this price range is your best bet.

$1,500 and up

Models in this price range bring premium features like 4K displays, multiple displays, and top-tier internal hardware.

If you're a serious gamer who wants the best of the best, expect to pay top dollar.

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Expert Tip
Make a plan for all of the accessories you’ll need to buy along with your gaming laptop. I recommend getting at least a gaming mouse and a laptop case
BestReviews Electronics Expert

Tips

  • Carry your gaming laptop’s AC adapter with you. Video games use a higher-than-average amount of power, and you don’t want to run out of battery life in the middle of a gaming session when you’re playing away from home! Most gaming laptop batteries will run out after two to four hours of playing.

  • Investigate the minimum required hardware for each game you want to play. Every video game lists the technical requirements needed to run the game. Before buying a gaming laptop, verify that the model you want meets the requirements.

  • Choose a gaming laptop that lets you change the battery. Video games draw a lot of power, so if you expect to keep your laptop for more than a few years, you should plan on replacing the battery at some point. Not all gaming laptops allow users to replace their own batteries, so as you’re shopping, rule out any models that prevent you from doing so.

  • As you’re deciding what size screen is right for you, pay attention to the maximum supported resolution. For best results when gaming, we recommend a minimum resolution of 1440p.

  • When a gaming laptop isn’t powerful enough to play a game, it can freeze, stutter, or crash. If you experience any odd slowing or random crashes, consider closing all other applications while you play to dedicate all your system resources to the game.

  • When comparing gaming laptop specs, be careful not to confuse the video card’s memory with the computer’s RAM or hard drive space. All are measured in gigabytes (GB), but each serves a unique purpose.

  • The most popular screen resolutions are often referred to by their abbreviated names. For example, 1920 x 1080 is often referred to as “FHD,” which stands for “full high definition.” 2560 x 1440 is known as “QHD” (for “quad high definition”), and 3840 x 2160 goes by “UHD” or “ultra high definition.”

  • Some gaming laptops are designed to allow specific user hardware updates. Many manufacturers sell complementary kits so users can swap in a larger hard drive. If you think you might want to upgrade your laptop in the future, buy one that supports user upgrades.

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Because gaming laptops typically have high-end features (like the most current generation of CPUs or GPUs), they’re much heavier than other laptops. Most gaming laptops weigh between five and ten pounds.

FAQ

Q. How much RAM do I need in a gaming laptop?

A. Random access memory (RAM) is the memory a computer uses to store data related to active tasks. While adding more RAM won’t make your computer faster, it will enable it to handle more tasks simultaneously, making your experience smoother and more responsive. While some low-end gaming laptops ship with 4GB or 8GB of RAM, for an optimal gaming experience, we recommend buying one with a minimum of 16GB of RAM.

Q. Can I play virtual reality (VR) games on a gaming laptop?

A. Yes, you can do this with additional hardware. Virtual reality games can be installed and run from any Windows-based machine, and they require special equipment like VR goggles and hand controllers (sold separately). Before investing in a VR kit, make sure your gaming laptop meets the technical requirements of the VR games you want to play.

Q. Does Apple make a gaming laptop?

A. While many video game developers port their most popular titles to Apple’s macOS operating system, Apple does not have a laptop that’s designed specifically for gaming. However, most Apple laptops have competent GPUs that can deliver an average gaming experience. If you’re more than a casual gamer, stick with Windows. Many of the most popular gaming titles are PC exclusives.

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