Best Laptop for Competitive Gaming - The Ultimate Guide
When it comes to competitive gaming, performance is everything. There’s a reason that pro gamers often turn down their graphical settings even if their PCs can run their game of choice with ease, and that’s because they simply can’t afford to lose out on performance when they’re playing at the highest echelons.
In the past, playing competitively on a laptop was somewhat of a pipe dream. Of course gaming laptops have existed for a long time, but playing on a gaming laptop used to come with a lot of compromises if you were someone who absolutely needed every percentage point of performance. These days, that is no longer the case. There are tons of options out there for you to consider if you’re going for a gaming laptop, going from entry level gaming setups with a ‘standard’ 144Hz refresh rate screen to top-specced, cutting edge laptops complete with a 3080 Ti and a 360Hz panel.
Being a competitive gamer doesn’t have to mean that you’re shackled to your desktop anymore, so we’ve gathered our top picks in every bracket (budget, mid tier, high tier) to help you decide on your next purchase.
Reasons to get a gaming laptop
Obviously the number one advantage that a gaming laptop has over any other gaming solution is portability. If you are always gaming in the same room it makes little sense to go for a gaming laptop, but if you want to be more mobile then you can definitely look towards gaming laptops. In the past couple of years, gaming laptops have improved by leaps and bounds to the point where you can get a full esports ready (high refresh rate panel, beefy GPU, enough RAM, great CPU, …) laptop that ensures that you don’t have to make any compromises when it comes to your competitive performance.
Furthermore, a gaming laptop can be used for so much more than just gaming. Due to the power under the hood you can use these laptops for heavier work applications, for example, and producing and consuming content is also a breeze with any decent gaming laptop.
If you want to get a more in-depth overview of the pros and cons of a gaming laptop you can read our article here, but if you’re wondering whether or not it’s possible to be competitive on a laptop these days we can answer that question: yes, that’s possible. It will cost you a pretty penny of course, but there are plenty of options out there for esports players right now.
The Best Laptops for Competitive Gaming
There are a few components that we consider to be essential to your setup if you want to be a competitive esports player: you need a high refresh rate display, and a PC that can push as many frames as possible towards said display in order to minimize overall system latency. These are absolutely crucial aspects if you want to be competitive in today’s esports gaming scene, so naturally we’ve chosen laptops that meet those requirements.
The way we see it, there are three big tiers when it comes to gaming laptops: there’s the budget tier, the mid tier, and the top end. You’ll note that even the budget tier will require a bit of spending, and that’s completely normal: we’re shooting for the minimum acceptable competitive requirements, not the minimum acceptable requirements for single player gaming.
It is completely possible to spend less and get a 60Hz panel but you will be at such a disadvantage that we don’t consider that to be something that’s ideal for competitive gaming. Below, we will list our pick in each budget category and give you some additional information. We've tested all three laptops in this article ourselves so that we can give you the best and most reliable recommendations.
1. Razer Blade 17 2022 (Top Tier Option)
Specs: 360Hz (17") display, Intel i7-12800H, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
The best gaming laptop for competitive gaming - the pro option
It's no secret that competitive gamers need all the performance they can get. If you are playing at the highest tiers there's simply no way that you can afford to use a monitor with a lower framerate or a PC that can't handle your game of choice with ease. Razer knows this, and if you're looking for a reliable laptop for competitive gaming that will deliver performances without any hesitation then the Blade 17 is the perfect option for you.
The Blade 17 comes in many configurations, but if you're a serious competitive gamer you will probably want to go for the best version. Complete with an RTX 3080 Ti, 32GB DDR5 RAM, and an Intel Core i7-12800H processor it is definitely a beast of a gaming laptop that has specs that are pretty much top of the line in today's PC gaming market. You pretty much can't get any better than this. Couple that with a 360Hz screen and you've got a gaming laptop that's ready to serve even the most demanding professionals.
Something that we like about the Blade 17 is that it's just a tiny bit bigger than most other gaming laptops. With a 17 inch screen you've got a bit more screen real estate to make it easier to spot enemies that are far away, and that's without making the laptop extremely large or unwieldy. The Blade 17 is, for a laptop that's packing specs like these, extremely thin, and that combined with its sleek design (no crazy angles or design elements here, and the aluminum chassis looks great) makes for a laptop that will look at home in any environment, whether you're using it in a meeting or for fragging people in your favorite game.
Even when the Blade 17 is fully tasked it stays remarkably quiet and cool, and combine that with a more than decent laptop keyboard and you've got a laptop that is ready to play even the heaviest games out there.
Of course this will cost you a pretty penny, but if you're in the market for the best of the best it's very hard to look past the Razer Blade 17 series. This line of laptops has been king of the hill when it comes to gaming laptops for a while now, and that's for a reason.
Who is it for?
This laptop is the ideal one to get if you want the absolute best of the best. The Razer Blade 17 is a no-compromises type of laptop, and if you need every last bit of performance (or you also like to play a variety of single player games at high settings) without making any sacrifice whatsoever the Razer Blade 17 2022 is the one to get.
2. XMG NEO 15 (Mid Tier Option)
Specs: 240Hz (15") display, AMD Ryzen 7 5800H, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070
Great for dedicated esports players
Unless you're a professional gamer and your livelihood depends on your ingame performances it's likely that your budget for a gaming laptop isn't infinite. For people who don't want or need the latest tech and the best of the best there's this XMG NEO 15 as a perfect compromise between performance and price.
The model we tested had a 15 inch 240Hz display, combined with a Ryzen 7 5800H processor, 16GB RAM, and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070. As far as we are concerned this is a really attractive mid-high tier package of specs. Sure, you won't be able to run the latest single player games at the highest settings and get really high framerates (though 60 frames per second is perfectly fine for single player games) but for competitive games where you often turn down the graphics in favor of performance anyway this is definitely a very capable laptop, and its 240Hz panel ensures that you're not going to be feeling as if you're lagging when playing your games.
The XMG NEO 15 is a bit more on the "gamery" side, but it's a well built laptop with a good looking display and a keyboard with mechanical key switches. That keyboard didn't quite manage to convince us (it's absolutely not a match for a quality separate mechanical keyboard) but it's definitely a plus over most laptop keyboards.
The XMG NEO 15 isn't the quietest laptop when the going gets tough, and the exhaust fans output a decent amount of heat, but it's all very much manageable and acceptable for a 15 inch laptop. That size might be a bit small for people who are used to larger screens for their competitive gaming, but if you are looking for an ultra portable solution for competitive gaming that doesn't go all out on the specs (and, as a consequence, the price) then the XMG NEO 15 is one of the best laptops to go for if you're asking us.
Who is it for?
If you're a competitive player who isn't trying to run the latest games at maximum settings and high framerates and you just want a reliable laptop that will run your competitive games without hiccups (provided you lower some settings here and there, depending on your game of choice) then the XMG NEO 15 is a fantastic option. It's also the laptop to get for gamers who aren't trying to get the latest and best tech, either due to budgetary constraints or because of other reasons.
CONSIDERATIONS WHEN THINKING ABOUT A GAMING LAPTOP
- It's by far the most portable option to play (PC) games
- It can be used as a powerful work/content creation machine
- Gaming laptops offer esports-tier options and performances, so there's no need to compromise
3. Lenovo Legion 5 (Budget Option)
Specs: 165Hz (15") display, Ryzen 7 5800H, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060
Bang for your buck option
If you can't or don't want to spend a lot on a gaming laptop then the Lenovo Legion 5 is a fantastic option on the budget end. With its 165Hz display, 16GB RAM, Ryzen 7 5800H processor, and RTX 3060 GPU it's more than capable of delivering the frames and performances that you need to keep up with competitive standards, but we wouldn't go below these specs if you really want to be competitive. A refresh rate of 144Hz is considered the absolute minimum for competitive gaming, and this Lenovo adds a bit on top of that for good measure.
At this price point you shouldn't expect the world: the Legion 5 doesn't look or feel as premium as its more expensive counterparts in this list, but it's hard to hold that against it when it costs less than those other options, and it's not as if this is a cheap piece of kit. If you're asking us the Legion 5 punches above its weight when it comes to both looks and feels, and the gaming performance definitely is more than appropriate.
It gets a little hot and bothered under load but it's nothing that can't be managed, and its gaming performance far outperforms other similarly priced laptops. Compromises have to be made if you want to deliver a laptop at this price, and Lenovo have made all the right choices on that front if you ask us. The speakers, for example, aren't all that great, but if you're a competitive gamer you'll be playing with a headset anyway so that doesn't matter. The keyboard, on the other hand, feels great, and that's a far more important aspect of a gaming setup. Another compromise was made with the screen: it's not the finest looking display with the best viewing angles, but if you're going to be gaming you'll be sitting right in front of it anyway. The battery isn't amazing, but for gaming you'll mostly have it plugged in anyway.
In a nutshell: Lenovo have made all the right choices with the Legion 5 and have made a budget gaming laptop that's ready for competitive gaming at a very attractive price point.
Who is it for?
If you want a portable system that's ready for competitive gaming but you can't (or don't want to) spend a lot of money on this system then the Lenovo Legion 5 is a nice option to consider. It won't deliver insane performances and it's not completely up to the highest esports standards (for that you need a 240Hz panel, for example) but if you just want a good and reliable gaming laptop that'll serve you well for your competitive needs then the Legion 5 is one to get. If you're super serious about your gaming then we would recommend going for a higher tier option though.
Best Laptop for Competitive Gaming - Conclusion
The days where gaming on a laptop meant that you had to make a lot of compromises are long behind us. If you've got the money you can get a top tier gaming experience with all of the latest and greatest components and display tech, but even if your budget isn't all that big you can find fantastic options at lower price points.
Given the fact that competitive gaming requires a few demands to be met (at least a 144Hz refresh rate, for example) it's never going to be possible to be truly competitive on a shoestring budget, but that goes for all sports and hobbies. Gaming laptops have come a long way, and the fact that more and more companies are creating gaming laptops these days means that competition is fiercer than ever, and that's great for the consumer. These days you can get yourself a more than capable gaming laptop that's ready for competitive gaming for a relatively modest budget, so gaming on the road is definitely an option.
The laptops in this article all represent the best laptops in their tiers if you ask us, so whether you're looking for the cutting edge of technology or you're shopping with a budget in mind: we've got a laptop for you. Hopefully this article helps you in your search.
Thank you for reading!