What makes a “GAMING” laptop? Is it the processor, or the dedicated graphics card, or the SSD storage, or the display of the laptop itself? For a lot of us, a laptop is meant for gaming when it has a dedicated graphics card (or GPU) as opposed to using an Integrated graphics card. Rather than taking graphics processing power from the CPU, gaming laptops are equipped to run games at medium to the highest settings because of these GPUs.
We’re talking about GPU’s coming from Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon, similar to what you’d install in a gaming PC. Right now, the best gaming laptops are equipped with the RTX 3000 series or the AMD Radeon RX 6000 series. These GPUs are meant for high intensity gaming while still giving you a lot of power for everyday use and other tasks.
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Powerful Components For Powerful Displays
Gamers are the type of people who need more out of their computer or laptop, mostly because they want to squeeze out those high frame rates in order to maximize their laptop’s display for a complete immersive experience in gaming. Players with Steam accounts will always want to play the newest AAA games at the highest settings for the experience or for bragging rights.
Years ago, you wouldn’t even think this was possible with a gaming laptop but here we are. We now have laptops that have a higher refresh rate than normal laptops. Playing games on the go has never been this easy. With gaming laptops powered by the latest GPUs, future-proofing your laptop is a walk in the park. We’re talking about specs that don’t run their course for at least five more years. Even then, you’ll still be able to play the latest AAA games five years from now with your high-end gaming laptop.
If you’re serious about purchasing a high-end gaming laptop for late-night gaming sessions on the go, or if you want a powerful laptop that lets you do some video editing and other creative tasks, we got you covered.
What Do Each Of These Brands Has To Offer?
Gaming laptops are often judged right off the bat based on their manufacturer. There are manufacturers out there who focus more on hardware and design, while there are others out there that focus on software.
Here are the most popular brands of gaming notebooks that you’ll find on this list:
- Dell Alienware – One of the very first brands to delve into the gaming laptop scene, and now they’re jumping into the prebuilt PC scene as well. Alienware is known for their sheer bulk and power without compromising one for the other.
- Asus – More importantly, Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG) is more focused on custom software, with their ROG Gaming Center included in all of their laptops. The ROG Gaming Center allows you to manage and share device information such as storage and RAM usage and temperatures. They also have Armoury Crate, which allows you to work with customized RGB lighting.
- Razer – Razer used to be the king of gaming paraphernalia, but now they’re also trying to vie for the title of king of gaming laptops. And their Razer Blade series are no laughing matter. No matter what size you pick, you’re getting high performance hardware with enough RGB to make people think you’re bringing along a small gaming PC.
- HP – HP also broke into the gaming laptop scene with their HP Omen series. You might also find an elite HP Pavilion gaming laptop, but you’ll always want the Omen series. They’re known for their Omen Command Center, which allows you to see and manage GPU and CPU usage, RAM usage, and even a network booster.
- Acer – Acer is one of the leading brands for budget gaming laptops, thanks to their constant use of affordable gaming hardware. But that doesn’t really stop them from innovating too. They released the Acer Predator 21X with curved display, along with their PredatorSense application that lets you manage CPU and GPU usage and control fan speeds.
- Lenovo – Lenovo’s gaming laptop lineup is Legion, and they’re more geared towards minimalism and sleek design. Lenovo, as a whole, has been reputed to be one of the more sturdier brands because they’re known for creating the perfect workhorse laptop (cue in Lenovo ThinkPad) that doesn’t cost a lot of money.
- MSI – MSI’s just like Alienware. They’re big, bulky, and they don a black/red color combination. But they recently released their most compact gaming laptop yet, the MSI Stealth (which we’ll feature here). They’re known for utilizing high-end hardware with their proprietary software, like the MSI Dragon Center. This software allows you to monitor your entire system, control fans, manage keyboard and RGB lighting, and more.
- Gigabyte/Aorus – Aorus is a sub-brand of Gigabyte, and they have a long line of gaming laptops, both budget and premium pricing. Gigabyte laptops are more on the low-end side of things with a lot of color options while Aorus are focused on being sleek and thin. Both will come with Fusion software for custom RGB lighting. Aorus machines also make it easy for you to overclock CPU and GPU with their Command and Control software.
The Top 10 120Hz Gaming Laptops In The Market
Listed below are the top 10 gaming laptops that have 120Hz high refresh screen or higher. These are not arranged in any particular, even the ones listed under Honorable Mentions.
- CPU: Intel Core i9 11900H
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (100-140W)
- RAM: 32GB
- SSD Storage: 1TB
- Screen Size: 17.3”
- Max Refresh Rate: 120Hz
When it comes to sheer size and power, no one can beat the Asus Zephyrus S17. This is a powerful 4K laptop with a screen size of 17.3-inches and max refresh rate of up to 120Hz. The specs and size of the Asus Zephyrus S17 makes it so that it beats out any desktop out there that’s nowhere near as powerful.
Let’s talk about the display first before we move on to the technical stuff. The Asus Zephyrus S17 sports the highest refresh rate possible even at 4K resolution. Toning down resolution to 1440p or 1080p should still get you an amazing gaming experience at high FPS. The grey-to-grey response time is 5ms, if Overdrive is enabled, so you shouldn’t even experience ghosting at this kind of refresh rate.
To make this possible, the Asus Zephyrus S17 is packed with high-end and powerful components. For the processor, you’re getting an Intel Core i9-11900 combined with 32GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, and of course, the cream of the crop, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080. The i9 is currently the most powerful processor in the market right now, and you’re not getting a low-powered RTX 3080 too. You’re getting the RTX 3080 that has a maximum TGP of 140. On top of high FPS gaming, the CPU/GPU combination should let you do multi-threading tasks such as 3D editing without making the laptop sweat too much.
As for the size and weight, the Asus Zephyrus S17 does not hold back. Without the power brick, the laptop alone weighs about 6.21lbs or 2.82kg. Battery life for non-gaming holds out at 5 hours or so.
This is not your ordinary budget gaming laptop. This is the king of 120Hz gaming laptops and if you are planning on buying a compact gaming machine, the Asus Zephyrus S17 should be on top of your list.
- CPU: Intel Core i9-12900H
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 16GB GDDR6
- RAM: 32GB
- SSD Storage: 1TB SSD
- Screen Size: 15.6”
- Max Refresh Rate: 300Hz
Probably one of the best gaming laptops on here you could ever lay your hands on, the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 might just be the epitome of a powerhouse workstation. Right off the bat, the 2022 version comes with the latest Intel Core i9-12900H processor and supported by 32GB RAM with 1TB SSD Storage space. Of course, the GPU is none other than an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080. For extra money (about $800 or so), there’s also an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080Ti upgrade. Whatever the case, you’re guaranteed smooth gameplay for the most demanding games.
Let’s talk about the display. You’re getting a 15.6-inch screen size with max refresh rate of up to 300Hz with a 3.8ms grey-to-grey response time. The 300Hz refresh rate is more than satisfactory for the avid gamers who are into FPS or first person shooting games.
For more upgrades, you have the option of getting up to 64GB RAM and 2 pieces of 2TB SSD option. Quite frankly, you can do enough with 32GB and 2TB SSD, but who are we tell gamers what they need to play most games, right? This laptop is also an SD Card Reader supported device with Displayport and Thunderbolt support.
All in all, you’re getting the best gaming laptop in the market, regardless if you want to spend extra money on the upgrades.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
- Graphics Card: AMD Radeon RX 6800M
- RAM: 16GB
- SSD Storage: 512GB SSD
- Screen Size: 15.6″
- Max Refresh Rate: 300Hz
Probably coming in to a close second to the Asus Zephyrus S17, we have the ASUS ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition. For AMD fanboys, this is the ultimate laptop. The ASUS ROG Strix G15 comes with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and AMD Radeon RX 6800MM GPU. Apart from playing games, the ASUS ROG Strix G15 is the perfect gadget for video and audio editing because the AMD processors are known for the multi-threading power. This CPU/GPU combo is also backed by 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD storage, which is part and parcel of any gaming laptop.
However, you should anticipate some bottlenecking with the ASUS ROG Strix G15 due to its RAM’s low clock speed, but this isn’t a major slowdown. You could upgrade to a bigger SSD storage and more RAM capacity if you really want to avoid this bottleneck.
XMG Neo 15 E22 / Eluktronics MECH-15 G3
- CPU: Intel Core i7-12700H
- Graphics Card: Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti (150W) / 3080 Ti (175W)
- RAM: 32GB
- SSD Storage: 1TB SSD
- Screen Size: 15.6″
- Max Refresh Rate: 240Hz
The XMG Neo 15 E21/Eluktronics MECH-15 G3 might be an uncommon brand of gaming laptop, but don’t ever underestimate this brand because it’s on this list for a lot of reasons.
The 2022 model is packed with powerful components. You’re getting an Intel Core i7-12700H, supported by 32GB of RAM with 1TB SSD for storage, and of course, powered by Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070Ti with max TGP of 150w (or an RTX 3080 variant with 175w TGP). The XMG Neo 15 E21/Eluktronics MECH-15 G3 also comes with external OASIS liquid cooling system support, in case you want to run higher temps than normal.
Other optional purchases include a 4TB SSD storage upgrade and up to 64GB RAM upgrade. Talk about turning this gaming laptop into a workhorse! The XMG Neo 15 E21/Eluktronics MECH-15 G3 also comes with ports such as an SD Card Slot reader, USB-C/Thunderbolt Support (if you’re opting for the E22 version), high quality trackpad, and optomechanical keyboard.
As for the display, you’re getting max 1440p resolution at 165Hz and with a 7ms grey-to-grey response time and 98% sRGB color gamut. It’s more than sufficient for gamers, but may not be that enticing for graphics designers who want professional color grading features.
The only downside here is that the laptop speakers aren’t really that great. You’re getting FreeSync as opposed to G-Sync.
But other than that, the XMG Neo 15 E21/Eluktronics MECH-15 G3 is one of the best value picks here for a high-end gaming laptop.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 (8GB) 90-100W
- RAM: 16GB
- SSD Storage: 1TB SSD
- Screen Size: 14”
- Max Refresh Rate: 165Hz
A brand that needs no introduction, it’s no surprise that the Razer Blade 14 is on this list. You’re probably thinking how this 14-inch laptop is going to compete against the other bigger laptops on here.
The Razer Blade 14 comes equipped with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX processor combined with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (with max TGP of 100W). You’re getting a 14″ display with max resolution of 1440p, so the gaming experience here is anything but mediocre. The RTX 3080 is underpowered but it’s not exactly going to matter because you’re still playing the latest AAA games at the highest settings possible with 115FPS if your resolution sits at 1080p.
As for the screen size and display, it sits at 14″ but you’re getting 99.8% sRGB coverage and 83% Adobe RGB, so it’s suitable for graphics design work. You also get a grey-to-grey response time of 4ms, which is expected from a 14″ machine but you hardly notice the ghosting issues on here.
As for portability, the Razer Blade 14 isn’t that heavy but it’s lighter than most of the gaming laptops on this list. It’s ergonomic enough that it fits snugly inside a messenger bag or a briefcase. The build of the Razer Blade 14 is also excellent, with its chassis made from durable aluminum which is sleek and nice to look at.
Quite possibly, the Razer Blade 14 is the best 14″ gaming laptop in the industry right now.
- CPU: 12th Gen Intel Core i7 and Core i9
- Graphics Card: Up to Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti
- RAM: Up to 32GB DDR5
- SSD Storage: Up to 1TB SSD
- Screen Size: 1080p @ 360Hz, 1440p @ 240Hz, or 4K @ 144Hz
- Max Refresh Rate: 360Hz at 1080p or 144Hz at 4K
The latest Razer Blade 15 dominates the gaming laptop market for the sheer power and display capabilities. Under the hood, you have the latest 12th Gen Intel Core i9 processor with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 30xx series GPU (from GeForce RTX 3060 to GeForce RTX 3080 variants), making the Razer Blade 15 a high performance laptop to beat.
Gaming experience on this beast is unparalleled as you’re getting high refresh rates at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolution gaming. At 4K, the higher refresh rate of 144Hz is nothing to scoff at either.
The Razer Blade 15 is also quite handy, albeit it’s not exactly the lightest laptop on here. Weighing in at 5lbs, you’re able to bring this laptop for gaming sessions without any difficulty. You can store this inside your standard backpack or messenger bag.
For the keyboard elitists, they’ll be glad to know that there’s a change in the key sizing. The shift keys are larger while the arrow keys are half the height compared to the other Razer Blades. You also get per-key RGB lighting and typing on the Razer Blade 15 is just swell.
If you’re in the market for a gaming laptop and want to make a big purchase, the Razer Blade 15 should be on top of your shopping list.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
- Graphics Card: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
- RAM: Up to 32GB DDR4
- SSD Storage: Up to 2 TB M.2 SSD
- Screen: 16-inch 165Hz 2560 x 1600
- Max Refresh Rate: 1600p at 165Hz
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro does not need to prove itself against a loaded list like this. This powerhouse of a gaming laptop brings with it an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor backed by 16GB of RAM (upgradeable to 64GB) and with 1TB SSD (up to 2TB Storage Space upgradeable). Lastly, the graphics card on the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is an impressive Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, upgradeable to GeForce RTX 3070.
For the display, we’re getting a 16:10 aspect ratio on a QHD Screen, which is the main highlight of the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro. At 1600p max resolution, you’re sitting at about 165Hz refresh rate. Gaming and creative tasks have never looked so good on this screen, or any other external monitor. Speaking of gaming, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro can play the latest games without any difficulty. Combined with the powerful display, gaming experience for demanding games such as Elden Ring or God of War is just as immersive.
The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is also a solid pick for an office partner because of the keyboards. You’re getting rounded bottom keycaps with a large touchpad, but of course, you’re going to want to use a mouse when gaming. The only downside to the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is its speakers, which is a common trait shared by a lot of gaming laptops even on this list. The microphone on the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro isn’t that impressive as well, with third-party feedback stating that they sound far away when using the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro’s microphone.
Over the years, Lenovo has proven to the world that they too can compete with Asus and Razer when it comes to creating a gaming laptop, and the Legion lineup is proof of that. If you’re an AMD fanboy who prefers more multi-threading processing power, consider the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro as your next purchase.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS
- Graphics Card: Up to AMD Radeon RX 6800S
- RAM: Up to 32GB DDR5-4800
- SSD Storage: 1TB SSD NVMe PCIe 4.0
- Screen: 14-inch IPS Panel
- Max Refresh Rate: 120Hz at 1600p
The newer Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is just as impressive as its predecessors. This time, you’re looking at a slimmer design but with all the high performance hardware you can get.
You’re getting an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS processor combined with 24GB of RAM (upgradeable to 32GB) and 1TB SSD (up to 2TB Storage Space for upgrade). There’s more than enough power here to play your favorite games at highest settings possible. But more than that, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 does well above gaming too.
AMD is known for its capability to handle multi-threading tasks, so video editing, audio editing, and heck, even 3D editing and rendering shouldn’t be an issue with the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 . The AMD Radeon RX 6700 graphics card does a good job at topping the GeForce RTX 3080 and RTX 3070’s framerates, but it does lag a bit behind the RTX 3080Ti found in the Razer Blade 15 and 17. Of course, it goes without saying that both Razer Blade 15 and 17 are bigger than the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.
But what really makes this laptop so enticing is that it’s a 14-inch laptop. It’s slim and portable but powerful enough to give the 15s and 17s a run for their money. As for the display, you’re getting a 16:10 aspect ratio on the 14-inch screen, which is bigger than the previous iteration’s 16:9 aspect ratios.
But with all good things, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 has some bad things as well. For one thing, the battery life isn’t that impressive compared to the other laptops on here. Gaming unplugged will give you less than an hour of battery life, but you don’t really game without being plugged in. But for office productivity and other non-gaming tasks, you’re still getting a good battery life from the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.
If you’re in the market for a 14-inch laptop but don’t want to pay more than what you need, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a solid pick over the Razer Blade 14. But if you do have the cash, just go for the Razer Blade 14.
- CPU: Up to Intel Core i7 12th Gen
- Graphics Card: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
- RAM: Up to 32GB DDR5-4800
- SSD Storage: 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD
- Screen: 15.6-inch
- Max Refresh Rate: 240Hz at 1080p resolution
The Acer Predator Helios 300 was impressive back then, even with just the GeForce 10-series, and it’s still as impressive as it broke into the market. For starters, price range for the Acer Predator Helios 300 is just below $1,500 and is one of the most powerful laptops for that price range.
The current generation of the Acer Predator Helios 300 is a powerhouse laptop, and we just can’t repeat that enough. For the price you’re paying, the Acer Predator Helios 300 comes with an 11th gen Intel Core i7 processor (up to 12th gen Core i7), 16GB of RAM (upgradeable to 32GB), 1TB SSD (upgradeable to 2TB), and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card (Upgradeable up to GeForce RTX 3080).
This generation of Acer Predator Helios 300 is also sleeker while packing an RTX 3000 series graphics card. You also get a 144Hz screen with smaller bezels. The refresh rate sits at a maximum of 240Hz for 1920x1080p resolution, so just imagine your gaming experience with the Acer Predator Helios 300.
Our only complaint here with the Acer Predator Helios 300 is the SSD, which is at 512GB. However, you have two slots for additional SSD’s and one HDD, so upgrading might be a necessary evil if you want to pack in more games.
But other than that, this budget gaming laptop (if you consider a price range of sub $1,500 as budget pricing) is sleek, impressive, and powerful. You’re never going to find any other best value gaming laptop that would come close to what the Acer Predator Helios 300 has to offer.
- CPU: Up to Core i9 12900H
- Graphics Card: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
- RAM: Up to 32GB DDR5-4800
- SSD Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe 4.0
- Screen: 15.6-inch
- Max Refresh Rate: 300Hz at 1080p resolution
The MSI GS66 Stealth is a powerful machine, but it comes in this sleek design that makes you want to just appreciate it from afar. We’re talking about a gaming laptop that should play the most demanding games at the highest FPS possible even with the GeForce RTX 3080’s compromised ampere power, which is sitting at 95w. That means the RTX 3080 on the MSI GS66 Stealth is probably close to a maxed out RTX 3070. But that’s not indicative of the MSI GS66 Stealth’s lack of power.
If anything, the MSI GS66 Stealth still packs a punch with the 12th gen Core i9 processor, 32GB of RAM, and up to 2TB of SSD storage. All of this is packed into a chassis that’s 18mm thin. Now, this build can get loud during gaming sessions, especially when you’re playing the latest games. But with the Whisper Mode 2.0 feature, your gaming volume is literally barely audible, bringing real meaning to the term “STEALTH”.
You’re still getting good battery life with the MSI GS66 Stealth, but heating might be an issue due to the old chassis designs on these new laptops. When the temperature gets too high enough, you will experience a drop in frame rates while the GPU and CPU cools down. This is the equal compromise for getting a low-profile gaming laptop.
When everything’s said and done, the MSI GS66 Stealth makes it to this list because it’s slim and powerful, and might even compete side by side against the Razer Blade 14. For those who’re in the market for a compact and slim gaming laptop, you might want to add the MSI GS66 Stealth on your to-buy list.
We’ve broken down our top 10 choices for the best gaming laptops that give you 120Hz gaming, but we’re not done yet. If you can’t find the gaming laptop on the top 10, consider one of the three honorable mentions on this list.
We have considered these gaming laptops as honorable mentions because they are just as competitive and as powerful as the rest of the top 10 gaming laptops. Sometimes, people are also very particular about which brand of gaming laptop they want, and we just can’t cover all of the brands in a single list.
- CPU: Intel Core i9-12800HK
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
- RAM: 32GB
- SSD Storage: 1TB SSD
- Display : 17.3-inch
- Max Refresh Rate: 360Hz
Another giant gaming laptop on this list is the MSI Vector GP76, and just like the Alienware below, it’s a 17-inch laptop with 360Hz refresh rate at 1080p resolution. There’s also a lot of power packed underneath the hood.
You’re getting a 12th generation Intel Core i9 processor with an RTX 3070Ti graphics card, supported by 32GB of RAM and 1TB SSD for storage space. These specs are everything that’s needed by a gamer for an immersive gaming experience.
But the key highlight here is its display, as it puts more focus on speed than resolution. You’re getting 360Hz for 1920x1080p resolution, which is insanely fast. The graphics card’s high performance also guarantees smooth gameplay, combined with the Nvidia G Sync software.
- CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
- RAM: 32GB
- SSD Storage: 2 1TB PCI m.2 SSDs
- Display: 17.3-inch display
- Max Refresh Rate: 300Mhz
Alienware is a brand that needs no introduction. They’ve been considered as one of the giants in the gaming laptop market because they do not hold out on what their laptops can offer to the gamers. The brand is not known for making sleek and compact laptops, but rather, you’re getting the opposite.
In order to house such power, an Alienware gaming laptop are usually 17-inches to get you the highest performing gaming specs into one compact machine that overpowers a normal workstation.
For this list, we have the Alienware m17 R4, a beast of a 17-inch laptop and packed with the right hardware goodies. You’re getting a 10th generation Intel Core i9 processor, 16GB base RAM (upgradeable to 32GB), 512TB SSD Storage (upgradeable to 1TB), and GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card (with RTX 3070 and GeForce RTX 3080 upgrades available).
And yes, the Alienware m17 R4 is capable of Ray Tracing 2.0 and is supported with Alienware’s own Cryo-Tech cooling solution. This is also the first gaming laptop with a display boasting a 360Hz refresh rate (at 1080p resolution). You’re also getting good battery life with just day-to-day tasks, office productivity, and even creative tasks (video, audio, and 3D editing). This is one of those gaming laptops that just doesn’t shy away from not being as compact as the rest of the laptops on here.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS
- Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti/ Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
- RAM: 32GB
- SSD Storage: Dual 1TB PCI m.2 SSDs
- Display: 13.4 inches
- Max Refresh Rate: 120Hz
Last but definitely not the least in this list of impressive gaming laptops with 120Hz refresh rate or higher is the Asus ROG Flow X13. It’s the smallest laptop on here with a 13-inch screen, but don’t be fooled by its size because there’s some power underneath.
The Asus ROG Flow X13 runs on an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti (but can be upgraded to GeForce RTX 308o). The RAM sits at a hefty 32GFB with a dual 1TB SSD for storage. It’s just as mobile as it’s powerful, so gaming experience shouldn’t even be gimped at this point.
For the display, you’re getting 1920x1080p resolution with 120Hz refresh rate. This makes it the perfect laptop for gamers who’re into demanding FPS games (such as Call of Duty). Costing less than $1,500, the Asus ROG Flow X13 is already a mid-range gaming laptop for the specs that you’re paying. If you want a compact laptop that has an RTX 3000-series graphics card, the Asus ROG Flow X13 should be on your list of gaming laptops to purchase.
Why Does Your Gaming Laptop Need Higher Refresh Rate To Begin With?
For gamers, there’s nothing more important than high refresh rate screen, especially when a game has fast movement or fast animation that affects your reflexes. By now, we’re seeing gaming laptops with high refresh rates up to 300Hz, but of course you’re going to be playing your favorite games at 1080p resolution to hit this high refresh rate.
Back then, laptop screens were just laptop screens. They didn’t have a high refresh rate. If anything, you’d need an external monitor if you wanted to check out something that had more colors on it. Those days are now OVER.
Today, gaming laptops are now marketed with the inclusion of high refresh rate in their spec sheet, mostly because gamers are so nuanced with what they want to see and feel for their gaming experience. Some gamers who are heavy into the first person shooting games require at least 120Hz or a high refresh rate to augment their gaming reflexes. A handful of gamers are satisfied with whatever refresh rate they sit at, as long as they’re playing their games at the highest settings possible on a 4K resolution.
The high refresh rate on these specs sheets are often unexplained, so the uninformed gamer would probably just go for the one with the highest refresh rate (in this case, a 300Hz). But allow us to explain just how your refresh rates will affect your gaming experience and even your day-to-day experience.
What Are Refresh Rates?
Refresh rate is the measure at which how fast your monitor or screen can redraw an image repeatedly to generate a smooth and fluid motion. This is measured in hertz or Hz, so the higher the Hz, the higher the refresh rate.
What does this mean for the gamers? Well, displays with a high refresh rate can draw and redraw itself frequently. For the baseline in real world measurement, Hollywood movies are presented at 24 frames (or pictures) per second, which is enough to guarantee fluid motion. In order for a screen or monitor to display the movie properly, it needs to redraw itself 24 times per second, or 24Hz in refresh rate. One hertz is the equivalent of one FPS (frame per second).
This large number of frames or frame rate gives you the illusion of fluid motion, depending on what you’re looking at. For movies, 24FPS is enough but it’s a different story for video games. This is because if your computer screens just operate at 24Hz, your mouse wouldn’t be moving fluidly. Rather, it’d look like a stone skipping over a water surface.
This is the reason why your monitors for your PC or even laptops start at about 60Hz and go on from there. This means you’re viewing motion at 60FPS at the very least. Gaming at 60FPS on a 60Hz screen will give you a smooth experience.
So if 60FPS is more than enough for a gamer, why do you need to pay for higher refresh rates? Well, anything higher than 60Hz is already considered a higher refresh rate screen. Gaming laptops can clock in at a minimum of 120Hz and hit up to 300Hz as of this writing. You’ll get varying refresh rates at 144Hz and 240Hz, depending on the resolution, graphics card power, and overall processing power. This is why your gaming laptops on this list are running on the latest generation Intel Core i7 processors or i9 processors with an RTX 3000 series graphics card.
The main reason gamers want higher refresh rate on a gaming laptop is they want a more fluid motion for their video games. For example, let’s have a video of a car passing by. Using a 6oHz screen would mean you only see 60 FPS or frames for the video. On the other hand, using a 120Hz screen means you see 120 frames per second. This means that you get a smoother motion or animation for the same video with the 120Hz screen as opposed to a 60Hz screen.
To delve deeper into the world of high refresh rate displays and how it can affect your gaming experience, we need to explore some of the more technical jargon.
What Does Response Time Mean Compared to Refresh Rate?
Your monitor or computer screens are made up of millions of pin-sized elements called PIXELS. These individually change colors depending on what’s being shown, like an image, a movie, or even a video game. Consider the pixels are each piece of the puzzle trying to form the entirety of the display.
Response time is a way to measure how quick these pixels can change colors. This is measured in milliseconds. Unlike refresh rates where you need higher Hz measurements, you want the complete opposite for Response Time. Lower response time means quicker pixel response, but lower doesn’t mean better. Unlike refresh rates, there’s no industry standard for response time measurement. For screen manufacturers, the response time is the time that it takes for pixels to change from grey to white to grey, hence the term “grey-to-grey”. This is a smoother transition than the classic black to white to black transition in the old days.
So what does this have to do with refresh rate? Well response time is related in a way to refresh rate. A screen with a high refresh rate but low response time is useless because pixels will have a hard time keeping up with the frames’ demands for speed. To put it to you simply, images will look like ghosts in scenes that have fast motion.
Response time would probably be more important when you’re looking at a specs sheet compared to refresh rate, but these gaming laptops on this list are well-made to the point that gaming experience is anything but subpar.
What Does Screen Resolution Have To Do With Refresh Rate?
Another technical term that ties in with refresh rate is screen resolution. If you’ve noticed in our list, we specified the resolutions at which certain refresh rates can be achieved.
Screen resolution is the measure of how many pixels are in a screen. The higher the resolution, the more pixels there are being displayed and utilized. Native Resolution is the term that refers to the optimized resolution for a panel. Measurement of resolution is displayed as number of pixels horizontally by the number of pixels vertically. Gaming laptops are averaging at about 1920x1080p native resolution, which is also called as full HD resolution or 1080p gaming. There are screens that can go higher by as much as 2560×1440 pixel resolution, or what’s referred to as QHD or 1440p gaming. These screens were prevalent in gaming laptops released in 2021.
For gaming laptops, the best choice would always be the Full HD because it already provides enough detail without making the graphics card work overtime. You see, higher resolutions mean more graphics processing power. Consider GTA V on two laptops: One at full HD and another at QHD. You get more frame rates on a full HD laptop than you would with a QHD screen. Or worse, your laptop may not be able to handle higher frame rates on QHD screen. Period. You’d have to significantly reduce the graphics settings to get higher frame rates on a game.
For most gaming laptops, even those with the GeForce RTX 3000-series graphics cards, it’s near impossible to hit 4K resolution at high settings for the most demanding games as of this writing. Full HD and QHD resolutions can hit refresh rates up to 240Hz, but you’d probably hit 120FPS for 4K and about 300Hz or higher for 1080p.
Which One’s Better for Gaming? – 1080p or 1440p?
For competitive gamers who’re into first person shooters, 1080p is the best resolution for them, even though 1440p is now turning into the standard for high resolution gaming. You get higher refresh rates at 240Hz to 300Hz and smoother animation with an 1080p, as opposed to 1440p with lower refresh rates sitting at 120 to 144Hz but you get higher FPS or frames per second.
To put it simply, if you’re into games that need smooth animation to help with your decision-making and to help you react faster, then you’ll need the 1080p resolution. If you’re into immersive gaming experience, like open world games, then you’re going to want to invest in a 1440p resolution monitor.
A gaming laptop with screen size less than 17-inches are better off with 1080p resolution because there’s hardly any difference in refresh rate and FPS if you go for higher resolutions, at least from a visual standpoint. But if you want your games to run at 120FPS consistently, go for a 15″ laptop with a 1080p display (Full HD).
Are There 4K Gaming Laptops In The Market?
We’ve listed the top 10 120Hz gaming laptops in the market, along with some honorable mentions. But you’re probably wondering: are there even 4K laptops in the market right now?
The answer is YES. We even have a couple on here that are 4K laptops that reach 120Hz refresh rate. But before you think about buying one, allow us to explain something first that might point you to the right direction.
Getting a 4k laptop with a 14″ or 15″ screen is pointless, unless there’s a real need for you to carry around a gadget like that. Even if you do get a 17″ laptop, playing games at 4K resolution on a laptop might just be too demanding because of the extra work that your graphics card has to put in. With this amount of work being done, the graphics card and processor are working overtime. Your laptop will get too hot and will not be able to properly cool down because of the limited ventilation and cooling options on a laptop, as opposed to a gaming rig with proper air flow and bigger fans afforded to them. You won’t be able to come close to what a gaming PC will need to run 60FPS on highest settings on 4K resolution with an IPS panel.
But this doesn’t mean that gaming experience on a 4K laptop is subpar. If anything, it’s still going to be immersive but when it comes to the latest games, you’ll probably have to lower the settings to medium or low. Make no mistake that you won’t find a budget gaming laptop with 4k resolution too.
Are There Frame Rate Smoothing Software or Technologies Available?
A screen’s standard refresh rate is constant, meaning it will always function given its frequency. If your monitor is 240Hz at 1440p, it won’t go higher than that, but it also won’t go lower than that unless you increase resolution to 4k and hit 120Hz (if it’s available to your gaming notebooks).
This can be a bit of a frustration for gamers because the computers they are using may not produce frame rates that are divisible by the refresh rate, so you’ll get what’s called “TEARING”. Imagine a laptop that plays a game at 73FPS, and the refresh rate is 120Hz. Every time the screen redraws itself, it may generate a new or complete frame from the graphics card. But the graphics card needs to send out frames to maintain this picture at 120 frames per second, so to speak. To compensate for the lack of the new frames, it will send back part of the previous frames and some parts of the next frames to keep up.
This mismatch of frames will look like it’s torn, with part of it being misaligned. Hence, the word TEARING. Thankfully, not all gamers notice this phenomenon, especially if their screens have higher refresh rates.
To solve this problem, there’s what we call frame rate smoothing software that helps with frame-rate syncing, or what’s referred to as adaptive syncing. This allows screen to dynamically change the way they refresh the screens so they’re able to match the frame rates generated by the graphics card. A good example of this frame rate smoothing software is Nvidia G Sync, which is found in most laptops that come with Nvidia graphics cards. For AMD Radeon graphics cards, they get the AMD FreeSync. However, not a lot of gaming laptops provide support for adaptive syncing.
Frame-rate syncing or smoothing technology is still relatively uncommon because manufacturers have to shoulder the costs of including said technology into their laptops. If you’re particular about smooth FPS and constant high refresh rate, you want to look for a laptop with adaptive syncing but your choices might be limited.
How High Of A Refresh Rate Do Gamers Really Need?
Favorite games aside, a budget gaming laptop’s screen sits at about 60Hz refresh rate, which is also found on normal laptops. If you want AAA gaming or just want to do some casual gaming while being mobile, you might consider 60Hz at most with a low-end graphics card like a GeForce GTX 1650 (or GeForce GTX 1650Ti), or anything under AMD Radeon RX 5500M. These cards can give you 30FPS to 60FPS at Full HD screen (1080p resolution).
Competitive gamers on the other hand might consider most gaming laptops that give them about 120Hz or higher refresh rates, even without an external monitor. Combined with low-end graphics cards from the ones mentioned above this paragraph, you can still run favorite games such as Fortnite,CS:GO, League of Legends, and Rainbow Six: Siege at triple FPS. If you’re after a budget gaming laptop, don’t hesitate to get one with a low-end GPU as long as you have 120Hz or 144Hz refresh rates, or higher. Most gaming notebooks with these specs might cost you about close to $1000 or less.
If you can stretch your budget further, you can get gaming notebooks with higher refresh rates than 144Hz, like the Acer Predator Helios 300 or the Alienware m17 R4 laptops on here. These laptops are extremely powerful to get you enough frame rates for smoother animation and gameplay at a refresh rate of 240Hz and higher.
What Kind of GPU Do You Really Need?
Most games are still bound by graphics card usage, while there are a handful that rely on CPU usage. Majority of the gaming laptops you’ll want to purchase either use Nvidia GeForce RTX/GTX series or AMD Radeon graphics cards.
The latest graphics cards from Nvidia are the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 series, starting from 3050 all the way to RTX 3080Ti. AMD also has the Radeon RX 6000M series, which starts at RX 6300M for budget gaming laptops and scaling all the way up to 6800 for the premium laptops.
Just like the Ferrari, gamers are drawn to any laptop with RTX models on them because they’re premium hardware, even though the RX 6000 series perform just the same. But you’ll find that the AMD fanboys will always be drawn to the AMD Radeon powered laptops.
With that said, you should know what to consider for your GPU depending on the kind of gaming you’re wanting to do:
- Casual level – By entry level, we are referring to those who don’t mind just sitting at low to medium settings for the most demanding games. Settling for a RTX 3050 or RX 5500M is sufficient gaming power, but you could always scale up to a RTX 3060 or RX 5600 if if you want to increase your FPS on higher settings. You’ll probably end up with a gaming laptop that’s around the $900 to $1,100 price range for the kind of graphics cards that you need.
- Mainstream level – Mainstream level gaming is always going for the latest AAA games, or the most favorite games right now by a lot of players. You always want to make sure that your laptop is capable of playing future generation of games too, so future-proofing is kind of a necessity. With that being said, you can settle for any laptop with at least an RTX 3060 or RTX 3070 with a 16″ or 17″ display. You’ll more likely spend $1,200 to $1,500 for gaming laptops with these specs.
- Highest level or VR level – This level is the ultimate gaming level. You’re not meddling about with graphics here and you’re not settling for anything less than ULTRA settings. You can settle for an RTX 3070 or RTX 3070Ti when available, but you can always go for the RTX 3080. Likewise, you can go for the RX 6700M graphics card if you want AMD Radeon. The price range on these beasts start at $2,000 and can go higher than $3,000.
What Do You Recommend?
For Gamers With Deep Pockets
There are actually two choices here for those who won’t mind what the price tag says. The Asus Zephyrus S17 and ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15 are two of the best choices on here where you’re getting a high refresh rate screen, latest generation Intel Core i9 processors, and RTX 3000-series graphics cards with options to upgrade up to 64GBRAM and 2TB SSD storage. If you’re not really particular about the size but as long as you have a high refresh screen, you might want to consider the Alienware m17 R4 laptop too.
For Budget Conscious Gamers
For those who don’t want to spend a lot of money on gaming notebooks with high refresh rate, there’s still a solid choice here and that’s the Acer Predator Helios 300. It’s about less than $1,500 with some room for upgrades while still running an RTX 3080 graphics card.
For Gamers Who Want The Best Value Laptop
Best value here refers to the value of the hardware you’re getting for the price you’re paying. You’re getting exactly what you want from a gaming notebook, such as a high refresh rate. For this section, go for the Razer Blade laptops (14 and 15) because you’re getting high-performance hardware with enough room for upgrades without forcing you to spend a ton of money on it.
Another consideration here would be Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 if you just want a high refresh screen without the unnecessary extravagance. Considering also that the G14 is also a compact 14″ laptop running on an AMD processor and graphics card.