Choose between a gaming laptop and gaming computer is a classic dilemma that has baffled many PC gamers. The differences between them are obvious, but each has enticing strengths, and most people can’t afford to pick just one. This guide will help you make the right decision in the gaming laptop vs. desktop debate.
We compare gaming laptops and desktops with the following in mind:
- Features and Daily Operation
- Game performance
- Noise, heat, energy consumption
Gaming Laptop vs Desktop: Day-to-Day Features and Function
A gaming laptop and a gaming desktop can be used for most of the same tasks, but the main differences between a gaming laptop and a desktop are day and night.
Common Features of Gaming Laptops
- Integrated display, keyboard, touchpad
- Built-in battery
- Limited wired connectivity
- Difficult or impossible to upgrade
Laptops are tightly integrated devices with many useful features built into the computer. This includes a display, keyboard, touchpad and battery, as well as wired and wireless connectivity. It’s easy to overlook the benefit of these additions. A gaming computer is useless until it is paired with peripherals. A gaming laptop is ready to go right out of the box.
This benefit comes at the expense of user choice and scalability. Most components of a gaming laptop cannot be upgraded or replaced later. Some gaming laptops allow owners to disable the hard drive and RAM, but that’s usually all.
Common Gaming Desktop Features
- Screen, keyboard and touchpad are extra
- No battery, not easy to move
- Extensive wired connectivity
- Easy to customize and upgrade
A gaming desk is the other side of the coin. It does not include any of the peripherals necessary for its use. Buyers need to research the right peripherals and purchase them at an additional cost. Desktop computers also lack battery power, so they’re not practical for travel or even a quick trip to a coffee shop.
On the plus side, desktops allow gamers to customize or upgrade the system. You can dive deep into the world of mechanical gaming keyboards or buy a better video card in a few years to keep up with new games.
Laptop vs Desktop: Performance
Gaming laptops and desktops seem to offer similar performance at a glance. They have similar processors and discrete graphics. Most also come with similar amounts of RAM and storage. Many gamers assume a PC with an AMD Ryzen 7 processor and Nvidia RTX 3070 graphics will work pretty much the same whether on a laptop or desktop.
In fact, desktops generally outperform laptops in any demanding situation. This not only includes gaming, but also tasks such as video editing and AI image processing. But if a laptop and a gaming desktop can have the same hardware, why don’t they have the same performance?
The answer is simple: gaming laptops and desktops don’t really use the same hardware (at least when it comes to CPU and discrete graphics).
Take the Nvidia RTX 3080 as an example. Office Nvidia RTX 3080 The graphics card has more CUDA cores, more Tensor units, more RT cores, and more memory bandwidth than the mobile version of the RTX 3080. A similar story plays out across a wide variety of CPU and GPU options.
The superior performance of a PC is often enough to be noticeable. Games run smoother on a desktop computer than on a laptop, regardless of the setting. The gap widens as the budget increases. The best gaming desktops use water cooling to overclock their already superior hardware to speeds far beyond what a laptop can achieve.
However, your needs will depend on what you play. want to play Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K resolution and maximum detail with Ray Tracing enabled? A gaming desk is best. If you want to play Path of exile Where Final Fantasy XIVhowever, even a budget gaming laptop would be up to the task.
Laptop vs Desktop: Portability
This one is easy. Gaming laptops are portable. Desktop computers are not.
There are minor exceptions. Mini PC like Intel’s NUC Extreme, Falcon Northwest Fragbox, and Origin Chronos can pack a lot of power into a small footprint. Yet all of this requires an external power supply and external peripherals.
Nothing replaces the portability of a gaming laptop. If you need to travel or need a PC you can take to class or the office, a gaming laptop is the way to go.
Gaming laptop vs desktop: noise, heat and power consumption
Gaming laptops aren’t subtle. The problem is not the number of cooling fans, but their size and speed. Laptop fans need to be small and thin, so they need to spin fast to move air quickly. This causes a ruckus. There’s no silent gaming laptop in 2022 – they’re all loud.
Heat can also be an issue for gaming laptops, although laptops and desktops trade blows here. Gaming laptops run hotter than desktops because their size concentrates heat in a smaller area. However, desktop computers generally generate more heat overall. A typical gaming desktop will warm up a room more than a desktop computer.
Most gaming laptops draw around 200-300 watts under load and much less than when idle. A gaming desktop can easily need 100 watts at idle and over 500 watts under load, with high-end configurations hitting 1,000 watts or more. Of course, all that power also translates into better gaming performance on the gaming desktop.
There is another compromise here. Gamers who like a quiet gaming rig will prefer a desktop computer, but a desktop computer will add more to your monthly electricity bill. This can add a few hundred dollars to the total cost of a gaming PC over its lifetime.
Gaming Laptop vs Desktop: Value
Gamers want a laptop or desktop that offers value. That means great performance for the price and a long life before the PC needs to be replaced.
Gaming laptops and desktops both offer good value for money when buying. A desktop computer is faster, but laptops aren’t slow, and the selling prices can get the two closer than expected. Laptops also have advantages, such as portability, that add to their value.
You can buy a gaming laptop for just under $1000 like the MSI Sword which offers enough performance to play competitive online games like CS: GO and Surveillance. However budget gaming laptops this cheap one comes with the lowest tier specs including an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor paired with Nvidia’s lowest tier RTX 3050 Ti mobile graphics. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop with more grunt, expect to spend close to $1,700 to $2,000 for a machine with an Nvidia RTX 3060 or better.
Gaming PCs are relatively similar in price to gaming laptops, with the most affordable models being under or near $1,000. The HP Omen 25L gaming desk is one of the cheapest budget gaming pc we recommend it and it’s pretty well equipped with AMD Ryzen 5 processor and Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics. With such a powerful machine you can easily play any AAA title like Elden Ring and Sniper Elite 5 at 1080p and 60 ips with most graphics settings set to medium or higher.
When it comes to long-term value, gaming laptops fall behind as they age. Lack of scalability is a big problem. A new graphics card can add several years of life to an old gaming laptop. This is not possible in a laptop, so you may need to buy a new gaming laptop after only three to five years of use. .
Repairs are also a problem. Most gaming laptops and desktops come with a one-year warranty. Both can break after warranty, but desktops are cheaper to repair because parts are more widely available from third-party sources. You can still save on repairs by doing the repair yourself. This is often extremely difficult (if not impossible) on a laptop.
That’s not all bad news for gaming laptops. Gaming laptops consume less power, a hidden cost that can make them a little cheaper to own over time. Laptops also come with a built-in keyboard and trackpad, while desktop owners need to purchase a gaming keyboard and gaming mouse separately.
Still, the value is firmly in favor of gaming desktops. They offer more performance for the price and are less expensive to upgrade or repair.
Laptop vs Desktop: The Verdict
It’s time to tally the results in the showdown between the gaming laptop and the gaming desktop. Who wins?
In most cases, a gaming desktop is the best choice. Gaming desktops offer more for your money, cost less to upgrade and repair, and last longer before becoming obsolete.
The wildcard is portability. There’s no denying that gaming laptops are portable and gaming desktops aren’t. This will make many gamers turn to a laptop. Remember this before you buy: you’ll enjoy smoother gameplay, with more appealing visuals, if you buy a gaming desk instead.