Choose between one gaming laptop and gaming pc is a classic dilemma that has left many PC gamers dumbfounded. The differences between them are obvious, but each has attractive strengths, and most people can only afford to choose one. This guide will help you make the right decision in the debate between gaming laptop and desktop.
We compare Gaming laptops and desktops with the following in mind:
- Features and daily function
- Game achievements
- Noise, heat, power consumption
- Where the
Gaming Laptop vs Desktop: Features and Daily Function
A gaming laptop and a gaming desktop can be used for many of the same tasks, but the main differences between a gaming laptop and a desktop are night and day.
Gaming Laptop General Features
- Built-in display, keyboard, touchpad
- Integrated battery
- Limited wired connectivity
- Upgrading is difficult or impossible
Laptops are tightly integrated devices with numerous useful features built into the computer. This includes a display, keyboard, touchpad and battery, plus wired and wireless connectivity. The benefit of these additions is easily overlooked. A gaming desktop is useless until paired with peripherals. A gaming laptop is ready to go right out of the box.
This advantage comes at the cost of user choice and upgradeability. Most components in 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 it.
General features of gaming desktops
- Screen, keyboard and touchpad are extra
- No battery, not easy to move
- Extensive wired connectivity
- Easy to customize and upgrade
A gaming desktop is the other side of the coin. It does not contain any peripherals required to use it. Buyers should research the right peripherals and buy them at extra cost. Desktops also don’t have a battery, so they’re not practical for travel or even a short trip to a coffee shop.
On the positive side, desktops let gamers tweak 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.
Gaming 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 perform about the same whether it’s a laptop or desktop.
In fact, desktops typically outperform laptops in all demanding situations. This includes not only gaming, but also such tasks as video editing and AI image processing. But if a gaming laptop and desktop can use 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 the processor and discrete graphics).
Take the Nvidia RTX 3080 as an example. The desktop NVIDIA RTX 3080 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 range of CPU and GPU options.
The increased performance of a PC is often enough to be noticeable. Games run smoother on a desktop 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 well beyond what a laptop can achieve.
However, your needs will depend on what you’re playing. Want to play Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K resolution and maximum detail with Ray Tracing enabled? A gaming desktop is best. If you want to play Path of Exile or Final Fantasy XIVbut even one cheap gaming laptop would be up to the task.
Gaming Laptop vs. Desktop: Portability
This one is easy. Gaming laptops are portable. Desktops are not.
There are minor exceptions. Mini PCs like Intel’s NUC Extreme, the Falcon Northwest Fragbox, and Origin Chronos can pack a lot of power into a small footprint. Yet all of these require external power and external peripherals.
There’s no substitute for the portability of a gaming laptop. If you need to travel or need a PC that 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 are not subtle. The problem is not the number of cooling fans, but their size and speed. Laptop fans need to be small and slim, so they need to spin quickly to move air quickly. That creates noise. In 2022, there’s no such thing as a silent gaming laptop – they all make noise.
Heat can also be an issue for gaming laptops, although laptops and desktops pack a punch here. Gaming laptops run hotter than desktops because their size concentrates heat in a smaller area. However, desktops generally generate more heat. A typical gaming desktop heats up a room more than a desktop.
Most gaming laptops consume around 200 to 300 watts under load and much less than that when idle. A gaming desktop can easily require 100 watts at idle and over 500 watts under load, with high-end configurations moving towards 1,000 watts or more. Of course, all that power also translates into the gaming desktop’s better gaming performance.
There is another trade-off here. Gamers who like a quiet gaming rig prefer a desktop, but a desktop adds more to your monthly energy bill. This can add a few hundred dollars to the overall cost of a gaming desktop over its lifetime.
Gaming Laptop vs. Desktop: Value
Gamers want a laptop or desktop that delivers 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 when purchased. A desktop is faster, but laptops are no slouch, and selling prices may bring the two closer than expected. Laptops also have advantages, such as portability, that increase 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 Overexpected. However cheap gaming laptops this cheap one comes with the lowest specs, including an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU paired with Nvidia’s lowest RTX 3050 Ti mobile graphics card. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop with more grunt, expect to spend closer 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 costing under or close to $1,000. The HP Omen 25L Gaming Desktop is one of the cheapest cheap gaming pcs we recommend and it’s pretty well equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 processor and Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics. With a machine this powerful you can easily play any AAA title like Elden Ring and Sniper Elite 5 at 1080p and 60fps with most graphics settings set to medium or higher.
In terms of long-term value, gaming laptops lag behind as they age. The lack of upgradeability is a major problem. A new graphics card can add several years to an old gaming desktop. That’s not possible in a laptop, so you may need to buy a new gaming laptop after just three to five years of use.
Repairs are also a problem. Most gaming laptops and desktops have a one-year warranty coverage. Both can break after warranty, but desktops are less expensive to repair because parts are more widely available from third-party sources. You can further save on repairs by doing the repair yourself. That is often extremely difficult (if not impossible) on a laptop.
It’s not all bad news for gaming laptops. Gaming laptops use less power, a hidden cost that can make them a little cheaper over time. Laptops also come with a built-in keyboard and trackpad, while desktop owners get one gaming keyboard and gaming mouse individual.
Still, the value is resolutely in favor of gaming desktops. They deliver more performance for the price and are less expensive to upgrade or repair.
Gaming Laptop vs. Desktop: The Verdict
It’s time to add up the results in the gaming laptop versus gaming desktop showdown. Which one takes the win?
In most cases, a gaming desktop is the better choice. Gaming desktops offer better value for money, are cheaper to upgrade and repair, and last longer before becoming obsolete.
The wild card is portability. There is no denying that gaming laptops are portable and gaming desktops are not. That will lead many gamers to a laptop. Before you buy, remember this: you’d enjoy smoother gameplay, with more appealing visuals, if you bought a gaming desktop instead.
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