This debate is widely spread across PC gamers on websites and forums. Today, we bring you the unbiased, real look at what the difference between the two is, and why each is better than the other.
Are Gaming Laptops Worse Than PCs? Gaming laptops are worse than PCs in performance, however, they are much more portable which makes them better for people who travel.
Let’s dive deeper now, and break down everything that makes a gaming desktop and a gaming laptop good or bad to help guide you in the right direction.
Are Gaming Laptops Worse Than PCs?
In terms of performance, you are going to get much better performance using a gaming desktop PC over a gaming laptop.
The parts of a gaming desktop are usually much more powerful than the gaming laptop variety since they don’t have to be throttled down to fit the power of a laptop’s battery, the cooling, and the overall space.
Gaming desktops will have much larger components that would never fit in a gaming laptop, that will run much more powerfully, but will also require a much larger case that doesn’t allow much travel.
Gaming desktops are built to lockdown in one spot and perform at the highest level your components will allow.
So that is one point for gaming desktops in terms of performance.
Next, let’s talk about mobility and space consumption, which we already briefly touched on.
Gaming laptops are more ideal for people in College or people who have a job that requires them to go to places very frequently.
You can easily buy a very powerful laptop and have fantastic performance wherever you go.
The need for a source of power is still very important because while playing games the battery on gaming laptops is known to get drained quickly.
Gaming desktops are much clunkier and for traveling can be more at risk of breaking something internally if not packaged correctly.
To get an idea of the size my fractal case is about 21 inches long, 9 inches wide, and 18 inches tall. That is a lot of surface space required.
Also, you would likely need a dedicated backpack or luggage for the desktop PC, or else you will be leaving behind a lot of your clothes.
Let’s say you aren’t traveling, but live in a space where you lack a lot of personal space to set up a dedicated gaming station.
A gaming laptop is also perfect in that situation because it allows you to have the power of gaming anywhere you go from a couch to a cafe.
You don’t need a desk, nor a dedicated monitor, everything is built into one convenient package.
I would recommend a cooling pad. They can bring down temperatures by a fair amount, but more importantly, can provide room between you and the heat from the laptop.
In summary, if you travel a lot and like to game, a gaming laptop is ideal. Also, if you don’t travel, but lack room to fit a desk in your living space, a gaming laptop is also for you
Now, let’s talk about longevity and getting the most out of your money.
The best bang for your buck or in other words value for your money is going to be a gaming desktop you build yourself.
Gaming laptops, as well as prebuilt PCs, often cost more than a custom build PC with the same parts. This may be because of the easier setup, but still, you can save much more money going with a custom build.
The extra money you save building your own PC could even be reinvested into another part, such as the GPU, CPU, Storage, or even games!
After building your desktop PC, you can be good for however long you built your PC to last.
If you have a high-end desktop PC build, it could be many years before you ever need to upgrade. If you have a medium build it could be 3 – 4 years. If you have a budget built, it could be 1 -3 years.
If you intend to play on a 1080p resolution, all of these numbers could be longer, especially with additional graphical tweaking. These are merely rough estimates.
The huge benefit of a desktop over a gaming laptop is the ability to upgrade individual parts as they get very outdated.
For example, if your GPU isn’t able to run at a high enough FPS anymore, get a new one and sell the old one to have a cheaper upgrade!
This can prolong the life of your desktop for as long as you need it to. Keep swapping out parts one at a time until you have the urge to build a new desktop, but that is up to you!
Whereas, with a gaming laptop there are only so many things you can upgrade, and they are all much harder to upgrade than a desktop PC.
Not to mention, swapping out the GPU on many gaming laptops is going to be impossible, as we wrote about in our article on can you upgrade a gaming laptop graphics card.
As you can see in that article we included a solution using the eGPU enclosure, however, that is a much more expensive solution than the regular GPU upgrade on a desktop PC.
RAM and storage upgrades are possible for many gaming laptops, but also much harder to do than a gaming desktop and will likely require special parts to fit the size of a gaming laptop.
When your gaming laptop gets outdated, you will most likely need to buy a whole new one.
Whether you paid $500 or $3,000, in some years you will need to buy a whole new gaming laptop to upgrade your performance.
I’ll also mention that if you are on a budget, gaming desktops are a much better path for you because you can build a much more powerful desktop for a budget price.
Many budget laptops, if you can find them, aren’t going to have enough power to run at a satisfactory FPS.
Whereas with a custom build, you can make a capable 1080p budget build for less than $800 and play many of the most popular games at reasonable settings.
Here’s just one example of a perfect build that gets you amazing frames for a very reasonable price with performance a price equivalent gaming laptop could not match.
Next, we have the heating and cooling on desktop PCs versus laptops.
Laptops must fit powerful components into a small case, using powerful fans to keep everything cool.
The airflow in a gaming laptop is limited, so if you have high-end components running at max performance, the heat will get trapped and trigger thermal throttling.
Desktops, on the other hand, can also experience overheating if you don’t buy the necessary cooling equipment for your case but generally has much better airflow.
There are also more heat solutions for desktop PCs like getting bigger CPU fans with much larger heatsinks, adding more case fans, heatsinks for your M.2 SSDs, reorganizing the layout of your case, and more.
If there is a problem with heat, you can do much more to fix it on a desktop rather than a gaming laptop.
Unfortunately, since most gaming laptops are going to run intensive games, heating is oftentimes going to be an issue.
Although common in gaming laptops, it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. Certain brands handle heat better, and if you do have heat problems, undervolting, cooling pads, and other smaller fixes can be used.
Next, we get into which is more customizable.
As far as customization of looks goes, there is an infinite number of different desktop cases with all kinds of different designs.
Also, for customization of parts, you can mix and match different brands and products a lot more with a desktop over a laptop.
You have a huge number of combinations you can make when it comes to customizing your PC, whereas, with a gaming laptop there isn’t all that much to it.
Next, we have peripherals, this is a point for gaming laptops because they come with all of these built-in. You get a display, trackpad, keyboard, and speaker (usually) built-in from the get-go.
I would still recommend getting a mouse for gaming, but generally, this can save you a whole lot of money from the start depending on how good the monitor on your laptop is.
Some 300hz, 1080p monitors that come with higher-end gaming laptops can save you north of $300 by already having such a high-quality monitor on your laptop.
Not having to buy a keyboard can also save you quite a bit of money. A good keyboard these days can cost you around $100.
Although my favorite keyboard at the moment costs a fair amount less than that, which you can find here.
Should You Get A Gaming Console Or A Gaming Laptop?
If you are purely looking for mobility it may be a good idea to consider getting a console instead of a gaming laptop, especially for the price.
The latest generation of gaming consoles features mobile sizes and power that a gaming laptop cannot match for the same price.
Of course, you still need room for a TV or monitor if you decide to go the path of a console, so that is something to keep in mind.
For things like 4k, you can get a much better-upscaled 4k on a console for that price range, and for many games, they should be optimized to run at a reasonable FPS.
If you aren’t on a budget and have quite a bit of money to spend on a quality gaming experience on the go, I recommend going with a gaming laptop.
You likely need at least $1000 to get a good mid-range laptop, but ideally, you should get a more high-end gaming laptop for around $1,600 to $2,000 that will last you significantly longer.
A good laptop can get you significantly more frames than a console at a 1080p resolution and will most likely look better depending on what graphical settings you are using.
With either of these, you will be getting exclusives, for PC there are a number of FPS, Strategy, single-player, and so-on.
You can also purchase most of the newer Xbox exclusives on PC, and some select PlayStation exclusives that get ported to PC.
PlayStation still has plenty of fantastic exclusives that have never been ported to PC, which is a very compelling reason for someone to go with a PS5.
Xbox is also a good option when looking at consoles, however, the exclusives have been very lackluster in past years, despite now owning many of the best gaming studios.
I also follow the logic that if you were to get a PC down the road, having a PS5 means you can have the PlayStation exclusives, the Xbox, and the PC exclusives making for the best of all worlds.
Ultimately, if you have the money going for a gaming laptop can give better visuals and performance, with several more exclusive games that will take years to reach console if they ever do.
And if you are on a budget, the performance of current-gen consoles such as the Xbox Series X or the PS5 cannot be beaten for that price range.
If you want to see our full summary of this question, check out our full article on are gaming laptops better than consoles.
Are Gaming Laptops Good For Everyday Use?
Gaming laptops are fantastic in performing tasks outside of gaming.
Things like video editing, browsing the web, completing file transfers, really anything you do every day can be the same if not better on a gaming laptop.
Depending on what equipment your current laptop or desktop is using, a gaming laptop can speed up tasks by a ton.
For example, if you buy a gaming laptop that uses an M.2 SSD, things like boot times and file transfers are so much faster.
Any graphics-intensive programs are going to benefit from the more powerful GPU that a gaming laptop usually includes.
The much better CPU is going to make a lot of basic tasks much smoother because there is more power to process every task.
The higher RAM count or faster RAM is going to allow for much more temporary storage, which means lots more Chrome tabs you can open without lagging!
I think you get the point, the many upgrades that are made to gaming laptops to improve the gaming experience can also make regular activities better too.
Gaming laptops don’t change the core functions of the computer, if you can do it on your current laptop, you should be able to do it on a gaming laptop and have an even better experience.
The benefit of a gaming laptop over a desktop is the ability to complete daily tasks from a more comfortable position and avoid spending all your time at a desk when you need to use your PC.
In a perfect world, you could have both a desktop and laptop, however, many people have to choose between the two.
If you do spend plenty more time working and completing tasks outside of gaming, a gaming laptop can be a more comfortable choice for bringing mobility into your workflow.
What Is The Difference Between A Gaming Laptop And A Normal Laptop?
There are only really upgrades going from a regular laptop to a gaming laptop. Many of the components receive upgrades to their performance and make the machine run much better.
Typically, there is a better cooling system to maintain good temperatures for all the parts inside. Usually, the cooling system looks like 2 very powerful fans that scale in intensity depending on the task.
Another nice bonus about gaming laptops is they typically have a dedicated graphics card.
Many regular laptops will have integrated graphics that aren’t great for playing games or using any graphics editing software.
Dedicated graphics cards have dedicated VRAM and typically higher clock speed, which leads to a much smoother performance in graphics-intensive programs.
Overall, a gaming laptop isn’t known to have nearly as many freezing or significant slowdowns when doing regular tasks.
If the computer is built well and powerful enough, it shouldn’t experience either of those when under load either.
Many gaming laptops are also built with stronger or better materials that tend to be more durable than a regular laptop.
Aluminum is a very commonly used material, as it is lightweight and durable, but heavy-duty plastic cases can also be found pretty commonly in the mid-range.
Usually, the displays are also better on gaming laptops with higher refresh rates and occasionally even higher resolutions like 1440p or 4k.
1080p resolution screens are still the most common, but on many gaming laptops they will make up for it by using an IPS panel for much better color reproduction and viewing angles.
Viewing angles are especially important when using a laptop because you are going to often look at your monitor from many different angles while using it.
High refresh rates are nice for gaming because it makes the image much smoother.
Your GPU has to be good enough to reach your target refresh rate, however, if both your monitor and GPU can handle 144hz, your gaming experience can be much better.
Other than that, typically you will get more RAM with a gaming laptop, which improves your FPS in games (to a point) and can help regular tasks run better since there is more room to store temporary data.
Also, depending on your current RAM it may be much faster too, which can help speed up tasks.
To summarize, gaming laptops are worse than desktop gaming PCs in terms of performance, longevity, battery life, price, cooling, and customization.
You can’t compare gaming laptops to desktops because they are meant for entirely different types of gamers.
If you aren’t traveling often, have room in your living space, and spend most of your time at home, a gaming desktop makes more sense because it can provide better quality in nearly every way.
But if you are a gamer that moves around a ton or doesn’t have much room in your home to place a desk and all the equipment needed for a gaming desktop, then go with a gaming laptop.
If you are on a budget and don’t travel often, I would recommend going with a desktop PC because you can get much better performance than a laptop for a typically a lesser price.