Gaming laptops can provide fantastic performance on the go, but it’s no secret that comes at a much larger price. After doing much research and being a former owner of a gaming laptop, I have the answer.
Are Gaming Laptops Worth It? Gaming laptops are worth it for people that move around frequently but want a laptop powerful enough to play games.
Let’s get into why gaming laptops are good for only frequent travelers and why someone who doesn’t move too often should consider other options.
Are Gaming Laptops Worth It?
In this article, we will break down each main buying factor of a gaming laptop to explain the advantages and shortcomings in great depth.
As a way to guide buyers looking into the PC market, we will be often comparing a gaming laptop’s performance to a gaming desktop.
This is based off the fact that many people are usually torn between the two and in this context there is a clear answer for who should get which.
If you NEED mobility with your gaming setup and a gaming desktop isn’t an option, check out our article on are gaming laptops better than consoles.
How Mobile Are Gaming Laptops?
Starting with the gaming laptop’s only major advantage, mobility is the only reason someone should consider getting a gaming laptop.
If you are often traveling, whether it is short trips or long flights, a gaming laptop is a great way to continue being a gamer on the road.
Wherever you may be, you don’t need a lot of space to set up a gaming laptop and get playing.
Whereas with a gaming desktop, you need to have a desk, a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, and preferably some headphones too.
It’s not that it can’t be done with a gaming desktop, but it’s going to be significantly harder. Also, something breaking is much more likely.
Gaming laptops will also need a mouse, keyboard, and headphones, but you already have a built-in monitor. If you go completely wireless, you can have a cable-free setup.
Gaming laptops were made to travel, so there is less worry when it comes to an internal part breaking in transport or having to take out certain pieces before you move your PC.
A gaming laptop’s size makes it ideal for people living in small living quarters that may not have room for a desk.
If you are in College or perhaps live in a shared living space with not enough room for a desk, a gaming laptop has a small, nimble size that can be played comfortably from the bed.
Are Gaming Laptops Powerful?
Following the biggest benefit of gaming laptops is the biggest drawback, performance.
Gaming laptops don’t perform as good as a gaming desktop with the same parts.
This is because gaming laptops have to use a downscaled version of popular parts that operate on lower voltage and run less hot.
These downscaled parts have to sacrifice performance for the ability to operate in the small enclosure of a laptop.
If you don’t move around a lot, this is one major reason why you should choose a gaming desktop over a gaming laptop.
Gaming desktops can use much larger parts that run much more powerfully than what is used in laptops, and you can get them for cheaper.
These larger parts are also better at cooling, and within a larger environment with better airflow typically have lower temps.
There isn’t much else to say without talking about specific parts. But, there is this great YouTube video that shows the performance difference between a laptop 2070 vs. a desktop 2070.
How Long Do Gaming Laptops Last?
Gaming laptops can vary in longevity, but typically a high-end gaming laptop can last you 4 years with some graphical tweaking in the last couple.
If you start with a gaming laptop that has budget parts like a 1660ti, it may only last you 2 years. This is based on how much more demanding games get as time progresses.
Once your GPU gets outdated, you will, unfortunately, have to buy a completely new gaming laptop if you want to upgrade your performance.
As we talked about in our article on can you upgrade a gaming laptop’s graphics card?
There is one way to avoid the need to replace your whole laptop, but it is expensive and takes away your mobility when gaming.
This is another area where a gaming desktop is better if you aren’t traveling.
On a gaming desktop, you can easily swap out an old graphics card for a better one and improve your FPS significantly.
The same goes for any other part, if you need more storage, more voltage, or a more powerful CPU, it can all be easily arranged in a gaming desktop.
A gaming desktop can swap out one part at a time for a decade without spending nearly as much on upgrades as you would with a gaming laptop.
Are Gaming Laptops Easy To Maintain?
Gaming laptops are going to be easier when it comes to troubleshooting issues because you will likely end up sending the machine back to the manufacturer to get it fixed.
With a gaming desktop, you could end up spending a lot of time identifying where the issue is, then diving into why that component is breaking, and then trying to fix it.
For me, I prefer troubleshooting on a desktop because I can control the fixes, and typically I can find the answer within a couple of searches.
Not having to wait for shipping to the manufacturer, then them fixing it, then sending it back is a huge plus for me.
However, if you aren’t inclined to spend too much time troubleshooting yourself, it is clearly much easier for the user to fix hardware issues on a gaming laptop.
Before we move on, I will mention you can get similar ease of use if you bought a pre-built PC from a good gaming PC manufacturer.
Those have plenty of their own problems and will still cost more than building your own PC, but they are easier to set up and you can still get help from the prebuilt PC manufacturer.
How Is The Cooling On A Gaming Laptop?
With a gaming laptop, heating issues are a very common problem. A small frame paired with powerful, hot parts will trap air and cause overheating if not cooled properly.
This can be easily avoided by opting for a gaming laptop with better cooling or airflow, so do your research carefully.
We also have some tips on how you can cool down your gaming laptop if it is running hot.
Generally, gaming desktops will perform cooler because there are more airflow and cooling solutions available.
Heating issues can be the downfall of a machine’s performance or overall functionality. So when shopping around, make sure that is at the top of your checklist.
The Storage Limitations Of Gaming Laptops
With gaming laptops, you don’t have the option to expand storage nearly as much as you do with a gaming desktop.
Some higher-end gaming laptops will allow for an extra M.2 SSD to be installed or an internal HDD, but any large amounts of cheap HDD storage will have to be external.
This may not be a big deal for some, but keep in mind it can be slower due to the nature of USB 2.0 data transfer. Also, you will be using one of the few UBS slots available on your gaming laptop.
Gaming laptops also only have 2-4 USB slots available on average, which can make plugging in all your peripherals plus your external drive challenging.
If you choose carefully, some gaming laptops will allow you to add another internal storage drive.
You would have to buy and install the internal storage drive yourself. However, this is the ideal way to increase storage capacity on gaming laptops.
Newer laptops are adding an NVMe slot for you to add another M.2, but some will also include a place for you to install an internal HDD.
The benefit of an internal HDD is the cheaper price and ample amounts of storage space. The main drawback, it is significantly slower.
However, for games you don’t play often, multiplayer games, or other file storage, they are a fantastic option every gamer should have.
You will need a specially sized HDD for your gaming laptop if you have an internal HDD bay available.
A 2.5 inch HDD is the usual size to fit in laptops. If the HDD is 3.5 inches, it will not fit.
Since this is also a specialized part, it will cost much more than a regular-sized HDD you would put into a desktop.
For $60, you can get 2TB of HDD that is a traditional 3.5-inch size and is not compatible with a laptop installation.
For the same money, you can get a 1TB HDD that is 2.5 inches, which can fit into a gaming laptop.
This price continues to scale with higher storage varieties, but even 1TB should be plenty on top of the 512GB you already have.
With a gaming desktop, you typically have 6 SATA slots on an ATX motherboard, meaning you can plug in 6 HDDs or SSDs, excluding M.2s.
M.2s will take up 2 SATA slots and don’t use a SATA transfer cable. Also, M.2 SSDs will be installed in a dedicated slot on the motherboard.
If you need extra storage in a gaming desktop, you can grab an HDD or SSD and throw it into your PC with a couple of cables attached, and you have a ton more storage hidden away inside your PC.
All in all, this is another category where having a gaming desktop provides a superior experience with more possibility for easy expansion.
Which Is Louder A Gaming Desktop Or Gaming Laptop?
This will ultimately depend on the parts being used in the gaming desktop, as those can be quite loud too if they are cheaply made.
However, on average, a gaming laptop is going to be much louder since the fans have to run very loudly to cool the laptop.
Gaming desktops can have a range of different fans from different companies with different sizes, speeds, and loudness.
My personal favorite brand for cooling fans is Noctua. They make super powerful fans that you won’t even hear running with the case completely shut.
My CPU fan is dead silent, even when running intensive games that require more cooling.
If I played the same game on a gaming laptop, the noise would be unbearably loud, but I suppose that is subjective to your noise tolerance.
When gaming I prefer a quiet desktop since my headphones aren’t completely sound-proof.
Gaming Laptop Screens Vs Dedicated Gaming Monitors
When it comes to gaming laptops, what you see is what you get with their screens and being able to swap it out is unlikely.
If the color quality is poor, the refresh rate is too low, or maybe the screen catches too much glare, then you are stuck with that screen unless you decide to use an external monitor.
External gaming monitors are fantastic, and you have a very wide variety. However, when used with a gaming laptop, they defeat the reason for having a gaming laptop in the first place.
The more mobility you lose to things like eGPUs, external storage, and external monitors, the less reason there is to have a gaming laptop.
If you are going to be gaming in one place the best option is a gaming desktop. Otherwise, a gaming laptop is an underperforming replacement with a lot of drawbacks in other areas.
On a gaming desktop, you will need to buy an external monitor no matter what. However, it’s what you come to expect for something you won’t be moving very often.
You have several refresh rate options, spanning from 60 to 360 hertz, and pricing changing all the time in favor of buyers.
Monitor panels continue to improve, so you can get an external monitor with IPS colors and super-fast speeds previously reserved only for a TN panel.
If you want to know the difference between different panel types and which you should buy, check out our comparison of IPS vs. VA vs. TN.
Ultimately, with a gaming monitor in a gaming desktop setup, you may be locked down to one place for gaming, but you have the best customization so you can get exactly what you are looking for in terms of visuals.
How Good Is The Battery Life On Gaming Laptops?
If you expect to play games on gaming laptops for multiple hours without requiring a charge, you need to know this.
Gaming laptops will often only last around 3-5 hours on a single charge when playing an intensive game.
This will vary depending on the laptop. Many laptops use different batteries and the capacity of the battery will dictate how long you can play.
On smaller batteries, this can even look like 1-2 hours. This means you are better off having the gaming laptop plugged in all the time during a gaming session to avoid a dead battery and a lot of data loss.
Who Should Get A Gaming Laptop?
The only people who should truly get a gaming laptop, are people that are constantly traveling and need a PC that is capable of gaming on the go.
If you travel for work every week or every month or are often away from home for long periods of time, then a gaming laptop is perfect.
Despite all the conclusions we’ve drawn in our comparison, gaming laptops are capable machines that will provide a great gaming experience.
They have good performance, good enough cooling in many cases, and these days the screens look pretty good.
On higher-end laptops, you can even get screens with up to a 300hz refresh rate. You may never reach it, but even using just 144hz of that will feel amazing.
Then, of course, the real benefit is taking all that power, sliding it into a backpack or luggage, and using it wherever you go with ease.
The real problem with gaming laptops is when you compare them to gaming desktops.
Gaming laptops weren’t meant to be as powerful or better than a gaming desktop. They were meant to create a great PC gaming experience for people that travel.
So looking at gaming laptops in that context, they are perfect!
However, if you don’t travel, and are going to use your gaming laptop at a desk, there isn’t a great case to choose a laptop over a desktop.
If you are going to be using a gaming laptop at a desk, not using any of the mobility features, then you should go for a superior experience.
Gaming desktop can provide a better performance, much more customization, and will last much longer since you can constantly swap out parts as you need to.
Any part you need, you can slot it into your computer, and you don’t have to see it again until you open up your desktop again.
Unlike laptops, you don’t have to have several more wires and dongles hanging off of your computer getting in your way.
Storage is faster, CPUs are faster, GPUs are faster, you name it, on a desktop you are most likely going to get a faster experience with that part.
Not to mention it is also cheaper than a gaming laptop. Surely, you would imagine that something that is better in most ways and certainly in performance would cost much more, right?
No, building your own gaming desktop is going to be cheaper and better in performance. Since gaming laptops require custom parts it actually costs more to make a gaming laptop.
The more it costs the manufacturer to make the product, the more they have to charge to see a profit and make selling that product worthwhile. This is why gaming laptops cost more, even if they perform worse.
How Much Should You Spend On A Gaming Laptop?
There is a wide price range for gaming laptops based on how powerful and feature rich the laptop is.
It can go everywhere from $800 – $10,000, with many people landing between $1,000 – $3,000. This is a good place to be as well, for two reasons.
If you spend too much money on a gaming laptop, one will come out in 6 months with superior performance for a third of the cost.
However, if you spend too little money, you can very easily end up buying a computer in another one or two years because the GPU can’t push the FPS you prefer.
In the range of $1,100 – $1,600, I think most traveling gamers can find a great gaming laptop that can last them a while and have a good experience.
Of course, once you get to $2,000 you will have options that can last you many years, but if we are looking for the best bang for your buck and excluding higher-end items, that is a good price range.
A great value computer for 1080p gaming is the Acer Predator Helios 300. The name is used every generation, but currently, this version of the Helios 300 has a 6 core processor, RTX 2060 GPU, and 144hz display.
The display is going to be 3ms response time, however, fortunately, it has an IPS panel, which is crucial for any laptop.
IPS panels have superior colors, but they are really important for laptops because of the viewing angles.
When viewed from below, above, the sides, and of course head-on you should be able to get good color quality. That is what IPS panels provide.
If you are laying back in bed, viewing from slightly below, an IPS panel will help make the colors look rich even from that angle.
TN panels make the colors look heavily washed out from different angles, VA is slightly better, and IPS is the absolute best in this case.
Getting back to the Helios 300, it does come with a 512GB NVMe SSD with the ability to add an internal HDD and another internal M.2 SSD.
The expandable storage is a nice touch, which allows you to expand in the future when you inevitably need more space.
512GB will run out quickly, especially considering all your other files and OS are going to be placed on that drive as well.
However, with a good amount of money you can expand the storage to be at least 1TB and then bring those storage drives to future computers.
Now let’s revisit the performance of this gaming laptop. How many FPS can you expect to get, and will you be able to take advantage of the 144hz refresh rate on the monitor?
Take a look at the benchmarks for this 2020 version of the Acer Helios 300 with an RTX 2060 GPU.
As you can see, this machine is plenty capable of reaching high FPS. Although, there will be some tweaking required to reach 144hz.
In the description of this video, the creator claims every game was set to high settings. You may not be getting 144 FPS in some games at high settings, however, you do get a significantly better graphical quality.
Lastly, you get 16GB of dual-channel 2933 MHz DDR4 RAM. This is the ideal capacity for now and anything past this won’t make a huge difference.
Being 2933 MHz as well, there will be a slight boost in performance over the more commonly used 2666 MHz slower frequency.
Combining the performance, monitor quality, and price you have a great value with this gaming laptop.
It may not be the fanciest or best-performing gaming laptop, but you get fantastic value and performance for the money.
If you were already planning on spending more, the good news is after buying this gaming laptop you will have plenty of extra in the budget for buying quality peripherals or games.
You can see the latest pricing and more information on this gaming laptop by clicking this link (link to Amazon).
Are Gaming Laptops Faster Than Regular Laptops?
Gaming laptops are faster than regular laptops because they are made with much faster components that are made for gaming.
Things like the GPU, CPU, RAM, storage, and other parts will be upgraded to have higher frequencies or clock speeds, which makes games run much smoother.
If you are a gamer, you need a gaming laptop because they have all the components and speed necessary to run games at an operatable FPS.
Regular laptops can cost more than a thousand dollars without actually giving you a dedicated graphics card.
To run games properly, you need a dedicated graphics card with dedicated VRAM to achieve a functional FPS.
Most gaming laptops are going to have a dedicated graphics card.
For the same price as a regular laptop with integrated graphics, you can get a gaming laptop with a decent dedicated GPU.
Having a dedicated GPU is important because you typically get faster clock speeds and more RAM (you get dedicated VRAM).
Also, gaming laptops usually have faster, more powerful CPUs with more cores, more threads, and higher boost and base clock speeds.
As for RAM, you typically get more RAM with a gaming laptop because it is more important to have at least 16GB of RAM for gaming.
Many regular laptops that might be around $1,000 – $1,500 will only have 8GB of RAM, which can be alright for gaming, but a significant performance boost can be found when increasing to 16GB.
Also, you get dedicated VRAM, which is important for two reasons. The first reason being, you don’t have to use more of your system’s RAM for graphics related purposes.
When using an integrated GPU, the technology is stored inside of your CPU, and there is no room to add dedicated VRAM.
Instead, the integrated GPU is forced to use the system’s RAM to store temporary files related to graphics. This is in addition to the things the CPU is storing on the system RAM.
This can lead to finding your maximum RAM capacity very quickly, especially if you only have 4 or 8GB of RAM in the first place.
When you have dedicated VRAM, you don’t have to use any additional RAM that all the other parts in your system need to operate.
The second reason why VRAM is important is it is faster than traditional RAM. The process of reading and writing can be done much faster when there is dedicated VRAM.
If dedicated GPUs didn’t have VRAM, then they would have to use multiple more processes to send and receive data with the system RAM, which would take much longer.
As for storage, regular laptops and gaming laptops typically have similar storage. It is becoming more common for gaming laptops to use NVMe SSD storage, which is much smaller and faster.
I’ve seen a few regular laptops use this recently, but for the most part, regular laptops are still using a regular SSD. Regular SSDs are fast, but not nearly as fast as NVMe M.2 SSDs.
A faster SSD can improve loading times in video games by a decent amount in comparison to a regular SSD. However, they are tremendously faster than an HDD when looking at loading time comparisons.
If your M.2 SSD is also your boot drive, meaning Windows 10 or whichever OS you are using is installed on your M.2 SSD, then booting up your computer can also be much faster.
Here is a great video that shows a full comparison of loading times across the three most popular forms of storage at the moment.
Combine all these things together and you have a much faster, superior laptop for gaming.
You may still be able to play certain non-intensive games on a regular laptop, but a gaming laptop will still be much faster.
Gaming laptops are worth it if you are a gamer that is going to be traveling very often and wants to have the power to play PC games on the road.
If you don’t travel often, I recommend that you go for a desktop PC that you build yourself because they are more powerful and cheaper.
Gaming laptops have far too many trade-offs to pick one over a desktop in a situation where you don’t travel often.
If you do travel often, gaming laptops are a fantastic way to have a mobile PC gaming experience.
If you have the money to shell out, some very impressive high-end gaming laptops can last many years.
Just keep an eye on your temperatures to make sure your gaming laptop isn’t overheating.
If it is, check out our articles on are gaming laptops supposed to be loud and are gaming laptops supposed to be hot.