Gaming is fast becoming the number one source of entertainment in the world, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Seeing as binging is the new way of consuming content, a videogame will give you dozens of hours of interactive content, stunning visuals, and a compelling main story.
If you’re planning on learning how to build a gaming PC or want to get yourself a nice gaming laptop, we recommend that before you do any of these, you should ask yourself what are the fundamental differences between gaming desktop and laptop systems.
The question of what’s different between desktop and laptop computers is a good one, and it’s understandable to see why there’s so much mystery surrounding this topic. On paper, they’re both using the same hardware running on the same operating system. That being said, in practice, things vary a lot more than you might think.
The hardware used in desktops and laptops is quite different. Desktop-grade hardware is usually full-sized, is more power-hungry, and has more stable clockspeeds, higher turbo clocks, and generally performs much better when compared to their mobile counterparts.
The thing about shrinking hardware down to a size that will fit a laptop is that whilst it won’t be as powerful, it will be much more energy-efficient. However, the limiting layout of a laptop case also points towards inferior cooling, something that’s going to cause overheating more often, more dust build-up, and will shorten the components’ lifespans.
If you’re a PC enthusiast, you’ll also find out that performing maintenance on a laptop is pretty hard. You need a whole toolbox of screws, schematics and screwdrivers just to know how to open the damned thing. The main advantage that laptops have over desktop computers is the added mobility.
There are several high-end laptops that are using desktop-grade hardware, but, as you’d imagine, they’re pretty bulky. While they’re still portable, they do weigh more and take up a lot of space.
The second point also goes to the desktop machines. We’re talking about upgradability. To be fair, you can upgrade your laptop in a few ways, but with a desktop system, you can practically upgrade anything.
If you’re a laptop owner, you’ll be lucky if you can upgrade your RAM and storage. The CPU and GPU are typically soldered to the motherboard, so once your system starts slowing down, you basically have to buy a new laptop. Even if they weren’t soldered to the motherboard, imagine having to find a GPU that can fit your laptop’s specific layout.
On a desktop, if you have a motherboard that supports current-gen hardware, then you can upgrade each individual component until you’re rocking a mean gaming machine. So, if preventing obsolescence is something that’s important to you, it's generally recommended you go with a desktop computer.
The biggest selling point of gaming laptops is, obviously, the fact that they’re portable.
Go to LAN parties, competitive events, or just grab a few gaming hours while you’re on the road with ease, as you don’t have to lug a huge tower, monitor and cables around with you.
While they’re not as powerful as desktops, gaming laptops still have very powerful hardware. You can play basically any game at high resolution and high refresh rates if you have a high-end model. The only things that limit you are the screen size and heating. You might want to invest in a quality cooling pad and full-sized display if you want a more desktop-like experience when you’re at your permanent residence.
Laptops are much more expensive than desktops. You can’t build a laptop, so prices are less competitive because each manufacturer uses their own designs. In an apples to apples comparison, a desktop that has the same hardware as a laptop will be significantly cheaper, as the components aren’t custom, are easier to manufacture, and have a higher stock.
That being said, you can’t really put a price on convenience. Even smaller, ITX builds will be hard to carry around with the monitor, keyboard, speakers, so laptops do bring a tremendous amount of value to someone who wants to have access to their games while traveling.
If you’re still on the ropes about gaming laptops and PCs, then the bottom line is this: if you don’t move around a lot, then a desktop computer is cheaper and more powerful. If you do move around and want to have your game libraries with you, then a laptop is the best way to go. Sure, there are game-streaming services, but the laptop will always provide reliable results, whereas streaming games over something like hotel WiFi is a recipe for disaster.