The decision between a gaming laptop and a desktop largely depends on your personal preferences and needs. Here are some factors to consider:
Performance: Performance is crucial when it comes to gameplay. You want a system that can manage even the most demanding games and apps without lag or slowdowns. For this reason, it’s crucial to take the speed variations into account when choosing between a gaming laptop and desktop.
Gaming computers typically use mobile variants of CPUs and GPUs because they are made to be lightweight and energy-efficient. Even though these components are still strong, their processing and graphics powers might not be as strong as those of their PC equivalents. As a consequence, gaming laptops can’t match the finest desktop systems’ frame rates or run some games at their highest levels.
Having said that, contemporary gaming computers have advanced significantly in recent years and continue to offer a wonderful gaming experience. As opposed to the specialized high-end rigs that so few people actually own, most mid-range gaming laptops today are as fast as the normal desktops PC players actually use. As a result, the real compromises made in games are comparatively minor.
The primary benefit of desktop gaming PCs is performance per dollar, in addition to providing the best performance components available in absolute terms. A particular gaming laptop will typically be much cheaper on a PC. You will therefore spend more for the laptop form factor and mobility even though both performance-matched systems will give you the same gameplay experience.
However, the difference in price has been gradually closing, and you might find that a gaming laptop’s advantages in terms of portability, space-saving, and power usage actually make the few hundred dollars it costs more than a comparable desktop you might expect.
Value and Cost: This brings up a good point to talk about the cost and worth of gaming computers and PCs. Price is easy to talk about, but worth is very individualized. What is precious to one individual may not be very valuable to another. Therefore, a PC player who only ever plays at their desk doesn’t give a damn about the size of their computer, doesn’t worry about their power expenses, or isn’t interested in the special benefits of gaming laptops won’t find much of value.
Consider the 2022 ASUS ROG Strix G15, which has an AMD Ryzen 7 6800H processor and an RTX 3060 notebook GPU. If you compare this computer’s basic GPU compute performance to current-generation platforms without accounting for its extra ray tracing performance and access to DLSS technology, it performs approximately in the same performance range. The only drawback is its somewhat constrained 6GB of VRAM. Although it’s not an exact match, you are competing in the same division.
Given that a current-generation console costs $500, the price differential is roughly $700 for a comparable gaming experience on a PC with all of its benefits. You don’t have to purchase a monitor or TV if you don’t want to; a good non-gaming laptop will cost between $500 and $700. This is just one illustration of how, based on your requirements and how you look at it, the value of a gaming laptop can be excellent.
A desktop gaming PC’s edge in terms of price to speed is undeniable, but what about its worth? Desktop PCs provide other kinds of independence in contrast to the mobility provided by laptops. The freedom to create your system exactly how you want it, to incrementally upgrade it, to purchase used components, to choose how it looks, to adapt it to various jobs and game types—the list continues on and on!
Flexibility and Upgradability: It appears that when it comes to freedom and upgradeability, desktop PCs come out on top. That is accurate if what we mean by freedom is the ability to customize a computer to precisely meet your requirements and preferences.
Gaming laptops, however, provide a distinct kind of freedom. the freedom to continue using non-gaming laptops for other purposes while still being able to transport PC gameplay anywhere. You don’t just have to perform at your workstation; you can do it anywhere in your house. You can connect your laptop to the TV after docking it to your gaming display.
However, computers really are in a different category in terms of upgradeability. Upgrades to laptops are typically restricted to RAM and storage. Even external GPUs are usually not worth connecting to gaming computers in particular, since the internal dedicated GPUs tend to give much superior performance per dollar.
That being said, desktop PCs can sometimes create an upgrade paradox, where upgrading one component, such as the GPU, causes an imbalance in the system leading to a need for a new CPU, which leads to a new motherboard, which might need new RAM, and so on.
Add to this the fact that the brief upgrade cycle that so many people associate with PC gaming is neither essential nor normal, and it becomes clear that desktop PCs’ upgradeability isn’t quite the game-changing advantage it might seem to be. It might not be more costly to purchase a good gaming laptop and then replace it every three to five years than to basically update your entire PC over the same time frame.
Portability: You might assume that laptops will easily win this area as well, but desktop computers can be more portable than you might expect. Today, there are many choices for creating extremely portable Small Form Factor desktop PCs. Although they aren’t mobile in the sense of being all-in-one devices that can be used anywhere with battery power, you can put something together that is simple to transport and set up in a motel room or at your parent’s home when you go visit.
These SFF computers can have components that are genuinely top-of-the-line, can be cooled using cutting-edge techniques like water cooling or vapor chamber fans, and will provide you with more speed for your money than a gaming laptop.
However, gaming laptops easily take the top spot in the portability category, and there are some astoundingly thin and light gaming laptops that can compete with upper-midrange desktop PCs. You can get a good sense of how powerful those computers are by picturing desktop core i5 or i7 systems outfitted with a desktop RTX 3060 Ti or 3070. All of this is contained in a package that weighs less than five pounds and is small enough to accommodate a messenger bag.
Should I Buy a Gaming Desktop or Laptop?
As you can see, choosing between gaming PCs and laptops is no longer an easy choice. Much of the conventional knowledge surrounding gaming laptops no longer holds true as a result of advancements in technology, variables in the market that influence the costs of PC components, and changes in how many gamers enjoy their pastime.
In light of this, you shouldn’t purchase a gaming laptop if you don’t require its distinct benefits in terms of portability, flexibility, power usage, and space-saving. A gaming laptop is useless if you only ever play PC games at your workplace or another fixed location. It is better to stay with desktop PC gaming in that situation. Particularly (and paradoxically) if you’re on a tight budget or you worry about getting the finest possible gameplay performance you can afford. PCs are extremely useful for both sides of that spectrum.
The $1000 to $2000 level is where things start to get really murky. The performance of gaming laptops in this price range is comparable to that of powerful mid-range contemporary gaming PCs, but they also have all the benefits of a work laptop or, to some degree, a professional workstation laptop for power users and content producers. If you fit that description, you ought to give a gaming notebook significant consideration as a one-stop shop.