Gaming is a long standing pastime within the computer world. With hundreds of thousands of games to choose from and new gaming technology coming out everyday, now is an exciting time to be a PC gamer. On top of all the other choices presented to PC gamers, is the choice between a laptop or desktop for their gaming.
The answer really comes down to what you want your gaming experience to be. Gaming laptops offer mobility along with astounding amounts of power, while desktops offer extreme performance and a well rounded gaming experience.
4 Things to Consider: Gaming laptop vs. Desktop in 2021
One thing to consider when deciding between a laptop and a desktop for gaming is your budget. Now, we’re assuming that you are willing to spend quite a lot on your system regardless.
Good gaming laptops and desktops are often over $1000 and top of the line models of both can reach into the $2000s.
It is possible to get a gaming laptop for around $500 but you compromising on the laptop’s performance dramatically by choosing a gaming laptop at this price. You likely would not be able to play any graphically demanding or processing demanding games on a low end budget model.
That being said, depending on the type of specs you want, both desktops and laptops can come out around the same cost, normally averaging around $1500.
My MSI ApachePro came out to around $1300 and had top of the line hardware for 2017 when I bought it. In contrast, a desktop with similar specs costs roughly the same for the tower alone (not including the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other accessories).
..Keep in mind though that the laptop’s specs are just downsized versions of the desktop’s specs and they are likely not matched in processing speed…
Keep in mind though that the laptop’s specs are just downsized versions of the desktop’s specs and they are likely not matched in processing speed.
For desktops, a popular trend in the gaming community is to build your own. This way you get the custom specs that you want without having to compromise with the manufacturer. It doesn’t take a ton of computer know-how to build a desktop either.
The internet is rife with how-to videos on building your own gaming PC. Keep in mind, to build your own desktop, your budget should be able to accommodate around $2000 worth of hardware.
For laptops, on the other hand, there is far less customizability available to users. Upgradeability too, is limited as many manufacturers cut corners on future-proofing in order to fit the top of the line hardware into their small laptops.
There is some room for customization. Alienware in particular is well-known for the customizability they offer in their gaming laptops. You can customize for storage, processing, memory, graphics, and more.
But since laptops are just smaller, more portable desktops, you will always get more customization and upgradeability with a desktop than a laptop.
If your sights are set on performance, the desktop may have an advantage and the reason is quite simple: fans. A desktop tower has much more room for fans than a laptop does and so is able to cool all that super powered hardware much more efficiently.
Desktops are just able to fit in more powerful pieces of hardware than laptops are. You’ll always have more storage and better processing in a desktop. That’s simply because laptops use downsized versions of desktop hardware.
However, there are some pretty amazingly powerful laptops on the market that match their desktop rivals in performance.
Brands like ASUS, Alienware, and MSI release some of the best gaming laptops available that give you all the performance of a gaming PC along with the mobility of a laptop.
As mentioned above, it really comes down to your preferences and the gaming experience that you want most when deciding between a gaming laptop and a gaming desktop.
..the desktop beats out the laptop in power and performance but the laptop will obviously always beat out the desktop in portability…
Often times, the desktop beats out the laptop in power and performance but the laptop will obviously always beat out the desktop in portability.
If you are looking for the most high speed and well performing gaming experience, a desktop is probably a better option for you. However, if you have to have portability, whether in your gaming or just in your day to day activities, the laptop is the choice for you.
Gaming Laptop Pros & Cons
- Powerful (can run all of today’s best games)
- More budget-friendly than desktops
- All hardware downsized (so limited performance)
- Poor battery life
Gaming laptops have come a long way from gamer punch lines to top of the line gaming machines. Laptops come with a distinct advantage over the gaming desktop and that is (as mentioned above) mobility.
With a laptop you can move around wherever you want to. It allows you to have a mobile workstation wherever and whenever you need it and that is especially helpful for the student or professional.
Gaming laptops are powerful and can have the hardware to run all of today’s top games. There are a large variety of gaming laptops that you can choose with varying levels of specs and equally variable prices. You are sure to find the one for you.
As mentioned, laptops come in a variety of prices. Obviously, the higher end models are going to cost a pretty penny. MSI’s GT75 Titan is one of its newest models this year and comes in just under $2500 at the time of writing.
That’s a pretty expensive laptop but if you’re willing to pay that much, you won’t be disappointed in the power you get from it. However, you can still get powerful gaming laptops for half that cost or more.
The drawback to laptops is the same as it always has been for gaming: you simply won’t get the same amount of power in a laptop as you will a desktop.
The hardware in a laptop is downsized in order to fit in such a small space. So while a laptop is still powerful enough to run today’s top games smoothly, it still pales in comparison to desktops.
When it comes to day to day activities, a gaming laptop is sure to get you through whatever tasks you may need to complete. However, a key feature you must think about is the battery. For gaming laptops in particular, the battery has always been a major issue.
Because they are such powerful machines, they drain battery very quickly which makes gaming for any decent amount off the charger a hassle. Idling alone some gaming laptops struggle to squeeze out 5 hours of battery life, let alone when they try to run a game.
For many this is the nail in the coffin for gaming laptops. You may hear the term ‘desktop replacement’ when researching gaming laptops and it means what it says, basically: a laptop that replaces a desktop. And for some, it makes laptops a no-go option.
If you’re going to spend the money for a gaming laptop that can’t really go anywhere and play games off the charger, why get one? If you are thinking of getting a gaming laptop for its mobility just be sure wherever you move it to has an outlet nearby.
Gaming Desktop Pros & Cons
- Better overall gaming experience
- Can be expensive
Desktops offer virtually unlimited customization, especially if you decide to build your own. They also offer a wide range of upgradeability which makes for a great future-proof machine (a feature gaming laptops sometimes lack).
So, you can get today’s top of the line graphics card or processor and upgrade it when you need to down the line.
In terms of performance, desktops will always beat out laptops. As mentioned above, there is loads more room in a desktop tower to fit the beefiest hardware available.
You will always have more storage, more memory, and more processing power in a desktop because they are just able to handle it better than a laptop can.
Because the performance is so much more powerful, you will have a more seamless gaming experience on a desktop.
Desktops can be expensive though. The option to build your own, while enormously fun and freeing, can get very expensive, very quick. However, most pre-built gaming desktops with today’s best hardware can go from anywhere as low as $500 to as high as $8000.
But just like laptops, you get what you pay for and you may be compromising quite a lot for a low end model. I am by no means saying your only option is the cream of the crop, $8000 model.
There are definitely better priced models with great amounts of power. A decent gaming desktop lands somewhere in the range of $1500-2500.
The biggest con against gaming desktops is their immobility. I can take my laptop and game outside if I wanted to but taking your killer gaming desktop outside may be far more of a hassle than it’s worth.
Wherever you decide to put it, you’re basically stuck there. Moving is going to be a bit of a workout but not entirely impossible.
Taking all of this into consideration, it appears that the desktop has won out in this battle. However, gaming laptops continue to make huge advances and in my opinion, you don’t lose much when you game on a laptop.
I have the added bonus of being able to game anywhere I want (so long as I have access to an outlet nearby) and that is incredibly freeing. I play some of today’s top games on Ultra quality, 60FPS with absolutely no issue.
So just remember that this choice ultimately comes down to you and your needs as a gamer. If you want amazing power and want to build a killer gaming setup, a desktop may be a good choice for you.
If you need a laptop for everyday work as well as a laptop that can run your favorite games when you’re not working, a gaming laptop is definitely one to consider.