For decades, PC gamers scoffed the idea of gaming laptops, dissing laptop’s capability of fitting all the power and needed performance in a small form factor. And that even if some may be able to squeeze everything in, it still doesn’t have the heavy and loud performance, right? However, in the past couple of years, we have seen tremendous advancement in computer technology, and gaming notebook industry has made leaps and bounds of development so much that more and more computer companies are taking notice. HP, for example has brought its Omen gaming notebook back. The big question now is, should you replace your desktop for a gaming laptop? This post from Dual Monitors Guide will breakdown the difference between the two to help you decide.
The Big Difference
First and foremost, let’s get into the point. A laptop will never be as powerful as a desktop of the same price range. Period.
There are many factors, and the most obvious one is the size. The size of the desktop allows more space to stretch out, more room to let all components breathe, which means more flexibility and power. Laptops on the other hand, are constrained in its box, which prioritizes portability over anything. Thus, no matter how bad you want the GTX 980M to work as good as the old GTX 980, the laws of thermodynamics will always prevail.
With that said, more and more brands are tapping into their creative engineering solutions, as they bridge the gap between mobile computers and desktops. The space between the two is growing smaller by the day.
(EVGA GeForce GTX 960, image from Amazon)
Even the most powerful GPU in gaming laptops, will never be as fast and as powerful as their desktop counterparts. As a matter of fact, the new 980M, which is currently the top of the line today, is 25% less powerful than its full-size version. It’s true that laptops have come a long way in this sector, mainly because of Nvidia’s dedication to make them a true viable option for gamers who are looking to replicate desktop experience with their laptop with most games.
However, if you have been reading tech news lately, you know that the 4K gaming experience is just around the corner. Gaming laptops are simply not capable of supporting this kind of performance, not even close.
One of the latest additions to the gaming laptop market – Asus ROG G501, attempted to close the gap by having a 4K display in its loadout. However, the 960M included isn’t anywhere near the 4K gaming tasks, causing the screen to look somewhat null in the first place. Mobile GPUs can’t keep up with its desktop counterpart. At least not yet.
(Intel Core i7-4790K Processor, image from Amazon)
As said earlier, the gap between CPU performance in desktop and laptop are getting smaller each day, there are still noticeable differences. Generally, our laptops are toned down in key areas to make up for the lack of cooling system such as fans and liquid radiators. The result of which tells the story.
Most high-end gaming laptops come with quad-core i7 CPUs. However, to be honest, they fall short to their desktop counterpart. To compare, quad-core CPU of high-end laptops and quad-core CPU of high-end desktop, the latter shows 40% to 50% delta, not to mention that six to eight CPUs desktop computers can offer.
Some products may be able to squeeze hexa-core desktop CPU to their colossal chassis, but they’re both rare and expensive.
Also, the modularity factor of desktop sets the bar too high for laptops. You just can’t beat swappable CPUs.
There is no need to spend too much time into this any further. We all know the clear winner is desktop.
The fact that desktop tower is bigger, means more space for upgradeability. Sure some laptops lets you can remove and swap some of its components (while others make it almost impossible), but aside from RAM and a couple or more upgrades, you are pretty much stuck with the whole system you purchased. You may swap the GPU, but that would be too impractically expensive.
Desktops works like Legos – there are almost endless combinations of video card, RAM and motherboard configurations. You can pretty much build something that suits your preference, budget and even future-proof your system for easy upgrades in the future.
Value for Your Money
There are lots of factors that needed to consider when we talk about ‘value.’ Obviously, you can build a desktop that is 50% (you pay 25% more for a gaming laptop and it is 25% less powerful) better than a laptop for the same price.
However, you need to factor in the computer monitor you want to get, be it one large monitor or dual monitor setup. Also, you need to consider the right pair of keyboard and mouse, obviously, they come built it with laptops, though you can’t play most games on a trackpad.
Laptop has the portability advantage, but do you often play games on the road? If you’re a LAN party hopper (which is a very little fraction of gamers) then a gaming laptop is for you.
For the rest of gamers out there, the power, stability, optimized performance and upgradeability of desktop is still the best choice.
(image from TheWitcher.com)
With all these factors considered, we can definitely say that laptops have made extensive gains in the past couple of years, and it is definitely hard to ignore their potential in the eyes of most users. For most discerning gamers however gamers however, like those who want to run The Witcher 3 at maximum graphics in a 32-inch 4K monitor set at full resolution, the desktop is still the best option.
But if you want to play a couple of games of DOTA 2 at the airport while waiting for your flight, then a modern gaming laptop will handle the task. Also, laptops have come a long way, and it’s hard to dismiss them too fast. The emergence of SSD for example, meant huge improvements for laptop gaming.
At the end of the day, it is all about how important is portability for your everyday life, and the types of games and their titles you often play.
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