Gaming PC vs Gaming Laptop: Which Should You Buy?

By | November 29, 2022

You’re ready to buy new gaming hardware. But, should you choose a gaming PC or a gaming laptop?


There are significant benefits to each option, but also disadvantages. So which one should you choose?


5 Key Differences Between a Gaming Laptop and a Gaming PC

There are five main differences between gaming laptops and gaming PCs:

  • Equipment and Resources
  • game performance
  • upgrade options
  • Portability and space requirements
  • Cost

It’s a dilemma every gamer faces when it comes time to upgrade their gaming hardware. A gaming laptop is obviously more portable than a gaming PC, but does it offer the same performance? Is a gaming PC more upgradeable than a gaming laptop, but will it cost more than a gaming laptop in the long run?

With these questions in mind, let’s take a look at the top five differences between a gaming PC and a gaming laptop and find out which one you should buy.

1. Equipment and Resources

Gaming laptops and gaming PCs are actually more similar than you might think when it comes to equipment and features. Interestingly, the biggest difference is in your initial experience.

When you buy a gaming laptop, it comes with everything you need. You go online or to your local PC hardware store, choose a gaming laptop, and it comes with all the bells and whistles, including a webcam, built-in speakers, Wi-Fi card, battery, and so on.

When it comes to gaming PC, you will have to choose from more variables. A gaming PC is almost infinitely customizable (which we’ll explore later) – but you also need more peripheral hardware to make it work. For example, you will need a keyboard and a mouse as a minimum. So you might want a microphone to talk to people and a webcam if you want to be seen. So what about the audio? You will need speakers. The list can quickly expand.

2. Game performance

Next, what gives better gaming performance: a gaming laptop or a gaming PC?

Usually gaming PC will beat gaming laptop if you compare equal hardware. That’s because while you might read about the same hardware in the product listing for a gaming PC and a gaming laptop, there are differences in features between the two.

For example, a laptop GPU is not the same as a discrete desktop GPU. The laptop’s GPU is likely limited to thermal control, which like it or not, has a knock-on effect on game performance. It’s a similar story for laptop CPUs. Adding powerful hardware to a confined space will always result in compromises, and unfortunately, gaming performance suffers.

The best way to see these differences is in the following video comparing an Nvidia RTX 3080 on a desktop and an RTX 3080 on a laptop.

Jarrod’s Tech also compared the RTX 3070 on a desktop and a laptop, coming to the same conclusion.

You see, a gaming PC running the same hardware as a gaming laptop will always win.

Now is this a problem? Probably not for most people. If you’re still pulling 120FPS in Call of Duty Warzone on your gaming laptop, you’re unlikely to mind a few missing frames per second.

3. Upgrade options

Gaming performance brings us directly to another key difference between a gaming laptop and a gaming PC: upgrade options.

Simply put, upgrading a gaming laptop is next to impossible in most cases. You certainly won’t be upgrading the CPU or GPU, the two key components behind a gaming laptop experience. Modular laptop designs exist, but they aren’t typically focused on building gaming laptops (at least, not yet).

On some gaming laptops, you’ll have the option of installing faster RAM or a faster storage device, such as an M.2 SSD. But that will be the absolute limit of what you can upgrade in a gaming laptop. Gaming laptop manufacturers spend a lot of time simplifying their designs and making sure they are efficient at transferring heat out of the case and they don’t want end users to do anything that could compromise that design, even if you do with the best intentions. 🇧🇷

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close with a pc ram
Image credit: borevina/Shutterstock

When it comes to upgrading a gaming PC, you’re only limited by your budget and past PC build decisions. What we mean here is that you can decide to upgrade your existing hardware to a faster CPU. If that’s the case, you’re limited by the CPU socket on your motherboard, which determines the generation of CPU you can install. For example, when AMD releases its new AM5 socket, it will not be compatible with older AM4 CPUs. This may lead some to upgrade from AM4 to AM5, but you will also need a new AM5 compatible motherboard.

In that, it’s a similar story for your system’s RAM. You can upgrade your memory, but you will be restricted to whatever type of memory your motherboard supports, be it DDR3, DDR4 or DDR5.

You may have noticed one hardware feature popping up more than most: the motherboard. As the motherboard connects all of your PC’s hardware together to make your gaming PC work, it is the heart of any gaming machine. If you feel like your gaming PC is getting old, you can swap out the motherboard and potentially save bits of your older gaming machine for your new build.

A gaming PC is infinitely more upgradable than a gaming laptop and will remain so until modular laptops catch up in earnest.

4. Portability and Space Requirements

Just as there was only one clear winner in the upgrade section, there is only one clear winner in the porting section. One of the driving forces behind the popularity of gaming laptops is their portability. Who wants to walk away from their gaming rig at the end of a weekend when you can pick it up, throw it in your bag and take it with you?

While some gaming laptops are beefier to accommodate more hardware and better cooling, the overall footprint of a gaming laptop is smaller than most gaming PCs.

In terms of space requirements, it really is an interesting comparison. Sure, a gaming PC case will take up more space overall, but for most people, the tower is under a desk or similar, and the only thing in front of you is your mechanical gaming keyboard and a gaming mouse. Not forgetting your monitors, of course.

A gaming laptop takes up less space, but you can hook it up to a secondary monitor, use a USB keyboard, a gaming mouse, extra speakers, and so on, so the comparison between a gaming PC and a laptop for games in terms of space is not completely clear.

But yes, when it comes to portability, a gaming laptop hands down the win.

5. Cost and Value

The final comparison category is cost and value. What costs more: a gaming laptop or a gaming PC?

Typically, a gaming desktop will cost less than a comparable gaming laptop. There are two main factors behind this.

First, a gaming desktop doesn’t require as much development and simplification as a gaming laptop. A gaming laptop manufacturer needs to design and package everything in a single portable case, ensuring it doesn’t overheat and still works properly.

Second, while this is related to upgradability, a laptop’s performance will lag behind as it ages. For starters, it’s also not helped by a performance deficit in gaming desktops, further reducing the long-term value of a gaming laptop.

When it comes to cost and value, a gaming desktop is often the better option.

Gaming Desktop Versus Gaming Laptop: Which Should You Choose?

The biggest factor that will sway your decision between a gaming laptop and a gaming PC will be portability. If you’re not regularly sitting at the same desk in your home, move regularly to work, school or otherwise, or just want the extra freedom that comes with a gaming laptop, you’re likely to feel that the extra cost is an investment worth noting. worth it.

On the other hand, if you play at home, don’t need to move around, and want extra value and customization options, a gaming desktop is the right option for you.

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