Gaming laptops vs. desktops: which must you purchase in 2024?

The HP Omen 16 gaming laptop on a desk.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Picking between a gaming laptop and a desktop is commonly fairly simple: You both want the portability otherwise you don’t. But in the event you’re superb with or with out it, then what’s the most suitable choice?

Even when outfitted with the identical mannequin of graphics card and processor, laptops and desktops are vastly completely different. We’ll inform you the whole lot you want to know to decide on the one which fits you greatest.

Gaming laptop computer vs. desktop at a look

A gaming PC with RGB synced lights running Apex Legends.
Kunal Khullar / Digital Trends

The distinction between a gaming laptop computer and a desktop is obvious at a look: One comes with the whole lot built-in and is predicted to be plug-and-play, and the opposite one most definitely doesn’t. Instead of stating the apparent, let’s go over the important thing facets of every.

Gaming laptop computer

  • Includes a display screen, touchpad, and keyboard
  • Comes with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Lightweight and transportable
  • Includes a battery, though you could not be capable of sport a lot with out being plugged in
  • Upgradeability is proscribed or non-existent
  • Not as customizable as a desktop

Gaming desktop

  • You could have to decide on your individual elements (however you can even purchase a prebuilt)
  • All the peripherals have to be purchased individually
  • May have built-in Wi-Fi entry, however that will depend on your {hardware}
  • Often extra able to overclocking and has a better efficiency ceiling with comparable {hardware}
  • May be cheaper, particularly if constructed {custom}, however this isn’t common

Get your weekly teardown of the tech behind PC gaming

Below, we’ll discover every of the above factors in additional element and see how this laptop computer versus desktop showdown performs out.


Lenovo Legion 9i front view showing RGB lighting.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Pitting laptops towards desktops on this explicit class is sort of unfair, however that is additionally one of many best advantages of utilizing a gaming pocket book — portability.

A gaming desktop can weigh from 15 kilos to upward of fifty kilos, so except you need to skip the gymnasium and carry your PC in all places, it’s going to be planted in a single location and one location solely. Even in the event you’re not against lugging a heavy-yet-fragile chassis round, it’s a must to understand that your desktop gained’t work with out all of the cabling, an outlet (or three), a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse.

There are alternate options, although. Mini PCs, such because the Intel NUC or a custom-built small form factor PC with a mini-ITX motherboard, can function a midway level between a desktop and a laptop computer. However, they nonetheless want a display screen and peripherals, in order that they’re not fairly pretty much as good as a laptop computer in that regard.

Laptops are the undisputed winners on this class. A laptop computer, as soon as charged, can run for a number of hours with no need to be plugged in, and in the event you actually need to, you may skip all of the peripherals and simply use your laptop computer as is. For work and leisure, this may suffice — however for gaming functions, it’s not as black and white as that.

Laptop battery life relies upon not solely on the mannequin you select but in addition on the video games you play and the ability mode that you simply’re operating. Playing an indie in your common gaming laptop computer gained’t drain the battery too rapidly and will give you an honest gaming expertise, however in the event you’re extra into AAA titles, it’s a must to be ready to remain plugged in more often than not, each for the sake of battery and for the sake of efficiency. In addition, true gaming laptops are sometimes on the larger aspect and may be fairly heavy when in comparison with ultrabooks.

When it involves peripherals, many individuals just do superb with the built-in laptop computer keyboard, and a much bigger monitor is elective. However, gaming on a touchpad is sort of certain to finish up in frustration, so that you’ll nonetheless want a mouse.

Even if not at all times the right resolution, laptops are the one option to comfortably sport on the go, in order that they win this spherical with ease. Gaming handhelds just like the Asus ROG Ally are a current various, however they will by no means exchange a laptop computer; gaming tablets or 2-in-1 laptops just like the Asus ROG Flow Z13 are there to fill the hole.


The Falcon Northwest Tiki gaming PC.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

As a normal rule of thumb, you may often get a greater or comparable desktop for lower than you would need to pay for a laptop computer. This is very true on the mid to high-end aspect of the spectrum. You can usually get a budget gaming laptop at a decrease price than a desktop, however that laptop computer will seemingly provide worse efficiency than a desktop would. It’s arduous to make blanket statements right here because it all comes right down to the precise mannequin you’re shopping for.

If you try our listing of the best gaming laptops, there are alternatives as low-cost as $700 that do the job, and in the event you’re solely into indies and oldies and don’t want a discrete graphics card, you possibly can in all probability get a laptop computer for as little as $500. Modern built-in GPUs may be surprisingly good.

On the opposite hand, high-end gaming laptops have a tendency to return with a premium. Take the Lenovo Legion 9i, for example, which is an excellent laptop computer that acquired a really uncommon 10-out-of-10 score in our evaluation. Equipped with an RTX 4090 and a Thirteenth-Gen Intel CPU, the gaming beast prices at the very least $3,400 proper now. Meanwhile, an Alienware Aurora R16 with an RTX 4090 and an Intel Core i9-14900F prices $2,800.

The worth may be introduced additional down if, as a substitute of shopping for a prebuilt gaming desktop, you construct your individual. Being capable of combine and match elements usually makes for a greater PC and tends to supply higher worth. Read extra on that in our prebuilt versus custom PC guide.

Across budgets large and small, gaming laptops are often barely worse worth than desktops. Custom-built PCs provide the most effective worth for the cash, however they embody the trouble of building a PC from scratch. Prebuilts and gaming laptops are pretty related in worth, though budget-conscious patrons ought to nonetheless favor desktops.


Alienware Aurora seen from the side with a panel open
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Performance between gaming laptops and desktops varies relying on the mannequin and the value vary. It’s unattainable to supply an apples-to-apples comparability, however we will clear up some misconceptions and speak about approximates.

It’s solely doable to purchase a laptop computer that has the identical core elements as a desktop, reminiscent of the identical GPU mannequin or the identical (or related) CPU. You’ll discover laptops with Nvidia’s RTX 4060s in addition to fashions with an RTX 4090. However, it’s vital to notice that these graphics playing cards usually are not the very same factor as their desktop counterparts. They usually function decrease clock speeds and fewer cores, to not point out a lot decrease energy necessities, which translate to worse efficiency.

Take the RTX 4090 for example. The desktop model made by Nvidia comes with 16,384 CUDA cores, 24GB of VRAM throughout a 384-bit reminiscence bus, and a TDP of 450 watts. Meanwhile, the cellular model solely options 9,728 cores, 16GB VRAM, a 256-bit reminiscence interface, and a TDP of 120 watts. That’s nonetheless a really highly effective GPU, however it’s outpaced by the RTX 4080 Super, whereas the desktop RTX 4090 is considerably quicker. These spec variations stay true no matter whether or not you’re shopping for a price range laptop computer or an fanatic mannequin. Mobile GPUs and CPUs have completely different specs due to the a lot smaller kind issue of a laptop computer.

As a consequence, in the event you spend $1,500 on a desktop versus $1,500 on a laptop computer with related specs, you’ll virtually at all times get extra juice out of the desktop. Even in the event you had a vast price range to spend on a laptop computer, shopping for a desktop as a substitute would get you extra efficiency, because the elements in laptops merely aren’t fairly as succesful.

With that stated, gaming laptops may be superb and completely ample even for AAA gaming, together with titles like Cyberpunk 2077.

Efficiency and thermals

A Razer Blade 14 gaming laptop on a coffee table.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Gaming desktops have an enormous edge over laptops within the type of airflow. As laptops are made thinner annually, the elements are squeezed collectively in new methods — however the much less room there may be within the chassis, the extra the laptop computer would possibly battle.

Desktops, with their large towers, give your elements much more room to breathe. You can stack case followers, use a strong CPU cooler, and even spend money on a liquid cooling setup. Liquid cooling in laptops isn’t unparalleled — for example, the aforementioned Lenovo Legion 9i sports activities such a system — however it’s far much less frequent than utilizing followers.

Some gaming laptops could heat up beyond what’s reasonable, however in the event you store rigorously, it’s best to be capable of keep away from these fashions and discover one thing that may deal with the warmth. However, noise will at all times be an element. As there’s no area for a number of enormous followers, the slim followers which are utilized in laptops must work time beyond regulation always. That usually makes them fairly noisy.

As talked about, gaming laptops could not provide the best battery effectivity. High-end fashions have a tendency to remain plugged in, a lot in order that many reviewers don’t pay a substantial amount of consideration to battery life as a result of it’s type of anticipated that you simply’ll have entry to an outlet. With that stated, it’s not like you may by no means sport on the go — it’s simply that these optimistic estimates supplied by some producers that declare you are able to do so for a number of hours on finish aren’t at all times true.

Premium laptops that devour extra energy are additionally likelier to finish up plugged in additional usually. Circling again to the Lenovo Legion 9i, the highly effective laptop computer solely lasted two and a half hours in our web-browsing take a look at. It’s not a shock, although. Laptops like that feed on electrical energy prefer it’s sweet, typically consuming 200 to 300 watts or extra when operating heavy workloads. On the opposite hand, budget-oriented laptops with much less beefy GPUs have a tendency to make use of up a lot much less electrical energy, saving cash and battery life.

A desktop will just about at all times use extra electrical energy, which performs into its capacity to ship higher efficiency. However, do not forget that the ability consumption will depend on what your PC is at present doing — having a 1,200-watt energy provide doesn’t imply that your PC will at all times devour that a lot energy.


All the components for building a PC ready to go.
Digital Trends

Upgradeability — or quite, lack thereof — in laptops is a sizzling subject as of late. Some rare laptops offer upgradeability, however as a rule, your choices are restricted to storage and RAM, and that’s in the event you’re fortunate.

Soldering RAM to the motherboard is a rising pattern that many avid gamers aren’t comfortable about. Laptops such because the Dell XPS 14 or the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, whereas each made for avid gamers, don’t embody upgradable reminiscence anymore. This was a given in gaming laptops, however as notebooks get thinner and thinner, producers commerce upgradability for a lighter chassis. Bigger gaming laptops virtually at all times allow you to improve RAM in the event you want to, and storage upgrades are frequent, too.

A desktop PC is as upgradable because it will get. If you need to, you may swap out each element over time. There are some limitations, such because the motherboard socket limiting you to a sure lineup of processors, however motherboards may be swapped too.

The exception to the rule lies in prebuilts. Manufacturers typically don’t enable upgrades, be it via voiding the guarantee or by together with custom-made elements which are arduous to interchange.

Which one must you purchase?

Lenovo Legion Tower 7i gaming PC sitting on a table.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The harsh actuality of buying a gaming laptop versus shopping for a desktop is that there’s no “better” or “worse.” It all comes right down to what you want out of your laptop. If you need one thing transportable, a laptop computer continues to be the most suitable choice with out a query. However, if portability is much less of a difficulty, a desktop could usually be the higher buy.

Desktops have a tendency to supply higher worth for the cash, higher thermals, and upgradability. On the opposite hand, constructing a {custom} PC means needing to take a position a while into analysis and probably constructing it your self. You additionally must think about the price of a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. When including up the tower and the peripherals, desktops and laptops are a lot nearer in worth than they appear. Between a laptop computer, a prebuilt PC, and a {custom} PC, the latter could provide the most effective worth, however that’s not a common reality.

When procuring, take into consideration how a lot you want the portability a laptop computer can present. Everything else is a secondary selection on this comparability, and the winner will depend on your price range, the kind of PC you’re shopping for, and the mannequin.

Editors’ Recommendations



About Author

You may also like


Take a Look Back on the Most Absurd Carpet Ever

  • July 16, 2022
There are many variations of passages of Lorem Ipsum available but the majority have suffered alteration in that some injected

Will The Demo Crats Be Able To Online Gambling Ban Done!

  • July 20, 2022
There are many variations of passages of Lorem Ipsum available but the majority have suffered alteration in that some injected