If you decide to invest in a gaming system, your first major choice goes back to the age-old debate between laptop and desktop computers. The best gaming laptops prove serious competition to even the best gaming PCs these days, so while previous generations made a clear decision, today’s market is a lot more murky.
Ultimately, the verdict on gaming laptop versus desktop comes down to how you use your device — after all, if you know you need to take your system on the go, your choice is already made. However, diving a little deeper into the performance, upgradeability and value for money in these systems can be beneficial for those who don’t have such an easy decision on their hands.
That’s why we’re collecting all the differences between gaming laptops and gaming desktops here, as well as who should invest in each one. We’ve evaluated the current selection based on pricing, component availability, under-the-hood performance, and the level of customization offered, so you can make the right call for your setup.
Gaming laptops vs desktops at a glance
- No additional purchases necessary
- Can stand on working machine
- More powerful components
Gaming desktops are Generally Cheaper than gaming laptops, due to the fact that you don’t spend money on battery power, screen performance, and that portable form factor. With a straightforward strength comparison, then, a gaming desktop will perform at a better value for money.
However, you will need to factor in the additional costs of a gaming monitor, mouse, and gaming keyboard. While many gaming laptop owners invest in these accessories, they aren’t required straight out of the box (although a gaming mouse is essential, as there’s no triggering on a trackpad after all). This means that your $1,500 gaming desktop could end up being close to $2,000 once all the audio-visual equipment is in place — something you don’t need to include in your laptop purchase right away.
Likewise, building your own computer will come with its own cost challenges. The past few years have taught us that developers are at the mercy of the market when it comes to components. GPU prices have skyrocketed in the last couple of years, which is when stock is available. The total cost of your hardware can far exceed the value packed into your components here, which means that the switch upgrade you’ve been saving can quickly be out of reach.
It is also worth noting that the portability of a gaming laptop can greatly affect the price. These machines aren’t limited to the home, which means they can easily double as work machines on the go, which may take the extra cost out of the equation if you’re looking for an all-in-one.
Overall, then, a pre-built gaming PC is likely to offer the best bang for the buck, a gaming laptop will provide solid value with its integrated and flexible design, and a handcrafted PC will likely require a great deal of work to be cost-effective . Once you take into account gaming laptop deals and gaming PC deals, those savings can multiply as well.
The performance differences between gaming laptops and gaming desktops are certainly less noticeable than they used to be. Desktops certainly go straight ahead – they’re able to offer high-quality components without having to sacrifice other laptop features like form factor and battery. However, when it comes to the entry level and mid-range segment, things get more complicated.
Gaming desktops have more room for more powerful components than gaming laptops. This means manufacturers can use high-quality hardware under the hood, raising GPU specifications and flattening CPU models without breaking the bank. By contrast, gaming laptop brands need to consider weight, battery, temperature, and form factor when choosing these components, which means you’re unlikely to find the best technology in these smaller hardware — we’re talking about Nvidia’s RTX 3090 and 3080 Ti. GPU, for example.
Of course, better components mean better performance right out of the box, but gaming PCs can also get the best out of this technology as well. With larger power supplies and more sophisticated cooling technology, your PC will run high-end specs much better when it’s in a desktop format as well.
However, gaming laptops are still catching up, with the best Alienware laptops offering incredibly efficient systems that can pretty much bridge the gap between a high-end laptop and a mid-range PC.
Additionally, performance will only affect your gaming laptop versus desktop resolution if you shop right at the higher end of the price range. Otherwise, in the mid-level and entry-level brackets, there will be a noticeable difference apart from cooling.
Of course, if you’re looking for a long-term investment (considering some high-end price tags, we hope you are), gaming desktops have one major advantage over laptops – the ability to upgrade and customize. Very few gaming laptops ship with the ability to swap components, and the ones that definitely charge you for luxury. Some models will let you upgrade to the best gaming RAM or replace it with one of the best SSDs here and there, but that’s still relatively rare.
By contrast, many gaming PCs are designed to be upgraded. You are free to switch parts in and out to ensure your machine runs the latest components, making for a better solution in the long run. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to customize your tower’s cooling and RGB features as well.
This is a feature that gaming laptops can’t compete with. With CPUs and fixed GPUs on the motherboard, you’re buying a machine that’s only running at peak performance for a long time.
All this talk of an upgrade and high-end components should come with an availability warning, though. It’s hard to find the best graphics cards right now, especially at MSRP. For example, the RTX 3080 stock is currently standing at over $1,000, and the RTX 3070 stock is pushing that price point right now as well. This is where pre-engineered gaming desktops take a hit – spending that kind of cash on core components isn’t justified when gaming desktops and laptops offer the same performance for a fraction of the cost.
Both gaming desktops and laptops can offer hard-to-find GPUs for much better prices, as they don’t have an exploited market. Not only that, but you’ll regularly see discounts on RTX 3070 laptop deals and RTX 3080 laptop deals that still offer high-end performance at an especially competitive price.
- Winner: Tie (Pre-built Desktops and Notebooks)
Gaming Laptop vs Desktop PC: Which Should You Buy?
In general, your decision between a gaming laptop and a gaming desktop will depend on how you want to use your device. If you already have a setup ready and are waiting for a tower computer, for example, it makes sense to save some cash and get a pre-built desktop. However, if you are a regular on the go and don’t mind losing out on the top of the market, then a gaming laptop will fit better in your everyday use. Below you will find a quick breakdown of gaming laptops versus the desktop market.
Buy a gaming laptop if you:
Buy a gaming desktop if you:
For more of the best excavators, we recommend checking out Best Alienware Computers and the Best Razer Laptops. Or, for discounts on entry level models, check out the latest RTX 3050 Laptop Deals And the RTX 3060 Laptop Deals.