If you’ve decided to invest in a gaming system, your first major choice comes down to the age-old debate between gaming laptop and desktop. The best gaming laptops are proving to be serious competition even for the best gaming PCs these days, while previous generations offered a clear cut decision, today’s market is a bit fuzzier.
Ultimately, the judgment between gaming laptop and desktop comes down to how you’ll use your machine – 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, expandability, and value for money of these systems can prove instructive for those who don’t have such an easy decision to make.
That’s why we’re rounding up all the differences between gaming laptops and gaming desktops here, as well as who should invest in each. We’ve evaluated the current selection based on price, component availability, under-the-hood performance, and the level of customization on offer, so you can make the right choice for your setup.
Gaming Laptops vs Desktops at a Glance
- No additional purchase necessary
- Can replace a working machine
- More powerful components
Pre-built gaming desktops are generally cheaper than gaming laptops, due to the fact that you’re not spending money on battery power, display performance, and that portable form factor. Based on a direct power comparison, a gaming desktop will perform better for the price.
However, you will need to factor in additional costs for a gaming monitor, mouse, and gaming keyboard. Although many gaming laptop owners invest in these accessories, they aren’t necessary right out of the box. (although a gaming mouse is a must, as there’s no gaming on a trackpad after all). That means a $1,500 gaming desktop might end up costing closer to $2,000 once you have all your AV gear in place – something you don’t need to immediately factor into buying a laptop.
Similarly, building your own PC is going to come with its own cost challenges. The last few years have taught us that upgraders are at the mercy of the market when it comes to components. GPU prices have increased dramatically over the past couple of years, and that’s when stock is even available. The overall cost of your build can far exceed the value contained in your components here, meaning that key upgrade you’ve been saving up for can quickly be out of reach.
It’s also worth noting that a gaming laptop’s portability can be a big factor in price. These machines aren’t just limited to the home, meaning they can also easily double as work machines on the go, potentially cutting an extra cost out of the equation if you’re looking for an all-in-one machine. a. .
Overall, then, a pre-built gaming PC will likely offer the best value, a gaming laptop will offer solid value thanks to its all-in-one flexible design, and a DIY PC will likely require considerable work to be profitable. Once you factor in cheap gaming laptop deals and gaming PC deals, those savings can multiply, too.
The performance differences between gaming laptops and gaming desktops are certainly less pronounced than before. Desktop PCs certainly stretch right ahead – they’re able to offer high-end components without having to sacrifice other laptop features like form factor and battery. However, when it comes to entry-level and mid-range, things get a bit muddy.
Gaming desktops have more space for more powerful components than gaming laptops. CPU models without breaking the bank. In contrast, gaming laptop brands need to consider weight, battery, temperature, and form factor when selecting these components, which means you’re less likely to find high tech. of range in these small devices – we’re talking about Nvidia’s RTX 3090 and 3080 Ti GPU, for example.
Sure, better components mean better performance right out of the box, but gaming PCs can get the most out of this technology too. With larger power supplies and more sophisticated cooling technology, your PC will run high-end specs much better when also in desktop form factor.
Still, gaming laptops are certainly catching up, with the best Alienware laptops offering incredibly efficient systems that can dramatically narrow the gap between a high-end laptop and a mid-range PC.
Plus, performance will only factor into your gaming laptop vs. desktop decision if you’re shopping at the higher end of the price range. Otherwise, in the mid-range and entry-level brackets, there will be less of a noticeable difference aside from cooling.
Of course, if you’re looking for a long-term investment (and given some of the more high-end price tags, we hope you are), gaming desktops have one major advantage over laptops. : scalability and customization. Very few gaming laptops come with the ability to swap out components, and those that certainly charge you for the luxury. Some models will let you upgrade to the best RAM for gaming or swap out one of the best SSDs here and there, but that’s still a relative rarity.
In contrast, many gaming PCs are designed to be upgraded. You get the freedom to swap parts to ensure your rig is running the latest components, making it a much better long-term solution. Not only that, but you will also be able to customize the cooling and RGB features of your tower.
It’s a feature that gaming laptops simply can’t compete with. With their processors and GPUs firmly attached to the motherboard, you’re buying a rig that will only run at peak performance for so long.
However, all of this talk of upgrading and high-end components must come with a caveat about availability. The best graphics cards are incredibly hard to find right now, especially at MSRP. RTX 3080 stock, for example, is currently sitting well over $1,000, and RTX 3070 stock is also pushing that price right now. This is where pre-built gaming desktops take a serious hit – it’s just not justifiable to spend that kind of money on commodity components when gaming desktops and laptops pre-built offer the same performance for a fraction of the cost.
Pre-built gaming desktops and laptops can offer these hard-to-find GPUs at much better prices because they’re not facing a scalping market. Not only that, but you’ll regularly see discounts on RTX 3070 laptop deals and RTX 3080 laptop deals that can still deliver high-end performance at a particularly competitive price.
- Winner: Tie (pre-built desktops and laptops)
Gaming Laptop vs Desktop: Which Should You Buy?
Overall, your decision between a gaming laptop and a gaming desktop will come down to how you want to use your machine. If you already have a ready and waiting setup of a tower PC, for example, it makes sense to save some cash and get a pre-built desktop. However, if you’re on the go regularly and don’t mind missing out on the high end of the market, a gaming laptop will be much better suited for your day-to-day use. Below is a quick breakdown of the gaming laptop and desktop PC market.
Buy a gaming laptop if you:
Buy a gaming PC if you:
For more of the best platforms, we recommend checking out the best Alienware PCs and the best razer laptops. Or, for discounts on entry-level models, check out the latest RTX 3050 Laptop Deals and RTX 3060 laptop deals.