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Gaming Laptop vs. Desktop: Which Should You Choose?

Gaming Laptop vs. Desktop: Which Should You Choose? - Article

by Craig Snow , posted on 24 February 2021 / 5,190 Views

The following is a guest editorial.

Gaming rigs aren’t 'one rig fits all'. Some prefer a no-compromise full tower PC complete with the latest graphics card, high refresh rate monitors, and a top-of-the-line mechanical keyboard, while others might prefer a minimalistic gaming laptop that can be carried around easily. Due to continuous technological breakthroughs in the computer hardware department we’ve reached a point where you can have almost the same level of performance no matter which side you choose.

Investing in a gaming rig is a big deal as it’s expensive and not everyone can invest up to a grand every few years. So it's important to do your research and make an informed decision. If you're new to PC gaming then here’s a list of factors that you should consider before investing in a gaming rig.



The best gaming laptop packs powerful hardware into a lightweight and small form factor which makes it the perfect choice for gaming on the go. In contrast, most desktops are designed to maintain a proper airflow to make sure your PC components don't thermal throttle due to poor ventilation, and because of this they're large in size and relatively heavy in weight.

You can find some small form factor gaming PCs that are almost the same size as a modern gaming console (PS5 and Xbox Series X), but even these don't provide the same level of portability as a gaming laptop. One other thing the best gaming laptops come with is a high capacity battery that lets you play your favourite games on the go even if you don’t have a power outlet nearby, while desktops have nothing of that sort.



This is one area where a gaming desktop easily annihilates its competition. Desktops are highly upgradable; if you're not happy with the performance of any of your components then you can easily switch them with something else, but you do need to make sure you're using compatible components.

Gaming laptops let you upgrade some of their internal components as well, including RAM, HDD, and SSD, but they don't let you upgrade their CPUs or GPUs because the coolers are designed according to each laptop's specific configuration. The best gaming laptops do however come with a workaround to upgrade your GPU by using an external graphics card enclosure, as long as you have a Thunderbolt 3 port or better. Still, gaming desktop PCs win this round with ease.



Gamers tend to customize their gaming PCs according to a particular theme. Both gaming laptops as well as gaming desktops let you customize them in some way or another, including with custom skins to make them look good. Laptop skins are pretty cheap and can easily be applied to your machine to match any theme you have in mind.

Most laptops also come with fully customizable RGB keyboards, and you can even install custom keycaps to the keyboard to make it look even more appealing. Desktop PCs meanwhile let you flaunt the internal components with the goodness of RGB lighting installed in a custom made or clear PC cabinet that can light up with the click of a button. You can even buy components to match a particular colour scheme or get them painted by a professional, although the latter can be costly.



There was a time when laptops didn’t hold a candle to desktops in terms of performance. Earlier gaming laptops were haunted by poor cooling solutions, which severely limited their performance levels, but luckily this isn’t the case anymore.

The best gaming laptops nowadays come with hardware configurations that give even their desktop counterparts a run for their money. This perfectly illustrates the strides made for laptops in the cooling department in recent years.

So when it comes to performance you can opt for either and still play your favourite games with the graphical quality cranked up to ultra.



It's hard to directly compare the costs of gaming laptops to desktops because you can make endless PC component combinations. But if you compare a gaming laptop to a desktop with the same configuration you'll see that there’s actually not much difference.

Desktop PCs let you save a buck or two by buying a budget cabinet, entry-level motherboard, and skipping on that RGB goodness. Laptops don’t allow for those sorts of cost saving measures, but you can still get them at prices that are significantly lower than comparative gaming desktops in sales and by timing your purchase right.


When it comes down to a gaming laptop vs a gaming desktop there’s no right answer. If you're looking for a PC that lets you game on the go and takes little-to-no space on your desk then you should go with a gaming laptop. But if you don’t mind losing out on portability in order to guarantee future upgradability then a gaming desktop PC is your best bet. No matter which one you choose, both will let you enjoy your favourite games without a sweat, and on a much more modest budget than you might expect.

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Cerebralbore101 (on 25 February 2021)

A gaming desktop is cheaper, more powerful, and easier to repair/upgrade. The Tom's Hardware article you linked to tries to claim that a desktop is just as expensive if you add in the cost of a monitor and other peripherals. That argument ignores potential extra costs of getting a laptop, once its time to upgrade or do repairs. Repairing a broken laptop, or buying a completely new one instead of simply upgrading your GPU is far more expensive than building a tower.

At the pace that new GPUs come out these days, I'm far happier with my tower, since I know I can just get a new GPU and be at the cutting edge.

  • +5
Nettles (on 25 February 2021)

desktop is better but laptop has the advantage of being able to continue playing during power outages

  • +4
INCITATUSBR (on 24 February 2021)

well written!
my opinion is that desktop is for those who spend a lot of time playing games and like to worry about the hardware,
and laptop follows the inverse logic.

  • +4
Bofferbrauer2 INCITATUSBR (on 24 February 2021)

It also depends on use case. I needed to bring my computer around a lot, so I had to opt for a laptop.

Now I'm training to become a full-stack web developer, and having 2 screens trump mobility by a longshot here, so next will be a desktop again.

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TheBraveGallade (on 24 February 2021)

if you don't care that much about 4K and are fine at gaming at 1080p 60FPS, a gaming laptop that can do that is cheaper then most expect.

  • +1
xMetroid (on 24 February 2021)

That is a great article, thanks !

  • 0