If you are a serious gamer, you want the best gaming experience possible.
For that, you’re going to need a computer that’s up to the task.
So, does that mean that you should go out and buy a beefed-up gaming PC?
Or can you get the job done with a gaming laptop?
In this article, we discuss the differences between a gaming PC and a gaming laptop to allow you to make the right choice.
- 1 In a Nutshell
- 2 Gaming Laptop Pros
- 3 Gaming Laptop Cons
- 4 Gaming PC Pros
- 5 Gaming PC Cons
- 6 Q & A
- 7 Conclusion
In a Nutshell
When you take everything into account a gaming PC will provide you with a better gaming experience than a gaming laptop.
A PC will give you more power, more performance, greater gaming life, and a far better visual experience. However, it lacks the portability of a gaming laptop.
Keeping in mind the very short battery life of a gaming laptop, however, a PC is going to be far less frustrating.
So, for serious gamers, its PC all the way!
Gaming Laptop Pros
Laptops were created for convenience in order to overcome the bulkiness and permanence of a desktop computer.
That’s a huge advantage when it comes to gaming.
You can take it over to your friend’s place, play on the couch and enjoy the experience with no hassles whatsoever.
Imagine trying to do that with a PC.
You’d be carrying around this huge box, along with the monitor and then have to set the whole thing up. It would be a nightmare!
Gaming Laptop Cons
Compared to ordinary laptops, gaming laptops are thick and heavy.
In fact, lugging around a gaming laptop is pretty much like having a brick at your side.
While it’s true that the Razorblade gaming pc is about as thin as a MacBook Air, you have to sacrifice some serious firepower for that slimness.
It doesn’t have the power to allow you to play hardcore games for very long.
When you fire it up and start gaming it will heat up and start slowing down.
So, to get a decent level of functionality from your gaming laptop, it needs to be big and it needs to be relatively heavy. That is a pain as far as portability and convenience go.
Poor Battery Life
Battery life on a gaming laptop is generally very poor.
How poor? If you’re playing a high spec game, you could be completely out of gas in 15-30 minutes! That’s it.
Now, you are clearly going to want to be playing for more than a measly half-hour, right?
So from that point on you are going to have to rely on a wall power connection.
That then tethers you to the wall, whch is the very thing that a laptop is supposed to free you from in the first place.
The screen size on a gaming laptop is always going to come up short in comparison to a PC.
Most gaming laptops provide you with a screen between 13-15 inch range.
Of course you can always hook it up to an external monitor with a mouse and keyboard.
But if you are going to do that, why not just get a PC and be done with it?
Gaming PC Pros
A gaming PC is upgradable to whatever extent you wish.
If you need more memory, you can upgrade the RAM.
If you need another graphics card, you simply put it in. You can even bridge two graphics cards to give you double the power to your monitor.
The beauty of this unlimited upgradeability is that you can start out with a very basic gaming PC that you can pick up at a budget price and then upgrade as your gaming experience grows.
Just make sure that you are getting a decent CPU and motherboard that will allow for proper expandability.
Video games are built to be played on PCs.
So when you play the game on a gaming PC you are getting the actual genuine performance out of the game.
However, when you play on a laptop, you are getting the mobile version. That will never be as good as the real thing.
Laptops supply you with a mobile processor and a mobile graphics card. It is nowhere near as good as the desktop version.
Gaming PC Cons
The most obvious and biggest disadvantage of a gaming PC is that it has absolutely no portability.
It’s enough of a hassle taking down and setting up your PC when you move house; you certainly wouldn’t want to do it to be able to play games at your friend’s house.
Gaming PCs are pretty big units. They take up quite a bit of real estate on your desk.
That can be a real hassle, especially if you have got a confined living space.
Q & A
What are the unique gaming requirements of a gaming PC or laptop?
Gaming is going to take a lot more out of your computer than everyday computer functions.
A laptop is essentially a mono version of a PC. It is able to do (or at least can be adapted to do) anything that you can do on a desktop computer.
The original idea for the laptop computer was to bring together all of the different component parts of a PC – the CPU, the monitor, the keyboard and the mouse – into a convenient little package that you can sit on your lap (hence the name).
A gaming device will require a more powerful CPU, graphics card, RAM, audio system, and heat transfer capability.
Can a gaming laptop be upgraded to match a PC?
You can play most games on a laptop.
However, there is a difference between playing the game and playing the game at speed, volume, and clarity that is equal to or even surpasses the capabilities of a PC. It sounds like an impossible task, right?
The good news is that it is possible to upgrade your laptop to get close to, or even surpass, the capabilities of a desktop computer.
But there is a catch – you have to begin with a top-spec laptop – that means spending some serious money!
If you are a person who’s going to be wanting to play 3D multiplayer, fully immersive games, you are going to need to do some serious upgrading of your laptop.
The first step is to buy a laptop that doesn’t compromise on the basics. That’s not what you get with the majority of laptops.
They inherently compromise on the basics. They are designed to suck up as little battery as power and so feature lightweight components.
These machines are not designed for gaming. On the other end of the spectrum, the people who make video games do not give any concern to the amount of power needed to run their games. It’s all about bigger, better and more powerful.
So, there is a gulf there that needs to be crossed. And the only way to do it is to do some serious upgrading.
Here, then, is what to look for when buying a gaming laptop that you intend to upgrade to match the firepower of a PC.
- A fast and powerful microprocessor – this is more important than a bargain-basement price, a laptop that draws less heat or saves on battery power. Spend as much money as you can to get the most powerful microprocessor possible.
- As much RAM as possible – try to get the max RAM that is supported by the motherboard of the laptop. For most laptops, we’re talking between 2GB and 4GB. If you are looking at a 32-bit version of Windows Vista or Windows &, then you will have a RAM limit of 4GB. You should go for the maximum amount of RAM that the system can handle. 4GB is the minimum that you will need to play serious games like the latest Street Fighter of SIMs versions.
- A high speed advanced graphics card – your everyday standard graphics card that’s available on general use laptops will not cut it when it comes to playing games. You will need a specialized graphics card that has its own video memory. You will often find that a more advanced graphics card comes as an optional extra on a laptop purchase – it is well worth making the extra investment. You can also beef up your existing laptop by adding a high spec graphics card to it.
- A full-featured sound card – Basic sound chips on the motherboard are not going to cut it when it comes to serious gaming. Instead, you will need to step it up to something like Soundblaster. Going a step further by adding such features as spatial imaging will be well worth it – it makes the sound appear to come from different directions.
Installing a new sound card is a difficult job, so if you are upgrading you might want to look at an external sound adapter like PC Card or an Express Card slot that you can insert via your laptop’s USB port.
Keep in mind, however, that this extra functionality will draw heavily on your battery power.
So, if you are going to use it, you will want to be plugged in.
- Powerful external speakers – the speakers on the majority of laptops are pretty basic. A set of external speakers will give you the power that you need for you for a truly enhanced gaming experience. Look for a 5.1 system that provides left, right, center, rear left, and rear right sound and a subwoofer. As an alternative, you can invest in a quality set of headphones to bring those awesome gaming sounds straight to your eardrums.
- A gaming controller – most top-quality games will need a controller rather than a simple touchpad. It will greatly enhance the gaming experience.
- A powerful hard drive – you will need plenty of storage space for your games. Most games will consume tens of gigabytes of storage space. Games also go back to the hard drive during the course of play to load up new characters and scenes. That will require a fast transfer speed. Look for a hard drive that delivers 10,000 rpm or more. Advanced protocols such as ATA will also speed up data transfer.
- A fast network – For full gaming functionality, you need your laptop to deliver a network that allows for active and full participation in multiplayer contests with other players around the globe. It also needs to be able to quickly receive and download updates to games delivered over the internet. These jobs require that you have a fast broadband connection that is delivered by a cable modem, a DSL modem or a fiber optics system.
- A high-resolution display – A huge part of the gaming experience is what you see on the screen. You do not want anything to compromise the quality of those graphics. That’s why you need a laptop that provides you with as big a screen as you can get. It needs to be colorful, quick reacting and high resolution. Laptop screens at the top end of the market are getting bigger and bigger with each generation. Of course, you can plug your laptop into your PC monitor – or even your TV (go here for a step by step guide to doing this), but that kind of defeats the whole purpose of having a laptop!
- A powerful cooling system – it is very easy for a gaming laptop to become overheated. After all, most of them are not capable of the serious power demands of an hour-long game. That is why you absolutely MUST have a cooling system that is up to the challenge. Make sure that the laptop’s cooling system includes fans, passive heat transfer devices and other tech features to keep the system cool.
- A good power source – As we’ve already mentioned, poor battery life is the biggest bugbear that portable gamers face. Realistically you are going to need either a second battery or a source of AC power.
A Gaming Capable Processor
The first few generations of processors for laptops were pretty feeble.
They were essentially mini versions of their desktop big brothers. The motherboards were smaller and all of the mini components were tightly packed in to emphasize portability.
But as the gaming community developed and gamers began to demand better performance from their laptop, the developers were forced to adjust to meet the need.
The two biggest players in the processor market are Intel and AMD. To meet the needs of gamers they began to create central processing units that were aimed at the unique needs of laptop users.
Primary concerns were lower draw power and reduced heat production. A cool innovation was a CPU that could adjust its output to meet the task being performed.
But when it came to meeting the needs of laptop gamers the challenges were harder to overcome.
After all, gaming draws a huge amount of power, takes up a whole lot of RAM and requires a top-notch video and audio system. None of these things are inherent to laptops.
Both Intel and AMD have been working hard to meet the demands of high-end gamers. Intel has introduced a range of chips in their Intel i9 series.
The Intel i9 processor 5 GHz, which is about double what you’d get in a standard laptop CPU.
AMD has released the AMD Athlon Ryzen series of processors. It has a similar octo-core design as the Intel i9. This means that it can, in effect, split its activity between sixteen logical core and 8 processors.
While laptop CPUs have for 10 years been primarily dominated by Intel AMD has recently entered the market with their APUs (CPU + GPU) line up the Ryzen 3000 series that combine their powerful new 2nd generation Ryzen processors with their Vega 10 GPU (to be used in next generation Playstation 5 and Xbox Project Scarlett consoles)
What sort of specs would a gaming laptop that is competitive with your average gaming PC have?
Here is an overview of what you could combine to have a gaming laptop that is on par with a gaming PC:
- Video cards: Dual ATI CrossfireX Radeon Mobility adapters, each with 1GB of dedicated video memory.
- Memory: 8GB Dual Channel DDR3 RAM running at 1333MHz.
- Display: 17-inch WideUXGA 1920 × 1200 LCD.
- Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium.
- Hard drive: 500GB drive running at 7,200 rpm.
- Optical drive: Slot-load dual-layer Blu-ray writer/DVD±RW, CD-RW burner.
- Wireless Network Card: Internal wireless a/g/n mini-card plus Blue- tooth.
- Additional 9-cell lithium-ion battery
- Sound card: 5.1 surround sound audio.
- Media center: ExpressCard Digital TV tuner and remote control.
- Input device: Logitech G9X laser gaming mouse, and Logitech G19 gaming keyboard.
- Game Controllers: Logitech cordless Rumblepad2, and Thrustmaster Cougar Flight Simulation Controller.
- External speakers: Logitech Z-5500 500-watt speakers.
If you are wanting the best off the shelf gaming experience, then your choice between a gaming laptop and PC is a relatively straightforward one.
If you are after the fastest, most powerful gaming experience that delivers mindblowing graphics and an incredible audio experience, then you simply must get a PC.
But if portability is more important and you’re going to be playing pretty simple games, you might prefer a laptop.
For those who are willing to upgrade, it is possible to beef up your laptop to get close to the gaming capability of a PC.
But you will have to start with a high-end model. In the end, it all comes down to what your user requirements are.