For quite some time PC gamers have shied away from the use of gaming laptops because of their past reputation. Before the advancements in CPU and GPU power and efficiency that we see today, gaming laptops relied heavily on mobile specific chips that were vastly underpowered compared to desktop grade component. The price of previous generations of gaming laptops compared to gaming rigs was astounding for the gaming performance that you received.
The stigma against gaming laptops has been drastically reduced as the gaming laptop market has gotten more comparable in both price and performance to their desktop counterparts. While the gaming experience and price gap between the two has become more narrow, there is still a variety of pros and cons between getting a new high end gaming laptop and its equivalent high end gaming desktop PC. The most important thing one can do to help make a choice between a laptop or desktop is to weigh the pros and cons of a gaming laptop vs desktop with respect to your specific needs.
As the graphics card is one of the most important components in gaming, it is vital that we have the best GPUs for the perfect gaming experience. There are a plethora of differences between a desktop PC graphics card and mobile GPUs. In previous generations, mobile GPUs were underpowered compared to their desktop counterparts. Then came the era of "mobile desktops" which offered near-desktop grade performance but required enormous, heavy chassis due to their components' thermal requirements. With the emergence of improved cooling and component thermal efficiency, the modern gaming laptop strikes a balance between portability and power. NVIDIA's RTX 3000 series, headlined by the flasghip RTX 3080 but encompassing RTX 3070, RTX 3060 and RTX 3050, offer all the benefits of NVIDIA's second generation Ray Tracing cores, third generation Tensor cores and DLSS AI performance boosting. Max-Q GPU models from previous generations have been replaced with GPUs with varying wattages which is a direct factor of their thermal needs and the cooling offered in the laptop itself. For example, a 150+W RTX 3080 GPU will almost certainly only be found in larger, heavy laptop models lest they be prone to overheating and thermal throttling, while 115W models such is found in the Allied Tomcat 16, hit that sweet spot of RTX 3080 level performance and manageable temperatures and noise levels from system fans providing their cooling, due to the lowered power draw. Look for the full range of NVIDIA GPUs in Allied's gaming laptop range in 2022 and beyond.
Similarly, AMD's Radeon RX 6000 series mobile graphics cards deliver the best of AMD's RDNA 2 architecture to the laptop space, bringing ultra-high frame rate gaming experiences and advanced content creation to laptops sporting those cards. The RX 6800M, RX 6700M and RX 6600M trade blows with the NVIDIA's RTX cards in the same class, with higher VRAM benefitting productivity and gaming tasks requiring higher it. Again, look for AMD Radeon-based cards in Allied's future laptop range.
While the graphics card performance margin between a gaming laptop vs desktop computers has become quite slim, there is still a fairly large performance difference between mobile and desktop CPUs. Due to the same power and heat limitations of laptop GPUs, mobile CPUs must also be slightly under powered in order to maintain a safe operating temperature. For example, a popular Intel CPU in many gaming laptops is the Intel Core i7 10750H that has 6 cores and 12 threads while the desktop i7 10700 is an 8 core / 16 thread CPU, which is 20% faster than the 10750H. This performance difference is a result of a lower core and thread count and a power consumption of 45 watts as opposed to the 65 watt 10700 desktop CPU.
In the past, only Intel mobile versions of CPUs were available in gaming laptops but with the advancements in AMD's ZEN2 and 3 architectures, AMD's mobile offerings are on a par with, and outperform, many of their rivals' chips. In our Tomcat-A, we're currently offering AMD's Zen3 Ryzen 9 5900HX, with Ryzen 7 5800H to come in 2022 as well. The advantage of the new 5900HX is the 8 core / 16 thread count and 4.6GHz Turbo speed, which allows better performance in multi-core workloads like video rendering as well as high resolution, high settings gaming. Having a top tier AMD mobile CPU and NVIDIA GPU will provide a very similar gaming experience to desktops compared to other, lower tier processors.
One limitation of storage on laptops as opposed to desktop gaming PCs are the number of drives that they can support. Typically laptops can only support two internal drives which can only be SSDs before you are forced to use external drives for expansion. Desktops on the other hand can have a large number of storage drives than can be a high capacity hard drive or a highspeed SATA or M.2 SSD. As SSD capacities have continued to grow and become more affordable over time, storage is less of an issue in laptops as it used to be. The vast majority of gaming laptops on the market support NVME SSDs which offer plenty of space and speed for games, but could be inadequate when handling large video files.
Laptops also allow for an additional SSD to be installed after the bottom panel of the laptop is removed, revealing the storage and memory slots of the motherboard. When it comes to productivity tasks like video and 3D modeling, the hardware of modern laptops can handle the workload but storage may become a limitation. A common solution to this complication is the creation of a NAS or network attached storage which allows users to offload files to a large storage PC located on their network. This can often be complicated to set up especially if you intend to work on your laptop in a wide variety of locations and networks but can be most beneficial once properly configured.
Memory, or RAM, is not particularly an issue with high-end laptops, but can be an issue with lower end gaming laptops that lack in memory quantity and speed. Laptop motherboards usually only support two SO-DIMM slots which can limit the RAM expandability if your laptop comes with a single low RAM DIMM. In order to get a desired amount of RAM on a low end gaming laptop, you may have to purchase an entire two DIMM kit to replace the low quantity DIMM as opposed to adding a single stick to the existing stick. Accessing the RAM and storage drives on laptops can be difficult to access if the laptop uses uncommon screw types like torx or hex screws for the bottom body panel. Making sure your laptop has a minimum of 8GB is vital getting the most out of your gaming system; we recommend a minimum of 16GB to ensure your laptop performs optimally over time.
A major advantage for gaming desktops is their flexibility with cooling solutions. A gaming PC can come in a vast number of shapes and sizes which all impact the cooling of the components within them. Most commonly mid tower ATX cases are used for gaming desktops, which can support large aluminum air heatsinks or liquid cooling radiators. This much larger volume allows desktops to support more powerful components and if the cooling solution is large enough, they can support hardware overclocking to further increase performance. The small form factor of gaming laptops forces cooling limitations which is the major driving factor in downclocked mobile chips. although, laptops run extremely hot at load there are several ways of optimizing the cooling of a gaming laptop that may lead to increased frames per second in games and reduced temperatures.
The form factor of a gaming PC also plays a large role in the sound of the PC at load. A gaming laptop has a large amount of heat generation in a small space and has quite small fans that have to spin at incredibly fast speeds to adequately cool high end CPUs and GPUs. The combination of small fan blades and high RPMs can make a high pitched fan noise that can be particularly loud, however it is also entirely necessary to ensure thermal management. The Allied Tomcat laptops feature 5-copper pipe cooling and twin high-speed fans that can be controlled via pre-installed ControlCenter software in a number of profiles, providing for a balance between thermals and dB levels.
The only limitation of displays on gaming laptops is the size, which can range from 13 to 17.5 inches. A gaming desktop can support any size or resolution of monitor, or even a television. The quality and resolution choices for laptops are the same for a gaming desktop. Many laptop displays even come in high refresh rates which are ideal for competitive first person shooter games, these refresh rates can vary from 120Hz all the way to 360Hz. Gaming laptops and desktops have a high pixel density which makes for the best image quality even when viewing closely or from an angle. Most commonly gaming laptops have 1080P or 1440P displays so that games can run smoothly and still have a high quality image. Gaming desktops can be more suited for supporting a 4K resolution for gaming because of the increased performance of desktop graphics cards. Some laptops do come with 4K displays but gaming at 4K with the thermal limitations of mobile GPUs is not optimal or recommended.
In recent years, some models of high end laptops have a built in mechanical keyboard which can last much longer than the traditional membrane keyboard. The keyboard on a laptop cannot be changed or upgraded which can cause issues if they wear out over time. Desktops on the other hand, have a large set of keyboard options ranging from basic membrane keyboards, all the way up to custom built mechanical keyboards with RGB lighting and macro keys. Since the majority of gaming laptops have membrane keyboards, it is important to take great care of your keyboard to maximize its lifespan. Many of these built in membrane keyboards have RGB lighting which satisfies the gamer aesthetics and customizability.
The most important factor that gamers look for in a computer is customizability. Having a gaming PC that can be personalized impacts the aesthetic of a PC gaming set up. While laptops can only be customized through a small variety of components, gaming desktops can be customized in almost all aspects. PC cases can come in a wide variety of sizes ranging from small form factor mini-ITX to large high tower PCs that support an abundant space for liquid cooling radiators, reservoirs, and even large hard drive cages. There is also choices to make on the color, airflow, and whether you’d like clear side panels or not. Cases themselves can be customized through modding to create custom themed PCs that often look like show pieces. While laptops have zero customization when it comes to motherboards, desktops can support a wide variety of motherboard types, colors, and sizes. Within a specific size of motherboard there are chipset variations, overclocking performance, header variation, on board sound cards and WiFi cards.
Manufacturers also play a large part in people customization options, many gamers prefer to match hardware of the same manufacturer to create a cohesive design. Another major element of customization is in cooling choice. Hardcore gamers tend to enjoy the look of an RGB water cooling loop, while some like the clean and minimal look of an air cooling set up.
Portability is almost always the main selling point for a gaming laptop. The ease of carrying a gaming laptop in a backpack makes it a perfect choice for any student. While there are small desktop PCs they are no where near the same level of portability as a laptop, especially when accounting for peripherals and a monitor. Being able to travel with a high power PC is a luxury that only laptop gamers can experience. Having a laptop with high power components can also be ideal for gamers who intend to travel to a LAN party. The portability of a gaming laptop is main element that makes the lack of customizability and slightly lower gaming performance worth it to many gamers.
The fact that a display, keyboard, and PC hardware are all contained in a single unit makes it much more portable than any gaming desktop could every be. The amount of IO on gaming laptops allows people to use their laptop as a desktop when at home. Utilizing a large desktop monitor, external mechanical keyboard, and gaming mouse on a laptop gives the player all the productivity benefits of using a desktop. While the battery on gaming laptops does not last as long as regular notebooks, it is a great benefit to the be able to not have to be plugged in constantly to use your PC for less intensive tasks.
It may seem at first glance like a gaming rig is superior to a laptop but as computer hardware has advanced the performance gap has shrunk considerably. There are only small differences in the gaming experience on a laptop as opposed to a desktop. The decision comes down to which elements of laptop vs desktop do you prefer. If portability is a priority than a gaming laptop is a no brainer, but if having a stationary gaming system is not an issue than a desktop may be best. Another major element that may sway someone towards choosing a desktop is customizability. If a gamer likes the aesthetics of a perfect gaming set up, then customizing a gaming desktop to match their room, desk, and peripherals would sway them towards a desktop as opposed to the simplicity of a laptop on a desk. Ultimately, there is no clear winner in the debate over desktops vs laptops, and both are easily capable of providing an enjoyable gaming experience.