From humble beginnings in the 1980s, video games have grown to become one of the most popular pastimes in the United States and many other parts of the world.
Once exclusively the domain of dedicated gaming consoles, the popularity of gaming platforms like Steam and others has fueled the adoption of gaming on the PC platform.
In years past, the only PCs powerful enough to run video games were big, heavy, expensive desktops and towers. However, as computer technologies have continued to advance, laptops have now become powerful enough to easily run even the newest, most complex video games.
Have you ever wondered whether a gaming laptop is worth the investment? Here are a few comparisons of gaming laptops versus gaming desktop machines and some elements to consider before purchasing. While this article won’t go into the detailed nuts and bolts of each element of a gaming laptop, it will cover some of the pros and cons of purchasing a gaming laptop to help you get started.
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Reasons You Should Consider a Gaming Laptop
Gaming laptops have several benefits like portability, power, and expandability, each of which we’ll discuss below.
Gaming Laptops Are Portable
In comparison to those big, bulky desktop and tower PCs, gaming laptops are highly portable. This allows you to move them to just about any location for a gaming session. All you need is your power cable and a wi-fi connection, and you can be on the move.
This portability makes it easy for you to move your laptop to any room in your house—even outside if you like—or put your laptop in a backpack and transport it to a friend’s place for group gaming. If you don’t want to be tethered to a desk, a gaming laptop is a great option.
Gaming Laptops Are Powerful
For years, gaming laptops were woefully under-powered when compared to their desktop equivalents. Their memory and storage capacity, processor speed, and graphic capabilities were all sub-par in comparison to desktops and the even bigger and more powerful towers.
The great news is that this has changed, and some high-end modern laptops are even outpacing their desktop counterparts. Many of today’s gaming laptops are fully capable of providing a gaming experience that is fast and smooth with realistic, high-resolution video graphics and state-of-the-art 3D surround sound.
Gaming Laptops Are Expandable
In the past, the only way to expand the capabilities of your gaming PC was to own a desktop or tower, both of which allowed you to open up the case and add more memory, a larger hard drive, or a better graphics or video card. Laptops were incapable of nearly any type of upgrade.
However, this has all changed. Most modern laptops allow for memory and hard drive storage to be expanded beyond what you originally purchased. This provides many options for upgrading your gaming laptop.
A new, faster solid-state drive can help speed up your laptop’s load times, as well as give you more storage space for additional games. Additional memory can help provide a smooth, seamless gaming experience and ensure there aren’t lag issues when you’re performing that crucial move in the middle of a fast-paced gaming session.
Gaming Laptops Can Be a Good Investment
Not all laptops will be great gaming machines right out of the box. Rather than modifying an underpowered laptop to let it run higher-end games (which can be a frustrating experience, to say the least), spending a little more up front on a gaming laptop can make it more useful as a laptop over time.
In five years, that laptop might not be able to run the newest games, but it can still be a great laptop for editing photos and videos, for Office applications like Word and Excel, or as a traveling laptop that you can use to watch videos on planes.
The point is that even when its specs can’t keep up with your gaming, it can still be a laptop that is more than powerful enough for work or personal use.
The Downsides to Purchasing a Gaming Laptop
While gaming laptops have some big advantages for gamers, they do have some downsides, like getting very hot, shorter lifespans, and less expandability, each of which we’ll discuss below.
Gaming Laptops Can Get Hot
Gaming requires a lot of computer resources. Processor, memory, hard drive, wi-fi, video, and sound all need power to run effectively, and those power demands generate heat. Too much heat can slow down your system’s performance, which can affect your gameplay.
A large desktop or tower PC is often housed in a large case with open interior space and fans that help move that heat out, keeping its internal components cooler. However, a laptop’s slim form factor doesn’t allow nearly as much space for ventilation or cooling fans, so removing this heat can be an issue for laptops.
The heat generated while operating a laptop in high-performance conditions is typically exhausted through the bottom or back of the laptop’s case. This can heat your laptop to the point where it becomes quite hot to the touch, which can become a bit uncomfortable if it is sitting on your lap. One way to manage this excess heat is by using an external laptop rest equipped with additional fans.
Often, Gaming Laptops Have a Shorter Lifespan Than Desktops
Ironically, excess heat generated during high-performance gaming breaks down the internal electronic components that are producing that heat. In addition, moving the laptop around, bumping it into things, constantly inserting and removing cables, dropping it, spilling things on it, and other mishaps or simply daily use will cause a laptop to wear out faster than a desktop or tower PC, which mainly stays in one place and its components are more protected by its thicker, stronger case.
The best way to extend the lifespan of your gaming laptop is to be extra careful with it. Store it in a safe location when not using it, always keep liquids away from it, and only transport it in a protective laptop sleeve or backpack with a protective laptop compartment.
Gaming Laptops Are Not as Expandable as Desktops Are
While today’s laptops are expandable and upgradable, the components are still not as easy to upgrade or replace as those of a desktop or tower PC.
While a laptop’s memory and storage are often relatively easy to upgrade, components like the graphics processing unit (GPU), its display screen, and its main processor are often not easily upgraded on any type of laptop.
Gaming Laptops Are Generally More Expensive Than Their Desktop Counterparts
If you’re diligent and savvy, you can often find great deals on gaming laptops. However, laptops in general and gaming laptops, in particular, are typically more expensive than their desktop counterparts.
This is because you are paying for the portability of smaller, lighter-weight components than are required for a stationary desktop or tower. Therefore, be aware that buying a gaming laptop might come at a bit more of a premium price than you might expect.
So, Are Gaming Laptops Worth It?
Are gaming laptops worth it? The answer depends on your needs and anticipated usage.
If you travel a lot or plan to game in multiple locations, a gaming laptop might be a better investment for you. If, however, you’re okay with your gaming computer being tied to a desk, then a gaming desktop computer is probably a more sensible investment.
I hope you’ve benefitted from these tips on how to determine whether a gaming laptop would be a good choice for you. If you have further thoughts or experiences you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments below.