Many computer enthusiasts around the world have preferences when it comes to where they like to use their devices daily. Some prefer to sit down and strap into their fixed battle station while some may have a laptop on them as they are always on the go. An important question that you may be asking is: does the overall portability of having a laptop make it better than a gaming desktop? In this article, we’ll look at the performance differences when it comes to temperatures and productivity uses, the ability to customize a desktop or laptop, and portability.
The performance delta between desktops and laptops isn’t as wide as you might think. A benchmark was simulated with a desktop-grade processor such as the latest Core i7-10700K versus a mobile version of the latest same tier processor, the Core i7-10875H, and it was found that the mobile processor performed relatively close to its desktop equivalent. The Core i7 10700K performed 11% faster compared to the mobile equivalent, the Core i7-10875H. It’s an impressive result in terms of portable performance, however, this comes at a cost: the starting point for a Core i7 notebook is considerably higher than its desktop counterpart, so you’re paying a premium and getting dropping that 11% in performance.
The story is similar when you compare a desktop-grade graphics card versus their mobile counterpart. The NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super desktop graphics card is seen to have a 25% faster effective speed over its mobile version (also known as Max-Q), and this performance gap is evident within gaming benchmarks on the low and high FPS scale. There is, unfortunately, a clear reason for this performance gap with laptops even if they are running the same generation’s hardware. It comes down to wattage TDP (Thermal Design Power) limits, temperatures, and RAM dual channel speeds. Mobile processors lack the TDP limit of their desktop counterparts, which causes the processor to sit at a lower frequency to maintain stable temperatures within their TDP limit. If the processor didn’t have its wattage TDP limit assigned and had access to pull the same wattage as its desktop counterpart, then most laptops wouldn’t be stable at all! This is similar with graphics cards as they are designed to pull less wattage and run a lower core clock to maintain stable temperatures. What would also be affected with no TDP limit would be the system’s battery life, and your overall experience. This is relative to desktops, however, as they are powered by electricity from a power socket and is reliant on your home’s main switchboard.
Another issue that we’ve mentioned is temperature. Mobile processors and graphics cards are heavily affected by their temperatures as they are limited to the cooling solutions that are currently available. On the other end, desktop processors and graphics cards are designed to be pushed to their limits and high temperatures as there are multiple ways they can be effectively cooled to ensure stability. This includes standard air cooling, sealed liquid cooling known as All in Ones and custom water cooling which includes custom water blocks, radiators, pumps and reservoirs. This allows a desktop to cope with a wider range of operating conditions without throttling and overclocking which is typically very limited or even non-existent within laptops. A laptop’s standard cooling form-factor are custom heat sinks and air cooling solutions… and that’s it. Current technology is unfortunately limited when it comes to fitting components into slim, thin-bezel designs and achieving an efficient, stable thermal temperature for all the components within. Faster RAM speeds can benefit a system depending on where a bottleneck lies as it can help the processor stabilize or speed up clock speeds. This ability to have faster RAM speeds is present on newer generational laptops (Intel 10th gen and Ryzen 3000/5000 series) as they are of currently capped to a speed of DDR4-3200MHz while desktop systems, specifically Intel 10th gen desktop chipset, can reach up to DDR4-5000MHz speeds which can greatly benefit benchmarks and real-time synthetic tests.
With desktops, user customisation is near-limitless. You can add more memory, hard drives, solid-state storage, change cases and upgrade components such as a graphics card or a new chipset platform that’s newly available to you. In laptops, on the other hand, you can upgrade your storage options that are only compatible with your model and your RAM capacity to a supported amount which is dependent on the motherboard. Unfortunately, your range of options is limited if you have a mobile processor and graphics card within the laptop as they are soldered to the in-built motherboard. However, laptops do have a major positive over desktops in which is the overall portability. It is known that most gamers would mainly prefer carrying their gaming laptop to a friend’s house for a LAN party, rather than bringing their desktop and all their peripherals including a monitor, keyboard, mouse mat and mouse.
With all our points addressed, we believe it’s completely up to your opinion on what you expect or want when it comes to your gaming experience. There are small to medium performance differences between both gaming desktops and laptops, but if you’re only just starting to learn about the PC master race or you’re a veteran gaming elite, then you probably already have your mind made up. We hope that the information we’ve addressed will help you with your overall decision on whether to purchase a gaming laptop or desktop. If you’re interested in our gaming desktop or gaming laptop range, then please check them out and let us know if you have any questions.