Gaming Rig Form Factor – Laptop or Desktop?

My gaming rig is 10 years old, and I'm in dire need of a replacement. But what is the best gaming rig form factor? Laptop or desktop?

Every time I buy a new computer, I have to learn everything about hardware and the state of various operating systems all over again. In a series of posts, I’ll got through some of the important things to consider when buying a gaming rig:

  1. Operating system: Windows or Linux?
  2. CPU: Intel or AMD?
  3. Graphics Card: Nvidia or AMD?
  4. Form factor: Laptop or desktop?
  5. Tinkering factor: Parts or pre-assembled?
  6. Sustainability: New or second-hand?
  7. Conclusion: So what’s the ultimate gaming rig setup, then!?

I’ve decided on this specific order of things because decisions taken on the top of the list might limit the available choices later.

This fourth post is about finding the right gaming rig form factor. Should I get a laptop or a desktop computer?

Laptop or Desktop?

10 years ago, getting a gaming laptop wasn’t even an option I considered. To be honest, I’m not sure if there really was a gaming laptop market back then.

Today, the situation is different. Gaming laptops are on par with gaming desktops in terms of performance, and everyone who manufacture desktops gaming rigs also make gaming laptops.

A gaming laptop has the obvious advantage that it’s a mobile all-in-one package. It takes up less space than a desktop computer, can be moved around easily, and thanks to the laptop’s battery, you can even game on when the power goes out. All by yourself. In the dark.

One of my main motivations for considering a gaming laptop this time around is that it’s portable. Since it’s not bound to my desk, I can pack it in a bag when we’re going places. But does that convenience outweigh all the cons of a laptop computer?

Portability vs Everything Else

A laptop’s advantages over desktop computers come at a price. A literal price. They are often more expensive than their desktop counterparts1. I’m limited to a budget - exactly what that budget is I’ve not decided yet - but I want to get as much performance as possible for my hard earned money.

The small form factor means less effective passive cooling, which in turn means more fans and more noise. My computer is located in the living room, and I’d prefer that it didn’t sound like a fighter jet when running on high load. With a desktop computer, I have a much wider range of cooling options. If the computer makes too much noise, I can buy more silent fans, or even use liquid cooling. There’s no such option for laptops - unless I want to go full douche-bag.

It’s generally harder to replace components in a laptop than in a desktop computer. I’m hoping to upgrade my gaming rig more frequently than every 10th year from now on. I can’t buy a new gaming laptop every, say, 3 years, so a more economically feasible route would be to go for the desktop form factor. Doing that, I can replace individual hardware components instead of the entire computer. Repairs will also a be easier with a desktop computer. I can do them myself by replacing the malfunction hardware. A laptop probably have to be sent to a computer workshop for repairs.

It’s all about the Benjamins

If I buy a gaming laptop, the option of building a custom gaming rig from individual, hand-picked components goes out the window. All gaming laptops come pre-assembled, with a limited range of customization options. Getting a gaming laptop with an AMD CPU, for instance, seems to be a problem. There’s probably a good reason for that, but I haven’t bothered to dig for the details.

Without the option to build a gaming rig from the ground up, I’ll have to purchase a laptop from a gaming brand like MSI or Origin. Alternatively, I could buy from a general purpose manufacturer that dabbles in gaming laptops as well, like Lenovo or Asus.

Spending a lot of money on a gaming laptop with limited hardware upgrade options seems like a pretty dumb idea, to be honest.

It’s settled, then: My new gaming rig will be a desktop computer.

I’m sure there will be times when I’ll regret that I didn’t buy a laptop. But there are so many advantages to having a desktop gaming rig compared to a similar laptop, that I’m positive I’ll regret not buying a desktop even more.

  1. But it’s worth noting that a laptop computer always comes with a display, which is normally not the case for a desktop gaming computer ↩︎


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