Corrie and Eastenders. Liverpool and Manchester. Tea and coffee. What do these things all have in common? They divide people’s opinions. Whether it be what your favourite soap is, which city has the best football teams, or what beverage is best to get you through the day. Nothing divides opinion more so in the gaming community though than which is better between Desktops and Laptops, well except maybe console vs PC but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.
The great thing about opinion though is it’s just that, one person’s own personal thoughts. It’s not fact, it’s not right or wrong, it just a view that may be similar or different to your own. So whether you prefer desktops to laptops or vice versa, there’s nothing wrong with that. They both have their own advantages and disadvantages, some of them obvious to the eye and others that people may overlook. What we’ll look to do is give you the tools to make your own opinion on which system is more suitable to your needs.
The easiest way to do this is breaking it down into sections and looking at each individual area separately; things like build quality, cost, functionality and upgradability. Hopefully, then you’ll be in a better position to decide which system will better suit your needs. We’ll also throw in a couple of opinions from members of the gaming community we’ve chatted to so you can see what others like and dislike.
When it comes to desktop PCs, build quality can differ drastically because a lot of people will build their own. That’s not to say all home-built PCs are bad, most are even better quality than store bought systems, but it can be more hassle if you don’t know what you’re doing and something goes wrong. Luckily you can pick the parts you want and have someone else build it for you through services like eBuyer’s PC Builder.
If you get it right though then a desktop is definitely a more durable option. It doesn’t matter if you go for a cheap case like the AvP Viper Mini Tower or something more expensive like the Corsair Carbide Series Air 540 High Airflow ATX Cube Case, your components will be well protected inside a big sturdy case. Give it a knock, stack stuff on top of it, hell even use it to stand on so you can change the batteries in your smoke detector; your precious cargo inside will be safe and secure.
A laptop, on the other hand, is a little more fragile. One reason for this is because its computing system is wired up to the monitor; all it takes is for someone to accidentally stand on it if you leave it lying on the floor, or for the screen to get bent too far back and “SNAP” your system becomes useless. The casing tends to be made from cheaper materials too, usually some kind of toughened plastic, but you can get some which will be metal plated. The problem here is they are so easy to chip, crack or dent, after all, it only took my cat all of two seconds to knock mine off the couch and now I have a hole in the corner of it.
Being a small studio, I really value being able to work from anywhere so my rig of choice is mid-low end MSI gaming laptop. It won’t win any awards for being a powerhouse, but it gets the job done and I feel confident that if my game runs smoothly on a mid-tier notebook, it will run really well on any budget gaming PC.
One major shortcoming with notebooks is hard drive speed. At times just opening a project file can take around 5 minutes. Build times are also slow and a lot of time is spent just waiting for the project to compile, photoshop to load, and painful reboot times. I’m currently addressing this by swapping out the mechanical hard drive with an SSD and upping the RAM to 16 GB. Upgrading is relatively painless, although far more involved than if I was using a desktop. But the average developer shouldn’t need to shy away from popping a few screws out of the laptop to make the upgrades and there’s always plenty of videos on YouTube if someone needs a guide.
I’m really happy with the choice of MSI for a notebook especially after owning several other brands. The build quality is good – it’s mostly plastic but still very rigid and doesn’t creak or groan under stress. The Steelseries gaming keyboard is solid, quiet and feels very nice to work on. The HD screen looks good with vibrant colours but does have a poor viewing angle which isn’t a huge problem to me. My current model also allows for two extra monitors which are lifesavers as developing on a single screen is a horribly limited experience. All in all, I would recommend MSI with no hesitation at all.
It’s so easy to spend money unnecessarily nowadays, a few quid here and there soon adds up and before you know it you’re maxing out your overdraft wondering where it all went. And if you’re looking at getting a desktop or laptop, then cost is definitely going to play a part in your decision of what to buy. There are two main questions you’ll need to ask yourself; is it going to be a short-term or long-term investment, and is it value for money?
The reasons why you need to ask yourself these questions are because desktops and laptops are like humans; they have an expected lifespan and as time goes on their vital organs will break down and fail. Now like a human you can have a transplant, replacing internal organs to prolong the system’s life. The issue is a laptop is much more restricted in the surgery you can perform, but we’ll cover that in more depth under our upgradability section. My point is that a laptop may last you five or six years, but then all its parts are obsolete because they’ll no longer make them anymore, or they’ll be outdated in the best scenario. This is due to new innovative products that are more efficient, which perform faster and are capable of taking a bigger stress load to allow it to process things like 4K graphics.
So when you invest say between £600 – £1000 on a laptop like the Acer Aspire V 15, you know you’re going to have to replace it in a few years time. You can go for something much pricier such as the MSI GT83VR 6RF Titan SLI and it will no doubt have a longer life span as at the time of release it will have the latest and best parts you can possibly buy, meaning the need to replace them may not come round as quick, but when the time does come, you’ll have to buy a whole new system.
I prefer laptops more than PCs due to their portability. I use an Asus Republic of Gamers GL752VW and its power, as well as upgradeability of disk space and RAM, make it ideal for gamers who want to play on the go. My laptop is put through its paces with streaming and gaming all done through the same machine. It rarely lags and keeps up with the high demand of resources with no issues. I agree that there are some limitations with them, but I have worked around these by purchasing a USB hub due to the lack of built-in ports, using a USB microphone to record professional quality audio and using a USB webcam to provide better visuals than the built-in one.
A laptop or desktop isn’t going to be any use to you if it isn’t capable of functioning for the reasons you need it to. Whether you want something that plays the latest blockbuster titles in 4K resolution or something to kick off your game development career, if the system isn’t practical then it will just be a waste of money. Now you may get some people saying that desktops are more powerful and capable of doing a lot more but spend the money on a high-end laptop and it’ll do exactly the same if not better. I remember reviewing an Alienware 18 laptop a few years ago now, its value at the time was around the £2000 mark, and I must say it was unbelievable. It booted up in seconds to the point it was too efficient because it couldn’t connect to the WiFi quick enough, and it ran games flawlessly. I mean I hadn’t seen anything like it ever before, all the power of a desktop but in such a small shell you could carry around with you wherever you go. It was a little heavier than what I was used to, but you kind of expect that with all it had packed inside.
And talking about carrying that Alienware 18 around touches on the main area that makes laptops come out on top in funtionality, their portability. If you’re always on the move it’s ideal because you can take it wherever you go; whether you sit down in Maccies and connect to the WiFi to do some work, go to a conference and use it for presentations or maybe you just like to sit there with it in bed. This is the main reason that I prefer laptops; because it goes with me everywhere. It doesn’t matter if I’m taking it to my mums to stream the football to their TV, going away with work and wanting to play games in the evening or just fancy writing articles like this in bed; I just love that I’m not restricted to having to sit at a desk. It also comes in handy playing games with friends as you can have a LAN or WAN party (if your WiFI is good enough) and there is no need to carry round a massive load around to your friends; just pick up your system, pop it in your bag with your charger and you’re sorted.
I would recommend a desktop for gaming and for work as they tend to be more sturdy for high-end graphics work plus I like having 2 or 3 monitors hooked up to it. However, as I like to travel for my work too I use an HP Spectre laptop as it has a touchscreen and I can draw/paint on it using a stylus pen. It has an i7 2.5ghz and 16gb of ram which I find essential for rendering and photoshop but it runs games pretty well too. My coder uses a pretty high-end desktop as running unity can use up a lot of processing power and ram.
As mentioned above computers are just like humans; they’re born, they age and they die. You can put them under the knife, chopping and changing the insides so they last longer, but you are more limited if you choose to go with a laptop. You can replace the battery, change the memory, at a push you may even be able to replace a screen or some ports, but that’s about it. A desktop, however, is like one of those films that have a creepy old rich guy who wants to live forever and so keeps paying someone to kill people so they can harvest their organs to replace their failing ones, it will take anything it can have so it can live forever.
The best part about a desktop though is to save splashing out right away, you can select a starter system, something capable of playing a tonne of awesome indie titles and some AAA games in low-quality settings. Then as time goes by maybe you upgrade your graphics card to a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, or upgrade your CPU to a new AMD Ryzen 7. It may cost you a pretty penny at the time but what’s a couple hundred pounds after say five years, when if you had bought a laptop, you’d be forking out another £600-£1000 to replace your whole system?
Desktops also give you the option to really personalise them and make them your own. A laptop can come in a variety of colours, and you may be able to custom build one with specific parts, but a PC has so many more options. Not only can you get a stylish looking case with a window on the side to see the hardware in all its glory, you can stick all sorts of LED lighting inside too to really show it off. Then you have the option of being able to mix and match which keyboard and mouse you have with it, like a Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro or Razer Naga Chroma. You can do that with a laptop too but considering that they already have the equipment inbuilt it’s an added expense you don’t really need. So yeah, in terms of upgradability, desktops kind of win hands down.
“To be honest, these days there isn’t a huge difference between PCs and laptops, you can get really high-spec laptops. I’ve always preferred a PC just because I feel like laying in bed with a laptop on your knee will absolutely ruin your back eventually. Plus I really like how you can make a PC yours. The levels of customisation you can achieve with a desktop PC are pretty much limitless.”
And that’s pretty much everything covered. I’d say that desktops have probably come out on top in three of those four areas, with laptops edging ahead on functionality just purely down to their portability. Personally, I’ll be sticking to gaming laptops; I’ve had mine nearly five years now and despite the best efforts of my cats to destroy it, it still does a cracking job and can play most new AAA games on medium settings, and never struggles with any small indie titles. The batteries have drained a little over time so I usually have to plug my laptop in to play any titles too power consuming, but at least I can take it with me wherever I go, which is handy with the travelling I have to do for work. If unlike me you’re still undecided, then we’ve left a little round up below of some of the main points discussed throughout the article to try and assist your decision; if that doesn’t help then I guess all hope is lost.
- Desktops are a better long term option as you can upgrade parts as and when you need to, as opposed to laptops which are essentially limited to storage upgrades.
- Laptops are better for portability; whether you’re on the train, in a hotel room or just trying to escape your partner in a different room of the house, just pick it up and away you go.
- Desktops take up a lot of space, not so much as they did say twenty years ago, but for most systems, you still require a desk to set yourself up at.
- Laptops often come with a higher cost because they have to install higher spec hardware so it doesn’t become outdated too quickly and fitting high end components into a smaller space requires extra effort.