A lot of people swear by laptops.
This is understandable and justifiable. Not everyone wants to do all of their computing attached to large, cumbersome desktops, and having a laptop to take with you on the go, especially if you’re a writer or someone who does most of your work on the computer, is a very welcome utility that some may not want to do without. Before you read further into this article, I just want to let you know that I think laptops are great, and there’s nothing better than a laptop that can do whatever I need it to whenever I’m not at my trusty desktop at home.
However, a laptop shouldn’t be purchased for gaming. If you’ve already purchased a gaming laptop and you’re a few years down the line, you probably already know what I mean and don’t need to read this article. You know what happens. However, before covering that, there’s also a wide variety of reasons you shouldn’t be buying gaming laptops.
Making parts smaller, adding a touchpad and a screen and all the special touches on a laptop, that costs money. If there are two computers of the same power, the smaller one will always be more expensive. Most people who purchase laptops probably know this already, but in this issue, where price and performance are concerned, this scale is even worse in the high-end “gaming” laptop category.
You may notice the quotation marks abone and in the title. Why do I say “gaming” laptop? Surely a laptop powerful enough to be playing the latest games deserves to be called a gaming laptop, right? Well, it does. By definition, a gaming laptop is a laptop designed and suited for the playing of games. It’s in the name.
The problem is, most gaming laptops, especially from companies like Alienware, have severe price premiums for no conceivable reason. While it may be hard to directly measure price/performance in some desktop versus laptop scenarios (as laptops typically use specialized mobile-centric hardware), laptop versus laptop price performance is much easier, and most gaming laptops fall very short in that category.
There’s more to cover than just price/performance, however. While that should be a big deal to any PC gamer, there’s actually a lot more to talk about.
Hold on, you may be thinking, how is practicality a downside for laptops? Isn’t being practical the whole point of a portable, easy-to-use computer?
Yes, actually. But most gaming laptops aren’t very practical.
Simple question: How often have you done heavy-duty, desktop-grade gaming in a place where a desktop isn’t suitable? Unless you’re firing up CS:GO in your car, maybe you should take a moment to consider why you’re investing in an on-the-go computer for gaming … when you don’t really do PC gaming on the go. Now, sure, maybe you’re playing video games at a college dorm or at a friend’s house and you don’t want to tote around a big old gaming desktop everywhere you go, but do these situations happen frequently enough to justify spending all that extra money?
Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that they do. That you’re very careful with your hardware, and you aren’t concerned about dropping it or being stolen, that you do game on the go regularly, and a desktop just wouldn’t fit your lifestyle, and that you’re fine with paying twice (or more) the price of a desktop for the same level of performance on the go.
I hope you have the money for a replacement.
Performance Degradation and Lifespan
This is the biggest problem for a gaming laptop and one of the main reasons I don’t recommend them.
In my wide circle of friends and family members, they always consult with me for the best-looking laptop, the one with the best hardware and what I think would do them the best for their needs. A lot of these people are gamers, too, and really want a nice gaming laptop. Nice gaming laptops do exist, but usually outside of an acceptable price range for most people.
What I’ve learned, and this isn’t purely anecdotal either, is that laptops simply aren’t made for gaming.
Or, to be more specific, laptops aren’t made to endure prolonged periods of heavy hardware utilization, especially not over the course of a multiple years. Dust out your desktop every now and again and keep it in a cool room and have a few fans and you should be fine. Laptops, however, simply can’t handle all of the heat generated by performing heavy-duty tasks. It doesn’t matter how well it’s built, and it doesn’t matter if you invest in a cooling pad to keep it from overheating … in a few years your laptop is going to stop performing as well as it should. In a few more years, or less, it may begin crashing and overheating anyways; it may even stop working entirely.
When most people buy computers they’re making an investment. Investments in expensive hardware are typically made in hopes that it lasts a good, long period of time and performs acceptably across that duration. Get a well-built desktop, and it will sing for you as long as it’s maintained semi-regularly. However, even the best practices with a “gaming” laptop won’t stop it from failing on you if you spend a lot of your time actually gaming on it.
But wait, you might say, what if I don’t game on it that much? You’re talking about extreme usage scenarios, maybe I’m more responsible than that!
Great. Remind me again why you’re shelling out all this money for high-performance hardware if you aren’t going to use it.
Across the board, “gaming” laptops aren’t usually a good idea. They have their benefits – portability, that performance being made portable, attractive appearances, cool features, etc., but their downsides are severe and numerous, especially when used for their intended purpose.
In that case, you may be wondering what there’s left to do then. Why would I spend a whole article trashing gaming laptops? What’s the point?
The point is, you shouldn’t purchase a gaming laptop. If you want to get into PC gaming, what you should do is purchase a gaming desktop. For your portable computing needs, why don’t you consider buying a normal laptop? Most laptops can handle light gaming and are more than powerful enough to handle common usage scenarios, and a lot of the most popular PC games, like WoW, CS:GO, TF2, Dota and League, don’t require a whole lot of hardware horsepower to run at acceptable settings and framerates.
In my opinion, the best thing to do is pay for a nice, well-built gaming desktop that you can use at home for your heavy-duty needs. Portable computing is a big deal for some people, though, so if you prefer that, go ahead and spend money on a good, high-quality laptop … just don’t buy a “gaming” laptop, and just don’t stress it too much. If you want the best of both worlds, make a reasonable budget – $1000 or less will more than suffice – at which you can purchase a high-quality gaming machine that can outperform the current gen consoles … as well as a laptop that’s good enough for your computing on the go.