HP Omen 17 gaming laptop at CES 2023
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

It used to be the case that gaming desktops were much more powerful than their portable counterparts, gaming laptops. However, as amazing as it might seem, that tide seems to be turning. Are gaming laptops really getting better?

Why Are Gaming Desktops More Powerful, Usually?

Gaming desktops have several advantages over gaming laptops that make them more powerful, and most of those advantages are inherent to their design. After all, a desktop PC is bigger and heavier and is meant to sit still on a desk, whereas laptops need to compromise a bit in order to prioritize not only power but also portability.

This does lead to a few differences. For starters, desktop PCs are easily upgradeable, allowing users to add or replace components as needed. This can help extend the lifespan of the machine and improve its performance.

CyberPowerPC Tracer Gaming I17E Liquid Cool laptop sitting next to its water cooling reservoir
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Desktops also have more room for cooling solutions, such as large fans and heat sinks, which can help prevent performance throttling due to high temperatures. And since they have better cooling, the components themselves can also be more powerful — thus, boosting performance.

Desktops also have larger power supplies, normally ranging from 500W to 1000W, which allows for more powerful components and more headroom for overclocking. And because of all those factors, gaming desktop PCs can often be purchased for less money than an equivalent gaming laptop, making them a more cost-effective option for those looking for maximum performance.

Despite this, though, advances in technology are closing the gap between desktops and laptops, making high-performance gaming laptops more accessible and, more importantly, more powerful. This brings us to our next point.

Are Gaming Laptops Really Getting Better?

We would argue that they are. Gaming laptops have been getting better in recent years, and this is evidenced by the latest launches of both mobile CPUs and mobile GPUs.

Let’s look at mobile GPUs for a moment. At the start of 2023, NVIDIA announced the RTX 4000 series of laptop GPUs, with the mobile RTX 4090 being roughly as powerful as the desktop version of the RTX 3090. That’s crazy if you think that the RTX 3090 was the world’s best-performing GPU from 2020 to 2022.

Then, we have mobile CPUs such as the AMD Ryzen 7045 series and Intel’s 13th-gen range. They’re also roughly as powerful as their desktop counterparts, with the highest-end Intel Core i9 coming with 24 cores. Remember, this is a laptop we’re talking about — a device that, for better or worse, you can carry around in a backpack, even if some of them might be absolutely huge.

Gaming laptops with amazing performance have always existed, but now, you can actually get yourself a laptop that performs just as well as a very powerful gaming desktop can and is actually as slim as your current laptop is. How times have changed, huh?

Should You Buy a Gaming Laptop?

The Lenovo Slim 7i Pro X laptop with a game graphic on screen
Cianna Garrison / How-To Geek

There is one factor that we haven’t considered so far, and that’s price. Although the gap has been closing and you can spend around $2,000 on a good gaming laptop that performs amazingly, gaming PCs still offer better bang for your money. Since they don’t need any extra engineering to keep power consumption and portability down as much as possible, gaming desktops are still cheaper, especially if you go the custom-built route, as you only really need to buy the individual parts.

That being said, the new gaming desktops and laptops that have been coming out, and will come out in the future, are truly amazing. If you’re willing to spend good money on a great laptop, you can play some of the best, most demanding games out there on a computer that you can take with you. You should widen your budget, though, and adjust your expectations accordingly.

The best option is different for everyone. If you prioritize portability and don’t mind sacrificing some performance, a gaming laptop might be the way to go. If you’re looking for maximum performance and the ability to easily upgrade your machine, a gaming desktop might be a better choice. It’s your call — there’s really no wrong choice.

The Best Gaming Laptops of 2023

Lenovo Legion 7i
Best Gaming Laptop Overall
Lenovo Legion 7i
ASUS TUF Dash 15
Best Budget Gaming Laptop
ASUS TUF Dash 15
Acer Nitro 5
Best Gaming Laptop Under $1,000
Acer Nitro 5
HP 14
Best Gaming Laptop Under $500
HP 14
Razer Blade 17 Gaming Laptop (2022)
Best 17-inch Laptop
Razer Blade 17 Gaming Laptop (2022)
Profile Photo for Arol Wright Arol Wright
Arol is a freelance news writer at How-To Geek. He's a Pharmacy student, but more importantly, an enthusiast who nerds out about everything tech-related, most notably PCs, smartphones, and other gadgets. He has also written for Android Police, MakeUseOf, and XDA Developers.
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