Why I refuse to buy a gaming laptop, even though I need one

I’ve had a few gaming laptops in my life, but I can’t really see myself ever buying another – even though there are certainly times when I could use one. This isn’t meant to criticize some of the best gaming laptops out there, as I know they’re great for those who can appreciate them. I can’t bring myself to trust anyone else again.

I’m not against buying a laptop for gaming, but here are some of the reasons why I’ve been avoiding buying a laptop for myself.

burn once, blush twice

Razer Blade 14 gaming laptop on coffee table.
Jacob Roach//

Most gaming laptops I’ve owned have one glitch – emphasis on “hot”. I was always more of a fan of desktop gaming, but at certain times in my life, I had a laptop instead of or in addition to a gaming PC. Some of these laptops remain fresh in my memory as reminders of why I don’t want to get burned again. Literally.

The biggest advantage of a desktop over a laptop is that it is much less likely to suffer from thermal throttling. Even in a small PC case, your components still get plenty of airflow. Provided you choose the right PC build and a solid cooling solution, heat shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re interested in overclocking. This is not at all the case with laptops.

A small chassis loaded with gaming components, including a discrete GPU and a power-hungry processor, means a lot of heat, and that’s why I’m staying away from gaming laptops a lot. All the ones I have had in the past have had overheating problems.

You might ask me to get a laptop cooling pad, and I did – it was a must for me to be able to use the laptop at any serious capacity. Still, I encountered throttling, poor performance, and, worst of all, shutdowns. The laptop I had in 2014 would shut down within a minute of booting up if it didn’t have a cooling pad, and even if it did, it would crash.

I reached the end of the line when my old Asus laptop would only turn on when I had the hair dryer blowing on the side fan on the cool setting at all times. Obviously, I didn’t keep it for long, but it was enough to keep me away from gaming laptops for a long time. Imagine you’re trying to play a game or do some work with a hair dryer blowing next to you the whole time… Let’s just say it wasn’t ideal, but I was in between desktops and I had to take it out a few times. Had to keep.

Of course, these are the extreme cases I’m describing above, and the laptops weren’t that bad out of the box. However, over time, things got progressively worse and reached the point where repairs no longer made sense.

However, one thing worth noting is that even though overheating didn’t always cause shutdowns, every laptop I’ve owned has had some issues with thermal throttling while gaming. Since I like to play a lot of games in my free time, this is a no-go for me. Few things are more frustrating than seeing your frames per second (FPS) drop between 5 and 10 because your laptop is having a hard time.

price does not increase

The Alienware x17 R2 gaming laptop viewed from the rear.
Jacob Roach/

My second reason for avoiding gaming laptops is purely practical, and my resolve has grown stronger over time as these notebooks have become more and more expensive. As someone who enjoys PC building and keeps an eye on the prices of many components, I really don’t think a gaming laptop can ever provide reasonable value for money compared to a proper desktop.

Some of the latest laptops are notorious for this. Depending on the brand and exact specifications, you can’t really get a solid gaming laptop for less than $1,500 to $2,000 these days, and higher-end options can cost you significantly more. Meanwhile, with a budget of $2,000, you can build yourself a PC with one of the best graphics cards like the RTX 4070 Ti or 7800 XT. In the case of the latter, you will still have money left for the monitor.

Laptops with Nvidia’s RTX 40-series GPUs are particularly expensive. Let’s take the RTX 4070 as an example, which is a middle-of-the-pack type of GPU in both desktop and laptop versions. The price of laptops with this graphics card ranges from $1,600 to $2,300. Meanwhile, the desktop model is priced at $550 to $650 and shows a good lead over its laptop counterpart. The same can be said about any other component: the desktop version is more powerful, but also cheaper. This does not mean Cheap – Nvidia’s pricing strategy is quite outrageous – but you’re still getting more value for money here.

Of course, there are reasons why someone might choose a gaming laptop instead of a desktop and still come out on top in terms of money. For one thing, it’s great to have from the moment you buy a laptop, so you won’t need a monitor, keyboard or mouse like you do with a PC. (Although, who can really enjoy gaming on a trackpad? I digress.)

There is also the portability factor, which is why these laptops are so expensive comparatively. If you travel a lot, a laptop may be your only option for enjoying games on the go. But due to shorter battery life and limited performance when running in power-saving mode, high-end models need to stay plugged in most of the time.

To me, those factors still don’t make a gaming laptop worth buying, but I realize they’re more situational. However, the fact is that you can usually build yourself a better PC for the price of a midtier to high-end gaming laptop.

no long term solution

The screen on the Asus Zephyrus G14 gaming laptop.
Jacob Roach/

There’s another thing that gaming laptops lack, and it’s something I generally like in desktops – upgradeability.

Sure, you can upgrade the laptop to some extent. You can choose to buy it with more RAM or storage out of the box or add some yourself later, and you can even replace the battery. The keyboard and trackpad can be replaced if necessary, although most people leave this task to a repair service rather than going the DIY route. What about CPU and GPU? Largely unheard of, and usually impossible.

With desktops, half the fun is planning your build and putting it together. Even better – some parts can last for years. You don’t have to throw out your entire PC when parts start performing poorly; You can simply buy some new components and enjoy the performance increase.

Thanks to some future-proofing and upgrades, I was able to keep my previous gaming PC in good condition for nearly seven years. I could play AAA games until the end of its run, although of course, I compromised some settings. Throughout the years, I upgraded my GPU, power supply, cooler, SSD, and RAM. When I finally let my old PC retire, I still kept my SSD and HDD and converted them to external drives. I could have easily reused more components, but I figured it was time for a fresh build.

This is very unusual in laptops, which are often replaced after 3 to 5 years. In terms of money, I’ve still spent a decent amount over the years upgrading my existing PC builds, so it would have added up to about the same amount. However, thanks to these upgrades, I never had to spend much at any time and my PC remained somewhat up to date. In the case of laptops, you’re stuck with what you get and you won’t get any significant performance boost unless you buy a new laptop.

Don’t make the mistakes I made

A gaming PC with RGB synced lights running Apex Legends.
Kunal Khullar /

I’ve had some pretty bad experiences with gaming laptops, but I admit they’re not universal. The rule of thumb isn’t as simple as “laptop bad, PC good”. Instead, it all depends on what you need and what you are spending your money on.

I don’t even remember how many laptops I’ve owned in my life, but a lot of them were bought cheap. It’s an easy mistake to make when a solid gaming laptop will cost you $2,000 or more, but try not to go for the cheapest option when shopping. Those are usually the notebooks that struggle with overheating or perform worse than their top-brand counterparts.

Before you go ahead and buy a laptop, do some research. We have a frequently updated ranking of some of the best gaming laptops, and you can use that to narrow it down to specific models. Read reviews and turn to PC gaming communities for some first-hand feedback from real users. If a particular product doesn’t sound very good, it probably isn’t.

As a gamer who travels frequently, I have a desktop, a Nintendo Switch, and a non-gaming laptop as a last resort. I don’t use it for gaming – my desktop bores me too much to make it enjoyable.

I believe that gaming laptops are a good way to complement the desktop, but not completely replace it. There’s a lot I miss when playing on one, whether it’s my dual-monitor setup, a comfortable keyboard, or smooth performance. All those things can be purchased in addition to a laptop, but they have an impact on the portability factor, which is one of the main benefits of a laptop.

If you’re someone who needs portability, there are good gaming laptops that will last as well. cyberpunk 2077 On ultra settings. There’s a lot involved in making a laptop good, from the manufacturer to the components and their exact wattage. The secret lies in research.

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