Laptop VS PC: What’s the best for gaming?

The latest cutting-edge laptops and hardware are making waves this year; so what's better for gaming? PC or laptop?


by Ryan Houghton |

Only a few years ago, this debate probably wouldn't even be worth having - our answer would've been resoundingly in favour of PCs. Yet in recent years, the fine line between their technical capabilities has become even thinner. There are now laptops with 30-series graphics cards, Ryzen CPUs, and RAM to boot (see what we did there?).

For an optimum gaming experience, there are a few factors that you should definitely consider before choosing either a PC or laptop: graphical (and computational) power, storage, and expansion options are your primary concern

For us, however, it isn't just the machine's power that makes it great for gaming; you should also consider aesthetic quality, screen size/resolution/refresh rate, keyboard hand-feel, portability, battery life, and overall build quality.

You should also consider user preference, here at What's The Best, we're looking for the best bang for our buck - what is going to give us the best gaming experience for the best price, so what may be a fantastic deal for us might not be as appealing for you.

What's more powerful, PC or laptop?

As we mentioned before, the line between laptops and PCs is steadily becoming thinner, laptops are becoming far more capable of running cutting-edge GPUs. Yet, generally speaking, a gaming PC is always going to win out in terms of power, bigger components, better thermal cooling, and a higher wattage means that general operation and any gaming generally runs smoother.

Yet, they're also significantly more expensive. That's because you're not just buying hardware - you're buying a case, along with all of the peripherals you need. It's a major investment, but it's seriously worth it.

Thermal cooling: what's more effective?

Generally speaking, PCs are much better at keeping cool than laptops. By design, they're much bigger, which means there's a greater surface area exposed to cool air through fans (which are also much bigger and better at cooling).

Laptops find themselves on all manner of surfaces, not all of which are perfectly flat, so exhaust vents can be easily blocked or restricted, and therefore can't cool hardware efficiently enough to keep your CPU safe.

Storage expansion: what's easier to upgrade?

PCs are far easier to upgrade than laptops simply because they're made to be upgraded. If you have a PC already, you'll notice an array of empty slots on the motherboard, these are essentially options to improve your PC's performance in the future, which is a major plus.

Laptops, much like smartphones, are normally manufactured in a way that the user does not tamper with the internal hardware, often requiring tech specialist intervention. This isn't particularly set in stone, as there are a range of laptops with some great options for RAM upgrades.

What's more affordable?

As of recently, the GPU market has gone absolutely wild, and while we're seeing some price dips since 2021, GPUs remain expensive. Laptops, however, seemed to be largely unaffected by this unprecedented price hike, meaning you can pick up a really powerful machine for a significant price difference, of course, at the cost of some cutbacks in performance compared to PC counterparts.

Laptops also have the additional benefit of being the complete package; a screen, a mouse and a keyboard, all ready to go, so no last-minute shopping spree for a decent monitor and peripherals which pushes that PC price point ever higher.

Related: Best GPUs available in 2022

TLDR: our picks

The best performance

As previously mentioned, you're going to get the best gaming performance in general from a PC. This, however, does not exclude laptops from running the latest AAA games at 60 FPS or higher, all the while retaining the laptop's ace-in-the-hole: portability.

To compete with a beefed-up gaming rig, you'll need to spend some serious cash on a laptop, which unlike a PC is less likely to have options for expansion later on, so you should absolutely consider longevity when deciding between the two.

For performance, we've picked some pre-built PCs and laptops that are both easily capable of running most modern games with little-to-no trouble whatsoever.

Specifications
Dimensions: 498 x 185 x 421 mm
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 12 GB GDDR6
RAM: 16 GB DDR4 (upgradeable to 64GB)
CPU: Intel® Core™ i7-12700 Processor
Video connections: HDMI 2.0a x 1, Display Port 1.4 x 1
USB: USB Type-C x 2, USB 3.2 x 3, USB 2.0 x 4
Audio connections: 3.5 mm jack x 7
Storage: 1 TB HDD, 1 TB SSD
Software: Windows 11
Weight: 11 KG
Pros Cons
• Incredible hardware • Very expensive
• Aesthetically pleasing • HDD storage is dated
• Well built

Overview:

An absolute bargain for what is top-tier hardware, the ASUS ROG STRIX G15 is admittedly pricey, yet with the current GPU market as of now, getting an NVIDIA RTX 3060 along with 2 TB of storage, a great motherboard, a slick, modern-looking case, a 12th generation CPU and more, how can you argue with the value?

Many PC gamers are averse to pre-built PCs, and this apprehension is easily understood. A lot of sellers are prepared to overcharge for components, yet looking at what you get with the G15, how can you argue that it's not a great deal?

Of course, there are downsides; despite being a great price, it's still very expensive, not to mention the lack of included peripherals which will cost you another £200 minimum.

Then there's the weaker HDD storage, alongside the 1TB of SSD storage, which leaves much to be desired as a bit of a defunct storage option for gamers.

Overall, performance on this machine is going to be largely unbeatable. You've got an incredibly impressive RTX 3060, alongside an impeccable 12th generation Intel CPU, and a plethora of other incredible hardware (not to mention the expansion options on the motherboard for even more RAM), gaming on this PC is going to be flawless for the foreseeable future.

If you happen to pick up the ASUS G15, consider checking out our picks for the absolute top gaming monitors, for high refresh rates without sacrificing quality.

Related: Best budget mouse for PCs

Specifications
Dimensions: 363.5 x 255 x 229 mm
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 6 GB GDDR6
RAM: 16 GB DDR4
CPU: Intel Core i7 11th Gen 11800H Processor
Display: 1920 x 1080p 144Hz
Video connections: HDMI 2.1 x 1, Mini Display Port 1.4 x 1
USB: USB Type-C x 1, USB 3.2 x 3
Audio connections: 3.5 mm jack
Storage: 512 GB SSD
Battery life: 4h 30 mins
Keyboard: Chiclet RGB fully programmable keyboard
Software: Windows 10
Weight: 2.2 KG
Pros Cons
• Fantastic hardware • Weaker storage
• Well-built • Low battery life
• Great performance • Expensive

Overview

Big, bulky, and powerful, the Acer Predator Helios 300 is considered by many to be a top-tier laptop, and it's not particularly difficult to see why.

It's packed with an 11th gen Intel i-7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a great 144Hz screen, and the absolutely hefty RTX 3060 GPU, all in a 2.2KG laptop. It's also built impeccably well, with a 'Quad-Exhaust' cooling system to keep your precious hardware cool.

But of course, there are sacrifices in certain areas to keep that price tag down. The 512 GB of SSD storage is admittedly a little small for our liking but should suffice if you manage your storage effectively.

There's also the weaker 4 1/2 hour battery life which is rather poor in terms of laptop performance but is understandable due to such demanding hardware.

Overall, for the convenience of a complete gaming package ready to go, the sheer power of the Acer Predator Helios 300, as well as the portable convenience of it, you cannot go wrong with this machine.

Specifications
Dimensions: 498 x 185 x 421 mm
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti 12 GB GDDR6
RAM: 16 GB DDR4
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
Video connections: HDMI 2.0a x 1, Display Port 1.4 x 3
USB: USB Type-C x 2, USB 3.0 x 3, USB 2.0 x 4
Audio connections: 3.5 mm jack
Storage: 1 TB SSD
Software: Windows 11
Weight: 22.6 KG
Pros Cons
• Amazing hardware • Very expensive
• Stunning case
• Incredible build quality

Overview

Big, bulky, and expensive; HP OMEN's GT22 gaming PC is an absolute titan of a build, with a mammoth 3070 Ti GPU, a top-of-the-line AMD Ryzen 7 that is unmatched, and a seriously stunning case that isn't swayed by the trend of overly flashy tech-centric militaristic gaming PC aesthetics.

There isn't a game you could throw at the OMEN that is couldn't handle, but of course, the major disadvantage is its staggering price point. You're essentially paying for cutting-edge hardware that's beautifully packaged and that's going to last you for years to come. PCs are an investment, if you can spare the expense, why not take the plunge?

Best budget options

Any gaming laptop or PC setup able to run the latest generation of games is bound to be costly, along with the peripherals you'll need, but it doesn't mean you can't get some great value on them.

Your most important factor is of course your GPU, it's the key to getting great frame rates on those particularly demanding open-world games that would make your old PC sound like a jet engine.

Of course, there's still the CPU and RAM to consider, which are particularly important, alongside having plenty of storage to keep the gaming going for years to come.

Here are a couple of great budget picks that are sure to blow you away.

Specifications
Dimensions: 630 x 592 x 456 mm
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 12 GB GDDR6
RAM: 16 GB DDR4
CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-10400F Processor
Video connections: HDMI 2.0a x 1, Display Port 1.4 x 3
USB: USB 3.0 x 3, USB 2.0 x 3
Audio connections: 3.5 mm jack
Storage: 512 GB HDD
Software: Windows 11
Weight: 12.3 KG
Pros Cons
• Good hardware • Weak CPU
• Great case • HDD storage is a little weak
• Great performance

Overview

For under £1000, the Fierce PC is a ferocious deal, with the same 12 GB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 as the ASUS STRIX G15, yet at a serious price difference, you won't be disappointed.

For the price of a much slower 512 GB HDD, and a decent 10th generation Intel I-5 CPU, it's admittedly weaker than the G15, but you'll still find the Fierce to be totally capable of running most, if not all modern AAA titles.

Specifications
Dimensions: 19.6 X 355 X 252 mm
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 4 GB GDDR6
RAM: 16 GB DDR4 (32 GB maximum installable RAM
CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-12450H Processor
Display: 1920 x 1080p 144Hz
Video connections: HDMI 2.0 x 1, Thunderbolt 4 x 1
USB: USB Type-C x 2, USB 3.2 x 3
Audio connections: 3.5 mm jack
Storage: 512 GB SSD
Battery life: 6 hours
Keyboard: Membrane backlit keyboard
Software: Windows 11
Weight: 2.2 KG
Pros Cons
• Great hardware • Weaker 4GB VRAM on 3050 GPU
• Nicely designed
• Upgradeable

Overview

A really solid budget choice that's going to give you some great gaming options. It'll crush most modern FPS shooters, games like Fortnite are no exception. While there may be some difficulties in running the absolute cutting-edge due to the weaker 4GB of VRAM with the 3050 GPU, we doubt it'll dip below 50 FPS with most AAA games you throw at it.

We also love the upgradeability option for budding builders who want a little longevity in their laptops.

So what's better, PC or laptop?

In our book, there's no absolute winner.

If you prefer portability in exchange for some slightly weaker performance, a gaming laptop is your absolute weapon of choice.

If you're looking for the very best performance you can get, however, a gaming PC isn't going to be beaten. It'll just cost you quite a bit more to get up and running.

If the hassle of a gaming PC isn't for you, perhaps you'd prefer a peek at some of the best deals on the PS5 available now?

How do I know if my laptop will run a certain game?

If you're looking to run a game, it's best to look at the minimum system requirements of the game itself; it'll show you the minimum RAM, CPU, and GPU in most situations, as well as the OS you need. Steam, Epic Launcher, and the Microsoft Store will have all this information on the game's details page.

How do I find out what hardware I have?

If you're on a Windows PC, simply navigate to Windows Explorer, right-click on your device name, and select 'properties', and you should see all the information you'll ever need.

If you're using an Apple Mac, navigate to the Apple Menu and select 'About this Mac'.

Ryan is a tech writer and reviewer for What's The Best, specialising in PCs and gaming. He is a keen PC gamer and an avid reader.

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