Gaming vs. Regular Laptop. When to choose What

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Are you looking to buy a new computer?

Should you get a gaming laptop or a regular laptop?

Is there any difference between them? How do you know which you should get, and why are there so many different specs on laptops?

Don’t worry; I will walk you through all the different specs to help you decide between gaming and regular laptops. 

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know, from technical noob to technical boss! 

Quick Rundown of the Differences Between Gaming & Regular Laptops

Before breaking down each computer spec, the below table covers the basics of all 13 different specs to look at when deciding whether you should get a gaming or a regular laptop.

It sounds like a lot, but it shall all be fully explained.  

Differences Between Gaming & Regular Laptops

SpecGaming LaptopRegular Laptop
Graphics CardEquipped with an AMD Radeon or NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, good for video games and video editingComes with an integrated graphics card and CPU like an Intel processor
RAMTypically has between 8 to 16 GB of RAM, sometimes as much as 32 GBTypically only has between 4 and 8 GB of RAM
ProcessorComes equipped with high-end processors like AMD RYZEN, and the Intel Core seriesOnly has basic processors with low clock speeds, and are often combined with the GPU
KeyboardOften comes with a mechanical keyboard with RGB lighting, and are built to handle the stress from gamingComes with a membrane keyboard built to handle regular day to day wear and tear
PortabilityHeavier than regular laptops making it difficult to carry around due to larger battery and additional hardwareTypically light and perfect for taking with you wherever you go
Refresh RateTypically has a refresh rate between 120 – 144hzComes with 60hz refresh rate displays, sometimes even go as high as 120hz
Cooling SystemAdvanced cooling system with several fans to counter the higher amount of heat produced from gamingBasic cooling system and typically only has one fan on the top or bottom
AestheticGaming laptops typically have RGB lights, bolder colors, and a futuristic designTypically light colors like gray, blue, or black, and does not come with RBG lights
Number of PortsMultiple ports of different types to allow for multiple external devicesOnly several ports, typically two or three USB ports and an HDMI port
Battery LifeBattery only lasts around 6 hoursLong-lasting battery that lasts around 12 hours
LongevityDepends on usage and care Depends on usage and care
SpeakersLoud and produce good sounds, though headphones are still betterStandard issue speakers which can sound quiet and mix sounds poorly
PriceVery expensive usually because of all the additional hardwareCan be found for cheap, and will not break your wallet if you do not want high-end

Breaking Down Each Spec

Below I’ll break down all the essential specifications that differentiate the best gaming laptops from standard laptops.

Processors

Also known as the central processing unit (CPU), the processor is the brain of your computer and is what every task runs through.

Currently, two companies dominate the processor market, Intel and AMD. Now bear with me because it gets a little complicated when comparing gaming laptop processors and regular laptop processors. 

This content was first published on GamersNotAllowed.com

Starting, gaming, and regular laptop processors are built slightly differently as they are used for different tasks.

Processors in gaming laptops have to handle thousands and millions of tasks, flooding them constantly in a game, while regular laptops send fewer tasks each second. 

Author’s Note: If you are not technically inclined, go with AMD Ryzen processors for gaming laptops and Intel processors for regular laptops to make it simple.

AMD and Intel use prefixes next to their computer processors, and that prefix tells you what it stands for. The example below is for Intel Core processors, but overall, most processors follow a naming scheme similar to the one below. 

Gaming Laptops:

  • HK: High Performance and Unlocked
  • HQ: High Performance; Quad Core
  • K: Unlocked (Processor can be overclocked)
  • H: High-Performance

Regular Laptops:

  • G: Graphics 
  • Y: Extremely Low Power
  • T: Power Optimized Lifestyle
  • U: Ultra-Low Power

Besides the differences between AMD and Intel processors, gaming laptop processors often come with more cores, typically four to eight, while regular laptop processors only have around two cores.

The more cores a processor has, the more tasks it can run at once, making for a faster laptop. 

Both regular and gaming laptops can have powerful processors. What really makes up the main difference between the different types of laptops is what comes next.

Graphics Cards

Graphics cards, aka a video card or graphics processing unit (GPU), are one of the most important specs when choosing between a gaming or regular laptop.

Gaming laptops come with dedicated graphics cards, while normal laptops come with integrated graphics cards. 

What is the difference?

A dedicated graphics card is separate from the CPU and comes with its own processor (an AMD or Nvidia GPU) RAM, typically at least 4 GB of RAM. Dedicated graphics cards are sometimes called discrete graphics cards.

Integrated graphics cards, on the other hand, are integrated with the CPU and use the same resources and RAM that the CPU does. 

You need a laptop with a dedicated graphics card if you plan on doing any graphics-intensive programs and to get the best gaming experience.

Integrated graphics cards only provide enough power for basic programs like web browsing and word processing but can’t handle intensive games.

RAM

Random Access Memory (RAM) stands for short-term memory and is used by your computer for any task you are currently running.

For example, let’s say you are working in a word document writing a story. That task is currently saved in your computer’s RAM. Then you open Google Chrome, which eats up more of your RAM, and so on. 

The more RAM you have access to, the more tasks you can run at once without slowing down your computer.

Thus, most gaming laptops come equipped with between 8 GB to 16 GB of RAM, with the more expensive ones having as much as 32 GB of RAM. 

Regular laptops, on the other hand, since they only run a few programs at once typically, come with between 4 GB and 8 GB of RAM.

If you want to play Minecraft and enjoy a lag-free experience, you will want a laptop with at least 8 GB of RAM. On the other hand, if you want to stream while playing Minecraft, a laptop with 16 GB will function much better. 

Refresh Rate

What is refresh rate? Refresh rate refers to the number of times your laptop screen refreshes the image on your screen per second.

The higher the refresh rate, the better images, videos, and games appear. A lower refresh rate will lead to motion blurs and other poor image views. 

While most laptop displays are the same overall, gaming laptops tend to come with a display refresh rate of 120 – 144hz, compared to a regular laptop that averages 60hz and sometimes goes as high as 120hz. Some high-end laptops even come with a refresh rate as high as 240hz. 

Cooling System

Another significant difference between gaming and regular laptops is their cooling systems. Gaming laptops come with large and intense cooling systems with multiple fans to handle the heat produced by gaming.

They will also have several air vents and heat sinks; some laptops, like the ASUS ROG, have vapor cooling chambers on the sides. 

On the other hand, regular laptops typically only have one fan on the top or bottom of the chassis because most of their heat is produced by their processor and is typically very little.

However, if you place a regular laptop through intensive programs, you will probably notice it having overheating issues due to its poor cooling systems.

Storage

Unless you’re using a Chromebook, you need storage to keep all your data.

What type of storage and how much depends on what you’ll use your laptop for.

An old-school spinning hard drive (HDD) is great if you’ve got a lot of games on your laptop.

If your favorite games are story-driven, like the Red Dead Redemption series, the Witcher Series, the Assassin’s Creed series, or Elder Scroll series, you’ll fill up a 512 GB SSD drive in no time.

If you’re also doing video editing, you should consider a gaming laptop with a lot of storage, and hard drives are much cheaper per GB than SSDs and NvMe M.2 drives.

Granted, an HDD is slower than the other types, so you might have to wait longer for cutscenes and new levels to load. But you can carry much more data at a fraction of the price of the other two types.

Some gaming laptops come with a hybrid drive, a faster SSD-type drive for your operating system, and essential files that need to load fast. And then a slower storage space for all the rest.

If you’re only playing casual games or lighter games like Minecraft, you can get by with a single SSD or NvMe M.2 drive.

If you’re not a gamer, storage type and space for the average laptop also come down to what you will use it for. If it is for regular non-GPU intensive work, you can get by with a 256 or 512 GB SSD or NvMe m.2 drive.

But suppose you’re keeping many photos or videos. In that case, you should consider a hybrid drive – or, even better an online backup option because you don’t want to lose all those precious vacation memories when your laptop dies.

Keyboards

The holy grail of all gamers, a good or bad keyboard defines whether or not a laptop becomes your new best friend or is left at the store.

High-end gaming laptops know this and thus come equipped with fancy mechanical keyboards that make beautiful clickity-clackity sounds.

Mechanical keyboards are also more accurate, faster, and superior to standard membrane keyboards. 

Regular laptops come with membrane keyboards, which are not built to handle the stress of gaming, and are typically fairly quiet.

This is because they have a fleshy membrane underneath each key, producing a less accurate and slower typing experience than mechanical keyboards. 

Another difference between the keyboards on gaming and regular laptops is that gaming laptops typically come with RBG backlit keyboards, while the keyboards found on regular laptops are not colorful. 

Portability

If you are looking for a laptop to take with you wherever you go, you will want to get a regular laptop, as it is lighter and slimmer than gaming laptops.

Gaming laptops are much larger and heavier due to the additional software they come with. 

Gaming laptops also have larger batteries (which ironically only last around 6 hours) to provide enough juice to support the powerful processors, GPU, cooling systems, and RAM that gaming laptops require to function. 

A good gaming laptop is essentially a gaming desktop PC wrapped in a portable package. That makes them bigger and heavier than the slim business-like laptops used for PowerPoint presentations, word processing, web browsing, and the occasional Netflix streaming.

Screen size

Speaking of portability, the screen size also influences this.

A smaller screen decreases the overall form factor and increases battery life. A regular laptop with a small screen is great for everyday use because it’s easy to bring with you, and the battery can last through the day.

But you’d want a bigger screen if you’re working or gaming for extended periods. So screen size comes down to portability, battery life, and whether or not you’ll hook your laptop up to external monitors.

For gaming laptops, I wouldn’t recommend getting a laptop with less than a 15-inch screen. If it’s your sole monitor, i.e., you’re not using an external screen, I’d recommend getting a 17-inch.

If you want to power one or two more giant screens from your laptop, you also want a graphics card to handle it.

The same is true for regular laptops. But if you’re traveling a lot, I’d recommend a 14-inch screen, which seems to be the sweet spot between portability and not getting too much eye strain.

Speakers

Regarding speakers, if you always use headphones or hook your computer up to external sound systems, this may not be very important.

Still, it is crucial to know the difference between regular and gaming laptop speakers because you never know when you might want to share that epic Youtube video you found with your friends. 

Poor sound quality on a laptop can make or break the experience, so if you know you will use your speakers most of the time, you will likely be better off with a gaming laptop. If speakers are only used occasionally for YouTube videos by yourself, a regular laptop can work.

Gaming laptops typically come with larger speakers that are louder and have better sound mixing and bass. On the other hand, regular laptops come with smaller speakers that are perfect for things like watching movies, making calls, and just general day-to-day usage.

Battery Life

If you are like me, you leave your laptop plugged in all the time and never really pay attention to the battery life. However, that is not always the case for people, and if you travel a lot, you will want a laptop with long battery life. 

Well, if you get a gaming laptop, you can expect it only to last around 6 hours max, and it will die even sooner if you use it for graphic-intensive gaming.

High-end GPUs use a lot of power – it’s just the way it is – and no gamer wants to play games that lag due to a low frame rate.

On the other hand, regular laptops typically last between 10 – 12 hours, making them perfect for traveling around, working at a coffee shop, or enjoying a movie on the couch. 

But why do gaming laptops have such poor battery life?

Well, that is because they are built to replace a desktop essentially and thus require a ton of battery power.

And the more power a laptop uses, the larger of a battery it requires, but gaming laptops can only have batteries that are so big, leading them to have poor battery life. 

Number of Available Ports

Does the number of available ports on a laptop matter? It depends on what your needs are.

Gamers typically need to hook up extra hardware to their laptop, like a mouse, possibly an additional monitor, a keyboard, bigger speakers, and a webcam. The list goes on and on.

Thus, gaming laptops typically come with a lot more additional ports. 

On average, gaming laptops do not come with less than 3 USB ports, and some come with as many as 5. On the other hand, regular laptops typically only come with two to three USB ports and an HDMI port since you are not often hooking up multiple devices to the laptop. 

Longevity

The final spec when choosing between a gaming or regular laptop is longevity; honestly, there is no real difference between them. A laptop’s longevity ultimately depends on how well you take care of it. If you take care of your laptop, treat it well, and do not overuse it, it could last you 5 – 10 years, though unfortunately, laptops tend only to last around five years. 

On the other hand, if you treat a laptop poorly and smack on it, throw it around, and use it for long hours without giving it a break, it might not even last you five hours. So if you want your laptop to last, regular or gaming, take care of it. 

It should be noted, though, that gaming laptops naturally tend to last slightly less than regular laptops because of the intense processes they are put through. That only applies if you only use it for graphic-intensive gaming for hours upon hours daily. 

Overall Aesthetic

While not a critical difference technically, gaming and regular laptops have massive differences in how they look. Gaming laptops tend to be more flashy, have lots of RGB lights, and their chassis have sharp edges and look futuristic. 

They are designed to pop and catch people’s eyes, and they do it exceptionally well. Some of the best-looking laptops ever are gaming laptops. On the other hand, regular laptops are designed to look clean and trimmed. 

Regular laptops come with a smooth chassis, no flashy lights, and typically look like two slim, unremarkable rectangles placed on each other. This makes a non-gaming laptop the best choice for school, work, college students, and professional environments. 

Price

Nobody enjoys looking at the price tags placed on laptops, especially if you find the perfect one only to realize it will cost you an arm and a leg. And unfortunately, if you want a popular and powerful gaming laptop like a Razer Blade, it comes with high price tag, which may blow a hole through your wallet. 

Gaming laptops, especially high-end ones, can cost well over a thousand dollars, but remember, they come with a ton of bells and whistles. But, if you are starting out or only using your laptop for basic web usage, regular laptops are better. 

They typically can be found relatively cheap and do not break the wallet like gaming laptops. So, if you want impressive specs and plan on doing a lot of heavy gaming, invest in a gaming laptop. Otherwise, find a good regular laptop with solid specs, and get that to save money. 

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a new laptop, ask yourself what you will use it for.

Are you going to play some of the new games on the market with a lot of fancy graphics? Or will you do heavy tasks such as video editing with a few special effects added? Then it would be best if you got a good gaming laptop with a lot of RAM, high-end components, and a powerful GPU like an AMD Radeon or Nvidia GeForce RTX.

However, if you’re mostly going to use it for casual gaming, web browsing, watching Netflix or YouTube, school work, or Microsoft Office365, you can get by with a MAC or Windows laptop.

I know that was a lot, but now you know the main differences between gaming and regular laptops, and you can now make an educated decision when choosing your next laptop. If you found this article helpful, check out some of my other articles on the best budget gaming laptops! Until next time, happy gaming!


FAQ

Here are some more FAQs answered for your gaming pleasure!

How Do I Choose Between a Gaming and a Regular Laptop?

When it comes down to choosing between a gaming and a regular laptop, ask yourself what you plan on using it for.

If you are likely to do a lot of gaming on it, you should get a gaming laptop, as while you can technically game on a regular laptop, it will not provide the same type of experience. 

On the other hand, if you use it for web browsing, working in Word, and reading emails, then a regular laptop will work fine. 

Gaming vs Regular Laptops: are Gaming Laptops Better?

In terms of performance power, gaming laptops are better than regular laptops, but it ultimately boils down to what you use them for. 

Should I Purchase a Gaming Laptop for Work? 

Suppose your work requires a ton of video editing or work with software such as in a coding environment. In that case, a gaming laptop will provide the necessary power to perform those tasks efficiently.

On the contrary, a regular laptop will work fine if your work is mostly just answering emails and video calls with your coworkers.

Laptop vs desktop – which one is better for gaming?

The laptop vs. desktop debate has existed for as long as modern gaming laptops became powerful enough to play high-end games.

There are pros of cons to choosing each, and as I said earlier, gaming laptops are essentially gaming PCs in smaller frames.

Which is better comes down to whether or not you’re going to take your computer with you.

Desktop computers are a pain to haul with you to LAN parties or if you regularly game with friends in the same room.

However, desktop gaming PCs are much more flexible when upgrading. Also, you can have more and faster storage drives internally, removing the need for external hard drives. Desktop gaming PCs also have more ports.

Finally, gaming desktop PCs are the way to go if you want to build the ultimate gaming setup with as much power as possible.

That said, you can hook up external GPUs to a gaming laptop, external screens, and more. But you’ll have a messy table with lots of cables, and you should ask yourself how portable that total system is if you have to bring it all for gaming with your friends.

The pro of the gaming laptop setup is that the laptop is powerful enough to handle the latest games on its own. So you can unplug all that extra stuff and only bring the laptop with you. This makes a gaming laptop a very flexible solution.

The cons of a gaming laptop are, first of all, the performance price. Compared to a desktop gaming PC, the powerful components of gaming laptops tend to be pricier than similar powerful components for desktops.

You also quickly get a lot of cable chaos if you hook up lots of external stuff.