You Probably Shouldn’t Buy a Gaming Laptop



Buying a gaming laptop is one of those ideas that sounds really good in theory, but the reality often turns out very differently to what we expect. If you’re a gamer you’ve probably considered the possibility that you might buy a gaming laptop.

If you’re still stuck with that thought at the back of your head, I’m here to tell you that in all likelihood that decision may haunt you for years. There are very few people who actually need a gaming laptop and chances are you are probably not one of them.

So let me go over the various reasons you should delete that gaming laptop from your online shopping basket.

Getting Hot and Heavy

Gaming computers are the most powerful machines this side of a professional workstation. They have fast multi-core processors, powerful GPUs and mountains of RAM.

All those wonderful toys have one thing in common: a hunger for power. Although modern gaming components have come a long way in terms of power consumption they still eat a lot of electricity.

The more power hungry a component is, the hotter it runs too. There’s a reason gaming cases have room for huge fans and water cooling gear.

While playing games, gaming laptops turn into scorching-hot, high-pitched tornadoes. In the worst-case scenario, all that performance gear will throttle itself down to prevent heat damage. Which also means you’ll never see the full performance you paid for.

Also, when you buy a gaming laptop you might as well pay by the pound. They’re generally pretty heavy to lug around.

I Got No Power

Buy a Gaming Laptop

If you imagined sitting on a plane and playing the latest AAA graphics-heavy gaming blockbuster, then you’re in for a nasty surprise. Battery technology has developed pretty slowly and the main reason modern devices have decent battery lifespans has more to do with improved power efficiency than much greater battery capacity.

Start up a modern video game and all that power saving technology flies out the window. Your CPU will max out, your RAM will work overtime and the GPU will spin up everything it’s got. Most gaming laptops will drain their battery while gaming way too fast to provide any real entertainment.

What this means is that if you buy a gaming laptop, you’ll still end up doing non-gaming stuff while away from a wall outlet. Any actual gaming is going to happen while on mains power.

A Raw Deal

The biggest non-technical reason a gaming laptop is a bad idea comes down to value for money. When you buy a gaming laptop you get one of the worst price-to-performance ratios the world of computing has to offer.

If you had to spec out a desktop computer, even a small form factor machine, to have the same performance as a gaming laptop you might end up spending half as much money.

So you really have to know that you’ll actually need that extra performance in a mobile computer. Otherwise, you’re flushing money straight down the toilet.

Need vs Want

The real problem is that, once you take gaming out of the equation, a laptop really doesn’t have to be high-end. Even the most basic mainstream laptop computer has far more processing power than you need to run MS Word and post witty thing on Twitter.

So who really needs a gaming laptop? If you are someone who doesn’t go home regularly but spends most of your time traveling, there’s a good justification for buying a gaming laptop.

When you’re waiting at the airport coffee shop for hours, practically live in a hotel or spend time on a tour bus a gaming laptop may be the right thing to buy.

If you want to attend LAN parties or go and game on a regular basis away from home, you could also justify a gaming laptop as a convenience.

Don’t Buy a Gaming Laptop: The Alternatives

So if gaming laptops are such bad deals, what should you do instead? The good news is there are cheaper and more effective strategies. I’ll propose a few that will suit a wide variety of people.

There are three alternatives I’ll cover:

  • Build a mini PC
  • Use external laptop graphics
  • Don’t game on a laptop

Build a Mini PC

If you need a portable PC gaming machine, but don’t actually need it to run off batteries, consider a Mini ITX PC. You can buy some truly tiny ITX cases that will accommodate the latest and greatest components.

Add to this a small screen and portable keyboard and mouse combo, and you can rock the LAN party without lugging around a monster PC.

The cost of a system like this is closer to a regular PC when matching performance levels and it’s a route I highly recommend.

External Graphics

If you’re in the market for a new laptop, you can get one that supports an external graphics card. This means you only own one computer that you take with you, but when you get back home you hook up an external desktop GPU and get the full-fat gaming performance you want.

The upside is that you can upgrade the GPU multiple times before the CPU in the laptop ever needs to be replaced.

Game on Something Else

Buy a Gaming Laptop

If you don’t need your gaming to be PC gaming, there are many other truly portable solution on offer. You could buy a dedicated handheld console like the Nintendo 3DS or Sony PlayStation Vita.

You’ll also find that there are many great games on iOS and Android, including ports of many classic PC games.

If it Makes You Happy

In the end, most people make their decisions based on how something makes them feel. If you really want a gaming laptop deep down in your gut, nothing I say will change that. What matters is that you don’t pull the trigger and buy a gaming laptop without all the facts.

Hopefully after our little talk, you can make the decision to buy a gaming laptop or not with a bit more clarity. Of course, there’s another argument that you don’t need a laptop at all anymore. You can also often get games to work on non-gaming laptops if you tweak the settings right. There’s no one way to solve any problem and you should always explore your options.


IMAGE CREDITS

Lead Image By Cmccarthy8 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Power Meter By User:魔私利戸 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

3DS Photo is Public Domain

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