Many believe that desktops are the most powerful machines in comparison to laptops for computing. There was a time when laptops came with sub-par internals in comparison to desktops, but with advancements in technology, now laptops too come with high-performance components and beastly processors that can touch 5GHz. Laptops are now as versatile as desktops and come in different builds and configurations that focus on specialized usage.
Due to these path-breaking advancements in technology, laptops have gained a lot of popularity. They have made leaps and bounds progress in being preferred as a business, gaming, or productivity companion. Currently, more people are choosing laptops over desktops due to their great easy-to-use and portable form factor.
If you plan on buying a laptop for yourself, you might be left confused mainly between two categories, Regular and Gaming laptops. It is the core focus area of the laptop that decides its category. A regular laptop is preferred by business and productivity-seeking users, while gaming enthusiasts prefer laptops that come with high-end graphics cards that can run games.
However, some latest generation business-focused laptops also ship with graphics cards inside and offer good gaming capabilities along with productivity in the same thin form factor? These are still regular laptops but come with considerable gaming prowess.
The difference between gaming and regular laptops is too subtle in the newer generation of laptops as manufacturers have slowly started to ditch tank-like chassis of heavy laptops and are looking for a sleeker approach. Our focus today would be on the differences between these two types of laptops.
Let’s look at the some common differences between gaming and regular laptops at a glance before we dive deep.
These differences are some of the most common/generic ones, to give you an overview of how most gaming laptops differ from regular laptops. These don’t apply to absolutely every gaming/regular laptop, however.
Table of Contents
Gaming Laptop vs. Regular Laptop Comparison Table
|Criteria||Gaming Laptop||Regular Laptop|
|Processor||Gaming laptops come with high clock speed processors that focus more on single-core performance.||Regular laptops come with multi-threading enabled mid-range processors for multitasking and office productivity.|
|Memory||Gaming laptops come with at least 16GB of high-performance RAM.||Most business or entertainment-focused laptops can manage with 8GB RAM.|
|Graphics||Dedicated graphics cards provide high graphics processing capabilities in a gaming laptop.||Most regular laptops do not need high-level graphics processing and come with in-built graphics solutions.|
|Keyboard||Sturdy mechanical and RGB backlit keyboards with anti-ghosting features and responsive keystroke feedback.||Feather touch keys with extremely low travel distance.|
|Display||High refresh rate IPS display with high color gamut and even color coverage.||Regular screens in regular laptops for occasional entertainment and plain old excel, presentations, and workbooks.|
|Thermal Management||Heavy usage and more components inside would generate a lot of heat while gaming.||No significant vents around the edges. Thermal management is a much quieter affair.|
|Noise Levels||High noise levels as bigger cooling fans are deployed inside for heat management.||Lower noise levels with a single cooling fan.|
|Battery Life||Poor battery life as high-end processors and graphics cards draw a lot of power.||Good battery life with power-efficient components inside.|
|Audio||Speakers offer good audio along with audio enhancements.||Underwhelming audio mostly using 2–4-watt speakers, minimum to no enhancement.|
|Weight Management||Heavy and bulky due to extra components and a big battery.||Thin, sleek, and stylish. Lightweight.|
|Price||Very expensive due to high-end components and heavy but strong build.||Relatively much cheaper and available over a wide range of prices and configurations.|
Although these basic differences can be easily spotted between a typical gaming and regular laptop, there are plenty of spillovers where a thin chassis laptop might have a Max-Q-powered high-end graphics card for premium gaming. These could be considered as exceptions as the make of a typical laptop from either category consists of all or most of the features specific to it.
Gaming Laptop vs. Regular Laptop Basic Differences
Let’s understand the basic differences between these gaming and regular laptops in detail.
1. Gaming Requires More Powerful CPU
Regular laptops run less demanding applications like Microsoft Office and web browsing, which do not need the fastest and most powerful processors.
Mid-range Intel or AMD processors are capable enough to handle even extremely high office productivity loads. These processors have hyperthreading enabled, which virtually doubles the number of physical cores and offer extremely good multitasking capabilities to a laptop in multi-threaded tasks.
You can look at suffixes in the processor’s names to get an idea about the processor’s capabilities. Regular laptops would have processors with these suffixes.
U – Ultra-Low Power, Low TDP
G – Comes with Integrated Graphics
T – Power Optimized Lifestyle
Gaming is a graphics-intensive task that needs a processor that can process the huge number of frames being churned out by the graphics card. Gaming is also a processor-intensive task like video editing/rendering or software compiling where many arithmetical and logical operations need to be completed at blazing speed.Gaming laptops need top-of-the-line processors with high single-core speeds.
Gaming still needs extremely high single-core performance as most games cannot utilize multiple threads or cores in the processor. These processors need more power to perform and have a high TDP which generates more heat and uses more battery resulting in poor battery backup in gaming laptops.
Similar to regular laptops, gaming laptops can be identified through these suffixes in their processor names.
H – High Performance
HQ – High-Performance Quad-Core
K – Unlocked and Overclockable
HK – High Performance plus Unlocked and Overclockable
2. Gaming Requires More RAM
Random Access Memory or (RAM) is a computer’s short-term memory, and a gaming computer needs plenty of it.
Gaming laptops are not only good at gaming but can also run graphics designing and animation applications like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Maya.
These demanding applications place a lot of their resources on the temporary memory of the laptop to access it promptly as and when needed. Additionally, almost every game has minimum system requirements, such as Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla that needs more than 8GB RAM to run. Add to it 2GB for Windows OS 64 bit and a few more gigabytes for additional background processes like streaming or recording gameplay, and you are looking at an excess of 12GB RAM. Gaming laptops usually come with high-frequency 16GB RAM with options for further upgrade.
On the other hand, normal laptops are built to run less resource hoarding applications like web browsers, office suites, or video players; hence, most regular laptops would be available with 8GB RAM operating at modest frequencies.
3. Gaming Requires More Powerful GPUs
The video processing capabilities of a laptop come from the caliber of its GPU. This is actual hardware with graphics processing cores and transistors inside, which help render and process pristine quality videos and images for your monitor to display.
The biggest difference between a gaming and regular laptop is their GPU. While a gaming laptop comes with a discrete graphics unit with separate graphics processing hardware dedicated to the task, regular laptops usually come with integrated solutions that use shared or minimum graphics hardware.
The integrated GPU is embedded on the same die of the CPU and uses system RAM like the CPU. Examples of these are Intel HD Graphics and AMD G and U series processors with integrated Vega graphics. Common RAM usage limits the graphic capabilities of integrated solutions, and they are best for less graphic-intensive tasks.
These processors are more of Accelerated Processing Units than regular CPUs, focusing less on graphics handling. APUs like the Ryzen 5 4500U in the Lenovo Flex 5 (Amazon Link) can handle limited graphics tasks such as gaming on low resolution and quality, simple image editing, and limited to no video editing or content creation.
With improvements in technology and user demand, Intel Iris Xe or Nvidia MX350 is now available on laptops. These are still integrated graphics solutions but with a much higher capacity—both of these support medium-high resolution casual gaming in the latest gaming titles.Gaming laptops come with dedicated graphics cards whose performance is almost similar to their desktop counterparts.
Discrete graphics cards in gaming laptops are on a separate die from the CPU and come with their own Video RAM, which operates faster than system RAM.
These pieces of hardware have separate graphics processing units dedicated to churning out high-quality images and frames. The GPU uses its own VRAM to operate, which reduces the load on system RAM.
Dedicated GPUs are much better at handling graphics-related data and complex tasks such as gaming on high resolution, animation, 3D modeling, and VR rendering.
Nvidia and AMD provide dedicated GPUs in laptops. Nvidia also uses Max-Q technology to offer efficient performance in thin chassis gaming laptops, which offer highly optimized performance in a much smaller footprint. Here is the Acer Predator Helios 300 (Amazon Link) featuring a full-sized RTX 3080 and the HP Omen 15 (Amazon Link) carrying a Max-Q powered RTX 2070 Super.
4. Superior Display and Keyboard Dynamics for Better Gaming
In terms of Display, both types of laptops come with similar technology panels like 4K OLED as in the Razer Blade 15 Advanced gaming laptop. The gaming ones however, have a higher refresh rate and low response time, which is a must-have for proper gaming. A 60Hz-120Hz display is considered standard for regular use as there is no need to constantly refresh the display panel to accommodate rapid movement and face-paced action.
For a gaming laptop, however, the refresh rate ought to be much higher than 60Hz. These laptops have a refresh rate beyond 120Hz and can go as high as 300Hz, as seen in the Acer Predator Triton 500 (Amazon Link). Since gaming laptops come with dedicated graphics units that can process frames at high speed, the monitor’s refresh rate must be high to display the processed frames.
The pixels in the display must change colors quickly to accommodate the new frames. For gaming laptops, an ideal response time should be below five milliseconds like the Alienware m15 R4 (Amazon Link). High refresh rates and low response time go hand in hand in gaming by allowing the screen to keep up with the rapid movements of the characters in the game without causing screen stuttering and tearing.
Most gaming laptops come with RGB backlit keyboards, while regular laptops might come with a single-color LED backlit. The difference however, lies in the performance and feedback of the keys. Normal laptops usually come with standard membrane keyboards built for regular use, such as typing. They cannot take a heavy usage, are mostly feather touch, and are not designed to be pressed repeatedly for long durations. These keys have minimal travel distance, and the slightest of pushes gets the input registered.
Many gaming laptops offer mechanical keyboards that are more durable and are designed to withstand repeated pressure and forceful strokes during aggressive gameplay. They can easily withstand the stress of repeated pressing and forceful strokes of aggressive gamers.
Gigabyte Aorus 17G YD comes with a mechanical keyboard and N-Key rollover support absent in regular laptops. Mechanical keyboards in gaming laptops last longer, and each keystroke offers solid feedback to the user than membrane based keyboards.
5. Regular Laptops Battery Last Longer and Require Less Cooling
Regular laptops have mid-range processors and no dedicated graphics cards inside. They do not generate much heat. The thermal management in these laptops usually consists of a single cooling fan that operates almost silently to draw in cool air and keep the thermals in check.
Gaming laptops have high TDP components inside, which need more power to run and come with at least two fans with a dedicated automatic or manual fan control mechanism. During prolonged gaming sessions, the heat generated in these laptops is blown out using these cooling fans to prevent processor overheat and lag. The Razer Blade Pro 17 (Amazon Link), for example, comes with vapor chamber cooling to minimize heat buildup.Cooling fans of gaming laptops generate considerable noise and use more power which contributes to their overall low battery backup.
Regular laptops come with standard batteries, which offer extremely good battery backup, and last all day. If there is an Intel Evo tag like in the Acer Swift 3 (Amazon Link) or LG Gram 17Z90P (Amazon Link), the battery may offer up to a jaw-dropping 19 hours usage on a single charge. This is so as mid-range processors are not high TDP units and can also be configured to operate at lower frequencies when idle. In addition to this, regular laptops have smaller cooling fans that need less power to operate.
On the other hand, gaming laptops have more power-hungry components and use up a lot of juice that their already beefy batteries offer. This results in less than 5 hours of average backup from gaming laptops. Many gaming laptops hence come with fast chargers, but that increases the overall cost of the laptop.
6. Regular Laptops Can Be Lighter and More Portable
Regular laptops usually come out better when it comes to aesthetics, portable builds, and better thermal management. Since these laptops are used for office productivity and general entertainment, they do not need the best processor and graphics cards. They are made thin and light with stylish builds that are easy to carry around.
These laptops sometimes come with a soldered RAM stick in one of the slots and an empty slot for future upgrade. These laptops do not need huge storage spaces as regular business applications do not take up huge space when installed, and hence a 256GB or 512GB SSD is more than enough with a spare slot inside for increased storage later.
On the other hand, gaming laptops typically come with tank-like builds with angular and eccentric aesthetics that give them a futuristic look (although this seems to be changing in recent years). This, in turn, also makes these laptops bulky and heavy to carry around. They need more power and hence come with a big battery which adds to the overall weight of the laptop. The Dell XPS 13 (Amazon Link), on the other hand, is a tried and tested business-focused laptop that weighs less than 1.5 kilograms.
We believe both gaming and regular laptops have their niche markets where they are best at the purposes they serve. Sure, a gaming laptop is much more capable and can do all that a regular laptop does but can you carry it to your workplace? Would that look professional?
A regular laptop, however, might lose relevance when your job involves content creation. Regular laptops are low-profile devices that you can quickly carry along if you have to give a presentation in a hall filled with people.
A gaming laptop on that podium would have people looking more at the laptop than you. Hence, we do not favor or rebuke either category of laptops and advise you to choose one according to your requirements and usage.
Differences Between Gaming and Regular Laptops – FAQ
Are regular laptops always cheaper than gaming laptops?
The price of any commodity depends on a variety of factors, demand being the prime amongst them. There is equal demand for gaming laptops with strong and heavy builds, and regular laptops with light and sleek designer builds. If the components in a regular laptop conform to the latest standards as in latest generation processors etc., the price difference might not be significant.
How much can I game on regular laptops?
Regular laptops rarely have dedicated graphics cards in them and are hence poor at running the latest titles. The latest integrated graphics solutions found in regular laptops of today do offer better capabilities, but still, you cannot expect every AAA title to run. Even if they do, you have to tone down the quality and resolution settings.
Why do gaming laptops offer less battery backup despite having the latest generation power-efficient processors?
The latest generation Intel and AMD processors are more power-efficient and come with configurable TDP, but while processors have been trying to be more efficient, graphics cards are trying to win the race to be more extravagant. High-end graphics cards use a lot of power which affects the battery life in gaming laptops. In addition to this, considerable power is used by the cooling fans to keep the thermals in check.
How do thin and light regular laptops offer better battery backup?
Regular laptops use mid-range CPUs or APUs that have low power requirements, and since these laptops are not used for gaming, their cooling mechanisms are also underwhelming in comparison to gaming laptops. This has a great impact on the battery life of the laptop. In addition to this, the latest generation of laptops also comes with Intel Evo, which requires laptops to be extremely efficient and offer an all-day battery. Hence manufacturers provide high-density battery cells in these laptops that return extremely good backup.
What are the features that could be common between regular and gaming laptops?
Although gaming and regular laptops serve different purposes, they are similar in few areas, such as the Display. You can find regular laptops too with 4K quality OLED panels, just that its refresh rate would be low. Next is a strong build. Both categories of laptops can have a strong build that is made to endure regular usage and take a punch. You would also find similar quality webcams in both gaming and regular laptops. Speaker performance also might have many similarities as (although there are exceptions) laptops are not known to offer good audio performance, and most people end up connecting their headsets anyways.