If you’re in the market for a new computer for college, choosing between a gaming laptop or a desktop can be challenging.
They both have their advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we discuss a gaming laptop vs desktop for college to help you make the right decision for your needs.
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Gaming Laptop Overview For College (Pros + Cons)
Gaming laptops have come a long way. Before, they weren’t even considered in the laptop vs desktop debate because of their high prices and specialist uses.
However, they have some unique advantages, especially for college students.
You can use gaming laptops for both work and everyday use as they have the power to complete everyday tasks and run high-end games.
They can also be taken wherever needed. This is especially helpful for students who might use their laptops in different areas of their campus or while commuting.
Gaming laptops have also become a lot more potent in recent years.
Because of this, there is now more choice than ever before, and you can choose different laptops with various features and specs.
Overall, when it comes to day-to-day tasks, gaming laptops are perfect for completing college work.
The main disadvantage to remain aware of is limited battery life, so ensure you’re not too far from a power outlet if you plan to use your laptop for more than a few hours.
What We Like
Things We Don’t
Desktop For Students (Pros & Cons)
Desktops are often used by college students that need the extra processing power for gaming, CAD applications, or other intensive applications.
For everyday purposes only, the extra power isn’t much use.
Desktops are very powerful and can process information much faster than a laptop can. Because of this, you can have a more efficient gaming experience.
You will also have more storage and more memory. However, they can be very expensive.
One option is to build your own, but while it can be great to customize your very own desktop, it can end up costing a lot.
Most pre-built gaming desktops range from as low as $1,000 to as high as $8,000.
The biggest con for desktops like these is their immobility. This makes it awkward for students who need to change locations or are based in a small dorm.
You can move them, but it can be a lot of hassle compared to using a laptop. Here's the pros and cons of desktops to take into consideration.
What We Like
Things We Don’t
Gaming Laptop Vs Desktop For College - What Do Students Need Most?
Weight & Portability
The most apparent distinction between a laptop vs desktop for college is their portability. Desktops are much larger and have standalone monitors.
While you can bring it to a different location, it is pretty bulky, and you will need a location where you can plug it in.
They’re not the best choice if you’re looking for portability because they are designed to be used in one place.
On the other hand, gaming laptops are easily transported. They are very compact and easy to carry.
They’re designed to be used on the go, carried in a backpack, and quickly unpacked.
Performance & Power
If you’re looking for pure power, then the desktop might be the best choice. The main reason for this is that it has fans.
The desktop tower has much more room for fans than a laptop and can cool the powerful hardware much more effectively.
Desktops are also much larger and contain more powerful hardware than laptops. You will almost always have greater storage and better processing power on a desktop.
This is simply because laptops use less powerful versions of desktop hardware.
However, laptop technology has come a long way, and some laptops can now match their desktop rivals in performance, especially if you build your own gaming laptop.
Some brands like Alienware or Asus can offer you a laptop's portability and a desktop's performance.
In terms of functionality, desktops are better at gaming. This is because they are capable of using high-powered graphics cards.
They have higher power levels and a better cooling system.
Meanwhile, the laptop has more limited space meaning graphics are less advanced.
However, high-end laptops can provide better than average graphics for gaming and CAD-based applications.
But, overall power and functionality will be limited due to the size of the laptop.
Display Size & Resolution
In general, desktop monitors can be many inches larger than a laptop screen. You can also connect a desktop to a TV, so the screen display could be as large as a TV.
This gives you increased flexibility on screen size.
Portability is a significant feature of laptops, so screen display is sacrificed, and they are smaller out of necessity. Laptop screen sizes generally range from 10 to 17 inches.
But a laptop can still connect to an external display and support any size of monitor, screen, or projector to improve display size and resolution.
Internal & External Storage
Desktop computers usually have several internal drives already installed. However, laptop computers usually have enough room for only one internal drive.
If there’s a need for more internal storage, then the drive has to be upgraded.
Desktops can connect to several external drives with their available data ports (USB, Thunderbolt, etc.)
Laptops also have the resources to connect to multiple external drives, but the number of ports on a laptop is fewer than on a desktop.
So, both laptops and desktops have a range of resources to increase internal and external storage, but desktops have an edge over laptops.
Ease of Use & Repairs
Repairing a desktop is a lot easier because the case can be opened quickly, and there is plenty of room to access cables and components.
On the other hand, opening a laptop to repair a part can be very tedious and difficult.
Finding a replacement part often requires calling the computer manufacturer or ordering from an online site, and this can be more complex with laptops as their parts are harder to come by.
So, when it comes to fixing common computer problems, it's easier to repair parts of the desktop than a laptop.
Regarding desktops vs. laptops for college, most college students will choose a laptop because of its portability and easy storage in a dorm room.
Most parts in a desktop are easily removable and replaceable, making it easy to upgrade.
Also, because desktop cases are much bigger, they’re easier to work in when doing any upgrading.
Meanwhile, with laptops, the memory and hard drive of a laptop are often the only parts that can be upgraded. Other features are usually built-in.
Therefore, any additional laptop upgrades like CPU typically require specialist help.
Price & Warranties
There’s a broad range of options available for desktops regarding price points. For example, the monitors, keyboard, mouse, and similar.
These components mean that you can spend lots of money, but the starting point is normally cheap.
The cost of desktops can start as low as $400 for a complete package, including accessories, but this will only provide basic functionality.
Meanwhile, laptops can also have a wide variety of component price points, but they are more limited than desktops.
So, to get higher speeds, better graphics, and more storage, the gaming laptop price will be higher.
It can reach thousands of dollars for advanced laptops and high-end brands.
Generally, desktops and laptops have a 1-year warranty to repair defective parts, but this will vary depending on the retailer and manufacturer.
Gaming Laptop and Desktop FAQs
Is it better to get a gaming laptop or a regular laptop for college?
Deciding between a gaming vs regular laptop depends on a few things; gaming laptops are generally made from better materials and feature faster processors.
Depending on what you're studying in college, you might need a dedicated GPU. If that's the case, then a gaming laptop is a great choice.
Is a desktop a PC?
A desktop PC can refer to any user’s machine, whether it's Windows, Mac, or Linux.
However, the term “PC” by itself is common for generic uses, along with terms like “Windows desktop,” “Mac desktop,” and so on.
Do gaming laptops last as long as desktops?
A key deciding factor when discussing desktop vs laptop for college is longevity. A high-end gaming laptop can last approximately 6 years or longer.
Due to the powerful components, even though there is some variance, generally, you can expect a gaming laptop to last a long time, but not as long as a desktop computer.
Today, the choice between a gaming laptop and desktop has moved from settling for less to maximizing your choices.
With ever-improving technology and more options to choose from, this article should help you select the perfect desktop or laptop for college that suits your individual needs.
The best choice will vary depending on your studies, environment, and general requirements.
Andrew White is the founder of TechGearoid, a leading technology review & information website that is designed to help consumers make better decisions when it comes to their IT purchases. As a specialist tech writer (nerd) with over 10 years of experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern technology & the newest market innovations. When he isn’t providing value for his readers, he’s usually drinking coffee or at the beach. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and family.