Laptops vs Desktops: The Potential

We’ve taken a look at how much it would cost to match the performance of a top-tier laptop in a desktop. Now, let’s see what kind of desktop we could get for the same price as that laptop.

For a bit of a refresher on our last article on this topic, the form factor of a laptop means there isn’t the same kind of space available for the highest performance. The CPU, GPU, RAM, and their respective coolers are much smaller. With the reduced cooling capacity, these parts also need to limit their performance even further in order to prevent overheating.

With all of this in mind, here are the specs of the machines we’ll be comparing:

Looking at these specs, we can already see some huge advantages in the desktop. Before we go into more detail on these, we should also take a look at the internals of these systems.

Keep in mind that this desktop we’re discussing in this article actually has better specs than the one in the image, such as 4 sticks of RAM, and a triple-fan radiator. This image does give you a good idea of the overall layout and the general size of the components.

Now, onto the actual components:

CPU

The Ryzen 9 CPU in the desktop has twice as many cores (16 cores/32threads) as the i9 CPU in the laptop (8 cores/threads). As you can imagine, this results in a pretty serious gap in performance.

Despite this gap, the desktop still costs less than the laptop. The difference only gets pushed further when we factor in the other components of the system.

Cooling and Airflow

The desktop system includes a high-performance water cooler with a large 360mm radiator and 3 x 120mm fans, each of which is optimised for static pressure. This kind of cooling solution allows the heat of the CPU to be spread over the massive surface area of the radiator’s fins, and then removed from the case with the help of those powerful fans.

RAM

You’ll have noticed in the specs that the desktop has twice as much RAM as the laptop. Apart from the obvious benefit of increased RAM capacity, which would help out with large projects and multitasking, this RAM also runs at a higher speed than the RAM in the laptop.

The 3600MHz RAM in the desktop runs 400MHz higher than the laptop memory, which is a huge 12.5% increase. Faster RAM also means increased performance from the Ryzen CPU, which our testing has confirmed greatly benefits from higher RAM frequency.

GPU

Despite having the same name, the RTX 3080 in the laptop is entirely different from the GPU in the desktop.

This is more than a 50% increase in performance when selecting the desktop card over the laptop version.

The laptop GPU also has the same insufficient cooling system as the CPU, while the desktop GPU would have a huge heatsink and 3 fans.

Another trait the laptop’s GPU shares with its GPU is that neither can ever be replaced or upgraded. This is the maximum level of performance you will ever be able to experience with this laptop. In contrast, the GPU in the desktop can just be unclipped and unplugged, giving you the option to jump up to an even more powerful or newer card in the future.

Display

The 4K display on the laptop is a really nice feature, but 17” may not be enough to appreciate this high resolution. The monitor included in the desktop’s spec is 10” larger, and would give you enough space to fully take advantage of the resolution.

Conclusion

These drawbacks are not limited to this particular laptop, and they’re just part of a compromise you’ll need to accept if you need the portability.

These laptops definitely still have reason to exist, as many people still do require the highest performance available while still having the option to take their work elsewhere.

In most cases though, the advantages a good desktop provide greatly outweigh the limited mobility. You’ll get higher performance from the get-go, it will age much more slowly, and you’ll be able to upgrade individual parts as necessary.

If you’re not sure a desktop will fit your needs, feel free to have a chat with us, and we’ll help you figure out the ideal solution for your workflow.

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