Laptops come in all shapes and sizes but not all of them are made equally.
In fact, gaming laptops often have quite a few distinct differences that separate them from their traditional laptop counterparts.
These differences are important to know as they’ll help you make the most informed choice for your next purchase.
Below, you’ll find five key differences between gaming laptops and normal laptops to help make your decision easier.
Gaming Laptop vs Normal Laptop – What are the key differences?
These are the key differences between gaming laptops and normal laptops; please scroll down for individual detail on each component.
1. Gaming laptops pack more graphics horsepower
It goes without saying that gaming laptops are going to support graphically demanding games far better than a normal laptop can.
That’s because gaming laptops typically feature a dedicated graphics card rather than relying on the power of the processor to do all the work.
That doesn’t mean that normal laptops won’t play games at all, though, they may be limited to less demanding games as they won’t have the necessary hardware setup to support the latest cutting-edge games.
Luckily, Steam, a downloadable gaming platform, has a wide selection of games that can be played on all kinds of laptops meaning you should be able to find something suitable to enjoy regardless of the setup you have.
2. Normal laptops are designed to be more efficient
Normal laptops are made with a larger target audience in mind, therefore they need to be more efficient to support all kinds of people and lifestyles.
As such, you’ll usually find beneficial features and a heavy emphasis on better battery life, portability, and accessibility.
Typically, normal laptops weigh less as they don’t need as much cooling inside and also have the benefit of not using a dedicated graphics card meaning they won’t be weighed down as much.
In fact, that’s often why gaming laptops are heavier — they need more cooling to keep the graphics card from overheating which equals substantial increases in the weight; they also have a larger chassis in most cases to fit more things inside.
Most traditional laptops these days can actually get away with not having fans at all and instead can opt for just a heatsink meaning you can get a totally noiseless laptop.
Again, these kinds of advances are great for professionals as it means they stay totally focused on what they’re doing rather than listening to the whirring of a fan.
To draw a line under this then, gaming laptops don’t need to worry about efficiency as they are typically designed to be a complete desktop replacement whereas a normal laptop is designed to be useful for all kinds of people, especially casual users and professionals who use less demanding applications.
3. Gaming laptops typically have better customization
It goes without saying that with a bigger chassis you can fit more things inside to customize and upgrade your gaming laptop.
Basically, it has more space to implement features such as multiple SSD drives, a dedicated graphics card, additional RAM, and even novel features such as raised mechanical keyboards.
It’s also quite common to see better screen technology being used mainly because gaming laptops have powerful graphics cards to drive and support them.
Most gaming laptops also feature fully customizable RGB backlighting on the keyboard meaning you can pick exactly what color you prefer for each individual key.
Small touches like this help to make the product feel more complete and unique which are especially important if you’re paying lots of money for something you’ll be using frequently.
4. Normal laptops are targetted toward working professionals and general users
Normal laptops are usually made with casual users in mind, and working professionals.
This totally dictates how these laptops are made including how they’re designed from an aesthetic point of view.
For most people, it would be no good going into work with a laptop that was glowing all kinds of colors as it probably wouldn’t give the right kind of impression in a professional environment.
Typically, most normal laptops are offered in a range of monochromatic colors to minimize their eyecatching prowess, however, they still look great with their precision-milled frames, often likened to a sleek businessman’s Audi.
Though some casual laptops look cheap, feel cheap, and are made with cheap materials, it depends on what your wants and needs are.
Aside from aesthetics, normal laptops are great for people on the go.
They’re usually lightweight, come in a range of sizes, and are perfect for general tasks like everyday browsing, staying up to date on social media, and working in administrative programs such as Excel.
5. Gaming laptops have a greater emphasis on screen technology
Unlike normal laptops, gaming laptops are often packed with the latest and greatest screen advancements from across the industry.
QLED, OLED, Retina, IPS, Mini-LED, and even LCD are all terms that you’re likely to see when you’re picking out your new laptop.
They all come with their own advantages and it’s important to understand what each one does before making your purchase.
It’s also common to see greater resolutions used (up to 4K/UHD) in gaming laptops as they have a greater graphical performance to support this kind of screen detail.
In fact, not only can you find gaming laptops with better screen resolution and technology, but you can also find them with higher refresh rates too (measured in hertz).
A higher refresh rate means the image on screen looks far smoother when you’re scrolling fast or playing fast-paced games compared to standard laptop setups.
Again, these kinds of advancements aren’t always necessary, especially if you’re playing slower-paced games where the screen refresh rate won’t have a noticeable effect on your gameplay.
6. Gaming laptops can be used as full desktop replacements
Because of the size, power, and modular nature of gaming laptops, it’s very easy to use them as full desktop replacements.
This is especially useful for gamers who like to travel around a lot or for those who want to LAN up at their friend’s house as it means they can take that power wherever they go.
Typically, you would still want to have a gaming laptop plugged in much like a desktop, and that’s because its performance will be restricted otherwise.
Similar to a desktop, gaming laptops also support a wide range of external accessories and interfaces such as USB, Thunderbolt, Ethernet, SD cards, and other novel connection options; typically you’ll find more of these on a gaming laptop compared to a normal laptop.
Basically, there’s very little that a gaming laptop can’t do when compared to a desktop.
In fact, they’re far more streamlined, easier to get started with, and are flexible for most upgrades these days too.
Gaming Laptop vs Normal Laptop: Individual Component Analysis
Gaming laptops are more commonly built using a plastic chassis rather than an aluminum or metal-based one.
That’s because gaming laptops are more modular (interchangeable) in nature and thus, plastic is easier to manipulate and make use of for this purpose.
In comparison, normal laptops are built using a mixture of materials such as plastic, aluminum, and even a combination of the two.
Metal materials are usually reserved for higher-end models to give them a premium feel, however, this isn’t always the case.
Another thing to note, most gaming laptops are bigger in size, especially in height, and that’s to allow for more hardware to be installed such as a dedicated graphics card, and to allow for upgrades such as multiple hard disks.
Other than that, you may find that gaming laptops have more angular curves or contours to create a more striking look — you’ll also find bigger cutouts for airflow to maintain efficient temperatures.
Essentially, a gaming laptop chassis is designed to work as a full desktop replacement and as such, needs to be made with longevity in mind.
Gaming laptops are usually ahead of the curve in terms of the screen technology they use.
Basically, gaming laptops get all the latest screen updates first before this eventually trickles down to normal laptops.
Things like higher refresh rates, panel technology improvements, and higher resolutions were all generally seen in gaming laptops first.
That doesn’t mean to say that the same technology isn’t also seen in normal laptops, however, it’s unlikely they’ll go full throttle with these types of features, especially since they may not always have the hardware to support them effectively.
Conversely, Apple is rather fast with these updates and also likes to keep up with technology trends similar to gaming laptops.
Things like their Retina display technology have been part of their laptop repertoire for a long time now and that’s because it’s at the forefront of producing great image quality.
To underscore this then, don’t expect to find the best screen technology in normal laptops; there’s hardly ever a need for it and in most cases, they don’t have the right hardware to support it effectively.
One thing that gaming laptops and normal laptops have in common is the processors that are used.
Nearly all laptops use some form of Intel or AMD Ryzen processor.
There’s usually not a huge difference between either brand, however, Ryzen has sometimes been known for better multicore speeds whereas Intel has often been known better for single-core speed.
As well as that, there are a few different iterations of processor models, for example, any processor labeled with K or an X on the end (Intel and AMD Ryzen) is usually for high-end systems as they can be manually overclocked to a higher speed.
For the typical user, this isn’t important and most processors will automatically boost up during demanding tasks meaning there isn’t always a need to overclock anyway.
Essentially, anything without a K or an X on the end will be perfectly suitable and probably much cheaper for the average laptop user.
Most gaming laptops and normal laptops have similar levels of RAM (between 4-16GB DDR4 RAM), however, gaming laptops can often be customized to have more RAM if needed as they generally have a bigger chassis to support this.
This means that gaming laptops can support much bigger ranges anywhere up to 128GB or more.
Gaming laptops will usually come with RAM that has higher clock speeds too.
Higher clock speeds minimize things like load times on our systems, though, the difference that higher clock speed timings make is extremely minimal.
Generally, if you want your system to go faster then you’d opt for more RAM rather than higher clock speeds.
For most users (including gamers), 16GB RAM should be enough.
The only reason to go for more RAM is if you’re using demanding programs such as video editing software, music production programs, and effect creators.
Gaming laptops are significantly better when it comes to graphics performance compared to normal laptops.
That’s because gaming laptops usually feature a dedicated, discrete graphics card whereas normal laptops render their graphics on the processor.
You’re always going to get a better experience with a dedicated graphics card as it’s specifically designed to do the task of rendering and producing smooth frames in your game.
Processor graphics have improved significantly over the years but they’re still generally suboptimal for playing the latest games at higher settings.
If you want an immersive or smooth experience in your games then we generally recommend getting a gaming laptop instead.
Another big difference between gaming laptops and normal laptops is the cooling solutions used.
Gaming laptops need bigger and better cooling solutions due to the fact that they’ll typically be generating more heat from the extra internal components such as the graphics card.
Playing games puts a huge demand on the graphics card and thus, it needs a better cooling solution to keep it running efficiently.
Normal laptops aren’t always too dissimilar; they’ll still most likely feature some kind of internal fan and heatsink, though, we are starting to see more efficient laptops that don’t even need fans anymore to run effectively.
This has lead to a few different brands (such as Apple) opting to make fanless laptops such as the MacBook Air meaning you can work in complete silence if needs be.
Having plenty of connection options, ports, and interface types can be important, especially if you intend to use your new laptop as a desktop replacement.
This includes things like SD card slots, USB ports, and an ethernet slot for wired connections.
All of these extras will allow for more flexibility depending on the situation you find yourself in.
Gaming laptops typically come with more interface options as they often have a bigger chassis to support this, but also because gamers will want to connect more dedicated devices such as mechanical keyboards, gaming headsets, and even studio microphones for streaming.
The typical normal laptop user in most cases won’t need to plug anything else in except for maybe a USB stick every now and again — manufacturers know this and so they focus on efficiency aspects to provide a lightweight and longer-lasting battery rather than implementing extra ports.
As far as keyboards go, gaming laptops usually have better-positioned keyboards for improved ergonomics and they’re also more likely to have backlighting on them too for improved visibility.
We’ve even seen some gaming laptops with a built-in mechanical keyboard for improved tactile feedback which is basically unheard of in normal laptops.
As well as that, the keyboard layout is also taken into account as some gaming laptops opt not to include seldom-used keys such as the Numpad or insert buttons, etc.
Basically, normal laptops have to support a more wide-ranging keyboard standard that suits many needs whereas gaming laptops can be more specialized in what they provide.
Both gaming laptops and normal laptops usually have some kind of stereo speaker setup, however, gaming laptop manufacturers usually work with sound companies to implement a higher quality system.
For this reason, gaming laptops will generally provide a better experience if you’re wanting to listen to things out loud rather than on a headset.
Some of the main benefits of a better speaker system include increased volume capabilities, better bass, and clearer sounding audio.
However, if you have no need to present what you’re listening to out loud to anyone then we generally recommend getting a headset instead as they’re better quality and won’t disturb people around you.
Battery life generally depends on how you use your laptop, though, some things simply can’t be mitigated such as the power draw from additional hardware such as graphics cards or additional peripherals.
For this reason, normal laptops are generally better optimized for longevity compared to gaming laptops.
If you need a reliable machine for work, checking emails, and browsing the internet then it’s probably better to get a normal laptop.
In fact, gaming laptops are almost specifically designed to be used plugged in as they won’t run at full capacity otherwise which means your games won’t run smoothly until it’s plugged back in again.
Generally speaking, the longest-lasting laptops will be the ones that use the latest and most efficient technology.
Due to our ongoing quest for better and smaller processors, we’re already starting to see incremental benefits in battery life and heat mitigation almost every year — power draw is down, temperatures are down, and battery life is going up; it’s a win, win, win situation.
The lifespan of a laptop generally depends on how it’s used and what it’s used for.
Arguably, a gaming laptop has a greater risk of failure due to having extra components which means there are more things that can potentially go wrong.
Not to mention, most gaming laptops have moving parts (fans) and also have open-body, exposed designs which also further increases the risk of failure or accidental destruction.
This is the benefit of having a fanless system and a closed-body design.
It’s less susceptible to moisture and also doesn’t have things that can fail easier inside.
That’s what makes the latest normal laptops a great investment because they’re designed with all of these useful improvements in mind.
If you’ve been reading up until this part then you’ll already know the answer most likely.
Normal laptops are quieter than gaming laptops because they either have small fan systems or no fans at all.
The latest normal laptops are also made with a closed-body design meaning you won’t hear the whirring of any parts either.
For this reason, if noise is a major concern then there is no better choice than to go for one of the latest standard fanless laptops — see MacBook Air.
Price doesn’t always translate well in the laptop market, or even in the technology market for that matter (see smartphones).
Certain names and brands can carry a strong appeal; you can probably guess the tech giant behemoth we’re thinking of when talking about price-hiked goods.
Yup, you guessed it, Apple.
Apple must be some of the best-marketed goods on the planet as they’re often able to get away with charging astronomical prices for rather underwhelming specs.
In fact, when you compare it like that then there should be no reason to pick an Apple laptop over a Windows-based laptop.
However, they can and do sell their goods often for higher prices than their better-specced counterparts and that’s because a secure operating system has a large appeal along with other unique software services included in the Apple MAC ecosystem.
The point we’re trying to make is that it’s very important to do a little research beforehand to make sure you’re getting a good deal for your goods and that they meet your expectations.
Gaming laptops often have better specs but you can still find normal laptops for much higher prices even though they have worse specifications.
It depends on the end-user and what they’re trying to accomplish.
If you need something that delivers better power in relation to the cost then a gaming laptop might be worth considering.
If you need something that’s more mobile, will run for longer, and will arguably have a longer lifespan then it could be worth getting a standard laptop instead.
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