The anatomy of a gaming laptop

Although gaming desktops remain superior to gaming laptops especially if you’re looking for the very best components and performance, however, sometimes you just need something more portable. Gaming laptops are engineered to be the same size as traditional laptops, but with upgraded features that make all the difference.

While standard or business laptops are built to handle everyday tasks like web browsing, typing documents, or creating presentations – gaming laptops are designed to handle processor and graphics card intensive tasks such as gaming that rely on both the CPU and the GPU.

Gaming laptops may be built to handle PC games, but they can also handle other demanding tasks like 3D rendering, video editing, photo editing, CAD, overclocking, and 4K or 8K resolution. Let’s take a look at the anatomy of a gaming laptop and how it differs from a standard business laptop.

Predator Triton 500

 

Different Processors

The processor is commonly referred to as the CPU (Central Processing Unit), this serves as the brain of the computer. The CPU sends instructions to other components and tells them what to do based on the input it receives from users and programs running on the PC.

Normal laptops are built with less expensive, slower processors that have fewer cores. As a result, they can only handle certain less demanding tasks like running Microsoft applications or browsing the internet.

When comparing specs on gaming vs. traditional laptops, you may notice the processors appear to be the same – many running Intel i5 or i7 or AMD processors.

Although both gaming and regular laptops can be equipped with Core i5 or i7 processors, their internal architecture is built differently. If you take a closer look at the suffix in the names of both laptops, you’ll notice the gaming laptops and regular laptops don’t have the same processor model names. Here are what these suffixes mean for Intel processors:

Processor suffixes for business laptops:

  • U – Ultra-low power
  • Y – Extremely low power
  • G – Graphics (includes discrete graphics)
  • T – Power optimized lifestyle

Based on this terminology, you can surmise that normal business laptops are usually very power-restricted, which limits their performance. However, this means the battery life on traditional laptops is generally far superior.

Processor suffixes for gaming laptops:

  • H – High performance
  • HQ – High-performance quad-core
  • K – Unlocked (can be overclocked to run at higher speeds)
  • HK – High performance and unlocked

Conversely, gaming laptops are equipped with processors that aren’t power restricted, many of which you can even overclock for additional higher processing speeds. Furthermore, gaming laptops come with CPUs that are built with more cores than regular laptops, making them much faster and more effective at running heavy programs. Additionally, more cores allow you to run multiple programs simultaneously without experiencing lagging – but this also generates more heat and drains the battery quicker.

More or less RAM

RAM (or Random Access Memory) is your computer’s short-term memory – responsible for storing data and programs that are open on your computer so it can be quickly retrieved by the CPU. RAM is necessary because it is much faster to read and write information from RAM than from other storage devices like the hard drive.

Standard laptops traditionally come with between 4GB and 8GB of RAM. This amount of memory is perfect for running less demanding programs such as video players, web browsers, and light business applications that don’t require a lot of memory. For example, Windows 10 Operating System requires between 1GB (32-bit) and 2GB (64-bit) to operate.

Gaming laptops are typically outfitted with between 8GB and 16GB of RAM, but high-end gaming laptops can have up to 32GB of RAM. This amount of RAM allows you to play the latest games, run graphic design software, and run multiple programs simultaneously without lag. Generally, the more RAM your laptop has, the more expensive it will be. For example, if you want to play a AAA title like Fallout 4 on your gaming PC, you’ll need at least 8GB of RAM – but if you want to live-stream simultaneously you’ll need more than 8GB, otherwise, the game with lag or fail to load.

If you run out of RAM, your computer is forced to fetch the needed data from your hard drive, slowing down your system. RAM on gaming laptops also operates at higher clock speeds than normal devices, which is measured in Megahertz (MHz). However, the capacity of RAM has more of an impact on performance than speed.

Thankfully, RAM is easily upgradable in both traditional and gaming laptops. If an expensive laptop with lots of RAM isn’t in your budget, make sure the laptop you buy gives you the option to upgrade RAM in the future.

Dedicated GPU vs. Integrated GPU

The graphics card is responsible for rendering videos and images that appear on your screen. Your graphics card receives instructions from the processor than then converts that graphics-related data into visual information. Standard laptops have an integrated graphics card (iGPU) while gaming laptops have a dedicated GPU.

An integrated graphics card is typically embedded on the same chip at the CPU and uses the same RAM as the CPU. With both pieces of hardware on the same chip, usually manufacturers have to prioritize more on processing power and less on graphical power. This results in limitations for both power and memory for traditional PCs. This is why integrated graphics cards are good for watching videos, doing PowerPoint presentations, and viewing photo albums – but not much else.

Dedicated graphics cards are separate from the CPU and have their own memory, known as VRAM (Video Random Access Memory), and their own processor called a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). VRAM is much faster than RAM and is used exclusively by the GPU. This is why dedicated GPUs are a lot faster and better at processing complex graphics and data for gaming, 3D modeling, virtual reality, and more. Nvidia and AMD are the most popular dedicated GPUs for gaming laptops.

Fans and heat sinks

Although both gaming laptops and business laptops both have cooling systems to keep the laptop’s interior components at optimum temperature, there are notable differences.

Normal laptops don’t produce nearly as much heat, so their cooling systems don’t have to be nearly as advanced. When it comes to standard laptops, most of the heat is generated by the processor. Normal laptops typically come with a single fan, small air vents, and light heat sinks. Some lighter business laptops can be fanless and rely on passive cooling mechanisms, which makes them light and portable.

On the other hand, gaming laptops produce a lot of heat. Cramming power-hungry processors, graphics cards, and other components into the small casing of a laptop means these devices need larger air vents, multiple high-speed fans, and larger heat sinks in order to dissipate all of the heat generated by these various components. Some high-end laptops, like the Asus ROG series, have turned to vapor chamber cooling – which is more efficient than traditional heat pipes at reducing thermal resistance and driving heat away from any hot spots.

Aesthetics and Keyboards

Normal laptops typically have basic keyboards with no backlight and not-so-fast response times. That’s because the average user of a business laptop doesn’t use their laptop in the dark and won’t notice the time it takes between inputting a key and the response on their screen.

Conversely, gaming laptops are usually built with RGB backlit keyboards that allow the user to customize colors and patterns for a more immersive gaming experience. Gaming laptop keyboards are also built much more durably to handle repeated pressing and more aggressive keystrokes with no delay. 

The difference is aesthetics doesn’t stop at the keyboard when comparing standard vs. gaming laptops. The chassis design of normal laptops is usually flat, simple, and clean – which is appropriate for professional environments like offices and schools.

Gaming laptops are usually built much more flashy, with detailed chassis designs, LED lighting, striking logos, and large air vents designed to grab users’ attention.

You’ll also notice a difference between the number of USB ports in gaming laptops and business laptops. It’s very uncommon for gaming laptops to have less than 3 USB ports – many having up to 5 ports equipped standard. Business laptops typically come with 2 USB ports.

The first thing you might notice when comparing a gaming laptop and a business laptop side-by-side is the size. While both devices are designed to be portable, normal laptops weigh a lot less than gaming laptops since they have fewer components like fans, dedicated GPU, external ports, and smaller batteries. On top of that, most gaming laptops have at least a 15-inch screen, while business laptops are typically around 13 inches.

The smallest gaming laptop weighs about 4.6 pounds, while a common notebook weighs around 2.8 pounds.

Display refresh rate

The refresh rate refers to the number of times a display’s image is refreshed (or repainted) per second. A 60 Hz screen with refresh 60 times per second – ideal for regular use. If your display has a refresh rate lower than 60 Hz, you may notice flickering.

Standard laptops have a refresh rate of between 60 Hz and 120 Hz, while gaming laptops have higher refresh rates of usually between 144 Hz to 240 Hz. High-end gaming laptops can have a refresh rate of 300 Hz, like the Acer Predator Triton 500.

Keep in mind that to achieve high refresh rates, you need to have a powerful graphics card and processor.

Speakers

Most standard laptops have very limited space, which makes installing efficient speakers difficult. Standard laptops are typically equipped with very small speakers that don’t get very loud or offer good sound quality. While this may be ideal for playing music in the background, watching movies, or making video calls, most business laptops aren’t geared for sound performance.

Gaming laptops are usually less limited by space since manufacturers and designers of these devices aren’t worried about keeping the device’s size or weight down – leaving room for larger, better, louder speakers. Some high-end gaming laptops even come with built-in subwoofers, which are great for masking the extra loud fans that these devices sometimes carry.

Battery life

As mentioned above, normal laptops and gaming laptops have significantly different battery life. Gaming laptops were built to replace high-performance desktop PCs and have many components that draw a lot of power – from the processors to the graphics card, to the backlit RGB keyboard. When using your gaming laptop to its fullest capabilities, you may be lucky to go longer than 2 hours without plugging it in.

Standard laptops have power-restricted processors, no dedicated GPUs, and have power-restricted processors which allow for much greater battery life – many business laptops can run almost all day without needing a charge.

Longevity

The longevity of regular or gaming laptops depends entirely on how you use your devices. If you use a normal laptop to perform resource-intensive tasks often, you can expect the lifespan to significantly decrease. If you attempt to play CPU or graphics-card intensive games on a standard laptop, it won’t be long until you notice a drop in performance or even hardware failures.

On the flip side, you can use gaming laptops for both gaming and everyday tasks without impacting their lifespan. If you use a gaming laptop and a normal laptop to complete the same tasks, odds are the gaming laptop will outlive the standard one.

Can I use my gaming laptop for work?

Gaming laptops have all of the features you find in normal laptops plus additional features that can provide a more pleasant experience for the end-user. One of the first things you’ll notice when comparing a standard laptop to a gaming laptop is how much faster the gaming laptop performs. Whether you’re editing videos, doing a business presentation, or running large programs like Quickbooks, gaming laptops will perform noticeably faster without freezing or lagging.

As long as battery life isn’t a factor, odds are you’ll be happier with a gaming PC than you would with a standard one in the long run.

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