Desktop vs Laptop

This past weekend, my daughter explained to me that for the past year she’s been wanting to learn how to build a PC. I think I shed a tear.

I’ve had quite a few posts on this subject over the years. I’ve built hundreds of PCs over the years, it was a super pass-time/income option in my late teens & early twenties. I built my last box in 2009 and since that time, I’ve gone the gaming laptop route. The main driver for this was mobility, as the price point was most certainly higher, and the performance was a tad lower. And mobile in the sense I could plug it in somewhere else, cause a gaming laptop ain’t gonna work when it’s not plugged in.

My recent purchase (MSI Raider) before Anthem came out was an eye opener as to how laptops have come a very long way. Performance-wise, they are frankly on par with pretty much any gaming desktop. There will always be the top tier gaming rig, that’s over-clocked, and needs more cooling than a power plant. Even the price points are frankly damn close.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think that the desktop has a place, but the mobility factor is what everyone under 30 needs to get their life working. There’s always going to be a niche for power rigs, yet more and more compute is going into the cloud… hell gaming is moving to the cloud.

I’m seeing it sort of like the following now.

Pro– highly customized parts
– the highest computer power
– easy to upgrade parts
– can last 10 years with upgrades (ATX is how old?)
– mobile
– computer power meets nearly all needs
– easy to upgrade RAM/storage
Con– no mobility
– requires peripherals to work
– costs ~10% more than a desktop (without peripherals)
– can’t upgrade CPU or GPU
– lasts ~5 years and hard to repair

At the end of the day it really boils down to price vs mobility. I could easily plug in my laptop to my desktop station and use all the same things. Mobility is a personal choice – more of a generational one it seems. Price, that’s somewhat clear.

Pricing Exercise

So let’s look at this for a minute. Maybe not a blistering rig, but one that’s more than capable of running pretty much anything at 60fps. There are plenty of options; custom builds, ROG, MSI, Alienware, Razer and others. For this we’ll look at 3 options, an MSI build, a custom laptop, and a custom desktop.

Baseline specs we’re looking for

  • 10th gen Intel chip (the whole i7/i9 stuff gets complicated quick)
  • RTX enabled video card @ 8GB
  • 32g of RAM
  • 1GB NVMe main drive

In terms of MSI options, this is narrows to the Titan (big rig), Raider (standard), and Stealth (thin) rigs. Only the Titan has i9 options, the others are running i7. They all run RTX2080 video cards, which is still the best card you can get in a laptop, and the Titan offers 3840 resolution. The Titan also has 64gb of RAM, and it runs 2x NVMe drives. All those upgrades come with a 10lbs weight.

Prices are in CDN, with the following

  • Raider – GE75 goes for $2,600 with a RTX2070 or $4,000 for an RTX2080
  • Titan – GT75 goes for $2,400 with a RTX2070 or $6,400 (!!!) for an RTX2080
  • Stealth – GS75 goes for $3,200 (??) with an RTX2070 or $3,900 for an RTX2080

There’s an insane amount of fluctuation in these things, especially with the 2080. Buying my Raider took me 2 weeks to figure out this mess.

Custom build next, same specs as above. I’ll use Reflex Notebooks, not a lot of custom builders in Canada. Sager is pretty much the de facto form. The RTX2070 variant is $2,700 and the RTX2080 variant is $3,500. Clearly there is a HIGH premium for the 2080.

If I’m looking at a PC build with these items, I’ll use NewEgg’s tool. Low end (i7/2070) is about $2,300 and high end (i9/2080) is $3,200. This is with a $200 case and $200mobo, assuming looks matter a bit. This does not include a keyboard or monitor, which at average rates would set you back another $300 (but could use for a very long time, even with the laptop).

If you’ve built a PC, then you know these prices can move up and down based on time of day. And that a PC build has near infinite combinations. Motherboards alone have so many price points with barely a difference for most folks. And don’t get me started on RAM… there are a dozen variants of DDR4 8GB 2400, yet they should be functionally identical. The act of building a PC is easy, the art of getting the parts is frankly magic. See, I skipped cooling!

It’s pretty clear that laptops are in the similar price range as desktops. In the $2,500 range, you can get either. If you want bleeding edge , or love tinkering/OC then desktop is still the best option (e.g. 4K 120fps ultra wide), but otherwise welcome to 2020.

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