Console vs Gaming Laptop: Which Should I Buy? [2021]

The decision to get a gaming laptop or gaming console is a tough one to make, especially if you’re on a budget. Choosing one often means foregoing the other. 

The gaming experience on gaming consoles such as Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch is quite different from that offered by gaming laptops. 

Saying one device is better than the other would be a false statement since each has its own pros and cons, and the needs of gamers differ.

In this article, we are going to look at the differences between gaming laptops and consoles. This will help you make the right decision and get the best value for your money.

Let’s get started!

Gaming Laptops vs Consoles Comparison Table

Gaming LaptopsConsoles
Game ExclusivesThere are not many first-party game exclusives on PCPlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox all have popular game exclusives for their consoles
Game LibrariesPC have a very large library of games available on platforms such as Steam, UPlay, and GOGThe library of games on consoles is not as large as that available for PC gamers
Initial CostThe initial cost of buying a gaming laptop is usually highThe cost of buying a console is not very high
PortabilityGaming laptops are very portable which is great if you want to be able to game from anywhereWith the exception of Nintendo, other consoles are not portable
Graphics QualityNew gaming laptops feature current dedicated graphics cards which allow you to achieve high Frame rates and view clear images The graphics quality in consoles is usually determined by the quality of the graphics card that was installed when the console was released
VersatilityGaming notebooks are very versatile and can be used for many other things besides gaming.Consoles are designed to be dedicated gaming machines are therefore limited in what they can do outside of gaming
Online FeesPC gamers don’t have to pay any online fees after buying a game to play online multiplayer gamesConsoles require you to join their membership programs and pay for a monthly or yearly subscription fee 
Game CompatibilityYou can play any PC game from any laptop as long as you have the required hardwareConsole games are not compatible with each other across platforms. Backward compatibility for games developed for the same platforms can sometimes be an issue
Living Room ExperienceGaming laptops are better suited for solo gamers rather than family gamingConsoles can serve as a home media center and are suited for family
Ease Of SetupIt can take a bit of time to get your laptop settings the way you want them for each game Console game settings are usually preset by the manufacturer and very little adjustments are required
ModsSome PC games such as Skyrim allow the use of mods which can breath new life into a gameMods are strictly not allowed

Game Exclusives

Game exclusives are games developed and released only to be played on specific platforms. Therefore, when choosing whether to get a gaming console or laptop it is important to know where most of the games you’d love to play are available. 

For instance, games like God of War, Uncharted, and Spider-Man are PlayStation exclusives. If you want to play games such as Forza Horizon, Gears 5, and Halo then you’ll find them on the Xbox. 

On the Nintendo Switch console, you’ll find games like Pokemon Sword & Shield, Super Mario Odyssey, and The Legend of Zelda.

First-party game exclusives cannot be considered a strong point for PCs. In fact, most good PC exclusives often get ported to one or more consoles systems. 

However, grand strategy genre games such as DOTA, Starcraft, and World Of Warcraft that rely heavily on a mouse and keyboard for inputs are huge on PC.

This means if you choose to go with a gaming laptop, you’ll miss out on exclusive games that are only available on specific consoles, and vice versa. It’s a double-edged sword.

Nintendo exclusives have their own category and are not available on PC. Even though most Xbox and PlayStation exclusive do eventually get a PC version, sometimes it takes very long.

A good example of this was with GTA 5 which took over a year before the PC version became available. A title like Red Dead Redemption 1 never became fully available on PC. The only way to play it on PC is through PlayStation Now streaming service which requires a subscription. 

Game Libraries

console vs gaming laptop game libraries

The number of games available on consoles is dependent on the gaming console you buy. For example, currently, there are roughly 2,331 games available in the PS4 game library, 250 games in the Xbox game library, and 1,913 games in the Nintendo Switch library

On gaming laptops, you have access to a much larger game library than that of all these consoles combined. Platforms such as Steam, Uplay, Origin, and GOG offer a wide range of games for you to choose from.

These libraries have many paid as well as free to play PC games that you can enjoy without spending a dime, especially if you love indie games. 

Steam alone boasts over 30,000 games and this number continues to increase every day, making it the go-to resource for many PC gamers. On top of that, you can play almost all the games available on Xbox on your laptop through the Windows 10 Xbox store. 

With that said, it is important to keep in mind that some games, for example, Fortnite, Minecraft, and Rocket League can be played across Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Nintendo Switch. But the PC game library still beats that of consoles in terms of the number of games available.

Price: PC Gaming vs Console 

There’s a big difference in price between gaming consoles and laptops. Depending on the console you choose it will cost you anywhere between $300 and $500. 

Prices tend to be at their highest immediately after a new version of a console is released and then gradually drop over time. Here are the current prices of the most popular consoles as of right now:

ConsolePrice
Xbox One X~$500
Xbox One S~$300
PlayStation 4~$300
PlayStation 4 Pro~$400
Nintendo Switch~$300

The initial price of a gaming laptop is much higher. Low-end gaming laptops cost about $800 while high-end gaming laptops can cost upwards of $1,500, depending on their technical specifications and build quality. 

This creates a huge barrier to buying a gaming laptop, especially if you only plan on using it for gaming. However, the good thing is that PC games are usually sold at cheaper prices than on console because PC game stores such as Steam often have regular sales. 

For example, during a Steam sale, you can buy a GTA V game for $30 instead of $60 on Xbox. The Price of console games tends to remain the same months or even years after a title was released. 

This means that even though the initial price of a gaming laptop is higher, you will save more money with a laptop than with a console in the long run. 

Portability: Gaming On The Go

console vs pc gaming

With the exception of the Nintendo Switch, gaming consoles have no built-in display and have to be connected to an external TV or computer monitor. To listen to gaming audio, you also have to rely on your TV or monitor speakers. 

This makes consoles very inconvenient if you are planning to game on the go.   

Laptops have everything built-in including a display, keyboard, speakers, and a touchpad, allowing you to play from anywhere. 

For instance, you can easily take your laptop with you to a friend’s house for a LAN party or to an esports event if you are a competitive gamer.

A gaming laptop or a Nintendo Switch might also be a better choice if you have a significant other that likes to use the TV. You can just plug in your headphones and play a game or two without interrupting the program or channel they are watching.

But it is also worth mentioning that although both gaming laptops and Nintendo Switch systems are portable, they aren’t very power efficient. You’ll have to plug in a charger every two and a half hours or so if you want to play for extended periods of time.

Graphics Quality

gaming laptop vs console graphics

Gaming consoles tend to output the best visuals they can at 30 FPS or 60 FPS (Frames per Second). When gaming on a console, sometimes you may have to sacrifice either visual fidelity or frame rate. 

This of course depends on how processor and graphically-intensive a game is. A frame rate of 30 FPS is good, but for smoother game-play 60 FPS is considered ideal.

The hardware of gaming laptops outperforms that of consoles; they have faster processors and powerful dedicated graphics cards. With a powerful enough machine, you won’t have to sacrifice anything in terms of image quality. 

On a laptop, you can output amazing image quality at high frame rates (FPS) even if you’ve set the graphics settings to high. Modern gaming laptops can play almost any game at 60 FPS or higher at 1080p screen resolution. 

With the release of the Nvidia GeForce RTX series graphic cards, gaming laptops now support ray-tracing. Ray- tracing technology simulates the true behavior of light and creates cinematic-like image rendering and realistic shadows.

At the moment, consoles don’t support ray-tracing. This is because laptops with cutting edge technology are released every few months while consoles take years before their hardware is improved through the next-gen console. 

For example, PlayStation 4 was released in November 2013 and PlayStation 5 won’t be available until late 2020. PlayStation 5 upgrades will include: a GPU with ray tracing support, 3D audio support, and 8K gaming support.

Another thing is that consoles aren’t yet able to make full use of ultrawide monitors. For example, if you hook up your console to a 21:9 ultra-wide monitor your game won’t fill up the screen. This means you can’t take full advantage of your wide field of view.

The graphics cards in high-end gaming laptops are capable of rendering images even for very wide displays and at frame rates that exceed 60 FPS. This means you get to make full use of your peripheral view as well as higher refresh rates offered by ultrawide monitors for more immersive gameplay.   

Versatility: Do More Than Gaming

gaming laptop vs console performance

There’s no denying that consoles have come a long way from just being the dedicated gaming systems they once were; they now also double as media/entertainment centers. 

For instance, you can play music, browse the internet, and watch movies on Netflix on your Xbox or PS4 console. In short, they can now multitask.

However, they still pale in comparison to what you can do with laptops. Some tasks such as creating business presentations, taking notes in class, compiling software, and editing videos that aren’t possible on a console can easily be handled by a gaming laptop.

It’s also easy to do multi-monitor gaming on gaming laptops just like you would with a gaming desktop. This is possible through HDMI/DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3, and USB ports. Consoles don’t support dual monitor setups.

Multi-monitor gaming is helpful because it allows you to keep the most important windows open instead of having to minimize one window to view the other. For example, if you have two monitors connected, you can play games on one monitor and use the other to view your Twitch, YouTube, or Discord feed. 

Online Fees (Multiplayer Gaming)

gaming laptop vs console online

To play online multiplayer games on Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch you have to sign up to their membership programs and pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee. The Xbox Live Gold membership and PlayStation Now memberships cost $60 per year while that of Nintendo Switch costs $20 per year.

With a gaming laptop, you are not required to pay any subscription fees in order to play multiplayer titles such as Overwatch, PUBG, and Towerfall Ascension online or locally. Platforms such as Steam and Parsec let you play local multiplayer games with friends over the internet free of charge.

LAN parties are more popular with PC gamers because of the freedom they have to set up their own Local Area Network by setting up one of their computers to act as the host server. You also don’t need to pay any fee to save your game progress in the cloud.

Game Compatibility

Backward compatibility on consoles is not always possible. For example, PS4 has zero backward compatibility. This means you can’t play older PS3, PS2, and PS1 games on PS4 unless you subscribe to PlayStation Now. 

Xbox One supports backward compatibility on select digital and disc-based Xbox 360 games. To play earlier Xbox 360 games that aren’t backward compatible, you have to use your old Xbox 360 console. You can find the library of backward compatible Xbox games here.

Backward compatibility is much better on laptops. You can play games from a decade ago without purchasing a new license or the need for previous hardware. 

The PC game platforms we mentioned earlier such as Steam and GOG work with game developers to tweak old titles so that they can run on modern hardware.

For example, you can find an old game like Fallout 3 that was released for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC on these platforms and play it on your laptop with the same graphical quality it had when it was released.

In addition, you can install patches on your PC to improve the graphics of older games. Instructions on how to do this on different operating systems are usually available online and are not hard to follow. 

The Living Room Experience 

console living room experience

Though it is possible to connect your gaming laptop to your TV and game from it, consoles are still the most convenient devices for the living room. This is especially true since they now double as media centers.

As we mentioned consoles are pretty much plug and play. This means if you want to play with your family or have a few friends over, you can just plug in your controllers, launch a game and start playing. 

Games, for example, Just Dance that require some level of physical movement, as well as those meant to be played with VR headsets, are also better played on console. 

Gaming consoles also offer distraction-free gaming. You don’t want antivirus, software updates, or work-related email pop-ups when you are trying to enjoy a game with your family.

Ease Of Set-up

Gaming on a PC isn’t always straightforward. Sometimes you’ll find yourself installing drivers, updating your OS for new features such as DirectX, or fiddling around with the game settings. 

Fine-tuning a game’s settings is necessary because your gaming performance is dependent on your laptop’s hardware. It’s not hard stuff but it can take some time before you make the adjustments perfect and start playing.

With consoles, you get a plug and play experience. You can launch a game and start playing right away without having to tweak performance-related options. The default settings on consoles are usually already optimized by the original game developers.

Also, you don’t have to worry about the minimum or recommended system requirements of a game. You can buy and start playing a game knowing 100% it will run on your console without any lags or other undesirable issues.

Mods

Gaming mods add lots of customization options that bring new life into a game. They allow you to create custom levels, game characters, and add new graphical features. 

Modding on consoles is very difficult and is not allowed by console manufacturers. All the content you are exposed to on console systems is controlled to prevent performance issues. This is because consoles have limited hardware capabilities and mods tend to change how a game behaves.

PC gaming is an open platform and gamers have the ability to modify a game however they wish as long as the game supports modding. Through the Steam Workshop, PC gamers can share the mods they have created with other gamers

Games like Skyrim, Minecraft, and Cities: Skylines are proof of the power of the Modding community. For example, Skyrim has thousands of items you can get through mods to change the way the game looks.  

Other Factors To Consider Before Buying A Gaming Laptop Or Console

Now that you know how gaming consoles and laptops differ, let’s look at a few more things you should know before making the final decision.

They Both Need Upgrades Overtime

Unlike gaming desktops, both consoles and laptops limit you in terms of what you can upgrade. Therefore, as technology advances, you’ll have to update them in order to play the most current games.

As long as consoles are around, there will always be another next-gen console years after you buy one. Storage is usually the only thing you can update in consoles such as PS4. 

Gaming laptops have new models being released by various manufacturers such as Razer, Asus ROG, and Acer Predator whenever new technology becomes available. Most laptops allow you to upgrade RAM and storage. 

Only a few high-end ones such as Dell’s Alienware 51m have an upgradeable processor and graphics card. If you are looking for a gaming system you can fully upgrade and customize, then a gaming desktop will serve you best.

You Can Play With Whatever Input Method You Prefer 

console vs gaming laptop similarities

With both gaming laptops and consoles, you can use whatever input device you wish. You are no longer limited to a keyboard, mouse, or controller. 

Previously, only PCs could support a keyboard, mouse, and controller. But that has changed, you can use a keyboard and mouse with your console by connecting them through the USB ports. 

If your console or laptop USB ports are full, you can always get a USB hub to connect additional peripherals.

Both Can Suffer From Overheating After Long Hours Of Gaming

Since gaming is both CPU and graphics card demanding, a lot of heat is produced by the processor and GPU(Graphics Processing Unit) during gameplay. This is especially true when you play for extended periods of time.

Both devices have their own cooling systems that keep the interior components at the optimum temperature. And when temperatures reach a certain threshold, they shut down automatically to prevent permanent damage to components such as the processor. 

Heat is a major cause of premature hardware failure. With the exception of Nintendo Switch, always place your laptop or console on a flat hard surface.

This allows air to flow in and out of your system freely through the air vents and cool it properly. If you have to use your laptop in bed, place it on a lap desk or cooling pad. 

Just like with most electronic devices, periodic cleaning is important, maybe once or twice a year depending on your environment. This helps remove dust and other particles that tend to clog air vents or stick to the cooling fans, which make their cooling mechanisms less efficient.

Remember to unplug your laptop or console from the power supply before cleaning. Also never attempt to use a wet cloth as it can cause short-circuiting and fry your system. If you are not very tech-savvy and suspect the insides are especially dusty and dirty, seek the help of a technician.

Conclusion- Which Is Better, Gaming Laptop Or Console

Choosing a gaming laptop or console ultimately depends on your needs as a gamer as well as the budget you are working with. 

Generally, even if gaming laptops lack some of the exclusives offered by consoles, it gives you more flexibility. For example, if you are a business person or college student a laptop will make more sense. You can carry it to work or class and squeeze in a few games when you are free or bored. 

On the other hand, if you are looking for a distraction-free system that will also double as your family’s media center, getting a gaming console makes more sense.

If you have the money to spend, you can buy a gaming laptop and console and enjoy the best of both worlds. Also, you can always start with one then buy the other one later. 

If you do decide to buy a gaming laptop, don’t go for a budget laptop because it won’t serve you long before it’s hardware gets outdated. I hope this article gave you a better insight into both devices. 

Eustacehttps://techusersguide.com
Eustace is a technology enthusiast and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Telecommunication and Information Engineering. His passion and knowledge of computers, and technology in general, is channeled towards helping others understand complex concepts so that they can make better decisions.

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