Gaming Laptop vs Gaming Console: Which One Should I Buy?

The decision of whether to buy a gaming laptop or gaming console can be a tough one to make, especially if you’re on a budget. Choosing one often means foregoing the other. 

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

Saying one gaming device is better than the other would be false since each has its own pros and cons. So should you buy a gaming laptop or console?

To determine this, we are going to look at the differences between the two types of gaming devices based on the following aspects:

  • Game Exclusives
  • Game Libraries
  • Price
  • Portability
  • Power
  • Versatility
  • Online fees
  • Game compatibility
  • Living room experience
  • Ease of setup
  • Mods

Let’s get started!

Gaming LaptopsGaming Consoles
Game ExclusivesThere are not many first-party game exclusives availablePlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox all have popular game exclusives for their gaming consoles
Game LibrariesThey 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 of gaming laptops
Initial CostThe initial cost of buying a gaming laptop is usually highThe cost of buying a gaming console is not very high
PortabilityThey are very portable which is great if you want to be able to play games from anywhereWith the exception of the Nintendo Switch, all other gaming consoles are not portable
PerformanceModern gaming laptops feature current dedicated graphics cards which allow you to achieve high frame rates and view clear imagesThe graphics quality in consoles is usually determined by the quality of the graphics card that was installed when the console was released
VersatilityThey are very versatile and can be used for many other things besides gamingThey are designed as dedicated gaming machines and are therefore limited in terms of 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 gamesGaming console manufacturers require you to join their membership programs and pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to be able to play multiplayer games online
Game CompatibilityYou can play any PC game from any laptop as long as you have powerful 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 ExperienceThey are better suited for solo gamers rather than family gamingThey can serve as home entertainment media centers and are suitable for families
Ease Of SetupIt can take a bit of time to get your laptop settings the way you want them for each gameGame settings are usually preset by the manufacturer and very few adjustments are required
ModsSome PC games such as Skyrim allow the use of mods that can breathe new life into a gameMods are not allowed
Gaming Laptop vs Gaming Console Comparison Table

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 are looking to play games such as Forza Horizon, Gears 5, and Halo then you’ll find them on Xbox. On the Nintendo Switch console, you’ll find games such as Pokemon Sword & Shield, Super Mario Odyssey, and The Legend of Zelda.

First-party game exclusives cannot be considered a strong point for gaming laptops. In fact, most good PC exclusives often get ported to one or more console systems. However, grand strategy genre games such as DOTA, Starcraft, and World Of Warcraft that rely heavily on a keyboard and mouse 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 exclusives do eventually get a PC version, sometimes it takes a very long time after their release.

A good example of this was 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

gaming laptop game libraries

The number of games you get on consoles is dependent on the gaming console you buy. For example, currently, there are roughly 3,274 games available in the PS4 game library, 2,949 games in the Xbox game library, and 4,442 games in the Nintendo Switch library. 

On gaming laptops, you have access to a much larger game library than that offered by all the 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 50,000 games and this number continues to rise 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.

Price 

There’s a big difference in price between gaming consoles and gaming laptops. Depending on the console you choose it will cost you anywhere between $300 and $600. 

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
PlayStation 5~$560
Nintendo Switch~$300

Compared to gaming consoles, gaming laptops have a much higher initial cost. Low-end gaming laptops cost about $800 while high-end gaming laptops 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 are only going to be using it for gaming. However, the good thing is that PC games are usually sold at much cheaper prices than console games. Also worth noting is that PC game stores, such as Steam, often have regular discounted sales. 

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

This means that even though the initial cost of buying a gaming laptop is higher, you will save a lot of money if you choose to go with a gaming laptop in the long run. 

Portability (Gaming On The Go)

gaming console

With the exception of the Nintendo Switch, gaming consoles have no built-in display and have to be connected to an external TV or monitor in order to play games. This makes consoles very inconvenient if you are looking to game on the go.   

Laptops have everything built in including a display, keyboard, speakers, and a touchpad, allowing you to play games 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 console is also a better choice if you have a significant other who likes to watch 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 gaming devices are portable, they aren’t very power efficient. You’ll have to plug in a charger every few hours or so to play games for extended periods of time.

Power

powerful gaming laptop graphics card

Gaming consoles tend to output the best possible visuals at 30 or 60 FPS (Frames per Second). When gaming on a console, you may sometimes 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 gameplay 60 FPS is considered ideal.

The hardware of gaming laptops outperforms that of consoles; they have faster processors and very powerful dedicated graphics cards. 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.

This means that with a high-end gaming laptop, you won’t have to sacrifice much in terms of image quality.

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

Ray tracing will likely become available on consoles much later. This is because laptops with the latest cutting-edge technology are released every few months while consoles take years to evolve before their hardware is improved through the next-gen console. 

For instance, PlayStation 4 was released in November 2013 and PlayStation 5 was not released until November 2020.  

Versatility

working on a gaming laptop

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 gaming 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 done on 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

gaming console online fee subscription

To play online multiplayer games on Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch you have to sign up for 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 online or locally. Platforms such as Steam and Parsec let you play local multiplayer games with friends over the internet free of charge.

This explains why LAN parties are more popular with PC gamers. They can simply set up their own Local Area Network and use one of their PCs as a host server.

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 the old Xbox 360 console.

Backward compatibility is much better on laptops. You can play games from a decade ago without purchasing a new license or needing previous hardware. PC game platforms often work with game developers to tweak old titles so that they can run smoothly on modern hardware.

In addition, you can install patches on your PC to improve the graphics quality of older games. Instructions on how to do this on different operating systems are usually available online and are easy to follow. 

The Living Room Experience 

gaming in the living room using console

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

Gaming 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 gaming consoles. 

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 laptop 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 right adjustments 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 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, as well as new graphical features. 

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

PC gaming is an open platform and gamers have the freedom to modify games however they wish as long as the game supports modding. Through the Steam Workshop, PC gamers are able to share their mods with other gamers.

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

Other Things To Keep In Mind

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.

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 a few years after your current one. Storage is usually the only thing you can update in some gaming consoles such as the PS5. 

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 Games Using Whatever Input Method You Prefer 

external gaming peripherals

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

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

Both Can Overheat After Gaming For Long Hours

Since gaming is both CPU and graphics card intensive, 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. But when temperatures exceed a certain threshold, they shut down automatically to prevent permanent damage to internal components. Heat is a major cause of premature hardware failure.

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, preventing proper air circulation.

Final Thoughts

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

In general, even if gaming laptops lack some of the exclusives offered by consoles, they offer 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 gaming device that will also double as your family’s media center, buying a gaming console makes more sense.

If you decide to buy a gaming laptop, don’t go for a budget laptop because it may not serve you long before its hardware becomes outdated. I hope this article gave you enough insight into both devices to make the best decision. 

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