Have you been on an endless search for a laptop but can’t decide whether to buy a gaming laptop or a normal laptop?
Knowing the difference between gaming laptops and normal laptops will help you make an informed buying decision. Also, if you already have a laptop, learning the differences between the two will also help you know if it is good for gaming or not.
The main difference between gaming laptops and normal laptops is that gaming laptops are designed to handle heavy tasks such as gaming that are both CPU and GPU intensive while normal laptops are built to handle everyday tasks such as browsing, typing documents, creating presentations, etc.
Gaming laptops are built for high performance. They have dedicated graphics cards, high-speed processors, more RAM, and advanced cooling mechanisms. On the other hand, normal laptops have average performance hardware that is built with efficiency in mind rather than performance.
High-performance hardware in gaming laptops allows them to perform processor and graphics card intensive tasks, such as gaming and graphics design, smoothly and for extended periods of time without breaking. On top of that, they often have striking chassis designs that appeal mostly to gamers.
Normal laptops have power restricted processors and lack components such as dedicated graphics cards, which makes them lighter and increases their battery life. They are good for lighter everyday tasks, such as word processing, web browsing, and watching videos. Their chassis design is usually kept clean and simple to fit a professional environment.
When discussing normal laptops in this article, we will be referring to all everyday-use laptops that are not specifically designed for gaming such as business laptops, notebooks, and ultrabooks.
Let’s take a deeper look at their differences.
Gaming Laptop vs Normal Laptop Comparison Table
|Gaming laptop||Normal laptop|
|Processor (CPU)||Have high-performance processors with high clock speeds built for gaming||Have standard processors designed for light tasks|
|Memory (RAM)||Usually have between 8 GB and 16 GB RAM||Usually have between 4 GB and 8GB RAM|
|Graphics Card (GPU)||Come with a dedicated Nvidia Geforce or AMD Radeon graphics card to handle graphically intensive tasks||Mostly rely on an integrated graphics card embedded on the CPU.|
|Cooling System||Have an advanced cooling system with multiple fans to control the extra heat produced by the dedicated graphics card||The cooling system is not as advanced as that of gaming notebooks. Usually, only one fan is installed.|
|Keyboard||Feature a robust keyboard with RGB backlighting that can withstand the stresses of gaming||Feature a delicate keyboard that’s built mainly for typing|
|Number of ports||Usually, have all the ports needed to connect the various gaming peripherals||Feature basics ports that are needed to connect regular devices|
|Portability||Heavier than regular laptops due to a bigger battery and extra components||Very light and perfect for travel|
|Display||Features displays with a high refresh rate of up to 300 Hz||Feature displays with a refresh rate of between 60Hz and 120 Hz|
|Speakers||Speakers are often louder than those of regular laptops||Feature standard speakers|
|Battery Life||Have bad battery life of about 6 hours with light use||Have a good battery life of about 12 hours with light use|
|Longevity||Longevity depends on use and how well you take care of them. However, due to their robust design, they can outlive normal laptops||Longevity depends on use and how well you take care of them.|
|Price||Are very expensive with a starting price of around $700 for entry-level models||Are cheaper than gaming laptops with a starting point of around $400|
Difference In The Type Of Processor Used
The Processor, commonly referred to as the CPU (Central Processing Unit), serves as the brain of the computer. It sends instructions to all other components and tells them what to do based on the input it receives from the user and programs running on the computer.
Intel and AMD are the two largest processor manufacturers, but you’ll find Intel processors in most laptops.
Normal laptops are built to handle less demanding tasks such as running Microsoft applications and web browsing and therefore don’t need extremely powerful processors. They come with less expensive, slower processors that have fewer cores.
High-end gaming and other processor-intensive tasks such as video editing and software compiling include lots of arithmetical and logical operations that need to be calculated at blazing speed. This is where high-performance processors come in.
It is easy and very common to look at the processor specifications of both gaming and regular laptops and assume that Intel or AMD processors on both laptops are the same. However, that is not the case.
An Intel Core i5 or i7 processor in a regular laptop is not built the same as a Core i5 or i7 processor in a gaming laptop, their internal architecture is a bit different.
If you take a closer look at the suffix in the processor names of both laptops you’ll note that the suffixes U, Y, G, and T appear in the processor model names of normal laptops while the suffixes H, HQ, HK, and K appear in those of gaming laptops.
The video below explains the meaning behind these letters:
Take Intel core i7 10510Y vs Intel core i7 9700K for example. This is what Intel processor suffixes mean:
Processor suffixes for regular laptops
- U– Ultra-low power
- Y– Extremely low power
- G-Graphics (includes discrete graphics)
- T– Power optimized lifestyle
Processor suffixes for gaming laptops
- H– High performance
- HQ– High-performance quad-core
- K– Unlocked (means it can be overclocked to run at higher speeds)
- HK– High performance and unlocked
Just from the meaning of the suffix you can tell that normal laptop processors are usually very power restricted, hence are limited in terms of performance.
On the other hand. gaming laptop processors are not power restricted and some of them can even be overclocked in case you need even higher processing speeds.
AMD Ryzen series processors also have a naming scheme for their laptop processors that’s slightly different from that of Intel.
Generally, gaming laptops have CPUs with more cores than regular laptops which makes them faster and more effective at running heavy programs.
More cores also allow you to run multiple programs simultaneously without experiencing lagging. However, they generate more heat and drain the battery a lot faster.
Gaming Laptop vs Normal Laptop: RAM
Random Access Memory (RAM) is your computer’s short-term memory; it is responsible for storing data for programs that are open on your computer so that it can be quickly retrieved by the CPU.
RAM is needed because it is usually much faster to read and write information from it than from other storage devices such as the hard drive.
Normal laptops come with between 4 GB and 8 GB of RAM, gaming laptops, on the other hand, have between 8 GB and 16 GB of RAM. It is quite rare to find a modern gaming laptop with less than 8 GB of RAM.
Some high-end gaming laptops will have up to 32 GB of RAM, but this is considered overkill since most people, at least for now, will not have use for 32 GB of RAM. Generally, the more RAM your laptop has, the more expensive it will be.
Normal laptops have less RAM than gaming laptops because they are built to run less demanding programs such as video players, web browsers, and light business applications that don’t require lots of data to be held in memory.
On the other hand, games, graphic design software, and other demanding applications come with a lot of assets that need to be loaded into memory first for them to run smoothly. For example, AAA games titles such as Fallout 4 require a minimum of 8 GB RAM.
This means if you want to play Fallout 4 and also do a live stream you’ll need more than 8GB of RAM, otherwise, the game will lag or fail to load. This is because other programs that run in the background such as antivirus software and the operating system also need RAM to operate.
For Example, Windows 10 Operating System (OS) alone requires between 1GB (32-bit system) and 2GB (64-bit system) of RAM to operate.
In case you run out of RAM, your computer is forced to fetch the extra data from your hard drive, which as we mentioned earlier, is much slower. This will ultimately slow you down your PC. More RAM helps you run multiple programs simultaneously without problems.
Besides the difference in size, RAM on gaming laptops generally operates at higher clock speeds than that of normal laptops. RAM clock speed is usually measured in Megahertz (MHz). However, the capacity of RAM makes more of an impact than its speed.
The good thing is that RAM is easily upgradeable in both everyday laptops and gaming laptops. Therefore, if your budget does not allow you to buy a laptop with lots of RAM, make sure the laptop you buy at least gives you the option to upgrade in the future.
Difference In The Type Of Graphics Card
The graphics card, also known as a video card or GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), is the piece of hardware responsible for rendering the videos and images you see on the screen. It receives instructions (graphics-related data) from the processor and converts it into visual information.
There is a big difference between graphics cards found in normal laptops and those found in gaming laptops. Normal laptops have an integrated graphics card (iGPU) while gaming laptops have a dedicated GPU.
An integrated graphics card is usually embedded on the same chip as the CPU and uses the same RAM as the CPU. Having both pieces of hardware on the same chip usually results in manufacturers having to prioritize more on processing power than graphical power.
This causes an integrated graphics card to be limited in terms of both the power and amount of memory allocated to it. Integrated graphics cards are good for watching videos, PowerPoint presentations, and viewing photo albums.
However, they struggle when it comes to running modern graphically-heavy game titles, 3D rendering, and heavy photo or video editing. The following video explains what you might experience if you play games with an only integrated graphics card.
A dedicated graphics card, on the other hand, exists separate from the CPU and has its own memory known as VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) as well as its own processor known as the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). VRAM is much faster than the main memory (RAM) and is used exclusively by the GPU.
This makes dedicated GPU a lot faster and better at handling complex graphics-related data such as that of games, 3D modeling, and virtual reality (VR) than integrated graphics cards. Nvidia and AMD (Radeon) dedicated GPUs are the most common in gaming laptops.
Both gaming laptops and normal laptops have their own cooling mechanisms to help keep the laptop’s interior at the optimum temperature. However, there are notable differences between the two.
Normal laptops usually have less advanced cooling systems than gaming laptops. This is because they do not produce a lot of heat in their interior; most of their heat is mainly generated by the processor.
Generally, normal laptops come with one fan, smaller air vents, and lighter heat sinks. Some laptops such as the Acer Spin 7 and Huawei MateBook X are fanless and rely entirely on passive cooling mechanisms. This makes them extra light and suitable for use in quiet environments.
Gaming laptops, on the other hand, have power-hungry processors and graphics cards that are notorious for producing lots of heat. And cramming these components in a small casing restricts air-flow and they need large air vents, multiple high-speed fans, and larger heat sinks in order to dissipate all this heat.
High-end gaming laptops such as the Asus ROG G752vs have turned to vapor chamber cooling which is better than ordinary heat pipes at reducing thermal resistance and driving heat away from the hot spots.
Vapor chamber cooling is rare in normal laptops as most don’t need it. Sometimes innovative methods have to be used to effectively cool gaming laptops. A good example is with ASUS ROG Laptops.
Difference In Keyboard Design
Backlit keyboards are not as common in normal laptops as in gaming laptops. This is because the average users, such as business people and college students, wouldn’t have much use for it.
Gamers, on the other hand, need RGB backlit keyboards because they love the experience of playing games in low-lit environments. Backlit keyboards also help gamers find and press the right keys without having to take their eyes off the screen.
Some RGB backlit keyboards are programmable which allows gamers to assign a distinct color to certain keys when running different applications. For example, W, A, S, and D keys and arrow keys are often assigned a unique color from other keys because, in most games, they used to move characters or objects around.
Illumination effects such as ripples and waves are also possible with RGB backlit keyboards and add to a more immersive gaming experience. The backlight in keyboards can be turned off when it’s not needed and this helps extend battery life.
Another difference is that normal laptops have standard membrane keyboards built mostly for normal use such as typing and accessing shortcuts. These activities do not require a keyboard with fast response times and don’t involve repeated pressing of the same keys.
Gaming laptop keyboards need to have fast response times to avoid delays when playing fast-paced PC games. They also need to be more durable keyboards so as to withstand the stress of repeated pressing and sometimes forceful strokes of aggressive gamers.
Some high-end gaming laptops such as the Razer Blade 15 Advanced and the Aorus X9 DT have mechanical keyboards with N-Key rollover support that you may not find on normal laptops. Mechanical keyboards last longer and each keystroke usually feels more solid than that of a membrane keyboard.
N-Key rollover allows you to press as many keys as you like simultaneously and have them all registered without ghosting. When playing games like Tekken, N-Key rollover helps you perform combos and maneuvers without problems.
Aesthetics: Clean vs Flashy
There is usually a difference in how normal and gaming laptop chassis (computer casing/cover) is designed. The chassis design of normal laptops is usually kept flat and simple to give them a more clean look that is appropriate for professional environments such as offices and schools.
Gaming laptops often have more flashy and detailed chassis designs that grab attention. Their casings sometimes have striking logos, LED lighting on the body panels, large air vents that resemble race car grills, patterns, and stripes.
Gaming laptop chassis surfaces also tend to stick to a certain color theme, for example, Asus and MSI use Red highlights, and Razer uses green highlights.
In some cases, the chassis of gaming laptops do more than just protect the interior components, sometimes functionality is added. For example, when the Asus ROG Zephyrus is opened, a portion of the bottom panel flexes to create more open space for air circulation. This is not a feature you’d find on normal laptops.
Number Of Ports
The ports in normal laptops and gaming laptops tend to differ, not necessarily in terms of type, but in number. Generally, gaming laptops usually have more external ports to allow gamers to connect more peripherals such as gaming keyboards, gaming mice, game controllers, Bluetooth dongles, etc.
For example, if you compare the HP Elite Dragonfly business laptop to the HP Omen gaming laptop. Both laptops are from the same manufacturer but there is a difference in the number of USB ports.
The business laptop comes with 2 USB ports while the gaming laptop comes with 3 USB ports. It is quite uncommon to find gaming laptops with less than 3 USB ports. Some gaming laptops such as the MSI GT75 Titan have as many as 5 USB ports.
Gaming Laptop vs Normal Laptop: Portability
Even though both normal laptops and gaming laptops are portable, there is usually a difference in their size and weight.
Normal laptops weigh less and are smaller in size than gaming laptops. This is because they have fewer components such as fans, dedicated graphics card, and external ports. They also pack a lighter battery because they are very power efficient.
Their displays are also smaller; it is more common to find regular laptops with 13.3-inch displays than it is to find gaming laptops with this screen size. Most gaming laptops will have a larger 15.6-inch or 17.3-inch display.
Gaming laptops have come a long way from being the bulky briefcase-sized machines they once were. But, due to the extra hardware they carry, they still struggle to beat the portability of regular laptops.
For example, the Razer Blade 15 gaming laptop is considered the smallest gaming laptop but it’s still not as portable in terms of both weight and size as the HP Spectre X360 notebook.
The Razer blade 15 measures 14 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches and weighs roughly 4.6 pounds while the HP Spectre measures 12.2 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches and weighs 2.8 pounds.
Display Refresh Rate
The displays of normal laptops and gaming laptops are similar in terms of their technology, but their refresh rate is usually different.
Refresh rate refers to the number of times a display’s image is refreshed or repainted per second. A 60 Hz refresh rate means the image on the screen is refreshed 60 times per second.
A display with a refresh rate of at least 60 Hz is considered ideal for regular use. If your display has a refresh rate of less than 60 Hz screen flickering will occur. A high refresh rate produces a much smoother image on the screen.
Normal laptops generally have a refresh rate of between 60 Hz and 120 Hz. Gaming laptop displays, on the other hand, have much higher refresh rates of 144 Hz or 240 Hz. High-end gaming laptops, such as the Acer Predator Triton 500, have a 300 Hz refresh rate display.
High refresh rates in gaming help the screen keep up with the rapid movements of the player without causing undesirable effects such as screen stuttering and tearing. Keep in mind that in order to achieve high refresh rates, you also need to have a powerful graphics card and processor.
Another difference between gaming laptops is their speaker’s size. Normal laptops have smaller speakers that aren’t very loud. They are good for everyday use like watching movies, listening to music, as well as making voice or video calls.
The small chassis of regular laptops have very limited space which makes installing large speakers difficult.
Sound quality is a big part of gaming, it is very hard to fully immerse yourself in a game if your audio quality is poor.
Gaming laptops have larger, louder speakers that let you hear all the game character conversations, sound effects, and background music that make games more enjoyable and engaging at the same time.
Some gaming laptops, especially those with big chassis, come with a built-in woofer that brings out the bass sound more clearly. Besides audibility, louder speakers in gaming laptops also help mask fan noise in case fans get too loud.
If you find that you don’t like the quality of your laptop speakers, you can solve this problem by plugging in a good pair of headphones or an external sound system to your laptop.
The difference in the hardware components of normal laptops and gaming laptops has a significant impact on battery life. The display, processor, and graphics card are the most power-consuming parts in laptops.
Normal laptops have better battery life because they have power restricted processors and don’t need a dedicated graphics card. They also rely more on passive cooling mechanisms rather than active cooling mechanisms such as additional fans.
Gaming laptops are built as desktop replacements and hence have high-performance processors and dedicated graphics cards installed. They also have more fans and extra features such as backlit RGB keyboards and LED lights on their body panels.
All these extra parts consume a lot of power and reduce their battery life significantly. It is hard to go past 2 hours when gaming or doing demanding tasks that heavily engage both the CPU and GPU. When doing such tasks it is recommended to have your laptop constantly plugged in.
How long a regular laptop or a gaming laptop lasts ultimately depends on how you use it. If you use a normal laptop to perform demanding tasks expect its lifespan to decrease significantly.
This is usually the case when gamers try to play CPU and Graphics card intensive games on normal laptops. They don’t play for long before they experience hardware failure or drops in performance.
On the other side of the coin, you can use a gaming laptop for both gaming and everyday tasks without significantly impacting its longevity. A gaming laptop is more likely to outlive a normal laptop if both are used for the same tasks.
This is because the hardware of the gaming laptop, including its cooling system, is built to handle both light and heavy tasks. In fact, it is not uncommon for gamers to turn their old gaming laptop into their everyday laptop once the hardware gets outdated and can’t play current game titles.
Price is another difference between the two. Normal laptops are generally cheaper than gaming laptops. Most normal laptops, except the very high-end ones, cost under $1,000 but the same cannot be said about gaming laptops.
Finding good gaming laptops that cost under $1,000 is hard. Their high-performance hardware, as well as extra features such as backlit keyboards and advanced cooling systems, cost more to design and produce, forcing this cost to be passed on to the customer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can A Gaming Laptop Be Used As A Normal Laptop
Gaming laptops can be used as normal laptops. They have all the features you find in normal laptops plus additional features such as dedicated graphics cards, that are needed to do everyday tasks.
However, due to their high-performance parts, gaming laptops have low battery life. They are also slightly less portable than regular laptops because they are slightly bigger and tend to weigh more.
Can You Upgrade A Normal Laptop To A Gaming Laptop?
It’s not possible to upgrade a normal laptop into a gaming laptop. Parts like the graphics card usually come soldered onto the motherboard and need to be accounted for during the initial design and manufacturing of the motherboard.
Furthermore, the cooling mechanism of normal laptops is not sufficient to cool both the CPU and GPU even if it were upgraded to a gaming laptop. The only hardware that is usually upgradable in normal laptops is RAM and storage.
This video explains some of the things you can upgrade in a laptop and how to go about it:
Are Gaming Laptops Better Than Normal Laptops?
Gaming laptops are better than normal laptops in terms of performance. However, when it comes to battery life and portability, normal laptops are the best choice.
Can You Game On A Regular Non-gaming Laptop?
It is possible to play some games on a regular laptop if it meets the minimum system requirements needed by a game. Games such as Cuphead, Into the Breach, and Thimbleweed Park are not processor or graphically-intensive and hence can be played on normal laptops.
However, more demanding games such as Call of Duty, Deus Ex, and Crysis will push a non-gaming laptop to its limit which might cause lagging and stuttering which makes gaming unbearable. In some cases, the game may fail to load completely if it’s too graphics-heavy.
The stress put on the CPU and integrated graphics card also causes a lot of heat to be produced in the laptop’s interior. Since normal laptops lack a proper cooling system, this heat can get extreme and damage electronic components, especially those around the CPU.
You can check if your laptop is good for gaming by going to system requirements lab.com and then click on “My Computer Details” in the top menu. Next, click on “view my computer details”. This will initiate an automatic download of a Detection App.
Once the download is complete, click on the Detection.exe file to run the app. The software will provide all the hardware details of your computer.
Use this information to compare your laptop specifications to the game requirements of the game you want to play. You can find out the minimum and recommended game specifications by typing in the title of the game here.
Would It Be Advisable To Purchase A Gaming Laptop For Work?
If you do lots of video editing, software compiling, or other demanding work then buying a gaming laptop over a regular laptop makes more sense. However, if you simply need to reply to emails, make Skype business calls, and make PowerPoint presentations, a standard normal laptop will serve you better.
Whether to get a gaming laptop for work depends on the type of work you do. Also, keep in mind that gaming laptops are generally more expensive than normal laptops. Therefore, if you are working with a limited budget, a normal laptop is a better choice.
Conclusion- Gaming Laptop or Normal Laptop?
The main difference in gaming laptops and normal laptops lies in their hardware. Normal laptops are built with power efficiency in mind rather than performance. They are cheaper, lighter, and have better battery life than gaming laptops.
Gaming laptops can be thought of as portable desktop replacements. They have high-performance CPUs and graphics cards and are built to run demanding software such as games. Battery life and portability are their main drawbacks.