Gaming Versus Regular Laptops: What’s the Difference?

Key Points

  • Gaming laptops are more expensive, but better for high-performance functions than standard laptops.

  • The Razer Blade 15 is 2022’s best-rated gaming laptop.

  • The HP Spectre x360 14 is 2022’s best-rated normal laptop.

Each person who owns a computer has different uses for it. Some people purchase computers out of necessity while others build computers to meet their specific needs. In the exciting world of laptops, you might or might not know there’s a difference between gaming laptops and non-gaming laptops.

As the name suggests, gaming laptops are specifically designed to play video games, while non-gaming laptops are best suited for general use such as browsing the internet, word processing, and developing spreadsheets.

The two categories of laptops might be indistinguishable simply by looking at them, but they’re exceptionally different from one another. If you’re looking to buy a new laptop or already have one, it’s beneficial to know the differences and their capabilities.

Laptop Exterior & Interior Designs

You can’t judge a book by its cover. Non-gaming laptops are slim and compact, more portable than ever, and have a streamlined finish to them.

Manufacturers of gaming laptops take the aesthetics of their computers seriously – as do the gamers who operate them. Gaming laptops have robust features that look like they’re from the Matrix and ooze red, green, and blue (RGB) lighting from every orifice.

A laptop’s appearance isn’t what separates gaming from others. It’s what’s under the hood that matters.

Central Processing Unit

Non-gaming laptops don’t require as much computing power as gaming laptops because they are designed to handle simple tasks such as responding to emails, creating spreadsheets, and using word processing programs. It would be hard to use more than 20% of your central processing unit (CPU) when simultaneously working in those apps. Gaming, on the other hand, is more demanding on a computer’s resources. 

The CPU is the brain of your computer. It fetches instructions from an application, decodes the information, and executes the instructions from said application. When computers first found their way into your home, the processor simply had a single “core” to execute its job. That’s all it required because its tasks were simplistic compared to modern processes.

CPUs now have multiple cores that allow them to operate many tasks simultaneously. It’s not uncommon for a CPU to have up to 64 cores now. These larger cores are the type of CPUs required by gaming laptops.

Naturally, gaming laptops require a CPU with many cores to facilitate better performance. Rendering a video game isn’t counted as a single process. Several processes are happening at any given time within a video game that a computer has to keep up with.

More often than not, when someone is gaming, that’s not the only task they’re performing. Many gamers enjoy recording their game sessions, so they may run a recording or streaming program to broadcast their gameplay on YouTube or Twitch. Accomplishing that on a CPU that isn’t designed for resource-demanding tasks will put a lot of stress on your laptop and make gaming unenjoyable.

Side view of a gaming laptop and mouse

Graphic Processing Unit

A graphics processing unit (GPU) – often referred to as the graphics card – is the single most impactful feature of a gaming laptop that sets it apart from a non-gaming laptop. Naturally, having top-notch graphics isn’t a priority for a non-gaming laptop because word processing and creating slide shows are simpler to display.

Graphics cards are optional pieces of hardware that work in tandem with the CPU. The GPU extracts data from the CPU, converts it into visual data, and projects it to your computer’s monitor.

Non-gaming laptops rely on the CPU and installed random access memory (RAM) for graphical data. A gaming laptop has a dedicated GPU with its own RAM, which is known as VRAM (video RAM), to handle all the heavy lifting of anything related to a video from photo/video editing to rendering 3D objects.

Random Access Memory

Data is retrieved from two (sometimes more) locations on a computer. The primary location for information to be stored is on the hard drive. Your computer’s random access memory (RAM) is the other source of information storage. Think of the RAM as your computer’s short-term memory. Data from currently running programs are stored in the RAM because it’s easily retrievable for the CPU.

Non-gaming laptops come with considerably less RAM than gaming laptops. They’ll come loaded with no more than eight gigabytes (GB) of RAM that usually consists of one 8GB stick or two 4GB sticks of RAM.

If there isn’t a dedicated graphics card in a computer, there will be an integrated graphics card embedded in the CPU. This puts more stress on the CPU and RAM because a dedicated GPU would have its own RAM to utilize. This is why using a normal laptop for gaming is a poor decision and should be avoided.

Battery Life

There is a significant difference in battery life between the two types of laptops. Since gaming laptops have high-performance CPUs, dedicated GPUs, more fans, and backlit keyboards, they consume more energy. You’ll find yourself keeping your gaming laptop plugged into its charger more often. This is nothing to be concerned with as it’s recommended you do so.

Gamer plays video games on a gaming laptop set-up

Cooling

Cooling is essential in laptops because without fans, the CPU and/or GPU would overheat the system and turn your laptop into the most expensive paperweight in the world. Is there a difference between a gaming laptop’s cooling system and a normal laptop’s? Absolutely.

You might not notice the subtle differences unless you’re technologically savvy. Gaming laptops have multiple fans and large air vents that work with heat sinks to push warm air out of the laptop. This is because the CPU and GPU produce intense amounts of heat that will affect performance if not maintained.

Laptops used to rely solely on fans for cooling while desktop computers benefited from having the option to create liquid cooling systems. Now, gaming laptop manufacturers have begun developing laptops with vapor chambers, a closed-loop liquid cooling system.

Since non-gaming laptops don’t produce as much heat, they don’t utilize vapor chambers or more than one fan. The main source of heat in a normal laptop is the CPU, so a solitary fan with an air vent will suffice. Some don’t come equipped with a fan at all, relying on natural air to keep the computer within safe temperatures.

Display

The last aspect of a laptop you would think has a difference is the type of screen. However, there are numerous differences in displays between gaming and non-gaming laptops, since there are different demands depending on the type of work you need to accomplish.

The two important features that vary from laptop to laptop are the kind of material the screen is made out of and the size. The material a screen is made from gives a different appearance while the size determines how much and how well you see on a screen.

Glossy Versus Matte

A laptop with a glossy screen is a sure way to determine whether it’s meant for gaming or not. When you play a video game, you need to be able to see everything on the screen without distraction and a glossy screen will have some distractions. Nothing is worse in a video game than when you end up in a dark area and all you see is a reflection of your face staring back at you.

Reflections remove any sense of immersion and if it’s a competitive game against live people, it’s going to lose you a match. Gaming laptops require matte screens. A matte display is non-reflective and isn’t affected by the lighting that shifts throughout the day.

A glossy screen, however, is great for a cinematic experience. Glossy screens emphasize the vibrance of colors on the screen and have a more realistic tone to them. It will make your PowerPoint presentation memorable or enhance your movie-watching experience. 

Screen Size & Refresh Rate

Gaming laptops have larger screens than their non-gaming counterparts to facilitate the gaming experience better. While larger screens are desired, they’re not a requirement for word processing and sending emails.

Beyond the size of the screen, a regular laptop comes with a lower refresh rate. The refresh rate measures the number of times a computer monitor refreshes the image per second. A normal laptop’s refresh rate ranges from 60Hz to 120Hz. Meanwhile, a gaming laptop boasts up to 360Hz to accommodate a smoother and more immersive gaming experience.

Gamer plays video games on gaming laptop

Lighting

Gaming laptops are usually equipped with RGB lighting, which allows you to customize the appearance of your laptop. LED lighting has the option to display a single color or a full range of colors. RGB lighting is primarily used for aesthetics, but it also helps identify certain keys on the keyboard or provides additional lighting in low-light conditions.

Customize your color display in pre-installed apps on the laptop and create different patterns that light up. Arrange the lights to flash, pulse, or cascade like rain.

Price

If you want to find a good, normal laptop for under $1,000, you’ll have no issues. However, the same can’t be said about a gaming laptop. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a moderate gaming laptop for under $1,000.

The hardware inside of a gaming laptop significantly increases the cost and makes them more expensive than desktop computers. 

Which Laptop Is Better?

How do you determine which kind of laptop is better? There’s no one discernible way because they’re used for different functions. Yes, gaming laptops are always going to be more powerful than normal laptops because they execute more demanding tasks. However, power doesn’t necessarily determine which is better.

A gaming laptop won’t have a touchscreen or come with the ability to transform into a tablet. Those are features that non-gamers value more than having the most RAM with the fastest clock speed.

It’s all a matter of preference unless you have specific tasks to accomplish. If you’re going to use your computer for video editing and gaming, then a gaming laptop should be your choice. If you’re looking for a machine that’s more compact, portable, and has overall better battery life, then a non-gaming laptop is better for you.

That’s not to say you can’t use a normal laptop for gaming, however.

Games on a Normal Laptop?

Yes, you can upload, install, and play video games on a non-gaming laptop, but the performance isn’t going to be anywhere near as enjoyable as it would be with a dedicated gaming laptop.

A lot of newer games require extensive processing power for graphics that make it impossible to play without a GPU. You’ll be able to run simple games using the integrated graphics card that’s embedded in the CPU, such as The Sims. However, a gaming laptop is required for something as demanding as Halo or Cyberpunk 2077, which require more RAM.

If you have a regular laptop and are interested in a video game, look for that game’s minimum hardware requirements or go to systemrequirementslab.com. As long as you know your laptop’s specifications, you’ll know if your laptop is capable of running a game. 

Xbox controller, mouse, keyboard, and headphones for gaming set-up

Best Gaming Laptop From 2022

Razer is a computer brand that boasts that it’s a business for gamers by gamers. It’s only natural that it would have the best-rated gaming laptops on the market. When picking out the device you want from Razer, you’re given numerous options with different components. This is ideal for gamers because they have specific requirements for their rigs.

Razer knows what they’re doing when designing a laptop for gamers, so it should be no surprise that they manufactured the best overall gaming laptop in the Razer Blade 15. The Razer Blade 15 comes with the following specifications:

  • CPU: Up to i9 12900H

  • GPU: Up to Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti

  • RAM: Up to 32GB DDR5

  • Screen: 1080p @ 360Hz, 1440p @ 240Hz, or 4K @ 144Hz

  • Storage: Up to 1TB SSD

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    02/03/2023 07:13 am GMT

Despite those specifications, there is a wide range of CPU and GPU options for the Razer Blade 15, depending on your requirements. The base option comes with Nvidia’s RTX 3060 graphics card, or consider the advanced route and shell out for the heavy-duty RTX 3080 Ti. You won’t be disappointed with either option.

The Razer Blade has a sleek look that you would expect from a non-gaming laptop but has the durability and workings of a gaming laptop. This machine is built from aluminum and weighs five pounds, making it the lightest gaming laptop on the market. The RGB lighting in every crevice of this laptop makes it a gorgeous piece of equipment.

Best Non-Gaming Laptop From 2022

Hewlett-Packard is a trusted name in the computer industry. It’s been around since 1939 and built its first computer in 1966. Needless to say, HP has some experience manufacturing solid computers.

They created a solid laptop for those that are all business. The laptop is the HP Spectre x360 14 and comes with the following specs:

The HP Spectre is a sturdy laptop made from brushed metal that gives it a contemporary look. It has a slim, lightweight body that rotates for use as a tablet. The touchpad is large and responsive with support for multi-finger gestures.

Its hardware makes it the perfect choice for business people across the globe. The Spectre x360 14’s price tag is slightly higher than you might prefer, but it’s worth the cost.

Gaming laptop set-up

Pros & Cons

It’s important to weigh out the pros and cons when in the market for a new laptop. If you’re leaning toward purchasing a gaming laptop, you don’t want to shell out all that money without thinking everything through.

Gaming Laptop Pros

  • Powerful CPU

  • More RAM

  • Easier to multitask

  • Better Graphics

  • Better frames per second (FPS)

  • Bigger screens

Gaming Laptop Cons

  • More expensive

  • Cumbersome

  • Louder

  • Battery life

Normal Laptop Pros

  • Thin and sleek

  • Comparably inexpensive

  • Good enough for most programs

Normal Laptop Cons

  • Parts can’t be upgraded

  • Not good for gaming

  • Less RAM

Colorful laptop screen reflects off outer case of laptop and keyboard

Which One Will You Choose?

The primary difference between the two categories of laptops is their hardware. Gaming laptops feature high-performance components like the CPU, GPU, and RAM. Standard laptops might not focus as much on performance, but they have irreplaceable benefits.

Normal laptops double as tablets, making them more versatile and portable than their gaming counterparts. They’re also cheaper since they don’t require a dedicated graphics card or high-performance CPU.

Gaming laptops are more like a replacement for a desktop because of their price and function. A normal laptop is a supplement to a desktop to be used when you’re on the move.

Many reputable brands manufacture both gaming and normal laptops, so find a brand you like and go from there. Have fun determining the laptop that’s right for you!