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  • puppies - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    Second sentence should be used not uses. Reply
  • brucek2 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    AnandTech, where user comments go much, much further. What a treat to get such a thorough reply to a few readers questions, and barely 24 hours later.

    My only quibble might be that I believe all these performance numbers are at stock speeds? A high end desktop could probably get another 10-30% from OC'ing, while a high end laptop would probably get either no or significantly less boost due to less cooling capacity (and less support from the BIOS, mobo, etc.)

    Even so I don't think that really changes the overall picture. I was surprised to see the single threaded performance range being so narrow (only ~2x), and agree that for most use cases, most of the time, even the bottom end is going to be fine. The much greater 6x+ range on the multi-threaded / gaming side is of course the big factor for those that need it. And its great to see a trusted source call out (even if gingerly) the practice of using the same price and same name for a mobile GTX 780 that is barely in the same league as the desktop counterpart, even at stock speeds.

    I also couldn't agree more on the SSD comments. Especially on budget laptops where the target audience is not likely to ask any questions about the storage subsystem, there is a real likelihood of getting the slowest possible hard drive, which can end up making bottlenecks even out of situations where SSD users long ago forgot that storage was even a factor. A situation usually made worse by the likely ton of bloatware that will consume the limited hdd bandwidth by loading and updating itself, downloading ads, etc. I remember my first high end gaming laptop, I thought the cpu was defective or being improperly throttled until I finally realized that yes the 2.5" 5400 rpm hd was really that bad and causing that much trouble.

    Anyway thanks for a great article, I know I'll be directing some shoppers to it over the coming months and I hope its helpful for other folks as well.
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    Most high performance gaming laptops allow OC'ing for both CPU and GPU, and some are even factory overclocked. Also now pretty much ALL laptops (except for some fruit-labeled ones) has one or two empty mSATA slots for easy SSD upgrade. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    My experience with overclocking notebooks is that, at best, you might get an extra 2 bins of CPU performance on the high-end CPUs before you run into thermal limits and the CPU starts to throttle. I saw this with the Mythlogic (Clevo P157SM), where the 4700MQ was able to run at max OC (2 bins) without any issues, but the 6 bin overclocking headroom of the 4900MQ basically didn't do much for performance. Desktops can definitely overclock more, and that's another factor for some, but on mobile systems I think the benefits of overclocking are usually outweighed by the increased heat/noise. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    As for Bruce2K, I read your comment and thought, "Yeah, I could probably do that for the readers and it should prove interesting." Thanks for the idea! Reply
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    I heard haswell and new 780M is worse than previous-gen ones in terms OC'ing. Some people claim they OC'ed their 680M to the same performance as 780M. So OC is definitely possible and can be effective on some laptops. That said, personally I never do OC'ing myself. Reply
  • WarrenSmith - Saturday, September 14, 2013 - link

    Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online( Click on menu Home)
  • brucek2 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    I know the basic controls are often there, but can you really get the same results out of them at acceptable stability, noise, and chassis heat (ie where you place your hands) and without triggering throttling? That's great news if you can. Reply
  • Watwatwat - Thursday, October 10, 2013 - link

    Yep but the thermal issues in a laptop just can't be avoided, theres no getting around having a tiny heatsink and basically almost no fan. Also overclocking on a gaming laptop is a great way to turn 2 hours of battery life into 1;) Last I checked overlocking doesn't result in linear increase in power consumption. Reply
  • WinterCharm - Thursday, September 12, 2013 - link

    I did manage a 19% GPU overclock on my laptop... and while performance improved, it'll never be anywhere near what it is on a desktop. Reply
  • puppies - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    MY laptop is running a 3 year old CPU (I7 740QM) paired with a GT445 GPU. I installed a 120GB SSD shortly after buying it and moved the windows install over to it using the standard 750GB HDD for file storage.

    It multi tasks like a champ, the SSD makes such a difference I wouldn't dream of owning a machine without one now. I can have multiple office programs open at once and be browsing 10+ web pages and it still performs better than it did with just a HDD under light usage scenarios.

    Gaming isn't an issue as I only play older games on it, if I want to play BF3 etc I fire up my desktop.

    I am alwas on the lookout for an excuse to upgrade all my hardware but I just can't justify swapping it for anything newer as it performs everything I ask it to do so well. So for me the "good enough" performance threshold was at least 3 years ago.

    anyone reading this who is thinking about buying a new laptop I would seggest you seriously look into getting an SSD and putting a fresh install of windows onto it. The difference is night and day.
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    BF3 runs fine on many laptops nowadays, even W230ST which costs only $1069 and weighs less than 2kg.
  • WiSH2oo0 - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    If your playing BF3 on a 60Hz monitor you lose. Reply
  • WiSH2oo0 - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link


    My bro had a $2,200 MSI laptop that he was playing BF3 on. Once he seen me playing BF3 on my desktop w/ my BenQ w/ lightboost enabled and rocking out a 120 fps he put his laptop on eBay the very next day.
  • Garrettino - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    If you don't know the difference between your and you're, you lose. Reply
  • WiSH2oo0 - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    You're right you lose. Reply
  • WiSH2oo0 - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    If that is you.
  • Garrettino - Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - link

    Ha! That is me. Reply
  • Garrettino - Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - link

    I'm sorry. I didn't see that you corrected yourself. It was on the second page. Reply
  • WiSH2oo0 - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    I have to say I laughed for 5 mins after reading your post Garrettino. At first when I seen that you had posted again, I was like oh great hear it comes. But to my surprise you had made light of my remark, straight up owned the BF3 link(I myself would've been like oh heck No that ain't me) and that is when I just busted out laughing! Don't ask me why but it did make my day for some weird reason. Reply
  • WiSH2oo0 - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    Cheers Garrettino and have a good day! Reply
  • carage - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    If the laptop has an ExpressCard slot (hint: business laptops or mobile workstations) or Thunderbolt port you could settle for a high CPU model regardless of whatever GPU comes with the laptop and go the external route. There are some additional costs to this expansion, like you would likely need connectors and/or enclosures that run from $100 ~ $900 (Thunderbolt Enclosure), and the cost of whatever desktop card you want (nVidia recommended due to Optimus Compression technology). Even then there will still be performance penalties, because the external port bandwidth is nowhere near PCI-E 16X. But after these upgrades, a $1500 laptop with a GTX 670/680 can still take on a $3000+ monster gaming laptop. Reply
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    Sony vaio Z already tried the thunderbolt external GPU idea and it sucked.

    1. bandwidth is so limited so it's total waste of GPU power.
    2. Thunderbolt enclosures are terribly expensive, and it make more sense to just build another desktop than use them, unless you are forced to (like new mac pro)
  • mapurisa - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    The Vaio Z used a midrange mobile GPU instead of a high performance desktop GPU which completely defeated the purpose.

    The technology isn't perfect by any stretch but for a significant portion of the market this would be a good solution but there's no incentives for the AMD/Nvidia to make it happen. Intel being the only non-GPU (in the traditional sense) manufacturer is happy with the current state of affairs ; it can play the same overcharging game for its Iris Pro chips without losing any marketshare or profits.
    Meanwhile Thunderbolt withers on the vine and consumers get the shaft.
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    Yes it used midrange mobile GPU, and the performance drop was already like 50%.
    With higher performance GPU the performance drop due to bottleneck will get even higher.
  • digitalgalt - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    I use a ViDock loaded with an EVGA 760 Ti tied to my Lenovo T520 (with only Intel HD3000 integrated graphics) and it basically demolishes all games at 1920x1200.
    I don't even want to try Crysis 3 on it, that is well past the Express Port choke point. But for a hard metric, I can run Fable 3 and the Witcher 2 at 1920x1200 with all settings to ultra, around 30-35 frames per second.
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    If you can be satisfied at 765M performance (which can run most titles at 1080p with medium settings) actually laptops are cost effective. Also laptops are pretty much a must nowadays especially for university students, so it still is cheaper to have $1800 laptop than $800 ultrabook and $1200 desktop. Reply
  • Impulses - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Not much cheaper tho, and the desktop is easier to upgrade... I think you can easily make an argument for going either way, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and other intangibles... i.e. Are you gonna game while on the go or would you rather have a lighter laptop? Do you even have space for a desktop or would you actually benefit from having two discrete systems? Etc etc. Reply
  • purerice - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Agreed with impulses on it not being cheaper. That desktop is more like $1100, but if I had that, why would I need an ultrabook? I completed post-grad with a $1000 desktop and $400 laptop. An ultrabook would have been a tacky fashion statement.

    Getting a new CPU/GPU for Anand's reference PC would be $450. To get that same new CPU/GPU in that laptop, you'd need to spend $1800 again.
  • brucek2 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    I think this is my first time seeing the AMD Center branding on an article (I'm guessing because it has an AMD tag?) I've got no objections to the concept, but boy is that red text and red button background unattractive. On my monitor I'm not sure it even matches Radeon red branding (could be by monitor's lack of calibration of course)?

    Maybe there's a way AMD could could get some custom vertical elements or something while the site sticks with the standard colors for the main article text and controls?
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    Yeah, apparently anything tagged AMD gets the branding. Ah well... not my problem! Hahaha Reply
  • teiglin - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    I might be torpedoing this workaround by mentioning it, but the print view uses the standard color scheme (and is way better in all other ways as well). Reply
  • b3nzint - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    "it’s far better to have a decent gaming desktop and then to spend another $500-$1000 on a good laptop for when you need to go mobile"

    yes right.
    pc / laptop, its like comparing boys or girls. they r on diff "world". case closed.
  • Roland00Address - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    CPU performance does not scale well with power consumption. Architectures are design to hit a desired cpu clock speed and anything above that desired clock speed causes a massive increase of power consumption. The 2nd and 3rd generation core series have massive increase in power consumption to get higher performance at 3 ghz and massively increase in power consumption past 3.5 ghz. I am assuming this holds true to haswell as well. (This is probably why intel keeps the laptop cpu range in <3 ghz range using boost to go past 3.0 and the same logic with desktop cpus of 3.5 ghz using boost to get 3.5 ghz.)

    There is a great anandtech forum post i7-3770K vs. i7-2600K: Temperature, Voltage, GHz and Power-Consumption Analysis by Idontcare that demostrates this very nicely in graph format.

    You can't scale cpu usage very well by being more parallel for most software can't be made parallel past 4 cores very well (video rendering being an exception.) Thus the only way to increase cpu performance is better architecture with more transistors, or higher clock speed.

    Because of this you can get very similar cpu performance in laptops vs desktops.


    Graphics on the other hand scales very well increased parallelization. The only limiting factors with graphics is the cost of the silicon, and the thermal constraints. Thus you will always get massively better gpu performance in desktop vs laptops for you are not limited by thermal constraints. It is okay to run that gpu with a desktop at 300 watts while the desired power consumption for a laptop card is either less than 50 watts or 50 to 100 watts for a desktop replacement.

    This will probably never change with time.
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    The whole point here is that nowadays most games run just fine with 50W GPU at 1080p with pretty much everything turned on, as they are supposed to run on 8-year-old consoles as well. So for most people mainstream laptops are approaching the point that they are 'good enough' for gaming. Reply
  • Roland00Address - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    Well that was not communicated very well then considering the choices made for testing (hint almost all of then are in desktop replacement where the gpu by itself takes more than 50W of energy)

    750m is about 38 W tdp
    760m is about 55 W tdp
    765m is about 75 W tdp
    770m is about 75 W tdp
    780m is about 122 W tdp

    Of the games tested the 765m is only above 30 fps in starcraft ii and skyrim (at 1080p) all the other games we need to turn down the settings to get above 30 fps. If you chosen instead a gtx 760 ($250 dollar desktop card) you can get those same games at 60fps in all the games except metro 2033. Tomb Raider would be close for it would be in the mid 50 fps.

    You can get an enjoyable "ultimate" performance out of a laptop if you go full desktop replacement such as a alienware 17", clevo, msi, asus rog, etc but as the chart shows you would get much better gpu performance out of a desktop. Remember these laptops would be a desktop replacement and thus weigh over 7 lbs and have a gpu that is using 75+ watt tdp.

    You can get "great" performance out of a geforce 760m or 765m but it won't be "ultimate" either the resolution has to go down or the settings (medium or high instead of ultra) has to go down to get current games at a 30+ fps.


    In a few years (a die shrink, maybe two) you can get a future gpu to run at 50w and do all these current games on 1080p with these settings at 60fps. Then again during that same time we will get xbox 360 and ps4 console ports for any new game thus you will be needing once again a desktop replacement to get similar performance to the console. You will not be getting a ps4 gaming performance in your ultrabook in the next 3 years. In your larger laptops it will be another matter.


    So I repeat my larger point, you can get similar cpu performance easily in a laptop. You can't get similar gpu performance in a laptop vs desktop for with a desktop you are not limited by thermals while with laptops you are trying to keep total thermals (cpu+gpu+screen+everything else) under 65w for normal laptops/ultrabooks, about 100w for things like the razer blade 14" / 15" retina display, 125w to 150w for beginner desktop replacements such as the gtx765m (msi dragon 17") and 200w for alienware 17" with a single gtx780m.
  • nerd1 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    There is no ceiling for *ultimate* performance, you can spend $3K for tri-titan setup, add liquid cooling to OC them, another a few K for (multiple) 4K displays and so on. 60fps may not be enough for some *ultimate* gamers. I've been playing fps myself for years, and old quake 2 required 100+fps framerate for some techniques (like acceleration jump)

    What we're discussing now is *good enough* performance, which I can be achieved by 760M or 765M. 765M is reasonably cheap, can be fit into either 13 inch laptop or 18mm thin laptop, and can run most game. I've been using similarly powerful 6990M GPU for a while.
  • MDX - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Well said Reply
  • Saint04 - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    To the author,
    I just wanted to say that I had noticed the comment under the Alienware 17 review about the need for contrasting mobile GPUs from Desktop GPUs. You did just that and in a timely fashion too! I just wanted to say thank you for being responsive to your readers.
  • jjj - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    Ok so no OC in CPU perf,you include a 250$ GPU just to push the price way up and you fully miss the real issue.
    The question you have to ask is why? Why are we here?
    We pay 300$ for a small die and a large part of it is a GPU we don't use or need.
    We can't touch a 6 core CPU at 250mm2 ,it costs too much. not so long ago Intel would have had to sell it at 300$ ,hell they would most likely have 8 core dies with less cache if there was any damn competition.
    Things are not getting better in laptop ,they are just getting much much worse in desktop.and greed is killing the only PC segment that can be exciting. For short term gains Intel is killing the long term.
    And even in laptop they are pushing ultrabooks to try to reset performance to a lower level and shorten the refresh cycle while pushing prices up.
    All they'll achieve with this is speed up the transition away from Wintel and allow ARM to catch up in perf faster. They couldn't do worse than this if they would hire Elop as CEO.
    Why don't you compare die size (excluding GPU) and price over the last decade in desktop instead of doing this article.
  • jjj - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    and i guess there is a lot more that moved on die besides the GPU so all in all what used to take 250mm2 and cost 300$ takes now 3 times less area but at the same price and if we want more there is nothing we can do, unless we pay like morons. Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    I get what your all saying, it's infuriating to purchase devices that waste transistors implementing a "worst in class" graphics solution - one that will undoubtedly be replaced. But Intel is the only real looser here. The performance of all their Core desktop processors is so great, I would still buy them at the current prices - without integrated graphics or extra cores.

    Finally...don't think Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E processors are all that. The heavily threaded applications that benefit from these CPU's don't go from "waiting" to "not waiting" by adding a couple cores.
  • kamsar - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    I'd love to see a storage comparison between desktops and laptops. I've seen SSDs routinely bench at around 2/3 of the speed of a similar desktop. Desktops just feel faster still. Reply
  • Impulses - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Must be older laptops with a bottleneck at the controller level... Reply
  • ToToRoTY - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    Wow, the CPU (and CPU only) performance is not half bad! It's certainly a much better improve than the previous generationS. However, the graphics side seem to be quite behind, especially the cost efficient ratio... I wish the manufacturers like Clevo would put more focus on cooling design (& much much more innovations) than they are doing now. It's not like the tech isn't available, it's just not implemented well enough. Reply
  • purerice - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    If you personally are suffering from an externally hot laptop, there are relatively ugly but cheap "laptop coolers" available that plug into USB. If you mean internal cooling, I feel your pain. A month ago I really wanted a Toshiba Qosmio but lots of reviews on their site complain about overheating/breaking down. Reply
  • jasonelmore - Saturday, September 07, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the article, i've always wondered how single core ipc compared to desktop in mobile cpus Reply
  • KaarlisK - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    The thing that bothers me is the dearth of light laptops with 35W TDP CPUs.
    An Ivy Bridge dual core at 3.0 GHz (3230m with both cores fully loaded using x264) consumes about 18W. Clearly, there is no way a CPU intensive game is going to be capable of using a ULT/ULV CPUs full potential, as it will simply run into the TDP limit. In the Ivy generation, there was no gain from using ULV CPUs, except for a few pennies and grams saved on cooling; when the laptop weights only 1.5kg anyway, it doesn't matter. With Haswell, ULT CPUs should have extra power savings in idle/in communication with the chipset, which at least may be a reason to want one.
    Intel's 28W ULT CPU does seem to acknowledge this, now one just has to hope CPUs like that won't cost too much.
  • Sancus - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    I think this article understates the massive savings that the upgradeability of a desktop provides. Because desktop CPU perf is essentially stagnant, unlike in the past when you were well advised to upgrade CPU and GPU at the same time there is no longer any good reason to do this eben for the extreme enthusiast. You could have been upgrading your sandy bridge machine for the last several GPU revisions and end up spending less than the price of a single generation's performance laptops. This ability to keep up with GPU performance without pointless whole system replacements is a huge deal. Reply
  • smallmj - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    With both laptops and desktops being fast enough for non-gaming users, I think the biggest advantage that desktops have is in longevity. I generally tell people that a decent quality laptop (not Acer or HP Pavillion) will last 3-5 years and that a decent quality desktop will last 5-8 years. Also, repairs on a desktop are much cheaper, where repairs on a laptop are often not worthwhile.

    So for most of my users, it becomes a choice between longevity of a desktop and the convenience of a laptop.
  • godrilla - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Desktop all the way, I love to upgrade my gpu every 2 years my 15 month gtx 690 will be replaced with a Maxwell gpu next year, as far as my 3 year old system it still a beast i7 980 xe at 4.3 ghz and a c300 256 ssd at sata 6! Reply
  • killerclick - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Glad to see Anandtech put out this article. I saw that comment a few days ago and thought it was a good idea, and today I see this article.
    For me, the main advantage of desktops is the instant repairability/upgradability. If something dies on my computer, I simply can't ship it somewhere and wait for days or weeks to get it back while the techs go over the contents of my hard drive. If a hard drive dies on a laptop, it's not a big deal to replace, but what if the screen or keyboard die? Where can I buy replacement parts and how soon? I have two stores with every kind of PC hardware (even some server components) within walking distance. Unless something breaks down on a Saturday night, I can have my system up and running again within 24 hours (usually less than 2).
    There is also the pitiful performance of mobile GPUs, the dust buildup, the cooling noise of tiny fans and the small screens that ruin any kind of immersion in games. Can new laptops connect to multiple external displays?
    I can't see myself replacing my desktop with a laptop any time soon (but laptops do make more sense for most people).
  • coachingjoy - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    With a desktop I think a 2560x1440 display would be warranted.
    It makes a desktop worthwhile.
    I mean, why not use a phone/notebook/laptop instead?
  • Joel Kleppinger - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    This article is forgetting one of the biggest reasons to have a desktop... multiple monitors. With a laptop you are limited to one or maybe 2 external screens, and resolutions above 1920x1080 may not be supported. With a desktop, you can have as many as you want and the resolution can go as high as you want.

    As for the system hardware, I just upgraded my PC with 16GB RAM, an ivy bridge mobo + i5 3540 and took the old 80GB SSD out of my laptop (replaced with 250 GB for $150) and made it a boot drive for a grand total of $240.

    Now, I have 3 Asus PA248q monitors worth approx $900 which makes the total desktop bill a little higher... but you can't quite compare a 15-17" 1080p display to 3 24" 1920x1200 displays.
  • DanNeely - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    if you really need a laptop only setup and multiple monitors; newer Dell Lattitudes with discrete GPUs can use both the DGPI and the IGO currently. With the dock I had 3 external monitors and the laptop screen on my 5420 running at once (didn't have a 4th to see if I could run 4 external) Reply
  • nerd1 - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Most laptop with discrete graphics supports 3 external displays (eyefinity for example) Reply
  • JlHADJOE - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    I never really got the appeal of mobile gaming. You just end up with a big, heavy device that gets hot under use and has crap battery life. I'd much prefer to have a proper gaming desktop, and as light and portable a laptop as I can get by with when I'm mobile. Reply
  • nunomoreira10 - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    some people like colege students need a laptop but want to do some casual gaming and lan party.
    to them a midrange laptop is good enoughf.
  • Notmyusualid - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    I've said this a couple of times now;

    Some of us (whom are frequent travelers), simply cannot have a Desktop computer - and I've tried. No matter how well I packed the screen and SFF PC, the screen doesn't travel well (cracked case), and with hand carrying the PC, it has weighed as carry-on, which has a 7kg restriction on some airlines now. It is just not possible to do.

    So yes, my M18x R2 is heavy, but I'm a big guy too, so no problem for me. Battery life is wonderful if using the integrated HD4000 GPU, and if in the business lounge, I can always plug in, and change graphics if I need too.

    And when you say a 'proper gaming' Desktop, have you any idea how powerful my i7 3920XM is? I upped the CPU voltage a tad yesterday, and gamed at 4.5GHz for a couple of hours without issue.

    How is your memory performance? Winsat mem here is = 25357.21 MB/s.

    My dual GPUs are a powerhouse too. I hit nearly 11,000 in 3DMark11. Can your PC do that?

    Storage is not an issue anymore either, I have dual 240GB Patriot Wildfire SSDs in RAID0, providing a GB/s of storage performance, and also an internal 1TB Seagate 5400rpm for storage. (Yes 3 HDs in a laptop)

    Hot? Where? Out the back of the machine? - Who cares?
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    In terms of performance, that's great... but in terms of price, you're basically willing to pay 3X the cost of a desktop for what you're getting in graphics scores. 11000 in 3DMark11, presumably on the Performance defaults, is something you can get with an overclocked GTX 760, or a single GTX 680 / GTX 770. Your notebook that cost $2500+ at the time of purchase (more with the dual SSDs I'd guess) is basically on par in performance with the $933 gaming desktop I listed.

    Which isn't to say that it's a bad notebook. If you need mobility, and you want maximum performance, you do what you have to do. That's sort of the point I was trying to make in the conclusion: do what's right for you. The M18x fits your wants/needs well, but for a lot of other people they would find it a horrible fit. Different strokes and all that....
  • nerd1 - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    My main machine is a 17" alienware with 680M, which is comparable to GTX660, and it cost me less than $2K with 16GB ram and 500GB SSD / 1TB HDD. It is not terribly heavy (I carry it with backpack every day), fast enough for my work, and runs most game at 1080p easily.

    Similarly powerful desktop will be around $1400 (after adding display, keyboard and SSD), and I will still need a quality laptop with SSD, which won't come below $1000. So I think powerful laptop systems totally make sense for *some* people who are fine with 1080p gaming.
  • Notmyusualid - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    Jarred, amazing if you can get that performance for ~$1k.

    But most of us outside the USA pay through the nose for our electronics.

    My machine cost, (sourced in the UK) 3k GBP, without fancy SSDs, TB disk, nor memory. Factor in 800 GBP for those and your 3800 GBP machine is $5966.38 - including case but *without taxes*. And VAT (sales tax) here is 17.5%.

    Oh how I wish I could have spent that on a Desktop... but as noted, that is not an option for me.

    Love the article, and the site - keep up the good work, and try not to cry reading those prices! :)
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - link

    Obviously prices have come down since your original purchase on some parts, but yeah -- desktop GTX 760 with a bit of overclocking is going to be pretty close to 780M SLI performance. Some cases it might be a bit slower, but you could always upgrade to a slightly faster GPU for not much more money. Glad I don't have to pay your prices! Reply
  • JlHADJOE - Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - link

    Well I never thought about bringing a desktop along. I figured for most people the setup would be a desktop at home, and a laptop on the road. I suppose you're the exception here.

    My desktop is a 4770k and GTX780. I'm not sure if it's faster than your M18x, but I imagine they'd be about even. I have a Macbook Air for when I'm mobile.
  • LDW - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Thank you for an interesting analysis. I would like to suggest another angle for a future analysis....

    Constrain the laptops and desktops to use just the on-chip graphics processing made available from Intel and AMD, and pick several games that place lighter loads on the hardware to use to study their performance. These games may be older or may be current games with constrained settings.

    The question to be asked by the analysis is "How is the on-chip graphics doing in in the market? How does it compete with the discrete graphics (mobile and static)? Might there come a time in the future where the graphics performance of the on-chip graphics processors be 'good enough'?"

    I think the answer to the last is yes, but haven't a clue when that will occur. Thanks again for an interesting analysis.

  • jtd871 - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    I was a bit disappointed to see that mobile IVB was not included as a comparison point, as many mobile owners will have purchased in the past several years.

    As has been inidicated by many others, the performance just has to be good enough. My lappie is a iBuyPower CZ-17 (17" 108p, IVB i7, GTX675m) with aftermarket RAM and SSD upgrades. I probably have $1800 in it. The cost is worth the smaller footprint. My kids are using my previous laptop (Lenovo ThinkPad T61 w/Core2Duo & NVS discrete gfx), which cost the same amount 5 years previously.

    As a comparison, the performance gained for the same money over 5 years is tremendous. My 'best value' paper build list for a $1500 desktop (including OS) would probably smoke my current laptop, but the laptop is still very nice for 1080p gaming and 1) I didn't have to put it (all) together myself 2) it is portable.

    The whole notion of battery life on a gaming laptop is kind of silly. It's basically a glorified UPS (which I appreciate), as I have pretty much never heard of anyone gaming without being on the mains.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Ivy Bridge wasn't included because, outside of the iGPU and battery life, it's not really all that different from Haswell. In fact, outside of the iGPU and battery life, even Sandy Bridge offers competitive performance to Ivy Bridge.

    As for battery life on a gaming notebook being silly, I don't think most people really expect to be able to play a modern AAA title like Battlefield, Call of Duty, etc. and get good battery life, but when you're not gaming there's really no need for battery life to suck.

    By my calculations, a 17.3" gaming notebook at idle should be able to draw around 10-13W max, mostly depending on the LCD brightness. Sadly, most are still drawing 20-25W at idle. There's no reason for this other than the manufacturers being too lazy to properly optimize the firmware for power savings.
  • Termie - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Great article, Jarred! Wow, it's amazing to see what those Haswell mobile quad-cores can do!

    By the way, you refer to the i7-4500U in the text, but your chart has the i7-4200U. I think the text is correct, and the chart isn't.
  • nunomoreira10 - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Either cpu perfomance has evolved so much on laptops or evolved so litle on desktops.
    intel need some competition and fast
    the bright side is i wont be losing much if i get a mainstream quadcore laptop
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    The thing is, for the most part people don't need faster CPUs. If we had CPUs that were 10X as fast, what would we do that we're not already doing? Intel has plenty of competition: ARM is the big one, but Intel is almost competing with their own past success. Until there's software that needs more CPU performance, focusing on other priorities like power and graphics makes more sense.

    And for the record, I don't think we need lots of new "innovations" in software that require faster CPUs. Look at Android and iOS; those require basically one fourth the performance of Windows to be plenty fast (outside of some web page rendering), and they deliver tons better battery life. More than anything, I think we're fast approaching the point where monolithic OSes, CPUs, etc. start to become irrelevant.

    A few more years and I could do most of what I need to do with an iPad/Android tablet with a good keyboard attachment. I'll still prefer laptops though, because larger displays and keyboards are more comfortable for me to use -- at least, I will until we reach the point where we can actually start connecting our brains directly into our computers. Hahaha....
  • BlakKW - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the was interesting, and results were not entirely what I expected them to be. Reply
  • Selbatrim - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    This has partially been picked up but I think this article is a bit of old rubbish myself. The laptop in question firstly uses a 5400rpm HDD and does not include an optical drive. Additionally the desktop system is a custom build with plenty of room to shave off cost. Case and PSU easily reduced by $50, motherboard too. I'd say (including dropping the GPU) you would reduce the price of the desktop by about $400 and still have a higher performing device.

    And this is still a custom build, not an OEM build.

    I've just priced up a laptop vs desktop replacement for our fleet and the desktop (including peripherals) come in at about 60%-75% of the cost of a laptop (depending on portability). Add to that you mostly need to factor in a port replicator for the laptop the desktop wins hands down.

    Can you get a reasonably priced laptop these days that will do general computing for less then $1000? Sure. Can the same money buy you a much better desktop? You betcha.
  • wintermute000 - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    Yeah around 1/3rd cheaper sounds around right (+ expandability, repair, upgrade path etc.) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    I looked at pre-built OEM PCs and none of them really came in much cheaper than the custom build without serious compromises on some areas. Getting a cheap $25 case and $25 PSU is also a bad idea, so I specifically went against that and included a decent case and a good quality 80 Plus Bronze PSU -- even the OEMs are avoiding crap PSUs these days.

    Except... crap, my tables on the desktop are screwed up. There are supposed to be two different builds, one for gaming, one for "standard" use (no GPU). Let me fix that, because the mainstream desktop isn't all that different but costs $200 or so less.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    Okay, fixed the table. Sorry about that -- funny that you're the first to notice. I had the text right (it mentioned the $672 price), but somehow copied the same table into the document from my spreadsheet. Reply
  • Selbatrim - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    I'd not recommend a rubbish psu either but Seasonic is a high end brand. As is the Z87 chipset. If quality and durability is part of your desktop build then you should chose the same in your laptop. A HP Envy is not a high quality laptop. It is pretty much a mid-lower end in terms of build quality.

    The issue of the HDD speed comparing a desktop 7200 rpm to a laptop 5400 rpm will also have a major impact on performance (or drop the price on the desktop). But even still, your results point to a laptop of SIMILAR specs being comparable if not competitive with a desktop and this is simply not true.

    Asrock H81M-HDS motherboard for $52 (save $63)
    COUGAR Solution Black Steel ATX Mid Tower (INC 400W 80+ PSU) $80 (save $24)
    No Optical drive (Envy does not have this. Save $18)

    Total now of $567 and you still have a better CPU and HDD.

    Again, yes, you get better laptops now than you used to and you can easily replace your desktop with a laptop but it will cost more (and you still need extra monitor, keys etc to use it full time or suffer the consequences)
  • ChuckEX - Sunday, September 08, 2013 - link

    I will always browse through and appreciate articles on computer performance, but for me, they will only serve as guides. It amazes me how people fail to take into account "real world performance". Of course, on the bench, the numbers say anything other than the most bleeding edge hardware and you are missing out.
    I'm rock'in an extremely humble laptop with an AMD A6 4400m chip. I paid $300 open box for it, removed all the bloatware, maxed out the RAM (from 4GB to 8GB) and got a quality Thermaltake cooling pad. I've played through Skyrim, Tomb Raider (2013), Dishonoured, Bioshock Infinity and tons of other "demanding" games. I'm currently playing Splinter Cell: Blacklist no problem. Granted, my graphics settings are low/medium, however, these games still look and play great.
    I guess it's just down to personal preference. If you're gonna chase the numbers, you'll never be satisfied. If you tone it down and have realistic expectations, you can have just as much fun as everyone else. I think computer graphics have reached a plateau. Everyone goes on about how beautiful a game looks on the PS3/XBox 360 to this day - 7 year old technology! And tablet games are looking better and better.
    Don't get me wrong. I've had many PC builds and I aspire to get the most bang for my buck. I'm just blown away at what I'm able to do with this humble little laptop.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    I get what you're saying, and certainly turning down details can help, but some of the games you mention I have trouble believing they run well at all on an A6-4400M iGPU (HD 7520G). That's half the performance of the 7660G, which struggles with several of the games on our list (Tomb Raider at Low detail is 48FPS average, so I suppose it might get >30FPS at 1024x768 at Low, Bioshock is a similar story, and even Skyrim is going to be borderline at best -- Notebookcheck shows <30 FPS for Skyrim for instance (

    The thing is, while I have no trouble saying "Medium 1366x768" is usually fine for quality -- it's the gameplay, right? -- there are many cases where "Low 1366x768" does not even compare. GRID 2, StarCraft II, Skyrim, and others look really bad at "Low" as opposed to "Medium". You might be okay with those setting, and they're going to be necessary on an A6-4400M, but I would not be happy with the overall experience.
  • KalTorak - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    "Part of the problem is power requirements, as high-end desktop GPUs can draw up to 300W under load, which is three times what the most powerful mobile GPUs are rated to draw. The form factor also comes into play, but really I think power is the far more limiting factor."

    I don't see the distinction you're drawing in that last sentence; isn't it the form factor that determines the power constraints?
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    Perhaps somewhat, but a desktop GPU can suck down 300W (sometimes more for the dual-GPU on a PCB models), and the largest power brick I know of for laptops is rated at 300W. So form factor is part of the issue, yes -- you can only cool so much heat in a notebook -- but without 450W power bricks for notebooks you're never going to touch the performance of a desktop that draws 450W. Reply
  • nerd1 - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    You can put two chargers in parallel to double the power, which is needed for some exotic laptops. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    None of the Clevos or Alienwares do this, at least not that I've seen. What "exotic laptops" are you referring to? Reply
  • nerd1 - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    Some Clevo ones with desktop processors. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    Ah, I see now that they changed to dual 330W adapters with the P570WM. I didn't realize that, but then I can't say it matters much to me. It's an extremely niche market, and the P375SM is more sensible for almost everyone other than perhaps mobile workstation users that need a 130W hex-core processor. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at the dual adapters -- the old Clevo X7200 and P270WM could actually overload the old power brick under load. So, who wants to carry around 22 pounds of notebook? Reply
  • Dribble - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    I own a fast laptop and a fast desktop and have done for years now. The one thing that can't be understated is how much easier it is to fix and upgrade the desktop. Upgrades to laptops basically means SSD's and memory. With a desktop you can upgrade pretty well anything - add graphics, no problem, and more hd's no problem, etc.

    Equally fixing laptops is hard work. Some stuff can't be fixed and other stuff is tricky. e.g. I successfully replaced the screen inverter in my last one, but that involved taking the whole thing apart (seemed like about 100 screws) then replacing the inverter then putting it all back together. With a desktop that sort of thing would be a 5 minute job.

    Hence I still love my desktop - it o/c's well, is faster, quieter, cheaper, easier to maintain and easier to upgrade.
  • Jaybus - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    For many tasks I do not care if I am using a laptop or desktop, as long as I have a real keyboard and mouse and a couple of large monitors. However, I need PCIe slots for ADCs and hardware other than a graphics card, making laptops impossible or at least difficult and expensive to use as my main workstation. If Thunderbird or something similar is someday able to handle the hardware, then I truly won't care.

    However, I still want a fixed location workstation in addition to a light laptop. Laptops are too vulnerable to theft and/or destruction while travelling, so I don't want all of my files on the laptop. Just the ones I will need while travelling.
  • Spunjji - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    Thanks for this, Jarred. It's really great to see such a comprehensive analysis put together off the back of a user comment - it really does put these price/performance trade-offs in perspective in a way that's useful fr us, the end users. Bravo!

    Incidentally, I also feel happier about my own setup after reading this - £800 for a second-hand 2670QM Clevo unit with 16GB RAM and a 7970M was some pretty excellent value. :D
  • DrJeckyll - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    Good review in general. I think that making a better comparison would be to include peripherals though, to make it a more apples to apples comparison.

    I, for one, just bought a true desktop replacement (Eurocom P375SM with an 8970M). For me, being able to game while on the couch is a big bonus and the capability to pick up and go in a heartbeat is nice. In terms of upgrade-ability, it's a clevo so I can change any component easily; and I ended up paying quite a bit less than a regular laptop in this class bringing the gap between desktop gaming even lower.

    Another interesting comparison would be to build a mini-ITX system.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    The problem with peripherals is that there's a huge range of quality. If we're building "comparable" to the notebooks, we'd want a basic 1080p TN display, cheap stereo speakers with a subwoofer, any pretty much keyboard and mouse. But realistically, most desktop users will have at least a decent quality 21.5" or 23" display, and many will now opt for a 27" 2560x1440 IPS display for $400-$500. I use 5.1 speakers still, an old set of Logitech speakers I've had for about 10 years now, maybe more? (How's that for longevity?) And for the keyboard and mouse, I'm currently rocking a $250 keyboard with a $65 mouse, but quality on these items is far more important to me than saving pennies. Reply
  • SirNathan - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    You mention on the first page that a tablet with a keyboard is around $500, but if you get the Nexus 7, you can get a pretty good third party keyboard for around $30. Of course, then you'd have to do without Windows, so it doesn't work so well for comparisons in this article... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    There's also the screen size issue. For handheld tablet use, a 7" screen is fine. Sitting on a desk with a keyboard, however, 7" can be painfully small for anyone over 30 or with moderate vision to read. Even 10" tablets may not work for everyone, but at least I can make a good go at it. Reply
  • rburnham - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    It really does come down to lifestyle. A buddy of mine is on the go a lot, so he invested in a good Alienware gaming laptop. It's big, it's fast and it can double as a nice workstation too.

    On the flip side, I currently do not travel at all, so I have a desktop workstation and desktop gaming PC. However, I plan to move to a new area in the near future, where I will be traveling on the weekends. I will keep the gaming desktop, but the workstation will be replaced with a mid-range gaming laptop, which will double as a 1080p workstation while at home.

    I just love that we have these options. It's a great time to be a computer user.
  • Sadrak85 - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    The facts here actually support a slightly different conclusion, although noted to be out of the scope of the article; for "basic" computing needs such as web-browsing, you don't need massive performance, and even those laptops are more than required. Mobile is the answer. Mobile can handle email, web, basic text-editing, some photo, and presentations. Thus, the ideal setup is your own preferred mobile device and a desktop for 1)ergonomics, 2)value, 3)speed, 4)reliability. Forget the laptop entirely! It's the "Utility Van" of the modern era. Niche cases, like hardcore gamers on the go, or someone who needs just enough power on the move to whine about a tablet, but not enough to remote-desktop to a more powerful machine. The only reason there is still a laptop in my home is because it's a relic of my wife's college days, and it's nice to play Minecraft in the same room as her (she gets the 3240x1920 display when we play together because I'm a gentleman). Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    I mentioned tablets in the introduction, and for most people that need to type anything I still feel laptops are far superior to tablets. Others will disagree with that, and that's fine, but I have typed a fair amount on my two 10" tablets over the past two years, and I don't like it at all. Adding a keyboard could fix some of the issues, but then I have something larger to carry around and a 13.3" laptop (or 14" laptop) is still going to provide a much better keyboard experience for anyone that doesn't have petite hands. Reply
  • Sadrak85 - Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - link

    Yeah, but an ergonomic desktop keyboard is better still; tech journalists who travel need decent laptops because they're writing in hotel rooms, etc., and maybe paperback novelists need the inspiration of writing in a cabin in the woods, but when I update my website, I do it in front of my desktop, in my home office, where a laptop would cramp my style. Reply
  • max1001 - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    Gamers are what keep the desktop market alive. You can keep playing games on release date at max setting as long you keep upgrading your GPU now and then. I usually upgrade mine once a year and sell the old one on Ebay. The whole system get a refresh every 3 yrs or so.
    Laptop on the other hand are totally different story. My XPS 17 with 650m going to be useless in a year for gaming and it's not even worth selling it back out on ebay.
  • Sadrak85 - Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - link

    Don't forget cheapskates (the only reason I overclock is so I don't have to buy the next model up) and people who own comfortable chairs and ergonomic keyboards. Reply
  • hoboville - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    One important factor that cannot be expressed enough with regards to laptops--especially since you mentioned college--laptops get stolen a lot. You'd be hard pressed to find the same to be true with a desktop PC. And if you're a gamer with a $2000 laptop...not fun to contemplate.

    I refurbish and repair computers for a living, and people break laptops all the time (can't tell you how many times people have spilled beverages on them). Repairing them is rarely an option, if the customer has cracked the screen or messed up the keyboard and it's not under warranty...their options are very limited.

    There's hidden costs to mobility and all-in-one solutions, performance is just one aspect. Besides, when was the last time you dropped your desktop PC accidentally?
  • vpk24_astro - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    It'd be really interesting to see how far we are from discarding laptops entirely in favor of tablets. The thermal constraints - the only ones set in stone, should be the only limiting factor in the long run. Fortunately, the thermal envelope that laptops have to run in is very comparable to what tablets have to play with (factor of 2X or so in heat generated). How many generations before we see tablets as powerful as today's laptops? Are there any variants of desktop linux that have been ported to a tablet? Can I plug a keyboard, mouse, HDD and monitor into a tablet all at once? Reply
  • Selbatrim - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    This is pretty much the same argument. You wonder when a tablet will be better than the CURRENT laptops but by then the laptop has progressed further and you still get more for less.

    The question seems to be when will the form factor no longer represent any impact on price or performance? For the mainstream this may perhaps happen in the next 10-15 years, but for the enthusiast it will take so long it is not really possible to contemplate.

    Again, I just looked at this in a fleet refresh and the approximate priceratios we came up with was this:

    1 tablet(full x64 specs here, not arm etc) for the price of 2 laptops or 4 desktops. Will this ratio change? Perhaps. But if you are looking at value for money the foreseeable future is desktop over laptop over tablet.
  • lmcd - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    Umm I must say, not that many users have spare monitors, let alone ideal ones. Not sure you can totally count that out, nor keyboards or wireless cards. Reply
  • gandergray - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    The back of laptop or notebook lids seems to be an area that is underutilized for heat dissipation. Why not position GPUs behind the screen and engineer the back of the lid and the associated space between the screen for heat dissipation? Yes, the lid would thicken, and some circuitry would be segregated between the main body of the notebook and the lid--all of which would require engineering; but GPUs would then have substantially more available surface area and likely could be accessed and changed more readily. Reply
  • bklyn - Monday, September 09, 2013 - link

    I would love to see a similarly written article on the difference in speed and productivity in professional imaging programs like Photoshop, illustrator, CAD etc. I built my current workstation a few years back and I am looking to upgrade fairly soon. The idea of a workstation laptop connected to a professional monitor is pretty alluring in light of the space constraints of small NYC apartment living. My current set up is as small as I could make it at the time without compromising much on performance, but it still takes a huge chunk of my living room. My other issue is connectivity with older FireWire peripherals (hasselblad/ imacon scanners etc). I'm not interested in Macs but I have been pretty jealous of some Macbook pro centered set ups I've seen, if only for the mobility and tidiness of it all. Reply
  • TheCheesePlease - Thursday, September 12, 2013 - link

    The right answer is an thinkpad x220 running an eGPU over expresscard. BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

    Desktops would die quickly if this caught on.
  • versesuvius - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Tablets will replace laptops. Laptops will not replace desktops. Laptops can never best desktops in terms of speed, reliability, serviceability, ease of use, upgradability and quality. On the other hand tablets can do all that a laptop can do while sticking to the idea of mobility and ease of use. Even after all these years, I can not but pity the guy who cherishes the opportunity to relieve him/herself of the burden of that weight on account of having found something to type. Rolling out the mouse or navigating the trackpad is even fun to watch. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Let me ask you two pertinent questions:

    1) How old are you?
    2) How much do you type in any given day?

    You might think the first question is meant to be insulting, but I am speaking for experience. What I did in my teens and twenties is not something I can comfortably do in my late 30s. I did happen to type about 1500 words on a tablet in a 1.5 hour period earlier this week. My hands still hurt and I have sworn that I won't make that mistake again!

    That leads to the second question: how much do you type? You can pity the guy that pulls out a laptop and keyboard to type, but I can tell you as a writer who generally types 10-25K words per week (email, articles, etc.) that the quality of keyboard matters a whole lot for some people. And it's not just the quality of keyboard -- the size is critical as well; I can't type comfortably on anything less than 12.5", end of discussion (and 13.3" or larger is preferred). If you only consume data and don't type, tablets can be fine. The instant you have to write an article or lengthy paper, you need a keyboard (or you need substantially better speech recognition than the current generation of tablets offer).
  • bkiserx7 - Friday, September 13, 2013 - link

    Great, straight-forward article. Thank you for the read. Reply
  • jeffkro - Monday, September 16, 2013 - link

    You guys missed the point, people who get desktops these days want a full blown keyboard, mouse, and big high res monitor. I have both, but my desktop is a lot more user friendly. Reply
  • TFrog - Monday, September 23, 2013 - link

    When are we going to do a mobile comparison instead of a desktop comparison? It would be most interesting to see the differences between an Intel i7 with 4600/5200 graphics and AMD's A-10 and it's integrated graphics chip. I've yet to see this done anywhere. Reply
  • Insanity133 - Friday, November 29, 2013 - link

    The experience of sitting down at a desktop computer is far better than a laptop, laptops are meant to be lower cost and portable, whilst desktops cost more, but are more comfortable to use and are much more powerful. Reply

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