Using a gaming laptop as a primary machine

I’m seriously thinking about retiring my desktops and selling them off. Why? The main reason is power consumption. A desktop with an 875 watt PSU will run up your power bill right quick, even if you only game occasionally. I will likely retain my Dell PowerEdge R420 for educational and storage purposes, but I have several desktops that are power hogs.

Some of the issues with laptops I’ve identified below:

  1. Performance - a laptop generally doesn’t perform as well. I’ve got an Asus Zephyrus M15 i7-10500 with a Nvidia 2070 Max-Q that I think will perform as well as needed.

  2. Durability - this is a big question. Laptops generally have inferior cooling and get clogged up with dust more easily than their big box counterparts. And the greater heat can cause boards to warp, along with other failures. This is the biggest concern for me, frankly. If I ditch all my desktops, I’d be in a pinch if the laptop died, and gaming laptops don’t have great track records for longevity.

  3. Expandability - This is a big problem for a tight form factor. The M15 has two m.2 slots (currently filled by 2x1TB m.2 SSDs) and ONE memory slot which can be upgraded. I think the maximum RAM it will take is 32GB, for a system total of 40GB. For peripherals and storage, I have Thunderbolt 3 as an option. TB devices are generally more expensive, but does allow for higher performance.

  4. Expense - Laptops generally cost more, so if the M15 dies I’d have to pony up a pretty penny to get something of comparable performance (for gaming and otherwise) that may not have great longevity.

Am I considering all the relevant factors, or am I missing something? What is most people’s experience regarding laptop durability and longevity?

EDIT: Almost forgot a big one - Linux compatibility. Not most laptops’ strong suit, but the M15 has turned out to be pretty good in this regard. The main problem for gaming is friggin’ Optimus, which can be a right pain to work around. Are there any AMD laptops that perform well, come with a decent GPU and have a track record for durability?

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Wattage only go up if you need processing power (gaming, rendering). Otherwise you will only be just above idle for light office use. Web browsing is a mixed bag depending on the site.

The thing you lose with just a laptop is the modularity of components. If for some reason your mobo dies, the whole thing dies and replacing the just the mobo isnt cost effective.

What you need to do is probably get a NUC in the future or an SBC. Raspberry Pi 4 works wonders for the power concious. If you need an x86 based SBC, try an Udoo Bolt but i dont know about their availability.


I feel I can have an opinion here as my power bill is probably US $50 a month give or take. Most of the time you aren’t using all that much wattage unless under load. I have a 1000 watt power supply in my PC but the draw from my pc with its components is less than half that. If you are worried about power usage before you do anything get a rough idea of what uses the most power in your house and see what you find. In my house my pc is not even the highest current draw. My microwave is worse, my toaster is probably up there among other things.

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Two of my machines use Westmere Xeons with 875 watt and 1100 watt PSUs, which even at idle use up massive amounts of power. And sleep mode doesn’t work on either of them, pushing the power draw even higher. These things are pigs, but I hate to just throw them in a landfill. I could try to flip them, but they’re so old it might be difficult.

I have a few older laptops, one with a broken screen and another a dead charging circuit. They are more modern with a much more reasonable power draw, and could conceivably be used stationary.

Sure, that’s a good reason to save on the power bill if you’re not using them all to their potential.

If you can get by with a less powerful device that’s the first one that I’d sell off to save on power. I’d get a prebuilt NAS due to those being tuned for maximum efficiency out of the box and a low wattage CPU with iGPU for your tinkering.
But, if you can get by with a Pi 4, that would be an even better choice.

If those 875W are truly put to use frequently due to the system being inefficient sure, that’s true. If not, the total capacity of the PSU is not indicative of the amount of power it’s using.
I think that getting rid of your desktop it’s not a good idea. If you want to make it more efficient it’s pretty easy:

  • chuck the 3700x in Eco mode
  • undevolt the Vega 56 or swap it for a 5000 series GPU that should run more efficient

That’s it, nothing else needed really. You’re already on a very efficient platform and an high performance laptop it’s not gonna make a huge difference in my opinion if you set up your desktop this way.

Regarding the PSU: I’m running a 3700x and a 2070S on a Corsair SF600 Plat. so it’s not like your PSU is pulling that much more power than mine since configs are very similar.

Ah that’s my VR rig. It’s not used as much as it might be, but since I’ve got the 3700X OC’d it does pull a good bit of juice. Eco mode be a good solution, but it would be nice to be able to dynamically switch to OC when playing games. It has a 750w PSU, whereas the 875w is in another system.

The two systems I’m mostly concerned about are decade old Westmere Xeons (see post above.)

With the amount taken into consideration in the thread

  • Performance.
  • Durability.
  • Expandability
  • Expense

Coming to the conclusion of a laptop instead of a desktop, out of those considerations is a bit worrying. If it’s because of feeling the need to try a laptop setup versus a desktop one, then you will be very very dissappointed.

If i were you, i would rather use the time tinkering with Linux. Than worrying about a setup that will eventually leave one being super disappointed, if you can accept that others have already tried it and went back. Then use what you personally can’t foresee with the a-fore mentioned computers. And Keep your desktop.

Save yourself the hassle and trouble.

Maybe you can rotate some of machines you have to replace the Westemere Xeons that are pushing your electricity bill too high. I’m sure that a 3700x would offer same or better performance overall and per watt compared to those old machines.

If you’re not afraid to turn to proprietary software you can do it.

I decided to go for AI Suite instead of Armoury Crate (thank god!) and through it I can access all the voltages and profiles I want. Maybe there’s a tool like this for MSI boards.
Eco mode on Ryzen is much more difficult to enable or disable so this is a better route if you want profiles you can easly switch around.

You can build a desktop with low power usage, no problem. Just pick a notebook that is meeting your performance requirements and build a desktop that has similar performance specs and use power tweaks like ECO mode and undervolting GPU. You end up with a <150W (while gaming) desktop that is half the price of a notebook and has all advantages of a desktop like lower noise, expansion and longevity.

People just overbuild their desktops or make compromises on laptop performance. And that’s why comparison is flawed most of the time. On equal footing, desktops win in every regard outside of mobility, bulkyness and super-low power requirement <20W.

Can’t say anything about durability, but I’ve seen this AMD+3080 Laptop on Tuxedos website. Using Tuxedo myself, Linux compatibility is a given and their support is excellent.
Tuxedo Stellaris 17

I was just reminded of this:


Or buy a Raspberry Pi 3 or 4, then add a usb device to the Rpi. That has a decent graphics chip in it. Plug into monitor and that will give an almost tear-free experience on 1080p and 720p. At some of the lowest wattage available.

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TL:DR try underclocking, laptops can work as replacements, but might not do as well as new pc


I would agree with @Exard3k in that you could Undervolt a desktop down to laptop levels.

But bearing in mind the process node, an older, less efficient system can be reduced on Both electrical and computing power, but will of course be weaker than a new processor built more efficiently.

Not sure if I would jump straight into @regulareel ’s suggestion, but see how under clocking/bolting goes with existing hardware, before putting any money down on new hardware.

A laptop might be specifically built to use less electricity (and hence, allow battery to last longer) which typically ends up with the laptop systems being less powerful than a comparable desktop of it’s time.

So, if you have a newer laptop anyway, chances are that will be an easy win to switch to it.
If you don’t, then try to undervolt/underclock.

Then look at new hardware. A new “gaming” laptop might be nice and power efficient, but a new SFF computer build might also.
And a desktop with similar specs, might allow for better air flow, so might end up being better, buck for buck than a laptop.

You also might just find that the old crusty Xeon’s were retired from service partly becauase they had a bad performance per watt , not just because their density was no longer good enough…


To address the potential for undervolting, I should probably mention that both Westmere systems are OEM systems. Namely a Dell Precision T5500 with two X5687s, and a Mac Pro with an X5680. The Mac will probably be impossible to undervolt, and I’m sure Dell provides no way to undervolt the T5500. Now 3rd party tools might exist, but I don’t know what they might be given the extreme age of the systems. And of course the Mac would be hard to replace with an off-the-shelf PC.

EDIT: For the Dell R420, I could replace the E5-1420 v2 with one of these (more cores, less power):

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A laptop can be more easy, but the power use is not really a big change, mostly compared to performance.
My 3700x desktop with 2080 will use about 80W idle. More under load, but a laptop will also use more power, they are just reasonably power gated (the 3070 in my laptop is a little slower than a 3060 desktop and limited to 105W).

The main draw of laptops is portability, if lower power use is the main reason, underclocking computer components will give you a more durable solution.

First question i have to ask is, do you actually use the power of your computer a lot? If it is comparable to me, i’m mostly webbrowsing, listening to music and watching video’s. If you do that 8h a day and a laptop uses 30W less, then with the power costs (here in the netherlands) it would be a difference of about 25 euro’s a year in extra cost.

Those servers use way too much power, just build a new energy efficient system, maybe even with a picopsu. I’ve seen a guy that brought a desktop atx system with intel i3 down to 5W idle. It’s going to save you in the long run.

My server is a itx board with intel 6600k and 3 hard drives constantly spinning with one of the most efficient 650W power supplies i could find, it uses about 33W, with a picopsu it could be even less.


I lived all through University with just a laptop. I did games programming but still had no issues getting things done like booting up the unreal editor for light dev.
I think we’ve all seen how much you can get done with just a raspberry PI.
My main issues were:
1 - Battery life was bad while actually doing something, maybe 2 hours off a full charge
2 - The noise from a laptop is loud and graining, I often find that laptop fans will also start grating against their shrouds over time… That noise in particular is particularly piercing.
3 - Build quality - I’ve noticed that not many reviewers cover this but I’ve experienced cheap components in laptops that either fail or should just be replaced.
- I mentioned fans but my biggest issue was on one laptop the hinge was overtightened so instead of closing the screen, the screen assembly broke apart… Leaving me with a screen/monitor combo rather than a laptop.

All that being said, I do still think it’s good to have a capable laptop around but I’ll never 100% switch.

So I am going to tell you right now I have sorta done this.

My main machine now is a Thinkpad X230T with a GPU dock that attaches a HD7770. This is actually optimal for me right now as I am bouncing couches and trying to find a place to live.

However, I am keeping what machines I find “Useable”. Meaning that I am keeping the ones that actually do something. I am only keeping a few “For funzies” such as my amigas and childhood dream PC project. If I have something like a powerpc mac it has to be part of my package building farm for Void PPC. If I have a dual processor machine then I better be able to do comething like VM’s with it or something. Servers, for example, need to have an actual use. My R510 is becoming a NAS with VM’s attached, and my R620 is going to do heavy compute (having 20 cores and 40 threads, maybe a grid K2 if it still works…) like video rendering or building packages that the PPC farm can’t handle in a reasonable time. I am treating it basically like a MAAS superstructure, and honestly it saves a lot more power, cuts on heat output some, and I have everything I need when I need it.

Cutting down to just a gaming laptop might be good in the short term, but eventually you might need something that you had access to before and you’ll realize you fucked up bad and didn’t even mean to. I have done this so many times, the last time being recently when I sold my RX480. I am now stuck with a DDR3 HD7770, Equally, I have a gen 2 X1 lane that has to do forward and backward communication to this card, and the card itself has to compete with a GT730 on some games (the 730 itself mostly just doing compute and video render while I am homeless, but when I want to play Tarkov its the only card with fast enough vram and a good enough graphics core to actually render and recall renders to make the game not jitter like a motherfucker). Really its just a big game of jenga.

Don;t make the tower fall and you’re good! :smiley:

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Performance, heat, and power are all related. Change one and the others follow.

Laptops use less power because they usually have lower-performance parts. An i7 laptop cpu is quite different from a similarly-numbered desktop cpu.

Many laptops are insufficiently cooled due to size and power constraints, which further limits their performance (and longevity).

As a broad generalization, the best combination of power, performance, reliability, and cost usually comes from a desktop that is not running at its limits.

In other words, the above advice to undervolt your desktops is the best way to go. Results in cool, lower-power, more reliable, and minimally-reduced performance. (Sometimes even higher performance due to lack of thermal throttling).

Nah, it really doesn’t.

Actually measure/Run the numbers.

In my experience, running 3x machines, each drawing 200-250 watts constantly (mining with 2x vega64 and a 6900xt) only raised my power bill by ~50%. 2x 850 watt PSUs and a 650.

And gaming occasionally you simply aren’t doing that, or even using anything close.

I mean you do you, but idle power you’re talking about 1-2 eco light bulb difference or so. Whilst gaming you’re talking way, way less than your heating or cooling for a single room.

You could get roughly the same benefit by just dropping to a lower tier GPU and/or power limiting it (and thus retaining your expansion/upgrade ability and in the case of power throttling your card having the additional performance there if you want it).

What WILL be murdering your power bill (and ears, presumably) computer wise is that PowerEdge R420 with its high speed fans. If you’re worried about power/heat/noise, replace that with something else / something more modern.

1-2 RU rack servers are loud and run a whole bunch of redundant fans at high speed due to the lack of available space.

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Can’t say much for the track record, but the HP Omen 16 (with Radeon 6600M) I got is doing well with Linux. You can even set the keyboard color in Windows and it will carry over to Linux, which is something the XPG Xenia I had before would not do.

I’ve only had two problems with it, and one is already fixed:

  1. The wireless card would be annoying to get to work in most Linux distros, BUT the drivers are built into 5.16. So I ended up installing Manjaro because the kernel switcher is super easy to use and it works perfectly.
  2. The lid is really floppy.

I’ve also heard rumors that HP may be releasing the Omen software in Linux, which would be AWESOME because that kinda stuff is usually one of the big things Linux is missing for gaming. But those are just rumors.

Only 50% . My power bill is US$200 a month. $300 wouldn’t bankrupt me, but oh my the pain.

I’m on levelized billing but did mine for a few months so that probably skewed the power company’s calcs for a few months. I’ll have to check actual vs billed KWH to get an idea of what my ‘real’ bill is.

Actually the Asus Zerphyus M15 offers greater compatibility with Linux. It has an Intel wifi adapter, so check . But it’s big flaw is Nvidia Optimus, which is colossal PITA in most cases. And then there are the usual proprietary driver woes. And with a custom kernel, offers RGB control in Linux - when it works. That’s the fly in the ointment .

Sigh. Any suggestions? This thing was dirt cheap, along with the 64GB of DDR3 ECC RAM I dropped in it. I also wanted some iDRAC experience, but that ship has already sailed. What can I replace it with that won’t cost megabucks? (I got it for $125.)