Gaming Notebook vs Prebuilt Desktop – Is There A WINNER?

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Well hello there, today my good people we have an interesting competition that is about to happen. In front of me are two identically spec’d machines from Lenovo, and they are identically priced to within $50. One of these is going to go to Mike and one of them is going to go to Eber, and they are going to do their own testing and we all can see what the experience is like owning one of these machines. Boys take it away.

We did want to bring up something pretty important too. And that is both of our systems are similarly spec’d. The only difference is that Mike has desktop class components and Ever has notebook components. Now in terms of pricing that’s something interesting, because even though we are partially sponsored by Lenovo and this video is sponsored by Legion we actually went out and we purchased these ourselves.

Specs & Price

We almost spent like $5,000 CAD. Just to give you an idea, Eber’s system ended up costing us around $2,200 CAD and Mike’s was about $30 more than than his. Considering the pricing and the specs, it’s going to be really interesting to see how these two align with one another. But there is something else that I know that you guys are screaming at your screens about right now because most of you guys build your own PCs. Thes T730 is for somebody very, very different. It’s for people who don’t have the time or who aren’t really inclined to build their own PCs. It’s one of those pre-built systems that comes out of the box, it’s ready to go, you just hook it up to a monitor. It even has a really basic mouse and keyboard. But if you’re interested in building your own custom PC, you can check out our how to build a gaming PC video right over here.

What we really wanted to do here is not only test performance from one system to another, but also from an experiential standpoint. This is actually going to be one of Mike’s first experiences with a pre-built system, while Eber has a lot of experience with notebooks. Now it’s time for Mike and Eber to split up for the next couple of days and then we’re going to meet back here with the benchmarks. Can’t wait to compare those numbers. Let’s go.

So it’s been a few days. We have gotten our fair amount of time testing both systems, and you can actually see that my girlfriend has sort of been busy with all the holiday decorations. We’re at my table, and what I want to do is start right away with the performance numbers because neither of us has seen each other’s performance numbers. We put them together offline and now we’re just going to sort of combine them and see what’s going on.

Benchmarks

We’re going to start with general performance, and I’m not surprised looking at these first numbers. The desktop does win, but not by as much as I thought. If you look at Cinebench – both R15 and R20 and both in single core and multi-core – I can’t tell if there’s a major difference. They’re only off by 10%, which is amazing considering how a notebook CPU competes with something like the i7-9700K. Now do keep in mind that the i7-9750H in the notebook has more threads compared to the 9700K, and Cinebench loves threads.

Next step we are talking about drive speeds. The desktop has the fastest SSD, but I’m again not by much, about 5% maybe. And surprisingly the 1TB hard drive in the laptop is faster than the 1TB hard drive in the desktop. Both are 7200RPM drives, but the smaller 2.5″ laptop drive is faster because the heads don’t have to travel as much distance to search for the data on the smaller 2.5″ drive platters. Even the write speeds on the laptop’s drives are faster than the read speeds on the desktop drive, a serious victory.

Moving on to some real-world tests, we are going to start off with Blender and again the results are surprising. There doesn’t really seem to be a big difference, except look at the Adobe Premiere Pro results. The notebook destroyed the desktop. The reason for that is that the IGP was enabled on the laptop, but for some reason there was absolutely no way to enable it on the desktop. We went through the BIOS and through the Lenovo Vantage utility, but no such luck. The next point to bring up would be battery life, which is obviously going to favor the laptop given that the desktop… doesn’t have a battery. But obviously a battery is good to have in a gaming system for whenever you lose power. In fact, we lost power a few days ago, and that’s actually why we didn’t have one of our reviews up in time. Clearly having a battery in a advantage, whereas on the desktop side you’re out of luck when the power goes down.

All right, so now it’s time to take a look at gaming performance. Unsurprisingly, the notebook gets demolished here since there’s no substitute for pure power. Taking a look at actual games, the desktop system has the edge because the i7-9700K can sustain high clock speeds and the RTX 2070 is obviously a beast. Quite the combo. You can actually see what kind of sacrifice you’re making with the Max-Q design. Even though the specifications of both RTX cards are technically the same it’s really the clock speeds that are lower.

Overclocking the Desktop

There is a serious edge right now for the desktop system, but to give it another leg up Lenovo allows for overclocking on the K-series chip. What I ended up doing is there’s a little switch inside of the Lenovo Vantage utility that allows you to overclock the CPU or overclock only during gaming. I just flat out overclocked the CPU. My clock speeds actually went up in multi-threaded workloads from around 3.9GHz all the way up to between 4.3GHz to 4.4GHz. And looking at the results they did improve from a real-world testing perspective and Cinebench R15. However, at the same time, gaming performance didn’t improve, at least when it comes to average FPS.

In the end the performance between these two systems was surprising. Eber was very impressed with how closely the notebook could catch up to the desktop PC, while Mike was horrified, since we want the desktop to be so far ahead. I mean typically when you think about performance, you lean towards desktop systems because they’re generally a lot faster than notebooks. However, the fact that you can get that all performance in a portable package is pretty amazing.

Discussion

Having said that, one huge differentiating factor is the silence of the desktop system, and the same can’t be said about the notebook which has very audible fan noise when gaming.

Okay, so we’ve already talked about performance, the desktop is the clear winner, but we did want it to a go a little bit past that to kind of walk you through what are some of the pros and cons of having a notebook and having a desktop. And I’m going to start with the exterior, the looks. Mike loves the looks of the desktop, but Eber think it looks like a microwave. The Legion Y740 looks great too. It’s very minimalistic and not too gamer-y.

There are ports at the back that are conveniently accessible according to Eber, but Mike disagrees since you have to reach around the screen to reach the ports, which is nice. The laptop also has a USB Type-C port that supports Thunderbolt 3, while the desktop system doesn’t have any USB Type-C port (except for the one on the RTX 2070), which is a major problem. The desktop has a lot of USB Type-A ports, but doesn’t have many other decent inputs and outputs.

Now obviously the notebook has speakers and they sound amazing. This notebook has a dedicated subwoofer, and it’s probably one of the best sounding systems on a laptop. The desktop obviously doesn’t have speakers, but it does have headphones… which had to be purchased separately. The notebook also has a gorgeous display that’s 144Hz 1080P G-Sync. It’s an all-in-one package, whereas the desktop needs a separate monitor that is another additional expense. Another win for the notebook. Whether you prefer the desktop or the laptop has a lot to do with lifestyle. Mike likes having a separate PC for a desktop and then a really thin-and-light portable notebook like this Lenovo X1 Carbon.

Upgradability

The next thing that we need to talk about is upgradability. Starting off with the notebook, it’s all fairly easily accessible, you’ve got two memory slots that can be upgraded up to 32GB of RAM. There is only one M.2 slot that’s already populated by the boot drive. Eber really wishes they added an extra M.2 slot because it’s a 17-inch laptop with lots of internal room and there are other notebooks on the market with that configuration. Now the 2.5-inch hard drive bay can be swapped for an SSD if you want something a little bit faster. And that’s about it, you can’t upgrade the CPU, you can’t upgrade the GPU. And that’s where the desktop comes in.

Lenovo allows you to upgrade a couple of the components. Number 1 is the GPU, the GPU is on a tool-less bracket and can just be pulled out and easily replaced. For the hard drives there’s one additional caddy that has a hot swap adapter, and you just push in another hard drive and you’re good to go. The other area that can be upgraded is the memory, but with 32GB in our current spec you probably don’t want to do that. The one thing that Mike was really hoping for is another M.2 slot, because he’s already almost filled up the maximum capacity of the existing NVMe drive and he would have liked another high-speed storage option on the Z370 motherboard.

Conclusion

All right, so it’s time to conclude and possibly find a winner… if Eber and Mike can find any consensus. We’re gonna kick things off with adaptability and Eber think that goes to the notebook because it’s an all-in-one package. You get a really good display, a keyboard, speakers. It’s an all inclusive package you can comfortably game on, and even edit video with if you do want to do that. Also it’s portable, which means this comes with you wherever you go. However, Mike rightfully points out that the whole package comes up to over 7lbs, which isn’t exactly light. However, Eber says that you can go for the 15-inch version of the Y740 is portability is of utmost importance to you. Mike on the contrary believes that from an adaptability standpoint the gaming desktop and a less expensive but very efficient notebook is the perfect definition of adaptability.

Next up is upgradability. And that win clearly goes to the desktop, whereas with a notebook it’s very limited. Second to last we have performance and the desktop takes the edge once again. It does but it’s not as much of an edge that either of them assumed. It’s 25% better, but it also shows how powerful notebooks are becoming. The last category is value and Ever believes this clearly has go to the notebook. Why? Because for the same price you get a display, a keyboard, speakers, whereas on the desktop you’re going to have to invest in additional accessories like a display, headphones or speakers, a keyboard and maybe a mouse. Mike believes that there’s value in how upgradable the desktop is, and how quiet is it compared to the notebook. So the conclusion here is that it really depends on what your lifestyle is. Each of them is happy with their choice, but they decided that a coin flip would choose the winner, and as luck would have it Mike won that coin toss. As a result, the Lenovo T730 is the winner of this challenge. That concludes this article, and let us know which one you would prefer.

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