How Workstation Laptops and Gaming Laptop Differ

If you’re going to perform demanding computing tasks such as video editing and programming then a powerful laptop will give you an advantage. Workstation laptops are packed with the high-end features needed for these kinds of tasks. However, the common question people ask is whether or not a gaming laptop can moonlight as a programming or video editing system since gaming laptops are just as pricey and boast of equally powerful features.

Gaming laptops share most aspects found in workstation laptops. They both are packed with premium features that make them top of the range. This means they can run the software required for programming and video editing as well as other computer tasks requiring powerful features.

These two categories of notebook computers (mobile workstations and gaming laptops) however have many differences that help draw the line between one and the other.

  1. Design

Gaming laptops tend to have robust hardware that looks aggressive from the outside. While mobile workstations normally have equally sturdy hardware components, they tend to look simpler or plain in build compared to gaming laptops.

The Apple MacBook Pro is a classic computer that quickly comes to mind when you think of a mobile workstation. Like its peers such as HP ZBook 17 and Lenovo’s ThinkPad P Series, the MacBook Pro has a simple, minimalist design that sets it apart from the major contenders in the gaming world such as Acer’s Predator 21 X and Dell’s Alienware 17 known for their beaming, customizable lights and pronounced hardware features.

The gaming laptops can also be really enormous in size. For instance, the feature-packed Acer Predator 21 X is a monster with a whopping 21-inch display. Most workstations have a large-enough display, but not really enormous. The screen sizes commonly range between 15 and 17 inches for the ones on the bigger side.

  1. Processing speeds

Like gaming laptops, mobile workstations are processing powerhouses with significantly powerful processors, graphics processing units (GPUs), and big RAMs and CPU. The computers are also known for their characteristic high-resolution displays, which tends to blur the line between them and the gaming laptops. Nonetheless, slight differences in processing speeds between the two laptop categories still exist.

Majority of the workstations in the laptop market have professional-grade processors that have lesser clock speeds than the conventional processors you find in gaming laptops. The professional grade processors like AMD A-Series APU or Intel Xeon CPU also do not have any overclocking capabilities. This constrains their speeds making them fall behind the processing speeds of gaming laptops.

Despite how high you go in terms of RAM size and CPU cores, the bottom line with workstations remains stability and accuracy. As such, you’ll find that mobile workstations are characteristically loaded with Intel Xeon processors and Quadro GPUs. In terms of clock speeds, these components perform more slowly compared to the GeForce GTX Graphics Cards powered by the popular NVIDIA Pascal™ architecture found in gaming laptops.

  1. The graphics card

The nature of a computer’s graphics card and its software can make a big difference. In video editing for professional purposes, the graphics quality and final render are of critical importance. Nvidia Quadro, Intel Iris Pro, and AMD FirePro are some of the GPUs that have proven reliability with most programming and video-editing programs.

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They’re the graphics cards popularly used in workstations, as opposed to gaming laptops that work with consumer graphics cards.

Now, you may be wondering why someone would prefer a professional grade GPU over consumer grade graphics cards that are known to perform much faster. The secret is in the level of precision achieved. The lower speeds typical of professional grade graphics cards allow for more system stability that is ideal for rendering video and processing deep color.

On the flipside, the slower speeds on these GPUs are the major reason why workstation laptops are not the most gaming-friendly laptops. They are characterized by lower frame rates resulting in lower quality games and many may not be powerful enough to run the latest and greatest in cutting-edge VR games despite their hefty price tags.

Professional grade graphics cards also have certifications with various professional applications including Adobe Premiere Pro and AutoCAD. Regular GPUs like Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 do not have such certifications and as such may not run the specified software programs as smoothly as expected.

  1. Additionally specialized specs

Mobile workstations are often loaded with some additional features that you don’t find on gaming laptops. The first major feature is a specialized memory called the error-correcting code memory (ECC RAM).

It is designed to make the system more reliable by fixing memory errors before they can reach the CPU and affect the computer system. As such ECC RAM helps prevent problematic crashes and saves downtime.

Workstations laptops may also have Redundant Array of Independent Disks or RAID. A RAID system means that data is stored and processed across multiple internal hard drives. This is important in reducing chances of latency – failure of one drive won’t affect the overall processing of computer data as the other drives will continue to function.


In the end, both mobile workstations and high-end gaming laptops have many of the main features required for gaming, heavy workload processing, and seamless rendering via plentiful RAM and multi-core CPUs, although gaming laptops have the added requirements of a high-end GPU while many workstation laptops do without.

What this means is, the functions of the two computer classes may overlap. However, if you’re looking for perfection on either side, the prudent thing to do is go for a gaming laptop when you’re into gaming, and leave everything else to a more specialized workstation laptop if your budget allows it.

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