Short Answer

You can customize a barebones laptop, but we always advise against it, since it will end up costing you more in terms of money, time, and energy. Plus, there are virtually no merits to customizing such a laptop nowadays.

If you’re a gamer, then you’ve seen those flashy custom PCs, with their fancy RGB lighting and cutting-edge liquid cooling. Now, you also might have asked yourself this question: can you build your gaming laptop?

In this article, we’ll answer that question and elaborate more on it, as well as mention a few more points that are relevant to the subject and that you might find interesting.

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How to Build Your Own Gaming Laptop

How To Build A Laptop

One of the reasons as to why gaming laptops are awesome is the sheer power they pack inside a relatively compact frame. As you might have guessed, fitting a massive GPU and all the other components inside a laptop is not easy, and neither it is to install them in your run-of-the-mill ATX computer case.

So, can you build a gaming laptop the same way that you can create a desktop gaming PC? Well, the answer is: no.

Fitting all the components inside a laptop chassis is difficult, and combining that with an adequate cooling system that would allow them to function appropriately without overheating is a whole other level of difficulty. This is why gaming laptops – and laptops in general – are assembled in factories.

However, barebones laptops do exist, and if you’re dead-set on building your custom gaming laptop, that would be as close as you could get. As the term “barebones” implies, these laptops have only the most essential components and can be customized more easily than most other laptops.

Should You Build Your Own Gaming Laptop?

Building A Laptop

So, in a sense, you can have a customized gaming laptop. The better question, though, is should you even bother with one?

Our answer would have to be no. You shouldn’t. And here’s why:

  1. Getting parts can be difficult and expensive. Unlike with desktop PCs, the components that go into laptops are not standardized and are often customized to physically fit a chassis and/or to generate less heat. Because of this, you could face a lot of trouble and spend a lot of money to get, say, a mobile version of a GPU or a motherboard that you’ve got in mind, which is not readily available for purchase in stores.
  2. Putting it all together can be a difficult task. As already mentioned, putting a laptop together is difficult. Putting together a desktop PC is a breeze for most people since all you need is a screwdriver, and there’s seldom a lack of space. With a laptop, instead, even if you get all the parts and components you need, they’d still need to fit the chassis properly and would need to be installed with utmost precision.
  3. Upgrading would be an even bigger problem. One of the main advantages of custom PCs is their upgradeability. When you want to upgrade your GPU, you just pop out the graphics card, sell it, and buy a new one. Considering that finding the right parts for a custom gaming laptop is not an easy task, it makes long-term upgradeability even more problematic.
  4. Pre-built laptops are an easier and more cost-effective solution. Today, you can find a wide range of gaming laptops to suit everyone’s needs and fit into everyone’s budget. What’s more, a pre-built laptop will not only save you the time and energy that you’d invest in building a custom laptop, but it will also cost you less money and potentially include some extra features that you’d be hard-pressed to find in a barebones laptop.

Those would be all the key reasons why we think trying to build a custom gaming laptop is a bad idea. However, there are some ways to customize/upgrade a gaming laptop without needing to resort to meddling with the internals.

External GPUs

external gpu

External GPU cases have only become popular relatively recently, so what’s the deal with them?

Essentially, an external GPU case is just what the name implies: a compact case that houses a graphics card and a power supply for the graphics card. They connect to a laptop or a PC via a Thunderbolt 3 port, ensuring a stable high-speed connection.

That said, many are also portable, and the fact that they use desktop graphics cards means that they will usually offer better performance than a mobile version of that GPU, though Thunderbolt 3 isn’t quite as fast as a PCIe connection. As such, it poses a bottleneck that some might find problematic.

In any case, if you’re looking for a way to upgrade your laptop’s graphics solution, an external GPU would be the best way to do that. Check out our buying guide where we go over several of the best external GPUs that you can get right now.

Therefore, while an external GPU is upgradeable, relatively portable, and offers improved performance compared to mobile GPUs, it’s still not an ideal solution. For one, it requires a Thunderbolt 3 connection, and not every laptop has one. Furthermore, they are usually on the pricey side, and as we’ve mentioned above, they still can’t match desktop performance due to the connection bottleneck, which brings us to our next point.

Laptop vs. Desktop – Which Is Better For Your Needs?

Build Your Own Laptop

To be clear, the only reason to get a gaming laptop over a desktop gaming PC is the portability that it offers. If you travel a lot or if you want a device that can serve both as a gaming machine and a laptop that you’d also use for work or school, then a gaming laptop is a good choice.

However, if this doesn’t apply, a desktop will always be a better solution than a laptop, period.

And why is that? It’s simple:

  1. They cost less and offer better value for your money. You’ll find that a gaming laptop that has specs identical to those of a pre-built gaming PC will cost significantly more, but it will lag behind the desktop in terms of performance.
  2. They offer better performance. As we’ve already stated, gaming laptop cooling can be problematic. Powerful graphics cards and CPUs generate a lot of heat. As the cramped chassis of a laptop offers minimal airflow, laptops usually resort to thermal throttling to avoid overheating. A cooling pad is almost always a must-have when it comes to gaming laptops, and even then, this only constitutes a limited improvement.
  3. They are easier to upgrade. Once again, we get to the subject of upgradeability. Upgrading a desktop is a whole lot easier than upgrading a laptop, for all the reasons that we’ve already mentioned in the article. When you want to upgrade a certain component, you can just sell the old one and install a new one without having to worry too much about hardware compatibility.

If you want to build a custom desktop instead of a custom laptop, check out this article or the video below where we go over the basics. We’ve also put together several configurations to fit various budgets, including $300, $600, $1000, and $1500 gaming PCs.

Conclusion

Build A Laptop

In the end, building a customized laptop is technically possible with barebones laptops. Still, for all the reasons listed in this article, we strongly advise against doing it,

Chances are that you’d probably be better off with a desktop PC. If you do need the portability that a gaming laptop offers, getting a pre-built one would save you time, money, energy, and you’d have a laptop that actually looks good and potentially packs some neat extra features.

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