You can customize a barebones laptop, but we’d always advise against it since it will end up costing you more money and a lot of time and energy, all the while there are virtually no merits to customizing such a laptop today.
If you’re a gamer, then you’ve definitely seen those flashy custom PCs, with their fancy RGB lighting and cutting-edge liquid cooling. Now, you also might have asked yourself the question: can you build your own gaming laptop? Well, you’ve definitely asked yourself that if you went and Googled it.
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 may find interesting.
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How to Build Your Own Gaming Laptop
One of the reasons as to why gaming laptops are as awesome as they are is the sheer power that 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 nowhere near as easy as 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 build a desktop gaming PC? Well, the answer is: no.
Fitting all the components inside a laptop chassis is difficult in itself, and combining that with adequate cooling that would actually allow them to function properly without overheating is a whole other level of difficult. 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 own custom gaming laptop, that would be as close as you could get. As the term “barebones” implies, these laptops have only the most basic components and can be customized more easily than most other laptops.
Should You Build Your Own Gaming 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:
- Getting the parts can be difficult and expensive. Unlike with desktop PCs, the components that go into laptops are not standardized and are often customized in order to physically fit a chassis and/or to generate less heat. Because of this, you could go through 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 and that’s not readily available for purchase in stores.
- Putting it all together can be an arduous 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 usually never a lack of space. With a laptop, 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.
- 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 proper parts for a custom gaming laptop is not an easy task, as we’ve already established, it makes long-term upgradeability even more problematic.
- 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 GPU cases have only become popular relatively recently, so what’s the deal with those?
Essentially, an external GPU case is just what the name implies: a compact case that houses a graphics card and a power supply for said 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 quite 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.
So, while an external GPU is upgradeable, relatively portable, and offers improved performance compared to mobile GPUs, it’s still not a flawless solution. For one, it requires a Thunderbolt 3 connection, and not every laptop has this. 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?
To be perfectly frank, 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 for school, then a gaming laptop would be 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:
- 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, all the while it will be lagging behind the desktop in terms of performance.
- 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, and as the cramped chassis of a laptop offers very limited airflow, laptops usually resort to thermal throttling in order to avoid overheating. As a matter of fact, a cooling pad is almost always a must-have when it comes to gaming laptops, and even then, this only constitutes a limited improvement.
- They are easier to upgrade. Once again, we get to the subject of upgradeability, and upgrading a desktop is a whole world 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.
So, in the end, building a customized laptop is technically possible with barebones laptops, but for all the reasons listed in the article, we strongly advise against it.
Chances are, you’d probably be better off with a desktop PC, and 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.