Laptop and Desktop PC graphics perform differently despite having the same names, let’s compare Nvidia RTX 2060 performance between a laptop and desktop to see what the differences are in games and applications.
Let’s start off by checking out the differences in specs between the desktop and laptop 2060.They’re very similar for the most part, same amount of CUDA cores and memory. The key difference is the power limit. The desktop option has a higher TDP, which is possible due to cooling being less of a restriction when compared to the smaller space of a laptop. More power equals more heat, so the laptop runs with a lower power limit, and more power results in more performance with higher clock speed.
For the laptop I’ll be testing with a Clevo chassis, the Metabox Prime-AI here in Australia, Eluktronics THICC-15 in the US, or XMG Apex 15 in Europe. This has the highest power limit 2060 you can get in a laptop, so expect different results with a lower 80 or 90 watt laptop 2060. What’s more interesting is that this laptop uses the AM4 socket and has a desktop Ryzen 7 3700X processor inside. This has allowed me to do a somewhat fair comparison, as I’ve tested my desktop PC with the same 3700X CPU and Gigabyte 2060. There is a difference in the memory though, most DDR4-3200 laptop memory runs at CL22, while CL16 is more common for the desktop side. Rather than trying to match these, I’ve left them as is as I feel it best represents the differences you’d see between laptop vs desktop.
Both setups were tested with the same version of Windows and Nvidia drivers, so let’s get into the results.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was tested using the games benchmark tool. I’ve got the desktop PC shown by the red bars, and laptop shown by the purple bars below. I’ve also tested all setting presets available, which are arranged on the left with lowest at the bottom to highest up top. As expected, the desktop was faster at all settings, with a 22% higher average frame rate at ultra, but this was the biggest difference seen out of all games tested. Battlefield 5 was tested in campaign mode by running through the same section of the game on both laptops. This is a more middle of the pack result compared to other games that we’ll check out, with the desktop PC 2060 coming out 15% ahead of the laptop 2060 with the highest ultra setting preset. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was tested with the games benchmark. There’s less of a difference at the lower setting levels as presumably the game is less GPU heavy there, less than a 4% lead from the desktop system, while it was then again 15% faster at the highest setting preset. Control was tested by walking through the same part of the game on both machines, and as more of a GPU heavy title, the desktop PC was 21% faster than the laptop at max settings. I’ve also compared results with RTX enabled and again a similar 20% boost to average FPS at high settings, and then when we enable DLSS the desktop was around 17% faster at high settings. Ghost Recon Breakpoint was tested with the games benchmark and the difference at max settings was close to the average out of all games tested, so middle of the road difference with a 15% boost to average FPS at the ultimate preset. Borderlands 3 was also tested using the games benchmark tool, and there was an above average difference this time, with the desktop system 21% higher in average FPS when compared with the laptop. Apex Legends was tested in the World’s Edge map running through the Drill Site on both machines. Although we’re seeing one of the smallest differences out of all games tested, it’s not that far behind, with the desktop PC almost 14% higher in average frame rate when maxed out. The Division 2 was tested using the game’s benchmark tool, and again there was a 14% boost to average FPS on the desktop system with max settings. Monster Hunter World was tested running through the main town in the same manner on both machines. The laptop was a little ahead at low settings, but at higher levels which are likely more GPU heavy the desktop pulls out in front, where its 1% low is close to the average on the laptop. Rainbow Six Siege was tested with the games benchmark tool using Vulkan, like many other games, ultra settings was around 14% faster on the desktop system. Metro Exodus was also tested using the games benchmark, and at the highest extreme preset the desktop was about 14% faster, though with the RTX settings enabled the gap narrows in much more. The Witcher 3 actually saw a bigger difference at the low setting preset, where the desktop was 16% ahead in average FPS, then at the highest ultra setting preset the desktop was 14% ahead, though 1% low was much closer this time. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was tested using the games benchmark, and the difference at max settings was just a little below the average out of all games, around a 14% boost from the desktop. Far Cry New Dawn was also tested with the games benchmark tool, and this game saw the smallest difference out of all titles tested, with the desktop less than 9% faster than the laptop at ultra settings.
In terms of overall improvement, on average over all of these games, the RTX 2060 in the desktop was performing nearly 16% better in terms of average FPS.
As you can see, the performance difference can vary a fair bit between games. Tests that depend more on CPU power tend to be towards the bottom with less of a difference, while GPU heavy games like control are up the top. It’s worth noting that when I previously compared the 1660 Ti in a laptop and desktop, I saw a 15.5% difference there, so on average we’re basically looking at the same differences between the 2060 too.
Outside of gaming I’ve also got some 3DMark results and the desktop was around 26% higher in the firestrike graphics score, and 14% higher for time spy. Although temperatures obviously aren’t a fair comparison due to the different form factors, interestingly the desktop was just 1 degree warmer, and this was despite the desktop system drawing 42% more power from the wall when under the same GPU only stress test and this is a result of the TDP differences. This results in a clock speed bump for the desktop system, though it’s not that large compared to the extra power required.
Laptops generally have shared heatpipes between CPU and GPU too, so with both under load the desktop would have an advantage as thermals aren’t directly tied together by the same cooling solution.
Now for some content creator workloads. I’ve tested DaVinci Resolve with the Puget systems benchmark, and the desktop was scoring almost 10% higher than the laptop.Adobe Premiere was also tested with the Puget systems benchmark, and the difference is less pronounced here with the desktop scoring just 4% higher than the laptop. When looking at raw export times though, Premiere did seem to gain a little more improvement with the desktop, completing nearly 12% faster. The puget systems test previously tests more than only export times, such as live playback and more, but either way not a huge difference. SPECviewperf tests out a number of professional 3D applications, and although results would vary based on the particular test, as expected the desktop was ahead, although the difference could vary a fair bit depending on the specific workload.
Prices are difficult to compare, as a full desktop PC can be configured with a number of different options, and there are of course also a vast range of 2060 based laptops on the market.
So then, which should you get? Laptop or desktop graphics? In the end, the question as to whether or not you need a laptop depends on how much you need portability. If you don’t need portability, then build a better performing desktop PC for less money, you’ll have more upgrade options in future too. If you need to take your machine with you, then a laptop is a better choice.
For a lot of people I think a 2060 in a laptop is plenty for most games and applications, and in most cases the desktop wasn’t all that far ahead, less than 16% better in games on average. There will be a bigger difference if looking at a laptop with 80 or 90 watt 2060, and most laptops don’t have a 3700X desktop processor inside, so while I have aimed to somewhat fairly compare laptop and desktop GPUs, results would also differ with a more average laptop processor.
Let me know if you want to see the differences between a 2070 laptop and desktop in the comments and I can look at doing that one too. The power limit difference between those ones is larger, so I’m guessing there will be a bigger difference, but yeah let me know if you’re interested.