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tech consumer guide

Last updated on September 1st, 2020 at 03:41 pm

Workstation Laptop Vs Gaming Laptop – Which One Should You Get?

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Last updated on December 4th, 2020 at 01:17 pm

Choosing between a workstation laptop and a gaming laptop can be a difficult decision. Workstation laptops on the average cost more than gaming laptops.

And so the price tag makes it difficult in justifying whether to purchase one or not. But, there is a reason for that and why workstation laptops are sometimes the best option. Here’s what you need to know about workstation laptops vs gaming laptops.

What Is A Mobile Workstation Laptop?

Workstations, in general, are close to the pinnacle of computing performance. The top position is taken by servers. They have top-notch performing CPUs and GPUs.

First and foremost, a workstation is a desktop. Portable workstations are called mobile workstations. Just like a laptop is just a desktop in a portable form-factor.

But, what makes it different from mainstream desktops is the hardware and what it is going to be used for. The same applies to mobile workstations.

lenovo p53 workstation
Lenovo ThinkPad P53 Workstation

The average mobile workstation has better performance than the average laptop. It has a powerful processor, more RAM, powerful GPU and lots of storage. Though it is more expensive.

The high-end Apple MacBook Pro is a popular mobile workstation. Because of the hardware especially the GPU that makes it so.

Difference Between Workstation Laptops and Gaming Laptops

One sure way to tell a workstation laptop apart from a gaming laptop is the graphics card.

Most workstation laptops are meant for professional work. Professional work like engineering design, 3D modelling, rendering, animation, CAD, analyzing large datasets etc. Anything that requires a tremendous amount of processing power.

They have large amounts of RAM, a very powerful processor and in some cases powerful dedicated GPUs.

So you can imagine the amount of information that has to be processed by a workstation laptop.

Quadro Vs GeForce Comparism

Gaming laptops, on the other hand, have GPUs that are made to run games, video rendering, animation and 3D modelling and rendering (workstations are preferred). From the drivers to how they were made are optimized to play and handle games. NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon are graphics cards meant for gaming.

Another obvious tell is the processor. Most Workstations have Intel Xeon processors – the can have Intel Core processors too – and NVIDIA Quadro or AMD Fire Pro cards.

Intel Xeon processors are the preferred CPUs for mobile workstations. Because they have a feature called ECC memory which is not found in consumer processors.

ECC memory is a type of computer data storage that can detect and correct the most common kinds of internal data corruption. This feature is important to have. Because in professional work, data corruption is not tolerated.

Not all mobile workstations have Intel Xeon processors in them. Some mobile workstations have Intel processors that can be found in gaming laptops. But, they are powerful Intel processors.

We are talking able the high-performance Intel Core i7 and i9. So to be sure if it is a mobile workstation or gaming laptop. You have to look at the graphics card.

Finally, the display. This is not an obvious tell but it still counts as a difference. Most gaming laptops have high refresh rates.

High refresh rate display is needed to prevent screen tearing, stuttering, motion blur and ghosting. Workstation laptops do not have a high refresh rate display. But, rather have standard refresh rates.

The reason why the refresh rate of the display is not an obvious tell is that there are gaming laptops that have standard refresh rate displays.

To sum it all up, the main differences between a mobile workstation and a gaming laptop is there:

  • Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
  • Central Processing Unit (CPU)

These two are dead giveaways when it comes to knowing which one is a mobile workstation or a gaming laptop.

What Are Workstation Laptops Used For?

As mentioned earlier, workstation laptops shine in 3D professional work and handling very large data. You can use gaming laptops to run 3D professional applications. But there will be a risk of instability occurring. Plus, the drivers are not optimised to run such software.

Most professional applications also recommend workstation graphics card for it to work properly. A perfect example is SolidWorks and Architecture. The professional application has a list of certified drivers. And on the list, you won’t find a single gaming graphics card. It’s either an NVIDIA Quadro or AMD FirePro.

cad drawing
CAD Drawing

There is also the fact the Intel Xeon processors are highly recommended. Because of the ECC memory they have.

You are dealing with complex models and geometry when it comes to professional design work. You are talking about industry level designs or earth simulations. That means you will be working with a lot of graphics data. Far greater than that of games. In this case, a gaming laptop won’t be able to handle this amount of data.

This is what workstation laptops are used for. They can process large amounts of data with high accuracy. This makes them perfect for handling engineering design, animation, multimedia creation, scientific computing and more.

Can Workstation Laptops Be Used For Gaming?

Yes, workstation laptops can be used for gaming. Their GPUs are powerful and so they can run games easily. The Quadro P5000 which is found in the Lenovo ThinkPad P71 has similar gaming performance to the GTX 1070. The Quadro RTX 4000 is similar in performance the RTX 2080 Max-Q.

So for gaming, workstation laptops won’t have a problem. Provided you pick a powerful enough workstation graphics card to run AAA title games on max settings. This also applies to game graphics cards themselves.

Both have performance tiers. Just like high-end gaming graphics cards like RTX 2080 can run AAA title games on max settings. You also need a high-end workstation graphics card or laptop to handle large and complex projects.

Are Workstation Laptops Worth It?

Workstation laptops are worth it. If you find yourself working with professional applications a lot. You will get much more value owning a workstation laptop than a gaming laptop. Because their graphics cards have certified drivers and are optimised for such professional work.

Unless you are on a tight budget and are not working with large projects. Then an affordable gaming laptop will do the task just fine. There are also affordable workstations but those are refurbished. Still a solid option to consider. `

Workstation Laptop Vs Gaming Laptop – Which Is Better?

Each one has the market they serve and are optimized for handling those tasks. So if you are in a position where you will be doing more professional tasks than gaming. Then a workstation laptop will be a far better option.

Nothing beats its certified drivers and the fact that it can handle complex models and data. So if you can afford it. Then you should get a workstation laptop.

Unless you are on a tight budget and a student. Then a gaming laptop will be a better option. Because on the average workstation laptops cost more than gaming laptops. Plus, the amount of CAD, engineering design, animation etc. are not so complex you require a workstation laptop.

To sum it all up:

  • Workstation laptop if you are into professional applications like CAD, AutoDesk Maya, Revit, SketchUp, handle very large datasets, etc. at work.
  • Gaming laptop if you are someone who can’t afford a workstation laptop, likes gaming, animation or video editing.


  1. Misinformation. You’re assuming all workstation use is for CAD/3D animation and not use for large datasets. Also most ‘workstation’ laptops on the mart currently are not using Xeons, do a search, and therefore aren’t using ECC memory. So if you’re not doing CAD/3D animation a gaming laptop will cost you 1/3 the price and for comparable if not better specifications. Even if you are doing CAD/3D animation some of the newer RTX graphics cards would be more than sufficient than getting a laptop with a slightly older Quadro.

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