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I have a PC and laptop with the following specs:

PC: 
CPU: i5-6500 (3.20-3.60 GHz, 4 cores)
GPU: GTX 1050 2gb
RAM: 16gb
Games installed on HDD

Laptop (Dell XPS 15 9570): 
CPU: i7-8750H (2.20-4.1 GHz, 6 cores)
GPU: GTX 1050 Ti Max Q
RAM: 16gb
Games installed on SSD

I was under the impression that the laptop would be better at gaming and multi-tasking since it seems to have a better GPU and CPU. However, I noticed that games run much smoother on the PC, even with multiple windows/programs open. For example, I can have Firefox open with videos streaming, a game open on another screen and a few Excel sheets open on another screen and I won't see a drop in performance in any of the programs.

If I do the same on the laptop, the videos in my browser often start to get choppy and the framerates on my game drops noticeably as well (around 10-20 fps difference). Even if I only have the game open on the laptop, it has less FPS on average and there are times when the FPS drops to around 10-30 (plugged in with full battery), whereas my PC's FPS rarely ever drops below 50.

I have heard that laptops with similar specs as a PC might not perform as well since it slows down if the temperature gets too high, but should it be this big of a difference given the above specs? Would it be worth it to buy one of those laptop cooling pads?

I did notice that the laptop had much shorter loading screens in games (maybe because it's on SSD), but that's about it. Also, the games I'm playing are usually Path of Exile or StarCraft 2 with both set to low-med graphics.

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In every gaming-related PC (be it desktop or laptop) the GPU is the biggest consumer of power. This of course is the exact opposite of what a laptop is optimized for.

A good laptop power supply will give about 190 Watts of power, but a gaming GPU in a desktop PC will easily use up 200 Watts (or even significantly more) on its own, with the CPU (5o Watts or possibly much more) and other components not accounted for.

In addition to that, dissipating those 190 Watts (which essentially all end up as heat) from a laptop is a dark art in its own right - just ask e.g. owners of Apple's so-called "Macbook Pro"s.

This ends up in a stark reality: Laptop GPUs can not match their desktop counterparts for power reasons, even if marketing departments give them a model number designed to spread the illusion that they can.

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Speaking as someone who used to game on a laptop a cooling mat is definitely worth it. Even if it doesn't make a difference in performance laptops heat up very quickly while gaming and I have yet to see one that has enough airflow to properly cool itself under high load.

As far as performance goes temperature may be making a difference. Another issue could be your power settings; by default most laptops are set to sacrifice some performance in exchange for battery life. Assuming that you are using Windows you can find those settings if you go to the control panel > power options > change plan settings > change advanced power settings. It is also entirely possible that your laptop is under-clocked slightly from the factory to keep people from melting their computer and extend battery life.

Unfortunately as far as performance goes a desktop is better in most circumstances just due to the cooling and power supply capabilities.

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Laptops "ramp up/down", and as a result, there are lags. This greatly affects your overall performance.

As to being a better CPU that is largely subjective. The performance points are very specific. So ultimately you will want to choose a CPU that better caters to the areas of performance you're looking for -- video, audio, (cache) bandwidth, "lanes", etc. Truth is, an i5 may actually turn out to be a better choice than an i7 depending upon your needs. Generation is also another factor. Attempting to compare PC CPU to Laptop CPU is much the same as comparing an automobile to a boat. Both have an Engine (CPU). But have very different intended goals/uses. Two very separate classes. :)

Cooling enhancement(s) will improve your overall performance on a Laptop. Because, as you noted above, the CPU(s) are throttled when hot. To prevent failure/death. :)

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