Assuming I choose the "same" processor (let's say an i7) and the same SSD, can the performance of a laptop machine equal that of a desktop machine?

I say "same" (quotes) processor because I guess mobile and desktop processors are never the same: different power consumption profiles, etc.

Maybe this question boils down to:

  1. Can I get equally fast RAM for laptops as I can for desktops?
  2. Can I get a mobile chipset with equally fast bus speeds (memory and SSD) as on the desktop?

Or, do desktops still ultimately win at performance? If so, how big a difference are we talking about?

EDIT: OK, this was my first question here, and I might have misjudged the community a little. I'm grateful for the answers already received, but they're a bit more vague than I expected. The question was put on-hold as "primarily opinion-based" when my expectation was for cold, hard, facts. I take the blame; my question was obviously too vague itself. So I'll try to restate a more specific version...

Do desktop-only chipsets exist (x64-compatible) that offer performance that no mobile chipset can match? If so, what sort of percentage difference exists between the best desktop-only chipset and the best mobile chipset?

  • Normally I would advise asking a new question instead of editing this one. It already has 5 answers attached to it and it would be confusing to have a mix of old and new answers. But in this case, you are asking for a product recommendation, which is off-topic as it tends to become outdated quickly, and will lead to opinionated answers and/or spam. – Kevin Panko Dec 19 '13 at 16:02
  • Oh gosh, I'm really struggling to make myself understood here, aren't I? I'm not asking for a product recommendation. I don't know how to rephrase the question to make that more clear. – Martin Dec 19 '13 at 17:28
  • I understand that you are not asking for a specific product recommendation, but you are asking about what is generally offered in the marketplace. That will change from month to month, so correct answers this month may be wrong in the future. If you just want to know what's true generally, that is a broad question but might be acceptable. You are welcome to try asking a new question, and hopefully the community will find it to be a useful and on-topic question. Good luck! – Kevin Panko Dec 19 '13 at 18:36

Yes, you can!

You can have the notebook that you want, with the same specifications that a desktop.

The problem is how much you will pay for this? For sure will be more expensive buy a laptop than a desktop with the same specifications.

The other problem is the heat dissipation. When you are working with a desktop, you have a lot more space to dissipate the heat, but in a laptop this is a problem.

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A laptop and a desktop can have equal performance factors. The desktop could win based on the ability to later upgrade parts that you would not be able to do in a laptop, graphics cards for instance, as well as multiple graphics cards.

As stated by Butzke, the area of price is the factor. So performance spec by dollar (or what ever currency) the desktop may win out more often than not.

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    True. One of my old laptops had a P3-1200MHz desktop CPU and was almost as fast as a desktop. (It also had half a hour battery time for a full charge and cost more than my monthly salary). – Hennes Dec 18 '13 at 18:08

Assuming I choose the "same" processor (let's say an i7)

I see a potential problem here, since the it is not a CPU. It is a whole range, with old and or relative slow CPU to very modern ones.

If you select the same CPU (e.g. let take the i7 model 920 since I know those specs without looking them up) and you put it in a laptop then you will get the same performance as if you put it in a desktop. *1. It will also draw as much power as in a desktop (133 Watt TPD at max load).

If you use a lower power CPU of the same generation then it will typically be slower (and use less power, and generate less heat). But then you are comparing apples and oranges.

Or, do desktops still ultimately win at performance? If so, how big a difference are we talking about?

In the same price range desktops still win on performance and expandability.

*1 Or almost the same. Board layout, even between desktops, can matter in the order of 1-4%. And that also assumes same memory access speeds, proper cooling in both cases, etc etc.

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I am going to shift away from the RAM performance to battery performance. I have a Macbook Air laptop and I use it mostly for school. It has 2GBs of RAM and it pretty smooth when doing tasks on it. It starts to freeze up after the battery drains to about 10% and becomes almost unusable.

The performance would be almost the same. It also depends what you do on your computer. If you are a hard user, a laptop probably won't suit you, however if all you do is check your e-mail, then a laptop or even a tablet would be perfect.

A laptop is usually just a miniature desktop with some limitations like power.

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  • Limitations like power, size, heat dissipation, expandability. (ever tried adding a few PCI-e cards to a laptop) – Hennes Dec 18 '13 at 18:06
Cost ↔ Size ↔ Heat ↔ Power Usage ↔ Speed

You can always get more of one by sacrificing another. Desktops have a major advantage here, as people care about the size, heat and power usage far less. If you want a laptop as powerful as a good desktop, be prepared to pay through the nose for it.

If I had to make a blind estimate, I'd say you get 2-3 times bang for your buck out of a desktop, and that the upper limit on processing power is far higher.

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