SFF PC vs. Laptop: Which Portable PC is Right for You? Jan 17th 2022

Would you purchase a smaller desktop that can travel over a super-light laptop? There might be more advantages than you think.

Portable PCs are great for gaming tournaments, mobile production projects, or even something that can travel from your school or office to home easily. There are plenty of advantages to having a light system like a laptop or tablet for some tasks, but in many cases, ITX systems and other small form factor builds can provide benefits that a laptop just can’t reach.

It’s important to consider what type of work you’ll be doing on your system, where you expect to take it, and how often. As always, your unique use case may vary, so do your research on portable PCs and look into what works best for you.

Higher Performance

You might be using your system to render video, produce audio, game, stream, and more. When it comes to performance, Laptops just don’t compare to what an SFF PC can do.

Firstly, you’ll have far more control over the specs of your system - your CPU, GPU, memory, storage, and cooling options are all up to you.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, you select a laptop with the same specs as an ITX system. You might think that would give you the same experience, but in fact, the SFF PC will beat a similarly spec’d laptop every time.

Here’s why: laptop components have to run using a battery, and most limit their capacity to 100Wh in order to comply with airline regulations. If you’re using a high-performance laptop, you either get about 2 hours of unplugged work, or you’ll need to plug it in, in order to get the most performance out of your system. Even then, thermal regulation will limit your laptop’s performance further. Speaking of that:

More Cooling Options

Unless your preferred white-noise experience is the sound of hard-working laptop fans, you’re going to have a better cooling experience with a small form factor system.

High-performance laptops get LOUD and HOT when under stress; so much so, that you wouldn’t want to keep one in your lap for long. This is largely unavoidable due to the lack of space and limited airflow in a laptop’s case design.

Laptop components will also throttle maximum performance in order to stay cool enough to work. Meaning, you’re limited more by using a laptop with the same components as an ITX system.

Plus, with AIO and other liquid-cooling options available for SFF cases, you’re in for a cooler, and quieter, experience.

Upgradability

If you want a PC that will last for a long time, you’ll need to consider upgrades. From graphics cards to memory, changing out hardware is just plain easier in SFF PCs.

Since laptops are limited by their case, you’ll have a hard time making upgrades inside them. In just a couple of years, your components won’t be able to keep up with the latest requirements, and you’ll need to repurchase a full system to keep up.

By contrast, if you select an ITX case that allows for most standard hardware (including full-size GPUs), then switching your components will be a much simpler task, and cheaper in the long run.

Our REVOLT 3 case is designed with long-term use in mind, with plenty of features that allow for easy building and upgrades.

Customizable and Mod-Friendly

High-performance laptops tend to come in one-size-fits-all styles, with features you may not want or need. When you build or buy your own SFF system, you have more control over how it looks.

If you’re not interested in the aggressive appearance or extra RGB that most gaming laptops have, you might struggle to find a system that can perform the way you need, and look nice at home or the office.

When building in small form factor cases, you get to decide the overall appearance of your system, and the features it has.

Mods aren’t only about aesthetics and expression, however. They can also contribute to cooling your system more efficiently, giving you a better experience if you’re putting your system under stress on a regular basis.

Available Ports

With limited space comes limited port options. You’ll likely have to purchase additional extensions for your laptop to accommodate your home or office setup, since laptop cases limit your options for display, peripherals, and even the types of connections you can use. You also can’t upgrade those options without replacing the whole system.

When building a small form factor PC, you’ll have more control over the ITX motherboard you select. This gives you more flexibility to find the connections you need, and enough ports to connect them effectively. You can also replace the motherboard at a later time, should your needs change.

Conclusion

Portable PCs come in many shapes and sizes, and cover a wide variety of uses. While laptops have their place as portable options, they also limit you, even when they contain similar specs to desktops. SFF PCs offer plenty of benefits for those looking for a high-performance portable system.

If you’re looking for a PC that can go where you go, check out our REVOLT 3 ITX case! With a pop-out handle that stays flush to the case when not in use, accessory holders, and a design that’s easy to build in and upgrade, we’ve created one of the easiest-to-use SFF PCs around. See why the REVOLT 3 is a perfect choice for your next PC.

Learn More about the REVOLT 3