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It seems to me that normal PCs without water cooling and without specifically modded gfx-card-fans are the vacuum cleaners among the home electronics, especially when playing a gfx heavy game. (Which it appears is pretty much every game that's released today :-)

I have been thinking that a gaming laptop could provide some value on the noise front at a higher price, but without the hassle I'd have to go through screwing a "silent" machine together myself. (obviously plus the added mobility + space-saving bonus)

So - the short question is, and I really think it shouldn't be too subjective: Are gaming laptops "loud" while playing a modern game?

  • Loud compared to an average box sitting under the desk?
  • Loud compared to the same laptop when only surfing?
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Have you tried high-end headphones? Might save you a lot of money... –  MGOwen Dec 2 '10 at 1:02
    
@MGOwen OP compared desktops to vacuum cleaners, I have many memories of missing important plot points in movies/games while my mother was vacuuming in another room. So OP may be concerned about more than just his personal hearing. –  Arkive Feb 18 '11 at 14:18
    
@Arkvie - good point. It's also that I'm just not very fond of headphones. Ears overheat too quickly :-) (and I can't stand the in-ear models) –  Martin Feb 18 '11 at 17:29
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Notebooks have the advantage that they use less power than an average gaming PC. They generally use a more efficient, but less powerful CPU and GPU. A notebook has also space-restrictions which make cooling more difficult. A gaming notebook with a high-end GPU will be loud, and still less powerful than a budget gaming computer.

A mid-range graphics card uses something like 75-150 Watts of power, that heat has to go somewhere and it is easier to get rid of quietly in a desktop than in a cramped notebook. Modern GPU use very little power in idle, so they should be quiet when not gaming.

You can get aftermarket coolers for graphics cards that are pretty quiet, if you don't want to attach them yourself and risk your warranty you can also buy cards with alternate cooling directly.

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While I hardly know how much noise an average PC under the desk makes (plus I'm not that sensitive to noise), here's what AnandTech had to say about the Alienware M11x, which is a pretty heavy duty gaming laptop:

Perhaps with better power saving features and Turbo Boost, an updated M11x with an i7-640UM, i7-620UM, or even an i5-520UM would manage to stop the fluctuating noise levels. At present, the M11x oscillates between "silent" (<30 dB) and "I'm here" (36 dB) modes, even when sitting idle. It's irritating at best to have the fan kick on for a minute and then shut off for a minute; we would much rather have an in between mode where the system stayed at 33 dB whenever idle (or close to it). At least temperatures remain good, with the entire surface (top and bottom) staying under 37C (100F) even during stress testing.

You can read the whole thing here (that's the summary page).

I would imagine other gaming laptops offer pretty much the same levels of noise, though obviously it is impossible to be certain without examining each one individually.

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