Should I Buy a Desktop or Laptop?

A common question people are having these days is if they should purchase the very common desktop computer, or should they go for the portability of a notebook (laptop) computer. The answer to that question depends heavily on the person who’s in the market for the computer. The questions you should ask yourself before choosing is…

  • What are you going to be using the computer for?
  • How often do you travel?
  • Would you ever like to add or manipulate internal components of your computer?
  • Do you have, or plan to have a lot of peripherals (external components such as printers, web cam, etc.)?

These are just some basic questions you should ask yourself before choosing between a desktop or laptop. Let’s look at the differences between the two.

A desktop is a stationary machine. Which means that it is not meant to be moved around a lot, it’s designed to stay in one spot. That one spot is usually on a desk (hints the name desktop), or some type of table top. Because desktops are stationary and they have more bulky parts to them which come standard such as the stand-alone monitor, the tower or enclosure which holds the internal components of the computer, and the keyboard and mouse.

Because the desktops’ enclosure are so roomy, they can generally house components such as multiple memory modules, multiple hard disks, multiple processors, etc. The increasing size of hard disks these days are virtually endless. The size of a typical hard disk for a desktop can range anywhere between 60 GB – 300 GB but can go much higher. Desktop enclosures usually contain multiple drive bays that allow you to expand you storage space by adding additional hard disks to your system. The desktop’s memory size is usually anywhere between 256 MB – 4 GB and can be expandable. Today’s system boards (motherboards) usually contain expandable memory slots for adding additional RAM to your system also. Another reason desktops will not be going out of style anytime soon is because of the ease of customization.

A lot of people build there own desktops by simply buying the components and putting it together their selves. Howstuffworks.com has a great article on how to build your own desktop. The main reason people build their own desktops is because they want it to do exactly what they want it to do. When you build your own system you have complete control over what goes into your computer and you don’t have anything in it you don’t put in it.

Shopping for a computer in a store is like shopping for house. You are looking for a house with this many rooms, this many bathrooms, a patio, glass sliding doors, basement, winery, catwalk, etc. It may take you a while to find that dream house, that’s why many people opt to build their own homes from scratch, making sure that they get that dream house and everything they want in it. Same idea with computer building. Some people, especially gamers, want that perfect machine and the only way they will get it is to build it their selves.

Laptops (or notebooks) on the other hand were designed for one reason only, and that’s portability. Unlike desktops, laptops can be toted around pretty much anywhere. They can be used as a portable DVD player for entertainment on a plane. Laptops are great for giving a presentation to your co-workers at the job. They are also preferred by people who just don’t like sitting at a desk, they would rather lay across their bed or sit comfortably on their couch while they surf the web. Laptops come with just one major unit in the box which is the notebook computer itself. The monitor, keyboard, mouse pad, and all internal components are built-in to one incredibly small unit which can sit easily in a user’s lap (hints the name laptop). For the compact nature of this system usually comes a steeper price than of a desktop. Laptops can do just about everything a desktop can do with minor limitations.

First of all, laptops generally come with about 4-6 usb ports, so if at any given time you need a web cam, external mouse, usb printer, mic, external hard drive, external floppy drive, 3 flash drives, usb memory card reader, and a usb wireless adapter all connected at the same time, then you’re probably not going to enjoy having all of those cables going everywhere, especially since your going to need an external usb hub to seat all those extra usb devices. Laptop’s internal hard disk’s are usually anywhere between 40 GB – 200 GB in size and can be bigger but not likely. Laptops do not have expansion bays for adding additional internal hard disks, but you can purchase storage volumes in the form of a pc card which can be used through the card slot of a laptop. There are also external hard drives flash drives, memory cards that can be purchased to increase storage space. Memory (RAM) in laptops range anywhere between 256 MB – 2 GB and can go higher. In some laptops the memory is expandable, but expanding memory is notebooks is just not as common and in desktops.

The downfall to laptops for the picky consumer is the fact that they can’t be built. You can’t just go out and buy a laptop enclosure and components and put together a laptop. This is a problem not just for people that like that customization, but when there is a problem with an internal component, the problem generally can only be fixed by the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer).

In Conclusion, neither a desktop nor laptop is better than the other, it’s all about what purpose it is going to serve for the user. How portable you need it to be, what you are going to be using it for, and do you plan to do any internal upgrades or customizations are the main questions you should ask yourself before choosing which system to opt for.