The Desktop is Dead! Long Live the Desktop!
There is no doubt that mobile computing has transformed many aspects of our daily lives. Laptops, notebooks, IPads, tablet PCs, and smart phones are all the rage. The appeal of having access to all that computing capability all of the time and just about anywhere is irresistible. So it is understandable that there are some who are already predicting the extinction of the desktop computer. Many of my customers are now asking me if their next computer should be a laptop or desktop. The answer to that question is not as simple as you might think. If you objectively weigh the pros and cons of laptops versus traditional desktops, you may be surprised with what you end up with. So, lets get to the heart of the matter.
Whether its around the house, around town, or around the world, mobility is the obvious major advantage of the laptop. Then there is the increased productivity laptops provide by allowing us to be communicating, working, and accessible all of the time. The convenience of having access to games, music, and other forms of entertainment anywhere all of the time is also a nice feature. Laptops also take up less space. No need to set aside a special place for a computer friendly desk. So, why wouldnt you want a laptop?
Laptops cost more than desktops. No matter what your budget is you will always get more computing power for your dollar with a desktop. Laptops tend to have less processing power, hard drive capacity, memory (RAM), and video capability, than a desktop that costs the same amount. For some applications such as gaming, CAD, or audio and video production, the laptop just cant cut it while the desktop can.
Laptops are not as upgradeable as desktops. You can usually add a bit more memory and a larger hard drive if you run out of disk space. But thats about it.
Laptops cost more to repair. Every model is assembled differently. There is more labor involved is taking a laptop apart. Laptop parts are more expensive and can be hard to find locally. This means a longer wait for repairs and bigger repair bills. Desktop parts are very generic and can easily be replaced or upgraded with parts found locally. Everything in a desktop is upgradeable.
Laptops have a shorter life span. Because of their mobility they are more susceptible to being damaged. They get dropped, sat on, spilled on, thrown around, and abused in more ways than I can imagine. Somebody trips over your power cord and next thing you know your laptop doesnt power up any more. Spill a drink on your laptop and it is most likely finished for good. Laptops also tend to run hot. Computers do not like heat. When
exposed to prolonged high heat, circuit boards will eventually fail. We have seen laptops that run so hot they literally melt the solder that holds the internal parts together.
Laptop keyboards tend to be smaller, uncomfortable, and hazardous to your health as they contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. And what about those touch pads? Are they better or worse than a mouse? Personally I prefer a mouse. The desktop has hundreds of keyboards and mice to choose from. From ergonomic to glow in the dark, wired or wireless, there is a keyboard and mouse combo for every preference.
Laptop screens top out at 17 inches. Have you noticed how smart phones and tablets are getting bigger and laptops are getting smaller. Whats that all about? There is no limit to screen size for a desktop.
Last but not least you are always in need of a power fix. Laptops and other mobile devices are all dependent upon battery power to some degree. Batteries need to be charged. Batteries wear out and its usually at the most inconvenient time. Really good long lasting batteries will cost you extra. The only battery in a desktop is a 3V lithium nickel sized coin cell that keeps the clock going when you power off your computer. It costs less than $5. I can leave my desktop running nonstop 24 hour a day, 365 days a year without worrying about the battery wearing out. In the meantime my backups and updates are running unattended throughout the night.
Some of the shortcomings of the laptop are manageable. You can connect an external keyboard of your choice to replace that small uncomfortable laptop built in. Same goes for replacing the touchpad with a mouse. Most laptops also have a connector for an external monitor. So, if that laptop screen seems small you can always attach a larger monitor maybe even your flat panel TV. But at that point all you have done is built yourself a desktop.
In the end the freedom, mobility, and convenience of the laptop can be hard to resist. But if you are not really going to be mobile, the desktop is the way to go. For some applications its the only way to go. So buying a laptop just because everyone else is doing it is probably not a good idea. Think before you make that leap. So to those who say, The desktop is dead! I say, Long live the desktop.
Author Gregory Michaels is President of TekTrek Computer Services providing on-site computer services for home and business. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-438-9365.