Laptops vs Desktops

ZDNet: Buy notebooks, not desktops. David Berlind thinks today's laptops are suitable replacements for a desktop computer, so who needs a desktop PC?

I do. Ok, I haven't owned very many laptops over the years, but I know several people who have. Seeing their experiences has me completely turned off of laptops. I did own a laptop at one time. Let me describe that experience to you: awful. It was a Fujitsu Lifebook that worked fairly well in it's first year or two, but then the CD-ROM drive went out and eventually the hard drive after that. I had them replaced (with refurb'ed parts of course) under warranty, but the CD-ROM drive was always unreliable after that. Shortly thereafter, the display became faulty, displaying a solid bright green vertical stripe on the right side. I eventuallly got fed up with the thing and trashed it. Never again.

Let's look at some reasons for buying a desktop:

  • Hey, it's cheaper. In these times of hardship, a buck can be a strong motivational factor. Especially when it concerns hundreds of them.
  • Components are cheaper too. Ever compare desktop and laptop memory prices? Nuff said.
  • Long-lasting. The myth about laptops is that they are sturdier and more durable because they are built for the road. Maybe. We'll see how sturdy it is after I set my tower on top of it.
  • Customizable. With a laptop, you're stuck with whatever video and audio hardware it comes with. You can't upgrade it. You usually can upgrade the hard drive, but that costs an arm and a leg too. With PCMCIA and USB, there are some expansion possibilities, but nowhere near the options you have for a desktop.
  • No squinting. Laptop displays are just too small for my tastes. Some can do 1600x1200 now, but I wouldn't do that on a 14" (or even 15") screen if I were you.
  • No legs. True, a desktop can be stolen, but it's a lot less likely than someone stealing your laptop. And, it's a lot easier to secure a stationary object than it is to secure something that is designed to be mobile.
  • Won't burn your lap. Ever have a laptop on top of your lap for more than 10 minutes?
  • No batteries. Battery life on laptops is still terrible.
  • Nothing beats a mouse. Certainly not those finger-pad-things they put on most laptops. The eraser-point device on the Thinkpads is the best kind of pointer control for a laptop, but nothing beats a mouse.
  • Excellent sound. Laptop speakers suck. You'd better add some headphones to your laptop carryall if you want to listen to your music.

What if you do need to take a computer somewhere-- like to class or a meeting or on an airplane? First, ask yourself this: do you really need your whole computer for those things? I think today's PDA devices are suitable replacements for laptops. Take a look at the iPaq or other modern Pocket PC computers. They're far more portable and manageable. It's very easy to synchronize information between them and your desktop computer. You don't have to go hunting for an outlet as often. You don't have to spend 15 minutes setting up your PDA within the confines of a coach seat on an airplane (balancing a laptop on one of those trays is no fun either). And while laptops have gotten lighter, chances are you carry a lot of laptop accessories that you feel you must have with you (since you paid so much for them) and their combined weight in your deluxe laptop carrying case is enough to form bruises on your shoulder and back. And if you were wanting a laptop for attention or to look cool, forget it. They're so common nowdays, nobody cares. PDA's still get that kind of attention though-- especially the wireless, color ones that can play MP3s in stereo.

So do yourself a favor-- instead of a laptop, buy a desktop PC. You'll get a faster, more capable computer and still have enough money left over for a killer PDA so you can still pass time in meetings.


Nue Lor said:

I'm happy I stumbled upon your page on the net. You've offered some helpful insights into my "computer shopping." I was contemplating on whether I should be bringing a laptop or PC to college with me next fall and I believe you've solved my problem. Only the downside is that you wrote the info last this how you still feel? What portable pc's would you recommend?


This article was published on January 25, 2002 6:36 PM.

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