Desktop and Laptop

If it's time to buy a new device, the first—and most important—decision you'll have to make is whether or buy a desktop or a laptop. To make the right purchasing decision, you need to be aware of all the similarities and differences.

The Clear Distinction

A desktop is a computer that primarily consists of a monitor, CPU, keyboard, and mouse. These components are usually separated but work together. A desktop also requires a plug to the main power supply to work and can only function in a fixed location. On the other hand, laptops have the same components, but they fit into a compact box. Laptops can use AC power or batteries, which makes them portable.

While this fundamental distinction may seem obvious, thinking about the implications of this design difference will help inform your purchasing decision. When deciding which device type to buy, you'll want to consider the following questions:

1. What Do You Need it For?

Choosing between a desktop or a laptop starts with identifying the purpose of the computer. Depending on what you need the computer for (e.g., work, gaming, surfing the web, school, etc.), you’ll likely want different features, for example: 
  • Will You Need to Bring it With You Anywhere? If you plan to spend a lot of time out in the field or in different locations, you need something portable. Desktops are stationary, so they work well for workers tied to the office or personal users who share it like a family.
  • How Much Storage Do You Need? Storage space is essential for saving data and running software. Both average desktops and laptops should have enough for regular users. But if you run demanding software like a graphic designer or photographer and need it for work or a side business, you’ll need more storage space than laptops typically have.
  • Do You Need a Higher Quality Processor? Average computer users don't have to worry about this. Still, those who run power-hungry software, like gamers and videographers, may want to consider a desktop for a more powerful processor.
  • How Long Do You Need the Device to Last? Desktops also have the added advantage of being easier to upgrade than a laptop. This characteristic gives desktops an extended lifespan since you can easily replace old parts with better models. Furthermore, the ability to upgrade makes desktops more customizable.

2. Does Size Make a Difference for You?

The physical size of a computer can affect your comfort or work. Laptops are naturally smaller and slimmer so that they are easier to carry. But desktops do not have the same restrictions. So if you need a bigger, more advanced keyboard or a large screen, then a desktop may be the better choice.

3. Do You Need Mobility?

Laptops use a rechargeable battery, making them versatile machines. You can use a standard outlet to power your laptop and work comfortably. If you need to move or the power goes out, you will still use your device.

4. What Happens if Something Breaks?

Desktops are built as components, making it easier to isolate a part and fix or replace it. Laptops are compact, with amalgamated parts, so it is not easy to fix a broken piece. For these reasons, desktops are easier to upgrade without actually buying an entirely new device. It's a bigger hassle to bring a desktop to a repair shop, but so you may want to search for local on-site home PC services before committing to a desktop purchase.

5. How Much Are You Willing to Spend?

Pound for pound, desktops are generally less expensive; you could purchase a nice desktop and a tablet to have when you need something portable for the same price as a decent laptop. Laptops are comparatively more expensive because of all the effort to miniaturize tech so that they can fit into a small space. While you could spend $500 and get a decent desktop system, but you will struggle to find a laptop at the same price point with similar features.

The Verdict

Although desktops are more budget-friendly and versatile, laptops have the advantage of mobility. Laptops are powerful enough for average users, but if your work or hobbies require more RAM, a laptop may not suffice. When trying to choose between a desktop or laptop, consider your individualized needs and preferences before buying a device that underperforms or overperforms for how you intend to use it.