It’s time to sack up and buy a computer. After dreaming about RAM the night before you head over to your local computer store only to be befuddled at the very first question the clerk asks you, “Do you want a laptop or desktop?”
Now I trust most of you wouldn’t actually go to the store before taking this question into consideration, that’s why you are reading this. But the point remains, before you can decide what kind of computer you want (Dell, Mac, Hewlett Packard etc.), you first need to consider whether you want the portability of a laptop or dexterity of a PC.
Before I go any further, let me admit my bias by saying I love my laptop. But prior to explaining my choice to go portable (and its infinite wisdom), let’s take a look at the downside of laptops and the superior qualities a stationary computer provides. As with all purchasing decisions, there are pros and cons to whatever you choose, and what has worked beautifully for me might not work for others depending on the situation.
The Argument Against Laptops
Price per computing power is usually the first consideration, in which case a desktop is a much better choice. Laptops are more expensive then their PC counterparts, sometimes twice as much. The reason for this is the design aspect of a laptop. The same components are squeezed into a small space and the price for that convenience is pushed onto the consumer.
This design doesn’t just affect space for the guts of your computer, but the keyboard and screen too. Typing on a smaller keyboard takes practice. Some people never really feel comfortable and this interferers with their entire computer experience. Also, the screen of a laptop is not as large or high in quality as a desktop. If you want to use your computer to watch DVDs or you’re an avid gamer, gazing at a small screen with low response time for long periods can be annoying and even detrimental to your eyes.
Another important factor is the durability of your computer. Laptops are light and portable, but also more fragile. Now I wouldn’t suggest dropping your desktop 4ft either, but those kinds of accidents only happen when you are carrying your computer, something you really only do with a laptop. Because all the components on a laptop are so squished a serious fall can wipe out everything. Poof, no more computer.
Even if your laptop survives the fall, fixing or adding to a laptop is far more troublesome than dealing with a desktop counterpart. You can’t exactly order up an extra hard drive and attach it yourself. Laptops require professional installation, and some computer extras you simply won’t be able to ad. A desktop, on the other hand, can be added and modified as you please. Want a new video card? Almost anyone can learn to add one to a PC himself, but it’s virtually impossible on a laptop. Everything from adding memory to an extra USB port is just easier and user friendly on a desktop.
The last consideration which weighs in against laptops is who uses the computer. If this is going to be a family computer, get a desktop. Family members will still fight over who gets to use it when, but at least they won’t get territorial about who gets rights to the computer overnight.
So desktops have some things going for them. But there is just something about the romance of a laptop that still makes you consider buying one. Every episode of Sex In the City makes you wish you could scrawl down your thoughts while sitting in bed wearing pajamas too. Every flight you take you get jealous of the person next to you whipping a laptop out of a fancy bag. If you just can’t shake these notions of individuality then you might have the laptop bug. But aside from images of computer loner cowboys, there are serious conveniences that a laptop affords its owner. Despite all the setbacks laptops are always in demand for a reason.
Why Make the Jump to Laptops?
The fact is, laptops will never be as good as desktops in terms of computer power. But they do have that one wild card; they can go where no desktop has gone before. There are a number of practical reasons why this could come in handy. A lot of business people need a computer on work trips. Others just need to work on the same computer at home and the office. For them, it isn’t a matter of choice. They just need a laptop to remain productive.
Then there is the college demographic, perhaps the largest consumer of laptops. Students don’t ‘need’ a laptop, but most find it helpful to take their computer to class, the library, coffee shops or even friends houses for study groups. While I’m sure this group could do just fine without a laptop, I’ve also heard you can bake a cake without eggs. But that doesn’t mean the cake tastes good. Students depend on computers but they also live on the go. Having a computer that can go with them is invaluable.
Laptops are stolen more frequently, but you can also buy a lock for them. This brings us to why I think laptops are a smarter choice and just make more sense.
Not only do you get a benefit no PC can provide, but all the ‘drawbacks’ of laptops mentioned earlier can be addressed. Unless you are editing a full length feature film you won’t need all the computing space and power of a desktop. So buy a lower rate laptop and money evens itself out. If you run low on memory, just burn it to CD or DVD. If you don’t have a burner, take your computer to a friend’s house that does (it is portable after all). I earnestly believe all people can learn to interface with a laptop. If people can engrave your name on a grain of rice, everyone can learn to type on smaller keyboard. Gaming isn’t the same, but the best games today come on separate consoles like the Xbox, so extreme gamers shouldn’t really care. And while a laptop is more likely to be damaged, consider that you could never take a desktop camping, so of course there is going to be a higher damage rate. That doesn’t make laptops flawed, just the people who used them.
Laptops also cater better to the individual. You can buy an office friendly HP, an art inducing Mac, or even a rugged friendly laptop like the Rough Rider III. There is just no room or need for variation like that with a desktop. Laptops are personal and hence shape themselves around you. When was the last time you went on a vacation with a PC? Laptops can go where you do, making your computer experience as unique as you are.
Bottom line, laptops offer something desktops never can, increased productivity and relaxation at the same time. I can work, play and talk with my friends at my convenience. With a wireless card I can go to a coffee shop in any city and surf the Internet for free. When I’m done, pack up, go home and set it back up to log on before I go to bed. As a writer if I need to go to the library or meet someone for an interview, I have no problem bringing my laptop with me. I’ve even known people to bring their laptop with them on road trips, going from wireless provider to wireless provider, letting their computer play their mixed road trip soundtrack as they drive. That is the beauty of portability. If you aren’t ever going to need that flexibility, a desktop is the right choice, but don’t count it out. You never know when you’ll have to compute on the go.