Laptop vs. Desktop: Which Is Right for You? laptop or desktop is the best?

Jose Michael

Laptop vs. Desktop: Which Is Right for You?

Reader Penny Beagelle writes: Is a laptop or a desktop better? I have a small company and need to do some graphics, photos, etc., plus 100 page reports. I like the mobility of a laptop, but is a desktop better in the long run for holding/retrieving data, etc.?

Great question. Sounds like it's easy to answer on the surface, right? Laptops are mobile, desktops aren't. But there's more to it than that. Here are some issues to consider:

Mobility - Well, sure, it's the big one. If you need to work remotely, a laptop is the way to go. Remember that a 3G card from your cell phone provider can give you high-speed internet access in most urban areas.

Storage - One of the major places where laptops and desktops differ is in how much hard drive space they offer. Laptops use physically smaller drives, which can only offer so much storage space. Though larger drives are available, 100GB is still common on a laptop, while 500GB desktop drives are seen all the time (again, bigger drives can be had). This is a huge difference and it seems to be expanding, not contracting. If you have very large storage needs, desktop is your best bet.

Graphics and Gaming - You said you run a business so I don't expect this is a big deal for you, but with Vista it's important to consider graphics now, no matter what kind of user you are. Laptop graphics have come a long way, but I'd still say only 50 percent have really sufficient graphics processors. On the other hand, you can outfit any PC with perfectly good graphics for $100... and you can upgrade it later.

Upgrades - Speaking of upgrades, it's more difficult to upgrade a laptop. In some cases, it's impossible: Sure, you can pop in a new hard drive later, but adding a second hard drive means plugging in an external disk that will be cumbersome to tote around with you. Many laptop optical drives can't really be upgraded at all, nor can motherboards or CPUs. Laptop repairs are far more expensive and difficult than desktop PC repairs.

Peripherals - Remember that when you're in the office, you can always plug in an external mouse, keyboard, and monitor to your laptop.

Price - Expect to pay $300 to $500 more for a comparably equipped laptop (though this varies widely).

Other considerations are about the same, to be honest. CPU and RAM are about equal on laptops and desktops now, unless you're considering an ultra-high-end PC.

I obviously can't make the buying decision for you, but I'll reiterate my computer plan in case you haven't seen it before. I use both: a moderately-priced laptop is with me on a daily basis, syncing up with an inexpensive desktop that works as a print and file server. The desktop works as a machine for my daily backups, has plenty of storage for stuff I don't need to take with me on the road (or to other rooms of the house), has two printers hooked up to it, accepts incoming faxes, and otherwise stands as a backup in case something fails on my laptop. My laptop, however, is where I do most of my work. Sure I could get by with just a notebook PC, but having both makes things so much easier.

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