Laptops vs Desktops vs All-In-Ones

Clients with desktop computers often ask me, “Is it about time I got a laptop”?  It always surprises me when I’m asked this because it kind of implies that to switch to a laptop is to graduate to a more advanced or superior computer.

In recent years, “all-in-ones” have increased in popularity, so I’m getting a lot of questions about “upgrading” to these, too. If you don’t know, “all-in-ones” are the computers where everything is built in to the screen. If you’re familiar with Apple products, the iMacs are an “all-in-one” computer and are probably the biggest contributor to this style’s increase in popularity. Admirers are typically impressed with the space saving and extreme lack of cables; in most cases, the only cable needed is for electricity.

What’s best?

The rest of this article, therefore, will be an attempt to give some insight into how to go about deciding what type of computer is best for you.

But before I go on, for completeness, there are actually two more options; tablets and smartphones. However, I’m not going to include them in this discussion because they’re not really comparable alternatives to laptops, desktops and all-in-ones because of their diminutive screens, lack of a keyboard, feature-poor software and reduced processing power.

Yes or no?

Imagine someone who drives a truck asking you if you thought it was about time they got a car. I’m sure you’d want to find out more information about what the intended purpose of their vehicle is before you could give a worthwhile answer.

Its the same when it comes to deciding what type of computer to get. The answer will definitely revolve around what you intend to use the computer for.

Going walkabout

The first questions to ask are about mobility. Will you be using the computer at the same location all the time?

  • Will it always be on your desk at work or perhaps in the study at home?
  • Will you be bringing it home from work each day or maybe taking it out with you on regular sales trips?
  • Maybe you want the portability to be able to display a recipe to follow when you’re in the kitchen but then be able to move it to the lounge room so that you can check out trivia while you’re watching TV.

So, moving or not moving? If you’ve decided that you want to move it around, read no further, you have to get a laptop (although with the last example above, if that’s all you’re intending to do with it, a tablet may be appropriate… but I said I wouldn’t talk about them here).

However, if you intend to sit it in the same location all the time, then you may as well rule out laptops, because there are better options.

Neat freaks

Now we’re down to desktops and all-in-ones. The big advantage of the all-in-ones is that they are very space efficient and they have very little in the way of messy cables to clutter up the place. In short, they’re neat and tidy.

However, because of their compact design and the resulting reduction in airflow, it is necessary to use smaller components (which are more expensive) and less powerful components (which generate less heat).

Another issue is that most of the components are custom made for the particular model they are used in, so they are either expensive to replace or just difficult to find. Compounding this issue, as I discovered earlier in the week with a client in Duncraig (Hi Coralie), is that many models are put together in a way that makes it almost impossible to replace components without breaking the case to get at them (I stopped short of breaking Coralie’s case).

Ivory towers?

We’re back to where we started; the humble desktop (or tower computer). If you use one of these, you don’t need to think of yourself as disconnected from the everyday world. Desktop computers, dollar for dollar, are more powerful than a laptop or all-in-one computer. They are also easier to maintain and cheaper to repair.

A more obvious advantage of the desktop computer is the great flexibility in screen sizes. These days, common sizes range from 21 to 30 inches for desktops. For business applications related to graphics, eg, graphic design and computer aided design, large screen sizes are particularly important.

Lastly (and perhaps most importantly for some), desktop computers are the only ones that have enough cooling and a large enough power supply to be able to support the super fast graphics cards necessary for serious game playing.

Let us know

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  1. That all kinda makes perfect sense doesn’t it……don’t know why I went with a laptop many years ago.

    • Thanks Mark. Glad it made sense.
      Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter what you did in the past – we change computers often enough that you’re almost certainly going to get a chance to apply the above decision-making strategy some time in the near future. And the best part is, if someone questions your choice, you can logically explain your thought process (and put them in their place 😉 ).

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