The choice of getting either a desktop or a laptop used to be easier. Laptops cost much more, were much less powerful, and were prone to more problems such as extreme overheating.
While those problems still exist in lesser forms now, laptops have closed the gap with their larger counterparts in many areas, especially price. The question is no longer so clear-cut.
Below is a comparison of different areas where laptops and desktops shine and fail. Since laptop advantages are typically desktop disadvantages and vice versa, they’ve been divided into appropriate categories.
Laptop advantages and desktop disadvantages
Laptops are, quite obviously, portable. That doesn’t mean you have to take them everywhere (and desktop replacement laptops weigh a bit much to lug around everywhere), it just means that you can if you want to. This is great if you should go on a trip and would like to bring your computer with you.
Due to its portability, a laptop has a much smaller form factor, and will fit easier on a desk or other place where there isn’t much space.
Laptop disadvantages and desktop advantages
It takes only a simple search of a website that sells both laptops and desktops to realize that laptops are still generally more expensive than desktops for similar specifications. The gap isn’t too big, but it’s worth figuring in if lowest price is very important to you.
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line system, you’ll find that the fastest processors and video cards are for desktops, and that high-end laptops are significantly more expensive.
One argument that is often brought up in this debate is that desktops are generally more upgradeable over time. While this is true, it is often better to simply buy a new computer by the time you would think about upgrading due to the cost of upgrades and the fact that future parts (such as processors) may not work with your existing hardware, limiting your upgrade options.
It is, however, fair to say that desktops are more expandable. If you want to add more hard drive space, memory, or a sound card, it is easier with a desktop in the vast majority of cases, as laptops have less space for the addition of components.
Laptops can be prone to problems such as damage (such as from dropping) and overheating.
While the list of advantages for the desktop is certainly larger, that first advantage for laptops, portability, is a big one. It may be better to purchase a laptop even if you don’t anticipate taking it out too much, as at least the option’s there.
You may find that you enjoy being able to sit somewhere with wireless Internet, such as a coffee shop, and browse (providing your laptop has the capability). Also, unless you’re doing video editing or something that takes quite a bit of processing power fairly often, you shouldn’t need the extra processing power that a desktop provides at the same price point.
In the end, you should make the decision based on your planned use and needs, keeping in mind your budget. If you do that, you’ll end up with a computer that does what you need, and the purchase should feel satisfying instead of feeling like an expensive mistake.