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We might not have quite reached the post-PC era that Steve Jobs promised back in 2010, but we’re definitely in the post-desktop era. The idea that a single box sitting on your desk is the best way to handle all your digital activities could not be more outdated.

In fact, unless you have very specific requirements, we think you don’t need a desktop PC at all. Here are a few reasons why you might be better off with a laptop, a tablet, or even just your smartphone.

1. Specs and Performance

For a long time the desktop vs. laptop argument was able to be summed up as being about power versus convenience. This is no longer the case as laptops — and even mobile devices like the iPad Pro — are able to deliver what is often described as “desktop-class performance”.

processor naming

The differences are still there, of course. Processors come in mobile and desktop versions — you can identify them by their model names Decoding Intel's Laptop Processor List [Technology Explained] Decoding Intel's Laptop Processor List [Technology Explained] The modern computer processor has always been a complex piece of technology, and that shows no signs of changing. Such complexity brings a challenge to companies such as Intel. Making great products is one thing,... Read More  — and the mobile ones will always be less powerful in a straight comparison because they’re optimized for other things like battery and heat.

But unless you’re working on resource-heavy tasks, such as video editing or high-end gaming, you won’t notice much of a difference. The increased use of SSDs in laptops gives you more than enough of a speed boost 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD 5 Things You Should Consider When Buying An SSD The world of home computing is moving towards solid state drives for storage. Should you buy one? Read More  for most day-to-day activities.

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samsung 9

Screens also used to be a limitation, but they aren’t anymore. Any decent laptop or tablet will give you at least 1080p resolution (often much higher if you can afford it). Plus, while laptops with 15-inch displays are usually regarded as desktop replacements due to their unwieldy size, devices like the Samsung Notebook 9 are now fitting large screens into compact bodies.

And if you do need it, every laptop can be connected to an external monitor or even big screen TV if you absolutely need that extra screen space.

2. Gaming and Entertainment

In the field of gaming, laptops are already well established in the market through manufacturers like Alienware and MSI. You aren’t just limited to “retro” and “indie” games either.

A small but growing range of gaming laptops, which use the GeForce GTX 980 GPU (not the mobile version), are now classified as VR-ready Oculus Rift Is Almost Here! Check Now If Your PC Can Handle It Oculus Rift Is Almost Here! Check Now If Your PC Can Handle It Before you go ahead and buy an Oculus Rift, take one minute to see if your PC is powerful enough to handle it! Read More . You can use them with your Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or other VR gaming system. They’re expensive but incredibly powerful.

See the liquid-cooled 3 Reasons Why You Might Want a Water-Cooled Laptop 3 Reasons Why You Might Want a Water-Cooled Laptop The world's first water-cooled laptop is almost here. What does that mean for the future? Should you get one? Or should you pass it by for now? Read More Asus ROG GX700VO as the most extreme example.

asus

In addition to all this, there’s a growing closeness between the Xbox platform and Windows 10. Cross-network play on games like Rocket League enables console and PC gamers to play against one another.

For other entertainment purposes, a range of specialist devices trumps the desktop computer. For music, you can stream Spotify from your phone to a Bluetooth speaker How to Stream Audio to the Amazon Echo From Any Bluetooth Device How to Stream Audio to the Amazon Echo From Any Bluetooth Device Want to stream audio to your Amazon Echo? Here's how you can stream anything as long as it's done over Bluetooth. Read More  or upload your local music library to Google Play and do the same.

You can stream Netflix to a TV via Chromecast, Amazon Instant Video via a Fire TV Stick, or both on an Android TV box, and a wealth of extra TV and movie sources from Kodi in the process.

You can also upload your photos to a service like Google Photos or Flickr 6 Tips to Never Lose Your Photos While Traveling 6 Tips to Never Lose Your Photos While Traveling You should heed the following tips before embarking on your next trip, especially if the resulting photos are one your main reasons for taking the trip in the first place! Read More and access them from anywhere on any device, rather than keeping them on a desktop where you will never look at them.

3. Portability

The biggest downside to a desktop PC is that it sits permanently on your desk. You can’t haul it into the family room, let alone take it on the train. This was fine a decade ago, but that was before the cloud and fast 4G/5G mobile connections EDGE, 3G, H+, Etc: What Are All These Mobile Networks? EDGE, 3G, H+, Etc: What Are All These Mobile Networks? Are you on the fastest mobile network? If not, where do you fall on the spectrum? These mobile network symbols can be confusing, but don't worry because we'll clear it up for you. Read More  became commonplace.

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Mobility is everything in computing today. Nobody waits until they get home to check their email — we expect to have access to it at all times, something a desktop simply can’t offer.

A tablet with LTE connectivity gives you the ultimate in portability. Alternatively you can pick up a mobile hotspot device and get any Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or tablet online over the 4G network.

4. General Use

For what we might describe as “general use” — web, social media and so on — you not only don’t need a desktop PC, you don’t really need a desktop operating system at all.

A smartphone is good enough for a growing number of people, with more than half of web traffic last year coming from mobile devices. A powerful tablet like an iPad Pro can replace a traditional computer Can the iPad Pro Replace Your Laptop? Can the iPad Pro Replace Your Laptop? The iPad Pro can do a lot, but can it do enough to completely replace the humble laptop? That depends. Read More in many areas.

ipad

In fact, mobile operating systems only really show their limitations when you need specific software, and even then you can often find reasonable equivalents Can You Use a Tablet as a Laptop? The Essential Apps and Gear Can You Use a Tablet as a Laptop? The Essential Apps and Gear Want to use your Android tablet as a laptop replacement? Here is your comprehensive guide to the necessary hardware and software. Read More  to what you need.

Typing is the biggest negative to smartphones and tablets, but here’s where the Chromebook steps in The Fundamental Advantages Of Using A Chromebook The Fundamental Advantages Of Using A Chromebook Chromebooks are highly divisive and a consensus about the merits of Google's offering is a long way from materialising. Here are the key advantages of using a Chromebook when compared to Windows and Macs. Read More : it’s lightweight, full-featured, with thousands of apps available, with its very own tactile keyboard and touchpad, and best of all, cheap.

Interested? Here’s our guide to picking the best Chromebook for your needs How to Pick and Buy the Perfect Chromebook How to Pick and Buy the Perfect Chromebook Allow us to help you pick the right Chromebook for your needs. Read More .

5. Price

Desktops were always the best budget option, at least in terms of what you get for what you pay, and then the Chromebook came along. These entry level machines running Google’s cloud-based operating system can handle all common tasks, including Office, music, and basic image editing.

Chromebooks also need little to no maintenance Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Everything You Need To Know About Switching To A Chromebook Chromebooks run a slimmed-down operating system optimized for getting on the web with just the Chrome browser and Chrome apps. Can you switch to a Chromebook? Read More . You don’t have to worry about updates or malware. They are the epitome of the “it just works” ideal.

Samsung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US 11.6 Inch Laptop (Intel Celeron, 2 GB, 16 GB SSD, Silver) Samsung Chromebook 2 XE500C12-K01US 11.6 Inch Laptop (Intel Celeron, 2 GB, 16 GB SSD, Silver) Intel Celeron 2.16 GHz Processor Buy Now At Amazon $235.71

If Chrome OS doesn’t have the software you need, you can swap out the operating system for Linux How to Install Linux on a Chromebook How to Install Linux on a Chromebook Do you need Skype on your Chromebook? Do you miss not having access to games through Steam? Are you pining to use VLC Media Player? Then start using Linux on your Chromebook. Read More , wherein you’ll be able to run more powerful apps or even try gaming through Steam. Or you can still pick up a full Windows 10 laptop with basic specs for under $300 Best Laptops Under $300: Everything You Need to Know Best Laptops Under $300: Everything You Need to Know Finding a good laptop for less than $300 is almost impossible these days, but can be done if you know what to look for. Here's everything you need to know to make a purchase you... Read More .

Why You Should Still Get a Desktop

The case against the desktop is pretty strong. But there’s one area where no other computer or device can compete: upgrades. Most laptops won’t let you upgrade more than the memory, and some don’t even go that far.

You can upgrade virtually everything in a desktop PC Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? If you need a faster computer but aren't sure which component would be most beneficial to upgrade, then here are the guidelines you should follow. Read More , so while you’ll probably need to buy a completely new device when your current laptop or tablet grows outdated, a desktop computer can be gradually updated for many years just by replacing individual parts.

But most people don’t want to bother with that. They want something that works as simply and efficiently as possible. If this is you, then a tablet or a laptop is all you need.

Do you agree? Or do you still use a desktop PC? Share your arguments for and against in the comments.

Image Credits: trash can by James Steidl via Shutterstock, Samsung Notebook 9 via samsung.com, iPad via Esther Vargas

  1. Relaxel
    September 14, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Laptops still can't keep up with desktop PCs in terms of gaming. Models have come out that have similar specs to very decent PCs, but 1: They cost more than a mother's worth. 2: They get so hot, you'll be throwing them in the trash after maybe 2 years. 3: Like you said, they can't be upgraded. 4: They WEIGH more than your mother and you will not be able to carry them around like standard notebooks. 5: They're uncomfortable to game with; the keyboard's high up and the you have to look down at the screen unless you get a monitor.

  2. Gabriel
    June 10, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    I´m thinking getting a PC for my girlfriend because is better for her back, neck and entire posture. People in these days are always looking down and in the future you see the results of young people with problems on the lumbar zone (but I'm not a Doctor).

    When I get home I use my tablet but it doesn´t feel the same. Touching the screen is not for me and I hate that my head is always looking down and my hands are busy, then the back and neck hurts because tablets are very uncomfortable. You need to be close to it.

    With a PC you can be cooking or doing something else from a long distance and still watch a movie or a video very clearly. The laptops and tablets are for those who are in a constant move. I preferred the PC, it gives you a sense of space (study or media room) when you work from home. Instead, a laptop I think, is for students and people that travel a lot and a PC for more office activities and more rapid tasks.

  3. Frank Bales
    June 10, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    I have always loved my PC. That said, I find myself using it less and less. My PC is located in a specific room in my home, and you have to go there to use it. My mobile devices (phone, tablet, and notebook) are just so convenient, and they're always where I am (at least one of them). But get rid of my desktop? I can't see that in my future, but who knows?

  4. Peter
    June 10, 2016 at 11:13 am

    No thanks!
    Laptop never can substitute a desktop PC for me...

  5. Howard Blair
    June 10, 2016 at 12:14 am

    No proper trackball (no, I hate mice, and I hate trackpads even more)...PC wins.
    No expansion (two or three USB ports aren't enough)...PC wins.
    Tiny "chiclet" keys - even my work laptop has an additional USB keyboard, which I used to lug around in my laptop bag...PC wins.
    Tiny 15" screen; even the 17" screens don't measure up to my 24" 1080p monitor...PC wins.
    Held together with tiny screws and flimsy ribbon cables (trackpad, power switch, and keyboard)...I hate even working on laptops...PC wins.

  6. Shawn Amison
    June 9, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    I still have a desktop as my primary workstation at home. I use it as a media center PC, a server, storage of many TB's of media, and gaming. Name one laptop that will allow me to have an SSD as my OS drive, and 3 3.5" hard drives for storage. Exactly. Expansion is where the desktop really shines.

  7. ben
    June 9, 2016 at 11:06 am

    If your budget only allows for one device, or you only use your device mostly for one purpose (such as the FB addicts) you may have to make a choice. But if you have the money or the need, why is there a reason to make a choice at all? Each has a use that is suited better for that device. I have all 4 types of devices
    1. A desktop running Windows with 3 screens, a full sized keyboard and a 6 button mouse. Has a high mid range graphic board. 2 printers and 7.1 sound with a set of speakers and can also feed my main audio system and big screen TV. Used mostly general computing use and high end games. It also controls my home automation and a security system with 8 cameras.
    2. A Laptop with SSD to take along - running Linux, And a smaller wireless mouse. General computing, social media, word processing for work. As this is not used for gaming I saved on the video in it.
    3. An Android 10" tablet with a separate keyboard and folding cover. Makes a great ebook reader when sitting around in airports, plus can do a lot of general internet stuff. Can feed the big TV through a Chromecast.
    4. Smart phone, for a quick check of email, GPS, texting and it can even be used to make phone calls. Can also feed the chromecast.

    All 4 can work with Dropbox so any files I need can be accessed from whichever device I have at the time.

    I am not wealthy, and it has taken years to put all of together the way I like it. It was not an all in one project, but grew with parts added (and some removed) over time and as I saw the need. Components do get replaced from time to time. The PC in particular is completely home brew.

  8. Sulumar
    June 6, 2016 at 11:50 am

    I really prefere my desktop to a laptop.
    First there is a Real Mouse on the desktop
    Second a Dual Screen Monitor setup isnt exactly portable
    and i have a smartphone for my email on the go

  9. ronreb
    June 5, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Either MakeUseof staff are shills for the small device industry or just ignorant. Maybe both When your eyesight starts to fail or you're wondering why you get so much spam, remember how you're getting your info. I follow no fads or social media. I love my privacy. You can quote me on this. Most people on social media are willing dupes with no self-esteem. I pick who argues or agrees with me. I don't need social media to make me feel good about myself.

  10. Kelsey Tidwell
    June 4, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    Wow.

  11. A41202813GMAIL ..
    June 4, 2016 at 2:51 am

    I Do Not Give A Crap About Portability, Period.

    XPOCALYPSE FOREVER !

  12. likefun butnot
    June 3, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    1. Specs and performance: Laptop CPUs are not the same as desktop CPUs, at least for any sane laptop configuration, though there are vendors that will stick a desktop CPU in a laptop form factor.

    Generally speaking, a laptop CPU is going to have considerably lower specifications than its desktop equivalent. This usually means that it will operate at a lower frequency, have less on-die cache (RAM) and may also have fewer CPU cores or support execution of fewer threads. Laptop CPUs are designed first to match a specific thermal or power consumption threshold rather than for their performance characteristics, and because heat is so damaging to electronics, they also throttle their performance much more aggressively than desktop chips. Further, non-desktop chips are are broken down between "laptop" and "mobile" classes, so that there's an even lower performance category of product for handheld or high-efficiency products.

    As a sort of rule of thumb for Intel CPUs, you're going to get about 2/3 the performance of a desktop CPU with a mobile CPU of the same product family (i3, i5 etc) compared to the desktop.

    It's completely true that web browsing and editing office documents is not going to tax either a desktop or mobile CPU, but it's also true that real work is better done on the desktop side, especially of that work involves any kind of content creation or media editing.

    I should also point out that while it's uncommon for end users to do so, desktop systems are vastly easier to upgrade, so on the day when you decide that your i3 is no longer cutting it, there's a straightforward path to something better, This also extends to graphics and storage subsystems (does your laptop support NVME? Are you sure you can use it as a boot drive, even if it does?) in ways that aren't available to notebook systems. Some laptops have only one user-accessible DIMM slot while others (cough Apple, Microsoft cough) don't have upgradable RAM at all.

    I can't really give credence to the idea that laptops perform as well as desktops. It is provablely incorrect.

    2. Gaming

    Heat is the enemy of portable electronics. High performance components need larger batteries and therefore bigger and heavier cooling subsystems. Batteries that get hot don't work as well and electronics that are consistently left at higher temperatures fail more often. Gaming-class graphics are therefore entirely antithetical to notebook-type computers. Either the computer in question is adequately cooled and bulky beyond the point of functional portability or there's an inadequate cooling subsystem and a laptop with a heat-related death sentence.

    Gaming-class laptops are also expensive beyond reason and made and supported to the standards of consumer-class hardware (i.e. as shoddy and cheap as possible) rather than the actually-justifiable standards of business notebooks and portable workstations.

    Even insofar as gaming on a laptop is an acceptable idea, performance is still going to be considerably lower than with a desktop-equivalent mobile GPU.

    My personal laptop has a high-speed Expresscard slot. I actually have a PCIe to Expresscard adapter and it's possible for me to connect a full-size graphics card to my notebook (I usually use a GTX750Ti). It's also possible to do that with Thunderbolt hardware. These are vastly better options, but at that point, one has to have a full-size PC graphics card, some kind of chassis for it and some kind of power supply. If that's the configuration you need, the thing you have is functionally a desktop.

    There's another way to get gaming on a mobile device: nVidia and/or Steam game streaming, in which the game is rendered on a big-boy PC and delivered to a remote display over a network. Latency can be an issue depending on the game in question, but my nVidia Shield K1 can play Fallout 3 from my house while I'm sitting in a Starbucks. In my opinion this is a saner and much more flexible method to deliver a quality gaming experience on a mobile system and I say that as someone in the tiny category of people who actually can attach a $500 graphics card to a high-end notebook.

    3. Portability

    Desktops aren't portable. That means they don't get dropped, broken by accident, lost and are vastly less likely to be stolen. No one has ever left the power cord for their desktop in a hotel in Cleveland.

    Some people genuinely need portability, but everyone needs to understand the huge costs associated with all of the above. Laptop users have to be vastly more concerned about data security and the condition of their hardware than is the case for a desktop system in a known-safe location.

    If anything, I think people are usually better off with a full desktop if they have any actual productivity need, along with some kind of tablet or companion device that can access data from that desktop.

    4. "General use"

    This is too generic to really rebut. The web is the same web no matter how you see it. Cat videos and pornography look great on multiple 24" screens as surely as they do on 5" smartphones. Document and content creation are usually a lot easier with a full-size screen and input devices and in an ergonomically correct setting, but if you love balancing a computer on our lap and typing your screenplay while you're sipping a latte on a park bench, be my guest.

    5. Price

    Ignoring the idea that a Chromebook is equivalent to a personal computer, there's another component to price with regard to laptops: You get what you pay for. A cheap laptop is its own punishment. It'll be heavy. It'll be delicate. It'll have a crummy CPU. It won't have an SSD. And it's usually not worth the time or money to try to make a crummy laptop into a decent one.

    For the most part, consumers who buy at retail don't even really have the option to get decent laptops. Decent laptops are largely business products that aren't sold to retail customers. They're Lenovo Thinkpads, Dell Latitudes or HP Elitebooks. A Surface or a Macbook might be available in a retail setting, but those aren't exactly inexpensive and really only serve a small subset of potential customers. This isn't a matter of price so much as consumer education, but even a $1000 Satellite or Pavilion can be a cheap (poorly made) product.

    • fcd76218
      June 3, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      "Cat videos and pornography look great on multiple 24? screens as surely as they do on 5? smartphones."
      A 5" smartphone screen leaves a lot of details to the imagination. :-)

  13. steve
    June 3, 2016 at 9:01 am

    For real photo editing a 'true colour' screen is essential - any laptop with the power and screen capable of achieving the results one can on a real 'photo' monitor would be far more expensive than a desktop - horses for courses, laptops are a convenience for short term, light work.

  14. Andreas
    June 3, 2016 at 4:56 am

    1. Cooling - On a desktop you are in better control of cooling. Thus, components don't wear down as fast. Many laptops start to get warmer and warmer around the 2 year age.
    2. Proper QWERTY keyboard - If you broke it, you can get a new. If you want a new, you can get it.
    3. A proper mouse - But that can be plugged into a laptop, but my main argument is point 4.
    4. More ergonomic - You can setup your system, with monitor(s) and peripherals as you please.

    How most people use a laptop is bad for the posture, and you are prone to neck pain due to high pressure on the spine. Usually laptop users have to compensate by sitting in odd ways.

    I will never, ever get rid of owning a desktop computer.

  15. Jungman
    June 3, 2016 at 4:20 am

    My desktop PC is an integral part of my workbench area. The 'box' sits off to the side and my keyboard pulls out/retracts under my workbench. If I use my laptop I can't work on anything else as my workbench real estate is now occupied. Because my hobbies include electronic soldering, use of cleaners and solvents I can't afford any damage to the laptop screen or keypad. My other argument for a desktop is reliability and ease of parts upgrades or replacement. Just have something like your CPU fan go bad in a laptop and find out how difficult and costly that is to repair. Laptops are great if you you like to replace them often. I know a lot of people who have gone through several laptops because some simple thing like the laptop hinges that wear out and won't keep the screen upright anymore or a battery pack that is no longer available or even an intermittent key, you know the one you use most often. I like my laptop but only as a traveling PC and when I'm home it's back to my trusty desktop.

  16. epiqpwnage
    June 3, 2016 at 12:24 am

    A budget gaming pc build with equal performance to a gaming laptop costs about half and lasts twice more. And it can last a couple of years before you upgrade parts, and a couple more years after that before you have to build a new pc entirely (I built a new pc last oct, after 8 years.). My old pc can still play cs go dota2 bf3 well.)

  17. fcd76218
    June 2, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    You can try to pry my desktop from my cold, stiff fingers! It will be buried with me.

    I'll give one reason FOR having a desktop that trumps all your reason for not needing one - I WANT ONE!

    "1. Specs and Performance"
    What kind of keyboard does iPad have?
    How much storage does a tablet have?
    I find my 21 inch monitor to be too small and you want me to squint at a tablet or a smartphone screen?! ROTFLMO!!!

    "2. Gaming and Entertainment"
    Tablets and smartphones maybe good if you want to play Candy Crush or Angry Birds. For serious gaming you NEED a desktop.

    "3. Portability"
    Why would I want to use my computer outside of my quiet computer room that has very limited distractions?!

    "4. General Use"
    If I use your definition of "general use", then I, and most other people, do not need anything other than tha a smartphone. However, I do not want to be using a magnifying glass to see anything on the screen.

    "the Chromebook came along"
    Chromebooks are smartphones without the phone capability.

    "The case against the desktop is pretty strong"
    Only if you insist on playing with toy gadget like a tablet, smartphone or a Chromebook.

  18. Lesom
    June 2, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    I cant live without my desktop. Much easier and faster to use.

  19. rudy
    June 2, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    1. The user interface is still much faster on a desktop
    2. Easier to add monitors
    3. No comparison between a real keyboard and a laptop keyboard let alone a tablet keyboard
    4. A mouse v. touchpad is no competition

  20. Bart
    June 2, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Have you tried to edit photos or video. I don't mean 1 or two. On a recent 3 week trip I took more than 1800 images on my DSLR. Admittedly I like to take panoramas but I also take a lot of single images. Also most of us live in towns/ and cities with mains power but have you tried to recharge your phone/tablet/laptop in the middle of the Oz outback?

  21. Rob
    June 2, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Good points but I can't even imagine not having dual monitors anymore. So useful!

  22. Jaden Peterson
    June 2, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    I completely disagree. Desktops have much more power than any other device, they are great for offices, do not need to be charged. However, you do make a point with non-portability and customizability.

    • Jaden Peterson
      June 2, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      You want play extremely demanding games? You can't fit a GTX or a Titan in a laptop.

      • likefun butnot
        June 3, 2016 at 8:12 pm

        @Jaden Peterson,

        While I don't disagree that laptop graphics solutions are pretty terrible, it IS actually possible to connect a full-size graphics card to some laptops, either by Thunderbolt or Expresscard. In either case, you need some kind of enclosure and power supply and you need to understand that you're going to be somewhat limited by the speed of the data bus in question, but it is indeed possible.

        Of course, the outcome of doing that is functionally the same thing as gaming on a desktop, since you're going to wind up with some kind of box with either an incredibly beefy transformer or ATX power supply, plus chassis for mounting the card and the card itself... and you need to have purchased hardware that supports one of those two interfaces AND the PCIe adapter to connect them to in the first place.

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