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Over the past few years, laptops have become the de facto computer of choice for nearly everyone. Indeed, 194 million laptops were sold globally in 2015, whereas only 129 million desktops were sold in the same period, and the gap is expected to continue widening until at least 2020.
But that doesn’t mean they are the right choice for everyone. Is it possible that there are 194 million misinformed people in the world?! Here we take a look at some reasons why you don’t actually need a laptop and why it might actually be a sub-optimal purchase for you.
Why Do People Buy Laptops?
Before we dive into alternatives, let’s take a moment to understand why people buy laptops in the first place.
The biggest advantages they have over desktops are their weight, size, and portability. A typical modern laptop might weigh between 4 to 9 pounds, and it’s easy enough to throw in your bag and take with you wherever you go.
And what are people actually using their laptops for? The vast majority fall into one of a few broad categories: music production, video and film editing, word processing, gaming, passive entertainment, and so on.
However, laptops are not the best choice for any one of these categories.
For Portability: Tablets
Back in 2010, Steve Job famously declared that the post-PC era had arrived:
When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them.
And this transformation is going to make some people uneasy… because the PC has taken us a long way. They were amazing. But it changes. Vested interests are going to change. And, I think we’ve embarked on that change.
Tablets form a major part of that post-PC revolution that Jobs spoke about.
On average, they are cheaper than laptops, they are lightweight, they are more portable and designed for use while on the move (rather than having to power-up a laptop, find a table to work at, etc), and they can perform the vast majority of functions that a laptop user would need to undertake while traveling.
Furthermore, they have better battery life, apps are typically cheaper than PC software, and they boast features like touch input, motion sensors, GPS data, and built-in cameras.
It’s for all those reasons combined that 2015 was the first year where we saw more tablets sold (332 million) than desktops and laptops combined (323 million). The growth is set to continue, and by 2017 there will be 406 million tablets versus 319 million laptops/desktops shipped.
For Productivity: Desktops
If you need to be productive while traveling, you can buy a plug-in keyboard for your tablet and use one of the myriad office productivity apps available in the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
If you plan on getting an extended amount of work done, however, you’re likely to do this from either your home or your office, and for that you should use a desktop.
Desktops have some key advantages over laptops:
- Value: Desktops are much more cost-effective than laptops, mainly because laptop parts have higher prices due to the extra trouble of miniaturization. With a desktop, you can get more power for the same price.
- Ergonomics: Laptops place a strain on your neck, wrists, and back. The keyboards are smaller and you end up hunched over the screen. On a desktop, the display is at eye level and you can use whatever keyboard is most comfortable for you.
- Screen Size: No laptop screen can match the size of a desktop monitor. From a productivity perspective, a more screen estate means more windows on screen and less app switching.
Desktops also have the advantage in terms of overheating (better air ventilation), upgrading (easier to add new components), and dedicated graphics cards. It makes them perfect for gamers.
For Entertainment: Digital Media Players
When it comes to stuff like streaming films, TV shows, and music, digital media players are a much better alternative to any laptop. And of the many devices available, we like the Roku best.
Yes, we know you can access Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube from your laptop, but that means you’re either a) watching the video on a small screen, or b) messing around with HDMI cables and balancing your laptop in awkward positions on your TV stand.
Having a Roku with a desktop is a better solution because:
- With Miracast support, you can wirelessly stream your desktop screen to your TV.
- With the native Plex app, you can easily enjoy your video library on your TV.
- Roku has thousands of private channels that exceed the amount of content you can feasibly access by laptop.
- Roku has apps for Netflix, Amazon Video, Google Play, Spotify, and Hulu, so you can easily make use of all your on-demand subscription services.
For Data: Network Storage Drive
It is very rare to find someone who only owns one computing device, and even rarer to find a household that only has one device.
With that in mind, the idea of keeping all your personal media on a single device is outdated. It makes backing up more complicated than necessary, it fragments your various collections, it makes managing your files a nightmare, and it means you can’t access exactly what you want whenever you want.
A Network Attached Server (NAS) device allows any of your devices to access the files saved on it, thus letting you create a centralized hub for all your personal media. It also provides a way to share printers, scanners, and cameras, and many NAS devices utilize Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) technology to create automatic back-ups.
Best of all, if you’re sufficiently tech-savvy, you can set up your NAS for remote FTP access. Guess what that means? Complete access to all your files and data from anywhere in the world – including that aforementioned tablet!
Good Reasons to Buy a Laptop
As you can see, for most people it’s easy to remove laptops from their life altogether. All that’s necessary is a willingness to take the plunge. Despite that, laptops still have a few benefits, especially over tablets. Here are of a few of them.
If you work in a job that requires a lot of moving around (such as journalism or professional photography), there is a high chance that you’ll frequently need to add peripherals to your machine. That could mean connecting to a printer, inserting your SD card, using a HDMI cable, or saving data onto a USB stick.
Most tablets don’t offer that luxury.
Tablets simply don’t offer the same level of storage that a laptop can provide. Most modern laptops start at a minimum of 250 GB of capacity, whereas as high-end tablets will top out at around 64 GB.
Of course, the Window Surface Pro 4 comes with up to 256 GB but it is very much the exception, and the jury is still out on whether or not the tablet market can support such a highly-priced offering.
CDs and DVDs are slowly dying, but they’re not dead yet.
If you work in a company, you’ll come across CDs on a near-daily basis, either as you install software, load vendor presentations, or take video imagery to conferences and events. Even from a personal perspective, they can be useful: you can watch DVDs on long trips and burn music for listening to in the car.
Would You Ever Dump Your Laptop?
We’ve only shown you a glimpse into how easy it is to replace your laptop with other devices and services. The truth is, Steve Jobs was probably right: we are moving into a post-PC age. For people who only check Facebook and watch YouTube, there are better options out there.
Even if you need more computing power than a simple tablet, a laptop probably isn’t your best choice — these days, the cost of buying both a desktop and a tablet is not much different from only buying a laptop.
Regardless of which computing device you end up with, be sure to arm yourself with these top travel accessories for it.
Image Credits:laptop computer in the trash by TerryM via Shutterstock
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