Laptop vs. Desktop: Pros, Cons, and Which Should You Get?
Worldwide sales of laptops have eclipsed desktops for more than a decade. In 2019, desktop sales totaled 88.4 million units compared to 166 million laptops. That gap is expected to grow to 79 million versus 171 million by 2023.
But just because sales are declining, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy a desktop. There are times where it might be the ideal solution. If you’re trying to decide which you should get, keep reading. We’re going to investigate some of the pros and cons of laptops vs. desktops.
Laptop Advantages and Disadvantages
What are the pros and cons of choosing a laptop vs. a PC?
If you frequently need to take your computer out of the house, then owning a laptop is clearly a no-brainer. We’ve rounded up some of the best lightweight laptops if portability is essential to you. One of our favorites is the Acer Swift 5.
But many people only buy a laptop due to its smaller size. They either leave it sitting on a desk 24/7 or they move it to different locations around their home for idle browsing.
If you fall into that category, do you really need a laptop? You might be better served with a desktop computer and a high-quality Windows tablet for use on the sofa.
2. Fixed Peripherals
Fixed peripherals are one of the most significant drawbacks of laptops. It’s the big trade-off that you make in exchange for portability. When you buy a laptop, you’re stuck with the same screen, keyboard, trackpad, ports, speakers, etc. for the duration of its life. Sure, you can use laptop travel accessories , but they’re often bulky; you’re compromising portability.
Again, it might be cheaper and wiser to buy a desktop machine instead. You can then add any extra peripherals or hardware as the underlying technology improves.
For some inspiration about peripherals worth purchasing, check out our buying guides:
- A look at the best iMac accessories from the last 12 months.
- The essential list of PC gaming accessories for all budgets.
- Some of the weirdest gaming accessories you can buy today.
3. Discrete Graphics
Discrete graphics is the term used to describe a separate graphics subsystem in a computer. It could either be a standalone graphics card in a motherboard slot or an entirely separate GPU. Very few laptops offer discrete graphics. Instead, they use integrated graphics. Integrated graphics are on the same chip as the CPU and share its memory.
The presence of discrete graphics on laptops only matters if you’re a gamer. The extra cost and weight mean the feature isn’t necessarily desirable for most users. If you’d like to add discrete graphics to your set up, make sure you read our roundup of the graphics cards for all budgets before you hit the shops.
4. Limited Upgrade Options
Most laptops don’t have many components that you can upgrade, other than the RAM and the hard drive. If you want to improve other parts of your hardware, you will probably be out of luck. There’s simply not the space inside a laptop chassis for you to add any extra components you desire.
Of course, many desktop users do not upgrade their computers, so how much importance you give to this point is a personal matter. If you’re a tinkerer and you want to start upgrading your computer, we’ve written several buying guides to help. Check out the most reliable hard drives , best RAM, best CPUs, and best ultrawide monitors if you’d like to learn more.
Another point to consider in the laptop vs desktop battle is power usage.
Laptops use much less power than their desktop counterparts; their smaller parts mean less electricity is needed to make them work. If you’re an environmentally-conscious type of shopper, that difference might be important to you. The financial savings will also be welcome for most people.
Of course, laptops do have a battery. They can save you from losing work during unexpected power fluctuations and outages. Nonetheless, if you’re planning to be on the road for a long time, you need a durable and long-lasting laptop power bank .
Laptops are undoubtedly easier to steal than desktops. Coffee shops, trains, car seats, and even sheer forgetfulness on behalf of the owner are all ongoing threats to your device’s physical security.
Luckily, there’s an entire market of anti-theft laptop bags out there. Some of their fancier features include combination locks, anti-snatch fabric, and hidden compartments.
Pros and Cons of Desktop PCs
And now, what are the pros and cons of buying a desktop over a laptop?
1. Higher Specs
We are doing some testing in house with a high-end $2,399 laptop vs a 1,600 Desktop.
So what our goal is to sale Laptops at the same price for performance ratio as a desktop and including of course the display and keyboard into that.
Laptop- 85.5FPS avg
Desktop- 97.0FPS avg pic.twitter.com/UfIqiYkiEk
— PowerGPU (@PowerGPUcom) June 6, 2019
Desktop machines are available at much higher specs than even the best laptop on the market. The greater availability of internal space, coupled with the potential for a higher power draw, means top-spec machines can run better components at a cooler temperature.
If you’re work or hobbies require you to have the best of the best, a desktop computer is the way to go.
2. Lack of Reviews
When you’re about to drop a serious amount of cash on a product, you probably want to do a couple of hours of research beforehand to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want.
Many desktop computers don’t have reviews. We’re not talking about all-in-one computers from Dell or HP—we mean a rig that your local PC hardware shop has put together and is selling in the local paper. The lack of insight can be off-putting to non-experts.
3. Harder to Buy
The lack of reviews for desktop rigs also means they can be harder to buy than a laptop.
For example, if you’re buying a custom rig from a local shop, you need to trust that store implicitly. Have they tested the machine in the way they claim? Do the internal components match what the store says? Are you getting value for money? The entire process is much more personal.
You can mitigate some of these issues by buying from a chain like Best Buy, but you will end up paying a significant big-box markup.
And that leads on to our next point: cost.
All else being equal, desktop computers are significantly cheaper than laptops. You will get a lot more bang for your buck. For a few hundred dollars, you can find a desktop computer that significantly eclipses what you’d be able to pick up for the same price in the laptop sector.
To prove our point, have at look at our picks for the best desktop computers for students, the best desktops for businesses, and the best Linux desktops and compare them to laptops and an equivalent price point.
When you picture a desktop, you probably think of ugly towers, giant monitors, and endless wires. It doesn’t have to be like that. If you want something that looks as good as it functions, the all-in-one machines from the leading manufacturers might be the way to go. They look like a slightly bulked out monitor. And with the exception of the power lead, there’s not a cable in sight. One of the best all-in-ones in 2020 is the HP Pavilion 24.
Once again, however, you’ll likely pay a premium for the benefits of an all-in-one. And remember, a lack of space means all-in-one PCs are not necessarily the right pick for anyone who might want to upgrade their machine’s internal components over the coming years.
6. You Can Build Your Own Desktop
If you want complete control over your computer’s components, you can build your own desktop computer.
Don’t be fooled by the word “build.” If you’re not confident, you don’t actually need to put everything together yourself. If you work with a local computer shop, you can do all the research and buying online, then pass it off to the store to do the actual construction.
There are some cons of building your own computer. It’s going to take hours and hours of research, costs can quickly spiral if you don’t keep an eye on how much you’re spending, and you ultimately shoulder the responsibility for its success or failure.
Laptop vs. Desktop: Which Is Better for You?
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some insight about which strategy is right for you. Just remember that there is no single correct answer; much depends on what’s important to you and how you plan to use your computer.
If you’d like to learn more, make sure you check out our article on laptop docking stations to turn your laptop into a desktop and our list of reasons why you might not need a desktop .
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