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Settling the Epic Debate: Laptop vs Desktop PC

Settling the Epic Debate: Laptop vs Desktop PC

Tulie Finley-Moise
Reading time: 7 minutes
The options are truly endless when it comes to selecting the perfect computer, and with the constant updating, upgrading, and innovating the digital age delivers to consumers on a regular basis, selecting the smartest tech can be overwhelming.
However, since becoming household items, computers have taken many forms. We carry them in our pockets and we dock them on our kitchen counters for voice command functionality. New age tech portability has put a flame under the age-old debate of whether desktop computers or laptops are the better computing option.
Although laptops have taken the market by storm, modern desktop computers offer a number of exclusive perks that leaves the debate wide open.
Whether you’re deciding on the best computer for your lifestyle or simply want to weigh your personal computing options, we’ll help settle this epic debate.

What are the core differences between laptops and desktops?

Laptop computers

2008 marked the first year that laptop sales surpassed desktop sales, and since then, the popularity of portable devices has surged. The easiest distinction between laptops and desktops is their portability.
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Laptops generally come in lightweight frames that encase screen sizes under 17-inches with full-size keyboards.
The simple clamshell design allows for easy opening, closing, and toting. Laptops feature internal battery sources that give users the ability to continue using their PC away from a power outlet.

Desktop computers

On the other hand, desktop computers generally stay wherever they are set up. The processing power capacity makes up for the lack of portability.
With more dedicated space for more impressive and high-powered hardware, desktop computers generally outperform laptops.
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Modern all-in-one desktop computers even forgo the typical tower and monitor setup and condense everything into a compact design with a mighty 4K display.

What are the pros and cons of a laptop computer?

The most obvious benefit to a laptop computer is the ability to bring it with you wherever and whenever you want. This means you can keep productivity high without a power outlet in sight. There are, however, many other pros and cons that matter in this debate.

Pro: Ease of assembly

Modern laptops take little to no experience at all when it comes to setup. Unlike desktop computers, laptops don’t require any wiring outside of a charging cable to function properly. There’s no wasted time on trying to connect a monitor to a tower or wirelessly connect a Bluetooth keyboard.
Once booted up, most operating systems walk users through the many steps toward a complete setup. The only heavy lifting included in laptop assembly is careful removal from the box, opening the chassis, and pressing the power button.

Con: Limited performance

Most laptops capitalize on supreme portability which pushes manufacturers into the battle of who can make the thinnest laptop. With most computers measuring under one inch tall, the limited space leaves limited room for heavy-duty hardware enhancers.
Limited hardware means limited performance. Though many upscale laptops do have the capability of performing as fast as their bigger sibling, the top-end performance for desktops proves faster, more effective, and powerful.

Pro: Portability

It’s no secret that PC users tend to lean toward laptops instead of desktops because of their portability. Lightweight computing is perfect for those who need to take their computing to go. In an age where constant connection and communication is of the essence, laptops easily take gold in this arena.

Con: Upgrading

The list of items that are upgradable in a laptop versus in a desktop is extraordinarily different. Since laptops only have so much space for internal fixtures, diving under the keyboard may sometimes prove fruitless. Computer manufacturers design laptops for specific industries, uses, and people.
So those in the market for a laptop that can provide impressive graphics tend to look for PCs that come with the built-in features they desire. Typically features beyond memory and hard drive aren’t upgradable in a laptop, so doing research on the features you need is imperative before purchasing.

Pro: Flexibility

Laptops come in many flexible forms that continue to change the way we think of portable computing. From detachable touch screens to 360-degree flip and fold designs, laptops have come a long way from their classic clamshell construction.

Con: Battery life

Although laptops do have the advantage of portability, the internal battery life can be a toss-up depending on which laptop you have. Some offer up to 13 hours of non-plug-in play, while others can only last four hours away from a charger.
While long-lasting battery lives are definitely a pro, poor or unreliable battery lives can aggressively limit your workflow.

What are the pros and cons of a desktop computer?

While desktop computers have declined in overall popularity, top computer manufacturers continue to produce them year after year. There is a reason why libraries are stocked with rows of desktop PCs and offices equip every cubicle with one.
There is also a reason why the average person no longer owns a desktop computer. These heavy-duty PCs come with their fair share of pros and cons.

Pro: Upgradable

Tower PCs come with the advantage of easy access into the internal hardware. This also directly translates into how uncomplicated upgrading can be.
Unlike a laptop that constricts your spec freedom to the built-in features, you can modify a desktop PC’s RAM, storage, graphics chip, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and more. With all of this made possible, replacing damaged desktop parts proves far easier than a compromising laptop screen crack or keyboard spill.

Con: Moveability

It’s a simple matter of fact that desktop computers are heavier than laptops. With the many joined parts that make it whole, desktop PCs are next to impossible to move around easily. Once set up, desktops stay where they are stationed.

Pro: High-performance

Processor chip and other component manufacturers are always coming up with faster tech to power the devices of the future. It’s these same companies that make their latest inventions first available for desktop PCs.
Computer towers, all-in-ones, and workstations are capable of packing in more hardware due to their increased size. With more hardware comes stronger and more reliably efficient performance that comes through every time you power on.

Con: Space

Due to the general immovability of desktop computers, they are usually stored on a desk or countertop in productivity focused spaces. While laptops can be closed and stowed away like a book, desktop setups function as a piece of furniture wherever you set it up.

Pro: Cost

Desktop computers require far more equipment than a laptop, which would lead many to believe that desktops are more expensive. Although it is easier to find a laptop under $200 than it is with a desktop combo, you will always get more bang for your buck with a desktop.

Con: Access to power

In the case that a power outage strikes, your local electricity-dependent desktop computer will also go out of commission. While power could be a pro due to sustained reliability, if your power fails, your PC fails too.

Settling the debate

Everyone has different needs and expectations of their computer, which makes settling the debate of laptop vs desktop particularly open-ended. However, there is no denying that certain lifestyles require a certain level of computing that a laptop or desktop would be best suited for.
If you’re struggling to select the best computer for your active lifestyle, we’ve selected the winners for your workflow, style, and convenience.

Laptop versus desktop for students

Winner: Laptop
The last thing a college student needs is another space hog in their tiny shared dorm room. Not only do laptops provide the crucial portability a student needs for toting to and from class, their lightweight builds make cross-campus treks possible.
Typically students are kept busy with document creation and reading, so elite-level processing power is not at all necessary to get their tasks done efficiently.
And integrated ports give students the option of attaching an external monitor and keyboard if they seek that full desktop feel.

Laptop vs desktop for everyday use

Winner: Laptop
Casual PC users who use their computers for simple web surfing, streaming, or work assignments will find that a laptop will get the job done.
On top of being able to bring it along for vacations or long commutes, an everyday-use laptop is easily stowed away after use. Instead of being a feature of its own in your home, a laptop can blend in nicely on a coffee table or bookshelf.

Laptop vs desktop for gaming

Winner: Desktop
A gaming rig is another genre of computing that requires overclocked speeds and supreme processing power.
Desktop gaming rigs allow gamers to utilize larger monitor displays than laptops can offer. When it comes to RAM, storage, graphics, and CPU, a gaming desktop easily outperforms a gaming laptop.

Laptop vs desktop for work

Winner: Tie
Maybe you’re a travel blogger, or maybe you’re a telecommuting coder. Whatever your career calls for, unique computing demands will be required. A travel blogger is far better suited with a lightweight laptop while a telecommuting coder may find productivity stays at a high when stationed at a desktop setup.
Depending on your career and personal preference, the many pros and cons of laptops and desktops will have a lot of influence on where you settle your debate.

About the Author

Tulie Finley-Moise is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tulie is a digital content creation specialist based in San Diego, California with a passion for the latest tech and digital media news.

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