Buying a New Computer: Desktop or Laptop?

At some point in almost everyone’s life, you are going to get a new computer, whether it will be your first or a replacement one for your currently aging PC that just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Statistics show that your next computer will most likely be a laptop/notebook/netbook (or mobile) PC. In fact, it was just a few years ago, in 2008, that desktop and laptop sales were about even. Since then, desktop sales have lagged behind. The emergence of wireless connectivity has played a large part in the surge of laptop sales particularly amongst the ‘home’ PC user. No longer is the home user tied to a desk to use their PC. Now, they can roam throughout their house (and even outside it), staying connected all the time.

Laptops have their limitations though. Particularly for power users and gamers who like to have the latest and most powerful graphics cards and lots of RAM. The typical laptop is not (or cannot be) easily upgraded. Adding more RAM is not a big problem, but any other hardware changes are out of the question for the most part.

On the other hand, a desktop PC can be upgraded quite easily by simply removing the side cover of the case and swapping cards in and out, adding a larger hard drive, a faster processor, even a new motherboard. So, it is easy to keep up with hardware advances with a desktop, and this saves money since you don’t have to buy a whole new PC in order to get a faster graphics card, for instance.

You can even order a so-called ‘barebones’ PC, which usually includes a case with a motherboard and processor. Then, you can either use your existing graphics card, RAM and/or hard drive in the new case (you will have to reinstall your Operating System in order for it to run properly on the new hardware) or you can order new parts separately, depending on your needs. For instance, if you use your PC for email and surfing the Internet, then chances are an onboard (on the motherboard as opposed to a separate card) graphics card is sufficient. This can save some money, but system performance may be compromised somewhat. Again, it depends on your needs.

If you are quite set on getting a laptop, and it will be your first one, consider some points:

  • Screen size. With a few exceptions, the largest screen size for a laptop is 17”. Most computer monitors these days are 19” or larger.
  • Weight. If you are a traveller, then weight will need to be considered, especially if you travel a fair amount.
  • Get the most for your money. Since it is almost impossible to upgrade a laptop, you need to load it up initially with the largest hard drive, fastest graphics card and the most RAM you can afford. This will ‘future-proof’ your purchase for a few years.
  • How you will use it. Will this laptop be a desktop replacement, or just for surfing the Internet when outdoors or away from home? If the latter, then a netbook may suffice to fill your needs, saving you money.
  • Take a test drive. Some laptops look great, but in order to see how they feel, go to the local Staples or big box store and check out the fit and finish of various brands, particularly the keyboard. You don’t want to buy a laptop and mot like the feel of the keys or the glossy look of the display.

Now, where will you buy your next PC? Some great deals can be had online and many purchase directly from companies like DELL. Others like to purchase from a local store, whether it is a big box store or a ‘mom & pop’ operation so if they have problems, they can take it back for service without having to box it up and mail it off.

Hopefully this article has helped you to make an informed decision for your next PC purchase. If you have any other tips or experiences (good or bad) please comment below.