You need a new computer, and not sure which way to go: desktop or laptop? While laptops have a lot to offer in terms of portability and flexibility, they are often limited in terms of ports and upgradeability. The desktop offers more customization, giving users the ability to swap parts and choose their own keyboards and other accessories, but the price for all of these extras can be quickly added up. The performance gap between the two is smaller than ever (with some laptops that can even outperform similar desktops), which makes the choice even more difficult.
Choosing the right PC for you is nowhere near the obvious decision it once was, yet it doesn’t have to be a scary decision. In this guide, we’ll outline several basic considerations you’ll need to make before choosing a laptop or desktop computer for your needs.
What design is right for you?
It’s easy to just group everything into two major categories of laptop and desktop, but there’s plenty of variance in both worlds, with plenty of crossover between them. Desktop computers, for example, can come in three main forms: standard tower, compact desktop, and all-in-one computer.
Towers offer the most modularity, thanks to spacious interiors that allow you to add upgrades like faster RAM, more storage, network adapters and more, while compact desktops are space-saving machines that can fit into almost any office and still offer Great performance. The tiny Mac Studio, for example, is one of the most powerful home computers you can buy today.
All-in-one devices like the 24-inch iMac or Dell Inspiron 7790 give users a hassle-free, space-free setup, offering many of the same simplicity benefits as a laptop, often with more ports and always a bigger screen. Of course, all-in-ones also tend to have many of the same downsides to a laptop; Most of them can’t be upgraded once you buy them without making some expensive trips to hardware stores or risky DIY, so you’ll have to make sure you get the right specs the first time or risk owning a fleet of external drives and other peripherals ruining the aesthetic of a pristine workspace Once.
In the world of mobile computing, your choices are limited to traditional laptops – those clamshell designs that include a keyboard and touchpad, with a non-touch screen – and convertibles, which have touchscreens that fold completely so they can function as tablets Windows. You can also get Chromebooks in these two variants, while Apple laptops only come in a traditional laptop form, with no touchscreens.
Then there are tablets that can be used like laptops when paired with certain accessories, more specifically, Windows tablets like the Microsoft Surface and Chromebook tablets like the HP Chromebook x2 11, which have received solid reviews due to their robust build quality and excellent battery life. .
For the sake of brevity, we’re going to say you’ve left out tablets and you’ll just say this: If you love the tablet form factor but need to multitask, we highly recommend a Chromebook tablet or 2-in-1 device like the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Apple has been taking careful steps for kids for years. towards making the iPad a viable alternative to a laptop while keeping it distinct from macOS, but you still have to be very determined to actually use one to multitask with any kind of flow. However, if you’re not yet sure whether you want a tablet or laptop, we’ve got a piece that covers just that, albeit with a limited range for iPads and Chromebooks.
How much space do you have?
Not everyone has a giant desk that can fit a big tower computer under it, and many people need to cram all their office tools onto a very small surface. Every square inch of your desk is precious real estate, and being able to fit a computer into that space can be challenging.
In some ways, a laptop can be great in this situation. With a convenient laptop stand – which holds it vertically – even large gaming laptops can have a narrow footprint that allows you to place more devices on your desk. This is also where systems like the HP Envy All-in-One or the latest 24-inch iMac come in. These devices often combine top-notch displays, powerful built-in PCs, and wireless connectivity that allows you to keep your workspace perfectly tidy and offers ease of set-up and use that only a laptop can match.
If you’re just replacing an old desktop, the beauty of the ever-minimizing technology is that you can get some really powerful PCs in a tidy package. The clearest current example of this is the Mac Studio, which is just under 4 inches high and 7.7 inches square. It is one of the most powerful pre-built PC since whenand you can fit four of them into the space occupied by your Mac Pro 2019.
What is your use case?
When considering a new computer, you will need to consider your own needs. For example, a good laptop is a must for musicians, and thanks to its new custom silicon, Apple’s M1 MacBook Air – one of our top laptop picks – has gone from being an expensive entry-level device to a fully-busy one, perfect for this type of laptop. Record people who have done their own thing for years. The book also benefits from the portability of the laptop. The ability to change your surroundings as you expand your workflow to that new place can free up mental blocks, which is a boon for students, writers, and other creatives. For some uses — browsing the web, watching video, and certain types of creative writing — a MacBook or Windows laptop can be overkill, so again, you might consider a Chromebook, which is often under $200.
But others, such as video or photo editors, may prefer the desktop. The ability to match the screen to your choice of computer components can be essential if you want perfect on-screen color representation or just want a large screen that sees fine details up close. It’s important to note that laptop screens are rarely bright enough, and even the largest among them tend to appear at 17 inches. Editing video and photos requires more power as well, so while you can find laptops that might be capable, you’ll pay a lot more. Additionally, most come with a limited selection of ports, which necessitates additional docks or hubs to expand the device’s functionality.
How much performance do you need?
Certain tasks will always need more power, and while laptops have come a long way in recent years, they simply can’t compete when it comes to GPU performance. Gaming can be one such area, as it requires a powerful GPU that tends to produce a lot of heat – something that laptops can’t distribute well. A good thermal environment is still essential for great graphic performance.
Despite there being quite impressive machines like the best gaming laptop in the Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition, gaming laptops tend to age out of their usefulness relatively quickly, as the tasks they are required to complete become more complex and demanding. For this reason, a traditional desktop computer like the MSI Aegis RS – our current pick for the best gaming PC overall – is better because you can continually update internal components as needed, spread out the cost of an upgrade over time and allow you to use other working parts of the machine for longer, which is More cost effective and less wasteful.
But the need to perform well is not a path that always leads to the desktop. As mentioned earlier, self-recording musicians can get as much benefit from a powerful laptop as can DJs, who often need a consistent and reliable laptop that won’t let them down in the middle of work. And programmers or other technical professionals will need a high-performance laptop – someone looking at an online boot camp should seriously consider a decent laptop. The freedom to work wherever you want can make it easy to focus, and there’s nothing more distracting than a device that gets bogged down easily by too many running programs or an abundance of Stack Overflow tabs open in Chrome.
How about using your laptop as a desktop?
There is, of course, a third way: the laptop as a desktop. If you are trying to get the most value and functionality out of your computer, this is an excellent method. Until recently, this type of setup involved a major compromise, as supporting an external monitor could be difficult, power limitations would leave the laptop feeling less powerful, and as mentioned above, port availability would be an issue. Depending on the manufacturer, some of this is still true, but using a laptop instead of a desktop can generally be nearly indistinguishable from a real McCoy.
Modern laptops are great machines that can handle heavy workloads, and aside from the many gaming laptops or low-end general purpose alternatives, they often have batteries that can last you through the workday, sometimes with plenty of power. Properly configured, these devices can easily turn into desktops when you attach a monitor to them, and for people who have light workloads who also need to be able to do their work with them, like a 14-inch MacBook Pro (or Any M1 laptop, for that matter) is like having two computers in one.
Choosing the right computer form factor for your needs — and powerful enough to do what you ask of it — can be challenging, and for some, it can be easy to overlook the specs you may need. But it’s also easy to overspend on a machine that does more than you need to. Before you commit to a purchase, make sure you are aware of what that purchase can lead to.
If you’re buying a desktop, for example, you may also need to invest in a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. If you’re a playwright, you can easily get a Chromebook — or if you’d rather not put all your work in the cloud, you can use a low-cost Windows machine like the Acer Aspire 5. You can even use an older, second-hand machine — for years, you’ve written on an old, cheap desktop. From HP I picked it up at a desk auction before finally upgrading to an iMac.
Regardless of your decision, having a clear idea of your needs can lead to your needs being met for years to come with the right device. And when you need insights about which device to choose, guides like our best gaming desktop, best MacBook or best Windows laptop parts, as well as in-store test drives and the numerous YouTube videos available for most PCs, should help you. To narrow down your choices.