T Nation

Laptop Vs. Desktop and Help Choosing

Well, it’s been 5 years with my Copaq Presario computer (I know this because we got just after we got married), and I think it’s finally time to upgrade (the computer, not the wife).

We’d like to get another laptop (I have one I got from work) and I feel like I’m missing something as to why anyone would go with a desktop now (besides the screen size).

I also don’t want to waste money on features I’m not going to use, and I have a 160 Gig external hard drive, so the computer’s hard drive space doesn’t have to be large.

Are laptops generally slower? I know they’re more expensive to get fixed.

Maybe getting a desktop with a flat screen would be an option, since we don’t like the bulkiness of the desktop monitors.

We DON’T use it for any large games. Just Internet and playing videos and music, and for word processing software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.

We want FAST performance online, and when running a couple different programs at once (which our current computer sucks at).

Any ideas/suggestions?

Whatever you get, think RAM. RAM size and speed is huge when it comes to running multiple programs. If I was in the market now, I wouldn’t get anything that had under 1 gig. And if there’s a computer with two RAM options of the same size, get the one with the higher RPM. It’ll be quicker.

Desktops are cool if you like upgrading over time, but if you don’t mess with that stuff too much, go ahead and stick with the laptop.

I have a DELL desktop XPS 400. It was about $1200. The main reason for me to buy a desktop (other than it’s way cheaper and I get a “free” laptop from work) is power. Mine has a dual-core 3.2 gig. processor this works like two(2) processors and one (1) memory.I also have a 256 meg. video card. This makes for great video and I use my digital cameras with it. I don’t play games either.

Oh yeah, the 19" Flat scrren was “free”. A comparable laptop would be about $1800 to $3500. Laptops have gotten alot more powerful but are still way expensive.

A laptop should be able to handle anything you desire. Dell’s are going to be the most bang for your buck. Apple’s are going to be the simplest (and actually very cool from a techie standpoint, but that’s another story). A 15.4" widescreen should be the biggest you get if you want to take it around.

Mine is 17", and it’s enormous. Great for use as a portable desktop, but I won’t take it to a cafe and do work.

The number one issue with laptops is dead hard drives. I fix computers at my school, and it happens all the time. Mine has died twice in 2 1/2 years. Then again, I got a really fast processor that runs really hot, so it’s to be expected. I wouldn’t get one this big again. And there are faster processors now that run cooler too.

Laptop all the way & a wireless router for your home. I have two laptops, one little one for the wife & one huge Voodoo I use as my office computer in my truck. The can be just as fast as a large home computer if you get the right pieces in it.

If you can find a custom builder, they are not a lot more than an off the shelf computer & you can get all the parts that you want inside. I have had brutal luck with off the shelf computers myself, my last 3 have been custom & have had no trouble since I switched. Just my experience though.

I guess I wasn’t thinking about the extra cost of a laptop, for the same speed/performance as a desktop.

So far this is what I built on Dell.com starting from the cheapest Dimension cusomisable computer.

I coppied and pasted the info below:

Dell Dimension E520 Qty 1
Pentium? D Processor 805 with Dual Core Technology (2.66GHz, 533FSB), Genuine Windows? XP Home Edition Unit Price $984.00
space Dell Home Customers: Save 16% off on this Dell Dimension E520!
Limited Time Offer!
- $164.33
space
Catalog Number: 29 DDCWAA2
Module Description Show Details
Dimension E520 Pentium? D Processor 805 with Dual Core Technology (2.66GHz, 533FSB)

Operating System Genuine Windows? XP Home Edition

Memory 2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz- 4DIMMs

Keyboard and Mouse Bundles Dell USB Keyboard and Dell 2-button Scroll Mouse

Monitor 19 inch E197FP Analog Flat Panel

Video Cards 256MB nVidia Geforce 7300LE TurboCache

Hard Drives 80GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache?

Floppy Drive and Media Reader No Floppy Drive Included

Mouse Mouse included in Wireless, Laser or Bluetooth Package

Network Interface Integrated 10/100 Ethernet

Modem No Modem Option

Adobe Software Adobe? Acrobat? Reader 7.0

CD or DVD Drive 48X CD-RW/ DVD Combo Drive

Sound Cards Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio

Speakers No speakers (Speakers are required to hear audio from your system)

Office Productivity Software (Pre-Installed) No productivity suite- Includes Microsoft Works 8. DOES NOT INCLUDE MS WORD

Anti-Virus/Security Suite No

Security Subscription
Warranty and Service 1Yr Ltd Warranty and At-Home Service

Optional Ports IEEE 1394 Adapter

Future Operating Systems Windows Vista? Capable

Upgrade to Windows Vista No

If you don’t need portability, buy a desktop. You’ll get more performance for the money.

Get Microsoft Office (Word,Powerpoint,Excel), either when building the computer or after you get it. It’s a complete pain in the ass when people send you word or excel files and you can’t open them.

I would suggest if you forget the keyboard and mouse and go buy that because most computer companies don’t send you the best accessories in the world. Especially Dell.

At least forget the mouse, and go buy a good one from staples or office depot.

Techie here and longtime user of both desktops and laptops.

My personal bias:

Laptops cost too much more. They cost more to repair. It’s harder to do simple repair tasks. Displays dim over time, people don’t typically replace just the screen on a laptop, you just deal with it. The keyboards are too damn small. (I know u can connect a full size keyboard but that’s no fun). Replacing the dang batteries is no fun either (usually $150+). I could go on here.

Desktops are cheaper to obtain and cheaper to maintain. A desktop is modular, allowing one component to be replaced for upgrading or repair purposes. Don’t like your monitor? replacing it is easy. Want a faster video adapter or an adapter that receives a TV signal, again replace it when you’re ready, it’s a snap.

Need to add a drive? Parts tend to be more standard/interchangeable unlike proprietary laptop components. The list goes on…

If you really need to compute on the go then of course get a laptop, but only if you really need to. Desktops can also be setup for wireless network connectivity if traditional wiring is not feasible within your house.

I think lots of people lean towards laptops because of the “oo ah, fancy schmancy” factor (techie jargon here) when all they need is a word processor and web browser.

Wait for Vista. Its coming in a few months.

When it does, Dell is going to have to upgrade the desktop line since the thing is a beast to run.

Change that RAM. You want 1GB to 2GB but you don’t want 4DIMMs, you want 2DIMMs. The reason for this is that if you have 4DIMMs your RAM will only run in Single Channel mode (slower) and with 2DIMMs it will run in dual channel mode (much faster).

Also, even though it may be a bit more expensive, definitely go with the Core 2 Duo or AMD over the Pentium D (C2D is the first choice).

Reason being is that’s the order of fastest to slowest processor chipsets.

[quote]brucevangeorge wrote:
Wait for Vista. Its coming in a few months.

When it does, Dell is going to have to upgrade the desktop line since the thing is a beast to run.[/quote]

XP and Media Center are going to be avilable for a long time to come), so don’t expect computer manufacturers to beef up their computers just to meet Vista’s specs.

They’re still going to have cheaper systems geared toward MC and XP.

[quote]SWR-1240 wrote:
Well, it’s been 5 years with my Copaq Presario

We DON’T use it for any large games. Just Internet and playing videos and music, and for word processing software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.

Any ideas/suggestions?[/quote]

I second the Mac option in a laptop form for a couple reasons.

1 - You are the kind of guy that keeps a computer for 5 years as opposed to a more typical 2 or 3. The laptops typically hold up a little better physically, and they go obsolete a little more slowly.

For an example of the durability thing, try squeezing the plastic housing on a dell or compaq laptop, then try squeezing on a powerbook. The macs are built like a brick shithouse.

2 - You seem like you might be the kind of guy that treats the computer as an appliance rather than somebody who is really into computers. (Based on the fact you’re asking this question on T-Nation.)

Making the “Switch” and convincing other friends and family to do so has let me go from being the guy who knows about and fixes computers to being a guy who uses computers to get things done.

Whatever your choice, laptop with wireless is the way to go for so many reasons. You can look something up on the web from the couch one day, and then another day when you need to do work you can take it into the home office. If you’re traveling, you can bring it with you for a ready source of entertainment.

This is based on my home and school computing. I know I sound like a smug little mac twit, but my powerbook really has changed my expectations of what a personal computer should be. I do also use/maintain/program Windows and Linux machines at work on a daily basis.

Windows PCs are much closer to this ideal than they were a few years ago, but my old reliable powerbook just works. This difference is worth the minimal learning curve and the extra few hundred bucks.

[quote]SWR-1240 wrote:
Well, it’s been 5 years with my Copaq Presario computer (I know this because we got just after we got married), and I think it’s finally time to upgrade (the computer, not the wife).

We’d like to get another laptop (I have one I got from work) and I feel like I’m missing something as to why anyone would go with a desktop now (besides the screen size).

I also don’t want to waste money on features I’m not going to use, and I have a 160 Gig external hard drive, so the computer’s hard drive space doesn’t have to be large.

Are laptops generally slower? I know they’re more expensive to get fixed.

Maybe getting a desktop with a flat screen would be an option, since we don’t like the bulkiness of the desktop monitors.

We DON’T use it for any large games. Just Internet and playing videos and music, and for word processing software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.

We want FAST performance online, and when running a couple different programs at once (which our current computer sucks at).

Any ideas/suggestions?[/quote]

A laptop seems the way to go for your needs. Actually, laptops are fairly solid for most people’s needs these days. I haven’t owned a desktop in quite a while.

As far as brands go, I like IBM/Lenovo and Apple. Just do your online research and read lots of customer reviews.

I don’t know where in New York you live, but check out the malls and see if you can find a DELL kiosk (center of aisle store) in one of the malls. If you decide on a DELL these guys can give you a discount to close the deal.

Also, but on DELL’s time payment plan (even if you pay off right on the first payment) you get an extra 10% to 15% for using their finance plan.

No I don’t work for DELL.

Thanks for all the replies. I don’t think I’ll be going with Vista right when it comes out. Microsoft seems to like to come out with new operating systems that take up a shit-load more space, and do very little more than the previous. I still wish I stuck with Windows 98 instead of XP.

Thanks for the suggestion about the mouse and keyboard. I was thinking about buying my own, but I don’t remember if it was an option on Dell’s website to eliminate them all together (I’ll double check though).

Thanks RoadWarrior, I’ll try going to a kiosk (I just learned a new word) when I’m ready to buy it.

I didn’t know about the 4DIMMs being slower than the 2 DIMMs. I just assumed 4 is a bigger number, so it must be faster. :slight_smile:

I’ll probably go with a desktop due to the cost. I don’t really need the added durability of anything else, plus I already have one laptop that’s for work, but I can use if for anything else too.

I need to get a new computer eventually (my iBook is from 2001). I am no longer a college student, and I teach two computer classes in high school. Desktops cost less, are easier to upgrade, and are more powerful. I would only consider a laptop if you are on the move a lot and want to be able to keep your computer close to you (such as going on vacation and such).

Two things kill laptops’ attractiveness: you can’t replace the screen without replacing the entire computer and you can’t upgrade to a faster processor. Oh, it stinks when your rechargable battery doesn’t charge anymore.

Look into a new Macbook with Intel Processor Core Due 2. For $1299 you get 2Ghz latest Intel Core Duo 2, 80G HD, 1GB Ram and lots of other small great things Macbooks come with (built-in camera, good battery life, magnetic power-cord, etc)

You can run both Mac OS and Windows on it so it’s very flexible. And it never crashes. I think laptops are great now especially if you live in the area with a lot of wireless coverage such as SF.

[quote]BFBullpup wrote:
Two things kill laptops’ attractiveness: you can’t replace the screen without replacing the entire computer …[/quote]

Not true. A company can replace the display without you getting an entirely new computer. If your computer manufacturer says they can’t, go with a different brand.

It is the case, however, that while the display is getting fixed/replaced, you are without your computer.