Why I Still Want a Desktop Computer

Almost everyone in the tech world agrees that the future is mobile. In fact, I do too.

Being able to work wherever, whenever, untethered by cables is great. To write a blog post in a park or share photos from the beach is one of the most convenient and enjoyable things technology has allowed us to do. People move around a lot these days, and the laptop just makes sense.

Yet, though you might call me crazy, for my main, day-to-day computer, I still want a desktop computer. While admittedly, I wouldn’t only want a desktop, I still don’t want to live without one.

So why would I – someone who doesn’t really play PC games that much or do any heavy graphics or video editing – insist on having a desktop?

 

More Everything!

To sum up my preference for desktops with a gesture to the internet expression “MOAR!” may seem both crass and obvious – but it’s an important point.

It’s true that laptops are now excellent performers. They can be configured with Intel i7 processors and tons of storage and memory. But the simple limitations of size and heat mean that desktop computers will, for the foreseeable future, always be more powerful than their portable equivalents.

Most people assume that extra power is to be used for games or putting together an HD video clip.

But quite to the contrary, desktops just do everything faster: booting up; surfing the web; installing new software; doing updates; everything. If you spend half your life in front of a computer screen, why do it on a lesser machine? Even the slickest Macbook or Thinkpad pales in performance comparisons to a similarly priced desktop. If you want the fastest, you want a desktop. So it’s  a desktop for me.

 

A True Media Center With High-End Components

So, what does all that power for not so much money get you? Well, to my mind, you get a powerful, capable unit that becomes the center of your entertainment life.

Sure, you can watch movies on a laptop. Connect it to speakers and monitor, and it will suffice.

But, my desire for desktops comes from wanting the very best – and getting the best is hard on a laptop. Blu-Ray drives are still a rarity on portables. High-end laptop sound cards exist, but they’re expensive and uncommon. Video cards are inevitably slower, and even cheaper desktop cards fully accelerate HD video.

What’s more, it’s very easy and affordable to simply throw an extra terabyte or two into a desktop. The same goes for RAM or something like TV tuner cards. Desktops make it easier to not only keep current, they offer the best possible experience.

Additionally, there’s also just the sheer physicality of the things. A desktop allows you a semi-permanent spot in your apartment or house for ‘your machine’. Connect it to a booming stereo, or a big-screen TV. Have your microphone, webcam or other accessories permanently attached.

A decked-out desktop becomes a true media and communication ‘center’, rather than that simply being a metaphor.

 

More For Less

Again, as with performance, the time of laptops being drastically more expensive are long over; it’s a question of simple supply and demand. With more people buying them, the cost has gone down.

But desktops obviously remain much better value when performance is the only consideration. A reasonably powerful computer can be put together for $500, and a $1000-$1500 will get you near top-of-the line stuff: Intel i7 processors, fast video cards, 4-6GB RAM and at least 1TB of hard drive space.

That still cannot be said for laptops – at least if you want a fast laptop.

 

A Hybrid Solution

To be clear, I wouldn’t want to give up my laptop. In fact, I’m typing this post on one right now –  while staring at a lake. It’s pretty great.

But when it comes to my main work computer that I use for the bulk of my writing, surfing, and media consumption, I want a big, powerful, slick desktop stuffed with high-end components. Like audiophiles still want CDs instead of MP3s despite their convenience, I want the power and expandability of a desktop for my primary computing experience.

And hey – can you blame me for wanting the very best?

Do you also still want a desktop, even if you you’re not a gamer or designer? Or do you think that the mobile nature of the laptop computer or tablet overcomes the performance advantages of the desktop?

Written by Navneet Alang

Navneet Alang is a technology-culture writer based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter at @navalang
SEE MORE ARTICLES BY "Navneet Alang"

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Comments
  • http://www.TheInformNation.com Eric

    Building a desktop right now :-)

    Haven’t had one in awhile, I miss it. I like having a stationary work station to do just that, work. Although I love being able to do stuff out and about, when I want to focus on work I go to my “office” and sit at my desk in front of my computer. I have wrist pains from typing so I prefer an external keyboard to the laptop and certainly more than one giant monitor to the laptop equivalent.

  • http://blog.argado.com Argado

    I agree ..
    i’m use desktop until now :)

  • http://inspirationoverload.org/ Conor

    I am a designer, but nonetheless, I would still want my desktop. One of the main benefits is the nice big screen. Having got my 24″ iMac just over a year ago, I wouldn’t want to go back at all. It makes everything so much easier.

    • That Guy

      You can hook your laptop up to that monitor…. In fact people do that at work everyday… instead of opening the laptop they just hook it into their monitor.. they don’t even have to open the laptop to set it up…

  • Guilherme

    Desktop was always the best choise. I dislike laptops despite of their mobility.
    When out from home or office, i’m offline. No need to get online this time.
    Can’t even imagine surfing web while staring at a lake, I would never ever do so, no matter what.
    There’s time for online, and time for offline too, and I respect both.

    Now back to the topic.
    Desktop got better upgrades than notebooks, and cheaper ones.
    How would you upgrade a laptop gpu? How much it’ll cost? A hundred bucks as desktop handles that?
    Just upgraded my desktop with a “not that much high-end as i dreamed about” GPU and a terabyte extra storage.

    Oh, and planning to upgrade it to a i7 as soon as possible.

  • http://inspirationfeed.com inspirationfeed

    I honestly cannot stand the iPad! Such a waste of money, kids are starving around the world and people throw down $500 and it doesn’t even have a usb port!!!

    • That Guy

      Pretty sure thats the number one thing people say when they look at a cost they think is over priced. More of a mom thing to say, actually. :P

      • Pitbull_Raven

        I actually agree with @inspirationfeed. I think it’s way overpriced. As is the iPhone 4. Here in Portugal I hear they are going to be asking 1300 euros (around 1500 USD I think) for an unlocked iPhone 4. Now, I understand that it’s a great phone and all but, wow!

    • Ryan

      Meh. I bought my iPad simply to surf the net and read books while laying down in bed, and it does a damn good job at what I bought it for. In fact, I would say it’s unparalleled in doing what I bought it for. It is the best pdf ebook reader on the market (especially once you get Goodreader) and I can walk around with literally hundreds of books at my disposal at any time. I’m currently reading 4 books, there’s no chance I would ever be doing that on my laptop because if you’ve ever tried reading ebooks on your laptop its just akward. The iPad experience is really awesome whenever I want to have lots of comfort but still want to read an article or book. Not to mention some of you people act like $500 is going to put people in the poor house. If someone makes say, $800 a week, then what the hell is $500?

      • Billy

        Considering a lot of homes only bring in 600 a week with two bread winners, it is a lot for the middle class… but that doesn’t stop us from buying hummers and 1080p 50″ tvs… it’s ok though the starving children will make a paycheck burying my old tv :)

  • Moss

    I bought a macbook in 2007 for college. I then bought a 24″ monitor and a docking station for my macbook, with the idea of doubling my laptop as a desktop when I was home. The setup worked good, but not great.

    I agree with the author. There is just no replacement for a desktop. My little laptop performs great for what I’ve put it through, but it can’t keep as cool as a desktop when running multiple intensive programs. You can only upgrade it so much (being three years old, the graphics card is obsolete for newer games). Plugging into my external monitor and using dual-screen, then unplugging my laptop when I need it away from my desktop area is a hassle, and programs don’t always resize on their own. If I need to upload some large files or convert a large file, I have to leave my laptop plugged in and can’t take it with me, defeating the purpose of having a laptop. Overall, it’s best to have two separate computers, one for mobile use, and another stationary one that can handle large workloads more efficiently than a laptop.

  • http://www.onlinedesignuk.co.uk Web Design Derby

    I use my desktop for design & development of websites running all sorts of software, a laptop for mobile presentations and light work on the go (using mobile broadband or hotspots, and my iPhone for mobile communications.

    All 3 devices sync remotely so my world is always in tune with each device.

    A perfect world for me!
    Good post.

  • That Guy

    I use a Mac Book primarily for work and stuff but when it comes to high-end video editing or gaming nothing beats a nice desktop computer. Laptops just don’t have great ventilation for heat, etc..

  • DDayDawg

    I use both. I use my desktop for my sit down and focus work, just as you said, and I have a laptop that I use for meetings or when I’m doing something that I don’t have to be in the office for. It’s hard to program with a small screen and a small keyboard. I do a lot of design work too which is also easier on the desktop. When I’m just checking email or writing documents then the laptop is fine.

    I’ve found that by using Dropbox as my main storage space I can pretty seamlessly move between the two without issue. If I had to drop one it would be the laptop though, gotta have the desktop. But then again, I’m a gamer…

  • Ned

    I totally agree…having a desktop adds a feelng of security in my life…just like having a land-line to go along with my cell phone. While typing on my laptop now, just looking over at my big, fat Dell CPU, sitting boldly on my desk, with one 19″ and one 24″ in-your-face flat screens, gives me the warm fuzzys.

  • angel

    I have a 13″ macbook pro, an iphone 4, an ipad and an imac but I will not for the forseeable future be getting rid of my imac. It is the center of my digital world as corny as that sounds. I don’t think the laptop has the power, capacity and “always on” usage patterns that I need in my desktop right now. It serves up over half the media I use while on the road for business, not to mention what I do at home.

  • sky

    Just went the other way. Bought an i7 laptop to replace the desktop. Really glad I did it. . . haven’t had any drawbacks as of yet. Only thing that will suck is the inability to upgrade.

  • Scott

    You nailed it, one word desktops will always be around: SPEED.

  • Ben

    One major advantage to a desktop to a laptop is it’s a lot easier and cheaper to fix when it breaks. I recently turned my new laptop into a desktop because the screen got messed up and isn’t worth fixing. The bad thing is I was really looking forward to buying a new desktop but now that I don’t have a laptop I having to think about buying one of those instead. The laptop makes a nice desktop but I wanted the power and flexibility of a real desktop the laptop just doesn’t sit neatly on my desk with wires coming out of it from every direction and because the power button is on the inside I can’t set things on top of it.

  • DAnny

    Agree. Multiple monitors, big screed, speed, upgradability, all at an affordable price. I hate sitting crouched over a 12-17 inch anything if I need to do serious work. Most of the things that i would do on the go, post something, check my mail, look something up, etc I can do from my phone. So why would I want to lug a laptop around? I’m finally bag free!!!

  • http://www.marketingeffects.com Gary Ruplinger

    Totally agree that desktops are still necessary. While I enjoy being able to do my writing and correspondence at a coffee shop or at a park if I really want to feel whimsical, the speed and productivity I get while on my desktop can’t be beat.

  • Ashish

    The reason less people are using desktops is because they use fashion to reach conclusions not rationality.

  • Adam Buell

    Ahhhhhh, I was just having this debate with my friends. As far as price and speed go, you cannot beat a desktop, and honestly there is nothing like sitting back in front of a 24″ monitor and a 42″ TV mounted above it, with a supreme sound system. Now that I am out of school, i never used my laptop anyways, I am a real estate agent and i use my iPad when I’m out with clients and can’t wait to get my to my desktop to be able to do everything faster. Sure i have my ultraportable ASUS laptop, but it really just sits on my desk while my monitor casts a huge shadow on it. And truthfully I do not game, at all, but i do listen to music and watch a whole lot of movies.

    LONG LIVE THE DESKTOP.

  • http://HardwareAware.com Phaedrus2129

    Of course I still want a desktop. My semi-casual gaming aside, I like having a big whirring box on my desk, I like being able to tweak and upgrade and improve. I can build a desktop any way I want, to do anything I want it to do. I hate having to do IT for people with laptops, because if their machine is slowing down with age or they want to play games on it there isn’t much I can actually *do*, aside from clean out the viruses and junk programs and throw in an extra gigabyte of RAM or two. With a desktop I can make even a Pentium III era machine useful again with some strategic upgrades.

    Laptops and mobiles are just too limiting, too proprietary. They might suffice for the average person, but for a tinkerer they simply DO NOT work.

  • Andrew

    “Like audiophiles still want CDs instead of MP3s ”

    10 years ago they would want tapes instead of CDs and 10 years before that – vinyl.

  • Howard Brazee

    For a while lots of people chose a laptop computer over a desktop computer because portability is valuable. They were willing to give up capability for portability.

    But now we have net computers and pad computers that expect us to have a powerful desktop computer (the iPad won’t even start until it’s connected to a computer with iTunes).

    The laptop is an overpriced compromise that isn’t necessary anymore. Now we can specialize with one machine that’s more capable than the laptop, and one machine that’s more portable than a laptop.

  • http://www.catharcyst.com billy

    I definitely need my desktop even if I have a netbook. Debian works real nice on my HP desktop. Desktops won’t disappear for awhile.

  • NewFonz

    Laptops as a genre will be dead in 3 years. There will be desktops and mobile devices, period.

  • http://none maTT

    I find it pretty sad that we have to justify why we still use desktop computers. I never thought we’d need to ‘teach’ the general public about why a desktop computer is so much better than a portable device…

  • http://www.amytriplett.com Amy

    I actually have gone into the opposite direction, but more out of need than anything. Working at a desk for too long makes my arms/wrists hurt, and a laptop in my lap goes a long way towards helping relieve that… plus I like to game/surf the web/develop in front of the TV sometimes (weird I know, but usually it’s more for the white noise), and I’ve been wanting to freelance more, so mobility is helpful.

    That said, all of the things about the desktop being better make sense. It’s a tradeoff, that’s for sure.

  • marvin nubwaxer

    DSL at 6Mbps for about $20/month and 1TB storage on your home box so you can download and watch any movie ever made or any TV too. Mobile just costs way too much.

  • http://sitemast.com Michael

    I totally agree. I miss my hoss of a workstation now that I am only using a laptop. It’s a nice little Dell and it’s 14″ screen is augmented by another 25″ LCD when I’m at my desk, but the speed is nothing like a workstation would be.

  • Pah2000

    Yeah, just did some video upgrading to my old desktop. Can’t beat that!

  • Anonymous

    I also have a quad core desktop with a dual core laptop. Doing freelance graphic work feel right and natural with the desktop. Writing blogs and online surfing is just perfect on my laptop. They both cost only $300 to $400 when you wait for discounts. I never turn on my desktop unless I have work to do. 

  • Anonymous

    desktop is cheaper and you can change any of the harddisks freely…
    maybe that’s a the reasion.

  • Anonymous

    I have a beauty desktop.

  • http://brandondardano@yahoo.com sesquipedaliman

    i’ll always use a desktop. and i’ll never buy a laptop, a smartphone, or a tablet. I want my computer usage to be in my home, and my experience in the real world to be, well, real.