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Laptop vs. Desktop

With the prices of laptop computers dropping so much lately, many home users have purchased them to replace their aging desktop systems. Most see owning a laptop as better or more convenient than owning a typical desktop computer, but I think you should really look at the details before you decide to make the switch.

First let's look at the pro(s). All the good reasons to buy a laptop. The mobility is awesome. You can use it in the car, at work, take it home, to school, etc. With wireless networking in your home, you can use it in the study, in the den, even in the backyard by the pool. Sadly, that seems to be about where the advantages end.

Now for the long list of cons. All the reasons to stick with the trusty old desktop.
First of all the price. An entry level laptop runs about $800 unless you find a sale, rebates, etc. For this you typically get an AMD Sempron 2800 processor, 256MB RAM, 40GB hard drive, wireless network adapter and CD burner. You can get a slightly faster desktop with an 80GB hard drive for about $550. Bear in mind also that the desktop hard drive spins at 7200RPM and the laptop hard drive at 5400RPM. Many are still 4200RPM. You will also have to add a wireless adapter to that desktop if you need it.

Upgradable! Yes, you can add memory and put a larger hard drive into a laptop but that is where it ends. With a desktop you can also add a fancy video card so the kids can play the latest games with mind blowing graphics. You can add USB ports, you can put in a better sound card. If your desktop is obsolete, you can replace the motherboard, processor and memory for a couple hundred bucks and have a state of the art computer again. With a laptop, you are stuck with the hardware it came with. Nothing new fits.

Cost of repair. This is the big one. Your house take a power surge. It burns the motherboard in your desktop and your laptop. You take both to the shop. The shop replaces the desktop's $70 motherboard with one they can buy at Fry's, CompUSA or one of a dozen hardware wholesalers in town. You get the computer back the next day. For the laptop, they order the proprietary motherboard from a place in Florida that has them for the low, low price of $450. And by the time you wait on shipping, you have your laptop back in five or six days. Here are a few other hardware comparisons. 80GB hard drive. For the desktop - $90. For the laptop - $180. CD Burner. For the desktop - $45. For the laptop - $150. Every replaceable part costs more for a laptop than a desktop.

I am not saying not to buy them. In fact, I own a DELL Inspiron 1150 that I use when I travel. It's great in the car. I even use it as a GPS system. What I am saying is not to think "oh.. it's only a couple hundred dollars more for a laptop". Bear in mind that any computer will eventually need repair and those repairs will typically cost more on a laptop. So, don't buy one just because it's cool.

As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

Posted by Charles Swihart on 8/1/2005

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