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Desktop or Laptop PC

Jun 25, 2008
For many people, this is one question that gets asked pretty often. "Should I get a desktop or laptop?" It really depends on what you will be using the computer for and unfortunately, most uses may require the power of a desktop pc. I will list some of the more common uses of a pc and discuss the specs needed.

Office Productivity:
This type of use is just basic office applications like Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. This is also for checking email and going online. There are no real heavy requirements for this type of computer use. Any new desktop or laptop will be able to handle this just fine.

Multimedia Applications:
For watching movies or listenting to music, laptops are adequate. The only times that it will not be adequate is if you want better components like a much larger and better screen resolution and better sound quality. If you want high resolution viewing, you can connect a laptop to another separate monitor but then you might not be able to go with a higher resolution because of your graphics hardware on the laptop. Also, your sound options are very limited with laptops. All laptops use onboard cards that are adequate for most uses but for the highest sound quality, you will not have it and your external component options are very limited. For desktops, you have a wide range of choices for internal PCI slot upgrades. To sum it up, for high resolution and high definition audio, you may have to go with desktops.

PC Games:
First of all, I'm not talking about games like Solitaire or any other simple game. I'm talking about real PC Games like Crysis, Counterstrike, Sins of a Solar Empire, etc. This is where you start to have real hardware requirements. Most of it will depend on the graphics hardware. In the past, desktops were the only way to play the newest games because the laptops didn't have the discrete video cards like those you can purchase for desktops. Basically, onboard graphics cards just do not cut it for pc games. However, things have changed where you can now purchase laptops with discrete and more powerful video cards like the nVidia cards 8800GT and 8800GTX. Even some of the higher end laptops have SLI configurations where you basically have 2 video cards linked together for more processing power.

Even though the better laptops do have the necessary hardware for gaming, there are still some conditions you will have to live with. When playing games on the laptop, you do not want to be on battery power. Under normal use, your laptop may run for a couple of hours. While gaming and on battery power, your laptop may only last 30 minutes at most because you are using more power for the video cards.

For gaming computers, desktops are still the preferred way. First, you have more hardware choices needed for gaming and better cooling options. Gaming laptops may have some overheating issues because those powerful discrete video cards can produce quite a bit of heat. But, if you do travel and want to play games, you do have this option.

Multimedia Encoding and Rendering:
If you want to do any kind of video or audio production and encoding, you better go with desktops. First of all, you will need lots of hard drive space and most laptops do not have choices for very large drives. You will also need a very good quad core processor and a powerful discrete video card will help too.

One last thing to mention is that the equivalent hardware from a desktop to a laptop will cost you at least 50% more so unless you really need to do some of this stuff on the go, I would suggest going with a desktop.
About the Author
George Yang is a Product Engineer at a computer company that deals with custom configurations for desktops and laptops. More information can be found at Gamers Notebooks & Laptops
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