Laptop vs. Desktop: Your Best Choices

Choosing between a laptop or desktop used to require tradeoffs, but with new advances, it’s about meeting your specific needs.

Ready to decide? Use this checklist:

  • Determine which applications and features you routinely use. Are any of them highly specialized in terms of graphics, computation, or input devices?

  • Think about how often you will need to move the computer or carry it around.

  • Test what screen sizes and keyboards feel comfortable for you.

  • Consider whether your future needs might require upgrades and additions to the computer.



In days past, choosing the best computer technology was often an exercise of frustrating tradeoffs—would you rather have more battery life or lower cost, a larger screen, or greater portability? Today, choosing between laptop vs. desktop has shifted from settling for less to maximizing your choices: With continual improvement in technology, and more options than ever, you can choose the perfect computer that fits your individual needs.

Laptop vs. Desktop:  The Basic (But No Longer Set In Stone) Division
Back in 2008, laptop sales passed desktops for the first time, and portable devices have entrenched themselves even further as their power increased and prices dropped. Desktops have by no means disappeared, though. Like everything else in computing, the right choice depends on how you're going to use the device. The general division between the two classes of computers goes like this:

  • Laptops suit an on-the-go world. They can be unplugged from an external power source, and taken with you. Typically, they take up less space and don't require you to purchase a separate monitor.
  • Desktops have plenty of positives on their side, as well. Typically, desktops offer more power and expandability at a lower cost. They're also easier to upgrade, repair, and customize, which is why they often remain the choice for serious gamers. They also tend to come with better speakers, more peripheral options, and larger keyboards.

That said, there are no hard and fast rules anymore. Some new mini-desktop computers are as small and inconspicuous as laptops. And nowadays, laptops can offer the same power and performance as you can get from almost any desktop.

All-in-One: Turning PCs on Their Side
The capabilities of today's desktop computer have evolved considerably. The clearest example of this can be seen in the All-in-One (AIO) computer, which turns the idea of the PC on its side—literally. AIOs blur the lines between desktops and laptops with a large touch screen and a built-in battery so you can easily prop it up, lay it down, or unplug it and move it to any room in the house. These computers can even be mounted on the wall to create, stream, and share HD content, play online games as a family, or listen to music.

All-in-One PCs can cost more than the traditional desktop and be more difficult to upgrade, but they provide a space-saving, stylish alternative to the traditional home computer.

"What you're really investing in is a design you like [with laptops]. That can include weight, thickness and screen size, but also covers the layout of the keyboard, how large the touchpad is, how thick the bezel around the screen is, metal versus plastic, or even the color or pattern on the back of the lid."

Dan Ackerman, Section Editor, CNET

2 in 1: The Height of Versatility
The flexibility of modern computers is demonstrated by 2 in 1s, laptops that can switch between traditional clamshell mode, tablet model, and other positions, such as standing up like a tent. 2 in 1s come with screens that can be detached completely or flexible screens that can bend back 360 degrees. The bend-back screens are aimed at people who primarily want a laptop experience, while the detachable units fit people who mostly want to use a 2 in 1 as a tablet.

Whether you use your computer to watch movies, study, run your small business, or perform any other task, there is a perfect choice to fit your needs. Consider how you are going to use the computer and what you need in terms of portability, performance, flexibility, monitor size, and price—and then go shopping!