Thursday, December 13, 2012


Compaq Portable Computer

Fast forward to now and we have a thousand times more computing power in the palm of our hands in the form of a smartphone. Laptop computers used to be fairly rare but now almost “everyone” has one. The venerable desktop computer with the large tower and massive screen seems to be going the way of the Dodo bird.

But it shouldn’t be that way. Not yet. Before you go slap down many hundreds of dollars on a laptop computer for Christmas, take a moment to ponder some important benefits of owning a desktop. Here are a few of my complaints about laptop computers:

They are expensive. If you compare apples to apples, you will typically spend well over $100.00 and as much as $500 (or much more) more for a laptop over a similarly-equipped desktop computer. That’s because a great deal of engineering goes into a laptop to make the parts small enough to fit in portable case. That’s why those ultra-slim hotties are so expensive.

They break expensively. Graphics cards (the component in a system that draws the images on a display) have a bad reputation for longevity. If a graphics card goes out on a desktop computer, you whip out $45 for a new one and install it yourself. If your laptop’s graphics card dies, you buy another laptop. The same goes if you spill a beer on a laptop versus a desktop computer. Think about that if you are buying one for a college student.

They are slower. The processors in a laptop are designed to sip energy to make the battery last longer. The hard drive spins much slower for the same reason. That’s a good thing for battery life but not so much for performance.

They grow legs. Laptops get stolen. Desktop don’t. If you are buying for a college student or travel often, invest in some tracking technology that will cause the laptop to phone home if it grows legs. There are a variety of free and expensive tracking technologies out there.

Alas, none of these complaints matter one iota if you need the portability that only a laptop can provide. My suggestion here is simply to ponder the benefits and risks and come to an informed decision. Happy holidays, everyone!

We live in a world of portable computing. Why, it was just yesterday (Okay, perhaps 30 years ago) that I worked on my first portable computer. It was a suitcase-sized monster with a “large” 7-inch  plasma screen that only displayed the color orange. It was a marvel of technology at the time and cost nearly 10 grand.

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