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Do I Really NEED a Laptop?

Computer manufacturers these days seem to be shifting their focus to selling laptops. If you walk into any computer store these days, you will find laptops for sale well under the $500 price range. I recently had a customer tell me that he went shopping for a computer the other day at an unnamed local retail outlet that sells staples, among other office supplies. He walked directly to the computer section and told the helper, “I need a desktop for work.” Rather than show this customer to the desktops, the first thing the helper-monkey said was, “Are you sure you don’t need a laptop?” For whatever reason, big box stores would rather sell laptops, even if a laptop is not what you need or even asking for. istock_000004716902xsmall

I’m not exactly sure why the sales people at these retail stores are instructed to try and sell laptops, but I can tell you for certain that on average, laptops will not last as long as a desktops. It is a well known fact, especially in the REP4 office. If you want to see a man on a rant, just ask Shaun about his gaming laptop.

The main reason for this shorter lifespan issue is because the laptop is so much more cramped than the desktop and cool air has a hard time moving to all the parts of the laptop. Do you ever use your computer in bed, laptop sitting on the covers? Have you noticed that when you take the laptop off your lap, the blanket feels like it’s about to start on fire? The heat created by the processor cannot escape the case fast enough and the computer overheats. That kind of heat is damaging for laptops and any electronics. The problem is right in the design of the computer. In laptops, airflow is restricted by the size of the vents and limited space within the case. This lack of air movement causes the laptop to heat up much faster and get much hotter than a desktop of similar specs. This excess heat will cause components to fail much more quickly.


The difference in the motherboard setup of laptops and desktops come down to this:

  • Desktop motherboards and cases are designed with one thing in mind: airflow. It determines where the fans are placed, how many vents there are and even which direction the RAM is facing. It’s all designed in a way to get the hot air out and bring the cool air in.
  • Laptop motherboards and cases are designed to be compact and mobile. The components and small and fit tightly together. The smaller the laptop, the easier it is to carry around.

I don’t want to bash laptops too harshly. For what they are designed for (mobility) they do the trick. From students who take their laptops with them to school, to executives on business trips, laptops are crucial to this type of lifestyle. However, all to often, we see people purchase a laptop to save money, bring it home and that’s where it will stay. They’ll plug in a monitor because the laptop screen is too small, an external keyboard because the laptop keys are too close together, and a wireless mouse because the mouse pad is impossible to use. At the end of all that, they essentially have a poorly designed desktop.

Now, I’m not one to cut down your options; I’m all about options! You can’t take your desktop with you to every room in the house and it’s not worth walking to the other end of the house just to check email or update Facebook. We once had a customer that watched the Discovery channel and when he saw some interesting that he wanted more information on, he would Google it. For something as simple as that, using a desktop just isn’t feasible. He used the same solution that I will recommend to anyone else in that situation: a tablet.

Tablets are becoming more popular and easier to work with. They have a lot of functionality, are extremely easy to carry around, simple to use and relatively inexpensive. They don’t have the full functionality of a laptop and won’t replace the desktop, but are perfect for the average user looking to have something in the house for quick searches or Facebook updates. The ideal setup for home users is a desktop in the office or living room for sophisticated word processing or games and the tablet for quick, simple tasks. While it may seem to make more sense to combine the two and get a laptop, using the above solution will last longer and be more efficient.

Luke Sterzer is a leading technician at REP4 Technologies. Luke has achieved his CompTIA A+ and Network + certifications and is currently working on MCITP. When not telling other people how to use their own computers, Luke can be found checking Facebook on his tablet from the comfort of his couch. 

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