Rhodri Marsden: Cyberclinic
Is it better to buy a desktop or a laptop?
Is there any point in buying a desktop computer, rather than a laptop? While laptops used to cost the earth and were heavy to lug about, today they're cheap, functional and compact. Desktop machines, however, seem huge when you see a similar level of computing power distilled down into a fraction of their size. This viewpoint can be seen in the marketplace; sales of portable computers overtook desktop machines in Western Europe at the end of last year, and they're beginning to do so in the US. In Japan, laptops have outsold desktops for years. So does this spell the end of the desktop computer?
While the portability of laptops is the deal clincher for most people, a recent survey revealed a top-10 list of gripes that IT technicians regularly make about laptops. Reading it, you'd put money on desktop machines being around for a good few years yet. We've come to accept the level of laptop battery life, but let's be honest, it's terrible. Laptops are also easily broken: I knackered the screens on two laptops after dropping them. Because all the components are packed in so tightly, repairing them isn't the cinch that surgery is with desktops. As Mike Orton wrote on Indyblogs this week: "Desktops are better for rebuilding and upgrading – and large graphics cards don't fit into laptops." There's the fact that your laptop screen is never going to be any bigger than the laptop itself, and when it comes to performance, laptops often lag behind; if you compare Apple's top-spec laptop with its top-spec desktop, there's no contest.
Another blogger said, "laptops sacrifice everything for portability". This particularly applies to security – not just because of the wireless networks that laptops generally use to get online, but the risk of leaving the thing somewhere stupid, or having it swiped when your back is turned. This binds us to our laptops, as Robbo said on the Cyberclinic blog: "My MacBook Pro is the best investment I've ever made, in terms of computing, but the problem is that I'm tempted to have it with me all the time."
Laptops have become our companions. And who, apart from Boy George (allegedly), wants a companion that's tethered to the wall?