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Desktops vs. Notebooks
While "regular" desktop PC systems have always been and likely always will be the way that most people buy PCs, notebook PCs (also called laptops) have become very popular in recent years. At first they were almost exclusively the province of big business "high rollers" due to their very high cost. Now the cost of some notebooks PCs has come down dramatically, and they have really entered the mainstream. Many people use a notebook as their only PC today, and for some they offer advantages that make them very worthwhile. However, notebooks also represent a trap that far too many people fall into.
Let's illustrate the reality of desktops vs. notebooks by looking at the relative advantages of each. First, the advantages of desktops over notebooks:
And again, having said all of this, bear in mind that notebooks have actually greatly improved in several of these areas over the last few years! This is especially true in the areas of expandability, selection and reliability. Yet still, the gaps persist, and likely always will. Now, let's take a look at the advantages of notebooks over desktops:
That's pretty much it! And in fact, that's what the decision of desktop vs. notebook comes down to: how important is the portability to you? Do you really need to take the machine with you? For many businesspeople, the answer is a resounding "YES!" However, some folks (including myself once, many years ago) talk themselves into buying notebooks by greatly overestimating how much traveling they will do, or based upon romantic notions of writing the Great American Novel on the beach in the moonlight. Unfortunately, that's not how things usually work out in the real world. :^) So be sure to be honest with yourself about your portability needs.
To be fair, there's one other important and usually overlooked advantage of notebooks that should be discussed: they come with LCD screens. Many people find LCD screens "night and day" superior to conventional PC CRTs, including this author. These screens are expensive, and their presence on a notebook PC is one of the reasons for the increased cost of notebooks. Now that LCD monitors are available for desktop PCs, and people are seeing their very hefty price tags, buyers are starting to better understand part of the reason why notebooks are so expensive. At any rate, if you are an LCD screen lover like me, be sure to add in the cost of a desktop LCD monitor into your comparison of desktops and notebooks; it will greatly narrow the cost gap (though the other limitations of notebooks will remain). If you haven't used an LCD screen before, compare one to a CRT sometime--you may find yourself hooked! :^)
Of course, the LCD screen on notebooks is also part of the reason why they use so much less power than desktops.