Desktop or Laptop? What is best for you?

NCE Staff Writer
NCE Staff Writter / August 04, 2021 - 22:25
7 min read––– views
A collection of mobile devices

With productivity having migrated from the office spaces to homes an old consumer challenge has come to the fore-ground once again: determining which personal device will enhance the working-away-from-the-office experience. In this article we will dive into the two main types of devices that you should be considering as we try to pinpoint which device type matches your work style, work load, and budget.

The Desktop Computer

The desktop is the oldest high-performance technology device in this talk, and with arguably the best price-to-performance ratio currently it is still the primary choice for people who want to do power-intensive tasks (such as video rendering, 3D modelling, and real-time simulations) on a budget. The desktop has a high upgradability score since you can improve its performance without having to buy a completely new desktop simply by upgrading the hardware components that you feel are not powerful enough for your demands, such as the memory modules (RAM), hard drive (SSD or HDD), graphics card and even the processor itself! Desktops also have a broad number of operating systems (such as Windows, Linux, Ubuntu, Mac OS) which can all be installed on the same desktop, if need be, in a number of different ways. The breadth of operating systems means that you have an even wider range of programs and software tools from stores and the internet that will assist you with your productivity goals. Some programs can even allow you to emulate entirely different devices on your desktop such as smartphones, gaming consoles (both old and new) and other computers. This is the power of a computer in 2021.

A modern day desktop computer

However, procuring and owning a desktop computer doesn't come without any challenges and inconveniences. Firstly, the low portability of a desktop computer will mean you can't always travel with it everywhere. Desktop computers tend to be bulky especially if they are high-performance specced. There are, however, smaller desktop computers designed to fit in crammed workspaces but even then they are not exactly designed to be portable. Another cost and space issue to consider about desktop computers is peripheral devices. Desktop computer towers when bought on their own are essentially useless until you connect input and output devices (keyboard, mouse, screen monitor, etc) to them. These input and output devices are called peripheral devices and often they are sold separately to the tower, and this may drive the price of the whole system if you want top-of-the-range peripheral devices. If you are happy with low-end and medium-tier peripherals then you may save more than if they had come with the tower on purchase.

Another big deciding point is whether you want a pre-built desktop computer or you wish to build your own desktop. Building your own desktop requires you to buy all the components on your own and to assemble the desktop by yourself. This may be a time-consuming task (and filled with moments of frustration if you are not sufficiently knowledged in PC-building) but it will save you a lot of money as opposed to buying a pre-built desktop with the same specifications, and you will gain a lot of insight on how your computer works. Native Circuit Elements offers PC-building services ranging from hunting component quotations for you to building the custom desktop of your dreams.

Power management is also something to consider when deciding to buy a desktop. Since desktops get their power directly from mains and they don't normally come with battery packs, this means you can only use your desktop when there is power from your mains supply. During outages you will be cut out from using your desktop computer and that may drastically impact productivity. Backup power solutions exist for desktops but since desktops draw so much power these backup solutions are usually just for saving current progress and documents if there's an unexpected outage.

Laptops and Notebooks

Notebooks (aka Laptops) are the portable versions of desktop computers with a few trade-offs. Notebooks were designed to allow people to have access to desktop functionality without being restricted to working in one spot. This has seen increased productivity for countless industries by allowing flexibility in different workflows and enhancing the cooperative aspect of work.

A modern day notebook computer

Unlike desktops the notebook comes with built-in peripherals (keyboard, mouse, monitor, and most times a web cam) which means the notebook is ready to function out of the box with minimum physical assembly. This reduces the likelihood of incurring unexpected costs immediatley after purchasing your computer. The notebook also has the same access to operating systems that the desktop has. Additionally notebooks usually come with built-in battery packs that allow the notebooks to run several hours before needing to be plugged to a mains supply again. This means that unexpected power outages will not disrupt workflow and productivity. If more backup power is needed then some laptop manufacturers provide additional backup battery packs as accessories for their notebooks. This is particularly useful for persons working in remote locations that do not have any mains supply. Please note that laptops running on battery power will not run as fast as when they run on mains supply power because of the reduced current. So power-intensive programs might not run as efficiently when the notebook is not connected to a mains supply.

Notebooks are not without huge drawbacks though. Pricing is one of them. On average a medium-range desktop computer will cost less than a low-end notebook. High-end notebooks almost always cost more than high-end desktop computers even if they sport the same specifications. It should be noted that notebooks have very low upgradability scores. On average only the hard drive and the memory can be upgraded. Other essential performance components like the processor and graphics card cannot be replaced or upgraded. This means that notebooks have a far shorter peak-performance window than desktops because newer, more powerful programs may require hardware that a notebook cannot upgrade to. People requiring top-of-the-range computers for high-intensive workloads should keep this in mind when deciding whether to buy a desktop or laptop.

Another issue to consider with notebooks is temperature management. Because notebooks come in very slim form factors, there is not a lot of room for big silent fans to keep the processors and graphics cards at cool temperatures. This means laptop manufacturers are forced to use small fans to cool the laptops. Under heavy workloads these fans may get excessively loud which may be unappropriate in some occassions (such as team meetings and libraries). Additionally these small fans don't do a great job at cooling notebooks. High notebook temperatures can damage the internal components and drastically reduce the lifespan of a notebook. Cooling pads are available for different laptop sizes but often they don't lower the temperature considerably and if they do they tend to be too loud themselves.


So, which one is the best choice for you? As we've discussed above, the choice is not so black-and-white. It is advisable, if you work strictly in a single spot the whole day and require as much performance as possible (e.g. you're a software developer or a video editor) that you get a desktop computer. The freedom to individually upgrade components and lower costs of the setup compared to a notebook will leave you satisfied for years. If you change your workspace regularly, travel, and need to have your work documents with you at all times then it is highly advised that you choose notebook. The freedom to move around with your workspace will justify the sacrifice of full hardware upgradability, lower once-off cost, and slightly faster performance. Of course if you are able to buy both a notebook and desktop then go for that and get the best of both worlds. For those on a budget this option is also available if you look hard enough for deals.

If you're still undecided then don't hesitate to give us a call or leave us a message on our website and we'll help you make the best decision for your style of work.

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