Laptops vs. Desktops: Which one is right for your business?

A ohotograph of a classroom with several cubicles holding computer monitors, keyboards, and headphones.

Often, buying a computer for a new employee feels instinctual. "Buy whatever we had before," is an easy reply. However, have you considered what kind of device is best suited for the tasks and expectations?

The differences between desktop computers and laptops have narrowed in recent years, but both have advantages and disadvantages based on their design and functionality. A laptop will perfectly suit some job demands but not others, and the same can be said for desktops.

So how do you know which one best suits your business? We've compiled a list of pros and cons for both computer styles to help you choose the one that best suits your needs.

WEBIT Services has been developing IT strategies, procuring equipment, and deploying technology for over 25 years for hundreds of clients.

By reading this article, you will learn the advantages and disadvantages of both desktops and laptops in the workplace.

Advantages of desktop computers

1. More processing power for the price

Desktop computers are often equipped with better graphics cards and processing power. In addition, desktops often have greater processing power per dollar than laptops.

Because of its greater processing power, IT providers will often recommend desktops for users who perform processor-taxing tasks. For example, an illustrator, graphic designer, or photographer might benefit from a desktop computer's higher graphics card.

2. Internal parts can more easily be swapped out

A desktop computer's internal parts are usually easy to replace and upgrade.

For example, if your desktop's fan is broken or not as powerful as you'd like, removing the old fan and swapping it out for a newer one is very easy. You can also replace graphics cards and other pieces to upgrade the device.

3. Less likely to be stolen or broken

Desktop computers are heavy, large, and difficult to carry over distances, if at all. In addition, because desktop computers are challenging to move, they are less likely to be dropped, broken, or stolen.

If a thief did want to steal one, they would need to break into the office building first and then find a way to carry the desktop back outside. So they're unlikely to be stolen unless specifically targeted.

In addition, a desktop is unlikely to be left on a park bench or in the backseat of an uber because they are not easily portable.

4. Creates a "work only" space

Because desktops are often too cumbersome to leave the office, desktop users cannot "take work home." So instead, the desktop stays at the desk, physically enforcing a work-life balance.

5. Can utilize greater "screen real estate"

Desktops can be set up with multiple monitors, allowing users a larger space to work in and visualize. This is often very helpful for more creative roles.

Disadvantages of desktop computers

1. Not mobile

Sometimes, strengths are also weaknesses. Because a desktop is large and heavy, it's less likely to be moved. While this makes desktops more challenging to steal (a positive trait), it becomes a negative when looking for a mobile device.

If you want flexibility in your work location, a desktop will not meet your needs.

If you like taking meeting notes on your computer, a desktop will not be a good fit unless all your meetings take place in your office. If you must move into a conference room or another office, you cannot take your desktop, monitors, and other accessories.

It's also more difficult to take your desktop home to work remotely, and Starbucks may not appreciate you setting up a desktop workspace in one of their coffee shops.

Flying with a desktop is challenging, if not impossible, so you cannot travel and work from your desktop computer.

2. Requires accessories

A desktop computer is not ready to use right out of the box. In addition to purchasing the desktop, you will need at least one monitor, a keyboard, and a computer mouse to use the desktop.

You may also consider purchasing speakers, a webcam, or other computer accessories typically included in a laptop.

On the other hand, you do not need to buy new accessories whenever you buy a new desktop. They can be used for years and may even outlive your desktop computer.

However, if the accessories falter, you only need to replace the broken accessory and the entire computer. For example, your webcam stops working. Because it's not built into your desktop, you can simply buy a new webcam.

Advantages of laptop computers

1. Growing in computing power

A few years ago, laptops were the weaker of the two devices. Not anymore! Laptops are growing in speed, ability, and computing power. In addition, the gap between laptops and desktops is shrinking due to new technology.

2. Does not require accessories

A laptop comes out of the box, ready to use. A screen, touchpad or mouse, and keyboard are built into the device. The laptop is a compact workstation all on its own.

If the laptop feels too small, certain accessories can help it feel more like a desktop setup. For example, a docking station lets you connect your laptop to a larger keyboard, monitors, and any other accessories you may want to expand your workspace.

However, these accessories are not required for the laptop to function.

3. Portable and mobile

One of a laptop's greatest strengths is its portability. They are lightweight and compact, perfect for a traveling workstation.

They are easy to use while out in the field, at home, at a hotel, or at a coffee shop. A laptop is an excellent device for a user who travels frequently or never wants to be without a computer.

Users who enjoy a change of scenery to boost productivity will likely prefer a laptop for its mobility. Remote workers may also benefit from a laptop.

4. Battery-powered

Laptops have a powerful battery, so they do not have to be plugged into an outlet to function. Laptops must be plugged in to charge, but you can work from your computer without it being plugged in once charged.

Need to take your laptop into another room for a meeting or presentation? Not a problem. Just unplug it and take it with you.

You also won't lose work in a power outage. Your laptop has its own independent, temporary power source, so it stays on even when the building has no power.

Disadvantages of laptop computers

1. More easily stolen or lost

Because laptops are so portable, they are easier to misplace. You may forget the laptop case while distracted or carrying other items.

Unfortunately, laptops are also easy to steal. For example, if you walk away from your laptop in a public place, there's a risk a passerby can snatch it. Someone may also find a forgotten device and claim it as their own.

Laptop theft can also lead to security breaches or cyberattacks if the hard drive is not encrypted. In this situation, a cybercriminal can access company files and information from the stolen laptop.

2. Easier to break

Due to their portability, laptops are more likely to suffer damage from drops, falls, and bumps.

For example, a laptop may be accidentally left on the roof of a car. It might fall out of an unzipped bag or case and crash to the ground. Or it may just slip out of someone's hands.

If a device is rarely carried, it is less likely to be dropped and broken.

3. Smaller screens and keyboards

Laptops are wonderful portable workstations, but their screens and keyboards are often smaller than many users find comfortable for long-term use.

Users can purchase accessories like full-sized monitors and keyboards to combat this.

Next steps for choosing the right computers for your business

Laptops are gaining computing power, so the differences between laptops and desktops are narrow. However, there are still physical differences between the two that may create user preferences.

A user's role and tasks will also help determine which device they use.

You may consider a desktop computer for a user if the role requires the following:

  1. Higher processing or graphic capabilities.
  2. The ability to swap out or upgrade individual parts in the computer easily.
  3. A device that is not easily stolen.
  4. A user to "leave work at work."
  5. A designated workspace with plenty of screen space and accessories.
  6. A device that is not portable.

On the other hand, you may consider purchasing a laptop for a role if it requires the following:

  1. A computer that is an independent workstation—no accessories are required to function.
  2. A portable device.
  3. Optional battery power.
  4. A careful, trustworthy user that will not break or lose the device.
  5. A user who is comfortable using a smaller screen and keyboard.

Once you know the role's requirements, you can talk with your IT provider or internal IT team. They will recommend the devices they think best suit your needs. Otherwise, the decision will come down to personal preferences.

For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped clients develop and follow solid IT strategies.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see if WEBIT Services matches your company's needs.

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