Desktops, Laptops, Tablets Or Smartphones?
Long gone are the days when the only way of checking your email was using a cumbersome beige desktop with an equally large CRT monitor. Today, there are many different ways to get online, hence the rapidly increasing popularity of smaller and more mobile devices. In fact, recent years have seen desktop computer sales plummet in favor of smartphones, tablets and, to a lesser extent, laptops.
Nonetheless, mobility is not the only concern or even a concern at all for some people, in which case it might make sense to stick to the traditional desktop. It's not that one form factor is better than the other - it's that different devices suit different needs and situations. The following takes a look at the four main options and their close relatives to help you decide what's best for your requirements:
The smallest of the big four Internet-enabled devices, smartphones have nonetheless become one of the most popular ways to get online in recent years. In fact, since early 2015, there have been more mobile-only users than desktop-only users. Cheaper and faster than ever before, most people have smartphones, but are they really good enough to replace a proper computer?
The short answer is no, at least not if you want to do anything other than check your social media profiles, do some casual browsing or send the occasional email. Even if you connect your phone to a full-size keyboard, they're still much slower and less responsive than their larger counterparts, making them completely unsuitable for most productivity applications.
One step up from smartphones, tablet computers are effectively the same thing, albeit significantly larger. With screen sizes starting at about six inches diagonal, you certainly get a lot more on-screen real estate with a tablet computer, making them more suitable for multimedia applications and some light productivity, provided you connect a Bluetooth or micro-USB keyboard.
For most everyday online tasks and multimedia, tablet computers provide ample functionality, making them the obvious choice for those who are constantly on the move. For those prioritizing productivity and utility, however, a laptop-tablet hybrid might be a better choice. Nonetheless, none of these machines are particularly powerful, and they don't provide any opportunities to upgrade other than by adding a memory card for additional storage.
Despite now being much more popular than desktop computers, laptops don't really serve a unique purpose any more. Before the arrival of powerful smartphones and tablet computers, laptops presented the obvious portable alternative to the desktop computer. Nonetheless, while still more powerful than laptops and smartphones, they are often prone to overheating and provide very little in the way of upgrade options. They're also bigger and bulkier than tablets.
Due to the availability of other alternatives, the average laptop doesn't really have a distinct purpose anymore, and this is particularly true if you opt for a budget machine, in which case you might as well get a tablet computer. If you're a power user, a desktop will be a much better choice. A laptop is really only useful if you need something that provides almost as much power as a desktop while also being portable.
When it comes to productivity, gaming and high-end computing of any sort, the desktop comes out at the very top at every time, despite many people claiming that the form factor is heading towards becoming a thing of the past. Desktops also offer much better value for money, better ergonomics, more upgrade opportunities and, potentially, much more processing power than any of the other alternatives. A larger monitor and keyboard are also must-haves for optimal productivity.
If you spend a lot of time working at your computer, you're an enthusiastic gamer or any other power user, a desktop computer is usually an essential machine to have, even if you regularly use other devices for everyday computing and online tasks. Due to larger screen sizes and greater processing power, a desktop may also serve as a fully-fledged home entertainment centre. Alternatively, for those with more modest hardware requirements, an all-in-one desktop presents something of a compromise between a laptop and a traditional desktop computer.
It's very uncommon these days to find someone who only owns one Internet-enabled device, and it's even rarer for a household to have only one computer for everyone in the family. With prices falling and options increasing all the time, most people will be best off with a combination of two or more devices.