Should I Buy A Desktop Or Laptop?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 10/09/20 •  12 min read

Buying a computer can be expensive, and one does not want to make the wrong decision when deciding between buying a Desktop or a Laptop. Which one should you buy? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Choosing which type of computer you should purchase is entirely dependent on how you want the computer to serve you. It’s not about the type of computer, but rather, it’s about ensuring that your decision addresses your needs. After investigating what your needs are, you will easily decide between Desktop computer or a Laptop.

Who is the Computer for?

There are some users who should not even consider a Desktop computer. Take the business travelers for example. I can’t really see a business traveler taking a desktop computer with them on an Airplane, or walking into a business meeting asking if they could set up their Desktop computer before the meeting starts.

Likewise, a 13” laptop computer is probably not the greatest solution for one who does video editing for a living. Can it be done? Sure. It is optimal for daily use? Probably not.

The point is that everybody’s needs are different, and there there is no right or wrong way, but there probably is a better option for each and every user.

My goal here, is to help you determine if you should purchase a Desktop computer or a Laptop computer. I’m going to ask you several questions that you may not have considered before, and hopefully you can find similarities between your computer needs of those listed below and your needs.

Elementary School Student

I honestly just can’t see ANY reason why an elementary school student would need a laptop computer. In fact, I can think of several reasons why they should NOT get a laptop computer.

Laptop computers are far more delicate than Desktop computers. Laptops can be accidentally dropped from from a desk, are very susceptible to spills, and can easily be forgotten about when placed in a backpack which inevitably will be dropped and discarded on the floor when they get home from school.

Damage to the laptop aside, there are a few advantages of using a Desktop computer for your elementary school student. For example, placing the Desktop computer in the family room provides a stationary place to do one’s homework. Homework time is homework time. Additionally, you ensure that your child is doing their homework (and not playing games, or visiting websites that they should not be visiting).

High School Student

The same arguments made for an elementary school student could be made for the High School student when it comes to deciding weather or not to purchase a Desktop computer or a Laptop computer. However, something could be said for giving you teenagers a little more responsibility by providing a Laptop. They need to learn how to take care of expensive things, and this is also a time where they need to learn how to use the Internet responsibly.

Mind you, there is no need to take the laptop back and forth to school. High schools have their own computers for your teenager to use at school, but they will need a computer at home to complete their homework.

The truth is that they don’t *need* the fastest computer on the market, (though they might want it). Honestly, all they really require is internet access and a word processor. Their school is almost certainly using Google Docs (, so that your teenager can do their homework assignments.

A Desktop computer will work just fine, without question, but they will probably want to get a laptop computer because it offers a little more privacy, unless you were to put the Desktop computer in their room.

College Student

Without question, a College student requires a laptop. They will use it for everything and take it everywhere they go on campus. They will use it to write papers, do research, take notes in class, watch movies, chat, engage in Social Media, do their banking, and use Skype or FaceTime to call home. I could go on, but you get the point.

One thing to consider here, is that you really need to ensure that you have insurance on the laptop. I’m not talking out the kind where you have to prove that damage was done, and the insurance company will get back to you in a month or two with a reimbursement. I’m talking about an immediate solution.

For example, if someone were to spill coffee all over the keyboard of the laptop. It’s done. And not just a little done. It’s done-done. In such a situation, the only option is a very expensive repair or replacement. Does your insurance company provide a complete repair (or replacement) in about 3 days? AppleCare+ does.

AppleCare+ is exclusive to Apple products, but it covers all accidental damage. Accidental spills are covered. Accidentally dropping the laptop is covered. Accidentally leaving the laptop on the roof of your car and driving away, having forgotten that it was there . . . covered. It does not cover loss or theft, but it does cover accidental damage, and if brought into an Apple Store, it could be completely fixed (or replaced) in about 3 days or less.

Home Computer

The home computer, (otherwise known as the “Family Computer”), is a computer where each member of the family can log into their own respective account and gain access to their own unique desktop environment. Typically, this is a Desktop computer for the following reasons:

  1. The risk of damaging the computer is significantly less.
  2. A Desktop computer is generally less expensive than a Laptop computer.
  3. A Family Computer is intentionally less private, which means that you won’t find little Johnny watching porn on it.

If you are very limited on space, I can see using a laptop as a family computer, one that is out in the open for all to use.

Personal Computer

I added this category to address adults who are not in school and are not sharing their computer with any other family members. This computer is just that, personal. So you need to ask yourself a few questions:

It’s all about preference. Long gone are the days where laptop computers could not compete with Desktop computers. They are equally as powerful.

Do you Really Need a Laptop?

Let me begin by telling you that I am not trying to talk you out of purchasing a laptop. Not at all. I just want you to be be able to defend your reason for purchasing a laptop over a desktop computer. I’m going to ask some pointed questions. I want to really help you decide with finality, if should purchase a Desktop computer or a Laptop computer. But I can only help you if you are completely honest as you answer these questions.

Why do you Need a Laptop?

You just Might Regret it

I am writing from experience. I bought a 13” MacBook Pro. It’s a GREAT laptop, without question. It’s in mint condition, and I’m very particular and take great care of it. I never place any liquid container on the same table that my laptop sits on. I literally have a stool that sits next to my desk where I place my drinks on. So if it is so perfect, why do I regret getting it?

I wish that the screen were bigger. Bigger as in, a 27” screen, not a 13” screen. I thought that a laptop would be more “flexible”, and it is, but for how I use my computer, it literally sits on my desk, and stays there . . . on my desk.

I could have purchased an iMac, paid less money, for a faster computer. But I didn’t. I didn’t ask the questions that I am now asking you. But I wish I had. Now mind you, my needs are different than yours, as yours are different than mine.

What is the Advantage of a Desktop Computer?

A Desktop Computer is Less prone to Accidental Damage

I have briefly touched on this already, but desktop computers are very stationary, rarely moved, and are not prone to damage due to spills or dropping it. Of course, it is possible, but highly unlikely. It could burn in a fire, or be lost to a flood, yes, but how likely is it that either of those two things would occur?

A Desktop Computer is Less Prone to Theft

Frankly, Desktop computers are too big and clunky for a thief to concern himself with. Remember, a thief wants to get in and out, and not be concerned with unplugging cables, moving monitors, etc. The physical theft of a Desktop computer is not likely.

Given how difficult it would be to fence a Desktop computer out of the trunk of a car, it is much more likely that an attempt would be made to steal your data by hacking into your computer.

A Desktop Computer is Probably Less Expensive

Computer prices change all the time. Every day. Though, Desktop computers are less expensive, you also have to factor in the price of the monitor, which could be an additional $200 or more. Even so, a Desktop computer with the same specs as that of a Laptop computer is generally less expensive when all is said and done.

Just remember that when comparing a Desktop computer to a Laptop computer, you must compare apples with apples. In other words, the specs of each have to be identical when you are comparing the price of one to the other. Additionally, brand name does matter. You can’t compare a DELL XPS 15” laptop with some $300 knock-off from a brand you have never heard of and can’t pronounce. So when comparing, be sure to compare spec and brand of a company’s Desktop computer with the same specs and brand of that company’s Laptop computer.

The Screen Display is Much Larger

There is no way around this. Desktop computers provide larger displays, period. You can have more on your desktop and it gives the feeling of being more productive. Larger displays are great for gamers, which is why they invest a lot of money in making a gaming PC.

Some laptops do have larger 17” displays and are powerful enough to be a desktop replacement. In fact, those laptops are clearly designed to serve as a desktop replacement. So this leads me to ask, are there any other options or configurations that we could implement?

What Other Options are There?

iPad or Tablet

One alternative is to use an iPad. I love my iPad. In fact, that is what I am using to write this very article. As you are aware, I write a LOT. I enjoy writing using my 11” iPad Pro more than my MacBook Pro. Why? Because my MacBook Pro has the old Butterfly keyboard, and I prefer the scissors keyboard as found on Apple’s Magic Keyboard, but enough about me.

An iPad (with a keyboard), is a fantastic solution for College students because they can easily take it with them to class and take notes. They can even annotate their notes using an Apple Pencil. Apple makes a 12.9” iPad Pro that literally has the same screen dimensions as that of Apple’s 13” MacBook. I love that it is light, easily to carry, and instantly turns on. The display is second to none, and it is incredibly fast.

Can an iPad Pro replace a laptop? Honestly, the answer for most people is probably, yes. However, that assumes that you are using a keyboard with it and perhaps an Apple Pencil, and it entirely depends upon your needs. With the the latest version of iPadOS, the iPad Pro now even supports a wireless bluetooth mouse.

Now, can an Android tablet replace a laptop? If you are already wired for the Android world, then perhaps, but it would depend on the Android tablet you are using, but frankly, if you search on YouTube, people are not asking, “Can my Android tablet replace my laptop?”, but you will find hundreds of YouTube videos asking, “Can my iPad Pro replace my laptop?”

The Best of Both Worlds

There is one more alternative. You could purchase a monitor and connect it to your laptop and use a wireless keyboard to type. Once you have configured the monitor to mirror your laptop display, ensure that your mouse and external keyboard are connected, you can close the lid to your laptop, and use the external monitor as your primary display.

Basically, your laptop will serve as a flat computer. When you need to take you computer with you, simply unplug the monitor and go. If you already have a laptop and want a larger display, this is by far the most cost effective way to go, and it allows for incredible flexibility.

Closing Thoughts

Should you buy a Desktop or a Laptop? You needs will determine which type of computer you should buy. You can determine this by taking note of how you have been using a computer, and how you intend to use one moving forward. There are several things to consider, such as who the computer is for, and how it will be used. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, and maybe the best solution for you is to use a laptop connected to a large monitor, offering you the best of both worlds.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.