Tactical Advice

Why Desktops Still Matter

Think mobile devices are the only way to go? Think again.
This story appears in the September 2011 issue of BizTech Magazine.
Why Desktops Still Matter

Computing has gone mobile, and smartphones and tablets are all the rage. So who buys desktops today? People who need to do serious work.

The Ford F-150 pickup truck regularly sells better than all other vehicles, because people who need to do real work need real tools. That's true for carpenters and plumbers, and for many computer users today. Think of the desktop as the pickup truck of computing.

While tablets and light notebooks are fine for browsing the Internet and using e-mail, the owners of those devices almost always have a desktop. Look around your company and you'll see desktop users churning through large, complex spreadsheets; layout programs for printed materials; website creation; accounting programs; and any task that requires some device to connect to the computer. That postage scale in shipping? It likely connects to a desktop.

Companies that do video production use desktops for the same reason: They can accommodate add-on video boards for better resolution and faster disks to stream and edit video more efficiently. For better streaming, desktops have slots to add faster networking adapters, or they can use two for higher throughput. Try adding a video board and network controller to your notebook — oops, no slots.

Tablets are great mobile viewing devices. Screen resolution on all tablets, especially the iPad, has advanced to the point of amazement. But screen size, to remain mobile, must be 10 inches or less. No matter the clarity, sometimes you just need a big screen. I'm typing this on a desktop attached to a 24-inch LCD monitor so I can have a full document page open beside a full browser window.

Productivity studies over the past few years have hyped the value of more screen real estate, whether with one big screen or two smaller ones. Even notebooks with 17-inch screens can't compare to a desktop with a 24-inch screen. And users of Apple's 30-inch cinema display will fight tigers to keep that monitor on their desktop.

Desktop vs. Notebook: the Great Debate

Yes, people demand mobility, and the "desktop replacement" notebook market has grown over the past several years. But when you look inside companies, you find most desktop replacement notebooks chained to a desk. Workers want one, then they never take it home.

The price difference between a desktop-replacement notebook and the desktop it replaces can be substantial. Desktops and monitors cost hundreds less than the notebooks that replace them. Most companies would be better off buying primarily desktops and using the money saved to buy a few loaner notebooks for those occasions when workers really do need mobility.

Notebook components still cost two to three times as much as desktop components, so users who want to customize their computers should stick with desktops. Need an extra hard drive? A desktop has plenty of room to add one, but there’s no room in a notebook. Need an additional 4 gigabytes of RAM? You could throw out your existing notebook RAM and replace it — if your motherboard supports that — or just add another stick of memory to your desktop.

Besides, if you’re facing a long day of typing, wouldn't you rather have a real keyboard and not have to type with your forearms mashed against your ribs? Sure, you can buy an external keyboard and monitor for your notebook, but the price goes up. Add that to the cost of the original notebook, and you can probably buy two desktops.

Sign up for our e-newsletter

About the Author

James E. Gaskin

James E. Gaskin

James writes books, articles and jokes about technology from his Dallas-area home office. He also consults for those who don’t read his books and articles.

Security

Three Ways to Integrate Fire... |
Follow these tips to align the devices with log management and incident tracking systems.
Why Cloud Security Is More E... |
Cloud protection services enable companies to keep up with security threats while...
Securing the Internet of Thi... |
As excitement around the connected-device future grows, technology vendors seek ways to...

Storage

The New Backup Utility Proce... |
Just getting used to the Windows 8 workflow? Prepare for a change.
How to Perform Traditional W... |
With previous versions going unused, Microsoft radically reimagined the backup utility in...
5 Easy Ways to Build a Bette... |
While large enterprises have the resources of an entire IT department behind them, these...

Infrastructure Optimization

Why Cloud Security Is More E... |
Cloud protection services enable companies to keep up with security threats while...
Ensure Uptime Is in Your Dat... |
Power and cooling solutions support disaster recovery and create cost savings and...
The Value of Converged Infra... |
Improvements in security, management and efficiency are just a few of the benefits CI can...

Networking

Securing the Internet of Thi... |
As excitement around the connected-device future grows, technology vendors seek ways to...
How to Maximize WAN Bandwidt... |
Understand six common problems that plague wide area networks — and how to address them.
Linksys Makes a Comeback in... |
The networking vendor introduced several new Smart Switch products at Interop this week.

Mobile & Wireless

Now that Office for iPad Is... |
After waiting awhile for Microsoft’s productivity suite to arrive, professionals who use...
Visualization Can Help Busin... |
Companies need to put their data in formats that make it consumable anytime, anywhere.
Linksys Makes a Comeback in... |
The networking vendor introduced several new Smart Switch products at Interop this week.

Hardware & Software

New Challenges in Software M... |
IT trends such as cloud, virtualization and BYOD pose serious hurdles for software...
Visualization Can Help Busin... |
Companies need to put their data in formats that make it consumable anytime, anywhere.
The Tools That Power Busines... |
Ever-evolving analytic software can greatly improve financial institutions’ decision-...