Ditching the Desktop for a Laptop
I mentioned in my review of the HP Pavilion DV6000 that I bought that laptop for about $800 and that I now find myself using it quite a bit more than my desktop. This is EVEN THOUGH I have 3 large LCD monitors attached to my desktop computer. Many people I have told this to wonder how I could work on such a small screen when I was used to working on 3 big LCD screens. Well, it isn’t that hard.
Increases in Laptop Usage
Laptop usage has definitely been on the increase lately. I cannot find any actual numbers, so that observation is subjective. However, I think it is totally accurate. Laptop prices have reduced dramatically. Today, you can buy a very nice laptop for under $1,000 without even having to work that hard. As I mentioned, the laptop I am using now I bought for $800. This laptop, too, is noticeably faster than my desktop at most tasks. This laptop is not likely to win any benchmark contests. It is a fairly run-of-the-mill laptop. But, it is an impressive package for the price, and I rarely wait for it to do anything.
Pros and Cons
Both the desktop and the laptop have their advantages. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of using a laptop.
- Portability, obviously. One of things I most enjoy about the laptop is the fact that I can get my work done anywhere. No matter where I am, I have my entire computing environment with me and can work at 100%.
- Less Space Required.
- More Power-Friendly. A laptop is generally designed to be easy on power consumption. The processor is designed to be easy on the battery. Fans don’t generally make much noise and power down when not under load.
- Quieter. Notebook PCs usually operate fairly silently, whereas many desktop machines make a hell of a racket.
- Generally a laptop is more expensive than an equivalent desktop. Now, this line is definitely blurring. It still, however, remains largely the case.
- Life Expectancy is lower. Most notebook PCs are generally designed for about a 2 year lifespan. You may get more than that, but you’re not likely to see any older laptops in heavy use anymore unless they’ve gotten a lot of replacement parts. Speaking of which…
- Laptops are not nearly as upgradeable or repairable. On most laptops, you can fairly easily add more memory, replace the hard drive, or even replace the optical drive. Anything more in-depth than that really comes down to major surgery. Besides, notebook parts are just more expensive. Even if you can upgrade it yourself, chances are you will pay twice as much money for an equivalent piece of hardware just because it is designed for a notebook PC. So, there is absolutely no doubt about this: what you buy with your laptop is what you get (generally). Once something breaks, you will quickly be having to make a decision on whether to just ditch it for a new one. With a desktop, on the other hand, replacing parts is pretty easy.
- If you do need a repair on your notebook PC, you most likely will need to send it into the manufacturer for service. This can take weeks sometimes. With a desktop, on the other hand, a PC technician can probably repair it quite quickly. Also, with a desktop, chances are you can do the repair yourself.
So, yes, notebook PCs are very convenient. But, when it dies, its a huge pain in the butt.
Advice for Laptop Full-Timers (or Wanna-Be’s)
Using a laptop full-time, for some, may prove really enticing. But, there are some things you need to keep in mind:
- Take into account the fact that most software vendors are going to require a separate license for use on the laptop. So, for some of your software, you may need to make some additional software purchases.
- A LOT of notebook PCs today (in addition to desktops) are sold with Windows Vista. Vista can be annoying. If XP is important to you, be sure to use a vendor which makes XP downgrades available on their equipment. My personal experience, though, has been that Vista runs just fine when coupled with a proprietary machine that it came on. Vista on my laptop is smooth and I have no complaints. My desktop, on the other hand, was upgraded (from a fresh install) from XP to Vista. And the desktop does not run as fast and shows more annoyances of Vista.
- Be sure to get a recovery CD for the laptop. Many laptops today, instead, come with a recovery partition on the hard drive. For example, my laptop has a D drive which is called “HP Recovery”. That is my restore image for this laptop. The problem is that if the hard drive crashes on this laptop, I just lost my recovery partition as well.
- DEFINITELY have a defined backup strategy for your notebook PC. If everything you do is on your laptop, you are at high risk of losing it all when the hard drive crashes (and eventually it will). If you also use a desktop, I would try to keep all your data mirrored on the desktop computer. In my case, even though I spend more time on my laptop these days, my desktop is completely set up as a working machine WITH my data and software. If this laptop died, it would be annoying, but I would lose very little in terms of data or work time. If you do not have a desktop counterpart machine, then I suggest using an online backup service like Carbonite or Mozy.
Have Fun, But Tread Wisely
Laptops are cool, convenient and fun. No doubt about it. I enjoy using mine. But, just keep in mind…most laptops today are Fords, not Toyotas. They run fine when they’re new but they have a higher failure rate. Laptops are definitely a higher per-year investment than a desktop. You may pay more money for a laptop and it probably will not last as long. And when it fails, chances are you’re looking for a new laptop. There’s little on a laptop that is a plug-and-play repair. If you can live with that, then enjoy the convenience that is full computing portability.
Trust me, I LOVE not being tied to my desk.