I'm a Desktop, What are you?

Mike Halsey MVP
Oct 20, 2011
Updated • Nov 29, 2012

I'm becoming increasingly confused by the whole computing market with all manner of new and, relatively, affordable form factors coming to market.  There was a day not that long ago when you had a choice, Desktop PC or Laptop, indeed even laptops were commonly out of the reach of most people and it's only relatively recently that they've become affordable.

Now however we have more types of computing devices than it's possible to shake a stick at, and one thing is becoming clear, the good old desktop PC is becoming sidelined.  I wanted to ask you all, which is quite ironic given Martin's post of earlier today, what your opinion is of these devices and what you think of them generally.

The main computing devices we now have include desktops, all-in-ones, desktop replacement laptops, everyday laptops, ultraportables, convertible tablets and traditional tablets.  In fact it's possible within all these types not just to get what is probably the perfect form-factor for you, but also something that fits perfectly with the aesthetics of where it will go.

To kick off the discussion I'll start with my own thoughts on my home and home office.  I have a desk in my living room with a desktop PC on it, as many of you will have too.  It is my aim to replace this with an all-in-one PC before too long.  The barrier here for me is that my desktop has a graphics card with the grunt to properly run modern games like Battlefield 3 and all-in-ones often compromise on gaming ability.  I also have a laptop, a desktop replacement Dell which I use for work in my home office upstairs.  This is a big, heavy machine and hardly portable.  It does offer me the storage and power to be a true desktop replacement however in every sense of the word, rather than some of the weedier desktop replacement machines that really don't offer a viable alternative for you.

I also own two tablets, a Windows 7 ExoPC and an HP TouchPad.  The ExoPC is now used only for work and presentations and the TouchPad is for lounging about on the sofa occasionally when I'm tired.

I have had a couple of Samsung ultraportables on test though, and I'm very happy with the form factor.  These new breed of ultraportables, pioneered by the Macbook Air, are sexy enough to suit the modern living room while small and light enough not to get in the way.  This is important for a laptop as I doubt many people really want a big grey block in front of them when they're watching the evening news.

If I had to pick one though it still comes back to the traditional desktop for me as this is the only form factor that really offers me the flexibility I need in terms of hardware and storage.  Much as I want to banish the desktop from my living room forever, I just don't feel that all-in-ones are there yet in terms of true power and flexibility.

So what's your preference?  Are you a desktop person or a laptop guy?  Do you prefer all-in-ones and why?  Do you have an ultraportable, or do you want one to replace what you have?  Have you indeed banished your computer upstairs forever and it's tablet all the way in your main living space?

In short, what is your perfect computing device and why is that?


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  1. Roman ShaRP said on October 23, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I’m Desktop.

    Also I have Asus EEE netbook and smartphone, but I do prefer traditional keyboard.

  2. Ravi Joshi said on October 22, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    I am a desktop. Have always been one.

  3. kalmly said on October 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    A whole room is devoted to my desktop computing. The PC is big, and it runs 24/7. I use two screens that I couldn’t get by without. The rule: Touch a screen, lose a finger. This is my perfect computing device. It holds my thirty plus applications and runs them – as many as ten at a time – without complaint. I have storage devices inside and out. It works. It plays.

    I own a 15″ laptop, but seldom use it. It is there for when I leave town and need something to work with. I always take along an optical mouse, a keyboard, and a thingy to prop it up on. Makes it as much like a desktop as possible. Again, touch the screen, lose a finger.

    I have a BIG flatscreen television on the wall in my living room. I have no desire to have my entertainment served on tiny, or even medium-sized, devices.

    I have a cell phone. I use it to make phone calls.

    I have little interest in little gadgets. None show up on my can’t-live-without list. Not on my gee-I-wouldn’t-mind-one-of-those list, either. I’d would place one on my that-might-be-OK list, but it would only get 10th spot.

    My next computing purchase will be a new desktop. But that’s one of the things about desktops. They last a long time. Much longer than laptops, AND gadgets, well, they come, they go, they disappear, they are replaced – AND they are way too costy.

  4. Jim said on October 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    At home I have an AMD quad-core with 12GB of RAM and a bunch of drives (including a SSD for the system). Graphics card used to be a gaming powerhouse, but is showing its age. OS is OpenSUSE. This machine serves as my file server, mail server, database server, and general Swiss army knife. I use it for most of my browsing and general computing. It runs 24/7. I also have Win XP & 7 VMs on it when I have to have Windows.

    Beside it I have a quad-core Intel with 6 GB of RAM, a SSD for the system and a couple of normal drives for data. It has a high end graphics card and runs Win7. This is my gaming machine. I also use it on the rare occasions when some poorly performing software will not play nice with Linux or my VMs. I have a 24″ LCD monitor and a KVM I use to switch back and forth between the two desktops.
    I also have a netbook I use for browsing on the couch or in bed. It runs Office well enough that I use it for my travel machine when I’m on the road.

    At work I have an old 15″ laptop dual-core with a 2nd monitor. I just got “upgraded” to an executive laptop with a 13 or 14″ screen. My old eyes aren’t feeling much love from that, so I’ve got me a 3rd monitor on the way. I use an external keyboard because I have yet to find a laptop keyboard I like and I also want a numeric keypad. This is all pulled together by a docking station. Basically at work my laptop is configured like a desktop.

    As for the mobile device craze, I personally don’t see what all the hype is about, but I’m curious. I’ve got my eye on a reasonably priced Android tablet that may end up replacing the netbook for the couch browsing, but unlikely to replace it for my traveling computer. One of those slick new ultrabooks is probably going to fill that spot.

    So it come down to this. I don’t see the mobile devices fitting my needs for the majority of my computing. While I’m sure some special applications can be developed for them that would work really well for some jobs, I work with documents, spreadsheets, databases, and even some code now and then. Mobile devices appear to be ill suited for those uses. I like having an establish work space too with all my reference materials close at hand. When I’m working from home and try to work on the couch, I find myself invariably walking back and forth to my office, so I might as well stay there and work on my desktop. So much for mobile computing.

  5. Daryl said on October 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I’m finding that my usage patterns are changing really quickly at the moment. I still mostly use a desktop at work, but am finding some use for a tablet (iPad as it happens) and by use I do mean actual use rather than excuse!
    In leisure time however, I’ve switched almost overnight from a much-loved NetBook to the tablet, which I guess indicates that most of my leisure use is consuming rather than producing.

    I do still have a desktop pc at home which acts as the repository for photos, docs, media etc but most of that is also in the cloud, so I imagine that it won’t be long before that goes, leaving me with the laptop for any work-at-home which needs a Windows pc (doc xls etc production).

  6. fazil said on October 21, 2011 at 7:53 am

    I like desktop. Mine very old system now i want a new one there is too many choices i have like laps, pads, even smartphones but still iam going to have a good Desktop.

  7. Tehmul Ghyara said on October 21, 2011 at 5:45 am

    I’m a desktop. I’ve a one year old PC, and a high end Android phone. I dont like laptops, they’re not very maintenance/upgrade friendly.

  8. Robin said on October 21, 2011 at 1:44 am

    I’m a desktop. I’ve a 3 year old Compaq desktop, a <1 year old Toshiba netbook and 2 Nokia N800 internet tablets. I mainly use the netbook for lunchtime browsing at work and to remote into the desktop if there's something I'm wanting to get started. The Nokias work as media player and my alarm clock, aside from ultra portable browsing that I can shut down quickly (ie waiting for the wife.) I tried just using a laptop a few years ago, but found when doing long running processes (video encoding or some such) I either had to pause it or cancel or wait to go if I wanted to bring it along.

  9. Ari said on October 21, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I’ve got a desktop running constantly as a media server and serves as a net storage. Sometimes it’s used for cadding and 3D gaming too. Most of my gaming and media viewing are done through the Xbox though.

    I’ve also got a 12 inch convertible table to be used in other rooms but I’m drawn more and more towards using my Dell Streak 5 for casual browsing. Even when I need to write a long email, i’d just pull out the bluetooth keyboard and start typing.

    I’ve been trying to find a reason to go and get myself a new shiny tablet with higher resolutions, better screens and better processors, but for what I do (i.e. casual browsing), cant seem to justify a purchase yet. Especially when devices like the Samsung Note with a big(ger) screen, high resolution and 1.4Ghz dual core are coming out…

    just my 2cents.

  10. barney said on October 20, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Hm-m-m, I feel kinda under-powered after reading all this.

    Gateway tower, currently on loan.
    Unknown tower, very old, very low powered.
    Gateway 15″ i3 laptop.
    Dell Vostro 17″ i7 labtop (primary workhorse).
    Toshiba Thrive tablet (Android).
    B&N Color Nook.
    HTC MyTouch 4G (T-Mobile)
    4 24″ LED./LCD monitors (2 also function as TVs).
    2 USB drives, 1TB and 2TB.
    4TB NAS (Synology 211).
    Multiple USB sticks & external ports.

    The Vostro is the primary work machine, and is surprisingly portable for its size. If pushed, I’ll take the smaller Gateway, but I prefer to lug the Vostro around. The tower is primarily for backup & storage – the NAS is a recent addition – and, from time to time, a loaner.

    Both the Nook and the Thrive are primarily for relaxation, although there are a number of ebooks & PDFs related to code and scripting.

    There are several other laptops, one (1) defunct Dell and three (3) old – really old! – Winbook laptops that get fired up every once in a while if I need to check a bit of code with Win2K.

    Mostly Windows, but couple of Linux distros on the older WinBooks and the low-end tower, as well as multi-boot configuration on the work machines.

    I really don’t make much distinction ‘twixt desktop and non-desktop. Just use whichever one best suits the task at hand. Can’t see much development being done on the tables – too inconvenient – but someone may come up with something that’ll work on a touch screen?

    The phone comes in handy at times for quick notes, and as a Wi-Fi hotspot when away from home.

    I don’t see the desktop going away – does too many things that just cannot be done with portable equipment – but I do see a lot of attention being given in the future to the more portable equipment. Desktop is like a pick-up truck or a Jeep … there are some things you just cannot do with a VW.

  11. Meena Bassem said on October 20, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    well, all i have is a nice desktop with really good hardware. 4 GB ram, 320 GB HDD , 512 MB Graphics,AMD Phonem 2.2 Quad Core processor. The rest doesn’t matter at all.i don’t have a laptop, at least not yet.but the good thing i like about the desktop is it has high perforamnce. can be easily maintained, spare parts are available and quite cheap, but i hate its big size.

  12. dXm99 said on October 20, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I have both desktop and laptop at the moment. My apartment is small so desktop (old P-IV) is equiped with tv tuner and hooked to Samsung 21″ CRT. Peripherals are Logitech MX Revolution and Microsoft Natural 4000. My lady use it for web and office and it is also used as entertainment center. I did preferred desktop but space issues commanded me to take laptop. Since I am used to large screen estate obvious choice is 17,3″ MSI with Core i3 and 4 gigs RAM. Like fokka said: “for my purposes, the performance race is over”. If i had more space and money I would go for combo solution like Samsung Series 9 hooked on some 27″ LED display and with Microsoft Natural 4000 keyboard. That way you can have ultra mobility on the road and ultra usability at desk. Best of both worlds. I think that worst choice are 15,6″ laptops. It does not have enough screen estate and it is not mobile enough.

  13. fokka said on October 20, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    i’m a laptop and have been for years. for my purposes, the performance race is over, i’m happy with a 2ghz core2duo and a few gigs of ram. i don’t even need a ssd, though they are very tempting.

    i, too, remember the times when your only affordable choice was a desktop and i still think they are great to become familiar with computers, but now i need something mobile.

    the next “upgrade” will be a sort of 13-inch ultrabook, but i’m waiting for the perfect one, so i have to wait a little longer.

  14. Sammy said on October 20, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I have a powerful desktop, a 5″ Dell Streak smartphone and a HP Touchpad. I have to go with my desktop all the way. I can do so much more on it. Plus, I have it hooked up to my TV and watch HD movies on it.

  15. Willy said on October 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Desktop all the way. All I’ve got.(but I’ve got several). Wouldn’t mind a basic laptop if it was the right price, but with that money I could do things with a desktop.

  16. OC said on October 20, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I wonder how many bags of rice or grain or bottles of water you could have provided to starving children throughout the world instead of indulging in shameless consumerism. I guess you never can have enough gadgets, even if they end up in the landfill

    1. Sammy said on October 20, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      Wouldn’t it be more humane to let them die? If you feed someone, they will get hungry again unless they can sustain themselves. Maybe they can put a smartphone factory on their land and they can sustain themselves from fools like us that are shameful consumerist

  17. Angelo R. said on October 20, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I’m definitely a Desktop kind of guy. I dual boot between windows and linux and I also have a HP Touchpad and the Samsung Galaxy Vibrant. The desktop is definitely where it’s at for me, although most times if I’m at my couch I just use the Touchpad for internet browsing.

    What’s nice about this set up is that I can remote in to my Desktop while it’s in windows through the Touchpad, and when I’m on linux I can SSH in through my phone.

  18. sefcug said on October 20, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I use both desktops and laptops.

    Currently, I have an XP and a Win7 desktop, as well as a Win7 laptop. The laptop also has VirtualBox, in which I run Linux for experimentation.

    I do not have a smartphone nor a tablet, as I think I am on the computers too much as it is.

    The laptop is primarily for presentations and traveling. I pretty much use the Win7 desktop as my go to for actually getting work done.

    I don’t think “the good old desktop PC is becoming sidelined”, rather that it is for getting serious work done. Smartphones, tablets and laptops seem to be for ease of access when away from the desktop, at least that is what I get from Computer User Group members I talk to.

    As to commenting on blogs such as this one, I am another that only does so when I have something to say.

  19. Kim Calvert said on October 20, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I am a software developer and appreciate the balanced approach you have in this article. I have read articles declaring that the desktop is dead. I have found such declarations to be from those who were narrow in their focus and frankly ignorant in the many uses of PCs.

    On the consumer side, their is the desire for ease of use, mobility, and instant access to the internet. Those devices that can do this well for the average consumer will succeed. So far, those devices are the smart devices, tablets, and, in some cases, laptops.

    However, the consumer side is only part of the equation. As a developer, these devices simply do not have the power to run multiple major application to do development work, or to create professional graphics, and videos. Nor do they provide the precise control needed create these things. That’s where the desktop and higher end laptops come in.

    In many cases, business end-users do not need mobility. They actually need a non-mobile platform at their desks to do their work due to non-mobility being part of physical security. Bank tellers are such a group.

    This subject can be greatly expanded upon so I will leave it to this brief comment and others for discussion.

    In my case, I am an avid laptop user. I value the balance of semi-mobility, connectivity, and ability to develop software. In my case I run Linux on my machine which is much better at resource management than Windows. My family also runs on laptops due to the mobility and connectivity.

    Thank you,

    Kim Calvert

  20. Paul(us) said on October 20, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    always a desktop this not only because of short life of the laptop battery, the expensive cost of parts and new price of the machine, but most off all the ferry small screen image the news on an 24 inch screen or bigger is that not more easy to look at, not even mention the details who are not possible to few on such a small screen.

  21. Masoud Sh. said on October 20, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I have a desktop and a laptop and I love only desktop, I don’t like mobile device. :D

  22. DAtkins said on October 20, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I have to use a lot of power hungry programs (3D design and such) so a desktop is the only way to go, even now. Maybe a Quadro Mobile card works as well – but there is something reassuring that I can swap out a new one in 2 years without having to reinstall everything on a new rig.

    That said, I do have an ultra portable that I can use on the road – which I want to replace with a tablet. Again, it’s graphics performance that has kept me from doing so already. Maybe Kal-El will finally bring it to a minimum level that I require?

    I love the tablet form for watching movies or reading. When I have to do this on a desktop I slouch like an 80 year old with osteoporosis – on a laptop I keep trying to break the hinge and turn it into a tablet.

    So for creating content, I prefer desktop – for consuming content, I prefer a tablet.

  23. The Mighty Buzzard said on October 20, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I have a desktop that I use whenever possible and a laptop for when it’s not possible. I’ve no use for a handheld device or netbook because the displays are too small and the input methods are too clunky.

  24. Jason said on October 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Always a desktop.

    So easy to add/change parts
    Multiple monitor setup is way easier

    If I do use a laptop, I hook up a keyboard,mouse, and screen to it….might as well make it a desktop.

  25. WebHybrid said on October 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Laptop – a larger ‘desktop replacement’ model with plenty-o-USB ports. I use a 500GB external disc drive to store full-system backups and movies. Etcetera.

    With a 17″ screen this has been fine for fooling with photo edits, my primary hobby.

    Sure it’s a heavyweight as laptops go, but I have little need for portability. On the other hand, it can be carried, and that’s been awfully handy when the DSL has gone out and when I’ve had to schlep the machine to a repair service.

    1. WebHybrid said on October 20, 2011 at 8:59 pm

      P.S. I suppose I should add that I use a standard-size wireless optical mouse. Definitely not a fan of touchpads (too difficult) or touchscreen devices (way too much of an ick factor).

  26. Ben said on October 20, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I have an 27″ iMac, 2 windows desktops (1 nicer than the other but both have 4 gigs of RAM), 3 monitors (counting the iMac) a netbook, an iPod touch (aging quickly). I primarily use the iMac for both work and play. I use the netbook when and if I’m leaving and need an actual computer, otherwise I just take the iPod Touch. One of my desktops is hooked to my TV for Netflix streaming and the other (more powerful desktop) is sitting to the left of my iMac. I turn it on to test web layouts and to install windows updates.

    I prefer desktop computers as I find laptops cumbersome to accomplish web design work on (not enough screen estate, keyboard is weird). Now if that laptop is hooked to an external monitor, with a regular keyboard and a mouse (same with the netbook) they’re okay. :)

  27. odio said on October 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I’m a Desktop.
    I really dont like mobile devices yet.

    Maybe when laptops had a satisfactory specifications for me i can get one.

  28. Toto said on October 20, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    So as the topic of today is comments on ghacks, here are my two cents.

    Just to start, it’s true it’s a bit confusing all those new form factors, but I really love it! All in all I think having dedicated objects made for one purpose is really a plus (but you need several instead of one).

    I have in closet a desktop computer/server that I use as a central storage, backup all other devices, and occasionnally as a web server (for testing purposes). I’m currently running windows home server on it, mainly for it’s backup system which just working out of the box. I’m also looking for Amahi home server as a potential replacement. The server is connected to a monitor in the room and is occasionally used to play some movies/music.

    One laptop (15”), quite recent and powerful, used for small gaming and working at home. As I’m working on the sofa/living room/…. I like to have something that I can move around easily.

    One eeepc, those small computer are just great when moving, or for a presentation.

    My Iconia tab a5000 (android tablet), internet/reading.

    And last, I consider my smartphone as a computer (when you have dual core processor plus good ram plus…. you have a computer, no matter if you call it a phone or not). Well, it’s always with me, and used to check email, weather and so….

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