Should I Get a Laptop or Desktop?
Not so long ago the decision to buy a laptop or desktop for small business use was a no-brainer - desktop every time. They gave more computing power dollar for dollar, were typically easier to upgrade, had a wider variety of audio and video options and a screen size that didn't require a magnifying glass to read the text.
But times change rapidly in the world of computers. And new ways of running a business have emerged that require access to a computer outside the office as well as in. Now the decision may not be so clear cut. From the point of view of computer technology, laptops now come with pretty much any functionality you can get on a desktop. They are very reasonably priced. You can expand their capacity, and flexibility, with memory sticks. And while they get thinner and less weighty some have increased their screen size for easier viewing.
So now the choice may not be about dollars and computing power but about purpose - what do you want to be able to do with this computer in your business. If it is just to sit at a workstation for general use, or if it has to run a particular process, then you might still go for a desktop. But these days you may need something that can match the flexibility of business practice - taking work home; getting information while on the road; running a presentation or sales pitch with a client. The portability of a laptop opens up these possibilities.
Best of both worlds
Laptops are usually criticized, from a usability perspective, on two main issues - the laptop's keyboard isn't nearly as easy to use as the desktop's and the laptop's finger operated pad, sometimes called a 'mouse pad', is nowhere near as efficient as a conventional mouse.
There are simple solutions to both these issues. The business office can have a desktop with 'docking' capability. The laptop can be linked (docked) to the desktop when not on the road and the desktop's keyboard and mouse used. Or a mouse can be added to a laptop.
For continual use at a desk the laptop is definitely less comfortable and slower to use than a desktop setup unless you add the separate keyboard and mouse.
Working with laptops
Because of their nature, laptops are particularly susceptible to damage and theft and typically, because of the integration of their components, they are more expensive to have repaired.
Being more susceptible to damage makes sense considering they're often moved around while a desktop just sits there. But the problem is exacerbated by the fact that spare parts for laptops are usually more expensive than a comparable desktop component.
Perhaps the biggest threat to laptops comes from theft. Because they're on the move a lot they can be stolen - and they frequently are. The loss can involve more than just the laptop - with it can go all sorts of confidential intellectual property such as customer lists, information about new products, and even your own identity details including credit card numbers and bank account passwords.
Laptop users do need to be particularly careful about securing the physical safety of their computer and ensuring they have strong data security and backup procedures in place.
Laptop or desktop - make it a business decision
The bottom line on the desktop vs laptop argument isn't just one of personal preference, upfront cost or resale value.
Good laptops are bringing a much higher percentage of their purchase price at resale (up to 18 months from new) than desktops. And given the changing capabilities of computers, trading up every 18 months or so is not a bad strategy.
Up front cost is only one component of total cost and for businesses that need to get in front of their customers, or with employees who need to work out of the office, having a laptop can save time and allow them to secure sales by being able to instantly demonstrate an idea or present their product. You need to consider the opportunity cost of not using one.