Buying guide: Desktop PC vs. laptop

Should you buy a desktop PC or a notebook computer? Our guide will help you decide

Jargon Buster: Desktop PC and Laptops

802.11a/b/g/n wireless: This is the specification (also known as Wi-Fi) that you need to look for if you want your laptop or desktop PC to be used on a wireless network. 802.11 has four standards: a, b, g and n. The most common one is 'g', but the fastest one is 'n'. Most new laptops now come with wireless adapters that can run the 'n' standard, but make sure you check with the sales person.

CPU: This stands for 'central processing unit' and it's the brains of both desktop and laptop computers. A faster CPU will be able to run programs at a faster rate than a slower CPU.

DVD burner: A DVD burner drive is an essential part of a laptop or desktop PC. It can be used to read CDs and DVDs and it can also be used to write to CDs and DVDs. DVD movies can also be watched using a DVD burner.

Ethernet: An Ethernet port is essential if you want to connect your laptop or desktop PC to a network or broadband modem. There are two types of ports: 10/100 and 10/100/1000 (also known as Gigabit). Both look the same, but a Gigabit port can provide faster speeds than a 10/100 port.

ExpressCard slot: Many new laptops will have an ExpressCard slot, which is a rectangular slot on the side of the laptop. The ExpressCard interface is a high-speed one that can be used to plug in devices such as 3G data cards and even a digital TV tuner. It comes in two sizes: ExpressCard/34 is narrower than ExpressCard/54. A laptop with an ExpressCard/54 slot will accommodate ExpressCards of either size, whereas an ExpressCard/34 slot will only be able to run ExpressCard/34 devices.

FireWire: Like USB, this is a type of port that is used to connect devices. Older iPods use this type of connection and DV camcorders also use FireWire. FireWire is sometimes referred to as IEEE 1394 or iLink.

Graphics processor: Also known as a GPU (graphics processing unit), this processor determines how well your desktop PC or laptop will be able to play games. A powerful graphics processor will provide a smoother gaming experience than a slower graphics processor. A graphics processor may also come with its own dedicated portion of RAM.

Hard drive: This is the physical disk where your operating system, programs and data are stored. The operating system, your programs and data are all loaded from here and put into RAM when you use them. Hard drive capacity is measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB) — 1000GB is equal to 1TB. A higher capacity drive will be able to store more programs and data.

Netbook: A netbook is a small laptop (usually 10in in size) that is less powerful than a standard laptop. It can be used for basic tasks such as browsing the Internet, creating documents, viewing photos and watching videos. The small size and light weight of a netbook makes it ideal if you need a device to use while travelling, whether commuting or holidays, for example.

PC Card slot: Similar to an ExpressCard slot, all past-generation and older laptops have at least one PC Card slot, but some new laptops don't. The PC Card interface is slower than the ExpressCard interface, but it is still used for some 3G data cards as well as devices such as external DVD drives. It's mostly found in business laptops.

RAM: This stands for 'random access memory'. It's a temporary storage area where all of your programs and data files are loaded. The more RAM you have, the more programs you will be able to load and the more files you will be able to use at the same time. RAM can be measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB). One gigabyte is the same as 1024 megabytes.

USB 2.0 port: USB stands for 'universal serial bus' and it's a port that can be used to connect many different types of devices, from a mouse to a printer. USB 3.0 ports are the fastest, but the most common are USB 2.0 ports. USB 2.0 ports can be found on all the latest laptops and desktop PCs. Both types of ports look the same and will be able to accommodate the same devices, but USB 3.0 devices will run slower if plugged into a USB 2.0 port.

Tags notebooksdesktop pcslaptops

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Elias Plastiras

Elias Plastiras

PC World




I would like to ask a question on "Some laptops and desktops may also include office application software, games or educational software. Many models may also come with software to protect your computer from viruses." Would those be DVD Discs or CD Discs and how many do a desktop normally co me with?



@LaLa: The crappy programs that come with it suck. Download a free AV from the internet, use Open Office or Google Docs. Etc.

This article is mostly crud, the only difference between desktops and laptops is size and price. A Laptop with equal stats to a desktop will cost more. A desktop with equal stats to a laptop will be bigger.
Any other differences don't matter to someone who doesn't know them (eg that you can't have 2x570's in SLI in a laptop, etc)




One thing most articles overlook is the fatigue and strain factor on your neck, shoulders, and lower back from constant use of a laptop instead of a desktop computer. Desktop systems allow you to place your keyboard in a drawer for correct posture. Laptops don't. So, use an external keyboard for longterm use when working in your home or office. Your body will thank you.



i've been out of the 3d modeling game for several years but have gotten the opportunity to jump back into it. i typically use macs, but will need a pc for the applications i need to run. i have a nice large ips monitor to use with either a desktop or a laptop, but i would like to have a laptop just so that i can leave my monitor at work but still work on my models at home if i want. several years back it seemed that no laptop could stand up to a desktop in modeling/rendering. i'm now finding laptops with the same exact specs (i know exactly what graphics card i need, 12gb ram, etc etc) as the desktops i'm looking at. would these essentially be the same? would the laptop degrade in any way faster?

like i said, im really fine either way. only preference for a laptop is a portable screen.

any help much appreciated



I have all my music(itunes) on my PC and the only other thing I use my PC is for yahoo, hotmail,facebook and an occassional web surfing. I don't play games or "buy" music from itunes. I hate having to sit behind a desk cramped into my bedroom. Am I better off with a PC or laptop. My concern is can a laptop still operate like a PC when it comes to burning and loading CD's for music?



I have questions on the notebooks. I want to get my daughter something where she can get on internet. IE Facebook, yahoo and all of that, but I don't want to spend $500-$600. Are notebooks cheaper and can I get on those websites?



Laptops are not good for games?I use a core i5,500gb memory,4gb ram supported laptop and still, I am happy with the performance,why?



Awesome man first i was thinking to buy laptop but now going to buy p.c..tenkew



this was a huge help. tried to figure out what i was paying for, while looking for my first laptop/pc. thanks for helping the normal person understand. ram, hard drive, i3 etc. now i know a lil about what that means.



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thanks friends i am going to buy a laptop but now i buying desktop i advise u to take a desktop pc

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