Computer manufacturers seem to be making laptops smaller and smaller while simultaneously cramming them full of more features. And desktop computer systems seem to get cheaper and cheaper. So which is right for you? Here are some tips to determine which platform to pick for your business computing needs.
Lock down your budget. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but a notebook computer will cost roughly double what a comparably equipped desktop computer would cost. If you are just starting out, or if you are trying to outfit an entire office, your budget may keep you out of laptop land.
If, however, you can afford to go mobile, your investment may pay big dividends in increased productivity. That depends, of course, on what you demand from your work computer.
Develop a shopping list. What are your “have-to-haves” in a computer? If your work is graphics-intensive Web design, graphics, or related fields a laptop’s 15-inch LCD screen may not cut it. Of course, you can always plug it in to a fancy external monitor at the office, but make sure the added cost of the laptop is actually going to pay off. If you can only do your work effectively at the office, you may be better off with a desktop.
Of course, this is only one example. There are other categories where desktops will almost always win out: memory, processor speed, peripherals, and so on. If you are leaning toward a laptop, make sure it will actually meet your needs.
Size does matter. Especially with portable computers. The smaller they are, the more expensive they tend to be and the less features they may have. The lightest and smallest laptops, known as ultraportables, are smaller because they have had much of the extraneous hardware stripped out of them. For this reason, ultraportables probably are not a good bet for a combination home/away computer.
The next step up in size (and down in price) is a thin-and-light. These notebooks try to balance size and features, and are excellent choices if you are looking to meet all of your computing needs with a single machine.
Desktop replacement laptops are the biggest and most feature-packed laptops, and can be a good choice if you are not constantly on the go. Because they’re bigger, you are probably less likely to lug it with you when you leave the office. And what they lack in portability they make up for in features.
Ergonomics: the hidden cost. If you have ever used a laptop for an extended length of time, you know they are not the most comfortable things in the world. They sacrifice comfort for size, and that can put a dent in your productivity. If you get fatigued after working on a laptop for a couple of hours, you will probably find reasons to get up and do something else. When you are at the office, you can plug in a full-size keyboard and mouse to mitigate this, but there are some people who just can’t get used to laptops. Before you buy, test-drive a few and make sure you buy one that agrees with you.
Business is all about balancing costs and benefits, and nowhere is this clearer than in picking a computer. You can get a laptop packed with desktop-type features, but you will pay dearly for it. But if it means dramatically improved productivity for you or for your employees, it very well may be worth it.