Buying a new laptop or a PC depends on what you want from it but here are some simple guidelines. The biggest question is if you want a computer to be portable – if you think you might ever like to use it on holiday/in bed/in another room etc then obviously you need a laptop – a tower PC is a bit big to sit on your knee ;-)
If the computer is definitely going to be sat in one place all the time then the differences between laptops and PCs are less obvious but they can be broken down into power and price, ability to be upgraded and the cost of repairs.
1. Power and Price – As a rule, a standalone tower PC will be more powerful than a laptop of the same price e.g. larger and faster hard drive, more memory (RAM), better graphics or a quicker processor. However, if you need to splash out on a new monitor as well then the difference compared to a similarly priced laptop is less noticeable.
2. Cost Of Repairs – This is where a PC wins every time! Repair usually means replacing the faulty part. Bear in mind that laptops generally lead a harder life than PCs and are therefore more likely to need repairs (moving them around, carrying them or dropping them can drastically shorten the lifespan of many components). The following is an idea of the cost of parts:
- Graphics card – from $45 in PCs; most laptops would require a new motherboard costing over $200 (you are unlikely to be able to fit it yourself)
- Sound card – from $10 in PCs; in laptops the only option is an external USB sound card from $30
- Power supply – PCs are powered by an internal power supply costing from $30; laptop batteries cost from $60
- Motherboard – from $75 in PCs; in laptops a motherboard may cost over $200 (you are unlikely to be able to fit it yourself)
- Memory (RAM) – similar cost for PCs and laptops
- Hard drive – cheaper for PCs and higher available capacities than for laptops
- Keyboard – from $10 for PCs; from $100 in laptops if you do not fit it yourself
- Mouse/touchpad – from $10 for PCs; from $100 in laptops if you do not fit it yourself
- DVD rewriter drive – from $25 in PCs; from $50 in laptops
- Loose/faulty Power jack (power socket) – not applicable for PCs; c $100 for laptops (you are unlikely to be able to fit it yourself)
- Screen – from $100 for PCs depending on size; from $150 for laptops if you do not fit it yourself
3. Ability To Be Upgraded – PCs are far easier to upgrade than laptops, in most cases you could even do it yourself. Upgrading a computer can greatly increase its useful lifespan e.g. adding an extra hard drive if you run out of storage space or improving the graphics card to play the latest games. The following upgrades are possible:
- Processor (CPU) – easy in PCs, not possible or difficult in laptops
- Graphics card – easy in PCs, not possible in most laptops
- Sound card – easy in PCs, not possible in most laptops
- Power supply – PCs are powered by an internal power supply which is easy to upgrade if needed e.g. if extra hard drives or a more powerful graphics card are fitted. Laptop batteries can’t be upgraded as such (except in some cases to provide longer battery life)
- Motherboard – easy in PCs, not possible in laptops
- Memory (RAM) – easy in both but PCs often allow for a higher total amount of RAM than laptops
- Hard drive – easy in both but PCs typically allow for a larger hard drive capacity than laptops
- Keyboard – easy in PCs, not possible in laptops (unless using an external USB keyboard/mouse)
- Mouse/touchpad – easy in PCs, not possible in laptops (unless using an external USB keyboard/mouse)
- DVD rewriter drive – easy in PCs, difficult in laptops (unless using an external USB DVD rewriter)
- Screen – easy for PCs (you could even use a 32 inch HDTV as a monitor), not possible for laptops
The portability of laptops is a blessing and a curse – they are obviously great for using in different places but they are more prone to hardware failure and accidental damage.
A PC can be easily upgraded throughout its life whereas a laptop is somewhat stuck in time – before buying a laptop make sure you are completely happy with the overall specification, features and performance as it may not be possible to improve them later on.
A PC is less likely to go wrong and costs far less to repair if it does.
If you are sure you do not need portability, buy a PC rather than a laptop. You will almost certainly save money, have less problems with it and also have the chance to improve the PC or peripherals like a monitor/mouse as and when you like.