Laptops investigate

Poll: Is your primary work computer a desktop or a laptop?

Laptop computers now outsell desktops, but there are still professionals who prefer desktops. How about you? Which one do you prefer for getting work done? Take the poll.

Laptops have been outselling desktop computers for a couple years now, but I still know a lot of workers who prefer a desktop when it's time to get serious work done.

I count myself in that camp -- mostly because I prefer to work with a large monitor (or multiple monitors), but also because I like to select a keyboard and a mouse to maximize productivity and I typically have other peripherals to attach so I need the extra ports. Of course, I also regularly use a laptop when I'm traveling or working from home, so that means I have to manage my files and configurations in way that makes it easy to switch between machines.

That can be a hassle, and that's why I know an increasing number of people who just work from their laptop so that they don't have worry about switching between separate systems. Since today's laptops are nearly as powerful as desktops, you don't really losing anything by sticking with a laptop. And, with USB docking stations and DisplayLink, laptops easily add extra monitors and ports.

Which option do you prefer?  I know there are many of you who have both a laptop and desktop. For this poll, select the one you use the most to get your work done.

Answer the poll and then hop into the discussion.

Take the poll

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

74 comments
clobeca
clobeca

I used to use a laptop, but it died.

firstaborean
firstaborean

Being a free-lancer, I don't have concerns about corporate connectability, but I do need the flexibility of my triple-boot desktop computer for my main work. My notebook is for use while traveling, and I have it equipped to be powered anyplace, even in the middle of a forest or on the beach, even for weeks away from AC power. I can do my basic work on it, but on the desktop I can do anything. And, with my ageing eyes, the big monitor makes things easier.

LABeachGeek
LABeachGeek

Still use desktops for the heavy lifting, in my case compiling code and multimedia editing. I tried a couple laptops, but with enough power came short battery life, extra weight and a hot lap. My solution... 2 desktops tied together with 4 screens, 1 keybrd, trackball and touchpad. Then an inexpensive 12" laptop with dual batteries to remote in with (dbl encryption). Main reason for this... in case of damage or theft, the laptop is cheap with no important information (clients or mine). Also when accessing clients systems, it's from a known IP instead of a roaming address. So which do I use more for work? Both?? Note: Now trying Android pad to access desktop. Not so good. I'm too old for that small of a screen.

paradoxstorm
paradoxstorm

Desktop definitely. Laptops are very convenient and portable, but when I am sitting at my desk doing more than typing an e-mail a desktop wins hands down. Laptop keyboards and trackpads have come a long way, but the are still cramped and awkward. Sure you can plug in a full size keyboard, mouse, large monitor, and 8 million other devices into a laptop, but it's less hassle to have it already setup and waiting on you. Plus desktops are infinitely more upgradeable than laptops.

Kostaghus
Kostaghus

I prefer to rely on multiple desktops (I do not travel for business) at home and at work. I carry my "stuff" on a mobile HDD or a flash drive. My most recent is a 1TB Western Digital Book that runs on E-SATA. Prefer desktops for better reliability, easier upgrades (and much cheaper). They are also much easier to replace (and cheaper too).

lek2k
lek2k

I'm choice desktop cause of big monitor 22" that great and good vision for 40 years old person as me, easy to read,so I'd like to choice nice keyboard that have many short-cut key (hotkeys). I can pay less than notebook approximate 40% at same specification. Unbelivable,now I can bought desktop pc by included Intel CPU , 2 GB , 350 GB ,DVD-RW, 22" LCD monitor only 300$, It's really occur in my one life.

mmangan
mmangan

Actually, I use both through the use of a 2 port KVM and switch back and forth depending on which machine I'm working on.

agra3189
agra3189

I am a writer...when I am at home my desktop is my workhorse, If I feel the need to gain some inspiration then I take my laptop to the beach or the countryside and then my laptop is the workhorse.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

As voting allowed only one pick, either desktop or laptop. In my case the answer is BOTH. In my particular job, a laptop is a necessity since I spent quite a bit of time going to customer sites. Either setting up, configuring, and testing newly installed systems or troubleshooting and correcting problems. But other parts of my job include developing new, custom apps, writing Owner Manuals, drawing network layouts and wiring schematics, creating custom Web pages, etc. For these sorts of things, I prefer a desktop. As I prefer the larger screens; faster system performance; ability to just slap extra RAM into the system ... cheaply and easily; the ability to modify the box as -I- want ... such as adding hard drives, multiple optical drives, extra ports, etc. Keyboard or mouse mucked up? I have spares on hand. Some of the guys at work who do much the same job I do have been experimenting with docking stations. I haven't used one. They say its an improvement over laptop only, but all of them also say they preferred having both a laptop and a desktop for much the same reasons I prefer that solution. In my case I keep working files/directories mirrored on both laptop and desktop. For that matter, also on memory sticks. We do custom work for customers, mostly under fixed price contract, and speed is of the essence. We don't make one dime extra just because I lost time due to a file or app getting lost or corrupted due to whatever cause, or my laptop rolling over and playing dead cockroach, or for any other reason that's not customer caused. So backups and a backup plan are the rule of the kind of work I do. As is the most raw processing power and speed possible under the given working situation. For instance I have a CAD app and Visio loaded on my laptop. But for the most part, that's just so I can do minor editing on site and in the field as needed. When doing serious graphic work, I use my desktop.

hrill
hrill

My primary computer at work is a laptop. I've got it setup using a docking unit, and I use both an external monitor and the laptop's screen so it's like having two monitors. This works well while I'm at the office, and having the portability allows me to take my machine to meetings and home so that I've always got what I need.

gsweeney
gsweeney

Got both. Use Dell Workstation at work and Dell LT at home or travel.

letzz
letzz

laptop,desktop should remain in the office

rbgbaggage1970
rbgbaggage1970

I got the cheapest laptop after my desktop died. I will not got another desktop. I'm retired but do volunteer work and have to use this for communications,(phone,Skype,Messenger. Keep in touch with family video and email. I use it for entertainment as well. DVD's Hulu, record shows and listen to music. Use it for GPS on trips with MS streets and trips. Books on Tape (cd) while driving.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The full-size keyboard and monitor, and the mouse, make it so much easier to do my work. Unfortunately, that's a lot of stuff to carry around to the various calls, so I wind up working from a laptop. I'm almost used to it now...

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

My primary is my desktop - built by me. Core i7 with 8GB of RAM. My laptop is a netbook. :-)

dwdino
dwdino

Server! VDI and Windows 2008R2 on the desktop...

thomasfrank09
thomasfrank09

Both. To add to the confusion I use a Windows 7 desktop and a Macbook Pro for my laptop. However, Dropbox and Evernote make it all work.

JFTierney.KJMC.CIS
JFTierney.KJMC.CIS

I am a healthcare systems analyst and admin and have both a PC and a laptop in my workspace. The laptop has become my primary device. Using my laptop, even within the office, gives me greater flex in work location. I can wonder from cube to cube and collaborate with my coworkers or demonstrate how to do something. I can be on time for a meeting, and get some work done while waiting for the rest to show up. I also am often able to do a quick proof of concept on requested changes while in a meeting. It also makes it easier to work offsite by VPN if most everything is on the laptop with me.

drjoebav
drjoebav

Size of screen is crucial for me, so desktops win out.

coolmark82
coolmark82

I am a desktop person simply because i need more power to the system, and because i use large displays and multiple displays, and also multiple computers. my main computer (even though I have a new intel iMac and a Macbook pro) is a Power Mac G4 sawtooth (of course upgraded) because i use many apps build for OS 9 and i also have leopard on it. I have 10 years worth of info on it, so i can't lose it at all. I have 2 23" Dell monitors plugged into it, and it works fine for me. It fits me needs, but unfortunately it's not good enough for youtube and flash games. That's when i turn to my powerful iMac.

The13thGryphon
The13thGryphon

Have you never heard of a docking station? I have dual 20" monitors, a full sized keyboard, a standard mouse, a printer, a USB backup drive, speakers, and more all hooked up to my laptop's docking station. On the go, it's light and easily portable. At my desk it's a full fledged workstation. And I never have to worry about document management or where I last updated a particular file... it's all in one place!

richlan421
richlan421

Although I use my laptop religiously, the desktop is still my workhorse where the bulk of my work gets done. Using my laptop while working on documents and projects on the go or away from the desk is great, but for the majority of tasks I need to get through, sitting at the desk with reference materials close at hand, limited distractions, and a larger display or multiple displays to utilize; the desktop sill reigns supreme (at least in my humble opinion).

maclovin
maclovin

Primary is desktop, but use laptop equally from home and have one in server room. Desktops are by far better for gam- er, work... XD

ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898
ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898

I work from home and I only have laptop computers. One is my backup and one is just a very old one I have. Then there's the Main laptop I use all the time for everything. That one is plugged into desktop speakers, 19" widescreen monitor and wireless mouse and keyboard (which I hope to replace with wired versions due to high battery consumption).

wangwe
wangwe

My laptop does less work and it is primarily used for study and entertainment Desktop performs all the tests, experiments and practicals and work.!!

pcelliot
pcelliot

You ask your question two different ways. In the article, you ask "What do you prefer?" and the poll question that can be answered is "What is your primary work computer?". Someone may prefer a desktop at work, but their employer gives them a laptop.

reisen55
reisen55

For my office network, which comprises 20 workstations and server IF I kept all of them turned on, which I do not - 3 of them are on 24/7 - the desktop systems provided best OFFICE BENCH functionality for systems brought offsite. At my client locations, I usually dig into one of their available systems, a desktop, to do any quick work and will utilize the laptop really on an as-needed basis. Travel is different, then the laptop assumes the role of my primary station. IE drove down to Atlanta last week to visit family and thus two laptops came along for the ride. I can access my desktops and servers through DYNDNS port forwarding, clients included, so I am never EVER out of touch with my work.

aharper
aharper

With my new duties, I am pretty much chained to a desk. Rather than my netbook I had out in the field, I have a desktop because I needed much more power for some of my new responsibilities. I still have my netbook, though our relationship has cooled somewhat. When I go out of town on business, there is really no choice to make.

kallingham
kallingham

Bought a mondo laptop thinking I'd need it for consulting. Now I think a desktop would be better. When I travel I prefer to take my super-mini Acer notebook.

msheppard
msheppard

Developing applications is way easier for me with dual monitors: Code on one screen, app/output on the other. I've never been able to achieve this with a lappy. I tried it a few times, using an additional monitor, but even then - having the small screen and inferior keyboard made me return to a desktop + 2 monitors.

John Forbes
John Forbes

My work machine is a laptop, but when I'm at my desk it's docked: with a screen mouse & keyboard in effect same as a desktop. But if I'm on the move / working at a different office I'll propbably be using it as a laptop. Ergonomically desktops are better, but sometimes you need the mobility a laptop give. Actually typing this hotdesking at a desktop with my laptop in my bag. Life is confusing!

thomas.krawczyk
thomas.krawczyk

Laptop - then my desk can be anywhere it needs to be ... or I want it to be.

jplaclau
jplaclau

I prefer a desktop but I'd be interested in finding out what size is prefered by laptop people.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Laptops are just too uncomfortable and too slow. Even the most realistically expensive laptop will struggle to keep up with a cheap desktop computer. Hard drive speed alone makes a huge difference.

codybwheeler
codybwheeler

I've tried to simplify my life lately and maximize my time efficiency. However I find that the unfortunate thing about being quick and time efficient is that I find myself waiting on people A LOT. This is why I pretty much have to have a laptop. Recently I bought a little netbook just to have more portability because I find myself saying "I could be getting so much work done right now if I had my computer." Unfortunately the battery in my VAIO goes kaput pretty quick. Oh well. At least with a netbook I can get a bit of writing done.

mad steve
mad steve

Saves all the problems of keeping files synchronised, but I still have a proper monitor, keyboard and mouse when I'm at my desk :-)

santeewelding
santeewelding

For an implant, orchestrated by Central Authority.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

using a server OS license for your workstation? Does this device serve an additional function?

jsaubert
jsaubert

I don't have a "work" laptop but just based on what I've seen the 11-12 inch range (NON-NETBOOK) really seems to be the optimum size for portability, power and usability. You get much smaller and it starts becoming more of a detriment than the super-portability is worth. Out latest acquisition was the Dell Inspiron 1110; 11.6 inch, 4GB RAM, 250GB hard drive for about $550. They really have been performing wonderfully. Personally I couldn't go below a 14 inch screen because I need the screen space/size to show detail. I got a refurbished Dell Studio 1558 (it's a 15.6 inch) as an emergency "I need a bigger screen - NOW" laptop before I went on a trip and I've been very pleased. I would never consider using it for heavy duty stuff, lets say BioShock or WoW on full, but it handles my graphic and video editing needs really well. (I'd never expect PhotoShop CS5 to run so smoothly on a $400 laptop.) Plus it had the HDMI I use when I do get access to an HD TV. I think it all really depends on the intended use what size is called for.

sadler
sadler

I use a Macbook Pro 13.5", running Parallels so I can do all my windows stuff too. I dock to a 19" monitor and only need to worry about one machine (No desktop or Mac). When using undocked it is small, light and returns about 7 hours on battery. I prefer the smaller size for easier carrying, plus it is bigger and more powerful than a netbook.

JCitizen
JCitizen

If the manufacturers would put one SSD alongside the slowpoke hard drives in these units.

JCitizen
JCitizen

my clients love them, but I'm waiting for one with Chrome OS installed.

Iroc_n_roll
Iroc_n_roll

Like many, I have a laptop hooked to a docking station with the big monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. It wasn't necessarily by choice as it was the setup I was given to use. But then, I don't do anything intensive on it either. Most of that is done through the servers or the 400. At home I primarily use my desktops though. There really isn't anything on the laptop that I would need to use that I don't have on my desktop at home. About the only time the laptop leaves my desk at work is when I travel (rarely FOR work though) or when it is needed for a presentation. We have very few laptops here, so mine gets drafted for the rare use of this nature (They aren't going to take the CEO's laptop lol). I think, as has been mentioned, the key here is the use that the computer is being put to. My wife has a netbook she used for work, but has since replaced that with an Android phone. But then her job has nothing to do with computers. When we travel, she still uses the netbook, but more so for the screen size than anything else.

waterway-aqs
waterway-aqs

For me, although I use a laptop at work, I rather use a desktop. Why? Desktops usually have more processing power per $. My corporate laptops have been Intel Celeron M.

Realvdude
Realvdude

It appears that the preference is really based on need, with a number of users content to use laptops as desktop replacements. When I was doing full time development, working on the project at work and home, I moved to a laptop full time. I only added a mouse and a second power cord, so I didn't have to crawl under the desk at work every morning. After the project deployed, I still found myself needing the laptop for field work. As the field work lulled I switched back to a desktop mainly for the ergonomics of a desktop setup. I realize I could have adapted the laptop into the desktop experience, but enjoy the view of my 19" monitor over my laptop 15" display and the keyboard area. The laptop hasn't been out in almost a year and that was to do a infection cleanup on a client computer, via USB drive adapter. If I need to do any field development, I connect to my desktop via a SSL VPN and Remote Desktop.

liltwin1101
liltwin1101

I use a laptop everywhere and don't leave home without it. I have a work laptop, home laptop and an Acer netbook. I just use the netbook for jumping on the internet when I travel. My primary workhorse is my work laptop. Great for telecommuting. Almost everyone in our IT dept uses a laptop for mobility and flexibility. I do not see a dropoff in performance for what I do. I'm a DBA and I RDP to my servers, use VPN away from the office, and never have to worry about transferring files just to do my job. The laptop literally saved my butt 2 yrs ago when I had a home fire that destroyed my home and the desktop I rarely used. I had both the home and work laptops with me. I was able to contact insurance, friends, family, utilities, and get vital information I needed to have immediately. Best of all, I did not lose any important information. A very good friend lived close by and I picked up her wireless network while standing in the rain with my SUv's tailgate open. Once Wireless became fast and reliable, the desktop became expendable.

canddsol
canddsol

I use a desktop mainly, but have a laptop at home and one for travel that I use to RDC into my desktop when out of the office.

dldorrance
dldorrance

Easy to steal. I vote for desktop.

cmiller5400
cmiller5400

I have a laptop that is my primary machine (99% of the time spent on it). I have it in a docking station/port replicator when at my desk so I can have my two 24" LCD wide-screen monitors, keyboard and mouse all hooked up. I can't live without 2 monitors now. Makes working in spreadsheets etc so much easier.

Imprecator
Imprecator

However, company policy requires me to have a laptop. So, as usual, I got an external monitor, keyboard, mouse and docking station

binaryme
binaryme

I prefer a desktop for the same reasons you already noted: Large (or multiple) Screen(s): In my case, currently using Linux Mint with 4 virtual desktops (all in regular use) on a 26" screen and various OS's in VM's. The other important factor is a comfortable Keyboard & Mouse: Mouse has extra buttons and 2nd scroll wheel making navigation between desktops & OS's a snap! I use a laptop when I must.... but prefer a powerful/flexible PC any day.

NexS
NexS

It may be my money-pinching ways, or the extra thread I use to sew my wallet shut, but for the price of a laptop, a desktop computer can, and does, pack more punch.

dawgit
dawgit

due to Software licenses and their associated fees... those packages stay put. Also there is still the increased danger of information loss with too much mobility. It does happen. Not that I don't use Laptops and Netbooks, but most of my work is on Desktops.

ChewyBass1
ChewyBass1

I'm less likely to forget where I left it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Simply because I have no need for a laptop, so there's no reason the company should spend the extra money on one.

eric.humphrey
eric.humphrey

With my laptop and a docking station I can have the connectivity to printers, LANs, Keyboards, etc. In fact all the features of a desktop, plus the flexibility of mobile computing.

ayaz.haniffa
ayaz.haniffa

Yeah, it is a waste. But who am I to complain.

sonotsky
sonotsky

Although I appreciate the strides that laptop technology has made over the last 10 years or so, I still feel that for raw processing power, you can't beat a desktop for professional activities beyond email. That said, I need a laptop to work. It allows me to undock and move into the datacenter, so that I can work directly on servers (via serial or crossover Ethernet); it allows me to work from home if the weather or traffic is so crazy that it makes my long-distance commute overly time-consuming (and thus less productive) or dangerous; and it allows me to be a resource, should the company declare a disaster and we need to flip to our DR site. That, plus I can take it to a quiet corner and play Starcraft :)

dwdino
dwdino

When your company has multiple VLKs. I did it as a proof of concept and was quite pleased.

Kostaghus
Kostaghus

Excuse me... did I just see you using the words "fast" and "reliable" in conjunction with the word "wireless"???? Since when has wireless become "reliable" as most any kid with a (ditto!) laptop can access your "paid by the sweat of your brow" home wireless network from across the street? Nope... I stick to wired Internet in my home!!! I once found no less than 6 (six) outsiders hooked on my WPA secured home wireless network. Been using wired net eversince. No reason to complain ever since!

cmiller5400
cmiller5400

If you lock them to the desk, they become a tad harder to steal...

NexS
NexS

You forgot to mention that you also have a Sad Face due to the lack in ~POWER~.

Sagax-
Sagax-

Desktop is my work machine. Laptops are a mobile way to get by until I can get to my desktop. My advancing age requires a large monitor and I have never been comfortable with those little bitty keyboards (since the disappearance of the IBM "Butterfly" that is.)

Violetw
Violetw

Why would I EVER AGAIN use a desktop?? I have four laptops, one has 8 gigs of ram, quad power and satellite linkup. Wireless 4g too. I have access to all the printers etc via a docking station at work, and via wireless printer etc 'on the road' and at home. True, for the 3800 bucks I spent on the big laptop I could have bought 2 desktops as powerful, but who wants a desktop? Not me!

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

A desktop is upgradable. Change the CPU or video card. Dump in 16GB of RAM. A second hard disk [yes a few laptops have them but they're also 5400 RPM in most cases]. Add some USB3 ports. I can hook up 3 monitors to my video card. So the only big advantage for a laptop is mobility. If something breaks in a laptop that is part of the main board, have fun!

JCitizen
JCitizen

I haven't worked in the field as much this year, so the lap top is retired for now. Using a NAS would make transitions easier.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The Advanced Encryption Standard is implemented in the WPA2 (802.11i) RFP. A five-word passphrase is extremely secure; a five-word passphrase with random 1337 alterations is essentially uncrackable with portable tools. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_LAN_security#Access_Control_at_the_Access_Point_level http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_security If you're feeling particularly paranoid, run WPA2/AES on your access points and implement a RADIUS server to authenticate into your network. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RADIUS

cmiller5400
cmiller5400

You USUALLY can unlock a lock; unless you are most unfortunate enough to lose the combination or key... :O Takes me all of 5 seconds to undo the lock on my laptop... Insert key, twist, press eject button. Presto, an unlocked laptop free to sprout legs and scamper about.

Kostaghus
Kostaghus

They become... desktop (locked) computers... So what's the point in having a laptop in the end?

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

The next time you return to the car to find a Broken Window and the contents missing. NB's are still one of the most stolen items on the face of the planet they are now even rivaling CD's. And they cost a hell of a lot more into the bargain and are just as portable. But the one thing I have against NB's is the very fact that they are portable. Way to easy to damage them by not packing them up properly. I've lost count of the number of times that I've replaced NB's because they got stuffed into a bag with USB Devices Plugged and and this broke things, or they where sat on their Back Edge on the ground and filled up with mud or other crud. I should point out that those replaced NB belong to company staff they are not mine though. You can never guarantee just how anyone will treat anything. But when I worked as a Mobile Tech in the Banks we lost lots of NB's. At one stage things got so bad that we had to send NB's tot he Offices where we where going and leave them there for our use. Makes a mockery of needing portable systems when we couldn't carry them without fear of them getting nicked. :D Col