What does working or learning look like for you? It’s possible that asking ten random people this question will return ten different answers. That’s because people’s circumstances are as varied as the leaves on a tree in winter and autumn.
For some people, learning requires working from a dedicated desk at home or in school. For some others, all they’d need is a laptop while taking their favorite beverage in bed or at the coffee shop. The same differences happen with work too. Some people can work while strolling—that’s if they’re using a tablet or a phone.
How do you determine which type of computer — tablet, laptop, or desktop — is best? This is essentially a trick question because it has no answer. If you search “desktop vs laptop for college,” “desktop vs laptop for remote work,” or “best laptop for online college,” you will be hit with a plethora of suggestions. And while these are worth considering, at the end of the day, it’s all down to choice and circumstance.
You’re probably already currently leaning towards a particular hardware solution. Still, there are a few objective factors you must consider before making a decision.
As we consider these factors, you will find that laptops and desktops have pros and cons in equal measure. We’ll also explore how these differences affect your choice.
For some people, a workstation connotes consistency and focus; for others, it represents stiffness, immobility, and unproductivity. It’s funny how one thing can speak differently to varying sets of people. Let’s explain this a little further.
A workstation is fixed, which means it’s always set up. You don’t need to set up every day and connect everything again. It’s permanently set up, turned on, and ready to go. This is perfect for people who like to get into work or study as quickly as possible. The consistency of the setup also helps with focus and being able to zone out everything else.
Depending on what you’re doing, you can set it up however you like. You can add a headset or an ergonomic chair. You can add extra monitors by using a wall mount or place them on a monitor stand. You could also add some aesthetic pleasures like flower pots, etc.—anything to help you focus and optimize your time at the workstation.
Today’s desktop monitors—like the Blackmagic Design Smartview Duo Dual LCD and the Blackmagic Design SmartView 4K Ultra HD monitors—are winning the display game. Monitors like these boast impressive HD and 4K resolution, and superior display size. This means they are better for your eyes over time because of their sharper details and larger display.
However, the most significant benefit of a desktop workstation is also one of its greatest weaknesses. Some people like to switch it up a bit after a few days sitting at a workstation. Sadly, you can’t just pick up your desktop workstation and head out the door, as it’s designed to be immovable.
This is where the laptop shines. With a laptop, you can work anywhere in the house, the beach, a coffee shop, or on the go. You can stay in bed all day and be just as productive because you have all you need on your laptop. Of course, this may not be psychologically fruitful long-term, but it doesn’t change the fact that working from the bedroom is some people’s preferred modus operandi.
Also, a laptop offers the flexibility of fixing it up with a desktop workstation. Modern laptops can sync with a multi-screen desktop workstation using a hub. The added benefit of this is that when you’re done with the workstation, you can just pick up your laptop and leave, and your work goes with you.
This flexibility works with learning, too, whether remote or classroom learning. A laptop makes it easy to switch your environment and still be on pace to complete your curriculum, regardless of where you are. Want to do some tablet education? Many modern laptops have detachable monitors and flip screens. Or you could just go for an actual tablet.
Connectivity and Performance
A laptop wins on the flexibility front, but can it rival a desktop when it comes to performance? Thanks to its larger size, a desktop has enough space to fit in more powerful processors, graphic cards, heavier RAMS, storage, etc. Simply put, desktops are a lot more dependable for heavy-duty users.
In practice, what this means is that you can have a plethora of tabs open at once. You can handle intricate design work, 3D simulation and rendering, and gameplay. Ever wonder why high-profile gamers almost exclusively do their gaming on desktop computers? The answer is simple—high-level performance and processing power. Your computer is less likely to buckle under the pressure of your activities.
Also, because desktop workstations are stationary, it is easier to keep it plugged to the internet round-the-clock via a wired Ethernet connection. This connection doesn’t prevent you from also connecting to a Wi-Fi network. This means that there is a very low likelihood of experiencing downtime due to loss of internet connectivity while working or doing school work. This fact gives the desktop an easy edge over the laptop on the performance and connectivity front.
But performance isn’t the priority for every user, especially if the computer is only needed for lighter operations. For less resource-intensive websites like writing service recommendation platforms Writing Judge and Pick The Writer, a laptop would suffice. Stuff like regular zoom meetings with colleagues, online college classes, typing up documents, managing a website, or interacting with coworkers via Slack can all be done efficiently on a laptop.
Not to mention, a laptop already comes fitted with a microphone and a webcam. But with a desktop setup, you’ll have to purchase these separately. Taking online classes or video chatting colleagues is better on a laptop because of its flexibility, it is sometimes rather important to increase the page speed downloading to make sure everything works well and the fact that it’s a one-stop-shop solution. Of course, if you prefer not to detach yourself from your work area, you can always use your desktop setup and purchase a webcam and a headset.
Maintaining Focus and Avoiding Distractions
This one has little to do with either the desktop or laptop, as none can boast an edge over the other here. If you happen to have a desktop workstation at home, it should be situated in an area of the house that is away from your TV, the kid’s room, and other distractions.
After all, the idea of an anchored workstation is to be able to focus and be productive. Also, with such a workstation, your family or roommates can quickly get the sense that you don’t want to be distracted.
Still, you can’t keep your family, roommates, or even external distractions away. Disturbances are bound to find you one way or another.
This is where a laptop may be preferred. If you’re lounging on the sofa or your bed, it doesn’t give off as much of a work vibe as sitting at a workstation. It can also affect your ability to focus long-term. Plus, family and friends won’t take your work mode as seriously as they would with a fixed workstation.
Thankfully, with a laptop, you can pack up yourself and leave the house to a quieter environment. But distractions exist everywhere; they just look different from when you’re at home.
Right off the bat, it seems like the laptop is winning this one. A desktop option offers more bang for your buck, but it has to stay powered to do that. That power comes from somewhere, and that somewhere usually shows up heavily on your electricity bill. A desktop typically consumes more power than a laptop, so unless you need that heavy-duty performance, a laptop will serve you better, not to mention it will be more forgiving on your power bill.
This advantage is also seen in the hopefully rare case of a power outage. A desktop will go off immediately. Even if it is plugged into an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), it won’t last very long if you can’t get the power back on.
Most modern laptops are fitted with batteries that can last for hours. This means that even with an outage, you can continue with your work or online education. Computers differ in terms of how long they can stay on without charge.
As mentioned earlier, desktops and laptops are not superior or inferior to each other; they’re just different. People are always trying to figure out what kind of computer is best for virtual teaching. Or what type is ideal for work purposes or gaming or video chatting, or anything else. Keep the factors above in mind, and you can never go wrong.