Personal computers have come a long way since the first household PCs were developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Today, technology is more mobile than anyone could have ever imagined 30 years ago. We can 'compute' wherever we want, whenever we want and without cables of any kind. (To help you surf the Internet for free, see 7 Places To Find Free WiFi.)

TUTORIAL: Economic Basics

Laptop computers have become the convenient option. We can upload pictures from the park, check our emails on the train and carry our computer with us wherever we go. So does anyone still need a desktop computer? We will look at the history of personal computers and ask if desktops are going out of fashion.

A Little History
Personal computers began with the desktop computer. Despite many technological advances, in its current form the desktop computer remains very similar to the original tower design. Laptops were released in the mid 1980s, but did not hit the mainstream until the early 1990s. With laptops, designers wanted to fuse a computer system with a device that could be carried around by its owner. While the first ones were far larger and more awkward than the current style, they quickly became a useful addition to the computing world.

Why Have Laptops Taken Off?
For many years, laptops were far more expensive than desktops, and were often overlooked for budgetary reasons. In recent years the prices have come down substantially, battery life has improved and the speed is faster. All of these factors have resulted in a boom in the sales of laptops to the mass market.

Laptops are the most convenient computers to use. Today, you can use any software on a laptop as easily as on a desktop. The added advantage is that all of this functionality comes in a package that looks and feels like a textbook and easily fits into a briefcase or bag. (For more on what convenience is costing you, see Lunch Money: The Cost Of Convenience.)

Are Desktops Redundant?
Laptops are now excellent performers and can have plenty of storage and memory. There will always be a limitation with size and heat which means that desktop computers are still more powerful than their portable cousins.

There is a reason why desktops have been the cornerstone of the personal computer market since the very beginning. Quite simply, desktop computers are faster. You can surf the web faster and install both updates and software faster.

Desktops have always been at the forefront of technological developments. If something brand new is developed, you can buy a top of the range desktop that will have it. A desktop allows you to stay current with technology due to the fact it is easy and affordable to improve its performance by adding additional RAM.

Laptop Vs. Desktop
Even as laptop prices decrease, there is a case to be made for the desktop computer. Perhaps for most people, the decision between desktop and laptop is a question of performance vs. portability. Do you want the latest software and developments, or is the ability to take your computer 'on the road' with you the top of your priority list? Desktops still remain the best option at the bottom end of the computer budget, and even the cheapest have a lot of power.

The Bottom Line
At the top end, desktops have the cutting edge technology, are still much faster and give you the freedom to expand and improve them. If you want power and expandability from your computer, then a desktop will win hands down. (For more ways you can save money using your computer, check out The Best Budgeting Software For 2011.)

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    Luxury Cars with the Best Resale Value

    Autos rarely appreciate in value. But if you want a set of wheels that'll least hold its value over time, these cars can go the distance.
  2. Stock Analysis

    How Expensive Is Whole Foods, Really?

    Learn about Whole Foods Market, Inc., and discover how Whole Foods pricing actually compares to that of other grocery store operations.
  3. Stock Analysis

    4 Quick Service Restaurants for Your Portfolio

    Learn about the four quick service restaurants with attractive investment theses and growth prospects that can be valuable additions to your portfolio.
  4. Stock Analysis

    What Makes the 'Share a Coke' Campaign So Successful?

    Understand how Coca-Cola implemented the successful "Share a Coke" campaign. Learn about the top three reasons why the campaign was successful.
  5. Stock Analysis

    The 6 Best Dividend Stocks in the Consumer Staples Sector

    Learn about the top six companies that make an attractive investment for investors looking for stocks for dividend income investing.
  6. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 3 Consumer Cyclical Mutual Funds

    Obtain information on, and analysis of, some of the best performing mutual funds that offer exposure to the consumer cyclicals sector.
  7. Investing

    Procter & Gamble Restructures, Sheds 100 Brands

    All businesses face adversity, and Procter & Gamble is no exception. We take a look at recent developments affecting this global giant.
  8. Economics

    Explaining Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price

    The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) is just what it describes – the price manufacturers recommend that retailers charge for their goods.
  9. Economics

    Calculating Cross Elasticity of Demand

    Cross elasticity of demand measures the quantity demanded of one good in response to a change in price of another.
  10. Personal Finance

    What to Collect: Apple Watch vs. Luxury Watches

    The "iWatch" is a new player in the luxury watch world. But will it stand the test of time? Some points for collectors to ponder.
  1. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What role does the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) play in the finished product?

    Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) do not typically play much of direct role in determining the finished product. However, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the difference between an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and a VAR ...

    An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a company that manufactures a basic product or a component product, such as a ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Is the retail sector also affected by seasonal factors?

    Generally speaking, the retail sector is highly seasonal. Almost invariably, sales in the retail sector are highest in the ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What has the retail sector evolved to its current structure?

    Retail is the catch-all phrase for the sale of final goods to consumers; a retail transaction is considered an "end" and ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Purchasing Power

    The value of a currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. Purchasing ...
  2. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges ...
  3. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  4. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
  5. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  6. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!