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. Budgeting

    Trunk Club Review: Is It Worth It?

    Take a close look at one of the best-known online clothing services in the country, and determine whether it's a good fit for your style and budget.
  2. Budgeting

    HelloFresh Review: Is It Worth It?

    Discover one of the world's most successful meal subscription services, and learn more about how the service operates and what it costs.
  3. Budgeting

    Beer of the Month Subscription Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn how you can get access to some of the best craft beers produced in the world, delivered right to your front door every month.
  4. Budgeting

    Just the Right Book Review: Is It Worth It?

    Take an in-depth look at Just the Right Book, a subscription service that delivers personalized book selections based on your reading history and preferences.
  5. Entrepreneurship

    ‘Happy Birthday to You’ Belongs to Everyone Now

    A class action lawsuit over the copyright to the iconic American song “Happy Birthday to You” ends by placing the ubiquitous ditty in the public domain.
  6. Investing News

    Who Does Cheap Oil Benefit? See This Stock (DG)

    Cheap oil won't benefit most companies, but this retailer might buck that trend.
  7. Budgeting

    The Honest Company Bundles Review: Are They Worth It?

    Learn more about The Honest Company and its bundle subscription services, which deliver discounted diapers, formula and other baby products to your doorstep.
  8. Budgeting

    Blue Apron Review: Is It Worth It?

    Read about one of the top meal-kit delivery services in the United States, and learn more about what it offers and how much it costs.
  9. Stock Analysis

    JCPenney's Path To Profitability (JCP)

    Learn about what J.C. Penney's management team has been doing to profitably grow its business as the company recovers from years of revenue declines.
  10. Stock Analysis

    3 Chip Makers Betting on the Drone Industry in 2016 (INTC, QCOM)

    Find out which of the big chip makers are betting heavily on a burgeoning consumer drone market that could be the next big wave in consumer electronics.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) affect my salary?

    Some companies build salary adjustments into their compensation structures to offset the effects of inflation on their employees. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Where can you buy NetSpend reload packs?

    You can only purchase NetSpend reload packs at Giant Eagle, Albertsons, Roundy's and Pathmark supermarkets. NetSpend cards ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. 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 >>
  4. 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 >>
  5. 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 >>
  6. 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 >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Short Selling

    Short selling is the sale of a security that is not owned by the seller, or that the seller has borrowed. Short selling is ...
  2. Harry Potter Stock Index

    A collection of stocks from companies related to the "Harry Potter" series franchise. Created by StockPickr, this index seeks ...
  3. Liquidation Margin

    Liquidation margin refers to the value of all of the equity positions in a margin account. If an investor or trader holds ...
  4. Black Swan

    An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult ...
  5. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  6. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
Trading Center