Desktops & Notebooks

Power & Savings versus Portability

Desktop Computers

Decades of evolution have yielded today's desktop computers.  Compared to only ten years ago, their accuracy, reliability, speed, storage capacity, versatility, expandability, and compatibility with a vast and growing array of add-on hardware, software, and communication networks is mind boggling.

In 1996, a system with a single CPU running at 166MHz, a 2GB hard drive, 16MB of RAM, a massive, hot, low resolution CRT monitor, a CD reader, no USB capability, and no other frills, was considered a prize at $1,600.00.

In 2011, a system with multiple CPU cores running at about 2GHz, a 500GB hard drive, 3GB of RAM, a thin, cool, high resolution LCD monitor, CD-DVD combo-drive, card reader, built in networking, 4 USB ports, and the ability to run a home entertainment system, cost around $600.00.

Notebook Computers

The original "laptop" computer was actually a "luggable".  Although it was a portable, somewhat miniaturized version of a desktop computer, it was so heavy that it certainly did not belong on your lap!

The sporty little portable folding computer of modern times is properly called a "notebook" computer.  It comes with a hefty price.

Its microminiaturized parts are more expensive when you first buy them, they wear out more quickly, they are more expensive to replace, and the labor to replace them is more expensive as well.

For all of this expense, you get less capacity - about 1/3 to 1/2 that of a similarly priced desktop.  The only advantage of a notebook computer is that it's mostly portable.  After a few hours' run time, you need to recharge its battery.

There can be additional costs that aren't immediately obvious at the store:

The battery does wear out after many recharging cycles, so you'll need a spare.

If you want to print something out in the woods, you'll need a portable printer, which also needs its own power.  It will need clean, dry, unwrinkled paper.

The built in pointing device tends to add frustration and wastes time because of its lower speed and accuracy (the computer is supposed to help you be productive, right?), so you will likely add a mouse.

Built in keyboards are sometimes too small or arranged oddly, and often contribute to excessive wrist strain, so you may want another keyboard.

With extra peripheral devices, you will need cables, or a Bluetooth, infrared, or other wireless device to connect them to the computer.

You may also need USB hubs, and drives, optical disks, a DC power inverter, etc.

Now throw all your stuff in a backpack and you'll notice it has become a bit less portable.  At least your wallet will be lighter - by $900.00 and up.

Our advice:  unless you absolutely must have the portability of a notebook computer, save your angst and spend less money on a more powerful desktop.

Other Computers

We'll just mention small computers, such as palm-tops, personal assistants and organizers, cell phones, and Dick Tracy style watches.  They would be more useful if they had more buttons and you had an extra set of really tiny hands.

Tablet computers are serious contenders with notebooks, as long as you keep them shielded from a plethora of recent viruses and exploits.  They are light-weight and fast, their batteries last longer, and their computing power far exceeds cell phones, but storage is minimal.

The proliferation of computers is amazing.  They're in nearly every electro-mechanical device, such as your car, telephone, oven, camera, coffee maker, thermostat, sewing machine, and toaster.

No, the world is not being taken over by computers.  Just watch out for the people who build and use them.

now reading: Desktops & Notebooks - Power & Portability
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