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Laptops Vs. Desktops

In the past, I’ve always believed that towers were better than laptops when it came to hardcore design and production. However lately, with every new generation of laptop, I’m slowly being persuaded to the dark side.

Lets take a quick tally; who uses and/or thinks slim is the way to win (laptops). And who still believes bigger is better (desktops).

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ARCHIVE ID 1343 FILED UNDER Hardware/Software
PUBLISHED ON Jan.22.2003 BY Christopher May
Darrel’s comment is:

I use both.

On Jan.22.2003 at 09:16 AM
Jon’s comment is:

The failing of laptops in the past were always fourfold, in my opinion.

1) Screen size was too small to work on something like a page layout and not have your eyes cross afterwhile. With a 17-inch powerbook, I'd say that certainly helps a lot. I'm not really sure I'd want the laptop with the 21-inch screen though!

2) Those godforsaken tiny keyboards crammed into the space are murder ergonomically. As the screen sizes increase, so does the laptop size, therefore the keyboards are improving. But I still think they aren't the most comfortable. And I still miss a numeric keypad.

3) Price. Towers are cheaper than laptops.

4) Expandability. I don't really have much knowledge of this on laptops, but towers can support a zip, cd, dvd and several hard drives with no switching out of components to use them.

So until I find that I really need to take my computer with me everytime I leave my studio, I don't personally have the need for a laptop.

On Jan.22.2003 at 09:18 AM
Christopher May’s comment is:

Just to play devils advocate

1) Screen size

I have been told (unconfirmed ) that with the new powerbooks, you can plug in a monitor and use the laptop screen as a secondary monitor.

1) Tiny keyboards

Again, most laptops you still have the option to plug in a full size keyboard.

3) Price

you got me on that.

4) Expandability

burners are standard on a lot of machines and blank cds are very cheap now.

On Jan.22.2003 at 09:34 AM
Sam’s comment is:

I have been tempted to buy a PC laptop, despite having a lust for titanium. Virtual PC is fine and all, but for a real sense of how the other half (it's only half, right?) lives, this might be what I'll do.

Benefits: portable, cross-platform testing, cheaper that Apple laptops, watching DVDs on the plane

Downside: Crossing over to the Dark Side

On Jan.22.2003 at 09:39 AM
Jon’s comment is:

Ok, wait, is the dark side A) PC or B) laptop?

On Jan.22.2003 at 10:11 AM
magnus’s comment is:

i've had my powerbook (titanium) as my only mac for the last 2 years. at work and at home. at work i have an external monitor and keyboard. i'm never ever going back.

On Jan.22.2003 at 10:42 AM
d’s comment is:

"Heh - Great question" I thought to myself as I saw the new topic on Speak Up this morning - something close to home. Hopefully, I'll learn something on here that can help form my decision.

I find that the question of what to do comes down to price and need. I have been considering buying a new machine for my work, for some time now, and still haven't as I continuously deliberate between a powerbook or a desktop.

I currently run a Titanium with a 17" CRT off of it. It works great but for it being pig slow, as it was one of the first to come out, and only has a 9gig drive and 400Mhz processor.

I thought about a desktop, and with two monitors it could be a dream. The expandability part is attractive, but my needs don't extend to that of video and audio production projects, and so I wouldn't need the full capacity.

What the laptop has provided me, was the easy ability to transfer my office with me, as I moved country. I pretty much worked straight through living in five different places in the last year, sometimes staying with someone whilst I found a house. With an iPod as my external firewire drive, I basically am completely mobile and do not have the handicap of being tied to my desktop.

However, the drawback with that was quite plainly that the laptop screen is appaling to design on, with colors changing dramatically depending on how you slouch in front of it. The keyboard was fine, as I generally plug a full size one into the laptop.

So now I'm thinking of buying the new 17" powerbook and running a 17" Apple display off of it. With that much real estate, I might actually be able to handle all the palettes Illustrator and Photoshop throw at me, as well as continue to have the mobility that has served me well.

Admittedly though, I am not going to be experiencing the dual processing power and I'll not have an internal zip - but I generally find that burning CDs removes the need for a zip and it appears that only the top of the range desktops fully utilize the dual processing.

Additionally, clients love to see the powerbok- invariably always comment on it, and I nod knowingly and comment lightly on that is why I charge them so much more than everyone else - because I shelled out twice as much on the laptop than I could have on a desktop or PC notebook.

On Jan.22.2003 at 10:47 AM
Ben’s comment is:

I'm with first a desktop because they're cheaper to buy, more expandable (I'm still addicted to SCSI and other esoteric PCI cards), easier to work on yourself, hard drives are cheaper, memory is cheaper, generally more powerful then their laptop conterpart.

However, a good laptop is handy for showing work to client, working on the go, and not being tied down with a huge monitor.

I think that if you move often, or travel a lot a laptop is the way to go. If you don't, and don't want to feel like your work can follow you everywhere you go, then a desktop.

If you're lucky, a combination of both is handy. The PC laptop for testing isn't a bad idea either.

BTW, you can connect a monitor to a powerbook and use both the monitor and the laptop screen

On Jan.22.2003 at 10:47 AM
d’s comment is:

Question for Magnus -

When the time comes, will you upgrade your laptop or buy a new one?

On Jan.22.2003 at 10:49 AM
magnus’s comment is:

i have allready put in an order for the 17 inch. my kids will get the old one. i am a mac addict.

On Jan.22.2003 at 11:03 AM
rolf’s comment is:

You're cheating when you hook up an external monitor and keyboard to you laptop, then you're essentially using a desktop.


I still hate LCD when it comes to designing.. some newer flat screens to a nice job, but still.

I would only use a laptop as a second computer or when I can hook it up to an external keyboard and monitor (but then I believe I'm using a desktop).

Ahwell, apart from that it has already been said: desktops are cheaper and more expandable. Two very good reasons to use a desktop :)

On Jan.22.2003 at 11:52 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

FYI, if you have a G4 tower laying around, you can now upgrade the processors to 800 - 1ghz starting at $300...not too shabby!

On Jan.22.2003 at 11:56 AM
DON CLARK’s comment is:

I use a G4 tower and a 19" CRT monitor for all of my design work. I have a G4 powerbook at home. I bought the laptop thinking I would work from home more often.

Quite the opposite. Now I use my laptop for surfing the net, e-mail and when I travel. Why? I guess many reasons. First off: the color, the color, the color. I never know exactly what color I am looking at while I am constantly tilting the monitor back and forth so it looks "correct". That is the one problem I have with LCD screens. The other thing I don't like about designing on the laptop is the size. For some reason, I just need that big freaking monitor in my face.

Don't get me wrong, I love my powerbook. I'll always have a laptop for the sheer fact that it's a computer you can take anywhere, and it's a freaking G4. Being a Mac junkie, I just persuade myself into "needing to have it".

I guess my answer is: personally, I prefer having 2 computers. Laptop and desktop. And I choose desktop over laptop for designing, for many reasons.

On Jan.22.2003 at 12:38 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

I've been using a PowerBook (Pismo) almost exclusively since 1998, however I do use a dual 1GHZ PowerMac at work. I hook a 21" monitor to the PowerBook along with a keyboard, mouse, USB Zip drive, 2 FireWire drives, broadband, a CD-RW, digital video camera and digital still camera up to it without any problem besides it being a bit slow. If I've been using a laptop since 1998, I can't see myself buying a desktop in the future, especially with the recent release of the 12" and 17" PowerBooks earlier this month.

After using my PowerBook as a desktop, surfing the web and responding to email from the couch, syncing my Mac and cell phone via Bluetooth and carrying it across the country and to Europe a bunch of times a year, a desktop seems tethered and unproductive to me, unless you need a bunch of very fast hard drives or crazy video boards.

It all depends what you need your computer to do. I'm sold on portables.

On Jan.22.2003 at 12:42 PM
benfRank’s comment is:

i have the newest 15" powerbook. i love it...when i am at home, i plug up a 21" flatscreen monito, full-size key board and mouse. it's like i am using a desk top. not difference. but, i can easily take the laptop to meetings or to a coffeshop and use their wireless network...i love it...no better way to do it for me.

On Jan.22.2003 at 12:54 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I have never owned a laptop, so I lean strongly to desktops. I have worked on laptops from time to time and found them extremely uncomfortable. I'm all for the power of freedom and being able to carry it aorund, and taking it out for a stroll in the morning along with your dog but I think they will never match the power, and lesser expense, that a desktop can provide.

>and with two monitors it could be a dream.

That is the absolute best working environment. I just attached a second monitor to my computer and there is no going back, in my next job I'll list "Double Monitor" as a benfit that I expect from employers.

And the LCD display on laptops, well on titaniums, is horrible for a designer. The color shifts waaaaay too much. Very undependable.

I'm a desktop man.

On Jan.22.2003 at 01:37 PM
magnus’s comment is:

the beauty of being a powerbook user is that you have the same setup (fonts, applications, mail etc.) wherever you are. i work mostly with print, and i find the powerbook powerful enough for all my needs including heavy duty photoshopping. and like Kiran i have a bluetooth cellphone that syncs with ical and adressbook. i also have broadband and airport at home (and my wife has an i-book) so the choice is really easy.

On Jan.22.2003 at 02:07 PM
Sam’s comment is:

..I'm a desktop man.

Graphic Designers Do It on the Desktop.

(Set in ITC Garamond Light Condensed.)

On Jan.22.2003 at 04:52 PM
Tom’s comment is:

For the craft of design(as it is today) the dual G4 with a 22" cinema display is untouchable. Unless ofcourse you have a 23" cinema display. With these beautiful, huge displays you do not need 2 monitors. You'll have room to actually draw or doodle or whatever with all the space on your table top, add a nice comfy chair and you are set!

I haven't used one enough, but to me the laptop is great for show and tale, writing and admin, and traveling - but who wants to work on vacation?

On Jan.22.2003 at 06:55 PM
Sean’s comment is:

Once I made the move to Titanium I have never looked back.

I am on my second now. I do use the laptop monitor for pallates and an external monitor as my primary but otherwise there is no discernable difference between when I worked on a desktop. Naturally though, with all the advantage of being able to pack up your entire workspace and carry with you to work from home, travel, present to clients etc...

On Jan.22.2003 at 07:59 PM
rorie’s comment is:

I used to have a G4 tower with 17" monitor, but I sold it for a 15" PowerBook - and it's wonderful!

The widescreen format is big enough for any work (i've designed posters upto A1), the keyboard is full sized, it's fast and reliable - and portable.

I'm still at University, so it's great being able to carry on with your work wherever you are, very handy indeed.

On Jan.26.2003 at 07:02 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Apple released new desktop configurations earlier today. Maybe I should get a desktop... ;)

Read about it here.

Check out the specifications here.

On Jan.28.2003 at 10:59 AM
Tom’s comment is:

Look at those beautiful new diplays and the low prices!!


On Jan.28.2003 at 02:19 PM
Gahlord’s comment is:

I'm getting close to getting a new rig so I suppose I'll share my thought process on it.

Originally when I bought my laptop (a Wallstreet) I figured I'd always alternate back and forth between a desktop and laptop. In this way I'd always have one of each (though one would be a little long in the tooth).

Then those damn ti-books came out and I began to waver.

But with the new G4 dualies soooo cheap (especially because I already have an external DVD burner) I've come back to thinking desktop.

Currently my wallstreet (I upgraded the processor to G4 500 awhile back so it aint soooo terrible) sits on the desk with a firewire card and a USB card (Wallstreet was the last one with two PCMCIA cards) leading out, a full size keyboard, and is hooked up to a 21 inch 801HR.

For all practical purposes it's a desktop. I unplug it and take it with me on the road but I don't take it home or other places very often, so the mobile computing aspect has sort of faded. Maybe this is because I'm ashamed that my PB is so old.

The big reasons for me going desktop this round are:

1. More power (I'm getting more and more into motion graphics... that power will be put to use doing more than rotating in pshop).

2. Better video-card (WCIII here I come... and I can expand later).

3. Better upgradability (this is more for the video than anything so maybe it ain't a separate choice).

4. Better End of Life strategy. I'm kinda a nut about throwing shit in the landfill. I'll spare you all the naturalstep.org hoo hah. But lets just say if I can find a use out of something I will employ it. (Witness my 7200 print server which may get an upgrade and become a spare flash animation machine) The desktop will make a very fine file server, web server, or rendering box when it's time for me to get the next machine. A laptop could do those things as well but not as efficiently (I can load the desktop up with big hard drives internally, the laptop will daisy chain with firewire). And the laptop's value is really as a mobile machine.

FWIW, I'm going to sell the Wallstreet and it's copious amounts of add-ons (did I mention I have the RoadRocket so I can plug in my other 21" 801HR for palletes?) and it's Halliburton case on eBay. Based on current auctions I should reasonably get about 500 bucks for it. I'll add in another 200 or so and get a refurb iBook (the best value in computing today, not an appropriate design machine but in terms of bang/features per buck it can't be beat) for on the road (where I do a little client presentation, email, and light design work).

That 17" PowerBook is damn tempting... but I'm going with a new Desktop this time around.


On Feb.24.2003 at 08:42 AM
Justin’s comment is:

I'm a CRT junkie all the way.

On Feb.25.2003 at 11:36 AM