While pursuing the days news, I came across a headline on Lifehacker asking the question “Is the Desktop PC Dead?” This was a response to another article, written over a Gizmodo titled “So Long Desktop PC, You Suck.” Interesting headlines I thought, very attention grabbing.
The Gizmodo article (which has all the good numbers) looks at the growing sales trend that basically has the desktop PC seeing sales continuing to slide. I can’t fault their numbers offhand, nor can I fault their logic. With the price of laptops falling and the rise of netbooks, the desktop PC no doubt looks somewhat antiquated to a lot of consumers. The move to ubiquitous Internet access, be it wifi or cell data, has favored the rise of the laptop as people find themselves more mobile and to some extent, dependent on that connection. Laptop use has boomed in colleges, and I can’t think of a single grad student I went to school with that didn’t have one. When was the last time you saw a presenter not bring a laptop? They’re everywhere, there’s simply no denying it.
Sure, I think the statement that PC gaming is also dead is a stretch (but it creates a firestorm of comments). I don’t buy into the fact that people are only buying laptops; most of the people I know have both.
So this begs the question of the title of my article: why do I continue, in the face of the numbers and the trends, to use a desktop PC?
Note: by no means am I a common consumer; what I run is what I need to get work done. I by no means am saying that everyone needs to be running what I am. As a matter of fact, I’m specifically saying you don’t. However, some of the benefits I receive from a desktop PC the average person could receive as well.
5. Swap that dead part
My Thinkpad in four years of hard service was a beast; it needed only one warranty servicing that took IBM a mere four day turn around. No complaints. But every other laptop I’ve been assigned or used has seen massive downtime (I’m looking at you Dell). Laptops take a lot more abuse given what they’re put through (my desktop PC hasn’t moved in quite some time). But if something fails on my desktop, I can grab a spare from the shelf and be up and running in no time flat. With a laptop, that’s less than likely unless the hard drive died (which is typically the easiest repair).
Does hardware fail? All the time. If you’re not planning for a contingency then you’re just asking for disaster, be it laptop or desktop.
4. Upgrades and expandability
Like many in my line of work my desktop isn’t something you’re going to find in your average big box electronics store or on Dell’s website. It’s built from the ground up, every part hand selected and tested for compatibility. If I need something more from a laptop, chances are I just don’t have much of upgrade option.
On my main desktop, in just the past year, I’ve added RAM, thrown more hard drives at RAID array, and swapped two power supplies. Need more processor power? Rip it and upgrade. Need some more RAM for that 10th virtual machine? Toss it in. Ah, the beauty of expandable systems to meet the needs of the day.
3. The wide open monitor country
Yes, you can add a monitor to a laptop. But unless you’re running something high end in that laptop, I’ve found the performance subpar. Am I talking gaming? No. I’m talking powering big monitors with resolutions that are ungodly. I’m talking multiples of them. And what if I need to run that field monitor? Laptop doesn’t swing it.
2. Raw speed
Laptops have come a long way in speed; they run some very cool hardware and you can get some very good performance. But when you need speed, the desktop will win. Raptor hard drives, dual proc motherboards that support four core procs, support for more RAM that was available to the entire world back in 1980…the list goes on. When you need power and speed the desktop for me maintains that ability to get more heavy processing done in a shorter amount of time.
RAID is not a backup solution, but it is a failsafe one. I’ve seen the Mac Book Pro RAID hack (very cool, except I’d go mirrored), but that’s something you’re just not going to see widespread in the laptop world. Heck, you don’t see RAID in most desktops for that matter. But RAID is one of those things that I will always use because it is just so endlessly useful. How many times have you lost a hard drive? In my years, I can’t even count on two hands any more. RAID has saved my tail more than a few times.
I still use a laptop for when I travel. I have no intention of running the hard core processes that I’d be running on my desktop, and it’s not like my desktop is portable. In the land of the Internet conversation, a lot of arguments end with “it’s a or b, but not both.” That’s faulty logic; there are always more choices or options. For me, the option is laptop = travel/living room, desktop = get things done fast. I can use both and be perfectly happy.
Can I see a day when the desktop PC goes away? No. Is it heading into niche market territory? Numbers seem to say so. Is that a bad thing? I’ve argued before that a once mainstream market or product that moves to the niche does not mean that it’s “dead”, but simply a more targeted product that can in fact be profitable.
Herald the death of the desktop PC…long live the desktop PC!