There are several key issues that will help you decide whether you should get a desktop or laptop computer for a small house, small apartment, or small room. Being that these spaces are small, logic would tell us that buying a small computer like a laptop would be the best choice. But hold up! Don’t press that “Buy” button until you’ve read this.
I recently spent several months researching, buying, trying, and returning three different computers. When I started my research I only focused on laptops because, as a tiny living enthusiast, I figured it was a natural fit for my lifestyle.
Although a desktop was the only computer that I have ever owned, I wanted to downsize, become more mobile, and prepare for my goal of designing and living in a small house. So when it became necessary to buy a computer there wasn’t much deliberation in my mind on whether I’d buy a desktop or a laptop. So I concentrated my research efforts on determining the best brand and the best place to buy it online and offline.
Allow me to tell you about my research method. It’s pretty insane. When I decide to buy something that costs a lot of money like a computer in particular or a car, I get on an all-consuming, single-minded, all-day focus that can last anywhere from days to months. I do this to…
- Learn everything about the product type. (Type rather than brand i.e. desktops and laptops generally.)
- Read niche website resources.
- Visit stores with large computer departments and ask a lot of questions about the product type.
- Read manufacturer’s online material.
- Visit manufacturer sites to configure computers in dozens of different ways.
- Talk to manufacturer sales representatives via chat or phone. (I prefer chat because I can do more than one at the same time.)
- Learn everything about the manufacturers.
- Read their online material about warranty and return policies.
- Do test calls or chats with their technical support by presenting sales-related technical questions.
- Do countless searches for reviews and opinions about the manufacturers and specific products.
- Learn everything about online and offline retail outlets.
- Determine who has the best price.
- Determine who has the best warranty.
- Determine who has the best return policy.
- Do countless searches for reviews and opinions about the retail outlets.
A large part of my efforts is centered on getting up to speed on the current capabilities of a product type. For example, with computers, I have to completely re-educate myself because of the speed at which they are advancing.
Never Know Until You Live With It
I’ll tell you later which computer manufacturer and retail outlet my research identified as offering the best deals. For now, let’s get back to my desktop versus laptop experience and findings.
I was very excited when the laptop that I had ordered online just a few days earlier arrived. It was beautiful and fast. The contrast between using it and my seven-year-old computer was striking. I loved it! At least I did for a few days.
Being an Internet entrepreneur, I spend most of my day on the computer. When I started using the laptop for my daily work it didn’t feel comfortable after about an hour. It was like I had to adjust my posture, arms and hands, and vision to the size, shape, and position of the laptop. There I was hunched over with my hands cramped over the keyboard trying to do some graphics work or writing an article. Although the screen was fairly large for a laptop (17”) and clear, I found it difficult to stay in the same position that would allow me to see it best.
Needless to say, I returned the laptop. I was both surprised and disappointed that it didn’t work out. Being into tiny living, I thought for sure it would work. But my online research strongly indicated that laptops usually are not the best choice for people who do their work on computers all day.
So I began my online and offline research for a desktop. Although I had learned a lot during my laptop research, I essentially had to start over.
Since the laptop didn’t work, I established a research goal of finding a desktop setup that took up as little space as possible. That meant no external speakers and a monitor that also served as a TV. I had recently gotten my first flat-screen HDTV (22”), so I had the monitor/TV solution in hand.
After a ridiculous amount of research, I made a decision and bought one through the same retail store’s website. Since you can get more bang for your buck when you buy a desktop as opposed to a laptop, this thing was a beast! It literally had thousands of times more processor speed, memory (RAM), and hard drive storage space than my old computer.
I was pleased but troubled by the eye fatigue I was experiencing and the bothersome wired keyboard and mouse. After extensive online research, I discovered that eye fatigue was likely caused by using an HDTV as a computer monitor. I also learned that computer monitors have better resolution. Particularly for graphics work, website design, and reading and writing text. All the things I do every day.
So I decide to return the desktop and buy one that came with a monitor and a wireless keyboard and mouse. I soon found out that the monitor that most manufacturers package with their desktops do not have internal speakers. That meant I’d have to go back to using external speakers that take up space on top of your desk and underneath it as well if they come with a woofer. I didn’t like this option so I resolved to find a deal with internal speakers in the monitor.
I couldn’t find a package that included both the computer configuration I wanted and a monitor with internal speakers that I was satisfied with.
HDTV Computer Monitor Combo Miracle
By chance, I ran across a new product by Samsung that had just been introduced the prior year – an HDTV computer monitor combo! It was and has proven to be the perfect solution.
I ended up buying the Samsung HDTV computer monitor combo and the same brand desktop but with a wireless keyboard and mouse through the same retail outlet’s website. I go into much more detail about the Samsung in this article entitled, “Advantages of the HDTV Computer Monitor Combo.”
The reason I was able to pull this off and do all these purchases and returns is the store I picked. Costco has a very liberal 90 return policy on computers, TVs, and other electronics. And it’s the same through their website as is at their stores. If you buy something online you can simply return it to a local store. I have one that is just a few minutes away. 🙂
All the other online and offline stores that I checked have a strict 30-day return policy. I should also mention that Costco’s selection of computers and HDTVs is much more extensive online than in its stores. The computer that I got isn’t available at their stores.
The desktop computer I purchased is a ZT, which offered the most bang for the buck by far! I am very pleased with it. ZT’s come with lifetime toll-free technical support and they are assembled in the US.
Costco automatically adds a second year of warranty and toll-free technical support at no extra charge. That gives you two sources for technical support, which is amazing. I couldn’t find a sweeter deal.
If you don’t have a Costco membership, the ZT is also sold through Walmart, Sam’s Club, and other retail outlets.
Update – ZT suspended sales of retail desktop PCs at all stores.
I looked at the all-in-one computers, and I really liked the Apples, but I was leery of having both the computer and monitor together. I felt restricted by that. If I was going to go in that direction I’d just get a laptop.
I wanted to be able to upgrade my monitor to a larger size if I wanted to. And I wasn’t sure which component might become obsolete for my purposes first — the computer or the monitor. And I loved the idea of being able to use the computer monitor as a TV, and the Samsung could do that. As I recall you can get a computer with a TV tuner inside, but then you’d have to have the computer running to watch it. That’s not a smart setup.
If you compare the all-in-one, especially an Apple, you can get a lot more computer and a bigger screen at a lower cost if you buy a regular desktop.
So for these reasons, I can’t recommend the all-in-one computer. It feels like a passing trend to me that might evolve into something quite different.
For a person who spends their day in front of a computer, a desktop with a 20-27 inch monitor is the best choice. It is my understanding that anything larger than 27 inches becomes a deficit because of its close proximity while sitting at a desk.
If a person needs a desktop, getting an inexpensive laptop or another mobile device is a wise choice. This is especially true for Internet entrepreneurs. If you don’t have both, your freedom is restricted.
Shortly after I got my ZT, I inherited a 17″ HP laptop from my mother. I found it for her just over a year prior using the same research method described above. So I know it’s a good one. It has proven to be an invaluable asset.
So your choice of whether to get a desktop or laptop depends on how much you use it and for what purposes. The size of your home or room doesn’t play a crucial role in your decision unless you’re living in a very tiny house, apartment, or room. If mobility is the most important factor, your choice is clear.