Whether you’ve been working from home most of this past year or you’re just now considering a home office, you’re ready to decide if you need both a laptop and a desktop. There are some great reasons you might want to consider investing in both. Here are some basics to help you get started making that decision.
When you have a home office or work primarily from home, having a desktop and laptop can ensure you cover all of your computing needs. Having both gives you a professional and creative boost by enabling you to work and create regardless of where you are and what you need to accomplish.
First, let’s start with you. What’s your primary work focus, and how mobile do you want to be? For example, are you a 3-D graphics designer, or do you primarily deal with documents, spreadsheets, and email? Are you a student, freelancer, gamer, corporate professional, or a parent trying to manage a household and work? Do you want to be able to work from different locations, even if it’s just other areas of your home?
Do You Need a Laptop and a Desktop?
Before deciding whether you need both a laptop and a desktop, it’s worth covering the common uses of both to see how each can serve your home office needs.
Here’s a summary of primary considerations for laptops and desktops based on cost, computing power, extensibility (adding devices, storage), and ease of use.
|Need||Desktop or Laptop?||Note|
|Lower cost||Desktop||Get more for your money with a desktop.|
|Computing power||Desktop||Desktop processors are faster than the same model built for mobile use.|
|Extensibility||Desktop||It’s easier to configure add-ons (more memory, for example).|
|Accessibility||Desktop||A larger display is easier on your eyes. Desktop peripherals, like keyboards, can be customized to fit your needs.|
|Upgrades and maintenance||Desktop||Laptops can be vendor-specific and challenging to open and repair or modify.|
|Mobility||Laptop||Laptops can go with you almost anywhere.|
|Easy to get started and use||Laptop||Everything is built-in: mouse (touchpad), keyboard, microphone, camera, speakers.|
|Wireless access||Laptop||Connectivity beyond your home network.|
|Use less power||Laptop||Operating takes less electricity.|
|Continuity||Laptop||If the power is out, a laptop can continue for some time on battery power.|
Benefits of a Desktop Computer
Before we consider details, let’s level the playing field by removing the image of that big, bulky desktop apparatus taking over all of your work desk’s real estate. Today’s models are slimmer and lighter. Peripheral components are as well, making it easier to arrange your desktop (literally).
Desktop computers tend to last longer and be more reliable than laptops because they aren’t subject to the hazards of being carried and moved. (There are other hazards, of course—like spilling the drink on your desk or your cat leaping from floor to keyboard—but that can happen with a laptop as well.)
Easy to Repair, Upgrade, and Configure
Laptops are “all in one” devices. And while some components such as the hard drive or RAM may be easy to remove, adding functionality may not be.
For example, say you want enhanced graphics capability (especially if someone in your family is a gamer). Laptops have graphics integrated into the system, often sharing memory with the CPU (Central Processing Unit). In desktop computers, graphics components are “standalone,” making a desktop easier to enhance.
Defines Working Areas
When you’re working from home, it’s helpful to have one place in the house identified as your office. A desktop that stays put (with all of its cool accessories, printer, etc.) says, “This is where I work.”
Benefits of Laptops
Laptops were invented in the late 1970s and improved through the 1980s—but came into their own in the 1990s. The mobility resulting from having all components (memory, keyboard, display) together in one unit remains a strong selling point today.
Laptops can go where you do. Laptops range in size and weight, making some more comfortable to handle and carry than others. But the bottom line is they’re all still portable.
This means you can use your laptop for those creative early morning moments over coffee in the kitchen—which is a definite advantage. (As is ending the day with your laptop on the deck watching the sunset.)
Easy Set-up and Use
In general, laptops are easy to set up and begin using—another advantage of having all components together in one unit.
If it’s in good condition, it will be easier to sell your laptop than a desktop that holds little resale value. Or, like a car, many tech dealers will give credit as a trade-in as part of purchasing a new one.
Save Space and Energy
Laptops take up less real estate (some are designed to be thin and lightweight) and do not use nearly as much power as desktop computers.
Why You Should Consider Having Both a Laptop and Desktop
We’ve all heard phrases like, “Use the right tool for the job” and “You’re only as good as the tools you use.” Having both a desktop and laptop provides you with a full range of computing options for your home office. Leveraging both a laptop and desktop’s unique capabilities gives you the freedom to work how and where you want to.
Optimizing Your Laptop and Desktop Configuration
There are several options for optimizing the best of your laptop and desktop. Here are just a few:
Connect Your Laptop to Your Desktop
You can leverage your larger desktop display by using a monitor cable to connect your laptop to your monitor. Check display settings for your laptop to confirm the recognition of an external monitor. Using the Internet, you can also virtually connect to your desktop from your laptop, giving you access to larger desktop storage capacity and processing power.
Leverage the Power of Bluetooth
Bluetooth technology enables short-range wireless connectivity—in your house, for example. Investigate options for connecting a wide range of devices (spiffy mice, keyboards, phones) to extend desktop and laptop devices’ functionality.
Go for the Cloud
You know that serene, happy feeling you have when looking at fluffy summer clouds? You can revisit that feeling when you use cloud services for storing large files and remote computing power.
You’ll pay a fee proportional to the size of your data store and computing required, but this is likely much lower than what you’d pay to upgrade storage and processing on your desktop or laptop.
When is it Okay to Use Just a Desktop or Laptop?
If your primary focus is working from a home office and you need computing power (especially around graphics), then having a desktop computer is your best choice. Especially if you would primarily use a laptop to check your email or calendar—you can meet those needs by purchasing an inexpensive tablet, smartphone, or smartwatch.
However, if your main goal is to work wherever you’d like, then using a laptop is your best bet. And higher-end laptops provide plenty of computing power for many work-at-home needs.
This article has given you options to consider when deciding if you need both a laptop and a desktop computer. Your choice of laptop, desktop, or both depends on the mix of work you do and where you want to do it. If you decide to have both, then there are ways you can ensure a productive and flexible work-at-home experience.
Hamid Tahir is a Mechatronics Engineer and founder of WFH Overload. He is currently working from home and is dedicated to the continuous improvement of his home office setup. Hamid has extensive experience setting up workspaces and dealing with the related tech. He hopes to share his knowledge to help you create the most productive and comfortable work from home setup. Read More