The Difference Between Laptops and Desktops

The tech world has plenty to offer, so you might ask yourself questions like “are desktops better than laptops?” You take them for granted but when it’s time to upgrade or get your own, what do you do? You wonder, “Should I get a laptop or desktop?” do some research, only to find different opinions, thoughts on specifications, and more. Not to worry, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll break down the basics to help you make a decision and compare desktops to laptops.


Every school, business, office, and home typically has at least one desktop computer. As the name suggests, this PC system is referred to as a desktop because it makes its home on desks. However, it also means it’s the larger variant when looking at desktop and laptop PC systems. That comes with various advantages and benefits, along with some drawbacks.

Desktops, firstly, house their motherboard and hardware components inside a computer tower. Towers range in size and can be small or large, depending on the need. Unlike laptops, they need an additional computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse. In some cases a stereo system too.

Since they’re larger, desktops are capable of housing more hardware options and additional HDD or SSD space. They’re also easier to upgrade and the go-to option for a gaming PC.


The portable laptop is the smaller of the PC variants, and you should recognize it for its flat, ergonomic design. The intent of a laptop is a mobile computing solution for work or personal reasons. They’re foldable, lightweight, and serve all the same base functions as a desktop. There are also various laptop types, like touchscreen laptops and 2-in-1 laptops.

It’s common for laptops to have an external battery cable. However, audio, graphics, memory are all integrated into the platform already, including the monitor. There’s no need for complicated upgrades and you can rest easy having an all-in-one solution for your PC needs. Laptops are also always advancing and typically use solid-state drives for fast boot times and quick loading of software.


Simple enough, right? Here’s where things get a little more complex. Desktops and laptops aren’t only different based on design, they can use completely different hardware. Depending on what you need from your PC system, this should determine whether a desktop or laptop is the better choice. We’ll go through some of the key factors and criteria making the two different and help you choose the right option.


Desktops, overall, will perform better than their laptop counterparts for the sole reason they can be modified with newer hardware. When purchasing a laptop, you have static specifications with limited upgrade options. In fact, in most cases, you only have options to enhance memory space and RAM. You can’t install a new GPU, for instance, whereas a desktop can always add something to aid its performance and speed. 

This isn’t to say a laptop will underperform. There are plenty of laptops designed for gaming and performance. However, the cost factor is much higher. The only reason to choose a gaming laptop vs. gaming desktop is mobility – as in, you expect to travel more often than not.


Price varies and generally depends on your needs. You can find desktop and laptop solutions in virtually any price bracket, but you will find that, at any given price, the desktop hardware will usually be more powerful. 

It’s worth noting price is one of the most flexible areas for either laptops or desktops. You can purchase an expensive, pre-built desktop, or build your own. You can buy an expensive performance laptop or an inexpensive one. The bottom line here is, there are price options for everyone.

Pros and Cons

Next, we’ll jump into the direct positives and downsides with either option. Remember – your choice comes down to your needs, so use this list as a way to establish what works best for you. If you’re still not sure, write down a small checklist of things you require from a PC.

First, let’s look at the pros and cons of the desktop PC solution.


  • You can upgrade your desktop as desired to meet certain specifications in order to maintain good performance
  • Desktops can be completely built from the ground up and save on costs, giving you greater control over what you want from your system
  • Desktops serve a range of purposes from general office use, personal, and gaming/multimedia
  • Desktops generally have higher specs for graphics, hardware space, and memory
  • By and large, a powerful desktop computer will always perform better than its laptop counterpart


  • Desktops can be more expensive depending on what you choose, such as pre-built desktops or desktops designed for high performance
  • Desktops can build greater computer heat and require cooling sealing on the CPU while routinely needing dusting to prevent dangerous temperature rises
  • Replacing parts for desktops can be difficult if you are unfamiliar with building/installing parts
  • Because of their size, desktops are obviously stationary and not intended for mobile use and travel
  • Challenging to upgrade and expensive for those who don’t want to build their own

Now, let’s take a look at laptops.


  • Various designs ranging from netbooks, 2-in-1 laptops, to ultrabooks which suit a variety of needs, whether personal or professional
  • Ergonomic and inexpensive, laptop models are usually cheaper depending on the hardware specifications and manufacturer
  • Easy to transport and fold, as newer laptop models are lighter and more powerful than previous iterations, great for those who need to work on the go
  • Touch screens with newer versions allow for more versatility, especially for graphic designers or those who work in multimedia


  • Laptops can often have problems building computer heat, depending on the model, and this can cause long term problems if one plans to use their laptop extensively
  • Laptops have limited upgrade options and are generally contained to RAM and storage memory
  • Because of their size, laptops are prone to theft, especially for smaller to medium-sized businesses
  • Laptop power consumption can be a problem for some models and need daily recharges if used heavily

As you can see, desktops and laptops primarily differ on hardware specifications and transportation. Because laptops focus on mobility, they lack the space for hardware. You can still find powerful ultrabooks, but their price range is much higher, and the amount you pay for an ultrabook could be better invested in a powerful desktop.


The differences between desktops and laptops are easy to see at first glance, suiting different needs. In summation, you have to consider what you need most before investing in either option.

Do you need a high-performance machine capable of handling all forms of media where the price is not a factor? Do you need a system suited for lots of file storage and office work? Desktops are suited for these.

Do you want a system that simply handles files and folders? Do you want to work/play games or watch media on the go? Consider a laptop.

The best computer for you is the one that fulfills all needs while fitting your budget. There are cheap but powerful laptops available or powerful gaming PC’s you can select from. 

For more selections, you can browse CompUSA for our daily deals on select desktop and laptop systems.

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