College Computers: Desktop vs. Notebook

College Computers: Desktop vs. Notebook

Once a decision has been made to buy a new college computer, the next common question is whether it should be a notebook (also called a laptop) or a desktop style computer. (The "desktop" category includes true horizontal desktop models as well as mini-tower and tower models that can stand vertically on the floor or desktop.)

Mini-tower style
desktop computer
Notebook (laptop)

As with many aspects of the college process, there is no "right" answer to the desktop vs. notebook debate. Each comes with significant advantages and disadvantages, and which is better will depend on the needs and preferences of the student.

Notebook Computer for College – Advantages

– Easy to transport to and from school.
– Takes up little dorm space or desk space.
– Can be carried to class or library for note-taking, study, etc.
– If wireless network is available, adding a wireless card provides easy access to college network and Internet in many locations on campus. Newer notebook computers may have built-in wireless networking ability.
– Can be brought home during weekend or holiday visits.
– Can be shipped to manufacturer or taken to dealer for service.

Notebook Computer for College – Disadvantages

– Much more easily stolen, particularly if carried around campus.
– More easily dropped or broken.
– Somewhat more prone to failure than stationary desktop computers of comparable quality.
– Significantly more expensive for comparable speed and capacity.
– Limited expansion and add-on capabilities.

Desktop Computer for College – Advantages

– Best value: typically, more speed, memory, and storage for a lower price.
– Relatively difficult to steal.
– Lower probability of failure for comparable quality machine vs. notebook.
– Relatively easy to expand or modify as needs change.
– Less costly expansion products such as large hard drives, additional memory, and special purpose cards.
– Flat screen LCD monitors are now reasonably priced, reducing desk space requirements and making storage/shipping easier.

Desktop Computer for College – Disadvantages

– Space-consuming and awkward to move to and from school.
– Takes up valuable real estate in cramped dorm rooms
– Can’t be carried to library or classes.
– Difficult to ship if repair/replacement is needed.

Part of this decision process involves the way people use their computers on the specific campus the student will attend. This would be a great topic to ask about during campus visits, prospective student days, and early orientation. Also, present students can be queried by e-mail for more input. If most students have notebooks and there is a great deal of collaboration required, a portable computer might be essential. In most campus environments, though, a desktop is the more common choice.

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