Buying a Laptop vs. a Desktop as a Family Computer

What's the best choice for your family?

Teenage girl 916-17) using laptop in computer store
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When it comes time for your family to buy a new computer, you may find yourself torn between a desktop computer and a laptop. There are good reasons for both, so the final decision should be based on the specific needs of your family. Consider the following factors when doing your shopping.


Generally speaking, you’re going to pay more for a laptop than a comparable desktop computer. Smaller components are more expensive and you will see that reflected in your price. If your family utilizes the computer mainly for word processing and Internet use, a laptop might be a practical choice. However, video games, video editing, and even desktop publishing require additional memory, storage and possibly high-end video and sound cards. Each of these will increase the cost and the weight of the machine.


Laptops are obviously more portable than desktops, so the more important question is whether or not your family needs portability. If you don’t have a dedicated space in your home for the computer, or if family members will want to use the computer in different rooms, a laptop is an ideal option. If you plan to move the computer infrequently, a desktop is a better buy for your money.


Although there are some things that can be upgraded/replaced in a laptop, it is just not as easy to keep up-to-date and in good repair as a desktop machine. This may or may not be a concern for your family. As desktop prices come down, it may actually be more cost-effective to purchase a new computer, rather than trying to keep an older machine current. That said, if your laptop screen cracks or someone spills juice on the keyboard, it’s much more serious than similar damage on a desktop. If your household has young children, this is certainly something to keep in mind.


Ergonomics refers to the design of a workspace so that it allows for a comfortable and safe experience for the user. In this case, there are specific attributes a computer workstation should have in order to minimize strain on the eyes, neck/back, wrists/hands, etc. While it takes a bit more effort to set up a laptop correctly for adults, it may be reasonable for kids because they are shorter. Ergonomics for kids vary from those of adults because of the difference in size.


Desktop computers are getting smaller and smaller, while laptops get bigger. Still, a laptop will require a smaller footprint in your home. You can even tuck it away when you need more free counter or table space. When free space is at a premium, a laptop is a great option.

As you can see, the choice between a laptop and a desktop is specific to your household. There is no one right answer. However, using this guide will help you think through the lifestyle of your family and help you come to a solid decision.

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