Why Use a Desktop Computer?

How you use a computer plays a big role in determining the best computing device for you. Desktop computers usually offer more power and cost less than laptops, but that doesn't mean they are always the perfect tool for the job. Companies still sell desktop computers because desktops offer distinct advantages over laptops and tablets.

side profile of a businesswoman sitting in front of a computer and talking on a telephone with her daughter sitting beside her
A woman at work with her son and a desktop computer on the desk.
credit: Stockbyte/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The Ergonomics Factor

While you won't carry a desktop computer instead of a laptop to the park, desktops offer distinct ergonomic advantages. You may find it more difficult to type on a small laptop keyboard than on a full-size desktop keyboard. Your posture when using a desktop computer is likely better than when you use a laptop. You might work more efficiently using a desktop computer's mouse than a laptop's track pad. One reason some laptop owners attach external mice and keyboards to their laptops is that it makes them function more like desktop computers.

Power, Speed and Performance

Today's least powerful laptops and desktops are much faster than computers that put astronauts on the moon during the Apollo space program. Even though people buy more laptops than desktops, you get more computing power for your money when you purchase a desktop. You pay extra money for a laptop's portability. As the University of Wisconsin DoIT Showroom website puts it, "If the laptop will simply act as a desktop with very occasional need for portability, a desktop is also an excellent choice and far less expensive."

The Overheating Blues

Cooling fans keep laptops and desktops humming by removing hot air from them. Desktops have larger interiors than laptops and often contain more than one fan. Keeping them cool is usually not a problem. Laptops with smaller vents and cramped quarters are susceptible to overheating -- especially if dust clogs their heat sinks. Manufacturers sell special cooling pads to people who have laptop cooling issues.

Economics: Upgrade and Maintenance Costs

Study the back of a typical laptop computer and you may see no obvious way to open it quickly and safely. Many desktop computers have screws or other connectors so you can remove their covers easily. This capability is important if you plan to install video capture cards, another hard drive, internal faxes or other additional hardware features. Filled with miniaturized components, laptops are more difficult and costly to repair than desktops. You are more likely to damage or lose a laptop because they are portable.

Bring on the Killer Games and Graphics

While just about any computing device can play simple games such as "Angry Birds," it takes major graphics power to play many 3-D action games. Desktops have the room it takes to install high-end graphics cards that make fluid, high-speed gaming possible. With better video cards in desktops, you can work more productively in video- and image-editing apps that take advantage of Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU processing.

Desktops and Tablets

Tablets are the opposite of desktops in the area of portability, with no mice or keyboards to weigh them down. Low-end tablets are great for browsing the Web, playing games and performing light processing tasks. Although some newer tablets have significant processing power, desktops still remain the machines of choice when you need ultimate computing power and speed. If you love tablets because of their interactive touch screens, you can purchase a touch-screen desktop monitor that mimics a tablet's; Windows 8.1 already knows how to work with these types of monitors to give you a true touch-screen experience.