Desktop, Laptop, or Tablet?

By Joe Callison
4 July, 2019

Lately SenCom has been asking members what type of device they think they will be using the most for their computing over the next few years- desktop, laptop, or tablet. Statistics on global sales of computing devices at show a shift from desktops to laptops as the main device, while tablets sales have been decreasing. Projections for new sales of each over the next few years are almost flat. Comments by SenCom seniors show preference for devices with larger displays and keyboards, which generally favor desktops.  

If prices are to be a significant factor in the choice, the following guidance comparing costs and benefits might be helpful. These are based on my experiences and opinion for whatever that is worth. It is for typical requirements of seniors, such as email, web browsing, ebooks, HD movies and the like. Not for serious gamers or cryptocurrency miners! Prices are for mid-2019 and are for Windows computers and Android tablets. You can generally double the figures for comparable Apple products, though you tend to get some higher technology features for the added expense.

Desktops: The minimum budget for a desktop computer (without a monitor) should be $500-$600 for a computer that is likely to meet your needs for the next 7 to 10 years. A widescreen monitor can be budgeted at $100-$150. Desktop computers provide the most bang for your buck, are more upgradeable, and are easier and less expensive to repair than the other choices. They won’t meet your mobile requirements, but these days most seniors have either a smartphone or tablet in addition that can at least provide occasional mobile needs.

Laptops: The minimum budget for a laptop computer that is going to be your main computer should be $800-$1000. You may also want to add an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse for home-based computing for an additional $150-$200. Laptop screen sizes larger than 15.6 inches are rare these days except for high-end gaming laptops and a few expensive business laptops, which can add far more to the cost. Laptops are the most expensive choice but provide a much more powerful mobile option than a tablet. A benefit is that they can function as both your main home computer and mobile device. While a laptop should be capable of lasting 7 to 10 years, it is more vulnerable to damage because of the mobile use and batteries rapidly decrease in capacity, leading to replacement costs every few years if operation without ac power is important.

Tablets: The minimum budget for a tablet computer with adequate speed, storage space, and display size should be $400-$600. Their main benefit is portability and ease of use. They are unlikely to adequately function as your main home computer unless you have very minimal needs beyond email, web browsing, ebooks, and movies. The deal breaker for some seniors is the limited display size, which is typically less than 12 inches. If the small screen can be tolerated, a tablet in combination with a desktop computer can be a workable alternative to a laptop to provide for both home and mobile use. They have the same battery issues as laptops, and the hardware may not be supported with operating system updates in as little as 2 to 3 years, at which time some apps may begin to stop working also.

Using the previous budget numbers it is apparent that having both a desktop for home use and a tablet for mobile use will have about the same initial cost as a laptop equipped for home use with an external monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Though they have not been previously mentioned in this article, netbooks and Chromebooks would fall in between laptops and tablets in function and price. Netbooks are capable of computing like a laptop, but are generally too small, too slow, and have too little storage to be considered a serious alternative. Chromebooks, especially the high-end ones, can be a serious alternative if you can count on being connected to the internet most of the time and are willing to accept very limited functionality when you are not, but high-end models can approach the cost of a laptop.

Most of the new models of computers begin showing up in stores by late October. The latest processors from Intel (9th generation) and AMD (3rd generation) will be appearing then, and models with the previous generation of processors will begin to be discounted. The latest processors will have some advantages in performance over the previous generation, but the hoped-for hardware solutions for processor vulnerabilities have only been partially met in the design of the new processors. It may not be worth paying much extra for models with the latest generation. processors this year.

Operating systems for Android and Apple devices are released in the fall each year. Typically when a new version is released, only the previous two versions will continue to be supported with updates. Windows 10 feature updates are released in the spring and fall of each year. Microsoft also only continues to support the previous two versions when a new one is released. Support is always contingent on continued hardware support by the manufacturers of the devices if new drivers or firmware updates are needed to work with the updated operating system.

Hopefully, you find this information helpful when considering your next computer purchase.

Posted by Joe Callison


Karen Gerhardt

I have a MacBook Pro that I use all of the time. Recently I found that I was not getting a connection to my printer. When checking it showed that it was not recognizing my printer HP Office Jet.#6958. My printer works just fine as does my lap top. I tried finding out what was wrong in settings and on the printer itself. Things have always worked fine until now. How can I get some assistance for this matter? I am having a problem printing from my iPhone also.

Joe Callison

See my previous post titled Printing from Mobile Devices. It includes links to information on ways to print from Macs and iPhones. The HP support site on also has a lot of tutorials and troubleshooting instructions that could help. If you join the forum, you can also post questions that the other HP forum members or HP employees will respond to.

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