I’ve never thought of myself as a Luddite yet I must admit that certain tech trends just don’t yank my crank. I’m not much into text messaging. I’d rather email than IM. I LOATHE social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. I much prefer “real websites” like WordPress Blogs for example. One last example of me bucking tech trends is my dislike of laptops. Fist off let me admit that not long ago I did finally break down and actually buy a laptop for myself. BUT I don’t really use it a lot. I got it for a very specific set of functions. I use it to diagnose Network problems when I do house-calls and I use it to display a 550 meg ComicBase Database file of all my comics when I go back-issue hunting. Both of which require portability. But I would NEVER want to web-surf with the laptop much less use Photoshop.
So I’m not at all happy with the stats I’ve been reading that seem to indicate far more new PC sales are NOT what I call PCs at all but are actually laptop sales. And yes I know laptops ARE PCs. They are just not what I think of as PCs. I think of them as “portables”. Way too many compromises must be made to fit everything into that sleek form-factor. A few short years ago the biggest compromise was PERFORMANCE and COST. These two items are becoming less and less of an issue as mobile CPUs become more powerful, efficient and ultimately cheaper. These days you can obtain a laptop with 3gigs of RAM, a core2 CPU, Windows 7 Home Premium AND a high resolution 15 inch screen for $600.00 or less. Of course this is a CONSUMER grade laptop -NOT a rugged “road-ready” pro grade model. The Pro stuff is still $1,000.00+. It has been argued that one can nearly pay for TWO “cheap” consumer grade laptops for the price of one pro unit….so some would rather get the cheapie and just replace it twice as often. Your call on that one.
We all know what’s great about laptops -compact, portable and cool looking -agreed. Now let me tell you why they mostly SUCK:
1) Expensive or impossible to upgrade. Did your laptop not come with a decent graphics chip? If it didn’t that’s too bad because you can’t do anything about that. If you had bought a desktop you could just hop on over to Newegg or your favorite Brick & Mortar store and choose from hundreds of inexpensive graphics cards that can easily be snapped into place.
2) god-awful screens. With nearly no exception laptops have really crappy LCD displays. Unless you pay extra (and generally special order) you will get a low-rez screen. And even when you pop for the extra pixels the viewing angles will suck harder than a hoover….the colors don’t tend to be too accurate either.
3) Batteries are EXPENSIVE. Yeah, nice 500 dollar laptop you got there…be sure to set aside $120+ for a battery replacement. You’ll probably need one in a year or so.
4) Power-cord/charger hell. Be VERY careful with that power cord & charger. A replacement will cost you $60.00-100+ -and that’s ONLY if it’s still available by the time you need one. For some reason the industry has never bothered to standardize the power connector plug shape even for chargers of the same wattage. All of these things are very model/brand specific. “Universal” chargers exist but they are VERY expensive as well.
5) The keyboards SUCK. The layouts vary in their suckitude from model to model (again no standards exist for laptops) but one lousy thing almost ALL of them share – NO NUMBERS pad. USB add on numbers pads exist but that kind of kills the whole compact/portable thing doesn’t it?
6) Underpowered USB ports. A lot of laptops (again no standards exist in the world of laptops) lack “full-power” USB ports. This means that shiny new USB powered external hard drive you just bought may or MAY NOT work when you plug it in. I’ve even seen some USB flash drives fail on laptop ports!
Do you REALLY need a laptop?
The ONLY people that should be buying laptops INSTEAD of Desktops are people that NEED their computer to be PORTABLE. If you don’t need to move your PC then don’t buy a laptop. This seems like a no-brainer but from my experience it’s NOT. A lot of folks claim they need a laptop because they don’t have much space for a computer. I just can’t see much validity to this one. In the era of LCD monitors and compact keyboards a desktop doesn’t require much space. The compact tower that is typical of the modern desktop PC can go UNDER the desk or table and is generally out of the way. I will however concede that a “real” PC DOES have a lot more cord clutter. Lastly even for this non laptop enthusiast I must admit there is an undeniable cool factor that comes with a slick new laptop. I feel it myself….up until I have to repair/upgrade one.