Laptops vs Desktops: The Costs

Over the past year or two, we’ve seen a shift in the work environment. Working at an office just isn’t the standard anymore. While this means more freedom to work where you want, it also means that workers need to be more mobile and flexible.

With this in mind, portability has become quite an important consideration for people looking to buy a new computer. With a laptop, you could work from home, or take your work to a café. If you need to go to the office, that’s no problem either. This all sounds really appealing, but a high-end laptop may not be the ideal solution for you.

The compact form factor of a laptop makes it much easier to carry around, but it also greatly limits the power it can output. Even with how much less space a laptop takes up than a desktop, it still needs to house the same kinds of components: a motherboard, CPU, RAM, storage drive, and often a dedicated GPU. Not only that, it needs to fit all of that underneath a built-in keyboard, preferably while remaining as slim as possible with lid closed. Fitting all of those components into such a tiny space means that certain sacrifices need to be made.

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the highest spec laptop we can find, and see how much it would cost to get similar performance from a desktop.

Hmm… It definitely is cheaper, but an i7 instead of an i9? A 3060 over a 3080? I thought we were aiming for the same kind of performance 🤔

Perhaps some benchmarks will clear things up:

Although the i7 11700F does show slightly lower multithread performance than the laptop i9, this difference is negligible considering the almost R 40 000 difference in price.

In fact, the 10% difference in CPU multithread performance is the only point in the laptop’s favour.

The desktop, at half the price, gets higher single thread performance, higher GPU performance, and faster RAM.

Not only does it still have a 4K display, like the laptop, but this monitor is 10” bigger.

Instead of having to deal with a laptop touchpad and a basic built-in keyboard, you get a fully-fledged mechanical keyboard, and an excellent mouse with tons of functionality.

I can’t stress enough how large that price difference is. If the argument is that you sometimes need to work at the office, you could buy two desktops at the same price.

This isn’t even taking into consideration the improved airflow and cooling, and the options for upgrades in the future.

This may make you wonder… If the same kind of performance is available at basically half the price, what do you get when you spend the same kind of money on a desktop?

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