While desktop tower computers are still the workhorses among business users and in home offices, laptop computers are catching up fast. A laptop lends a portability that is not possible with a desktop model, and its computing power in comparison to a desktop is not much of an issue. More rugged design and wireless Internet make the laptop a more viable entry for everyday use.
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A laptop can go places a desktop tower computer cannot. Mobile workers swear by a laptop's portability; it can be shoved in a briefcase or backpack while the desktop tower unit remains on the desk. Improved laptop design has eliminated much of the expected trade-off; computer sales indicate buyers are likely to use a laptop as a replacement for the desktop.
Differences in Performance
Despite the smaller package, there is little performance difference between a tower desktop computer and a laptop. Most are built with roughly the same amount of RAM, the same bus speed and the same amount of hard drive space. With USB connections, a full-sized keyboard and mouse can be plugged into a laptop and an external hard drive can be added. Most laptops even have a connection to plug in a full-sized monitor.
Expanding and Repairing Your System
Expanding a desktop tower system is much easier than it is a laptop. Most towers leave room for extra drive bays, so a computer user can have multiple hard drives or optical drives. Replacing a hard drive is much easier with a desktop tower, and extra memory chips or peripheral cards plug in with room to spare. Because it is easier to modify and repair a desktop tower computer, a savvy computer user is less likely to get rid of a desktop when something goes wrong than he is a laptop--in fact, a laptop usually lasts two or three years.
Cost and Market Share
While laptops tend to cost more than their desktop counterparts, this doesn't affect the smaller units' popularity. Laptops--and the smaller, cheaper netbooks--gained market share in the first decade of the 2000s, and, by decade's end, sales had pulled even with desktops.
Netbooks in the Picture
Not much bigger than a hardcover book, netbooks are capturing the low-end laptop market. Though the smaller keyboard screen, and memory make them less attractive for heavy use, they are good for surfing the Internet from any wireless hot spot. Netbooks are promising enough that Microsoft built a version of Windows 7 just for the mini-laptops, and Linux developers released several netbook versions of that open-source operating system.
A Place for Everything
Through wireless connectivity, a desktop tower unit and laptop can be linked to share files and even Internet connections. This is particularly handy for the computer user who wishes to work in another room, or even on the porch.
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