Laptop and Desktop Comparison

Several weeks ago I had a choice to change my own desktop to same-cost laptop. I have made my choice and I want to share gathered information with you. This is some sort of review. Several paragraphs were written on my PPC, when I was underground going home, so mistakes can be found. I hope this article will help your choice, like it helped me.

I must warn you – I have made some limits. Desktop’s or laptop’s price mustn’t be over $1000. Also I don’t consider Apple products such as Mac book, PowerBooks, etc. Desktop has installed Microsoft Windows. So laptop has. Nothing extra ordinal in configurations.


Here we are. Someone of your friend decided to rid off his notebook. Or maybe you have seen nice laptop with very low price, as I did. Strange thoughts start visiting your mind. Now you have to decide whether to change your lovely desktop. You must remember several points for helping to decide whether you need this switch:

I’ll review each point theoretically. Miscellaneous has items that can be reviewed in several sentences. In the end of the article I’ll compare 2 computers presented on eshop.


In laptop’s market there are not holy wars, like in desktop’s one. Situation here is too obvious. But at first some theory.

Maybe you know, maybe not, but laptop processor differs a lot from its desktop brother. They have different priorities. Desktop processor must be powerful anyway, it doesn’t have any limits. It can warm up enormously, use much power. Laptop processor differs. Its main priority is to save power and be quite cold, that small cooler can cool it down. On the second place is performance. It’s ideal situation. In a real world engineers have performance on one hand and power sufficiency on another. They have to find balance between them. The only thing I can tell you is that Intel has developed own mobile technology better than AMD has done.

Intel with Pentium M has easily beaten AMD with Turion 64 processor. Intel’s processor has less frequency, but also needs less power. Pentium M doesn’t need big cooling system, so you can save more power. Turion is nice processor, but can be easily warmed up and needs lot of power (my friend has laptop with installed AMD Turion; he can’t hold it down on his knees even for half an hour). AMD Turion has higher frequency than Intel Pentium M does, but don’t be cheated. Pentium’s frequency doesn’t equal to its desktop cousin. M series has other, improved architecture. Pentium 1.6 Ghz is Pentium 2.2 Ghz (at least). Turion frequency is equal to desktop brother. There are laptops with desktop processors. It’s rather old model, or high-performance one. Not the best choice if your main criterion is mobility, due to enormous power usage. Desktop processors, which can be found in laptop, are Pentium, and Sempron. Core 2 Duo for laptops has other architecture and priorities comparing with desktop Core 2 Duo. On the whole it is similar brand, but in details significantly different processor.

Let’s summarize. Laptops processors are a bit slower. But would you need desktop’s performance? Would you use all of processor’s power? If you use desktop just for documents, watching divx video and web-surfing I bet you wouldn’t. If you use computer for encoding video, gaming, watching high-def video or 3d modeling you would need all computer’s power. Your best choice would be desktop.

Discrete graphics and integrated graphics

Now we’ll speak about graphics card. Usually desktops under $1000 have discrete graphics. Laptops under $1000 often have integrated one. Remember the main rule for laptop? Save power and place. Integrated graphics card matches both of them. If you use computer just for office documents you can skip this chapter, because integrated graphics cards are made for you.

If you still reading this then you have to choose video. Integrated graphics card has only the basic functions. Old models even don’t have 3d accelerator. But we consider only new models up to $1000. Basically all models are equipped with Intel chipset, 915 or 945. These chipsets have integrated graphics card. But don’t expect to play modern 3d shooters. The best you’ll get from them is strategies or 3 years old shooters. If you want to watch HD forget about laptop. Or find another $1000 to buy laptop, which supports high-def video. Also you can wait till external PCI-E or XG-Station will be available. But, again, it’s more than $1000, so we don’t consider these.

Now we talk about discrete graphics on desktops. With $1000 you can buy 7600GT with HD support and you can play modern games with medium quality. You gain more noise with discrete graphics, if it has active cooling system (with cooler). Of course you can choose graphics card with passive cooling system. Usually it’s mentioned in the name of graphics card. Asus adds “Silencer” to the name of graphics card. But with passive cooling system you can’t overclock your graphics card strong enough because it will overheat and you gain broken card.

Conclusions about graphics card – if you don’t play 3d games, don’t use computer for professional 3d usage you can surely take laptop. If you’re hardcore gamer or 3d modeler, who needs mobility take more $1000 and wait for XG-Station or external PCI-E. Others will stay on laptop.

Hard Disk

Hard disk is a device that keeps all your information. Desktop hard disk is 3.5 inches. Laptop disk is only 2.5 inches. The main property that determines drive’s capacity is consistency per one disk. As you know maximum for laptop HDD is 300 GB per disk. For desktop HDD this value is 750 GB. Seagate discovered new technology that allows producing 1 Tb desktop HDDs. Hard disk must be not only big, but fast, too. Speed depends on RPM. You would ask what RPM means. RPM – rotations per minute. It was some sort of speed rating. Yeah, WAS. Nowadays all new models have 7200 for desktops HDDs and 5400 for laptop ones. It’s like CD-ROM or DVD-ROM speed. Remember 32x, 52x, 16x? Laptop hard disk has only 4200 or 5400 rpm, desktop hard disk has 7200 rpm anyway. I didn’t see desktop hard disks with 5400 rpm for last several years. But like incase of CD-ROM, RPM is not the only thing, which influences on HDD speed. Cache is important for writing and reading rates for HDD. For desktop computers maximum is 16 Mb, but these models aren’t cheap. Mainstream HDDs have 8 Mb cache. On laptops computers you wouldn’t find more than 2 Mb cache for HDD, especially in segment less than $1000 for laptop. HDDs have many technologies for noise reduction and S.M.A.R.T. I won’t explain what they are, because desktop HDDs and laptop ones have similar technologies.

Laptop computer must reduce power usage, so HDDs have built-in technologies for power saving. These technologies don’t have much influence on performance. So if you need big and fast hard drive your choice will be desktop computer. If it’s not so important you can use laptop. But you can always increase you capacity, by installing another hard disk in external mobile rack, even desktop hard disk.


This chapter includes points that don’t differ a lot from each other. They are RAM, monitor, different controllers. I’ll try to show the main differences only.

Speaking about RAM. Desktop ram and laptop ram are similar in functions, but have a bit different construction. Desktop memory is called DIMM, laptop ram is SO-DIMM. There are DDR and DDR2 in both computers. SO-DIMM is a bit smaller and has other shape.


Monitors have same construction. Except for laptop LCD has different resolution, because it has different from desktop LCD physical sizes. You won’t notice it. Even in games there won’t be differences, except for several, unadopted for notebook, games. Also laptop LCD has several technologies for power saving and true picture, without any reflections from day light. Different brands – different names, but same meaning.

Now I tell you about what laptop computer has, but desktop doesn’t. One of laptop’s advantages is several wireless (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) built-in controllers, card readers. Of course you can install it in desktop, but in laptop, you get them free. Laptop computer is equipped with PCMCIA slot. Farther laptop has different from desktop mouse. Really laptop doesn’t have mouse. Instead of mouse laptop has touchpad, sometimes trackball. But you can always plug in external mouse.

If I haven’t mentioned something it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It means that construction and functions are similar. Or I have just forgotten about it :) .

Practical Comparison

As a matter of fact desktop always has higher performance. Main plot of laptop, as you know, is your mobility. Laptop’s performance can be reduced, if it can increase uptime. Mobile processors have strongly decreased TDP. Discrete video will bring more performance.

I review only desktops & laptops under $1000. I have chosen one eshop to compare prices I took both price for laptop computer and desktop one. So specifications for both of them.

First is desktop computer. Under $1000 the best choice, as for me, is Velocity Micro Vector GX Campus Edition. You can see specifications clicking on the link above. Computer has installed Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1 GB of memory, George 7600GS, 250 GB HDD, DVD-RW and other misc. I want to point out that it has card-reader and LCD monitor. Windows XP Home edition is installed. The price is $999, what is not so expensive for this computer. You can play modern games on it. This desktop computer is upgradeable, what is great advantage.

And now compare it with the best choice under $1000 for laptop. As a remark: my opinion is that Dell makes the best notebooks with competitive price and awesome specifications. So I was choosing from Dell only. It is called Dell Inspiring E1705. This laptop will have Core 2 Duo T2250 processor 1.73 GHz (do not compare it with desktop processor! remember why?), integrated graphics, 1 GB Ram, 80 GB HDD, 17 inch LCD. Not bad for a worker, but the worst choice for gamer. Integrated graphics, little HDD will not make you happy. You can not upgrade laptop computer, so your choice must be wise.

As a matter of fact you see that desktop computer is more powerful than laptop one. But do you need it? Will you use all of desktop abilities? Will you load processor full enough? Check it now, press CTRL+ALT+DEL and find out how many percents of CPU do you use now. If it is less than 30% and you do not like games you can sure enough switch your desktop to laptop. If not – stay with laptop and you will get the best performance.

In future I’m planning to write advices of choosing the best laptop for certain price. I hope you will enjoy it.

Written by admin on February 19th, 2007 with 1 comment.
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#1. March 3rd, 2009, at 1:54 PM.

R600 was delayed. But why? Ask Rick Bergman – PC Tips World: If we’ll forget about R600 and read fully the interview we can find interesting thinkings. Rick Bergman says something ...

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