TechPublishing Now MS Certified

TechPublishing Now MS Certified
Professor Robert McMillen, MBA Microsoft Certified Trainer and Solutions Expert

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Should I buy a desktop, laptop, netbook, or tablet?

Should I buy a desktop, laptop, netbook, or tablet?

Should I buy a desktop, laptop, netbook, or tablet?
By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech Guru
The IPAD has muddied the waters on what a person should buy for their personal computer. The first word in PC is ‘personal’, so this is a personal choice for your home computer. You may not have such an option at your office, but at home you should make it a choice that fits you. I will be your computer tailor today. Please, no white mice after Labor Day.
Desktops were the first to make the scene, and the most popular was the IBM PS1 and PS2. The PS2 was so popular we can still buy mice with the PS2 connectors. That shape and form is still the basis of desktops today. Why would you want a desktop over any other type of PC? They are more powerful, less expensive, and most expansive. You can put a more powerful processor in a desktop because of the space in the box itself. There is room for air to get around so it can stay cooler. You can even use a water cooled device to crank up the speed just as a radiator in a car keeps the engine cool. They are less expensive because the parts are larger and easier to make. The parts are also mostly non proprietary, which means you can replace most of the parts with off the shelf components. This allows more competition and better pricing.
They’re more expansive because you can add more internal cards to do things like high end graphics, additional hard drives, additional network cards, DVD burners, USB and Firewire ports, and the list goes on. You can even plug more things onto the outside of the box like USB hard drives, digital cameras, printers, etc. You can put a more powerful power supply in so you can add far more gadgets to your computer than any of the other devices and still have power to spare. If you want to have more than just a couple of high end monitors for stock trading or gaming, then this is definitely the way to go.
Laptops came out after the design of the “luggable.” These 15+ pound monstrosities were used by salesmen as they were able to lug them around from customer to customer to sell software installed on the devices, or sell the luggables themselves. They kept getting smaller until you could fit them on your lap. The great thing about them is that they are far easier to travel with than their predecessors and you also keep most of the functionality of the desktop models, but without the expandability. The disadvantage of not being able to add PCI functional cards, as well as the limited power keeps these devices for specific uses. Of course if you travel, a laptop is the right choice if you need more processing power than a netbook or tablet. They do tend to get hot so don’t leave them on your lap without a USB cooling device, or at least a book to protect you.
Laptops also have DVD players which makes them great for travelers who choose to watch movies and play less intense video games than the on the desktops. They have less hard drive space, but if this is not your only computer then you can dump your data onto a desktop or a USB hard drive when they get full. Laptops are also very good for wirelessly walking around the house or within range of your wireless access point. You have the freedom to move about. Battery life is anywhere from 2-6 hours based on the type of use and the type of battery. You can buy a longer life battery for an extra charge.
Netbooks may only be a few years old, but they are based on the laptop design. They look just like a diminutive laptop because they have no DVD player in them, and they use a much skinnier hard drive called a flash drive (in many models). Their screen size is typically 7-10”, although some manufacturers are pushing the envelope on this. They don’t tend to multitask very well because they use a power sipping processor to extend battery life as long as possible. The Intel Atom chip is the most popular and Windows 7 designed for the netbook is the most used operating system.
Without a DVD player, you’ll need to download your movies before getting on the plane, unless you’re lucky enough to get a plane with internet access. Being much smaller and lighter than a laptop, it’s great to travel with. It does have USB ports so you can add storage and plug in a digital camera, as well as many other devices. Since most run Windows, they have Flash so you can watch TV on it through Hulu.com. Hard drive space will be at a premium so don’t buy a netbook if you have massive storage requirements. The Netbook was designed for just a couple of things: email and internet surfing. It can do more than that of course, but you’ll be less than pleased with the results if you try to push the envelope beyond its intended design.
A tablet like the IPAD is a fairly old creature, but with a new design. A tablet was basically a standard laptop designed to allow your finger to be the mouse. This was alright for some groups of people, but it was lacking a multi touch design. The IPAD is ushering in a new wave of tablet design that removes the tablet from being a laptop altogether.
They have light weight processors just like the netbooks, and also smaller hard drives. The Apple version is very proprietary so don’t plan on upgrading any RAM, adding storage, plugging in a digital camera, or watching TV on it through Flash. It won’t do any of that. What it will do, however, is run some fantastic apps. Brilliant designers have created applications to specifically run on this device that make it worth the money. If the IPAD isn’t for you, there will be many others that will also be considered tablets, such as the HP Slate due out later this year. It will run Windows, Flash, and have USB capabilities.
Doctors, students, lawyers, and anyone else who requires extreme portability, outstanding battery life, and the ability to do one or two things really well will find this type of device very useful. I think the most exciting thing about tablets is that we don’t yet know what software engineers will come up with next that will make it indispensible to our daily lives. It won’t replace any of the other three types of PCs, but it will be used in tandem to create more productivity for a lot of people.
For great tips, check back here each week and listen to me on the All Tech Radio show at 9:00 Sunday mornings on AM 1360 KUIK, or listen online at http://alltechradio.com.
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 If you would like your technical question answered here, just email rmcmillen@koin.com. Even if it doesn’t get answered in the column, I will always answer by email.

Published Monday, April 12, 2010 4:33 PM by Devereux