Monday, January 11, 2010

Tablet, Netbook, Laptop, Desktop...Which one and When?

I am often asked to comment on which major computing category one should invest in, and for what reason.  It used to be easy.  Desktop or Laptop were the 2 options.  However, with the recent success of the Netbook market, and the upcoming tablet market, which is poised to launch in 2010, the rules have changed.  This post will take a look at what to buy, for whom and for which use-case.  Please note that this article is biased towards home users.

In the beginning

A desktop used to be the traditional way of computing. However, with the cost of laptops falling in the mid 2000's, their increased computing power and wifi proliferation, laptops have now overshot desktop sales.  Then the recession hit in 2008.

The Rise of the Netbook

Asus gambled and won with the netbook (EEE PC), a category they created.  Soon Dell, HP, MSI and others followed.  This new category of low powered, conveniently sized machines, along with cloud applications such as Google docs and streaming video, opened our eyes to choosing machines that were "powerful enough" for what we wanted to do, on the go.

Tablet, Anyone?

2010 is poised to be the year of the tablet.  The iPhone/iPod Touch, N97 and Android phones have whet our appetite for touch based internet devices to consume electronic media.  Those devices, although the perfect form factor for a phone, aren't ideal for long term use.  Enter the slates!

Lenovo, Dell, HP all showed off tablets at CES this year.  Apple is even rumored to be working on a tablet.  It will probably be overpriced and Steve Jobs will be praised as inventing the tablet, even though three weeks earlier five other vendors showed off tablets....don't get me started!

The Breakdown

OK so here is my take on these 4 form factors and when each one makes sense.

  • The Tablet is a luxury item for consuming electronic content and surfing.
  • The Netbook is a cost effective, small form factor machine, useful for those who want to create written content and surfing.  Great for students.
  • The Laptop should be considered a mobile workstation.  Surf, write and do things that require more muscle and a bigger screen like sketching, sound recording and some simple video editing and programming.
  • The Desktop is a workstation, in the old sense of the word.  A powerful computer used for complex computational tasks or gaming.

The winner?  The Laptop is the sweet spot.  However, if you are on the go a lot, and live in the cloud, one could get away with just a Netbook.  Get a Tablet if you have some spare cash lying around.  Got to play Crysis?  Then the desktop is for you.

There you have it!  That is my take on the different form factors.

Happy computing!


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  2. Very topical article, at least for me) Just thinking over to buy a stationary computer. But the information - then 2010))) But vseravno, well written and interesting, you have inspired me)
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