Laptops vs home computers, it's a battle that's been raging for decades yet there is still no clear winner. That – to cut to the chase – is largely because it comes down to what you need, with each machine type offering its own benefits and drawbacks.
The most obvious thing is that a laptop is portable when a desktop machine has you stuck in one place. So if you need to be out and about then the desktop consideration likely need not be taken into account, unless of course you have enough spare money to get both. In which case skip right to our best laptops (opens in new tab) and best home computers (opens in new tab) guides to find your ideal models.
Other factors that you'll need to consider before committing to one or the other include, performance, price, design and of course convenience. We've laid out all of these areas below with a clear winner for each section at the bottom so you can see which is the ideal choice for your computing needs.
Laptops vs home computers: What you need to know
Laptops vs home computers: Design
Laptops are made to be compact and portable and, as such, can look very minimal and attractive, especially in the case of Apple's MacBooks. That said, you do get some very attractive desktop computers now too. We're not talking about the big tower desktops, although some LED lit gaming rigs can look super cool. We mean the all-in-one machines that look like a screen with little else as it's all built in.
But beyond looks, the larger design of a desktop PC can be a big advantage over a laptop. This not only means bigger and more affordable components but also ones that can be changed. So if you invest in a home computer this could be more long term as you can update with smaller costing parts that make it last a lot longer than a laptop.
From more RAM to a new or extra hard drive or even the latest graphics card, a home computer gives you the expansion space to upgrade as you need. Some PC options you can build from scratch, potentially making the whole process an enjoyable part of getting yourself setup in the bespoke way you need.
Laptops vs home computers: Performance
When it comes to performance it's really all about what you're prepared to spend. You can shell out on a top-end MacBook Pro laptop and it'll wipe the floor with some home computers. That said, the same works in the other direction.
The key here is that you can cram in more memory and processing power with the space of a desktop computer, whereas a laptop limits you to what can fit. When you consider the smaller components it's generally going to cost you more to get the same speed as a lower priced desktop machine – which can also be sped up with upgrades in the long run.
For gamers, or those editing video or images, a desktop machine will get you the most performance punch for the price. There are dedicated laptops for editing and gaming, of course, but you'll be paying a premium for that portability.
Winner: Home Computer
Laptops vs home computers: Convenience
A laptop can be opened, awake and working with your WiFi or even tethered phone connection, right away. You've got your display, your speakers, your microphone, your webcam, plus your keyboard and mouse all right there, included.
For a home computer you're likely going to have to buy all that kit on top of the desktop itself. All-in-one machines are different and generally have everything built-in, but the price reflects that.
The only effort required that's great when it comes to a laptop is making sure it's charged up. Also, for those that use a second screen, it can mean an adapter to get that up and running too. But these are minor and use specific gripes that don't outweigh the ease and convenience of use that a laptop offers.
Laptops vs home computers: Price
You pay more for a laptop because the components are generally smaller and more premium. It's that simple. You can get more affordable laptops, sure, but you're going to be getting less processing power for your buck than if you go for a desktop based home computer.
Of course price is also based on what you are getting up front. With a laptop, that price has everything built-in, unless you want to add a wireless keyboard, mouse and monitor, of course. An all-in-one PC is similar but usually comes with the keyboard and mouse.
A desktop PC, on the other hand, is usually just the machine – with the monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers coming as extra costs. This can be a good thing, meaning you invest your money in the areas you need rather than being stuck with a package deal. It also means you can upgrade over time so this investment should last you longer for your buck.
Winner: Home computer
Laptops vs home computers: Which should you buy?
The winner, based on taking the most rounds above, is the home computer. But, despite all that, if you need to be mobile then that's not relevant as only a laptop will do that well. Sure, if you're moving from one house to another, occasionally, an all-in-one PC isn't too hard to transport. But for true mobility, and the ability to work anywhere, a laptop is the best way to go.
For anyone that can afford to get both, perhaps a cheaper desktop and laptop, then this is another great option. You could even save up and then upgrade the desktop at a later date if you need a more powerful performance.