Desktop Replacement Laptops!! Worth Your Hard Earned Money?
By Elizabeth Diane
Muscular, hairy chested and tough, desktop replacement laptops/notebooks are ideal for users seeking serious computing power.
If you are simply interested in web surfing, checking email and downloading the occasional video, you need not apply.
But if you are a hardcore gamer, a professional graphics specialist or a multimedia enthusiast looking for true surround-sound 1080p home-theater experience, then inquire within.
Desktop notebook users know that with increased performance, comes compromises. One is that desktop laptops tend to be weighty and thick and hence are not the most portable. Some machines can weigh anywhere between 7 and 15 pounds each!
Another compromise is the potentially higher nominal costs of desktop replacement notebooks when compared to the cost of some smaller machines.
So if you have basic computing needs, it may not make economic sense to buy a desktop notebook. Rather, it may be better to buy a netbook since it can handle basic tasks and will likely be much cheaper and easier to carry.
However, in terms of “value for money,” there is no doubt that desktop replacement laptops offer a high performance/price ratio. In other words, consumers get some serious bang for the buck.
Some desktop replacement notebooks offer overall good performance, battery life and graphics for as low as $500! But some machines can cost as high as $1500.
Let us take a look at what performance, features and qualities to expect from a desktop notebook.
Desktop replacement laptops are about offering good or great performance. So at a minimum, get a machine with fast dual core processors. For “grinning ear to ear” performance, you could get a machine with 4 processing cores.
There are desktop laptops with as much as 500GB hard drives. But you may not need that much especially if you are a casual user. You could go for as low as 250GB (or more) if you have a large media collection and like playing advanced games.
Some vendors have introduced SSD for notebooks. These are unlike traditional hard drives with immoveable parts, have lower weight, are more durable and have comparatively fast boot times. However, SSDs do have lower capacities and are costly.
Given that 64-bit versions of Vista can support bigger amounts of RAM than 32-bit versions are capable of doing, you’ll see desktop notebooks offering greater amounts of RAM.
If you are a power user, you would want to have at least 2GB in their systems. Or you could go with a monster laptop that offers as much as 8GB.
If you play top flight games, go with a system that has a discrete video chipset from NVidia or ATI. The chipset should hold a minimum of 512MB of dedicated graphics memory.
You could pay more for a higher end unit that offers two graphics cards working together.
If you are not into gaming and want to save cash, you could certainly make do with a single graphics card or one offering 256MB of dedicated graphics RAM.
Display Size and Resolution
Desktop replacement laptops are not noted for their portability. They are often parked closed to a power outlet in the home or office. But in case you have to carry around this laptop, you should not have any problems if you are in a reasonable physical condition.
The sweet spot for desktop laptops is around 17 inches but there are displays that are as “small” as 15 inches and large as 20 inches. However, some regard 15-inch screens as mid-sized laptops rather than desktop replacements.
Go for a system with a native resolution of 1920 by 1200. Be careful of any desktop notebook that offers a native resolution of 1650 by 1080 or under. This is an indication that the notebook is underpowered.
Also watch out for glossy screens. Some people abhor them as the glare is just too much.
Keyboard and Touchpad
One of the benefits of using a desktop replacement laptop is how comfortable it is to type on. If you have large hands or into gaming, having a large keyboard and touchpad helps big time.
For added comfort, you’ll want to buy a mouse as well. Touchpads are not conducive to the rapid movements required during gaming.
Search for a system with multi format (DVD±RW) DVD burner which can write to CDs along with plus and minus format DVD. Desktop notebooks that offer 1080p resolution would likely have Blu-ray Disc drives.
Desktop notebooks often promise great sound but not all of them deliver that in reality. However, those with Altec-Lansing speakers do an excellent job.
Expect to get a wide array of ports; HDMI-out, eSATA etc. Go for a system with integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. However, some systems offer Bluetooth optionally. Do you know what provides better performance for programming – Laptop or desktop? Read my best programming laptop guide you should follow.
So here’s the thing, I keep hearing about desktop replacement laptops but I never see a direct comparison between a laptop and a desktop. Granted, for a similar price, you could get a much better desktop computer than a laptop. However, I’m wondering how these new hardcore laptops compare to desktops. For example, what would be the desktop equivalent(as far as perfomance goes) to the new Dell XPS M1710. Anyone have any input on this?
Would you be able to mention the laptop’s name that can be perfect desktop replacement?
The Surface Pro 4 has a full operating Windows 10 platform. Don’t underestimate the power and versatility of this. The comparison to all these other mobile devices is not a fair comparison. The Surface Pro 4 is a complete laptop replacement if you want to use it that way. With the Surface Dock you can easily connect it to a larger screen, speakers, printer, scanner and other essential equipment or use it as a portable device anywhere Wi-Fi is available. The i5 Intel Skylake Processor will do mostly everything you want except CAD or intense graphics. I really considered the Surface Book except that the weight of the unit is too much like my old laptop computer and I wanted something more portable.
Thanks for the review! I considered purchasing a desktop, but now I will buy a laptop.
We have to make sure we make the right laptop picks. Laptop selection is especially time consuming, maybe the most time consuming.
Maybe I’m a special case but I’m looking for a 14-15? laptop that’s still portable but powerful enough for development work. Right now I’m looking at the new Samsung Notebook 9 and the HP Spectre x360 15t.
I find no meaningful performance differences between my (admittedly older) desktop and my new i7 Ultrabook. In fact, my ultrabook benchmarks higher. The 8GB of RAM is the constraint and doesn’t provide much room for running VMs. Since I rarely run VMs, 8GB has proven sufficient for me. I no longer need a desktop or hefty laptop. My ultrabook has been my only machine for the last year+. Love it.
Save your money, and buy Paralells, and a copy of Windows. Install them on your Mac, and it will run circles around ANY Windows based laptop!
This may be a dumb question but why would someone need to add a Keyboard to Laptop when it already has one built in . I can see adding a mouse but to me a keyboard is a keyboard .
Hi I am looking for a lightweight laptop for school. I will be taking notes and playing games on it.