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Should You Buy a Laptop Computer?

With laptop computers growing in popularity, many consumers are struggling to decide whether they should invest in one or stick with the desktop machine.

Both have their advantages, but the disadvantages are important to consider as well. The ultimate decision rests in what each user personally does and needs, so think about these factors when trying to make your decision.

Laptops are popular among students: a group known to move back and forth often and to travel quite a bit with their computers. A student with a laptop computer can take his work to the local coffee house, Mom and Dad's house for the weekend or even to class. The student with the desktop, on the other hand, can only go as far as the keyboard's cord will extend.

Other groups of travelers, such as business professionals, also like the laptop option. Work can go home at night without any data-transfer system (flash drive, e-mailing files and the like) and then back to the office the next day. And if that professional has to catch a flight to an out-of-town meeting, he or she can work while the plane is in the air.

Performance is not often an issue with laptops. These computers will handle the word processing, Internet surfing, and other such tasks that the average PC user does every day. You might notice that a desktop is a bit more capable of handling high end tasks, like video editing, but that's not a concern for the average user.

Price, however, is the biggest difference between most laptop and desktop systems. When you find one of each type, both with comparable specifications and capabilities, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars more for the laptop version.

That price, though, is before you consider other add-ons. You might find that you hate the laptop keyboard. If you use your laptop at home very often, you might want a docking station (a couple of hundred dollars). You could end up with things such as an external monitor, USB mouse, etc.

And if you travel frequently, you'll want a higher-end laptop. The lower-priced models weigh a few pounds each: not exactly the most travel-friendly aspect of these machines!

Laptops are also great for people who like to work away from their desks. Even if you don't take your computer out of your house, you can still enjoy the benefits. Set up your laptop at the coffee table or on your lap while you're in your favorite comfy chair and you just might be more productive than you are at the desk.

And because many laptops come with both wired and wireless Internet capabilities, you can use hard-wired or WiFi networks to get online. You can check your e-mail from the airport, coffee shop or library if they offer wireless access. If you buy a laptop for travel, you'll have to take extra security precautions to keep the system safe. If nothing else, you'll have to get used to watching the computer all the time: something that desktop users don't worry about. At the worst, you might have to invest some money in security systems like cable-locking devices, computer-tracking hardware or other measures.

Ultimately, the price difference is going to be the deciding factor for most laptop buyers. If the convenience and portability is worth a few hundred extra dollars - or even more - then search for a reliable, well-made model that will serve all of your needs.

But if you don't think you'll get enough out of that computer to make the extra investment, buy a desktop model. You can use the money that you save to buy a comfortable office chair, a nice monitor and anything else that you'll need to turn your permanent work space into the ideal environment.


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