Should I Buy a Desktop or Laptop Computer for College?

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Laptop prices have dropped tremendously in the last ten years. resulting in many people opting to use a laptop for their main computer system. Gone are the days when people had to shell out big bucks for the portability of a laptop.

Today, college students tend to opt for laptops because they are smaller and much more convenient than laptops of the past. Laptop popularity has also increased due to the necessity of a computer at college. It is much easier to carry a laptop from home to college and back than to lug around a CPU tower, monitor, keyboard and other peripherals.

However, some college students still prefer the desktop computer for several important reasons. Among these reasons are the power offered by the desktop and the longevity of the desktop computer over the laptop. Read on to learn which computer is right for you at college.

Power in Desktop Computers versus Laptop Computers for the College Student

It is no secret that laptop computers are far less powerful than desktops at the same price. In order to squeeze all of the parts of a computer into a laptop size, certain corners must be cut. For example, laptops usually take advantage of on-board video and sound. This means that the video and sound are built into the motherboard rather than being a separate component like in a desktop computer. The result is underpowered graphics and minimal sound capabilities for those applications that would benefit from them.

Upgrading a desktop computer is far easier than upgrading the same parts in a laptop. Desktop computers are far more granular, allowing parts to be swapped in and out at will. Laptops are designed to be all-in-one solutions and often contain proprietary parts specific to the manufacturer. The result is much higher prices when, for example, you want to upgrade your laptop’s RAM.

Maintenance of a Desktop Computer versus a Laptop Computer for College Students

The all-in-one solution paradigm of laptop computers makes it more difficult to maintain a laptop in comparison to a desktop computer. Say, for example, that you spill coffee on a desktop computer’s keyboard. At worst, you will have to pay about $30 for a new keyboard and then you are back to work.

Spill coffee on a laptop’s keyboard and you risk damaging multiple parts inside of the laptop’s housing. In addition, you may have to take the laptop to a profession for maintenance, not only costing you a lot of money; in the mean time, you are without your computer and must make other arrangements to get your work done. This is not a good thing for the college student with tight deadlines approaching.

Choosing a Desktop Computer to Match a College Student’s Major

Some students are majoring in areas that require the power of a desktop computer. It would be difficult to constantly hunch over a small, grainy screen if, for example, a student were taking a computer programming course.

Other majors more appropriate to the desktop computer include engineering, writing, business, and computer science, where use of a computer is crucial to getting course work done. These majors often require students to use power-hungry applications that run much better on the desktop computer.

Students spending long hours in front of a computer will find that using the large monitor of a desktop computer reduces eyestrain and increases the amount of time that can be spent using the computer comfortably.

As mentioned above, desktops usually have better sound capabilities, thus eliminating the need for a separate stereo system in cramped dorm room conditions. Add a TV tuner to a desktop computer and the need for a separate television is also eliminated. Although it may be true that laptops take up less space than desktops, desktop computers are powerful enough to serve several functions beyond normal computing. The result can be more total room when combining several large appliances into one desktop computer.


Although laptop computers offer the convenience of portability, many college students are surprised to find out that they prefer the power of a desktop computer. Desktops offer more power, easier maintenance, and more features than laptops. In addition, several bulky appliances such as stereo systems and televisions can be eliminated in a small dorm room if the right equipment is purchased and installed in a desktop computer. Before you assume that a laptop is more convenient than a desktop computer, consider carefully the pros and cons of buying one computer over another. The right computer for the college student may surprise you.