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Will Desktop Computers Ever Be Obsolete?

Updated on February 8, 2014

Are Desktop PC's Obsolete?

Desktop computers are "old technology" by today's standards. They are not portable. They consume a lot of space and are very costly. Tablet computers like the iPad, Kindle Fire, and Google Android tablets are selling like hotcakes and start out as low as $50. Will the desktop PC market going to be obsolete soon? In Short... No. The desktop will never be obsolete at least not in the next 10 years. Here's why...

Mobile Devices and Laptops are Less Powerful

For people that use their PC for gaming the mainstay for 3D gaming is the desktop PC. The reason being is that with portable systems like the iPad, Android devices, and laptops can not run as fast as a desktop. But Why?

This is your laptop running at desktop speed!
This is your laptop running at desktop speed! | Source

Reason #1: High Temperatures

Heat is a huge factor when it comes to computer components. Inside of a desktop PC the components are spread out further and have more cooling potential. The components are able to run faster than a laptop or mobile device. When a computer component is working it generates heat just like any other machine. These temperatures can vary anywhere from 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) to over 70 degrees Celsius (158 Degrees Fahrenheit). The peak temperature I've seen (as of 2014) has been 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit).

Think of it this way. The boiling point of water is 100 degrees Celsius (or 212 degrees Fahrenheit). The desktop components can reach near boiling point. The human body's average temperature is around 37 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit).

Our body temperature is near the same idle temperature of our desktop computer components. When a computer becomes stressed, for instance using programs like Photoshop, the temperature rises. As the temperature rises the heat has to be dissipated somewhere. Laptops will blow the hot air into your lap or out of the sides of the PC.

One factor people don't take into account is that a laptop computer really should NOT sit in your lap. This is a design flaw in most laptops as with a laptop being in your lap the fiber of your clothes choke off its ventilation. Therefore the components inside will heat up even more!

Hypothetically if a laptop or mobile device were to operate at the same speed as a desktop computer the heat would injure you. At 60 degrees Celsius (150 degrees Fahrenheit), which is a safe temperature inside of a desktop using resource heavy applications, your flesh would get 3rd degree burns from direct contact within literally 1.5 seconds. Even though the heat is disappated the temperature of the machine itself would still be at least 120 degrees fahrenheit which can still scald your skin. This is why laptops and mobile devices have hardware that is equal to desktops in power, but not speed itself.

To counteract this issue laptops and tablets are essentially "down clocked" meaning that their internal components (motherboard, processor, ram, graphics unit, and hard drive) are all slower than a desktop. By slowing down the components, the computer's temperature falls dramatically. A desktop may have a 3.4 GHz processor that can "overclock" itself to 3.8 GHz (3800 MHz), but a laptop's processor may run around 2.0 GHz. Some processors may have higher clock speeds, but 2.0 GHz is average stock speed.

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Reason #2 Portability has Down Sides

If you were to disassemble a laptop computer and a desktop computer at the same time what you see inside would be completely different. At least to the average user.

Laptop computers require a smaller "form factor" to be portable. Form factor simply means the size of the computer's components. Desktop PC components can be many shapes and sizes as long as they all fit into the case. Laptops are built inside of a proprietary case made by the company so each form factor is different.

Mobile devices are a completely different story as they are an all in one device that is meant to be ultra portable. Therefore, it's components are even more compact due to the nature of the device. I can't go into the specifics of every mobile device as there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different models available today from a variety of companies like Sony, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and many others. A mobile device is completely different than a laptop or a desktop computer.

Why do components hinder the ability to equal a desktop. Once again since heat is the primary issue for portable systems there is one even greater. The greater issue for portable devices is battery life.

Let's say that you were able to create a laptop or tablet that had the same power and speed as a desktop and heating wasn't an issue. A new problem arises which is battery life.The amount of power that the components draw would be so high that the only way to operate the system is by plugging it straight into the wall with your AC Adapter. The battery life you have on an average laptop now is around 2-6 hours with very little usage (don't listen to advertisers, I'm giving you real world numbers here).

Without becoming way too technical and posting numbers and figures about battery vs power ratios I'll put it simply. If you were to take the same power draw from an average gaming PC or any desktop for that matter. Your battery life would drain AT LEAST 50% faster in-game or during heavy usage. Real world tests have proven this!

The Scales Don't Match
The Scales Don't Match

Reason #3 - Laptop vs PC Cost/Performance Comparison

Desktop computers performance per dollar is much higher than a Laptop. The cheapest laptop from a legitimate company right now that runs some version of Windows cost around $350. A desktop can be had for that or even less in some cases. Anything under $350 though from a store in my opinion is not worth the price. There are other platforms like the Google Chromebook machines but for businesses and most average users these will not fit the bill. For the extra 100 dollars you spend you get a fully operation operating system and you get all the benefits that come with that.

Also, if you take the average prices of a gaming PC to a gaming laptop the price difference is astronomical. In short, if you paid $1500 for a gaming desktop, I can guarantee that the laptop equivalent will be at least $2500. This is due to the marketing, not the cost to manufacture.

Also "desktop replacements" are rip offs. They are laptops are marketed as having the same or near identical speed to a desktop machine but that's a lie. If you compare a desktop with an Intel i7 that runs at let's just say 3.4GHz, the laptop equivalent may have an Intel i7 also but it will only perform at 2.0 GHz. You also pay more for the laptop because of portability but the speed is not equal or even close!

The Future of Desktop Computers

This discussion arises all the time with me and my colleagues. The answer always the same. Desktops are not obsolete now nor will they be obsolete in the near future. There are too many business that rely on Desktop computers and server machines (which are essentially desktop computers with different components) for them to be obsolete any time soon.

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    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I have both a laptop and a desktop, and much prefer working on the desktop. The keyboards on desktops are much easier to work with and I like to have a mouse handy. My laptop is very useful for travel, and when two of us are using the internet though.

    • profile image

      Jill Young 3 years ago

      I enjoy having my first iPad mini that I got for Christmas in 2014. I am addicted with it and love typing on it. I liked how everywhere thee is wifi 80% at many areas like, restaurants, hospitals, schools, libraries, and now family homes. We just got wifi a year ago and love it! No more Ethernet cables to worry about! Also tablets are portable and great to use in hotels as well! Wifi did made everything change as well as iPads, tablets and smartphones and iPhones! No one will be using laptops or desktops in ten years or so from now! So I was glad to buy the iPad! It is well worth spending over $300 for iPads! The mini only cost 16gb $250! And the warranty at Walmart is freaking cheap! $50 per two year plans! Cannot beat that with a laptop or a desktop! That is why everyone is switching. The plans have gotten cheaper!

    • profile image

      Lord Leo the tremendous 4 years ago

      The best tech zppears on desktop first then it scales down for consumerists products, if anything smarth phnes and tablets are obsolete technology in a new presentation, the problem is that peopke really do nt care about how advanced is your gadget, they just care about social status, fashion trends and consumerism and this tablet things are the perfect consumerist pieces of shit, I can't play true good videogames, I can't daw my lewd fan art or edit my bizarre videos for youtube, and this is just leisure, my leisure activities require a far superior machine, but normal people don't do sa I do, if anything PC is sferi g from social obsolence, people simply don't like that shit, but I will have my revenge...

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 4 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I'm so glad the desktop appears to be here to stay. I have never been happy with laptops -- I use them only when portability is an issue. Now you've explained why they are so slow. As to other portable devices, forget it. I want a real keyboard. Everything I do requires typing and editing photos.

    • OneReality profile image

      Kaz 4 years ago from Florida

      My brother works for dell so he hooked me up. And it's not like i'm playing Crisis or anything. Mainly WoW and Diablo. Thanks for telling me tho, appreciate it!

    • ravenrage07 profile image

      John Fox 4 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I can see where that would come into play of it being portable for gaming but as I stated I find it a drawback that the laptop's price to performance ratio is astronomical compared to a full desktop. I have a friend who has a machine that can run any game on the planet with his laptop, but in order for him to have that his desktop is 15 pounds and it cost him $6000!

    • ravenrage07 profile image

      John Fox 4 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I personally own a kindle fire, desktop (for gaming and many other things), and have had laptops before. I always go back to desktop since I built mine a few years ago and can always upgrade it. I never got into laptops too much just due to the lack of options when it comes to upgrading or customization unless you want to drop a couple thousand into a company like Alienware (made by Dell now). I'd rather have the old school experience since I started on a Windows 95 machine back when I was 5 years old. So i've always been into computers but most of my time has been spent on desktops even though I own other platforms.

      Oh and by the way, what's been going on in DC. I had the pleasure to travel up there a lot for work to the Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, and Silver Springs Maryland area and loved it. Too expensive for my lifestyle but I miss going up there!

    • OneReality profile image

      Kaz 4 years ago from Florida

      I've been wondering about this myself. I don't own a desktop because having a laptop is more efficient for my gaming and lifestyle (on-the-go). This was very informative and well organized. ^w^

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Well-written and informative topic. I'm glad to know my oldschool ways are not so off-base and that desktop use will be around for a while. I love my desktop more than my laptop or my Kindle Fire. The screen is clearer and wider so it looks better, in addition to all that you've laid out. Good job, voted up, useful, and interesting.