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25 Aug 2021

Four ways a desktop PC beats your laptop

Trying to decide between the portability of a laptop and the power of a desktop? We have some considerations you might not have thought of.
Person using computer with a wireless mouse

If you're in the market for a new computer, don't discount the humble desktop just yet.

Laptops offer a degree of flexibility unmatched by a classic desktop PC, but if you aren't planning to take your computer out and about or are thinking of adding to your household's computing arsenal, take a look at these four perks of choosing a desktop over a laptop that you might not have thought of.

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Get the screen you need at the price you want

Unlike a laptop or all-in-one PC, traditional desktops and mini desktops don't come with a built-in screen. This means you don't have to put up with whatever the manufacturer has decided to bundle with your computer, and can instead pick something that's not only the right size, but also the right price and quality.

A laptop can tick lots of boxes with the right processor, a good keyboard and speakers, but we've frequently found the screens can leave a lot to be desired. This is particularly true of smaller laptops, where the screen quality has been compromised in an attempt to save money.

So instead of paying for a device where you might not get the screen quality you're after, pay less for a desktop and then spend your savings on a screen that meets your needs.

We've reviewed plenty of monitors from the big brands in our lab, so head over to our guide to the best monitors to see which screen you should pair with your next desktop.

Browse all our desktop PC reviews to see which models impressed in our labs.

Desktops have better connectivity

The average laptop has less than two full-size USB ports, while the average tower desktop has seven USB ports. Plus almost all of them have HDMI connectors, while just 70% of laptops have this ubiquitous port.

While not having enough ports is eminently solvable with a USB multi-adapter or a dock, these can cost a pretty penny, especially if you need a lot of connections added to your laptop.

What's more, all tower desktop PCs have ethernet ports for wired internet access, and most have an SD card slot somewhere on board. Rarer is the presence of a DVD drive, but we still see them more often on desktops than we do on laptops, which mostly ditched this disc format in favour of slimmer and lighter designs several years ago.

Quieter running keeps the peace

Loud laptop cooling fans can be a real irritation, especially if you're trying to focus. Simply opening up too many web browser tabs can cause your laptop's fans to go into overdrive in a bid to keep the processor cool.

Desktops typically don't succumb to this quite so easily. This is because there is more space inside for more fans to keep cool air flowing over the hot chips within. This might sound counter-intuitive, but the fans are also larger, so don't have to spin as quickly to get the air moving around. Thus, they run more quietly and efficiently than the tiny, high-speed fans inside a compact laptop case.

A more efficient use of space

Instead of plonking down a laptop on your desk, you can save space by opting for a compact desktop or even an all-in-one computer. A compact desktop like the Mac Mini only takes up roughly the space of a stack of CDs, leaving you room on the desk for your keyboard of choice, a mouse and a monitor.

iMac 2021

The same goes for an all-in-one; all the technical bits and pieces are generally found directly behind the build-in screen, so the device itself is mostly elevated above the desk, with a small stand keeping it upright.

By using an external monitor or an all-in-one, you'll also find yourself in a more ergonomic position than if you were hunched over a laptop.

See more on how to stay healthy at your desk with our top tips for avoiding eye strain.

Latest desktop PC reviews

In August we tested 19 new desktop computers and published their reviews online. Here are three notable examples of some of the perks we've listed above.

Apple Mac Mini M1, £699

Mac Mini

This compact desktop PC uses Apple's newest M1 processor. That's the same chip you'll find inside its latest MacBook Pro and Air models.

It's a tiny device, and while it doesn't have a vast array of ports like other, larger desktop computers, the small footprint and quiet running should make it appealing to those who want a minimalist office space. Plus it has a built-in speaker, so you don't even need to sully your desk with extra cables and a pair of speakers. See how it did in our lab test by reading our Mac Mini M1 review.

Lenovo IdeaCentre 5i 23.8-inch, £649

This all-in-one has a distinctive style. With an almost floating design supported by a copper-hued stand and a small base unit, it's a good-looking computer that also features a handy spot to charge your phone wirelessly.

The addition of a wireless keyboard and mouse add to this desktop's ability to declutter your desk and give you a cleaner workspace. It shouldn't be short on power, either, and it comes with a six-core Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of Ram. Read our full Lenovo IdeaCentre 5i review to see how it fared.

HP M01-F1002na, £599

HP M01-F1002na

This tower desktop from HP is positively bristling with connectivity options, with four USB ports on the front and another four on the back.

You also get HDMI, Ethernet and an SD card reader so all your accessories should be well catered for. Not only that, there's a six core Intel Core i5 processor on board, along with 8GB of Ram, which could make it the ideal office PC. Read our full HP M01-F1002na review to find out how it did in our tests.

Not convinced? Browse nearly 200 laptop reviews to see what the desktops are up against.