Laptop vs. Tablet + Desktop

Simple question in the title, would like to hear opinions on what’s the best way to go.

I currently have a outdated desktop with dual monitors and a healthy amount of storage parked in my office. It needs to be replaced and I’m curious which way I should go, so I’m hoping to get some insight into other people’s experiences.

I’m debating between getting a high-end ultrabook or getting a mid-range (i5 or i7, non-gaming rig) desktop and pairing it with a tablet (probably a Surface 2, don’t let that bias you).

Here’s my use case. We live in a good sized townhouse, 4 stories, with a office downstairs, living room on floors 2 and 4 and bedroom on 3. I work from home frequently (cloud based stuff) and the g/f studies and does homework at home. I primarily use my computer for web based work, casual browsing, iTunes/Netflix/Hulu/Pandora, Outlook/Office apps, media storage (photos, music, movies), syncing mobile devices, and the occasional VPN session. The live-in g/f is basically the same.

Also, the g//f has her own outdated laptop that has a year or two left in it. I have a work laptop that I’ll be keeping, but can’t use for any personal stuff.

In the past I’ve always been a desktop guy with my PC in my living room connected through a media extender to the TV. But, in this new house I find that having a desktop anchored in the office is less than ideal for casual stuff. It is however excellent for work stuff. The g/f and I plan to merge our media libraries and a desktop as a file server is a nice thought.

That said, we could move away from centralization and just each have our own personal laptop. If we did this it’s probably much harder to have a central file server (though I may re-purpose the current old desktop for that) and we wouldn’t have one single location were all our USB devices can live. In this scenario I end up with 2 laptops, my own and my work one. Also having a ultrabook makes having a tablet sort of moot, but maybe that’s a good thing.

So, without rambling too much more, what do you folks think I should do? If you could reboot your own collection of devices, what would you choose? Anyone managing a household of devices today with some good advice?

What are your computing needs away from home and how do you currently deal with them?

I tested the ipad mini for a month in a similar situation. My conclusion: the lack of a file system is the biggest handicap, followed by the connectors, and then the office software/typing ability.

There are many ways to work around the file system, but they don’t work together. For example, google docs can store files, but gmail doesn’t recognize it when you make an attachment. You have to send the file through google docs.

Not all connectors are created equal. Most connectors supply power, but most don’t transfer data. Also, because theres so many port types, you sometimes have to double connect plugs. For example, lightning to 30 pin, 30 pin to VGA.

Typing is nearly impossible. The smaller the tablet, the smaller the keyboard. Large keyboards can be connected to tablets, but that defeats the purpose. Also, except for the Microsoft tablets, software is iffy at best, and then you get nailed by the file limits as mentioned above.

Modern laptops can be desktop replacements, but tablets still have a long way to go to replace even the worst net book.

For working from home, Desktop + Tablet (but don’t get Surface 2 - totally pointless).
An i5 desktop is going to be more powerful than an i7 ultrabook and be much cheaper. More importantly, most work IMO benefits from dual or triple monitors and the laptop will probably result in a loss of productivity.
A tablet makes a great web surfing/netflix playing/reading device. But Surface 2 is probably the worst tablet available. It combines a horrible app ecosystem, no backwards compatibility, and absurdly high price given its limitations. You’ll be much, much, much happier if you either:

  1. Save money and buy an android tablet.
  2. Spend equivalent money and buy an Ipad.
  3. Spend more money and get a Surface PRO 2, which is x86 based and compatible with real full microsoft office, and all your old programs. Surface pro 2 is basically a touchscreen laptop with the guts on the screen side instead of on the keyboard side.

For reference, I currently have at my house:
7 Desktop PCs. Some are HTPCs under the TV, and one for my wife, one for me, one for my son. One is a VM server running my Zoneminder camera recorder and various other slices for things like Playon, Plex.
My primary Desktop PC is an i5-3570k with 2x23" 1080p monitors on the side and 1x27" 2560x1440 korean monitor.
2 Laptops - An A8 based AMD laptop for work when I leave the house (rarely used). An older one that I let my youngest kids use to watch youtube and play games on pbs, etc
2 Tablets:
HP Touchpad with android installed
Nook HD 10" with cyanogenmod.

My laptop died about a month ago, and I’ve been using a Kindle Fire instead, trying to determine if I want a new laptop or a tablet.

Typing, by itself, is not so bad. But editing, trying to select text, cut and paste, and at times just trying to put the damn cursor where you want it just sucks so bad that I give up. There have been times when I am in the middle of typing a post and just delete it rather than screw around with editing it. And that is for a short post. Something the length of this post is something that I wouldn’t do with a tablet.

Also, the on-screen keyboard often obscures part of the page (or text fields) that you are entering text on or a submit button. Not impossible to deal with but frustrating at times.

The tablet is great for some things, but typing isn’t one of them. I suspect I’ll get a laptop soon.

Pretty limited. I am either travelling for work and using my work laptop, or I’m vacationing and simply need a web device to search and map destinations, check email, stream some movies in flight and check into flights.

I’m not a big sit in Starbucks and work type. Currently I usually lug my huge, awkward work laptop around whenever I am away from home and wanting to do stuff, but it can’t really do fun stuff very well.

I wouldn’t be caught dead with a iPad, the Surface at least has a usable keyboard, USB port and Office apps. But, the point is taken, I’m guessing that for my needs I won’t be doing much composing or file management on the go.

Playing Devil’s advocate here…

Agreed, and the monitors won’t be going anywhere. Should I decide to get a ultrabook I’d still keep the office set up with dual monitors, printer, external drive, USB hub etc. and plug the laptop into a dock or just plug it into the monitors, keyboard and mouse.

No need to explain it, I know all of this and more. I’m bought into the MS ecosystem for better or worse. Xbox, Windows Phone, Windows 8 etc. I may get a Surface or I may get a Nokia tab or maybe even a Surface Pro, but I lead towards the RT simple because I can treat the $350 device as a disposable web consumption device. The limitations of the RT platform are one of the big reasons why I’m strongly considering a ultrabook here.

Certainly hope I don’t get this much hardware in my house. As it is I’m considering a scenario where I end up with 3 laptops in the house and that feels like a redundant waste to me.

I am desktop+tablet. My laptop is old and dead (HD fried?) and I haven’t got around to fixing it. I like this setup. I play games so no desktop is out. Laptops are more unwieldy if I want to read while I’m taking a dump, or in bed, etc. The main time I’d want a laptop is if I need to travel and do work.

Can’t compete with jacobsta811, but in our house:
1 i5 desktop
1 older Athlon, mainly for watching stuff on TV
2 Kindle Fires, different generations and owners
1 Macbook, not mine
1 dead Compaq laptop, a few other dead/obsolete ones

I agree, if you want a Surface, spend for the Pro. But find a way to try both out if you can.

I’d get the laptop for four reasons that may or may not apply to you. I want a real keyboard, a non-tiny screen, I want to be able to use my real computer in my room and the living room, not just in an office secluded from the rest of the house (not that I have an office, but you do), and I wouldn’t want to pay the extra money to get a desktop plus an expensive tablet.

Also I’m not sure what you’d want a high-end ultrabook for anyway, I can’t see it being much benefit just for web-browsing and watching movies and that kind of thing. It seems like you get severe diminishing returns on ultrabooks, because they get so expensive, but the mid-range ones are still almost as nice. But that’s just me, I’m into getting good deals.

Oh, I also asked around, and the best advice i got is: the only reason to buy X is you want X. Between laptop, tablet and pc, each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and replacing one with another will always result in dissatisfaction.

I have one computer, a Dell XPS laptop with 8g of RAM and a 1T hard drive. I have a dual screen setup with an external monitor. I take the computer with me to my client’s office 3 times per week. This is my fifth laptop; got the first one around 1995. Can’t see any reason to have a desktop computer. As a freelancer, portability is everything to me. I back it up daily.

I also have a kindlefire (which I’m on right now) for web surfing and reading books. I check email on the computer, the kf, and my phone.

If you’re going to get a Surface, get the Pro version so you can run real software on it in addition to the apps. The Surface Pro is a nice laptop with a killer screen and touch capabiliites. The Surface RT is a vastly overpriced toy.

If you don’t want to do work on your tablet and just want it for fun when you’re not at your desktop, consider the new Kindle Fire HDX that’s being released on tomorrow.

I shouldn’t have mentioned the Surface, far to much of a distraction to the discussion at hand.

I have a laptop and a tablet. The tablet is for my day to day use, and the laptop is to back up the tablet and do things that don’t work as well on the tablet.

I do a lot of genealogy, and my picture program is better on the laptop. I can be much more precise with a mouse than my finger.

When I am on looking at yearbooks I can scroll much easier on the laptop, and when I send a lot of emails while trying to look at the information on one tab and talk about it on another tab in an email,bits much easier on the laptop because the page doesn’t reload when I go back and forth and lose my place.

With the surge in the popularity in portable computers desktop computers have become seriously underrated. What they lack in portability they more than make up for in economy, durability, and expandability. Dollar for dollar you will get a better machine then what you would get spending the same money on a laptop. You will also get a machine that, on average, will last longer than the typical laptop. And, even if a component in the desktop does happen to break it is a lot simpler to fix when compared to a laptop. When you have your desktop for a couple of years and you feel the need to stick a larger hard drive in it, or even more memory. The process to do so is, again on average, a lot simpler (and cheaper) than doing the same on a laptop. As you mentioned, having a main desktop is also convient as a gadget hub. It convenient to have one main computer as the place to plug your digital camera, mp3 player, smart phone, digital bedazzler, whatever. You don’t have to wonder “Who’s laptop did I put this data on to?”

Most tablets suit the casual need to look something up while watching TV, or just browse the internet while the game is going on. Tablets are also suitable for following recipes in the kitchen, or finding a lost manual to some household appliance that has been acting up. In a lot of situations, a tablet is preferable to a laptop. I’ve used a Surface enough to know it would work just fine in these situations.

Nothing against laptops. There are plenty of situations where they make the most sense. But, in my opinion, your situation doesn’t fit a laptop as well as a desktop.

Personally? If I could start from scratch. Hmm. I’m not sure what I would do. Desktop PC, for sure. But, I also like having a Mac in the house, so probably a desktop PC + mac Mini + smart phone. If I was getting extravagant I’d throw a tablet in there.

The internet news has been predicting the death of the desktop for the last few years. While they’re probably becoming less popular, I don’t see them disappearing, chiefly for games but for other reasons. That and when laptops become smaller, they by necessity become functionally like desktops, with docking stations, external mice, USB hubs if you have more than two devices, etc.

So I agree with you pricciar. Except for the Mac part :slight_smile:

My current desktop is a old Dell Slimline that is about 5 years old. I bought it factory refurbished, it was probably a mid-to-low end device at the time, for about $349. I’ve added memory, storage and a discrete, low-pro graphics card since then and it’s been a pretty great system, certainly I’ve gotten my money’s worth many times over.

Compared to the mid-range Sony Vaio my g/f bought 2-3 years ago it’s no contest. The Vaio is a POS by comparison at more than twice the cost. My desktop still outperforms that higher powered device in just about every respect. Don’t want to attribute all of these effects to the desktop vs. laptop argument, but it’s part of it.

I use a 5 yr old Core 2 Duo Win7 desktop PC mostly for work, a brand new Sony Xperia Tablet Z running Jellybean 4.2.2 for play and an always-on NAS fileserver.

Since I spend most of my time in various CAD applications plus a little Photoshop on the side, a desktop with lots of RAM, a decent graphics card and a dual-screen setup is a no-brainer in comparison to a laptop’s limitations. It helps that I don’t travel often so I rarely need to do any work on the road.

My tablet is mostly a media consumption device: Music, video, games, ebooks, podcasts, rss news, email, etc. I just replaced my 3+ year old ipad because I was getting sick of laggy performance and increasingly common app crashes. I switched from iOS to Android because I was sick and tired of Apple’s walled-garden and the lack of proper a file-system. Two months later and I don’t miss iOS at all.

All 3 devices connect to each other easily through SMB file-sharing or through SSH when connecting remotely. The NAS is running plex media server so I can stream audio and video to any other DLNA enabled device. I’m quite satisfied with this setup although I’ll probably replace the PC with a decent mid-range i5 so I can do a little gaming as well as CAD work.