This week we take a quick look at the various sizes of computers and give you some ideas to help you decide which one is right for you.
Computer Shapes and Sizes
Modern computers come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. Whether it's a huge tower under your desk or a little brick the size of, well, a brick, there is a computer shape to suit any application. Knowing which one is right for you however, is often overlooked. While the selection is broad, we can break it down into three main categories.
The Desktop – The desktop form was one of the most common forms a personal computer took, since their debut in the late 1980's. Desktop computers range in size from the tiny micro-tower (typically 6 inches) to the massive full-tower (typically 22” or more). Small computers have many advantages, such as less energy consumption, less noise, lower heat output, and a smaller footprint. Disadvantages are a higher cost-performance ratio (meaning you get less computing power for the price, as compared to a larger computer), limited features (no DVD drive), and less potential for upgrades (such as RAM or graphics). Your primary choices when it comes to desktops are the mini-tower, small form factor, mid-tower and full tower. The most common form seen is the mid-tower, although businesses tend to choose the mini-tower or small form factor to maximize space.
Laptops and Other Portables – Laptops are a great option for when you need the capabilities of a desktop in a form that you can carry around from place to place. These days, laptops aren’t the only portable computer on the scene however. Now you can get the full computer experience with tablets, phablets (giant cell phones/small tablets) and the intriguing compute stick (essentially a computer that plugs into a HDMI port). Dominating this field of battle is the hybrid or two-in-one device that is both a full laptop and a tablet. Each manufacturer has their own take on how this is accomplished but most feature either a detachable touchscreen for the tablet mode, or a 360-degree hinge that allows the device to fold in half. Laptops and hybrid devices generally range in size from 8” to 17”.
All-in-Ones – These devices are technically a variation of the desktop but there are some new devices on the market that are blurring that line. The all-in-one (or AiO) is a monitor with a computer inside. Most of these have touchscreens although some of the budget models do not. The reason I listed these separately from the traditional desktops is that some companies (such as Microsoft and Lenovo) have introduced all-in-ones with built-in batteries, making them giant tablets. By giant, I mean 27” in the case of Lenovo and even larger with Microsoft’s Slate devices. Granted, you’re probably not going to carry a 27” tablet around campus, but what about an 18” model? With a folding stand, you can set up shop just about anywhere, and have a screen big enough to enjoy movies with friends.
Decision Time - So now that you have a general idea of what options are available, how do you decide which one is right for you? It’s simple, just ask yourself how you plan to use it. Here are some examples: If you sit at a desk all day then a desktop is probably the way to go. Because you don’t need the portability of a laptop, you can potentially spend less and get more for your investment. If your desk is small, consider a mini-tower or all-in-one to save on space. If you’re more of an on-the-go type, then a laptop or hybrid will be a better choice. When considering a laptop, think about how much time you will spend carrying it. Five pounds doesn’t sound like much but if you’re lugging that around from class to class for 8 hours a day, the price premium for a device that weighs under three pounds might be worth it.
There are many other points to consider when buying a computer beyond what form it takes; if you need help, just ask!