Surprise! A Desktop PC May Be a Better Investment Than a Laptop

by Bill Snyder on January 29, 2014
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Here’s a product you don’t hear much about anymore: the desktop PC. Yawn, right?

Although the big, boring, and boxy device may seem as dead as the VCR, don’t be so quick to give it a thumbs-down. Any technology you buy for your small business should be justified by its potential return on investment and not its “coolness” factor.

Reasons to Consider a Desktop PC

Here are four reasons to consider purchasing a desktop instead of a laptop:

1. Affordability — Desktop PCs almost always cost less than laptops and tablets. You can find decent, low-priced systems — at least 4 GB of memory, a 500 GB hard drive, three USB 2.0 ports, a third-generation Intel core processor, and a monitor — for $450 or so. (Don’t worry about a discrete graphics card unless you plan to do a lot with graphics or video.)

2. Expandability — Because desktops are relatively spacious inside, they offer more room to upgrade than laptops. Simply open the box and pop in more memory, a larger hard drive, or a faster graphics card. (If this makes you nervous, get someone to help you.) You’ll also find more external ports for hooking up storage drives, DVD-Rs, and so on, without having to use a USB hub.

3. Ease of maintenance — All of the reasons that make it easy to expand a desktop system (see #2) also make it relatively simple to maintain. Jobs that would send your laptop to a repair shop can be handled by anyone on your staff who is moderately handy and familiar with computers. Changing a hard drive or installing a video card are surprisingly straightforward tasks.

4. Power — As a small-business owner, you may need a lot of computing power at times, perhaps to edit a video for your website or to design a professional marketing brochure. The software applications you’ll use for those jobs, such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, generally run best on a beefy desktop that’s equipped with a high-end graphics card. What’s more, these apps tend to tax the processor hard, which generates heat, a problem for many laptops.

Tips for Buying a Desktop PC

Is a desktop PC a good investment for your business? Here are several things to keep in mind when making purchase decisions.

  • One size does not fit all. Think about your computing needs as a whole: Some employees, such as sales reps in the field, obviously may benefit from using a laptop. Others, such as the folks in the back office, may do just fine with a basic desktop.
  • The latest all-in-one PCs are quite stylish. Depending on what type of business you’re in, coolness might count for something. A snazzy all-in-one PC on the receptionist’s desk may help dress up the room and make a positive impression on your customers. (They are, however, less easy to maintain.)
  • You may need to spring for a monitor. Don’t buy the cheapest one you can find. Your employees will be more comfortable and more productive if they don’t have to stare at a tiny, low-resolution screen all day. Modern monitors are spacious and offer high-definition resolution for a fraction of the cost of monitors built a few years ago.

Bill Snyder is a business writer for Intuit who is passionate about solving small business problems.

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