February 11 2013
Portable computing has grown at a blistering pace over the last half a decade, with smart phones and tablets moving into territory that was once the exclusive domain of much larger devices. It's often suggested that the desktop PC is going the way of the dinosaur as our mobile gadgets, or at least our notebooks, get powerful enough to replace them. Sales figures appear to back this up, as notebooks have outsold desktops since late 2008, and tablets are expected to outsell desktops within a year or two.
Granted, a lot of people already have desktops and they buy portable devices to compliment their desktop use rather than replace it, so you shouldn't read too much into the sales figures. However, the popularity of the desktop is waning, and there are those who can do everything they need to do on a tablet or netbook.
If you haven't already guessed, I'm sticking with my big old-fashioned tower PC and all its messy wires. Granted, I don't do a lot of traveling anymore, and when I do I'm happy to take a break from technology. So, I do all my computing at home, which I realize is becoming a bit unusual in this day and age. With no real need for portability, a desktop system is a clear choice, and everything else entails big compromises.
Suitably equipped, a single PC can handle an incredibly broad range of tasks, including games, movies, music, television, work, and more. There is still nothing in the tablet or console world that can touch it in terms of versatility.
A good computing experience starts with a 20-inch or larger monitor, a proper set of speakers, a full-size keyboard, and a mouse. As far as I'm concerned, for all the fancy new interfaces that have come along over the years, the mouse and keyboard remain the cornerstone of interacting with a computer productively. The vast majority of touchscreen and notebook keyboards are just too small for me to type on comfortably for any length of time. I want some travel in the keys and some tactile feedback, and that just doesn't jive with the super thin priorities of mobile devices. As far as pointing devices go, touchpads, touchscreens, motion sensors, voice commands, and all the rest lack the precision, simplicity, speed, and ergonomics of the mouse.
Of course, a docking station can go a long way to bridging the gap between notebook and desktop, but if you're encumbered with a full compliment of peripherals anyway, you might as well enjoy the power and economy of a desktop.
Cost in another reason I stay with desktop PCs. No doubt, a system capable of running the latest games does have a higher initial price tag than a console or a low-end tablet. That is offset to some extent by cheaper games, and generally, a longer life cycle. If you want the latest and greatest gaming hardware, especially in the graphics department, it almost always comes to the desktop first.
The ability to upgrade components individually is another great thing about desktops. For example, I have a mid-size ATX tower that is over ten years old and is still in use today. The ability to upgrade a video card or a CPU can extend the life of a system considerably, but it doesn't end there. While something like a burned-out fan is a major headache on a notebook, it's an easy and inexpensive fix on a desktop.
How sweet it is to have a mouse, keyboard, gamepad, joystick, key drive, card reader, and an external hard drive all plugged in at the same time with USB ports to spare and no need for a hub. There are 3 physical HDs as well as an optical drive in my case, leaving room for several more of each, or an SSD if I ever get around to it.
I don't know if we'll ever see portable computers that can really compare to what a desktop can offer, so even if they're past their prime, I won't be parting ways with the platform anytime soon.