Choosing between a laptop and desktop can be a difficult decision. The bottom line comes down to portability. If you will need or use the portability of a laptop, then it can be a powerful tool for you and worth the extra money. However, if the laptop will simply act as a desktop with very occasional need for portability, a desktop is also an excellent choice and far less expensive.
Laptops have a great advantage in terms of their portability. If you carry a laptop with you, your applications and documents are always immediately available. With a wireless card, your laptop can also access the Internet while on the go, so you have more places to do research, check your email, and be more productive.
Desktops offer other advantages. Although laptop prices have come down and performance has increased, most desktops offer a better price-to-performance ratio. Desktops also still hold some ergonomic advantages over laptops. Bear in mind that, aside from small footprint desktops like the iMac or Inspiron One (available for personal purchase through our online catalog or the Dell Educational Purchase Program), they take up more space in an apartment or residence hall.
Your decision should be based primarily on how you plan to use your computer and the size of your computing budget. Here are some factors to consider:
A typical laptop weighs between 4.5 and 8 pounds, while "ultralight" models like the MacBook Air weigh in at under 3 pounds. Alternatively, the economy and cost-oriented option - the netbook, belonging to the ultralight class - focuses primarily on mobility and are often Windows or Linux-based. Netbooks are most commonly equipped with an Intel Atom - a series of microprocessor that focuses less on performance and more on basic functionality in tandem with low power consumption. Netbooks are often designed with screen sizes between 8'' and 10''. Because of these features, netbooks are therefore best suited for web browsing, e-mail and office tasks and are priced beneath the cost of a typical laptop. The MacBook Air is noted for its thinness and sparse weight and is available in both an 11" and 13" screen sizes depending upon a user's portability needs. The MacBook Air currently utilizes a Core i-Series processor which allow them to better approximate the level of performance of the typical laptop; it is a device geared toward performance and portability rather than budget. Furthermore, these two types of "ultralight" laptops do not have internal CD/DVD drives and are dependent on the internet and removable media to retrieve information.
Your classic desktop computer, including monitor and keyboard, weighs about 25 pounds. If you regularly want access to the contents of your computer whether at home, office or on the road, the portability of a laptop is an important criterion. Alternatively, using a USB flash drive or web-based storage like My WebSpace with copies of your important documents allows for easy on-the-go access (My WebSpace requires an internet connection) and works with any desktop, laptop, Mac, or PC.
Both laptops and desktops have equal connectivity to the Internet through the standard technologies including dial-up modems, DSL or Cable modems, Ethernet and Wireless networking. Users can connect using an Ethernet cable in residence hall rooms or by purchasing and setting up a wireless router. Owning a laptop gives users the ability to take advantage of wireless networks like UWNet, which is available in nearly all campus buildings and the common areas (dens, dining halls, etc.) of residence halls. For more information on wireless on campus see: Wireless.