Choosing the Right Computer, Part 2:
Laptop or Desktop – Which Is Best for You?

In the last issue of IFD, we explained that the question "What computer should I buy?" is in reality several key questions rolled into one.

If you want a computer system that will serve you well for several years – one that you enjoy using and that is part of building a successful graphic design business – there are several things to consider before making a purchase.

The first step – which we covered last time – is to decide which operating system, Macintosh or Windows, is best for you.

Today, let's take the next step: determining whether you should buy a laptop or a desktop.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. Here's a comparison table compiled from our own experts and Indiana State and Yale Universities:

Desktop Laptop
lower cost portability
more easily expandable takes up less space
better potential ergonomics ability to work on site with clients
more secure  
larger screen  

The list of advantages for desktops is longer, but that does not mean it's the right choice for you. The portability and smaller size of a laptop can be huge advantages, particularly if you like working at your client's site, at the coffee shop, or by the lake.

The smaller size can also be a big advantage if your office space is limited – or if you're temporarily forced to work on your kitchen table.

When deciding between laptop and desktop systems, your best bet is to try both and see which one is better suited to your needs, your work style, and your lifestyle.

If you don't know someone who will lend you a laptop, do a search online for "laptop rental." Even if you do not find one that has the operating system you prefer, trying it out will still help you decide if a laptop is really for you.

Now let's see what our graphic design experts have to say …

Lori Haller: I use both a laptop AND a traditional desktop system. Sometimes when I need a change of scenery, I'll use the laptop and take it outside. It gives me freedom to move around, sit in a more relaxed position – and I really need that diversity if I am trying to land a breakthrough format or come up with a winning new product launch.

Roger Parker: I do most of my work on my home and office desktop systems. I only present from my laptop, and it's an old one. Many laptops have hard-to-use keyboards. Given the volume of words I write, I need a full-size, ergonomic keyboard.

Dennis Rome: Laptop – I really like being portable, to be able to work wherever. I have a high-end Sony VAIO. However, I do have a "backup" desktop system ready to go with all my design software and fonts loaded in case my laptop has a problem or gets damaged. It also serves as a great backup storage system for all my client files and documents.

Mike Klassen: I have both. I prefer a desktop because they're easier to expand with internal and external hardware. My laptop simply serves as a backup or something I can take with me to places like the AWAI Bootcamp.

Kammy Thurman: A desktop right now, but we're shopping for a laptop because we need it for off-site digital photography sessions. I will also use it for my copywriting/design business so I'll have more mobility – like being able to work from my deck in the mornings.

Choosing the right computer system is just one part of getting your graphic design business off and running. If you want to learn more about how to set up your business quickly and without a hitch, check out AWAI's new Graphic Design Biz-In-A-Box program.

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Published: August 11, 2005

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