Posted on February 6, 2012 by Jennifer Pointer

A report by Canalis was cited in numerous technology posts over the weekend, showing that for the first time, sales of mobile devices have overtaken PC (laptop and desktop) sales.


In recent years, the computer programs most of us use have become increasingly web-based, reducing the need for large hard drives.  Also, because mobile devices are usually less expensive and sustain a lot more use and physical abuse, they tend to wear out more quickly, thus NEEDING to be replaced more often.


Does this mean that the desktop and laptop PCs are about to go the way of ticker tape?  Probably not in the near future; they still have an important place in our world. But if it is time for you to replace a worn-out device, how do you know whether you should be looking at a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone?  Here are some things to consider.




If you work in an office, chances are you still have one of these monstrosities sitting on your desk, and believe it or not, they're still the best option for anyone who is going to be sitting at a computer for a large portion of his or her day.  They larger screens and keyboards are more ergonomically sound, and the larger hard drives are convenient for gamers and for those needing to store large amounts of data locally.  Because you're not carrying them around much (hopefully), they last forever (in technology years), and because the need for them in the marketplace has decreased, they can be very economical - especially the refurbished ones.




The newer laptops have a huge amount of memory, and are a good compromise for some gaming and for those needing to store large amounts of data - to take with them on the go.  The screens and keyboards are acceptable for extended use for most people - although not as comfortable as the desktops.  Some are still pretty heavy to carry, but they've been getting lighter and lighter as technology improves.   Like the desktops, they now have so much competition in the marketplace that they have become much more affordable, and some great deals can be found - both new and refurbished. 




These devices are a great option for those who need a larger screen but also want to be able to easily store the device in a backpack or purse.  These devices typically don't have a keyboard unless you buy one separately, so they're not ideal for extended use.  They're excellent for web-based activities like e-mailing, web surfing, and reading books.  Some are even good for watching movies and web-based games.  Increasingly, they're functioning as mobile phones with much larger screens.  They're too large to put in your pocket, however, and because they tend to sustain physical abuse from getting moved around and bounced around a lot, they just aren't going to last as long as a desktop or even a laptop, which is typically comes in its own case.  They are a great economical option, however, for the casual internet user.




These are by far the handiest devices available.  They do have their limits: even the larges screens are microscopic, and you're going to be typing with your thumbs, whether you're using an on-screen keyboard or a tiny slide-out keyboard.  Because they're so easy to carry and use, a lot of us tend to use them obsessively to check our e-mails and social networking profiles, so they tend to last about a year - important to remember when shopping for a good deal on one.  Although it is possible to download movies to these devices, actually watching a movie on one is more of a novelty than a really good movie experience.  They hard drive space is getting larger in recent months, but they really don't have enough storage to be a practical option as a primary computer.  Most likely, your smartphone is going to be a fun-sized version of your "real" computer - something else to keep in mind when deciding how much cash to drop on one of these trendy little gizmos.  


So which of these (or combination of these) have you found is your best option, economically and practically? 

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