Which Is Better: Desktop or Portable?

  • Posted: 03 July 2001 11:30 AM

    Several TMO staff members are fighting with the idea of switching to a portable machine as their one and only computer.  The arguments make sense; the latest Apple PowerBooks have plenty of horsepower, gorgeous screens, room to add enough RAM, and enough plugs and ports to add whatever one might need.  Plus you can pack up and take your system anywhere you want with relative ease.

    But desktops DO offer that ever popular expandablity option, give users the choice of multiple processors, and are, in general, capable of more raw power.

    So, what do you all think?  I’m not sold either way, but would love to hear your opinions.


    You better eat him Mitch…before I do.

  • Posted: 01 July 2001 10:16 PM #1

    I just bought the most recent iBook and I’m one of those who have thought about this. I could sell the G4 to go portable-only. With the money, I could buy a killer FireWire CD-RW (or combo drive with DVD if it is available) and an AirPort base station for wireless Internet.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure if I want to sacrifice the power of my G4 because I do use it, especially for desktop publishing apps. Its dual-G4 setup can also be very durable if I install software upgrades that require good specs. I also hate the idea of using more than one screen, meaning that I don’t like the idea of connecting an external monitor to the iBook.

    I can live with the size of the iBook keyboard. In fact, I get used to it quickly and a regular keyboard feels huge after using the iBook. The same applies to my Mini Pro mouse. The Apple Pro Mouse feels gigantic in my hand when I get back to it.

    All of this leaves me with mixed feelings about going portable-only or not. Does anybody have advice or suggestions I could use ?


  • Posted: 02 July 2001 05:24 AM #2

    I think its a very simple choice for most people to make (at least it should be).  I think there are 2 kinds of computer users - those that need expansion slots and those that do not.  The new portables are so powerful that I think if I were to buy a computer today, it would be a portable.  You can always just hook them up to a dock and use them like a desktop, yet you can bring them with you whenever you want.  If you need slots, or you never need to walk around with your computer, get a desktop.  They are slightly faster and will give you more utility in the long run.  But you may complain that you wish you could be working outside on a nice cool summer day.


    Signatures are for geeks…. I’m a geek.

  • Posted: 02 July 2001 06:40 AM #3

    I’m not sure, but I sure am curious about the new iMac. I mean: If it’s a all-in one design with a LCD-screen, maybe that’s portable enough for many?

  • Posted: 02 July 2001 07:15 AM #4

    There are times, especially in dorm life or for people that like to work outside, when portables are a godsend. I would love nothing more than to ditch my desktop-bound PowerMac. I would love nothing more than to get that compact, beautiful iBook. But I won’t.

    The fact, plain and simple, is that in order to fully enjoy my computer, it needs to have horsepower. I need a good graphics card for my games and lots of RAM so I can run every app I own at once. Now that I’ve got a dual 500MHz machine and I’m running OS X almost full-time, I’d cringe at the thought of returning to a single processor.

    If you need power, you need a desktop. End of story.


    —Ricky Spero
    Anchor, The Apple Weekly Report
    The Mac Observer

  • Posted: 02 July 2001 11:36 AM #5

    I always thought that desktop machines were the only way to go, but my first PowerBook changed my life!

    I do architectural design and Mac consulting. I used to lug around an external MO drive with disks full of applications, utilities, fonts and preference files, so I could make alien Macs seem more like MY mac. It was a pain and quite time consuming. It seemed like a Powerook would be a better solution.

    I finally bit the bullet a couple of years a go and bought a 1999 PowerBook G3 Lombard 400.  It really DID change my life!

    Now that I have a new TiBook 500, it’s even better. I carry my ENTIRE work environment with me at all times. ALL my applications and utilities. All the System tweaks. ALL my fonts. Plus loads of old project files, digital pix, etc.  What a difference! Sit down, plug into a second monitor and wake it up! The PowerBook screen for palettes, the external monitor for work. PERFECT!

    The only real downside is that the performance of Powerbook video cards severely lags behind desktop machine video cards. maybe that will change with the Rev. B TiBooks.


    Macintosh: It just WORKS!!!

  • Posted: 02 July 2001 11:47 AM #6

    I have only had desktops since 1990. But over the past year I have considered the advantages of a laptop. At work I use a Toshiba Tecra 8100. I take it home occasionally for extended work. I bought a cheap $10 mouse, because I couldn’t stand the little stick.

    For the past three years I have been using Beige G3 300/128 MB with OS 8.6. It does eveything I need (FrameMaker, Nisus Writer, Office 2001, PageMaker, and FileMaker Pro plus assorted other necessary programs). However, my two part time jobs are teaching using PowerPoint, so rather than having to use a Windows machine (different at each school), I would rather just take my own. This is especially true for me using Hebrew and Greek fonts, and the schools’ machine don’t have any fonts. [I’m not in a position to buy the fonts.]

    So, if and when this G3 fails to meet my needs or dies (which hasn’t happened to any of my previous systems), I will purchase a Ti. I am talking my mother into a new iBook - she’s writing her autobiography and lives in two different places during the year, using a typewriter, which I then put onto the computer. This would save both of us time! She’s almost convinced.


    patience - now that’s a virtue I can’t wait for!

  • Posted: 02 July 2001 12:17 PM #7

    Great posts, all. I, too, have something to add. Surprise, surprise, huh?

    I have an iMac and as I’m sure you know by now, am on the fence on the tibook. One thing is certain ... when I get the tibook, I will NOT get rid of my iMac.

    I never thought I wanted a portable. Too small. Too bulky, etc. Then came the tibook and my mind changed. But beyond looks, there is, as previously posted, something to be said for working in an alternative environment. Studies show that people are more productive when they change their surroundings. I’m being serious about that. For me, to use my computer, I either come into my bedroom or go to work. With a portable, I can do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it, whereever I want to do it, and however I want to do it.

    For example, I take digital photos. Yesterday I took some about 150 miles from home. With my desktop, I can only look at those photos and edit them from home. All day yesterday I thought how cool it would be to sit in the amusement park during dinner and look through the photos I took. Not only that, but I could have cleared the Smartmedia card to make room for new pics, and I would have certainly caught the attention of some pretty park patrons walking around without a computer-literate boyfriend on her arm. See? Already some really good reasons to argue the laptop.

    As for which one? It’s a tough call. The poster (sorry, short memory span today—Monday) who said that if you never carry around your computer, get a desktop, is right, unless you aren’t thinking about how productive you could be, or how your life would change if you all of a sudden got these new options in doing things.

    It’s like the cell phone vs. landline phone argument. People can give up their landline phones and go cell 24-7. Sometimes you want to sit in the park and talk to your mother-in-law, while other times you like to do it from the comfort of your living room. 


    Pittsburgh, PA
    God bless our troops in Iraq and everywhere.

    GO STEELERS. GO PIRATES. and GO PENGUINS (ummm, well ...)

  • Posted: 02 July 2001 03:56 PM #8

    The only Macs I have ever used have been desktops.  That is, until this past Saturday when I got a new iBook for college use.  Let me tell you, I am quite satisfied with the decision.
    For a while, Apple portables have been either too expensive and/or too limiting to replace a desktop computer.  I briefly dabbled on a Blueberry iBook 333 almost a year ago, but the high screen resolution was an obvious problem.  The new iBook’s 1024x768 display is simply gorgeous, just the right size for me in my transition from a 15” Studio Display to a portable display.  It certainly is speedy enough and doesn’t take up much space at all.  At the price, it’s smack dab in the middle of the iMac line of pricing.
    But for those craving more out of their computer, the TiBook is a great replacement.  The screen is huge and has the versatility that some may feel absent in the iBook.  Granted, the specs of the processors may seem on the slow side, but it’s becoming due for a revision anyway.
    Don’t get me wrong, desktops have their virtues as well.  But if you’re even thinking of getting a portable, I don’t see how you can be very disappointed with either of Apple’s offerings at this point in time.

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    Posted: 02 July 2001 04:54 PM #9

    As one of the TMO staff members that Kyle referenced, I seem to have come to a decision.  I am going totally mobile. The benefits are worth the tradeoffs, though I may get a desktop again later this year.  I will be using my Pismo as my sole machine. I will be adding an external FireWire hard drive to compliment my storage, and I will be selling my 17” Power Computing monitor (man, do I hate to let that go!).

    Keep me movin’Over 50Keep me groovin’Just a hippie gypsy

    For bonus points, name that song!


    Editor - The Mac Observer

    Favorite (but less relevant than it used to be) Quote: Microsoft’s tyranny lies not in its success, but in the way it achieved and maintains that success.

  • Posted: 02 July 2001 05:42 PM #10

    Ahhh, no can do on the song.  While not one of the staff members Kyle mentioned, I am also contemplating switching to a portable.  Right now my main machine is an iMac DVSE 400 that is shared between myself and another person.  This other person is an Unreal Tournament addict and so I seldom get the time I’d like on the computer.  I’m thinking that for college the benefits of a portable are tremendous, yet at the same time the power of a desktop is evident.  With the TiBook I almost went on an impulse buy.  I think I’m waiting on the next revision of the TiBook, but portable is the way I’m headed.



    Brad Smith
    The Mac Observer

  • Posted: 02 July 2001 08:21 PM #11

    The song is: Goin’ Mobile, by The Who.

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    Posted: 02 July 2001 09:11 PM #12

    You are, of course, correct Michael. 

    Brad, if you are *buying* a machine for college, get a portable.  Get a monitor and have an awesome dual monitor setup with either the iBook or the TiBook.  Mind you, I am not on a portable kick, I just think for college in particular a portable is the best solution.

    If gaming is important to you though, consider a desktop only so that you can add a great video card.


    Editor - The Mac Observer

    Favorite (but less relevant than it used to be) Quote: Microsoft’s tyranny lies not in its success, but in the way it achieved and maintains that success.

  • Posted: 02 July 2001 10:43 PM #13

    I’ve been laptop only for well over a year now: A Ti PowerBook (my main hammer) running OS X, a new iBook, running OS X, a Pismo PowerBook (G3/500) running OS 9.1, 3 FireWire Graphite iBooks, 2 USB Graphite iBooks, and one *cough* IBM T21 (PIII/850).

    There is simply no chance I would ever return to a desktop Mac with the sole exception of a Cube together with a 22” Cinema Display monitor. The Cube might fairly be called a lap top in disquise. It came out at a time when Apple didn’t have a G4 PowerBook and it fit that gap. Now, there is a G4 PowerBook and the fate of the Cube is a matter of much speculation.

    There is nothing, I repeat nothing, like the freedom to go that a laptop gives you. I have some small islands owned by my home town and my most beautiful view in the world is working on one of these small islands looking back toward shore. Artists are also there painting that spectacular scene.

    Also, with Ricochet now in the picture, you can, if it’s available in your area, go right on the web and send email from the back seat of a car, or anywhere else you happen to be. The new iBook is a watershed laptop because size and weight wise it can fit in a backpack or brief case.

    Presently, I’ve got three separate circuits set up. As to the two Mac circuits (OS X and OS 9.1) I don’t want to switch back and forth between OS X and Classic because I’m not convinced that’s a harmless maneuver. So, the Ti PowerBook prints to an 8-3 Cube printer and the Pismo PowerBook prints to a HP 990CSE printer. However, both the Ti PowerBook (the new iBook) and the Pismo PowerBook share the same AirPort base station.

    The IBM T21 I purchased because there were two vertical market programs (they come on floppy disks, geez) I wanted to run and not in emulation. The T21, when it came out was supposedly considered the fastest Windows laptop. Predictably, in the windows world there is an element of deception, IMHO, because you only get the 850 mhz if it’s plugged in. If you use it on the road, Intel’s “Speed Step” technology lowers the mhz of any laptop over 600 mhz to 500 mhz.

    Interestingly, I have also hooked the T21 into the Cube 8-3 printer via the parallel port. The Ti PowerBook is hooked up via the 8-3’s USB port.

    Prior to going all laptop, I had a G3/266 with a 21” Apple ColorSync monitor. The monitor alone weighed about 72 pounds. This was the only time the FedX guy made me go out to the truck and carry in the box. Compared to that weighty set up, the laptops are actually a dream.

    OS X likes to use screen real estate. Even the new iBook has more screen real estate than the former models. I’d like to go more than 15.2” (although it is great) that the Ti PowerBook gives you. This would mean a Cube with the Cinema Display monitor. I’m on a save the Cube campaign right now (and the MacObserver was kind enough to link to the column).

    Naturally, a full size tower model would appeal to those who need the dual processor and expansion capability. But for those of us who don’t, I can’t imagine using anything better than a laptop or the holy grail: A Cube with a 22” Cinema display monitor. I wouldn’t give up any laptop, it would just provide a larger screen and some other benefits.

    Ever since I’ve gone totally laptop, I’ve been completely satisfied. The wrist rests and great keyboards made using the computer fun even over and above the portable form factor. Truly, a laptop is your life, to go.


    My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement. - Meg Ryan to Tom Hanks in Joe versus the Vo

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    Posted: 02 July 2001 10:58 PM #14

    Hey Samuel,

    Glad to see you in the forums! It’s been good to see MacSoldiers kicking again. 


    Editor - The Mac Observer

    Favorite (but less relevant than it used to be) Quote: Microsoft’s tyranny lies not in its success, but in the way it achieved and maintains that success.

  • Posted: 03 July 2001 12:40 AM #15

    I’ve always used desktops (I started out in the Sinclair ZX81 era!) culminating in a 6400/200 with a 16” screen.  Last year I bought my first ever portable (a graphite 466 ibook) with an airport base station and card. The ONLY negative that I’ve found with the laptop is the size of the screen (12.1”). At work I use a 21” monitor and then come home to one a little more than half the size!

    In every other way I prefer the laptop - I can work on trains, planes, in the garden, play MP3s whilst working on the car - it is just SO convenient.

    I know that desktops will always have more processing power and larger screens but I don’t actually NEED all that power as a home user.  At work however, I use PCs (boo!) and also have a desktop and a laptop.  The laptop (a Dell with similar spec to my iBook) is deathly slow and so hardly gets used at all. 

    In the end, you use the one that suits what you’re doing!