/ Technology

Desktop, all-in-one or laptop – what made you pick your PC?


Looking for a new home computer? These days it’s not just a case of working out which model to go for, but rather the dilemma of what type you’re after. A desktop, laptop or all-in-one PC?

Walk into any well know PC shop and you’ll find a myriad of computing devices. They range from chic, super-slim tablets to old-school desktop computers. And even your phone is in on the act now, with big smartphones offering similar (if not identical) functionality to tablets.

For those of you who just want a normal home computer, what do you choose? And what criteria do you use to narrow down the choice?

Desktops, all-in-ones or laptops

The humble desktop PC harks back to the days of old, but often provides superior memory and processor specs. It also leaves you free to choose your own monitor. Armed with decent innards, desktops are capable of handling even the most taxing of computing tasks. And if they start to get a bit sluggish, it’s relatively easy to upgrade them.

All-in-one PCs (AIO) look great and take up less room. They’re great for all round computing, including heavy duty tasks like photo editing, but they’re often eye-wateringly expensive (I’m thinking of the iMac here).

And then there’s the option of a desktop replacement laptop. Their larger screens often afford a better processor and more memory than your average laptop, but they’re pretty hefty and can end up living on your desk. In the end they can just turn into an AIO or desktop, thereby making their “portability” virtue pretty useless.

I love my laptop and iPad combo

Me? Well I’m the proud owner of an ultraportable laptop and an iPad mini. My laptop gives me that extra bit of functionality and is much better when I need to sit down and do some serious work. But the tablet wins for browsing the internet while I lounge around on the sofa.

So, are you a desktop, AIO, large laptop or tablet owner? What made you choose that type of device? What does it do that no other device can do as well? Your best examples will be featured in Which? magazine!

Which of the following do you use for computing at home? (multiple choice)

Desktop PC (39%, 791 Votes)

Laptop (16-inches or less) (25%, 520 Votes)

Tablet (22%, 454 Votes)

Desktop replacement laptop (17-inches or more) (7%, 138 Votes)

All-in-one PC (6%, 133 Votes)

Laptop-tablet convertible (1%, 16 Votes)

Giant tablet (20-inches or more) (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,258

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I have a Sony laptop, now 6 years old, with a 15.4″ (390mm) screen that I use in a desktop role generally (the battery now holds little charge). It does all I want – documents, photos, CAD (although for more demanding drawings a larger screen would be better – I could add a monitor), emails and web browsing. Although now it is a little slow at booting up (someone suggested processors slow as they age – any truth in that?). I will replace it with something similar – hopefully just before it dies (anyone know how to predict that!).
2 years ago Mrs R had an iPad for her birthday and that was the most successful present ever – she uses it largely for photos, emails and web browsing on the settee. I could not have foreseen how much use it would get, and how much enjoyment.
My sons are into professional Computer Aided Design – demanding software – and run this on laptops. Essential as they travel abroad. They can use large monitors in the office, but the screen quality on the laptops is so good these are not necessary when travelling.
So for us, laptop for serious work, iPad for leisure.

Bryan says:
4 February 2014

Processors do not slow down as they age; however disks fill up with rubbish and programs which load (without your permission) as you boot up. Also the memory you felt happy with 6 years ago is probably too small now. If your disk light spends lots of time illuminated after you have booted up, it probably needs to be ‘cleaned’ out – try CC Cleaner (there are other free programs which do this).
Also your work on design and graphics needs lots of memory; if you don’t have enough the program writes temporary information to your disk instead – much slower!
If you know someone who has successfully completed a laptop upgrade before, he or she could be your best friend. An upgrade is much cheaper than a new machine; you could get another 4 or 5 years from your laptop if you upgrade it now.


I have a 2 year old 15 inch MacBookPro, a 5 year old 24 inch iMac and a 2 year old iPad 2.

The MacBookPro is in use throughout the day and has all the email and other correspondence, presentations and photos that I am likely to need. I have been using mobile broadband for a few years, so I can keep in touch and update a website easily. Since the laptop is my life, I regularly do backups.

The iMac is where I keep an archive of important documents and a copy of my email back to 1999. Sometimes these emails contain very useful information, even if it was of little significance at the time. The 24 inch screen is great for desktop publishing, accurate drawings and viewing one document while working on another.

I use my iPad when out for the day and it often lives out of sight in the car. My MiFi mobile broadband dongle works with both the iPad and the laptop, and costs me around £55 for a new sim, which lasts a year. Though I love the battery life and portability of the iPad, I find it has its limitations. For example, it is a pain to scroll down long Web pages like those on Which? Conversation, which is so easy to do on my laptop.

Haggis says:
30 January 2014

It’s worth remembering that the initial purchase price is only part (albeit a large part) of the overall cost consideration. There’s the cost of software, upgrades, repairs and time wasted when things go wrong.

MsSupertech says:
1 February 2014

Software costs? Almost everything I use can be downloaded free… Repairs? Only ever needed one in all my years of computer ownership. Upgrades? Again, usually free stuff…
The only thing I spend money on is a new mouse now and then…
I’ll admit to a bit of time spent sorting out problems but I enjoy the challenge and with regular backups to fall back on there isn’t much I won’t try to tackle, despite being a complete amateur.


I’m somewhat knee deep in various computers! My rather ancient W95 desktop is still used as a general purpose workhorse for many applications, it is not connected to the internet. I also have a W98 desktop used for some specific applications because it has ‘real’ DOS available and an RS232 serial port. For some of these applications I also have a couple of W98 laptops when I need to use them away from ‘base’. Then there are my two XP laptops which are steadily being replaced by the use of a recently acquired W7 lap top. Finally, there is the tablet that I am actually using to post this!

The point is that there are horses for courses. Different machines suit different needs. Having just one type available can be somewhat restricting.

By the way, why does the questionnaire at the start of this conversation exclude laptops with screens between 15 and 17 inches? After all, a very popular screen size is 15.6 inches!


“By the way, why does the questionnaire at the start of this conversation exclude laptops with screens between 15 and 17 inches?”
I hadn’t noticed this. Mine is 15.4″. Incidentally, all this is likely to fall foul of the imperial vs. metric police (see earlier conversation, currently gone quiet). The label on my laptop is only in inches (no metric equivalent), and Which?’s intro only mentions inches. Why is this and does it matter (not to me!).


I’ve tweaked the poll 🙂