Portability is usually the first feature mentioned in any comparison of laptops versus desktop PCs. Physical portability allows that a laptop can be used in many places— not only at home and at the office, but also during commuting and flights, in coffee shops, in lecture halls and libraries, at clients' location or at a meeting room, etc. The portability feature offers several distinct advantages:
Productivity: Using a laptop in places where a desktop PC can not be used, and at times that would otherwise be wasted. For example, an office worker managing their e-mails during an hour-long commute by train, or a student doing his/her homework at the university coffee shop during a break between lectures.
Immediacy: Carrying a laptop means having instant access to various information, personal and work files. Immediacy allows better collaboration between coworkers or students, as a laptop can be flipped open to present a problem or a solution anytime, anywhere.
Up-to-date information: If a person has more than one desktop PC, a problem of synchronization arises: changes made on one computer are not automatically propagated to the others. There are ways to resolve this problem, including physical transfer of updated files (using a USB flash memory stick or CDRs) or using synchronization software over the Internet. However, using a single laptop at both locations avoids the problem entirely, as the files exist in a single location and are always up-to-date.
Connectivity: A proliferation of Wi-Fi wireless networks and cellular broadband data services (HSDPA, EVDO and others) combined with a near-ubiquitous support by laptops means that a laptop can have easy Internet and local network connectivity while remaining mobile. Wi-Fi networks and laptop programs are especially widespread at university campuses.
Other advantages of laptops:
Size: Laptops are smaller than desktop PCs. This is beneficial when space is at a premium, for example in small apartments and student dorms. When not in use, a laptop can be closed and put away.
Low power consumption: Laptops are several times more power-efficient than desktops. A typical laptop uses 20–90 W, compared to 100–800 W for desktops. This could be particularly beneficial for businesses (which run hundreds of personal computers, multiplying the potential savings) and homes where there is a computer running 24/7 (such as a home media server, print server, etc.)
Quiet: Laptops are often quieter than desktops, due both to the components (quieter, slower 2.5-inch hard drives) and to less heat production leading to use of fewer and slower cooling fans.
Battery: a charged laptop can continue to be used in case of a power outage and is not affected by short power interruptions and blackouts. A desktop PC needs a UPS to handle short interruptions, blackouts and spikes; achieving on-battery time of more than 20–30 minutes for a desktop PC requires a large and expensive UPS.
All-in-One: designed to be portable, laptops have everything integrated in to the chassis. For desktops (excluding all-in-ones) this is divided into the desktop, keyboard, mouse, display, and optional peripherals such as speakers.
Advantages of Desktop PCs
While the modern technological community is all about the latest and greatest in micro technology, the traditional desktop computer still has many advantages over its arguable slimmer and sleeker brethren. The contemporary desktop outdoes modern laptops in a few main areas, namely potential for customization, and the size of the monitor.
If you were to open up the case of a desktop computer, you would see all sorts of components, from hard drives to the CPU to the power supply. On a desktop, it is actually quite simple to swap these parts for upgraded ones, which will in turn result in a higher computer performance. All one needs is a basic Phillips head screwdriver and you can swap any internal component with a similar one. This customizability allows for continued upgrades as technology becomes more and more advanced. If you find yourself needing more RAM or hard disk space, it is a simple matter to take another part and install it. Note that on a laptop computer, you would not be able to customize your machine to that degree. The manufacturers of portable computers must hard-wire everything together to save space, which virtually eliminates any possibility for upgrades without buying an entire new machine.
Another reason that desktops are superior is the monitor. While the biggest laptop screen that is currently available is 17 inches, you can get desktop monitors that have sizes many times bigger than that. Bigger monitors mean higher resolutions, sharper colours, and a much bigger space to work on whatever projects you may be working on. A monitor is the connection between you and your computer, and a desktop is the only model that provides the best array of monitors to choose from. There is virtually no limit to what size of screen you can use on your desktop, whereas laptops will always be constrained because of the need for portability.
In short, there are many reasons to choose a traditional desktop computer over a modern laptop. Factors like the ability to upgrade specific components without having to shell out for large amounts of money for a new machine are extremely important when considering what type of computer to purchase. For the power-users that need extra components or bigger monitors, desktops are often the only machines that provide the raw computing power needed to handle the most complex tasks. Buying a computer is not a small purchase, and I hope I've done my part in illustrating a few of the many advantages that desktop computers can provide you.