Here's Why Desktop PCs Just Won’t Die

Category: Hardware

Tablets and smartphones seem to be taking over the computing world. Tech pundits have been predicting the death of the personal computer for almost a decade, and there were predictions back in 2012 that within a few years you wouldn't be able buy a desktop PC. Are PCs inevitably going the way of buggy whips? Here's my take on why that's that's not going to happen any time soon...

The Desktop is Dead. Long Live the Desktop!

It’s true that mobile computing devices are gaining market share at the expense of deskbound PCs. But the number of PCs sold per year has remained remarkably stable for the past few years. This chart from Statista shows PC shipments worldwide from 2009 to 2019. There is a definite drop from the peaks in 2011-2012, but the last few years have shown little change in the total number of units sold.

There is steady demand for PCs -- to the tune of about 250 million yearly -- and it’s unlikely to go away. Here are five reasons why desktop PCs will not die:

Ergonomics: Tablets and smartphones literally cause pains in the neck when used for extended periods. They’re harder to use for typing than a desktop with an expansive keyboard. Their displays are smaller than those of typical desktop PCs. Fine cursor control is difficult or impossible on tablets and smartphones. Have you ever created a spreadsheet, presentation, or a 10-page document on a smartphone? When faced with a choice between mobility and comfort, mobility often wins. But when people don’t need mobility, they usually choose comfort over saving space.

Desktop PC Won't Die

Compute Power and Storage: Desktop PCs can accommodate faster, more powerful processors than mobile devices, and can control more peripherals simultaneously. They are almost infinitely expandable. If you need several terabytes of storage in a PC or Mac desktop, it's not a problem. Tablets and smartphones can’t even come close, in either raw power or storage capability.

Work habits: When you really need to buckle down and crank out work, a desktop PC helps you get into the groove. It stays in a specific space called a “workspace” at home or office; just going there and sitting down at your “workstation” helps put you in a productive frame of mind. Conversely, when it’s time for a break you can escape your immobile desktop PC easily. You needn’t take time to pack up it and its cables, and you don’t have to lug it around while you’re not using it. But the mobile gadgets, with their incessant pings, beeps, and notifications will constantly demand your attention and distract you from getting things done.

One of the must-haves in my computing environment is dual-screen capability. Mobile devices are designed to be small and portable. So you're never going to replicate a dual 24-inch monitor setup on a smartphone or tablet. Once you've had the experience (and productivity boost) of working on dual screens, you'll find a single monitor setup (even with one large screen) very restrictive. I typically work with a web browser on one screen, and a word processor or spreadsheet on the other. Programmers benefit from having source code one monitor and the actual running program on the other.

Expandability/Repairability: If your desktop PC needs more RAM, you can open the case and pop it in. If you've outgrown your hard drive, you can swap in a larger one or just add a second one. Desktop and laptop computers use mostly commodity (off the shelf) parts, so if one component fails, you can find replacement parts and fix it yourself -- usually with just a screwdriver. Hard drives, RAM memory, video cards, power supplies, monitors, the CPU and even the motherboard can be replaced without too much hassle. You can even use a different brand if you like.

But mobile devices such as your iPhone, iPad, or Android device are typically sealed up tight. You can't replace or upgrade the SSD hard drive in your mobile device. If the screen cracks on your smartphone or tablet, you can't just buy a new one. If any component breaks or fails, you'll have to send it away for repairs, which may be more expensive than buying a new one. You can't even replace the battery in most smartphones.

Finally, consider external peripherals. Try connecting a scanner, or an external hard drive to your mobile device. What about a second monitor? Where are the USB ports? Heck, it's a hassle just to print something from a mobile phone or tablet.

Cost: Miniaturization is always more expensive. You will never see a tablet that costs as little as a PC of comparable capabilities. And as I mentioned before, getting a PC serviced is cheaper than comparable repair of a tablet, or even a smartphone.

I know I promised five reasons, but it's always good to exceed expectations right? So here's one more I thought of while putting together my thoughts on this topic.

Security: Have you noticed how many news reports of hacking and data losses involve mobile devices? Public wi-fi is a security risk that most users don't even understand. And it’s much easier to lose a smartphone than a desktop PC. Many employers restrict the loading of data onto mobile devices, and constantly struggle with network-connected mobile security risks.

Desktop PCs still have an important role in both home and business environments, and I just can't see that changing for many years to come. For many, a good laptop is the ideal compromise between mobility and the advantages of a desktop PC. Of course, nothing prevents you from owning a desktop PC, a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone -- except your budget.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Here's Why Desktop PCs Just Won’t Die"

(See all 38 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Brian Thomas
27 Dec 2019

Don't forget "Network". Mobile/Tablet devices pretty much require network connections to do much of anything at all. Although networks are getting faster and more reliable, they are still a significant weak point.

Posted by:

Terry Hollett
27 Dec 2019

I'm all for desktops. I though laptops where a joke and have been waiting for the manufacturers to jump out and say April Fools Day. And now tablets...

Posted by:

27 Dec 2019

I use 1 laptop.....when I'm on the road (most of the time), it sits up on my steering wheel (when parked for the night, of course), and I use an external mouse for convenience...When I get home, my laptop goes on the shelf, is plugged directly into my 60" ty via hdmi cable...a small portable tray, a mouse and a bluetooth keyboard gives me all the easy control I want.

Posted by:

Jevon Mark Ellis
27 Dec 2019

I recently built a "new" W10 tower system except for 2 components.. the DVD writer that I use so rarely that to replace a perfectly good one seemed pointless, and the case, which originally was a cheap Windows ME computer then later rebuilt to an XP computer which got upgraded to Win7

If heaven forbid I got burgled they'd likely take one glance and not bother with that ancient geriatric computer resplendant in its discoloured ivory and broken blue plastic trimmings.. unaware that inside its pretty up to date i9 on a Mobo a gamer would be proud of pcie SSD etc

Posted by:

27 Dec 2019

While they still have their uses, I don’t find I need an actual traditional desktop PC for real work. And I do real work (I work in IT development.)

A docked laptop works great. Everyone on my team uses one. I’m powering two large monitors (a 25” ultra wide and a 34” ultra wide) with mine. The laptop’s built in monitor is a bonus. The machine also powers a MFC print/scan device. Of course, I have a keyboard and mouse.

When I need to go away on business, I simply undock and go, allowing me to use the same machine at the office and off-site. Easy peasy. Can’t do that easily with a traditional desktop. Sometimes, I can even borrow an additional monitor at my destination.

Of course, we also all have mobile devices for extended communications options.

Posted by:

27 Dec 2019

Retired now, but the last decade at work was a laptop in a docking station with a huge monitor. It functioned like a desktop.

At home, I've an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, all of which I use daily but primarily and for virtually all real work, I have a Win10 Pro Desktop with a 32 inch HD monitor. I'll always have a desktop for all the reasons Bob pointed out. There are so many things you simply can't do, or can't do easily without a full keyboard and mouse, and a monitor big enough to SEE what you are doing or buying. The idea of trying to do your taxes on a smartphone is just ludicrous. The desktop isn't going anyway anytime soon, if ever. :^)

Posted by:

Jim Richardson
27 Dec 2019

Bob, I agree completely. I have two laptops and hate them both. I hate the touchpads - things just seem to happen "out of the blue". I hate the screen size. Give me my desktop Dell Work station anytime. And don't get me started on mobile devices. To me it's ironic - For years we were conditioned for bigger and bigger screen sizes, for TV example. Now it's the rage to "stream" stuff to a to 4-5 inch mobile phone screens. It's laughable. Yes, I think the desktop is here for a long time.

Posted by:

27 Dec 2019

This is another informative article. YES! I, likewise, believe that the desktops are here to stay for a long time. Not only is the expansive keyboard convenient, but I need the desktop with the full-screen monitor for working on spreadsheets, photography and digital imaging work, documents, presentations, and other geeky projects. In addition, I have Linux and Windows 10 on my desktop. I can't see myself doing that on the screen of a cell phone or tablet! Thank you for this great article!

Posted by:

Maura K
27 Dec 2019

I haven't had a desktop in years but have one laptop that serves almost as one - it never moves from my desk. As my eyes age, I find the laptop screen easier to read than the tiny screens of a phone or tablet. And having a real keyboard is so much easier than using a screen keyboard.

Posted by:

Phillip J
27 Dec 2019

For years I used 2 monitors, but one day set a 50" TV as a monitor. I know about the quality of the screen difference. I love it I open two spread sheets, and have no trouble reading or doing input. When working on Ancestry, I put facts up on 1/2 the screen, and input data on the other 1/2. I don't think I could ever go back to two monitors. That just me, have friends that think I am Crazy but I already knew that. Would never give up my desktop, my Surface pro, or my cell phone. They all have their place.

Posted by:

Kenneth Mitchell
27 Dec 2019

Desktop PCs will never go away. My old eyes have difficulty reading the screen of my Kindle or phone, even with 3X magnifying "cheater" glasses.

HOWEVER, you can get a cheap adapter that will allow you to plug a full sized keyboard and mouse into the USB port of your Android or Apple phone. It looks silly, but it does work.

Now, if only there were a way to plug my 34-inch monitor into my phone...

Posted by:

Bill Lavezzi
27 Dec 2019

These are excellent points in my opinion. The note about the desktop establishing an identifiable work area is as important as the more practical items: we can't change our programming all that easily either.

I feel I am well-served by having a desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Purchasing and provisioning the full suite of products isn't cheap, but it allows me to choose the best tool for the job and setting.

Posted by:

27 Dec 2019

My thoughts are simple. I've been building and using computers since 1979 and I couldn't agree more with your presentation. Right on.

Posted by:

28 Dec 2019

Two words that were missing from your great (PC desktop) article are:
1)Compatibility (i.e. Respect for legacy hardware/software)
2)Ergonomics (aka Human_Machine_Interface(s) for Input@Keyboard and Output@Monitor(s))
Our home has a few desktops PC, an HTPC, a few laptops, a few touch-screen tablets, a few smartphones (iPhone/Android), and a mothballed Google Assistant.
I refuse to rely on any of these HW/SW, with the exception of the dual-27" monitor Win10 desktop, because the rest are just NOT user friendly and very frustratingly slow to achieve tasks quickly/reliably.
Happy New Year! ⛄

Posted by:

Bill Donovan
28 Dec 2019

I started with computers late, around 1994. I also had a flip phone in 1995. Each has its own place in my life meaning Desktops Laptops and iphones. I also agree. Some stuff you really can not do on a cel.

Posted by:

Jim Horn
29 Dec 2019

Not a heavy duty user, I replaced a dying PC with a cheap laptop five years ago. I recently updated the laptop with a solid state hard drive a year ago and am a happy camper.

I use three printers and a standard keyboard. My eyes need help and the laptop's monitor is too far away, so I plan to put a larger monitor on my desk closer to me where I can see it better.

It works for me.

Posted by:

David Baker
31 Dec 2019

Desktops run cooler and their vents are less likely to clog and CPU's overheat (one exception is the Chromebooks and MacBooks which are fanless). Like you said easier to work on. Good article as always. Happy New Year Bob!

Posted by:

01 Jan 2020

I agree. I wouldn't trade my dual-monitor desktop for anything. I have a laptop and an iPad, but they are only for using when away from home.

Posted by:

15 Jan 2020

Even when I am away from home, I mostly use my laptop just to get remote access to my home PC via remote login. That way I have access to everything on my home PC, etc. I use teamviewer but there are lots of choices (you have discussed remote login choices in a Ask Bob Rankin article).

Posted by:

25 Jan 2020

Catching up on my e-mail today & noticed this article. Am typing this comment in my home office with its desktop PC, 25-inch monitor, full size wireless keyboard and wireless mouse. I use this setup every day except when I have to use my laptop away from home. I have HP Sceptre 15-inch laptop, a speedy little devil, to take to my volunteer job where I set up a mobile hotspot with my phone to make a secure connection when I have to deal with confidential data. I see no reason to abandon my PC, especially when I can update the components. Long live the desktop PC!

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