PC systems comparison: Laptop vs. desktop vs. handheld computers

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PC systems comparison: Laptop vs. desktop vs. handheld computers

So you know you want a new PC. But you don't know if you want a desktop, laptop or a handheld palm-sized device. You've got a decision to make, based on your own requirements and money available. In the "desktop versus laptop versus handheld computers comparison" question, you decide.

After you make a decision on what you want, read about detailed laptop and desktop hardware information, or information about handheld technologies and recommendations.

 

Component

Laptop
Desktop
Handheld
Summary
A laptop is a small, self-contained computer. The focus is on portability. If you want portability, and don't mind a higher cost and worse multimedia and graphics performance, get a laptop.
A desktop system usually consists of multiple separate components like the CPU (the computer itself), monitor, keyboard and mouse. If you want the best performance, and a lower cost, and don't mind heavy equipment and no portability, get a desktop.
A handheld is very portable: It will fit in your pocket. If you want simple information management, or want an "almost-laptop" device integrated into a cellphone, get a handheld.
Performance
Laptops perform very well, far better than handhelds, but rarely as well as equivalently-priced desktops.
Given an identically-priced laptop and desktop, the desktop will perform much better than the laptop. Additionally, desktops are better at handling upgrades. Things like extra memory, more drive space or multiple optical drives: These will all perform better and be cheaper on the desktop.
Multimedia and graphics are extremely limited compared to laptops and desktops. They're primarily intended for information storage and management, though they can have many specialized applications, and often come integrated into cellphones.
Size / Portability
Small size means you can easily throw it into a bag or carrying case and go.
A desktop means you've got a lot of separate pieces making up your system. This leads to low portability and difficult transportation.
Handhelds are usually pocket-sized, or can be attached with one of those cool-looking belt clips.
Weight
Laptops are generally light and easy to carry around. (Some laptops try to fit desktop power in a laptop package, leading to powerful but heavy laptops.) Any laptop over 7 pounds should be considered "sorta heavy". Anything over 10 pounds is "really, really heavy".
Desktops and their associated equipment are heavy. If you get one, don't plan on moving it around often.
Handhelds are extremely light, often less than one pound.