Why a Desktop PC Makes More Sense than a Laptop Today

eWEEK PC HARDWARE PERSPECTIVE: The entire work model we built the concept of laptops around not only doesn’t exist anymore, it may not ever exist again.


I live on a desktop computer. I have something like 10 laptops I don’t even look at because my travel mostly consists of walking from my bedroom to my office. Laptops are designed for a world many of us don’t live in anymore. That world was very different, one where travel was frequent, where meetings were mostly in person, and where, if you didn’t show up, you absorbed career damage. Now meetings are virtual; the person who goes to the meeting will likely be in a room alone (and look stupid), and travel is something we remember not too fondly. 

The entire work model we built the concept of laptops around not only doesn’t exist anymore, it may not ever exist again. I believe Delta said its business was down something like 91%. It got so bad at one point you had to pay someone to take a barrel of oil from you because they went negative in value. 

I’m coming around to the idea that laptops as a trend are over, that the new trend will be desktop computers.

Let’s talk about that in the context of AMD’s Ryzen Pro processor announcement this week. 

Laptops vs. desktops

It has been a while since we compared the two because, for most of the PC’s life we’ve been furiously working to make them better as a mobile platform. We got so focused on that strategy that when iPads showed up, which were vastly more mobile, we declared PCs prematurely dead, and some of my peers argued (we still give them grief for this, by the way) that PCs were dead. 

This result was because even though laptops were a step back from desktops, we valued their portability more than their performance. My first monitor was 12 inches in size, and I got very excited when I obtained my first 15-inch monitor back in the mid-1980s. Laptops generally have 13-inch to 14-inch screens--granted with much higher resolutions--but still a ton smaller than the 49-inch monitor I have from Dell (which is incredible by the way) on my desktop. 

The emphasis on a laptop is on battery life, but I don’t need that anymore. Now I want raw performance because my office is in plugged-in range of the power cord. Now a laptop does mean I can work outside if I want, but not only are there just a few laptops that have enough screen brightness for that, I find when I’m outside I want to enjoy the outside, so I use it as a break and a reward for getting work done. 

A lot of us are wired to get rewards for accomplishing tasks, but those “atta boys” and “atta girls” don’t come that often when you are remote. So setting up an outdoor reward structure where you don’t work outside, at least for me, is the better alternative. 

Finally, because desktops are fixed, there is less chance our kids will “borrow” and take them someplace where we don’t have to worry about rogue access points (because we generally hard-wire them), and they are a ton harder for a repair person working in your home to steal. If you’ve never had to explain to your manager how you lost an expensive laptop, or what happened to the data on it, trust me, you don’t want that experience. 

So, in that context, AMD has launched a set of professional processors for desktop PCs, and that is why you probably should care. 

AMD’s new Ryzen Pro Processors and the machines they power

AMD has a history of not only living under Intel’s cloud but of being focused on performance. They have also put far more effort into desktop processors than Intel has during the last few years.  Their latest batch of pro processors appears to focus on the needs of employees working from home. Those employees are facing significant security and reliability risks. The security issue is because phishing attacks have gone up something like 667% since the pandemic started. After all, employees are more vulnerable when the corporate ecosystem doesn’t surround them. Attacks from hostile states are up sharply as well, and exposures, such as ransomware (72%), are on the upswing. 

These exposures line up nicely against the Ryzon Pro’s new defenses. The line has multi-layered security features, including a dedicated security processor and full memory encryption to protect the data on the PC. The platform is compliant with DASH and vPro management tools so that support can be handled remotely, because no one is sending someone to your house during a pandemic. 

I didn’t note that there were vast shortages of PCs when we pivoted to work from home, and AMD’s partners have upped manufacturing capacity so that you shouldn’t have to worry about supply. And finally, the line has eight-month planned stability, so that you can reduce hardware diversity. Diversity in employees is good, in PCs, not so much. 

Oh, and on spec, they outperform the laptop equivalents (granted, we’ll need third-party validation). In short, they may be the right products at the right time for the current pandemic situation. 

Wrapping up

The world we lived in the last decade doesn’t appear to exist anymore, thus I think that means we need to rethink the laptop desktop mix. The threats against our employees have changed dramatically as well, so yesterday’s solutions aren’t always ideal. Against that backdrop, AMD has launched a new line of desktop processors, and they may be the perfect solution for this “perfect storm” problem that seems to favor that old form factor now. 

As a result, the AMD Ryzen Pro line may be the right product at the exact right time. 

Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is a nationally recognized analyst and a longtime contributor to QuinStreet publications and Pund-IT.