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I am seriously considering going back to desktop computers (terraaeon.com)
618 points by sT370ma2 37 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 673 comments

I prefer a desktop because:

1. I like big, big monitors.

2. I prefer a full size keyboard.

3. I prefer a separate mouse.

4. I prefer big freaking disk drives installed.

5. I put the desktop under my desk, and with a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse, there is much less of a snarl on my desk.

6. The desktop has an optical drive I still use.

7. The desktop has lots of USB ports and they're all in use.

8. I can replace/alter parts of the machine without buying a new one.

9. Desktops are cheap.

10. I can build what I want with parts from newegg. Premade powerful computers are always "gaming machines" and I don't want a gaming machine that comes with a graphics adapter that sounds like a 747 taking off.

11. I want an all-metal case because a machine caught fire once.

Edit: 12. My desktop doesn't have a microphone or camera, so they cannot be surreptitiously turned on remotely.

> Premade powerful computers are always "gaming machines" ...

Only for consumer level ones. Higher end ones are "workstations" and can generally be specced from mid-range-consumer-level to almost-a-friggin-supercomputer-node. ;)

As a bonus, no RGB. :)


* https://www.quietpc.com/sys-amd-workstation

* https://www.dell.com/en-us/work/shop/workstations-isv-certif...

* https://www8.hp.com/us/en/workstations/desktops/index.html

* https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/thinkworkstations

* https://www.supermicro.com/en/products/superworkstation

I can highly recommend QuietPC - my desktop is superb, it's powerful and completely silent.

12. High end desktop CPUs are noticeably faster than mobile counterparts (higher freq, more cache)

And can sustain the top clocks with proper cooling, contrary to laptops.

Laptop cpus might be able to sustain top clocks with proper cooling, but we'll never know.

What? There’s a lot of laptops that hit their top clocks with no issues. The main problem is that doing so seriously reduces your battery duration and emits significant noise.

Pick anything over the 800$ range that isn’t a macbook and you’re way more likely to hit clocks than not.

The problem isn't hitting the top clocks, but sustaining them. Only the biggest "desktop replacement" class laptops tend to be able to sustain 120W+ CPU dissipation.

Note that workstation-class (H) laptop CPUs also make compromises on performance - the Ryzen 9 4900H is 8C16T but only has 4MB L2$, 8MB L3$, and a max TDP of 54W. A desktop Ryzen 9 3950X by comparison is 16C32T and has 8MB L2$, 64MB L3$, and a 105W default TDP (and will go much higher with even basic PBO if your cooling allows). The differences on the Intel side are even starker.

As an aside you have an interesting notation, using $ to substitute for cache, using that symbol never once crossed my mind hah

Hmm, I suppose it's fallen a bit out of favor recently, I don't see it quite as much as I used to, but it's pretty much standard terminology in the semi industry showing up in everything from academic papers to data sheets (commonly you'll see that as D$ and I$ - data and instruction cache).

Perhaps why I've not seen it before is likely due to localization - I'm in the UK and of course the Pound has it's own symbol, thus the connection of $ -> Cash -> Cache may not be so readily made.

> Only the biggest "desktop replacement" class laptops tend to be able to sustain 120W+ CPU dissipation.

Yes. And as a bonus, I can use my Alienware 17 R4 as a throwing weapon. Or for workout. And the power brick is a perfect cup warmer.

But I like it, nonetheless.

Hey! I never thought of using the brick to keep my coffee warm. It is even the right size. Excellent! Thanks....

Ignoring the discussion around TDP figures, I’m well aware of the power limits, but that was (IHMO) not the point of OP.

It’s obvious that it’s impossible at the moment to get 3950X performance in a laptop format, but you can get laptops able to keep temps reasonable with 35-50W, and that’s what a lot of laptop SoCs target as total power.

Those SoCs hit (and sustain) their top clocks, whatever those are for that specific SKU.

What I understood from OP is a common complaint for macbooks, that fail consistently to sustain their specified to clocks, because Apple deliberately under specifies their cooling solutions for better ergonomics (and design reasons).

> Those SoCs hit (and sustain) their top clocks, whatever those are for that specific SKU.

This is actually completely wrong. Almost no laptops sustain their top (boost) clock on heavy workloads. Most usually only sustain max performance for minutes (or seconds!) before throttling. Here's an example chart that shows how various premium Athena/Evo U laptops perform: https://www.notebookcheck.net/Asus-Zenbook-S-UX393JA-Laptop-...

On the workstation side, people complain about Macbooks, but recent MBPs actually throttle their Intel H processors less than a comparable XPS 15 for example: https://www.notebookcheck.net/Apple-MacBook-Pro-15-2019-in-r...

If you are interested in how modern Intel laptop chips throttle and what base and boost clocks mean, you want to do a search for PL1, PL2, and Tau. For AMD chips, you will want to look up STAPM, Fast and Slow PPT.

Note that while a i7-10875H's top "boost" clock is 5.1GHz, the sustained "base" clock is only 2.3GHz. This is so low to be meaningless as a top speed. In practice, unless your laptop's cooling is absolutely terrible, you'll probably end up mostly running in the 3-3.5GHz range under full load. In comparison, on a properly cooled desktop system, a same-gen i9-10900K desktop system should be able to maintain a sustained (all-the-time) clock of about 5GHz (very close to its 5.3GHz boost). AMD chips scale a little bit better due to 7nm having better power efficiency and how PPT works, but the same ratio roughly applies.

I’ve actually worked with Ryzen SoCs myself (I do board design).

This is the problem with all the marketing BS. When I talked about “top clocks”, I wasn’t referring about “boost” clocks. I’m talking of the clocks that the SoC is designed for (that won’t appear on the box), i.e. a lot of laptops are not leaving “performance gaps” due to bad cooling, those SoCs are designed for that level of performance and attaching a fat copper heatsink won’t do much difference.

I had a lot of trouble with a client that complained that our board was not properly designed because the performance they were seeing was not “as advertised”. In the end we had to ship the whole thing to AMD, and have them test the system with a thermal sink. Everything was as expected.

If anyone is interested in this kind of stuff, your explanation is really good, so I won’t add anything because I’d probably do a terrible job :)

I agree that there's a lot of misunderstanding on clocks - I've been on the other end - evaluation and validation of embedded boards, including V1000 Ryzen SoCs, but I think I'd disagree somewhat with the characterization of clocks as purely "marketing BS."

Back in the day, most CPUs had had a fixed clock, but these days modern Intel and AMD chips simply don't - they all clock opportunistically, which depends on powers, thermals, but also workload (try running an AVX-512 loads for example). How do you characterize "clock" in this context? Base (minimum) and Boost (hard limit, now split to Max Turbo <2C and All Boost MC) seem to be reasonably sensible numbers.

Now we can argue semantics all day, but to bring it back around if you're just going to say "top clocks" is what the SoC was designed for at a specific workload/power envelope (In AMD's PB, that'd be PPT, TDC, and EDC) then every laptops will "hit their top clocks with no issues," but I'd say that argument (statement?) is a bit circular/pointless. ;P

Well, you can get a 3950x on a laptop, capped at 95w TDP. XMG, Cyberpower and Schenker sell those (manufactured by Tongfang)

My 3950x got to 315W socket power with OC. It wasn't stable, as it was just testing.

Can you keep them in prime 95?

Yes, but only with ear protection and while the battery can keep up. When the battery is out of power, the computer shuts off. Need to buy a better powersupply than the one it came with...

Even SSDs throttle under heavy use.

Sure. The NVMe that gives you 2GB/s write may throttle to only 500 MB/s after a few seconds of writes, but--

How often is that a problem, really?

NVMe throttling from 2GB/s to 0.5GB/s is usually not thermal, it is an SLC cache exhaustion that brings a drive back to MLC/TLC packing mode. One can get samsung pro or a similar ssd and it will retain 2GB/s indefinitely. On cheaper drives, having a lot of free space (i.e. slc cache) may help. Not sure though what process can generate such sustained write bandwidth beyond few things like copying or video transcoding.

Which is why I replaced the cheap drive in my build desktop with a Samsung Pro NVME. It made a significant difference.

Multithreaded builds (make -j 24) can really hammer the drive. Read and write interleaved, which uses up cache in both directions.

I've used their Pro NVME drives as my OS drive for the last few years. Never had any issues with read write speeds either

Two words: Heat Sinks

A well proven way to move heat out of a silicon package to prolong its ability to perform at its highest potential. And in a desktop, you've got room for 'em.

What I’m told you need heatsink for PCIe SerDes and maybe CPU on it but NAND likes warmer temperature

On an NVME? You don't need heatsinks of an NVME. You have much bigger issues in your case if you think heatsinks will help on an NVME.

Are you suggesting NVME heatsinks are a marketing gimmick? I beg to differ.

No, that's wrong. A heatsink on an NVMe helps to let it run its top speed longer, or forever. Has nothing to do with issues in your case, those things just get warm, and before it gets too hot the heat has to be transported away or they will throttle.

Specifically, a lot of NVMe are right next to GPU placed in PCI slot 1, which is a pretty constant source of heat under load.

I installed an EK spreader sandwich on my Samsung NVMe drive, and it made a massive (20° c) difference over stock. It was previously a bare stick with no surface area/thermal sink to pull heat away.

What's an "EK spreader sandwich"? Can you send a link to yours as well?

No. NVME's are rated to run at 0-70 degrees. If your case makes your NVME run at > 80+ degrees you should prob fix the airflow in your case as your prob running your CPU/GPU rather hot.

You do not need a case for that! The NVMe heats up on its own. There are a bunch of reviews going into that topic, because it just matters for high end NVMe drives. See for example https://www.computerbase.de/2020-09/samsung-980-pro-ssd-test... - though the 980 Evo did well without an additional cooler, and here it's indeed depending on the airflow.

You seem to assume it's the case that heats up to 80C or more, that's not true and also not necessary for NVMe SSDs to go over their limit. Your CPU/GPU has fans moving the heat away, that's a better position to be in...

I said if your nvme is reaching 80+ degrees then you should fix the airflow in the case. I did not say the case is 80 degrees. Any semi decent airflow is 100% capable of running an nvme without causing any performance issues.

As you saw in the article I linked that's just not true. Those temps are with airflow, and SSDs go over their temp limit.

Nope. That article states the the ssd was 'naked' which leads me to believe they removed the sticker off it. Those stickers/labels are use to dissipate heat from the controller, so you, you know, don't need a heatsink. They act as a heatsink.


No! Why would you assume crazy modifications like that? They write "naked", it's naked as in not using the heatsink the mainboard supplies. https://www.gigabyte.com/us/Motherboard/X570-AORUS-MASTER-re... shows the cooler they are talking about.

You will just have to accept that you've been wrong on this topic. Move on, it happens.

No. Lol. Cooling anything other than the controller is pointless. You don’t get throttling from nand. I have the gigabyte x570 elite. That nvme cover does nothing. And unless you’re benchmarking the nvme I highly doubt you’re going to heat up the controller enough to notice it. So yup. I agree. You’re wrong. Let’s move on.

Man, they are benchmarking the whole SSD. I actually sent you the graph. The SSDs go over 80C and then throttle. Not all of them, but enough of them to be a real problem. The NVMe covers actually work in reducing the temperature, that's also in the graph. You are wrong and you seem to have no knowledge about this topic at all, you really should not be so confident.

Read and learn! And then accept when an initial assumption turns out to be wrong.

It’s not an assumption. NAND does not throttle. The controller does. Unless you run the SSD constantly like in a benchmark you are unlikely to heat the controller up to make it throttle. The airflow of a case is enough to keep an nvme within limits that everyday usage is not going to be hindered in anyway shape or form. You don’t need a heat sink. Linking to a constant load benchmark doesn’t change that. You’re wrong.

I do not understand how you can still think that after my explanation and after looking at the graph I sent you. One very last try - though I assume in the best case it's for potential other readers.

Go to https://www.computerbase.de/2020-09/samsung-980-pro-ssd-test.... look at the graph. You see that a bunch of them go to the 80C line or hover above. All of them throttle (what you said does not happen). In that graph are shown, going above the limit:

1. FireCuda 520 1TB

2. Patriot Viper VP4100 1TB

3. Samsung 970 Evo 1TB

4. WD Black SN750 1TB (+ the same one with a cooler)

This is only a small part of the market of course, but it goes to show that the throttling is a real thing that happens with multiple models.

Then you had a moving goalpost there, that those SSDs do not throttle under realistic workloads. However, this is a sequential read that's only 5 minutes long. Hardly unrealistic. The hour long constant load benchmark is a different graph, however, constant load is also realistic if it's longer than 5 minutes.

If you activate the other chart modes you see the measured performance, which shows the drops linked to the too high temperature, and that they did the same thing for write performance.

You can counteract this with a lot of targeted airflow and/or a heatsink, the heatsink will at least help move the throttling to a later moment. Gamersnexus had a very impressive demonstration of this, one where they did get this wrong: They had an article about a MSI SSD heatsink where they claimed it did not help (so the SSD did throttle! Again something you said does never happen), where it then turned out that it did not work only because their applied temperature sensors (glued them to the heatsink), and IIRC they also missed the higher performance they got regardless. GN often gets it right, stuff like that happens, but it made this one memorable and highlighted the positive effect of these heatsink coolers.

I'm into this topic professionally for years now. I'm not wrong here. If you can't take my word for it, look at professional SSD reviews, they have covered this also for years now.

And sure: There are scenarios where this does not matter. Gaming. Browsing. But: In those workloads there is no significant difference to a SATA SSD anyway. These NVMe SSDs are only interesting if you have large (and thus: long) file transfers. This is what they have to get right (and some do, but not all of them).

It’s like you’re not even reading what I’m saying. So I’ll just end it here. You’re wrong.

I'm not wrong, you are.

By the way, by repeating that I'm wrong and by starting with a straight "No", by always commenting without reasoning and politeness, you made sure that I will correct you - and that I'm not buying into your strange attempts to correct your statements to something that is correctish. They don't work anyway, these SSDs throttle.

You should change your tone around here.

> They don't work anyway, these SSDs throttle.

But you don't know what causes the throttling. Its stupid to shove a heatsink on nand. It does not help. Not a single bit. Period. Under any normal daily usage, or even if you had a workstation, you're not going to be reading/writing so constantly frequently that you're ever going to cause the controller to heat up and cause throttling. If you experience any excessive heat. You have bigger issues in your case. Period. Your only proof of throttling is benchmarks running constant read/writes over a period of time. This is not real world usage and doesn't make it necessary to go out and start shoving heatsinks on every single nvme drive. If that was the case then all the laptops which have space between the nvme and the case, or motherboards which lack a 'heatshield' like the gigabyte board you linked to, would have throttling issues. Which they don't.

> You should change your tone around here.

So now you're threatening me?


Anyway I'm done, not gonna sit here an argue anymore.

How is the lifetime of a SSD run around 70° vs the same SSD with a slightly bigger heatsink that runs at 60°?

I would run some tests though.

There are all kinds of vendors / models, who knows what kind of throttling they use?

The point being let the user decide.

Having a fast machine that can sustain throughput and I/O is a perfectly rational desire, and for some of us, need.

If you do a lot of video work, daily!

Every time you recompile. Many times per day.

That must be one fast compiler.

Do your compiles write multiple gigabytes of data? Within seconds?

If you're running multithreaded build jobs with ninja and have many cores then maybe?

Unless you compile multi-gigabyte targets, all writes will likely fit in a ram cache and thus cannot be a real bottleneck. That is assuming your compiler farm can read and compile at GB/s level, which is pretty unrealistic.

To test that, one can try it with ramdisk first, before getting an expensive ssd.

And that is something else that is alien to laptops. Best laptop I could find (for when I am away from my desktop) is 8c16t, that makes a massive difference for compilation.

Is that actually true anymore?

I mean, hardware wise they are not much faster, but cooling is a different story.

> I mean, hardware wise they are not much faster, but cooling is a different story.

The highest spec macbook comes with a 9980HK and starts at 2800 $. A 3900X has approximately twice the performance in multi-threaded workloads and you can easily build an entire quiet workstation with it for less than 1000 $. Half the performance, thrice the price. Great deal.

Yes, there are also "laptops" with a 3900X in them. But even those still have lower performance than a desktop with a 3900X because of thermals.

The way I work is I have two desktops, one at work, one at home. I used to also have a laptop but when it died I bought a large tablet.

There are obviously many ways to do this comparison, but going off Wikipedia's pricing for most recent Intel processors. Their highest end mobile processor is currently the i7-1185G7 which apparently retails for $426. Let's compare it with the closest desktop processor to that price, the i9-10900 ($438). Cores (Threads): 4(8) vs. 10(20). Base Freq: 3.0ghz (At 28w TDP) vs. 2.8ghz. Max All Core Turbo: 4.3ghz vs. 4.8ghz

Specs can never tell the true story, but it's clear that the mobile processor is going to be much slower for anything remotely processor intensive, and probably much more than twice as slow for anything making good use of multithreading.

Having had to go back and forth between a laptop and a desktop for a processor intensive application (AutoCAD) the difference was painful.

Passmark and Geekbench are decent CPU benchmarks for general performance and indeed both show about a 2X multi-threaded difference:

* https://www.cpubenchmark.net/compare/Intel-i7-1185G7-vs-Inte...

* https://browser.geekbench.com/v5/cpu/compare/4354735?baselin...

These are short tests too, so would be a best case. In real life, laptop performance is probably significantly worse due to thermal throttling.

You also have to watch out for the powersupply of the laptop. Some companies give you a 70-90 W even though your computer needs 120 W at high load, counting on the battery giving the extra juice for the short bursts. If you do long processor intensive work, the computer just might shut down on you or if you are lucky, start throttling.

Yeah, this seems to be an unfortunate recent trend in some gaming laptops, presumably in a bid to save some weight and/or cost, but luckily, it still seems rare enough that any time it happens, the manufacturers still get called out on it in reviews. Usually, the power drain is when CPU+GPU are maxed out, not one or the other. I suppose if you did manage to get into a situation where this was an issue, you could find a bigger power supply. Up to about 180W these tend to be common and reasonably priced, then size and weight start going up dramatically.

While we're mentioning other minor gotchas, another one is memory latency and bandwidth. While desktop systems commonly have XMP and 1.35V support, very few laptops do (typically running at JEDEC timings at 1.2V). While there's diminishing returns, the difference between JEDEC 2933 CL21 or 3200 CL22 and say 3800 CL16 can actually be noticeable in certain workloads and is often effectively "free" (one-click in the BIOS) extra performance on the desktops.

A MacBook Pro can have an i9 and 8 cores, isn't that better than the i7-1185G7?

MacBooks have terrible thermals. They will thermal throttle before most laptops, much less even compared to a desktop.

Also, laptops generally have CPUs that pull 15 watts. Whereas desktops have CPUs that can pull 95 watts or higher (sometimes up to 150). The difference is astounding.

The 15/16" MBPs have a 45W CPU TDP; they can run CPU continuously at at least 45W as long as your ambient temperature is normal-ish and the airflow isn't obstructed, and can do 60W+ if thermals are cooperative.

See: https://evanmccann.net/blog/2020/5/13-inch-macbook-pro-revie...

I guess you haven't tried connecting to external monitor during that.

40, 100, 29 in pmset -g thermlog instantly.

Ooh, you're right, I retract. A few minutes for me, though, not "instantly".

Not necessarily. Intel is still putting out i3's with better performance than their i5 or i9 models. It's all about the specs, not the model number.

Depends on what the workload is.

CAD, for example, barring new geometry work in progress now, is single threaded.

People working on high surface count models want these things:

Big, fat, fast cache

Sustained sequential compute performance

Sustained I/O

GPU that focuses on geometry and precision. This is not generally an issue today, but can be on laptops.

Desktop machines with active cooling are where it is at.

i3/i5/i7/i9 aren’t actually different processors, they make a handful of desktop/laptop/server... variants for each generation of Core architecture CPU and differentiate down the line by binning and restrictions added at time of production. So mobile i5 might have nothing to do with desktop i5, or i7 and Xeon can be taken from the same batch.

I have a >3 year old GPU that's still faster than any mobile GPU. I have been having 64 GB RAM in my desktop for ... 5 years now. Even in the summer my PC is completely quiet, even under heavy load. (Both the GPU and the CPU are water cooled with stock all-in-one coolers.)

Desktops are great.

Not to mention if you have a catastrophic hardware failure, all you have to do is replace the single part that failed and keep going.

To be fair many parts can be replaced on laptops as well. I have replaced ram, wireless cards, hard drives in laptops.

My water cooler is noisy at the fan end. How do you evade that?

If your fans are noisy buy better fans. We had some corsair fans that came with the AIO at work, replaced them with noctuas and the computer went from mildly annoying to dead silent.

Though with water cooling you might also have a lot of pump noise, especially if the radiator is mounted incorrectly.

If your fans are noisy, buy BIGGER fans.

The larger the diameter of a fan, the lower the RPM it can spin at to move the same amount of air (same cooling capacity) as a small fan. Provided you can put the air where it's needed (e.g. a 1 foot fan can't "focus" air onto a 6 inch radiator) a larger fan will just about always be quieter and more efficient.

Oh, and having a water cooled PC with the radiator and fan inside the PC itself is silly. If you run the pipes outside or into your basement, your PC is almost completely silent, plus the cooling capacity will usually be much, much higher, because not having to cram fans and a radiator into a small enclosure lets you make them bigger and more efficient.

Your parent commenter is talking about AIOs, which are premade water cooling systems. Fixed radiator, hard connected to a pump. Nothing you can route out of your PC.

And historically, bigger case fans have been problematic, those 200mm fans they tried to introduce some years ago. Bad static pressure if I recall correctly?

Also, I wouldn't call having a radiator and fan inside the PC silly. The case eats a lot of the noise already, it's the easy and the common setup, and good AIOs are quiet and cool well. But maybe you just wanted to share a cool big water cooling setup with everything noisy routed into the basement ;)

>Nothing you can route out of your PC.

The hoses aren't welded steel, you know.

Best way I found to reduce pump noise is to insulate it.

In my case I have a DDC style pump, and its very quiet after I got a car wash sponge and cut a square hole in it and put the pump inside. It looks ghetto but its inside a case so who cares.

At first I was worried about heat, but its lasted 10 years so far.

You can minimize noise with oversized radiator area and low fan rpm along with good flow/noise ratio fans like noctuas notoriously good 120mm design. You can compensate in one area for another, i.e. by having such a gigantic radiator that fans are hardly needed. Quiet setups cost extra, for sure.

I heard a story about a DIY PC that did nothing but circulate water through the cpu cooler from a fish tank; the tank was big enough to dissipate heat through evaporation and other means, only occasionally needing a top off.

I actually mounted an automotive transmission cooler to the outside of my PC and made it part of the watercooling loop, because it was inexpensive and large. There are no fans on it, but it still reduces the work the standard pc cooling radiator with the fans on it needs to do.

This will be true for a long time - the design constraints are so totally different it would be foolish to use the same design in desktop and laptop systems.

The most limiting thing is TDP, which in the highest performance laptop processors is still capped at 45W, whereas a maxed out desktop processor can draw 100W or more.

See these tables for i9, for example, compare Coffee-Lake-S (Desktop) with Coffee-Lake-H (Laptop) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_Core_i9_processo...

> The most limiting thing is TDP, which in the highest performance laptop processors is still capped at 45W, whereas a maxed out desktop processor can draw 100W or more.

Maybe a small desktop. My desktop processor is 180W TDP (Threadripper 1950x), while some others are 250W TDP. You can also get a dual-socket workstation, for 2x CPUs (both pulling 200W each).

Thermals and power are significantly higher on desktops, it ain't even funny. Laptops win in power-efficiency, but absolute performance is always going to be a Desktop.

My desktop very rarely gets loud since I have made sure to choose a good airflow case and top of the line air cooler.

My Macbook laptop, on the other hand, sounds like a jet everytime I run yarn install.

So yes, desktops have higher thermals. But it handles it so much better than a laptop that it almost becomes irrelevant.

My workstation has a 3990x in it. It may not be the fastest single threaded machine out there but there isn't a laptop available right now with 64 cores (128 with hyperthreading if that supports your workload). As a c++ developer, compilation speed is p0 to me and there isn't a laptop that comes even close.

The trend in laptops has been for longer battery life and less heat. Since there haven't been any major breakthroughs in battery technology or mobile processor power (at least from Intel), this means lower power for processors and generally lower performance in general. Almost all laptops are using ultra low voltage Intel chips. And even the ones that don't, except for high end gaming laptops, thermally throttle ALL the time.

As a result, your 10 year old desktop is probably 50-100% faster than the most expensive Macbook Pro or Thinkpad. It can be quite astonishing swapping to even an old desktop after using a laptop for a long time.

Eventually laptops will be so optimized for battery life, and display ads will be so aggressive, that you'll have to run chromium in the cloud and your thin client will be shut down the moment anyone accuses you of being a fascist. https://blog.cloudflare.com/browser-beta/

Don't go giving them any ideas.

This is hilarious!

I know you put the Intel disclaimer in there, but I just bought a laptop with an AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS and am loving it. It has me pretty hyped to get an AMD processor for the first time for my desktop when the 5900 launches in November. But the laptop chip has far exceeded my expectations.

I have to agree that the latest AMD Renoir processors are beasts - I have 4800H in a laptop that can sustain 54W TDP OOTB and CPU benchmarks are within spitting distance of my 3700X workstation. Amazing for a 1.5kg portable package.

I'm planning to drop in a 5950X upgrade in the workstation in a couple weeks as well. Looking forward to both the huge multi-threaded and IPC gains.

Which laptop is that?

Also, many laptops have non-replaceable batteries, and a significant percentage fail in 24-30 months.

FYI Lenovo and probably others have an option to limit max charge which will greatly extend battery life.

I have mine set to 80% and only set it to 100% if I know I'm going to be away from AC for a while.

Most laptops have replaceable batteries from my experience. Its just you have to grab a screwdriver and open them up first.

What example configuration machine from a decade ago can match (or beat) a current-gen maxed-out Thinkpad or Macbook Pro in raw performance? Those laptops are quite speedy compared to something from 2010

Slight exaggeration on my part. I was thinking of my old desktop which is about 6 years old - taking about half the time to compile a project compared to my brand new MBP.

Maxed out MacPro4,1 or equivalent HP workstation class PC

I mean it mostly depends on what you do no? But all I need is for my job is a terminal session open. A macbook from 2010 can (and does) do that fine for me. I don't need the 85% of the specs I never use and I suspect the same applies to the author.

not only is it still true, there's never been evidence it's not been true or that it's going away.

Time after time, as someone who's been working on his 10 year old desktop (with a replacement ssd + graphics card when the old one died), I meet devs and analysts using laptops who reason more or less: "well it says i7 and it says x GHz and it says ddr3/4 and it's got a gpu with the same marketing number, so laptops perform the same as desktops cause they have the same hardware in them don't they".

Clearly, what they really mean is "I've never worked with and compared with a desktop". I suppose one of the problems is that SOME of them that have 'used desktops' were actually using neutered VMs in a shared corporate environment that run really poorly and are pretty underspec'd in a shared environment.

But every time, it's actually been the case that not only is the desktop faster and cheaper, but things usually remained faster on an X year old desktop hardware vs more modern laptops for any serious workload.

Edit: and in case it needs to be said, I have both desktops and multiple portable devices in my household because the downside of desktops is clearly portability.

Yes. The same class desktop counter part (GPU/CPU) are generally faster than their laptop counter parts while remaining cheaper and more versatile

Use a $3,000 gaming laptop. I guarantee it'll stutter and throttle and perfom less well than a same-gen $1,000 PC.

More expensive, less performant, and less serviceable with a suite of proprietary bloatware on top.

I usually build a desktop for $4-500, because I reuse parts from the older one, and don't need a gamer graphics card. I blow the money on the mobo, CPU, and lots of ram.

As a gamer I've fallen into upgrading my CPU/mobo/ram and GPU in an alternating fashion every 2ish years.

I might break the pattern this year though, I got a 3900x last year around launch and moved my 4670k to a home server. I've been pretty impressed with the 3900x while the 4670k has been maxing out all cores in the server for some tasks so was considering buying a second 3900X(T) to replace the 4670k again. But with the rumours about the 5900X, I might end up putting the 5900X in my desktop at the same time as a 3000 series GPU and moving the 3900x to my home server.

Same, I saved my ssd/hdd, gpu and case and built a ryzen 3700x with 16gb of ram for less than 400 dollars altogether. My 1k USD laptop has half of that computing power, easily.

My Aero 15 would never throttle, with a 7700HQ + 1060. There was a 700mhz penalty in that generation (3.5ghz vs 4.2ghz for the 7700k), but I kept it pegged for hours and it was rock solid.

Most laptop cooling is awful, but you can certainly find laptops that are well built if you look for it.

Not sure you should weigh bloatware, either. You can trivially install a fresh Windows or Linux and you have to on a custom built PC anyway. If you buy a premade PC, it probably comes with the same crap.

For what it's worth, I switched to a desktop once the core race heated up - now I've got a 12 core 3900X.

I can't believe how much faster it is when it's using all the cores. Night and day. Highly recommended. And 12 cores is barely scratching the surface of the crazy workstations you can build these days.

For tasks 4 threads and less, it would be a bit faster than a current gen Intel laptop chip, but I don't think it would have been worth the portability penalty to me personally if that's all I did with it.

You answered your own question: CPUs are throttled down when there is too much heat. That happens all the time in a laptop. A desktop with enough air flow never has that problem (unless overclocked).

It depends on your definition of throttled. A CPU that was totally unthrottled would just sit at its boost clock under sustained load, but even desktop CPUs can't manage that, dropping to their base if too much heat is generated. Of course, there are laptops that can't even sustain the base clocks, but some have enough cooling to match that.

The base clock rate is typically defined as the sustainable speed. Intel literally calls Turbo Boost "algorithmic overclocking".

The problem is this base clock speed is given by the CPU manufacturer not the laptop maker. And Intel wouldn't know what kind of laptop it's getting crammed into. So careful definitions don't really help. Desktops are already big clunky things that have to be kept plugged in, I can trust them a lot more to deliver the CPU's promised performance. Whereas laptops are notoriously making compromises because customers tend to be very unrealistic about noise, battery life, etc.

Desktop CPUs will do that with a big heatsink - mine is noctua nh-14, and it weighs more than most laptops, at 1.5kg

The amount of raw power you can drive will "always" be contingent upon your ability to dissipate heat. And the second law of thermodynamics being what it is, that ability is relative to the space you have (assuming you're using similar cooling technologies in both cases).

Laptops being power-conscious, they're usually much closer to the point of maximum efficiency on the power curve. In that sense you get better performance per watt. But that's negated by the increased front cost.

20/30% more is much faster (just check desktop/notebook results at https://www.cpubenchmark.net/ to name one)

AFAIK mobile CPUs max out at 8 physical cores, whereas you can get 16 at the higher end of mainstream in desktops, and up to 64 in the enthusiast segment. Core count isn't the whole story, obviously, but an important consideration for many applications.

One thing where multicore pays off for me is when running the D test suite.

Yes, they are. It was surprising to me how much faster a desktop was.

Yes. You only need to look at the power draw of mid to high end desktop CPUs to realize that’s not feasible to power or cool on a laptop.

Now heat and power consumption is the bottleneck of laptop performance. Performance laptops uses same CPU silicon to desktop (even different SKU, especially Intel) but their performance is limited.

I didn't see any specific numbers in reply to your comment, so I just want to point out that base clock Ghz for Intel and AMD is much higher for desktop CPUs than laptops. For your average click-read cycle, this feels better.

At full load, it depends on the heat dissipation; Dell's Precision 7XX0 dissipates heat well enough to keep the CPUs from throttling, but the 5XX0 does not.

Which form factor of the Dell's 7XX0 are you talking about?

The 7550 is a 15” laptop.

I've worked on a laptop for the past decade but I use a dedicated keyboard, mouse almost exclusively and a large 34'' monitor (2x24 previously).

Advantages of using a laptop :

- portability - I work as a consultant and I need to work on premises occasionally - if I had to switch between desktop/laptop it would be too cumbersome

- standalone when you need it - when I travel or am on vacation I usually need to do a few hours of work - I won't lug my full setup but I'm 100% ready on the go

- can develop for OSX/iOS with MBP

Disadvantages :

- thermals - I use a fully loaded 2018 i9 MBP and I have to undrvolt/disable turbo boost in office because the laptop hits full fan speed with a VM + IDE running and people start turning heads

- lower performance compared to desktop equivalent and especially compared to best available workstation

I'm hoping VS code and remote development setups (either running VSCode in the browser hosted on my desktop or remote tools) get sufficiently good that I can get a lightweight ARM Mac and then I SSH to my home workstation - feels like the ideal solution if the tooling gets there

Best of both worlds.

My laptop only runs Office 365 for email, calendar, and the occasional word doc. It also runs Slack and a browser for zoom meetings as access to Jira/Bugzilla web interface.

Oh, and RDP into XFCE on Ubuntu on the desktop that runs as a server.

Plus the server is cabled up to development platforms (serial ports, remote power, GPIO, JTAG, USB). So it cannot move, and even if it were a laptop, it could not move.

I don't require the laptop to be upgradeable or powerful, it is just the UI into the rest of the system.

It currently sits here with the lid closed cabled to a 27 inch display.

On the topic of undervolting, I run Bootcamp with a 2019 MBP 16 (i9) and it cannot play games like Rocket League without discharging despite being plugged into a 100W adapter. I have even tried disabling Turbo Boost. Incredibly disappointing.

Yeah Intel mobile CPUs have been incredibly underwhelming in terms of efficiency and these premium portables are cramming overpowered HW into inadequate thermal/power solutions - Apple isn't the only one at fault here.

In the Windows land the only hope seems to be AMD while Apple has me hoping for the A14 performance.

- When you're out of steam you can sit on the sofa and write emails.

There was a time when people out of steam would take a break!

It was me on Friday. The emails were the mandatory stuff I couldn't escape, then I took time off.

Back in my day, time didn't exist!

15 inch MBP is too bulky and too hot for this - this is why I'd like to get a smaller ARM based device and go client/server.

Ideally Apple would push out a 2in1 with touch but they are set on pushing iOS for touch - which is just too limited for all intents and purposes. I would gladly buy a premium Lenovo 2in1 or some Ryzen 5xxx series ultra portable windows laptop (they are much better on thermals from what I've seen) but I still need a OSX client from time to time unfortunately. There's just no flexibility with Apple ecosystem - you either fit into their intended use cases or you're stuck with suboptimal tradeoffs.

I'd like to get a smaller ARM based device and go client/server

I'd like to be more client-server these days too, using whatever device is convenient at the time but storing my data centrally so all my devices can access it, it's all systematically secured and backed up, I can also access it remotely via VPN, etc.

The key thing, though, is that I want it to be my server, not someone else's that I don't control and have to keep paying for.

Yep - I plan to build a Ryzen workstation and SSH into it if I find a satisfactory client device.

I've ended up splitting the difference with my desktop and my surface go. The surface go is portable and easy to bring around, the desktop has the power, if I need it on the surface I just remote in to the desktop. My laptop (a Dell XPS), basically now only exists for flights/abroad trips where I might need more power than the surface go but reliable connectivity is not guaranteed. Which means it hasn't been used this year

Yeah this was an option I was considering as well - surface line is really good as well - but I would prefer a Ryzen machine if I went for a Windows device, they seemed to have nailed power efficiency in the 4 series and 5 should improve on that.

Re: Thermals

Check out iStat, it gives you the ability to set a fan curve and that has helped quite a bit with my laptops Thermals. I found the highest rpm I could run without hearing the fans and set the two lowest points in the curve to keep it at/under that point and I almost never hear my fans anymore. Only time I really hear them now is when something is compiling and even then it's much more bearable since I keep the highest rpm limited to 80/85%.

Thanks but I tried this a long time ago - it does help with random tasks yoyoing the fans (which was extremely annoying) but running a device emulator + Android studio and a build service sends the laptop in to 747 mode - the only way I found to solve this is use Volta and disable turbo boost (I'm not sure if under-volt is working properly sometimes it seems to help sometimes it doesn't - I haven't actually measured)

> 1. I like big, big monitors. 2. I prefer a full size keyboard. 3. I prefer a separate mouse.

You can have these with a laptop too. At home I use my laptop with an external screen, keyboard, mouse (the latter two are wireless), because it's much more comfortable.

It's hard to find a full size bluetooth keyboard. I think I went through every keyboard on Amazon and found only one. If you use a USB wireless keyboard, well, there goes one of the two USB slots on the laptop.

It's not just the monitor being big, I want lots and lots of pixels. I'm currently running 3840*2160, and have a second monitor attached set up in portrait mode (so I can display a manual page while I work on the other one).

Of course, I'd get an even bigger monitor with more pixels if they didn't cost so dang much :-) How big, you ask? A wall size retina display! I've wanted one for 40 years.

> It's hard to find a full size bluetooth keyboard.

Microsoft make at least two, the Surface Keyboard [1] and the Ergonomic version [2]. I own several of the standard ones, and they're the best-made keyboards I've ever owned (and the only ones my joints can currently cope with), but the fact that they're Bluetooth instead of USB drives me insane. I'd pay extra for a wired version that just instantly sends the keystroke every time instead of going to sleep after a while (while it's awake it's instant, it just wants to save battery after being idle).

[1] https://www.microsoft.com/en-US/p/surface-keyboard/8r3rqvvfl...

[2] https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/surface-ergonomic-keyboard...

I've use the Surface Ergonomic keyboard as my daily driver, and agree it is great. My only complaint is the indicator lights on Caps and Fn are not bright enough.

If you really want a dongle the previous Sculpt Ergonomic has a dongle but the Num Pad is separate :-/ It doesn't have the delay you talk about, and has much better battery life than the Surface version (had it for three years and have't changed them yet).


I plug my full sized USB keyboard into my monitor, along with my yubikey and wireless mouse dongle -- one USB C cord connects it all to my laptop.

edit: two monitors is still a pain, though.

This is the dream setup. When you’ve got lots of USB-C devices, plugging in one cable and connecting to everything feels great.

I’ve got a USB-C dock hooked up to my TV too with a wireless KB/mouse combo connected into that, if I want to plug my laptop in on the couch.

Even works with your phone, if you've got one that supports it. Recent flagship Samsung phones with DeX do, but I'm really holding out for more external monitor support in Phosh so I can plug in a Librem 5 like this.

I really wanted to do this, but then got screwed over by HP every step of the way. My laptop has a full-sized HDMI port and I figured it wouldn't be able to work alongside the one over Type-C, but as it turns out, it doesn't work over Type-C at all! It also, despite supposedly supporting Thunderbolt, which includes charging in the spec, does not charge over Type-C (despite many of their other models supporting both fast charging over barrel jack and standard charging over Type-C).

If you are on Windows, some USB-C hub allow to have two external display (and not mirror ones, for three different display). Not compatible with OSX though.

2 monitors are easy if your laptop has Display Port and you use daisy chaining, you can have 4 full HD monitors from a single DP 1.2 port. I did that with the previous laptop, the new one has HDMI and USB-C with extended mode supporting DP, so I can link probably 5 FHD monitors in total.

I don't see a lack of USB ports as a complete dealbreaker for using a laptop. USB hubs work fine to attach large numbers of lower-speed USB devices to a laptop.

Not any one thing is a dealbreaker. It's the combination.

Once the laptop is festooned with hubs, external drives, cables everywhere, might as well just buy a desktop.

I think it just comes down to how important you find the convenience of using the same machine when you're at your desk and when you're not.

I used an external monitor, keyboard and mouse when at the desk, even when I only owned a laptop. But I also use the laptop a lot on the couch, not just for traveling - so I wondered if I would find it annoying to have a separate desktop machine.

So far it's been well worth it. The desktop performance is much better (especially for gaming) and Dropbox, git, Chrome sync and VS Code sync make having multiple machines relatively painless.

Edit: I see in previous comments you were looking for a full sized bluetooth keyboard. I recently got a Logitech G915 [0] and I'm pretty happy with it. Expensive though.

[0] - https://www.logitechg.com/en-eu/products/gaming-keyboards/g9...

I cannot type unless I'm sitting in a chair at my desk. Trying to type on the sofa or in bed means my hands are at all the wrong angles and touch typing completely fails me. (I wrote this not looking at the keyboard at all.)

The couch is fine for reading a tablet.

For me the trick when moving back and forth between the office and home was to have an external drive with everything on it and carry it back and forth. A better approach is probably remote desktop or remote login.

I travel with a cheap laptop loaded with only what I anticipate needing on the trip. It eases my mind to not worry too much about having it stolen, lost, or smashed.

I've gotten used to the convenience of a laptop, but I'm never happy with them. Now that I'm working remotely, the lappy just doesn't cut it. But I want to veg on the couch with my laptop once and a while. My solution is to use my older laptop as a thin client for my desktop.

I tried that (using Windows Remote Desktop) but the latency was just high enough to be annoying. What do you use?

Not OP, but I use Parsec to do things remotely on my desktop from my laptop. Latency and frame rate are far, far better than VNC or RDP


Well... tbh I'm still working on the build. But I don't do windows and I don't play FPS or anything where latency would be super important. I use VNC across town to my office and that's generally good enough... but we'll see. I had small hopes that "laptop as linux thin client" would have an easy PNP solution by now, but my research indicates that this still isn't the case. Definitely open to suggestions.

It's been a bit since I had a second device to try it with, but my experienced with Windows Remote Desktop have been less of a "this would be hard to game with" lag and more a "the delay in my mouse movement is making my head hurt" lag.

That is weird. For me the mouse cursor is always rendered locally, so feels as responsive as on the desktop itself.

Sure if I'm on a high latency link I might have to adjust to clicking taking a wee bit to register, but normally I don't have to adjust my usage.

Windows to Windows.

Linux. SSH. Command line.

I tried WRD too, with the same result.

My laptop is festooned with a hub. It covers power, peripherals, HDMI and networking. And that’s all I need. So really not very different to a desktop, except I can also pick it up and take it with me if I want.

Hub, keyboard, mouse, monitor. There's no festooning.

I have a few USB devices (a colour calibrator springs to mind right now) that insist on being in a directly attached USB port, and won't work even with a powered hub, or, in the case of my Surface laptop, a dock.

It's a dealbreaker for me.

> It's hard to find a full size bluetooth keyboard.

not only is that hard, it's hard to find a bluetooth keyboard that isn't laggy as heck and doesn't occasionally freeze for a second or five. Or just give up until you re-pair it.

Maybe one of the next 20 that I try...

> How big, you ask? A wall size retina display! I've wanted one for 40 years.

I have always thought, since Digital Research GEM, that the "desktop" in GUIs should be your desk's top. We're nearly there...

> it's hard to find a bluetooth keyboard that isn't laggy as heck and doesn't occasionally freeze for a second or five

Never had any issue like that with my full-size Apple Magic Keyboard. It Just Works™

This has been my experience, too. The full size Apple Magic Keyboard Works great with my MacBook Pro, no lag, no delays waking up, charge lasts weeks, plug it in with a lightning cable, and it charges while it works like as an USB HID keyboard, even works with my Raspberry Pi. The only challenge is that after about 5 years of daily use, a few of the keycaps are wearing down.

Bluetooth sucks for keyboards. Logitech has a proprietary wireless standard for their high end wireless keyboards and the difference is massive.

Just use a usb hub. I have all my accessories on the hub and then when I finish work I move the hub usb to my desktop so my kb/mouse/mic are all switched over.

> there goes one of the two USB slots on the laptop.

With Thunderbolt/USB-C hubs, this is easily fixed.

Connected to my 15" laptop, I have directly connected a 34", 24" and a portrait 24". Four displays total; two via DisplayPort, one via HDMI. Plus external BT mouse and keyboard. Then I have a powered Anker dock with eight external drives connected (photo and video for editing work).

At home, I have a similar setup but with a 27" colour-calibrated screen in place of the 34" curved.

When travelling, I use an unpowered four port dock which means I can connect five external drives without needing the powered dock and its power brick. The unpowered dock only struggles if I have more than a couple of platter drives (instead of SSD) connected.

Your desk must be large.

Are there even any decent BT keyboards at all off the shelf?

Matias' laptop pro ticked all the boxes for me (tenkeyless, full travel, damped ALPS-clone key switches, macOS layout/markings, clunky retro-inspired design, long battery life) and it really was fantastic (though the keys do have a tiny bit of play) but then one of the brightness keys stopped working. :( I'm still using it though.

Prior to that I used Apple keyboards which work fine but have low-travel chiclet-style keys which aren't as nice to type on (they are much quieter for office environments though.)

I have the Logitech MX Master Keys, although I use a receiver with it instead of Bluetooth which is also connected to my Logitech mouse. The keyboard is good for people who like the shallow press laptop like keyboards instead of a long travel mechanical keyboard. It's similar looking to a Magic Keyboard but the keys have dimples in them so it's more comfortable.

I love Filco’s. They make mechanical Bluetooth keyboards. They’re 60% (I think), which is certainly not for everyone. But I love mine so much!

Agreed. I spent 18 years working primarily on a laptop, and was happy with it. But then I gradually switched to a desktop for the last 7 year with tons of screen space (46" 4K plus 2 24" "wing" monitors. But for the last 6 months I've been working at home, and having my primary machine be able to move to and from the office easily, sounds pretty good what with the pandemic situation.

My setup now is a laptop with the USB-C docking station. So I plug in one USB-C cable and get:

30" external display, ErgoDox Ez, USB mouse, bigger speakers, 120W power, Mic for zoom calls.

That just sounds like a desktop with extra steps.

A desktop which you can take with you if needed.

With a docking station it’s not problem at all.

So a couple hundred dollars extra. For functionality that has existed since forever.

Except that you can take the laptop with you when you leave your desk.

Obviously there's a tradeoff, but the point is you can get many of the advantages of both fairly easily.

I love desktops, but I have to admit that it's pretty great having a built-in UPS. To get the equivalent for my desktop is an extra $200+ and a big honking box that apparently will only last for 30 minutes when the power goes out.

The power goes out for a day, sometimes days, every year in my neighborhood when the wind blows. Finally fed up, I recently had a generator installed that attaches to the natural gas line.

I know that purchase was effective, because a week after it was installed there was a big storm and power went out everywhere except my neighborhood. Just having a generator successfully wards off power failure, you never have to actually turn it on.

I submit this is objective proof that I am living in a simulation and none of you exist, you're just artifacts of the simulation.

> Just having a generator successfully wards off power failure, you never have to actually turn it on.

Beware, you need to regularly maintain it too (hopefully it does a weekly starter test, and it probably needs yearly oil changes). I didn't check mine, and found the battery charger had failed at about 1 am when my wife had a flight out that morning. That was fun.

(We don't have everything on the generator, so it's not as effective as yours, our utility wiring is actually pretty fragile, and our well pump is one of the things not on the generator, buying a portable genrator for that seems to have helped, but I did have to roll it out a week ago)

Mine needs to be started once a month and the oil changed every year. I think I can handle that :-)

It would have cost twice as much to run everything with the generator, and that isn't really necessary, so it's a smaller one.

I worried about the battery being dead and no way to hand crank the generator, so I made sure that the generator could be started from a car battery or one of those zap-o-matic car jumpstarters. (I bought one of those last year, and had occasion to try it out on my stone dead car battery last month - it worked great!)

You understand Murphy's law, and other laws of the universe well!

Not only do I control the weather, but the stock market, too. If I buy a stock, it goes down. If I sell it, it goes up.

Every time.

Fortunately, after about 6 weeks or so, the market forgets I did a transaction, and things start moving my way. I'm forced to be a long term investor.

Now, if only you would let the rest of us know before you buy or sell stock ;-)

waiterbright says>" If I buy a stock, it goes down. If I sell it, it goes up."?

Vijay, is that you?

Whenever I'm waiting on someone, say to arrive at my place before we go to some event together, I start doing something else. I'll start doing dishes, playing a game. Within 60 seconds they show up. #GameTheSystem.

> I recently had a generator installed that attaches to the natural gas line.

Hmm. Is this something I can buy at Home Depot or something?

That's great feature. Even powerful gaming laptop, it can run dozens of minutes that's superior than UPS.

Another option is solar panels + big battery.


Sometimes I just want to move the plug from this socket to that socket. Sometimes just to make room for another wallwart.

Not sure what this means. FWIW, I'm in the UK, and short brown-outs are not uncommon if, for example, the national grid is adapting to a failure somewhere during severe weather. For a while when there was a recurring equipment failure a year or two back, my whole area had several full power cuts, even lasting for multiple hours once or twice, until they finally figured out the root cause and fixed it.

The UPSes we have all our key equipment running on have been some of the best tech investments we've ever made, even if they did cumulatively cost over £1,000.

I’m from Denmark and when power went out I was television worthy news. I don’t actually recall it happening more than once. I never experienced a power loss in the five years I lived in France. Now I’m in silicon valley, the tech hub of the world - with 3rd world internet and power that goes out every time the wind blows.

Just reporting facts.

There was a ~45 minute power cut in the centre of Copenhagen last month, starting at about 1:30am. There was another (several hours) in 2018, which I think is the one that made the news. (I was at home, awake, for both.) They're a bit more common than you remember, but I suspect most of these Tweets are affecting fairly small areas, e.g. construction work cutting cables etc: https://twitter.com/radiuselnet

I have some servers in Copenhagen, and from their logs they've lost mains power about every 2-3 years. They have a UPS, but I certainly don't bother for a desktop computer.

I'm from Jutland which might be part of the explanation. Also, I left 20 years ago.

I'm not sure what you mean by "most of these Tweets"; I'm reporting on my experience living in Silicon Valley, California, where power goes out a couple of times a month on avg.

I have all servers etc on UPSes but wish I could find bigger UPSes as most can only hold up about 1 hour which often isn't enough.

tripplite and apc will happily sell you UPSes that will use external battery packs, which is the only way you’re going to get an hour.

until you switch to external batteries, they keep increasing the inverter size, which is unnecessary for your use case.

you could also just buy chargers, batteries and inverters separately and wire them together.

I'll go look again, but last I did I didn't find much [affordable]. I do have an (no longer in production?) APC Smart UPS which can be extended with an external battery, alas vastly overpriced.

Of note, if various online resources are to be believed, you can't just hack and extend the battery capacity for longer run-times as they likely aren't rated for the corresponding higher thermal load.

> alas vastly overpriced.

they're not cheap, but i've bought cheaper and that stuff costs even more in the end.

power electronics that are safe and reliable costs.

> you can't just hack and extend the battery capacity for longer run-times as they likely aren't rated for the corresponding higher thermal load.

thermal load... of batteries?

i'd expect you'd confuse the microcontroller in the UPS. more batteries will require longer to bring up to voltage than it expects, which implies something is wrong. further all of the time remaining estimations it presents will be wrong.

[Following your advise I did find some Tripp-Lite that are almost reasonable]

Thermals referred to the power electronics which do get hot. Yes certainly better to get equipment designed for it rather than risk burning down the house.

California is not like the rest of the US, though. I’ve never lost power except during extreme weather events (hurricanes, intense tree-felling storms, etc).

You’re right about the internet, though. It’s a monopolized system here, and the anticompetitive nature of it means it sucks across the entire country.

I'm in London for the best part of a decade, and haven't ever had a power cut at home, but a few years ago we had a brief brownout in the office (monitors and lights turned off, but servers and desktops carried on running).

I guess YMMV... but it's not something I've personally had to worry about, and won't do anything about it unless the electricity supply gets significantly less reliable. They are saying that the move to renewables might make the grid less stable over the next few years though, so worth thinking about perhaps.

Frankly, I find nowadays I can't do much without an internet connection anyway... Maybe we should put ~5 second batteries into desktops just to sync disks and power off safely.

People who live in low-density rural areas almost anywhere will occasionally have power outages because branches and other things picked up by the wind will hit overhead HV lines and rural areas are often served by a single radial HV feeder.

In a 240V system, that feeder will typically feed one or more pad-mounted distribution substations which feed properties and in very rural areas a number of pole-mounted smaller distribution transformers.

In a 110V system, many more properties are fed from pole-mounted transformers (because you want to minimise length of 110V runs due to resistance losses and you therefore do not want the extensive LV mains used in a 240V system.

In general, the US has longer lengths of vulnerable HV lines but fewer of them are radials (in other words, more US HV runs between two HV/EHV subs and can therefore be sectionalised and run from either end). Therefore an HV fault is more common in the US but it is less likely to take out as many people for as long.

In this case though, it scarcely matters since either system is likely to have properties connected to only a single HV line which comes off as a spur from an EHV/HV substation. These HV lines are often on poles in rural areas and therefore vulnerable to damage in heavy weather. This happens less in urban areas because HV lines tend to be buried there. In The Netherlands which is one extreme, everything under 50kV is buried but NL is a very dense country.

There is no point comparing your experience of power cuts in Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen, vs Chicago or NYC because power cuts are quite rare in all of these places. If you live in the English Lake District in a small village or in a small town in a rural area of the US, you are likely to have experienced power cuts. Performance on continuity of service measures like TIEPI varies much more within countries than between them.

> Not sure what this means. FWIW, I'm in the UK, and short brown-outs are not uncommon if, for example, the national grid is adapting to a failure somewhere during severe weather.

I am from Germany. The latest wide-scale power failure I can think of was 2007. I remember another shorter one in Bremen which must have been around ten years ago. They happen really rarely here, in spite of all that FUD that wind and solar energy makes the power supply unreliable.

1-7 can be solved with a good dock. This allows you to still use your main machine as a portable machine on the go.

I do agree with the other items, especially number 10. It's the one big thing I miss from having a desktop.

There's no shortage of reasons that make desktops better. But the few advantages of more mobile devices outweigh the benefits of desktops for most users.

I understand. I also have a laptop for traveling, and carry a separate keyboard and mouse with it in my luggage. But every time I use it, I long for my desktop.

I also bought a chromebook just for fun for $150 from the pawn shop. I have a "build farm" of various computers with different operating systems in the basement for use when there's a problem with one of the D targets, but using putty to remotely access them.

This 100% describes me. Desktops are better in every conceivable way, except for the fact that I do most of my computing outside of the office while sitting in my living room with my family. Sure I'm SSHing into a server downstairs a lot, but I'm not willing to hide from my family just because I want to play a game or work on a side project while socializing.

Real work happens here at my desk. The same boring static location with a controlled enviroment with little input from the outside world.

Laptops are for shallow work, not much else.

> Laptops are for shallow work, not much else

For you. I get all my work done a laptop and have been for a decade.

That's what I like about a desktop PC as well. It gives computer-based activities a designated physical place, and therefore the time I spend at the computer is more deliberate.

There's a middle ground, where one buys a small form factor desktop (SFF, NUC, or a "Mini PC" like the ASUS PN50), and uses USB3/Thunderbolt/NAS for extensions/eGPU/extra storage.

This keeps most of the advantages (the processor is weaker on the smaller form factor thanks to the cooling requirements), while also keeping some size, mobility and power-saving benefits.

I got into this because I got tired of opening up the large cases, moving to a smaller form factor and external devices was much easier. I don't care for working on the move, and every place I'm likely to ever want to use the computer at will have spare monitors/keyboards/mice.

>I prefer a full size keyboard.

Also every laptop has a different - stupid - keyboard layout.

A year or so ago I spent probably 2 months to try and find a keyboard that had the layout I wanted.

Also when pressing Ctrl+F4 I use the outside of my hand to press Ctrl, then my index finger for F4. That means that the F4 key needs to be over or to the left of the #5 key, or else I can't reach.

'Fn' on the bottom left and 'Ctrl' to the right of it. ARGH!

This is the one big downside of Thinkpads. They're fantastic otherwise, but what kind of monster puts Fn to the left of Ctrl?

I hate when ThinkPad lovers point out that it can be remapped in BIOS... it's not the same thing! The width of the keys is different and at least in my sporadic use of colleagues' ThinkPads, it's been a major pain point.

ASUS: let me place the power button where the delete button should be placed!

Some PC laptop manufacturers insist on adding the damn numpad to the keyboard.

This makes the whole keyboard lopsided, rendering the rightmost quarter completely useless. Don't get why they would do that.

Let the 15 people in the world who _need_ the numpad for data entry use an external one.

Also because of 8 (I can replace/alter parts of the machine without buying a new one.) desktops are much more environmentally friendly. My laptops usually last 3-5 years (and with this I'm using them more than my peers) whereas I have a desktop thats been chugging along for 10+ years. It had a few upgrades (SSD, RAM) and currently it functions as an internet browsing machine for my grandpa.

My PC is 17 ears old. Although I think only the case and two drives are left of the original build. It recently got upgraded again with an Intel Core i9 and 64Gb RAM. Upgrade I'm most torn apart over is the ortholinear ErgoDox EZ keboard, because after acing the layout, using anything else really throws me.

Also just gave away the remaining one of two 24" NEC flat panels I bought 17years ago. It still works.

Right away I will say that I do use desktops and in general would prefer because of the absolute power. However my laptops are gaming grade and most of the time I use one of those as a desktop. And this is how it goes again your list:

1) I have 2 "big big" 4K monitors hooked up to my laptop so no problems here. The laptop's monitor is not used as the lid is closed.

2/3) I use external keyboard and mouse. No problems here

4) I have 2TB worth of SSD in laptop and I also have huge external drives array.

5) Said laptop is sitting on my shelf, I do not even see it. On my desk are 2 huge monitors on arms with VESA mounts and wireless keyboard/mouse. Said laptop is also running NOMACHINE so I can also access my few worktations and servers without lifting my butt.

6) I have external optical drive but frankly I do not recall single time in a last 3 years when I had to actually activate it.

7) I have 2 external 10 port USB 3.0 hubs hooked up to 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 port of said laptop. Again no problem in this department.

8) Yep. Desktop is much better in this department.

9) Not my desktops ;) They're server/workstation type.

10) This is how I build my "desktops". No argument here.

11) I do not know what to say about it.

I didn't know that a modern laptop could drive 2 4K monitors. This is good news.

BTW, it sounds to me that your laptop setup is indistinguishable from a desktop, and your setup is even less portable than a desktop, so why not go the cheap desktop route?

>"I didn't know that a modern laptop could drive 2 4K monitors. This is good news."

Not any laptop but some do. It even does it while driving its own built-in monitor but I do not really use it.

>"your laptop setup is indistinguishable from a desktop"

you got that part right

>"your setup is even less portable than a desktop"

Nope. When I am out of my main office for whatever reason I unhook said laptop from all the cables and it works off-site including all my development environment. If my stay away is extended (working for a month in ocean side cottage for example I also would take one of those monitors). I just do not run production servers/databases/etc on my laptop ;). Btw my laptop soon transitioning from 32GB RAM to 128GB RAM as to give me more flexibility with the databases.

Worth case I can still access my workstations/servers remotely using SSH or NOMACHINE if SSH does not cut it. Since I have very fat internet pip it works just fine.

My laptop (16" MacBook Pro) can allegedly drive four 4K monitors. I currently use two 32" 4K (landscape) and one 24" 1440p (portrait). The additional portrait 1440p is totally silly, and it was because work happened to send me it for WFH.

Allegedly. I've never managed to make more than 2 of them work at 60hz at the same time. Maybe the correct set of cables might make it work, but they're like $20 each and frankly I'm sick to death of spending without results.

Not GP, but I travel a lot for work (last 7 months notwithstanding). When I’m home and docked, I have a 9/10 experience compared to my personal desktop. When I travel, I have a 1/2 as good experience as compared to when docked but 100% better experience than my desktop would give.

I think what confuses me about the GGP is that at some point don't you just get both a desktop and a laptop rather than trying to turn a super-laptop into an on-par desktop?

That’s what I did (and with one USB cable swap and a button press on the monitor, I can switch keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, and camera between them).

But the key for me is I do that because I have a work laptop and a personal desktop and I want no question about the ownership of things I do on the desktop.

This. Employers tend to give out laptops for home use, not desktops. I'm not about to use my personal desktop for work, or my work laptop for personal stuff.

When I disconnect my laptop to work from another location I have all my open files in the same place, all my shells alive and ready to re- ssue their last commands without fiddling with a large history file.

I organized my windows and tabs and splits in such a way that it degrades gracefully when I switch from the external monitor and back.

How often often do I really need that? Not often, but when I do it's really useful.

P51 owner here. I'm using Thinkpads/Lenovos for 15 years as my main development computers:

1. Not thaaat big, but I prefer sub-4k anyway: WQXGA support, with docking station more than one - check

2. External keyboard - check

3. Check

4. Two M2 1TB Samsung + one 500GB SATA + optional external drives of similar sizes. More than enough

5. Admitted, docking station for some cases and connections.

6. Not anymore, USB bootable devices for the rare occasion. Other former reasons are more or less obsolete for my causes.

7. Docking station again

8. Lenovos are not so bad in this respect too

9. This one was > 2000EU - but will last several years as its ancestors did too ...

12. A piece of duct tape solves all camera problems

I am a consultant, the necessity for traveling around was partly responsible for the original choice, but even today I'm not missing much. I have still NAS-es with even bigger drives and DIY desktops and rack-based servers for image processing (requiring multiple GPU's). But thats me and my area of work. For most things, the laptop ist quite sufficient.

>11. I want an all-metal case because a machine caught fire once.

I would love elaboration on what happened.

The graphics card caught fire. Fortunately, I was at my desk at the time and couldn't help but notice the heavy smoke boiling out of the machine. I pulled the plug pronto which halted the fire, and put the machine out on the concrete patio till it stopped smoking. Curious, I plugged it in again and the fire started again. REmoving the cover showed the graphics card and a section of the mobo was burned to a crisp.

I had to wash the floor, walls, everything in my office to get the stink out.

Replaced the mobo and graphics card and I was back in business, but this time I bought some sheet steel and set the computer on that, which hopefully would buy some time to get the fire out.

The machine had a metal case, which I'm sure greatly slowed down the spread of the fire. So for me from now on, it's metal cases all the way, baby.

"Curious, I plugged it in again and the fire started again"

This reminds me of an old joke: https://www.reddit.com/r/ProgrammerHumor/comments/46sere/a_p...

I once turned on my crt monitor and smoke started coming out so I freaked out and immediately unplugged it. My uncle, an electronist, was passing by and told him I screwed my monitor and wanted him to take a look. He plugged in, turned it on it worked just fine. I don’t remember ever having problems with that EGA monitor again. I could never explain that white smoke

Maybe it was a literal bug.

It wouldn't be funny if it weren't true!

Computer chips work because they capture magic smoke. I know this because when I let the smoke escape the computer stops working.

I wonder if there was a tin whisker lurking there.

Wow. What model GPU/mobo was it?

I had, from what I can tell, the 3.3v power Button wire met and catch fire, no idea how and it sounds very unlikely but the computer worked once the fire was put out - I just had to start it with a screw driver.

I've seen the remains of a computer in a school, after the building was struck by lightning overnight. Only that one computer was affected, and inside it was mostly black dust.

I would guess something shorted in the power supply or power bus.

13 (and the most important one). Desktop computer can be used at the desk. I don't have to carry it around, nor it distracts me from my "non-computer time" elsewhere.

Desktop computing FTW.

You can leave a laptop on a desk if you want to.

Also, my desktop PC is my "cloud" computer. I don't waste time trying to sync code, OneNote, or browser tabs between my laptop and PC. I just Remote Desktop into my PC using my laptop (on the rare occasion I try to work using a laptop) and just work on the single source of truth. Also simplifies backups. I understand that your mileage may vary based on the stability of your Internet bandwidth and power outage situation. Here in Hong Kong, the electrical and internet cabling is below the ground, and there are no power outages even in a T10 typhoon when literal tree branches can be flying around!

I like being able to throw a handful of large SATA HD’s in a desktop for tons of storage. A laptop with usb drives of equal size is just cumbersome

My last 4 machines have been Alienware laptops. I enjoy the freedom to travel and take my machine with me. I still use external monitor/keyboard and mouse. It's basically a modular, portable computing machine. Perfect for graphic design, web development and light to moderate gaming.

That's why I use a desktop-replacement laptop. Lots of USB ports (and display ports), large built-in monitor but I use a docking station for a larger one, usually bring a mouse and the keyboard is full-sized (includes numpad) and the dock also has a keyboard, has a spot for an optical drive (I just refreshed, so my new one doesn't have one installed, but that's an easy buy as there's still a slot), it has 2 hard drives (and you can get multi-terabyte hard drives, now).

Upgrading stuff and costs are both really significant for personal use (which is why I am typing this from my home desktop), but if money is no object, I just get a desktop-replacement laptop.

I hate the whole "let's just make laptops like tablets" thing, where "like tablets" means "no ports."

I need ports for all kinds of stuff, including driving robotics and interfacing equipment. Which is also why having a laptop is nicer than a desktop. It's really great to have a built-in UPS and be able to move my office easily.

EDIT: Just checked, and it's easy to upgrade RAM or replace the battery, and I have room for a 2.5" hard drive and actually 2 NVMe SSDs (they make 8TB ones) plus an optional SIM card and a PIV card and SD card and the built-in camera and microphone array are really nice to have nowadays. But I do love desktops. You wouldn't think 10 USB ports is that important, but nowadays everything uses USB, so it's nice to have for pure convenience.

I use a desktop replacement laptop for my work computer as well. I wouldn't want to travel with it, but it's good for a home office and occasionally bringing to the living room or into my employer's office. I wouldn't spend my money on one, but the economics make sense for a primary work machine. The thermals are good enough to run with the lid closed, which my cat likes and it keeps him off the keyboard.

> Edit: 12. My desktop doesn't have a microphone or camera, so they cannot be surreptitiously turned on remotely.

I am pretty sure your computer has a microphone, because it most likely has a speaker.

The speaker is generally hooked up to a pre-amp and that pre-amp to the DAC. The hardware would need to also have an ADC attached to the speaker for that work. So such an attack could only happen if sound-chipset/card integrated into the motherboard also has an ADC sitting on the same analog line as the speaker output.

I have only ever seen the hybrid mic/headphone ports on laptops and not desktop motherboards. They may exist, but I have yet to see one. Although I guess what matter is how the ports are actually wired.

Can't speak for OP, but mine certianly doesn't. I know because I assembled it.

Mine doesn't have a speaker, either. It does have one of those wretched dingers that attach to the SPKR wires.

Sure that can't be used? I don't know what wretched dingers are.

I've doggedly stuck to my desktop over all this time for many of the same reasons but also because the only time I've actually found a laptop useful is when travelling which I don't really do a lot of, maybe once or twice a year and even then I should be relaxing and not using a computer :)

13. it's more environment friendly, as in you can keep using it for dozens of years just by replacing some parts now and then.

This is true of many laptops, too; most of my laptops are ancient thinkpads and dells with upgraded memory and disks.

Sadly not all laptops are thinkpad-quality :)

Just a point about the loud graphics cards: all of them now don't even spin their fans unless you are gaming. So it is kinda nice to spend a bit of money on one to get two machines in one (work and play).

I've had some very cheap cards that ramp up to 100% when powered on, making quite a racket. After 5 seconds, they would slow to something more reasonable.

My motherboard does that too. I always assumed it was to get all the fans spinning, in case you have them volted down to a point where they will continue to run, just not start.

I will never do a wireless keyboard. The idea of trusting a company to properly encrypt my wireless keystrokes is laughable. My security is far more important than cable management thanks.

If you are concerned about your keystrokes being broadcast wirelessly (which is a reasonable concern), I remember from a video or something I saw a long time ago that there was success in reconstructing keys pressed by the sound waves they make. Modern methods are probably better.

From what I understand Side channel attacks like that are usually theoretical in that in practice they are not very accurate, require a tremendous sample of known typed information to correlate with the recorded sounds and relies on the listening device remaining the same distance from the keyboard and the user maintaining the same verbosity of typing. Something sophisticated like that would probably be used more by a spy agency with a political or diplomatic target rather than somebody trying to steal your banking info

I'll bet sound-based skimming is even more feasible with the resurgence of mechanical keyboards (particularly among those most paranoid about these things)

A little box like this could allow you to plug big big monitors to any laptop though [1] (been using it and works fine). I almost never open up the laptop and use it directly.

... You can put a big disk on a laptop, USB3 hub, etc etc

I think main thing missing for me is a beefy GPU and maybe a bit more RAM.

1: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0838WTFD1

Yeah I just use a kvm switch. I keep my base work and life on a laptop that can go anywhere I go, and then hit a little switch and do all the heavy lifting work and gaming on the pc

But then you pay extra for hubs, along with the higher price of a laptop, just to get feature-parity with a desktop.

> 3. I prefer a separate mouse.

In my case a mouse slows me down. I have to take my hands off the keyboard and reach for the mouse. The touchpad is right there where my hands are. My touchpad also have three physical buttons, which are very useful instead of tapping the touchpad (I disabled that.)

I really need a mouse only for playing (which I stopped doing on my laptop since many years ago) or to try out some very rare sites linked to HN. It doesn't happen every year.

This is probably the only ergonomics pro of a laptop (except that I carry it with me, of course). Just in case I'll need a separate keyboard again, does anybody know of a good full size one with a touchpad under the space bar and physical buttons? I googled and found many keyboards with a touchpad in place of the number pad or further to the right. By the way, the number pad is not important for me. I'd love not to have it on my 15" laptop. I can keep it there on an external keyboard, but it's extra travel for my right hand if I really have to use a mouse and I never use it anyway.

I'm surprised we havent tried to sell desktop computers with battery packs yet

There are desktop PSUs you can purchase, that have built in UPS. And I recall there was a UPS designed to fit in the case - 5+1/4" drive bays as I recall. A quick google search would probably surface those relics of the past. At the desks in our house we run a UPS, even if a laptop is plugged in to it. The UPS protects the laptop charger, the monitors, the powered USB hub, printer, and other peripherals.

Not a laser printer though, I hope.

Just as a PSA for others: Laser printers in particular draw too much inrush current through their fuser drum heater for surge protectors/UPS devices to handle. They (the printers) should be always connected directly to the wall.

The Konica Minolta document center in the workshop is on a dedicated surge suppressor (ESP unit) as recommended by the Konica Minolta service tech, which I picked up from eBay (the surge suppressor, not the tech) for around $150 a couple of years back. The laser printer in the closet is on a APC UPS surge only port that was, AFAIK, rated to handle a laser printer, specifically a HP3600n. I suspect that most lower-end or consumer grade UPS devices, and certainly an $8 surge suppressor from Best Buy just ain't gonna be up to the job.

That did occur to me reading through this discussion.

I migrated entirely off desktops and went laptop / mobile.

Got happy as my current work benefits from me being highly mobile. Super glad I did it. Ended up surprised at just how much can do with a Note type phone and optional keyboard / track pad.

But, I never did replace fast and responsive. Just kind of coped and the other benefits made the whole thing worth it.

This pandemic has me rethinking some things and yeah, I want to build a nice machine. Want that workstation type feel and performance.

The closed computing argument holds more water every quarter too.

What we need is a reasonable battery pack, and software to throttle the machine down on an interruption. Make this package a couple hundred bucks, or something a person can just load their own cells into and it's bound to be a winner.

Dell sells a laptop with a full socketed desktop 95W unlocked i9-9900k


There are usb hubs with hardware switched for each port. You can use that to turn off the port used by a camera or microphone.

I'm fully with you. I have one more point to add:

13. I'd like to work on some spreadsheets from my couch.

Damn...guess I'll buy a laptop again.

I _don't_ want to work on spreadsheets from my couch. In fact, I don't want to be able to work on spreadsheets on my couch. I want my couch to be a completely spreadsheet-free area!

Wait...so what do you do for relaxation then?

Where I am, each developer gets a laptop and a desktop. Though, it is expected that anything needed to work is on the laptop. Meaning email and any software (whatsoever) needed to checkout the latest code. This works out quite well for us.

I prefer desktops too, basically. But as I‘m working on multiple locations, I got annoyed by having to update multiple environments. If I install a piece of software on desktop A, I need to do the same thing on desktop B.

I manage that through ansible

1-3. You can attach big screens and keyboard and mouse to a laptop.

4. The size of the drive isn't an issue; you can fit big drives just as easily in a laptop. The only difference is that a desktop PC can fit more than two drives.

I've come to really like the convenience of being able to pick up my workstation and take it with me.

To me, there's only one really, really big disadvantage to laptops: the noise. If I put together a desktop, it's as quiet as possible. Powerful laptops apparently can't be quiet.

Yes on all points except 10.

You can buy fairly powerful desktops configured with just the on chip graphics or inexpensive business class graphics cards.

I'll add a '13' to your list.

13. Bluetooth is evil, and any desktop I have seen with Bluetooth had it on a mini-pcie card, and could be yanked. My desktop is always cabled via 1Gb Ethernet, so if yanking the BT also loses the WiFi, I don't really care.

If you are using wireless keyboards/mice, I don't know if the logitech adapters are more or less secure than BT. That could be an entire separate thread.

I thought mini-PCIe isn't a thing anymore on desktops? As far as I'm aware, they generally use either

1. M.2 cards

2. Full-size PCIe cards (WiFi+Bluetooth combo cards, the Bluetooth part may actually connect to an internal USB header)

3. USB dongles

Now that you phrase it that way, I guess I prefer a desktop too, because I have most of those things, but split between my NAS in the closet and my laptop docked to my big monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

I keep thinking of banishing the desktop to the closet to keep the fan noise down.

My workstation sits about 25ft away from me, in a completely separate room. A thick bundle of cables runs from the desk to the workstation.

Thunderbolt 3 cables that drives my 5k monitor are max 2m (the spec allows for longer optical cables but they don't exist yet)

I used to use a similar setup. Just need to invest in extension cables, and it can work nicely.

Probably less of a concern, but it also moves the heat output.

A previous comment in this thread mentioned QuietPC [0] in a list of prebuilt companies.

They have some really cool fanless builds, that if you were using a CPU like the AMD 4750g [1], you would have zero noise, and it'd make for a very decent workstation.

[0] https://www.quietpc.com/systems

[1] https://www.quietpc.com/sys-amd-da2-fanless-z2

13. I use my desktop as a portable to replace my gym membership.

> 1. I like big, big monitors.

You can connect an external display to your laptop. That's what I'm doing right now. Similarly for 2 through 6.

> 7. The desktop has lots of USB ports and they're all in use.

The external monitor will give you more.

I think reasons 8, 9, and 10 are all legit. I don't think there are any intrinsic benefits to going one way or the other. It all boils down whether you feel the time you spend building your rig is worth the money you save.

> the time you spend building your rig is worth the money you save.

It takes less than an hour. I enjoy it, and it keeps me familiar with the guts.

Most of the hour is just being careful I'm hooking up the wires correctly. In college I worked as an electronics technician, and one job was putting together a stack of Heathkit serial interface cards. I don't recall the exact times, but the first one took me an hour and the 5th one maybe 10 minutes.

It's also like taking the cylinder heads off my old Mustang V8. The first time took me 2 hours. The third time - 20 minutes. It's all in being familiar with just what to do, and having all the right tools ready.

> 12. My desktop doesn't have a microphone or camera, so they cannot be surreptitiously turned on remotely.

Your points are all good but this one gave me pause for thought. We're all working from home and using our microphones and cameras more than ever. I'm using my regular laptop with plug-in microphone and webcam. Are laptop makers thinking in terms of upping the specs on the microphone and webcams in their upcoming models?

Apple have made major improvements to their laptop microphones in the last few years. On cameras, while they’re usually very bad right now, laptop cameras will never be great; there’s just no room for the optics in the lid. No laptop has had a lid as thick as a phone in decades.

> No laptop has had a lid as thick as a phone in decades

Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I feel like this is a bit much of an exaggeration. I just measured my Pixel 3 (at its thickest point, the camera lens) and a 2011 Macbook Pro (including the rubber bumper, admittedly, but those were super slim at the time), and the MBP is only ~2mm thinner than the Pixel. The race for ultra-thin laptops seems like a relatively recent thing to me.

What they need to add is a physical electric switch to turn off the cam/mike.

In any case, because of all my remote collaboration these days, I bought a decent mike on a boom to use, and my colleagues say it is much better. Still have to find a decent camera.

The Logitech C920/C922/C930 series with autofocus are OK for personal or small group use. Of the consumer USB webcams, I haven't found any other makers' to be as good. Only 1080p 30Hz, but any more is demanding too much of your recipients' bandwidth and hardware in the general case.

Advice from my wife, a photographer:

- if you're still having picture problems (after setting the camera's anti-flicker to 50Hz/60Hz as appropriate), put diffuse illumination on your face e.g. a full-screen browser window on http://blank.org; or for more control--colour temperature as well as brightness--a cheap LED panel and desktop tripod (from a photo supplies shop).

- turn off any "smoothing" or "beauty"features in the cam's software.

- likewise, don't use any fake background features. Pin up a plain bedsheet behind yourself if you think your place is too messy to be the background.

Anyway, once there is a picture of any kind, in my experience most people care more about the audio being unclear or laggy, so you're well ahead.

In my experience, even the most basic of webcams is perfectly acceptable when paired with decent lighting. I'd highly recommend something like https://www.elgato.com/en/ring-light (no affiliation, just a happy customer)

Many "real" camera manufacturers (at least Canon, Nikon, Sony, I think Fuji as well) have released software during the past six months that allow many of their existing system cameras (DSLR or mirrorless) to be used as very high quality webcams. Likely overkill if all you need is a webcam, but might be worth considering if you also need a camera and/or happen to already own a compatible one.

You can also buy a hdmi to usb capture dongle for around $15 US which will let you use any camera with HDMI out as a webcam.

Ideally you want a camera that does clean HDMI out (no ISO indicators etc), but even that can be worked around if you run OBS studio and crop it out.

XX. Cannot sit with my desktop in bed :)

Some years ago I saw a magazine ad showing a retractable hmm... stand thing to hold a monitor, keyboard, and mouse above a bed.

It was able to be angled for comfort, etc. So, you'd be able to put a desktop somewhere (above? below?) and use it from bed.

No idea if they're still sold, but it wouldn't be too surprising. :)

There are no osha-approved laptops.

Pretty similar in other countries. Here you do in fact need an external monitor, because it's required to be height adjustable. Similarly you're not allowed to work without separate keyboard and mouse. You're even required to have these things at home, if you want to work from home.

Basically you can work on a laptop, unless it's a special extremely short term situation.

Desktop + ultralight laptop + 4G (5G?) modem for remote access and I get the best of both.

I don't want a gaming machine that comes with a graphics adapter that sounds like a 747 taking off

Out of curiosity, what do you use instead? I'm wondering what the best options are for workstation-type desktops.

Two options: You can just get a quiet graphics card. There are a bunch of them, even high end cards, that come with good coolers. Look for example at reviews of the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT.

If you do not need a strong graphics card you can always just get a weak one, with less energy usage. GT 1030 for example, though that's really weak, but it's also just a 30W card.

Or depending on the processor you need you can use the integrated graphics. The AMD Apus are pretty great, Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3400G - and there are new 4000 versions that can be be bought in kits or OEM machines. Intel has their own weaker integrated graphics on most of their processors, even their stronger units, for just office work strong enough.

A fanless graphics card. There's still a fan in box, but it's a larger one and it's thermostatically controlled, most of the time it's turning slowly.

If I'm running a multicore big job, the fan spins up and annoys me.

I have laptop and 1. 32" external display 2. wireless fullsize keyboard 3. wireless mouse 4. two hard drives inside, no problem to upgrade if I felt like 5. agree, laptop taking some space, but if I really cared I could buy vertical stand 6. so does mine laptop 7. my laptop has 4, I use permanently only 1 8. I could replace pretty much everything besides motherboard and CPU 9. so are refurbished good quality thinkpad and dell paotps 10. laptops have also plenty of configs 11. that's really unlikely scenario 12. my laptop has permanently closed lid, so no camera, but yeah, microphone would need to be disabled if I worried so much

wow, hacker news doesn't recognize even normal linebreaks...

in case someone thinks I dunno how to write

Well yeah, but you're Walter Bright, aren't you.

There is zero overlap between this list and the article.

How often do you use an optical drive and for what?

Can't speak for OP but I know some people use optical disks for cold storage backup, as they're reasonably cost effective there.

I can second that, I use M-Discs for long term backups. They're supposed to last 1000 years and you can get 100GB ones.

Thanks that’s very interesting. I’d never heard of these. They seem expensive but you get the millennium aspect (not something a spinning magnetic disk can claim).

Everything else set aside, the company lasted 7 years until bankrupcy, and that sort of casts a shadow on the millennium claim. There's at least nobody left as resposible, if it's not true.

I doubt they were ever actually responsible in terms of guaranteeing your data integrity?

I prefer to have my cake and eat it, so I have a nice beefy desktop, and a cheaper but nice laptop from which I RDP to my desktop.

Doesn't rdp feel super laggy/artifacty?

Or are you just doing ssh work?

On the contrary. I've been on an island literally halfway across the world and it's been quite good. I primarily do non-SSH stuff. I surf the web, use IDEs etc.

When I'm at my cabin with 10/2 Mbps internet it's like I'm at home, except when I forget myself and start watching YouTube, then I notice the reduced quality of the video (RDP selectively encodes fast-updating regions to lowish bitrate h264 or similar).

I even do my Teams stuff over RDP, bidir sound just works without fiddling.

People stream 4k60 with no problem from the internet but you think rdp is laggy/artifacty on a LAN? Pretty sure rdp works lossless with no problem whatsoever.

laptop docks so your not wiring everything every time and more ports. a desktop is a lot more modular but not mobile. with cloud sync(personal local or remote, or third parties) having two computers is less of a hassle. i see them with the same purpose but different circumstances but a laptop can play both roles with ease with the right setup.

I don't agree with the part about desktops not being mobile, there are plenty of sub 10L cases that you can literally fit in your backpack and walk away. If you don't carry your computer around very often you can easily have a desktop that's portable. The most extreme example of this is the Velkase Velka 3[1].

- [1]: https://www.velkase.com/products/velka-3

I don't think it's useful to conflate the terms 'mobile' and 'portable'. You've been able to make a portable desktop for several decades. (I recall one Compaq that came in a closable case with a handle.) That's not typically what people mean by 'mobile'.

That 'extreme example' weighs as much as many laptops and it's just a case. Even if you carried a small display, and everything else you need, I doubt most people would take that out if they found themselves with extra time at the airport.

Edit: Found the machine I was thinking of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compaq_Portable

That makes sense, I agree with you. Though I still think there’s something to be said about the mobility of desktop computers today and saying outright that they are not mobile might not do justice to them.

Edit: Especially with the rise of the Small form factor PC culture.

> Especially with the rise of the Small form factor PC culture.

Small cases have gotten pretty nice but if you have to carry around a separate screen to go with it then you might not end up any better off than if you had an all-in-one luggable computer.

> I can build what I want with parts from newegg.

You can, until Apple integrates all the suppliers into their supply chain.

I use ThinkPad T450 with added SSD drive, external monitor and mouse - the keyboard is great IMHO.

I'm using a MacBook Pro with an external monitor, so I thought I would share my response. I'm pretty happy with my home office [1].

> 1. I like big, big monitors.

I've realized that I find it uncomfortable to use more than one screen, so I just use one 27″ 4K screen. But occasionally I open my laptop and put it on a stand to show some extra windows.

> 2. I prefer a full size keyboard.

My favorite keyboard is the older version of the Apple Wireless Keyboard powered by AA batteries. It feels really nice to type on it (maybe because I'm used to it.) I recently bought a brand new Apple keyboard because I thought it would be better (and I could recharge it over USB), but it's much worse.

> 3. I prefer a separate mouse.

I use an Apple trackpad, and I love it. I only go back to a mouse if I'm playing a game.

> 4. I prefer big freaking disk drives installed.

I have a 2 TB SSD, which is more than enough for me.

> 5. I put the desktop under my desk, and with a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse, there is much less of a snarl on my desk.

I like to put my laptop on the desk, and I only plug in a single Thunderbolt 3 cable for charging, gigabit ethernet, and my monitor. I really love my CalDigit TS3 Plus dock [2].

It's really nice that I can unplug a single cable and take my laptop to any cafe or co-working space. (Before/after the pandemic.)

> 6. The desktop has an optical drive I still use.

I haven't used an optical drive for about 5 years, and I don't own any optical disks.

> 7. The desktop has lots of USB ports and they're all in use.

My dock has a lot of USB-A and USB-C ports, and it's in a very convenient location.

> 8. I can replace/alter parts of the machine without buying a new one.

That's a great point, and it's one of the major downsides of using an Apple laptop. I do have AppleCare, and Apple's support is really amazing.

> 9. Desktops are cheap.

That's very true! But I was using a 2012 MacBook for 8 years before I upgraded it, and I think I'll probably continue using my current laptop for another 8-10 years. It's expensive, but it's a very high quality machine and I think it will last for a very long time.

> 10. I can build what I want with parts from newegg. Premade powerful computers are always "gaming machines" and I don't want a gaming machine that comes with a graphics adapter that sounds like a 747 taking off.

I certainly can't do that for any kind of laptop (either Apple or other brands.)

> 11. I want an all-metal case because a machine caught fire once.

Nothing to worry about there

> Edit: 12. My desktop doesn't have a microphone or camera, so they cannot be surreptitiously turned on remotely.

MacBooks have a hardware light that turns on when the camera is active, and I haven't heard any reports about hackers being able to disable it. Although one disadvantage with the newest MacBook is that you can't attach a sliding camera cover anymore, because it will crack the screen when you close it.

The microphone can be surreptitiously turned on, but it's not something I'm too worried about.

[1] https://imgur.com/a/soE6TMJ

[2] https://www.caldigit.com/ts3-plus/

I'm similar to you, but with the optical drive. I just bought a USB one from ebay for £10 which works perfectly well and I can put it away in a drawer until next time I need an optical drive.

I don't want any of these things

Agree on most of the points, but...

>6. The desktop has an optical drive I still use.

for what? You're probably better off (in terms of both convenience and IO performance) to store it on a hdd/ssd as an iso and mount it.

1. Ripping a CD I just bought. Yes, I still buy CDs. So shoot me now.

2. Burning a bluray for backup. (I do backups on different media types just for insurance, and I like that blurays are write-once and incompetence and ransomware cannot fk with them.)

> Yes, I still buy CDs. So shoot me now.

No need. You still buy CDs, you're old enough that we can wait.


(I still buy them, too.)

But how do you store it as an iso without making the iso in the first place?

1. the high seas

2. Failing that, just archive your existing discs and ditch the drive for good. It's the year 2020, and most (all?) software are distributed digitally, so you shouldn't need to get out your drive in the future.

I did archive all my CDs to HDD (gotta love 10Tb drives!! why buy anything less?), but I keep the CDs as backup in case (cough) the machine catches fire and burns up my hard drives (cough).

I just built a new Windows gaming machine. Windows came on a DVD. I had to make a quick trip to Walmart to get a USB DVD drive. :-)

Did you have access to another computer? You could have probably saved a few bucks by making a USB instead.


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