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Author Topic: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?  (Read 570 times)

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Online andrewfi

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Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« on: January 18, 2022, 04:43:21 AM »
Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?

This is a question that has been nagging at me for a while.
I do not play games on my PC. I've tried, but I can't get into it.

I built my PC with a top of line consumer level processor from AMD from a few years ago, the Ryzen 2700x. The idea was that it should serve me well for at least five years doing the kind of things I do:
Plex media server
Music server
Office work
Lots of tabs open in Chrome and Edge
A load of writing and research apps
Automated link-building software

The system has a total of 10 hard drives installed, a mixture of NVME, SSD and spinning disks.

I have two monitors, both ultrawide 4K displays, but not HDR capable. I have a TV for that!

So, nothing too heavy but some tasks that really respond well to a lot of processor cores.

My wondering came about because of the power consumption of the PC and, increasingly, working away from home. I kinda liked the idea of cutting back on power consumption as my system uses a lot of power and is working most of the day, especially when running link building projects. The system uses enough power that it keeps my study warm through the winter without needing any additional heating in my small study.

At the weekend, the C drive failed. It is where the Windows install lives and a few applications. All data is stored elsewhere. It was a surprise, the monitoring software was showing no issues. The C drive, is an NVME drive, lightning-fast and on Sunday it just stopped.

I took it as an omen to try using my laptop. I bought the lappy just a few months ago. It is an inexpensive (about £600) machine with an AMD 5500u processor. I chose the lappy for the processor as, although it is inexpensive, the performance is not a million miles behind the 2700x in my PC. I had already been using it on my travels, most of the time, it was working as a remote terminal to my desktop.

How is the laptop working out as a desktop replacement?


I already knew that in terms of raw performance it could largely keep up with the desktop. The big issues were, could it handle the hard drives and could it drive my two monitors.

Over the years I have acquired a few bits and bobs. One of them is a docking station that connects to a PC/Laptop via USB C. Right now I have 7 hard drives connected to the system through USB on the station. One ultrawide monitor is connected to the lappy directly and is working fine. I am stuck for the second monitor for the time being. So I have the ultrawide and the lappy's display for now. It's OK but not ideal. I think I can get it running via USB 3.0 but I need an adaptor from USB to HDMI/Displayport.

Internet and network connectivity is by wired ethernet through the docking station. The wifi is OK but movies and music definitely stream better using ethernet.

The laptop has a 65-watt power supply. The desktop has an 850 watt supply. I also use a small power supply for the docking station and one of the hard drives.

To boost the performance of the laptop I used a software utility to boost the power going to the lappy's processor from 25 watts to 30 watts. It makes a noticeable difference to the speed of the processor, up from 3500 MHz max to 4100 MHz, the processors specified maximum, but it definitely runs hotter under load.

Overall, it's early days, but this morning when I went into the study it felt chilly. All the tasks the machine does overnight had all gone off perfectly,

I will pop two of the spinning disks into my NAS and they will connect to the system over ethernet. I will move the data off my SSDs onto another drive, that's mainly documents and my library of articles. They do not really need to be on SSDs but file searches will be slower.

Conclusion

For my use case, it looks like moving to a laptop is perfectly feasible.

I am amazed that a relatively low-cost processor in a low-cost laptop can have as much performance as I am getting here. CPU usage of the system compared to the desktop is higher but has not imposed any limitations on real performance. So I can stream video to my living room and work as I normally do. I was able to do so even when both Roon and Plex were analysing media, adding metadata and I was working.

If I can make my second monitor work with the laptop then I can see me leaving the big beast turned off and sitting in the corner.
I have noticed that running so many drives off the dock is slowing down the transfer of large files such as movies, but for ordinary files, it is, as far as I can tell, about normal.

Right now, I am off to put on a sweater, it's too bloody cold in here now!

Perhaps it is worthwhile, in these days of costly energy to look at moving from power-hungry desktops to much more efficient laptops? What do you guys think?

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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2022, 06:05:41 AM »
I've been using a laptop as my main driver for a while now. I am running 2 4K screens on it but 1 connects @30fps instead of 60.

For gaming thats really not good, but for watching vids and daily work its awesome and fast.

The only issue i have with my laptop, is that MS Teams takes 8GB of mem from the 16GB available. stupid microsoft.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2022, 06:20:13 AM »
Does your laptop run video from USB C natively?

I know that I can force USB 3 to send out video, it works with my portable monitor, and yes, low framerate. I have not done that on this laptop yet as I do not have the necessary adaptor.

Because of the lack of video from the USB C, I cannot use the HDMI output on my dock. I am going to try the portable monitor on the dock when I get a few minutes.

Teams is not something I need to worry about, but overall memory usage is a little niggle. It has not been an issue yet, but as far as I can tell, I cannot upgrade past the 8GB of ram installed. I use 32GB on the desktop and can happily run huge numbers of browser windows and tabs. Fortunately, the RAM is set up in dual channel mode which makes the Ruzen processors much happier. It was a consideration when I bought the lappy.

I have a very tiny desktop PC and I already know that it cannot support my usual home workload although it's fine when travelling as I usually work using it connected to my office PC through Remote PC. However, it will happily run two 4K monitors.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2022, 06:31:32 AM »
Does your laptop run video from USB C natively?


Nah, its an old thing, 2016 built , bu It does have a cyrillic keyboard, 2 HDMI and 1 DVI connector and1 USB-C port that does not do video/audio, nor charging the damn thing.

Example: but mine has 16GB ram expandable to 32GB. and a 4K builtin 17" screen instead of full-hd.

https://techlitic.com/laptops/asus-vivobook-n752vx/

I wouldn't get my next lappy with 4k again though, the screen hassles compared to my older eyes are simply not worth it. full-hd is just as sharp as 4k.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2022, 07:30:55 AM »
Screen resolution - yup, I get it!

On the big monitors 4K all the way, I just scale all the text up to 150%, mine are 3840*2160. On the laptop 1920*1080 is OK, but I prefer a slightly taller screen if I can - not too many cheapo laptops with that though!
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2022, 04:47:34 PM »
I just lobbed out a bit less than £50 for a usb dongle thingy that gives 4k over usb.

Made by a company called Displaylink. I use their software to run my portable display from my Android notebook. That works just fine so I reckon they've got this sorted.

My only concern is whether the graphics processor is up to running two ultra wide 4k monitors without glitches. And the USB bus is gonna be busy. But right now it looks positive.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2022, 03:49:22 PM »
Nothing beats a desktop for work.. I could not work all day on a laptop nearly impossible just for emergencies or if we are away..
I loose money working on a laptop can't do enough stuff fast enough..
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2022, 07:16:58 AM »
I added a second screen to my laptop when I travel.   Very light and portable. Love it! Having a single screen for work drove me crazy.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013XFJKGI/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2022, 07:28:16 AM »
Brillynt, absolutely! I have been using a portable Asus monitor for several years. It's a godsend. Unlike yours, mine has an inbuilt battery making it even more convenient.

As well as my laptop or SFF PC I also use it with my phone. I have a Huawei which has a desktop mode. I plug the phone into the monitor and with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse can do most of my work from my phone.

I use Microsoft Office with One Desk to access my work files or Remote PC to work on my office PC wherever I am. The monitor's battery means that I don't flatten my phone's battery.

The monitor and keyboard live in my grab bag, always ready to grab whenever I travel.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2022, 09:42:30 AM »
Nothing beats a desktop for work.. I could not work all day on a laptop nearly impossible just for emergencies or if we are away..
I loose money working on a laptop can't do enough stuff fast enough..

I agree with Steve. I had a laptop I used at work just for emails and stuff, but for proper work, I need a big screen, and a proper keyboard in the right place. When it died recently I replaced it with a desktop with an SSD hard drive.

I use an iPad when travelling just to do basic stuff, but for writing, blogs, video editing, etc., I need a proper computer.

I suppose you can make a laptop behave like a proper computer by essentially using it as a PC box and having separate screens and keyboards, but why would you want to?
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2022, 11:35:00 AM »
Manny, I agree completely!

When I travel with laptop I take a keyboard and mouse and, wherever possible connect to at least a TV and my portable monitor.

Set up at home using the laptop, I have a 32" monitor connected, my full-sized keyboard and my favourite mouse. In a couple of days, I will have the required adaptor to enable me to run two 32" monitors.

The idea of this experiment was to see if I could use my laptop instead of my PC. It has worked out pretty well so far.
The main benefit?
When my PC is running it uses almost 700 watts. My laptop uses a maximum of 35 watts and usually less. That's about half of what my main PC uses on standby!

The reason behind this stuff - part from the PC having gone poopy in its pants a few days ago - was to see if I could save a bean. Apart from the monitors, which I have altered to go to sleep a bit sooner than before, I estimate that the PC was costing me between €2.50 -3.00 per day. That's €80 per month at current rates. The laptop costs about €0.15 per day or €18 per month. Over the year that means a saving of €744 per year.

Two disadvantages:
1) My study is now noticeably less warm in the morning with only the laptop running. The desktop keeps the room warm when it is running!
2) My Plex media server is a tad slower to pump movies into the living room onto my TV. It's a few seconds slower starting a movie. I could move my movies and music drives into the living room and that issue will go away as they'll work on my Nvidia Shield media box.

In terms of my normal work, I see no real difference. Right now I am using my laptop screen as a second monitor and the single (for now) 32" as the work screen. That's a slight productivity hit but not great, the large monitor is one of those widescreen jobbies and holds multiple open documents and browsers.

Electricity now costs 300% of the price 12 months ago and is slated to go up again in a month or so. I am not so rich as to be able to afford to set fire to money. 
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2022, 01:05:26 PM »
I tend to leave my desktop on at home 24/7 as it's slow to boot up when I want it so I prefer it's always on.

Might be why my gas and leccy are over £300 pm.  :D
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2022, 01:47:26 PM »
If you're not using the pc all the time yiu can set it to go to sleep. It'll save a load.

My problem is that for one reason or another my pc is working for long hours. Only goes to sleep from about 03:00 until 09:00 and it still uses 60-70 Watts.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2022, 05:00:11 PM »
Having replaced the faulty part on my PC, thank you Amazon Warehouse Deals! I set the PC up and set it up with a smart plug to monitor its power usage.

I was about bob on with the standby power draw, but I have found that the stuff I do, while it warms up the room a tad, is nowhere near what I had estimated.

When I refettled the PC I made some changes. As the PC is a music and video server it has a large amount of data stored. Much is on spinning hard drives, while they are not power hogs, I had 10 of the buggers. I took a little time and moved the data around and added in a 2TB of NVME storage making a total of 3. I have consolidated the other data, now I am using only 5, of which two are SSDs.

Having done the data optimisation, I saw that power consumption had reduced just a little. I did the opposite trick to that which I did on the laptop and slowed everything down a little. That gave an additional, more noticeable saving.

It's only the second day since I got the thing up and running again, but it looks like I am going to be paying out about less than €1 per day. That's a lot more than the laptop but is quite a lot less than my earlier estimate. I reckon I can afford that to have a noticeably more slick performance from the media server. It's also quieter than the laptop!
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2022, 12:38:45 PM »
I tend to leave my desktop on at home 24/7 as it's slow to boot up when I want it so I prefer it's always on.

Might be why my gas and leccy are over £300 pm.  :D

I just had my leccy bill for January. No gas here.

On my own, it has cost me €490. And that's having made serious economies in electricity use. My consumption is down by over 30% on the same month last year!
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2022, 09:06:40 AM »
The last part of my plan to enjoy two 4k monitors running off my laptop just came to pass. I picked up a dongle from a USAian outfit called Cable Matters. This device enables me to run an external monitor at 4k, in my case that's 3840*2160. The second 4k monitor, the same model runs from the built-in HDMI output. I can still use the laptop's monitor.

The dongle does witchcraft as most other dongles I saw will only output 1080p through USB. This one was giving 4k at 30 Mhz through USB 2.0. I did not try the USB C or USB 3.2 ports. To be fair, the Samsung 4K monitor has a native refresh rate of 60 Mhz and I could see that when scooching the mouse or windows around there was a bit of lag, but for normal use - not an issue.

The adapter cost me just $39 but, to be fair it was supplied as an 'open box'. The full price is about $65.
https://www.amazon.com/Cable-Matters-Adapter-Supporting-Resolution/dp/B018YHMMQ0/ref=sr_1_4?crid=3QO02R67E8O98&keywords=Cable+Matters+USB+to+HDMI+Adapter+%28USB+3.0+to+HDMI+Adapter%2C+USB+3+to+HDMI+Adapter%29+Supporting+4K+Resolution+for+Windows&qid=1644162486&sprefix=cable+matters+usb+to+hdmi+adapter+usb+3.0+to+hdmi+adapter%2C+usb+3+to+hdmi+adapter+supporting+4k+resolution+for+windows%2Caps%2C152&sr=8-4

I was able to run 4K video on the two large monitors while running a 1080 video on the laptop's display.


As those who use laptops may know, many modern laptops can run a monitor through USB C. But not all can - mine does not. However, there's a technology called Display Link. It is a set of drivers for Windows and Android (I don't know about Apple). I have been using this tech on my tablets and phones for several years. It works surprisingly well. The Cable Matters adaptors have Display Link built-in which is great.

For anyone who wants to run additional monitors, but has limitations on connectivity, this seems a great and inexpensive way to do it.

Oh, on my PC, the video output on all three screens with full resolution video was maxing out the GPU. The CPU was hardly affected so it will not slow down normal work.





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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #16 on: February 06, 2022, 10:44:48 AM »
Why do you need three monitors though?
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2022, 10:51:35 AM »
I don't need three monitors, but when I am working I like having two large monitors. I can disable the laptop screen if I want. I didn't in the pic I shared because I wanted to see just what I could do.

I did not expect to have the results that I saw. :)

My goal was to be able to set up the laptop so that when using it on a daily basis at home, my work experience would be as similar as possible to my full desktop PC experience.

When I am using the laptop instead of the desktop, the laptop will be out of sight. In the pic, there'd just be my keyboard and mouse in front of the displays, no laptop.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2022, 08:48:30 PM »

I like PCs. A bigger case can pack more power than a laptop. Also can use bigger monitors and tvs but it's possible to hook up 15 monitors to a laptop.

For those who spent the money on 4k monitors, make sure to adjust your video settings otherwise you're not seeing things in 4K. Also, some graphics cards(GPUs) can't do 4k and some graphics cards can do 8K.

Monitors are restricted by refresh rate which is measured in Mhz. So if your graphics card is putting out 240 FPS on a game and your monitor's refresh rate is 30 MHz, your eyes are seeing things at 30 FPS. Still not bad considering tv and the cinema plays video at 24 FPS. Monitors that have DisplayPort connections are best for getting the most FPS since they have high refresh rates.

If you bought a monitor, factory settings may be at 30 MHz to 60 MHz although it advertises it can do more so you have to go into settings to change refresh rate if you want more.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2022, 08:52:37 PM »

Andrew, my PC had a Ryzen 7 2700X processor. I upgraded to a 5800X last year and it's a huge boost in power. The price dropped on new 5800X or go for a used one. Sell your 2700X. You might have to flash the BIOS on your motherboard though to take the new processor though.

https://cpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare/AMD-Ryzen-7-5800X-vs-AMD-Ryzen-7-2700X/4085vs3958
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #20 on: February 07, 2022, 01:50:13 AM »
Thanks for the advice Billykins, as you would have gathered if your carer had read the previous posts, I am fully aware that faster processors exist.

I have absolutely no need of a more powerful processor.

As you might have noticed, if your carer had done their job properly, the issue is one of saving a bit of money on energy usage. To that end, spending a relatively large sum to buy something that does not improve my day to day work is simply a stupid waste of money.

Truly, it is a wonder to behold how one Billykins can learn so little from reading, or having read to him, a couple of forum posts.

That revelation places your difficulties with other matters in your life into context. You cannot process information to any normal degree. It's sad.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #21 on: February 07, 2022, 03:53:25 AM »
As you might have noticed, if your carer had done their job properly, the issue is one of saving a bit of money on energy usage. To that end, spending a relatively large sum to buy something that does not improve my day to day work is simply a stupid waste of money.
Newer CPU also save on electricity if you do not run them on top performance.

I have 3 hypervisors in my datacenter with intel-Xeons drawing about 300Watt total (complete server)
and I have 1 with a newer Xeon and SDDs of a newer generation. It's doing 200Watt totall.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #22 on: February 07, 2022, 04:17:20 AM »
Mark, that is true, however, the cost to change is enough to make the change uneconomic.

In my case, I lowered the power consumption of the PC significantly by doing a few things that cost no money.
1) I moved more of my short term storage to NVME SSDs. I had been using mechanical drives for storing my documents. Normally, that's not an issue. Except that I have a huge amount of text files and images that I rely upon.
The mechanical drives go to sleep when not in use so the less I use them, the less electricity they consume.

2) I turned down the optimisations I had done to the CPU and memory.

3) The PC now goes to sleep during the night after I typically go to bed. I had previously been running 24/7 for some tasks. Those tasks now take a little longer, but they do not inconvenience me.

My desktop use cost is now down to €1 per day.

I was not using the additional memory or CPU speed that was costing me money.

So, the PC costs me 3 times what my laptop does. But I am not going to fall out of bed over the difference between €30 per month and €10 per month in the context of an overall electricity bill of €500. At the outset, it was much higher!

The tipping point for me was that the laptop with all my storage hanging off it was slower than I liked at serving up music and particularly video when relaxing in front of the TV. I am sure that anyone who did not run a media library like mine would not find the laptop as a desktop experience uncomfortable.

If I were to be starting out today, with no legacy system either laptop or PC then I'd buy a laptop. I'd get a slightly higher spec CPU than the one I currently have in my lappy (Ryzen 5500u) and make sure that it natively provided video from one of its USB ports.
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Re: Can a Laptop Replace a Desktop PC?
« Reply #23 on: February 13, 2022, 10:23:08 PM »
As you might have noticed, if your carer had done their job properly, the issue is one of saving a bit of money on energy usage. To that end, spending a relatively large sum to buy something that does not improve my day to day work is simply a stupid waste of money.


In the past, you've regularly talked about buying high end electronics. At one time, the Ryzen 7 2700X processor you own was one of the best processors in the world. You gave people the impression you have plenty of disposable income. Now you want to watch your pennies. Go figure.

The 2700X and 5800X are rated at 105 watts but the 5800X is 22% more powerful. It would actually save you money since the 5800X can complete the same tasks faster which means you would use less electricity saving you more pennies.
Fund the audits, spread the word and educate people, write your politicians and other elected officials. Stay active in the fight to save our country. Over 220 generals and admirals say we are in a fight for our survival like no other time since 1776.