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Desktop vs laptop

Ok, let’s get the debate open (for a while). Which is better for a shack computer, a laptop or desktop. Consider this:
- neither is going out of the shack
- only for ham radio stuff
- will handle a Flex 6300 (SDR), WSJT, DDutil, Logger (Log4Om, FRLogger), SDR Monitor, PST Rotator, internet browsers, and other software.
- Also will handle Icom 7300 with Win4Icom
- must handle 3 monitors
- Rotator control must be connected
- Green Heron Select8 must be connected
- Asume similar prices
Let’s try to have a clean debate please.




  • Pat HampPat Hamp Member
    edited November 2019
    Desk top hands down. You will have a hard time adding additional features to laptop as to video and audio handling and more than 2 monitors unless you spend more than what the average desktop costs. Also fixing a desktop is far, far easier if a drive or video card crashes plus you get to upgrade as you go. Just one guys opinion.
  • David Decoons, wo2xDavid Decoons, wo2x Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 11
    Desktop. More **** for the buck in hardware. New PCI-e video cards can natively handle three monitors. Easier to upgrade and repair.

    why three monitors? For $400 I bought a 50” Sony 4K TV that connects to the Nvidia video card in the PC. Plenty of real estate for multiple programs. No monitor bezels to create gaps in video displayed across several monitors.

    see my QRZ page for my layout. (Or at least the layout that day).

    With Black Friday and cyber Monday coming there should be some good deals.

    Dave wo2x 
  • Santiago Mejia - HI8SMXSantiago Mejia - HI8SMX Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    Dave, where the shack is located (closet) I can’t fit a TV or larger display. 

    I expect to take advantage of those specials.

  • Neil D Friedman N3DFNeil D Friedman N3DF Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    I like my Intel NUC.  Takes up hardly any space.
  • David Decoons, wo2xDavid Decoons, wo2x Member ✭✭✭
    edited November 2019
    In that case buy what works for your shack. Laptop with an external monitor can give you two displays for additional programs. Dave wo2x
  • Santiago Mejia - HI8SMXSantiago Mejia - HI8SMX Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    Yes, see a picture of my shack a couple of months ago (Pre-Flex), now it’s getting a make over to accommodate the Flex and an Acom 600S I’m getting later this month.

    I managed to fit 3 monitors but can’t do a lot more.

  • Ken HansenKen Hansen Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    Yes, a small, micro desktop. With careful research you can find a model that natively supports multiple monitors and if you search for an off-lease refurb model you can save a lot of money and have a more-than-adequate computer for your needs. A laptop-based solution for such an application you'll find yourself working against the design of the laptop.
  • Brian Denley  KB1VBFBrian Denley KB1VBF Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    Full size desktop.  For $1400 I got an i7 8700, RTX 2080, 2X 1TB SSDs and 32GB of ram.  Easy to add to and work on.  The SSD drives have no moving parts.  For $40 I added a 2TB hard drive that is only used monthly to back up my SSDs.  I have gone through several Win10 updates with zero issues.
  • Johan _ SE3XJohan _ SE3X Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    Desktop, easy to expand, loads of space, cheap to buy. Lenovo Workstation, bought 1 year old, recond 600 Euro. Intel Xenon 3.7 GHz, 32 GB RAM, SSD 2TB, 2xNVIDIA graphic card w. 4 24" screens.

  • Ha GeiHa Gei Member
    edited June 11
    Desktop , definitely. laptops, although they do all the Job, are limited in connectivity and extentability. 
    More Screens, more USBxx incl. upcoming Versions, higher Bandwidth possible at Networks incl. Fibre etc. etc.

    Laptop is good for travel or second rig in parallel.

    Using an old dell T5500 and a 12" Lenovo 230 Laptop here. 

  • Joe N3HEEJoe N3HEE Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    What video card is required to drive a single 50 inch 4K monitor for non gaming use ?
  • Mark_WS7MMark_WS7M Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    I also vote a desktop, get plenty of RAM.  32 GB is a good start.  Go SSD drives too.  With a desktop you should have the space to put rotating drives in as well.

    I'd also suggest a reasonable video card.  Many desktops come with video on the motherboard which is generally good but may not have enough ports to drive all the monitors you want.   So I'd suggest looking at NVidia video cards and pick one that supports the monitors you want.

    I realize you don't have a lot of space but you could consider some bigger monitors and the use of monitor arms to support them.
  • WW1SS - SteveWW1SS - Steve Member
    edited April 10
    I use a little Intel NUC with an I7 processor with 32gb ram and put in a SSD. works great and is only 4" square.
  • David Decoons, wo2xDavid Decoons, wo2x Member ✭✭✭
    edited November 2019
    An Nvidia GTX1060 should handle desktop 4K use OK. This includes YouTube videos. 

    I would suggest the NVidia GTX1660 as it is a little faster and has 6 GB ram. They go for under $250 USD.

    I'm sure others may chime in with suggestions.

    Here I am running an NVidia GTX 1080Ti which has 11 GB ram. This is connected to a 50" Sony 4K TV I use as a monitor. I use the desktop for both shack PC and gaming PC thus the higher end video card.

    Dave wo2x
  • Santiago Mejia - HI8SMXSantiago Mejia - HI8SMX Member ✭✭
    edited March 2
    Thanks everybody for your comments and experience sharing. I guess desktop is likely the best option, but that doesn't mean that laptop have its advantages too. Now it's just a matter of setting my budget and start watching the sales season.

  • iw2clmiw2clm Member ✭✭
    edited March 2
    Finally I found a very interesting solution with a mini pc, but really powerful (XEON processor but you can choose other procs). At first buy, I was little scared about the quality of this pure-chinise pc, but when I got it I was nicely impressed really: it works a lot better than any prevision. Very good for SmartSDR v.3 and with DAX too. I keep 24h a day switched on.

    Search for Eglobal on Aliexpress:
  • Santiago Mejia - HI8SMXSantiago Mejia - HI8SMX Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
  • Wayne MicahelWayne Micahel Member
    edited November 2019
    I use an Antsle XD VM server and I use a windows 10 VM on it.   I had some bugs to work out but I can access my machine anywhere in the world.  I have it backed up to the cloud each night.   I don't sit at a desk at home and operate.  I don't need large monitors with waterfalls.   

    If I wanted a "command center" style setup it would be a top of the line PC with the latest fastest processor I could afford.    Maybe an 8th gen i7?   

    Why not a laptop?    If your not going anywhere and you run a laptop 24/7 (my radio is on 24/7 and reporting what it hears 24/7 unless I'm using it) then you will **** the laptop battery.   Laptops are not made for constant use even it some will handle it, it was never its purpose.  

    Why take a butter knife to a steak shop?  

    My 2 cents worth and with all the discounts I may own you some change...

  • ReggieReggie Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019

    What model of PC are you using?


  • Brian Denley  KB1VBFBrian Denley KB1VBF Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    iBuyPower.  Bought it last November.  I added the second TB SSD and the 2TB backup drive and more RAM.  The nice thing about large desktops is the ease of upgrading.
  • Santiago Mejia - HI8SMXSantiago Mejia - HI8SMX Member ✭✭
    edited March 2
    At the end, here’s why the budget allowed, 9th gen i9, 32GB RAM, 500 GB SSD, 1TB HDD for backup, RX480 video card (sorry no Nvidia). This shall get the work done.

  • David Decoons, wo2xDavid Decoons, wo2x Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 11
    More than aduquate for shack PC Dave wo2x
  • John KB4DUJohn KB4DU Member ✭✭
    edited November 2019
    I us use a laptop, but not recommending it, for it can be a struggle to get the additional monitors working. Fortunately, this one has a DisplayPort video.

      Using WIN 7, it runs SmartSDR and 2 instances of WSJT-X quite nicely with 4GB ram. $75 hamfest deal.

    SmartSDR doesn't need a lot of processing power, but network throughput is critical to keep everything connected and working

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