Client email: Should I get both a laptop and desktop?

Names have been changed, but this is an actual question we've been asked, and thought you might enjoy the answer.

Hi Rick,

My old iMac has run its course and needs to be replaced. I'd like to be more mobile with my Mac, so this time I'm thinking of getting both a new iMac and MacBook. What do you think?


Hi Susan,

Here are a few thoughts; there are a couple ways to go about this.

First, the Desktop + Laptop idea works for a lot of people, but it sometimes can create additional stress when it comes to making sure documents, pictures, and programs are where you expect them to be. I've noticed some folks in this situation find themselves thinking, "Hey, I want to show you a picture on my laptop, but I just remembered it's actually at home on the desktop right now," or "Didn't I already download Pages to this computer?" Stuff like that. In my opinion, the only folks who need to go the Desktop + Laptop route are ones who need the extra horsepower of a desktop computer.

The alternative would be going with a Laptop + External Monitor. Think of it like an old "docking station" that a lot of computers had in the late 90's. Here's what the modern equivalent would look like: [click here]. In that particular picture, the laptop is closed and being held up by a stand. On its backside, a cable is running to the monitor and it's wirelessly connected to the keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth.

I think the Laptop + Monitor is one of the most elegant and easy ways to go. From an IT perspective, it's way easier to manage, too. All the files are on one computer. When you're at home, you just plug in the laptop, and what you were working on appears on the big monitor. The other items that would need to be purchased are they external keyboard and mouse. 

As far as the initial purchase goes, the Desktop + Laptop and then the Laptop + Monitor situation actually comes out costing roughly the same up front. (Also, if you want to replace the laptop several years down the road, you can still continue to use the same monitor. So over the long run, it's much more cost effective.) One difference is that in the external monitor option, you would have a bit of bigger screen -- which is nice.

Let me know what you think of that idea. If you still want to go with the Desktop + Laptop scenario for other reasons I don't know about, we can definitely go that route, too. And from there, we can then talk about which specific laptop to pick out, etc.


Rick Stawarz

Minneapolis, MN

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.