In the age of the Digital Revolution, the 21st century is growing into the era of online and screen-interfaced interaction between humans. Adding a layer to the lifestyle is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced us to restrict our interaction predominantly via electronic devices. 

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Architects and architectural representation have become digitized since the inception of the 21st Century. Usage of partly complex software has made our lives easier, ironically speaking. However, it has also increased our spectrum of creativity and medium of creative visualization in the field associated with innovation of built forms and spatial experiences. Companies like Adobe, Autodesk, McNeel, Act-3D, and Graphisoft have been consequential in facilitating the ease of workability in the development of Realistic and quick to draft software, thereby increasing the productivity rate of most modern-age architects worldwide.

Laptop or desktop for Architecture- which is a better option? Sheet1
The 2 tribes of Primal Architectural MachinaSource- Karen Haslam (https://www.macworld.co.uk/feature/apple-laptop-vs-desktop-3465239/)

While the basic software of usage is predominantly constant, due to particular workflows; the device of usage always varies from person to person depending on their particular feasibility. The question between, whether as Architects we should opt for a Laptop or Desktop, to better our rates of academic and professional work production.

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Laptop or desktop for Architecture- which is a better option? Sheet2
A Matter of ChoiceSource- https://www.designairspace.com/blogs/read-more/architect-computer

There are many factors of consideration that arise when choosing the most suitable machine for your architectural workability. From the portability to system requirements, from workflow maximization to budgetary constraints. The latter most tend to be consequential due to the heavy expenditure students and professionals face in their tenure, and the lack of earning ability, that most people in this field encounter throughout their careers. 

Thus, the constant dilemma that most architecture students and many professionals face, is on deciding as to what scale of a machine to use. The parameters of choice are constant, yet the specifications that they entail are variable. Therefore, the comparison that is to be undertaken, shall be on general categories, and how each form of machine performs overall with respect to it. While each has advantages about its categories, certain disadvantages exist as well; when finalizing a decision.

Portability

Laptops: Portable, Lighter
Desktops: Not Portable, Heavy 

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Laptop or desktop for Architecture- which is a better option? Sheet3
Anywhere, AnyplaceSource- https://gadgetsin.com/the-handmade-portable-laptop-desk.htm

The Portability aspect is highly pivotal in the case of Architects, especially if one is bound to travel a lot. For students, travelling from home or hostel to their respective university results in the need for a portable device that can be taken along with them. Even when considering Freelance Architects, and Architects who have regular site visits; a Laptop is a preferable device due to its portability, which will help in the communication and relaying of information to other individuals associated with the development of the project. 

A Desktop, however, works on the contrary. Due to the heavy machinery and a load of components involved, it goes without saying that Desktops work at a major disadvantage, and are only suitable for long hours of stationary productive work in an office, studio, or a home studio-office. Therefore, when choosing whether to go for a Laptop or Desktop, a laptop is the best preferred option when it comes to the aspect of mobility and portability while travelling, and is more suitable for creative professionals undertaking projects in different regions of their respective country, and the world. 

Possibility of Upgradation

Laptops: Fixed configuration with the limited possibility for an upgrade
Desktops: Huge scope for customization depending on Budget and Necessity

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Laptop or desktop for Architecture- which is a better option? Sheet4
System UpdateSource- http://www.alltechflix.com/upgrade-buy-new-pc/

In our lives as Architects and students, our monetary affordability is very limited. However, as we progress; our needs for machine specifications increase. To better our productivity, we need a higher RAM, a higher graphic card, and a lot more memory in the form of HDD + SSD. The issues arise in Laptops, due to their fixed physical framework, there is not much scope for an upgrade besides the RAM in some cases. Due to the machine being manufactured under fixed specifications, and the physical modality being limited, laptops do not offer more scope for the replacement of better components. Thereby, inducing a constant change in the machine of use, as students become professionals, and begin undertaking far more complex projects. This model becomes far more economically unsustainable and has unnecessary usage of resources. 

Desktops on the other hand; transform into a proper functioning machine after it combines with various other necessary parts. The configurations are flexible in comparison with a laptop. Therefore, when Architects reach a later stage in life; they prefer creating their own machine, based on the parts that they really require. This helps in the quick production of high-quality work, as it adds the Architect’s advanced skillset to the machine’s high rate of functionality. Added to the fact that working on a Desktop assures long hours of constant productive work, Desktops fulfil the criteria of up-gradation and customization in this category of Laptop or Desktop.

Longevity

Laptops: Increase in wear and tear, due to constant portability and use: Short Product Life Cycle
Desktop: Due to the static tendency, caused by the heavy machinery, not much movement and therefore, wear and tear. 

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Laptop or desktop for Architecture- which is a better option? Sheet5
Wear and TearSource- https://www.chillblast.com/learn/does-playing-games-damage-computers-and-laptops/

A Modern-day architect’s lifeline is their Laptop or Desktop. Therefore, it tends to be their most used device and is what is consequential in helping them deliver their best work. Therefore, with an increased level of usage, gradual wear and tear are inevitable, irrespective of how well it is maintained and taken care of. 

Due to the portable aspect of Laptops, they have moved around and are used in different places the most. They are far likelier to get damaged in the case of mishandling, due to most of them being predominantly lighter in weight (especially the Mac laptops). 

Hence, with the tendency of wear and tear, along with various other factors stated above, laptops tend to not be that sustainable, when it comes to a long product life cycle. They need to be replaced every 2 years at an average, or 8 years at their best. Due to newer configurations and software requirements, there is a ticking clock on how useful a laptop can be to its user, as the architect/student feels the need to keep up with the latest trends and requirements.

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Desktops, on the other hand, tend to be far more flexible and long-lasting, as they are just a combination of various pivotal components. If one component is no longer of any use, you can buy another one; of the same or different configuration, depending on your need and financial affordability. Therefore, Desktops tend to trump their counterpart in the case of Long Product Life. 

Economy

Laptops: Fixed Cost providing given specifications
Desktop: Variable and Higher Cost depending on needed specifications

Perhaps the most important parameter of all, without which the question of choice itself remains redundant, is the economy and affordability. While both the machines are on the higher end of the cost spectrum overall, in comparison with each other, the Laptops tend to be far more economical compared to a Desktop. The situation can be compared with the example of having an existing standardized product, or a specific-customized commodity; the latter is bound to be the expensive choice.

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Laptops are the affordable choice of the two, as they come with fixed configurations and lesser physical presence, however; the price-to-performance ratio in laptops is lesser when compared to desktops, as there is no possibility for change, and in the areas where upgrading can be done; they do not tend to be economic. Desktops on the other hand would cost more if the setup is customized to the user’s needs. If the highest configuration of RAM, Graphic Card, SSD + HDD, and Monitor is to be used, the overall price will be expensive beyond comparison; and not worth the expense to a certain level. Therefore, when it comes to economy; Laptops trump their counterpart in this choice comparison of Laptop or Desktop.

Laptop or desktop for Architecture- which is a better option? Sheet6
Use and Affordability
Source- https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/9824-laptop-vs-desktop-pc-which-is-better-for-business.html

The perpetual debate as to which machine is far more suitable can only depend on the subjective preferences of each individual in the field of architecture. Laptops due to economy and portability tend to be a better fit for students. Whereas in the case of professionals, Desktop is a better fit, as they tend to work on complex projects, and can afford the setup due to the possibility of investing their income. 

While there is no undisputed choice between the two when it comes to working on a machine, it is safe to say that a combination of both is the best position one can be in, a customized machine with a high functioning capacity to work with, and a basic portable machine, that can present all your basic work when on the move. Ultimately, it does come down to Laptop or Desktop; it does depend on each their own.

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References

https://www.designairspace.com/blogs/read-more/architect-computer

https://architizer.com/blog/practice/tools/architecture-students-laptop-guide/

https://archinect.com/forum/thread/150077542/laptop-or-pc-for-architecture

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Author

A final year architecture student, currently studying in SVKM-NMIMS Balwant Sheth School of Architecture, Mumbai, he has allied interests towards architectural photography and writing. Having a penchant for films and philosophy as well, he is of the belief that architecture and design have the ability to capture the most pivotal moments in life itself.

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