Are Smaller Computers Better?

It’s a trend we’ve been observing for a very long time: As new iterations of devices come to the market, their designs are sleeker and smaller than ever before. This has happened with cameras, music players, cell phones, and computers. DIY computer enthusiasts are concerned about the changes that are happening to their favorite platforms to do just about, well, anything. In the grand scheme of things, though, is having a smaller computer better for the user? We’re ready to explore this subject, including almost anything with a CPU within our definition of a computer this time.

smallcomputer-repair

The number one question people always ask me about smaller computers is, “Are these little devices going to cost me more to repair?” My answer is almost always “yes” because of one simple reason: The smaller components require a bit more finesse to repair, and since they are more integrated (i.e. they are usually soldered into the main board), a repair might require the replacement of an entire section of computing hardware, raising the cost significantly. While labor costs might not significantly impact your cost of repair, you will pay the price in another form.

Since small devices aren’t always modular (some actually are!), you may have a very hard time trying to repair one yourself. On one hand we have the Dell XPS 13 ultraportable laptop which can be repaired rather easily. On the other we have Apple’s super-slim MacBook Pro which is a nightmare on wheels to pick apart.

A lot of it has to do with how the components are designed. Seamless sleek designs may be more aesthetic, but they are much less practical. In contrast, a few “unsightly” screws placed in discreet locations can really help ease the repair process. All in all, even very accessible laptops will not be as easy to repair as desktop computers, which have many modular detachable components that can be replaced on a dime.

smallcomputer-inside

Aside from more difficult repair, there are other disadvantages to having a smaller device space:

  • an overheating risk from confined spaces
  • a restrained amount of computing power due to smaller components
  • an increased potential risk of deterioration from dust particles and other contaminants

While these risks may make it sound like we shouldn’t be putting devices in confined spaces, there is the advantage of portability which sometimes makes much more sense. Take the smartphone, for example. Are you really going to carry around a phone the size of a shoe when there’s a perfectly fine phone with a relatively large amount of processing power packed into a platform the size of your hand?

People tolerate the size of desktop PCs because of the amount of power they wield, but they wouldn’t tolerate similarly-sized variants of devices such as cameras and tablets. This is why people don’t buy 17-inch tablets as often as they buy behemoth desktops with 27-inch monitors.

If there’s one thing you should take away from all of this, it’s that small sizes may lead to complications, but they have their place in certain areas of the electronics market. What do you think? Should the PC continue to shrink, or is it fine the way it is? Tell us in a comment!