In the previous post in this series, Gather Your Tools, Pt.1 — The Fire Sprinkler Design Software, I explored the necessary design software to get you up and running. However, that software needs a machine to run on which is your next critical decision. Whether you purchase a desktop computer or a laptop computer, this is the second largest investment money wise you will make to outfit a designer. I chose a laptop for a number of good reasons but your needs may be very different. To make this decision you need to ask yourself some key questions. Would you like to bring your computer out on a job site survey? How important is upgrading a computer to you? If you work in an office, would you like the ability to bring your computer home with you? What is your computer budget? Lets discuss each of these questions in a little more detail.
Bringing your computer out on a job site: This is probably the number one question you need to ask yourself. For me, being able to bring my laptop out to the job site was a must. Having access to all my digital drawings, and the ability to draw out the sprinkler system onsite enabled my drawings to be more accurate and detailed then if I had just a pad of paper and a pen. Anyone who has surveyed a building the old-school way of paper drawings, multi-colored pens, scales, and pictures from a camera knows that it is impossible to gather all the information you will need. Added to that, once you start designing the system back in the office, you may run into questions that you never thought of back at the site and need to get them answered to complete your design.
How important is upgrading a computer to you: This is one of the areas where a desktop computer shines. They are highly upgradable and fairly easy for the average user to do themselves. However laptops….not so much. The only equipment I can think of that is fairly easy to upgrade is the RAM. If you want a new processor, graphics card, or motherboard, forget about it. It would be better to hire someone to take apart the laptop at that point. However, you can side step this issue by buying an upgraded laptop at your initial purchase. I looked for a minimum of 12GB of RAM, quadcore CPU with a fairly high gigahertz rating, 64-bit operating system, and a graphics card with 3GB of memory. I ended up buying a ASUS ROG Laptop from Amazon at a fairly reasonable price (or at least I thought) which should last me a minimum of 5 years. At that point, you will probably need to upgrade whether you have a laptop or desktop anyway.
Bringing your computer home with you: Again, this is an issue of portability. Are you the type of person that when five o’clock hits, your out the door? If so, this may not be critical to you but if your office starts offering work-from-home-days, a smaller portable laptop will be much easier then lugging around a desktop, monitor, and such.
Your Computer Budget: Its no surprise that desktops are the most economical way to go with the cost of a laptop being 30%-50% more. There is not much more I can say about this. If money is the primary driver of your purchase, desktops win. However, over the life span of a computer, I think portability is worth the extra money and it will be well spent.
If you have an opinion on a laptop versus a desktop, please take a moment to write your opinion below in the comments section.