There are quite a few people out there trying to brainwash their audience and convince them that laptops are, somehow, an invention of the Devil, and that they are only shiny pretty toys intended for bragging about them more than working with them, and that any serious work is to be done always on a desktop computer.
I don’t agree.
While I’ve got quite a history of pain and failure with my laptops on Linux, this is all related to the unfortunate tendency of my family to buy any kind of artifacts without researching the available models, their pros and cons, past consumers’ experiences, etc. If I actually had the time to choose my laptop on ’Xmas 2008, I’d not have gone through the long and convoluted road towards 100% Linux compatibility — on which I’m still stuck, around 95%.
My last two computers are regular laptops, and they are preceded by an OEM-built desktop that is pretty much useless at this point, better known as Blackcore. That annoying can of crap served me well at the beginning for various tasks, including drawing, writing and compiling software, watching TV or DVDs, listening FM radio, gaming, and general tinkering with Linux (openSUSE 10.2 and 10.3). Of course, I also used it for doing my homework whenever I didn’t have any other option.
But then, I got my first laptop, Greycore. I started to appreciate the possibilities of wireless Internet through Wi-Fi, the ability to watch videos or work on stuff in any location (including my bed), and the safety granted by the battery supply whenever black-outs are imminent (storms, etc.). Through mobility I also became a regular contributor to Battle for Wesnoth, and that continues to be the case even nowadays.
Since getting Bluecore in particular, my usage of the poor broken desktop box drastically diminished, in part due to the larger storage capacity — Greycore had a 80 GB HDD, and Bluecores has 250 GB. The 2 GHz dual-core AMD64-capable processor also helps, despite my desktop has an older 2.6 GHz Intel Pentium 4 with Hyperthreading technology. In practice, Bluecore’s performance and capabilities are on par (and even surpass in some cases) with Blackcore. Of course this is a moot point if I compared it with newer desktop systems, but why bother?
Why should I bother to get a desktop, if I’m already comfortable using my laptop? The keyboard is softer than the desktop’s, it has a decent display size (1280x800 vs. Blackcore’s 1280x1024), it doesn’t have any annoying wires, I can play movies with it (connecting the desktop’s speakers whenever possible), it can burn DVDs and CDs, it has a 1-slot multicard reader, three USB ports that suit most purposes without needing an additional hub, it can connect to the Internet through WLAN or using my USB modem, it does hardware virtualization so I can run many different operating systems with VirtualBox, it has 4 GB of RAM (used to be 2GB, and Blackcore has 1 GB), the PCIe ATI Radeon HD 3200 is pretty good in comparison to the other onboard GPUs I have used (ATI mayhem notwithstanding), I have enough disk space to do anything I need, and more; and most importantly, I can carry it around to work on anything and anywhere.
If you are a humble computer user like me (regardless of expertise level), and you don’t really require the full power of a bulky desktop machine, and mobility and versatility are your priorities, you’ll most likely feel at ease with a notebook-laptop.
I have not addressed netbooks on purpose, since I don’t own any of those yet. However, I see some potential in acquiring one since I occasionally don’t need the full power (and weight!) of Bluecore, i.e. when going out for a drive. In such occasions I’ll be mainly interested on being able to quickly check my email inbox, the Wesnoth forums, and IRC, instead of running CPU-intensive software (I’m looking at you, Wesnoth game client!). Whenever I get an opportunity, I’ll get one, regardless of what certain people out there could say about it. I don’t consider myself a consumerist, nor I intend to become one, but I’ll always lean towards the aforementioned mobility and versatility for my specific purposes, even if that involves accepting the platform’s limitations.
So, don’t let either band brainwash you: think about your needs first, and about your peers later!