Why the desktop PC is making a comeback

As work-from-home styles evolve for the long-term, some workers are building their hybrid and remote routines around a home office original.

By Jared Lindzon — August 25, 2022

When Mallory Greene left her job to co-found the digital funeral services company Eirene in June of 2019, she purchased a laptop from her former employer. Before long, she found it wasn’t the right tool for her new life working from home.

Greene says she always felt uncomfortable hunching over the small screen, and found the ability to take the laptop with her to the couch or the kitchen table created less-than-ideal working conditions and too many opportunities for procrastination.

“Posture wise, slouching over a small laptop wasn’t working for me,” she says. “I decided I would rather have what I considered a more legitimate office setup — a desktop. It felt more like I was going to work every day.”

That need for a stronger division between work and personal spaces only got more pronounced as the pandemic set in. “I needed to have a very clear separation, so that when I step away from my desk I’m stepping away from work,” she says.


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After years of losing the spotlight to smaller, sleeker laptops and tablets, desktops are enjoying a renaissance with remote and hybrid workers like Greene who seek to optimize their at-home work experience for the long term. Other key drivers of desktop sales include the growing numbers of PC gamers and digital creators, two communities that rely on superior speed, storage, and compute power. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), PC sales shot up 14.8% between 2020 and 2021, representing nearly 350 million devices — with desktop sales growth outpacing that of laptops in the second quarter of the year.

After using a desktop for the last two years, Greene says it’s become her device of choice.

“I’ll always work remotely, and it’s been key to my productivity,” she says.

More computing bang for your buck

Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC’s mobile and consumer device trackers, says three key consumer types have driven the rise of the desktop computer over the past few years — remote workers, gamers, and creators — each for different reasons.

For remote workers, he says that in the early days of the pandemic, many assumed they would be back in the office within a few weeks. As those weeks turned into months and eventually years, however, many sought a more permanent at-home setup, and discovered even more benefits with a stationary device.

Left: Black and white image of 1980s man at desk with large desktop computer. Right: colorful modern-day work-from-home office setup.


Yesterday's clunky, beige boxes have evolved into the smaller, more aesthetically pleasing desktops that are actually displayed—on people’s desktop.

“A desktop often will give you a better bang for your buck,” he says. “You’ll get better performance for the same dollars you would spend on a notebook, and because you’re sitting in one room of the house, you don’t necessarily need a battery.”

Gamers and creators, meanwhile, often prefer desktops to laptops because of their superior computing power and storage capacity. Desktops also offer the ability to upgrade individual parts without replacing the whole device, and enhancements with more accessories, such as a printer, scanner, camera, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. 

“It’s about getting the maximum amount of performance, and that’s true for both gamers and folks who just need a lot of compute,” he says. 

The centerpiece of a technology ecosystem

When most picture a desktop they imagine the “family computer” of the early Internet age — a tall, clunky, beige box that sits underneath a desk making odd noises. As a result, those who haven’t purchased a desktop in recent years are often surprised by what’s available. Ubrani says that the smaller and more aesthetically pleasing models of today are often displayed right on people’s desks instead of tucked underneath, and typically take up less space than other computer accessories, like monitors and printers. Desktops designed specifically for gamers even feature LED lighting effects that add to the gaming experience.

“They’ve gotten smaller, more manageable, and easier to work with than what they used to be,” he says.

For example, th HP ENVY 34-inch All-in-One, designed specifically for creators, has no tower at all — everything is housed in the massive desk display, which also includes multiple ports for accessories. A detachable, magnetic camera can be positioned anywhere on the display for optimal angles or sharing what’s on your desk, and enhanced lighting helps ensure you look your best in video calls. 

Today’s desktops also fit seamlessly into a world in which people own and use a variety of devices, and often simultaneously. Whether for work or for play, it’s not uncommon for users to switch between laptops, desktops, phones, tablets, smart TVs, and gaming consoles to suit a variety of situations and needs.

“Creative and technical professionals are really pushing the boundaries, and right now only desktops can deliver that level of performance.”

—Brian Allen, manager of the Global Z Workstation product team at HP

“There’s typically an ecosystem that is involved with these types of users, because it is all about high performance and large amounts of data,” explains Brian Allen, manager of the Global Z Workstation product team at HP. “You may have an external Wacom tablet to do designs in Photoshop or Illustrator, maybe you’ve got a couple of backup drives, maybe you’re doing photography and plugging in your camera.”

Another part of that ecosystem: Monitors that enable workers to move seamlessly between applications, documents, and video calls without losing track of windows and tabs — including a new generation of monitors with conferencing capabilities built in, freeing up the desktop itself for work.

A hub for high-powered remote work

As work spreads across more devices operating in concert, Allen says HP is offering users more software solutions to keep them all connected, even at a distance. Z Teradici CAS and ZCentral Remote Boost, for example, allow multiple users to collaborate on a project hosted on a single desktop from anywhere in the world. 

Allen adds that the solution is especially valued by those whose jobs require the superior computing power of a desktop device. For example, illustrators, developers, data scientists, photographers, and other professionals use software tools that require processing complex graphics and data, no-lag rendering, and plenty of memory to operate at their fullest capacity. “Creative and technical professionals are really pushing the boundaries, and right now only desktops can deliver that level of performance,” says Allen.

These HP solutions also allow individuals to access the power and performance of their desktop computer using a mobile device, such as a laptop, tablet, or phone.   

“If I’m at DreamWorks or Disney creating movies and doing animation, or a data scientist working with millions of points of data, I can’t do that only on a mobile device,” he says. “They may be using the mobile in front of them, but they’re remoting into a desktop workstation at the office as they work from home or collaborate with a colleague offsite.”


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