Laptops v Netbooks – the showdown

This is a guest post by Rachael Miller, of

Buying a computer a few years back was hard enough, but now there are so many types of computer systems, designs, and desirable features- not to mention desirable looks- that it can be a real chore to choose one that is right for you. There is a showdown going down between laptops and netbooks, as many people simply don’t know which type of portable computer to go for. Do you go for the cute mini-computer which will fit in your backpack and is as light as a feather? Or do you go for the larger option, with more power and storage space? This guide offers the key features of each type of portable computer, and will hopefully help you decide on which is best for you…


The good old laptop has been outselling the desktop PC for a good few years now, mainly because its portable nature is more convenient for the modern way of life. Constant access to the internet and your files/documents is a major benefit in our professional and social lives which is why laptops have become so popular. Laptops typically offer:

  • A 14”-17” screen
  • Full sized keyboard
  • Around 3 hour battery life
  • Integrated modem, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functions.
  • Internal DVD-ROM drive
  • USB ports
  • Audio/speaker system
  • Low power consumption


Netbooks were designed with people who live on the go in mind. Netbooks are smaller, more compact and perfect for those who carry their computer around with them a lot of the time. Screens and keyboards are generally smaller on notebooks, which typically offer these features:

  • Very light
  • 4/5 hour battery life
  • No internal DVD/CD system
  • Integrated modem and internet capabilities
  • Screen usually 12-14”
  • Smaller keyboard
  • A thinner profile
  • No floppy disc drive

By comparing laptops’ and netbooks’ specs, it is obvious that there is no clear winner; each simply appeals to different people who want different things from their portable computer. A laptop user would probably use it as their main computer and completely replace the desktop, as the laptop is designed to do everything a desktop does but with the ability to remain portable. It has easier usability due to its bigger screen size and full sized keyboard, can support external drives via USB and will most probably have a high quality speaker system.

Netbooks, on the other hand are simpler in terms of features, but more modern in appearance. They can be tiny, are thinner and more compact than a standard laptop. The keyboard is condensed into a smaller version but can still be used effectively. The netbook is designed so that carrying your computer around need not break your back and is compact enough to use anywhere, whilst still being able to connect to the internet. The choice is completely subjective. Until recently the choice between the two was hard enough, but what about when another potential computing giant swaggers onto the scene?

New Kid on the Block

Tablet Computers have been around but really burst onto the public consciousness in April 2010, following the release of the Apple iPad. Sceptics envisioned the iPad to be a fad, but after CES 2011 it’s clear that the tablet computer is here to stay. Apparently there will be over 100 new designs of Tablets from different manufacturers released over the course of the coming year. So, what’s all the hype? A few features of a tablet:

  • Around the same size as a piece of paper
  • Unbelievably thin.
  • Usually weighs less than 3lbs
  • Touchscreen
  • Access to thousands of applications in a few touches
  • A portal for social media. Easy use of social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Digg and Tumblr
  • Can be used as an MP3 player, e-reader and to view movies/YouTube videos and much more

Basically, a Tablet is like a laptop and a smart phone combined. Tablets will no doubt be getting more intelligent as each day passes and could really give the humble laptop and notebook a run for its money. Tablets are likely to come down in prices over the next year or so due to high competition, which will also give you more choice in terms of internet tariffs and which software you can use. So the choice is yours…

Which format do you prefer? Do you favour the near-desktop capabilities of a laptop, the ultra-portable nature of a netbook, or are you a convert to tablets? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. I work on a desktop all day, but used a laptop for travel. My old laptop was starting to struggle, so I decided to buy an iPad.

    But when I played around with the iPad before buying it, it became clear that it wouldn’t actually do the job I needed it for. I wanted to be able to blog on the move, and the virtual keyboard, combined with the inability to connect my camera to download images made me change my mind.

    In the end I went for a netbook, and I’ve been delighted with it.

    • Sounds like you’ve explored most of the options there Mike! I use a desktop at home, but prefer a laptop when I’m travelling or otherwise working away from the house.

  2. Netbook are designed mainly to surf Internet because it has lower processig power, video car, RAM, etc. Since it could last around 10 hours, it is convenient to do all sorts of online activities and connect with friends with it.

    Laptops are designed differently. They are mainly for people to WORK on the go and not really just surfing the Internet. Laptop today can have more than 3 processors with really awesome video cards which allows designers, architects and other professionals to work while they travel.

    That’s my opinion :)

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