Laptops replaced the desktop computers and came into existence in the early 1980s. Though netbooks can technically be considered as belonging to the family of laptops, they are relatively smaller in size and lighter in weight and primarily used for web browsing.

Netbooks have become popular only in the recent times (since 2007), when the weight and price factors became more viable. This happened as recently as 2008 when they became commercially available.

Comparison chart

Laptop versus Netbook comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartLaptopNetbook
Main Manufacturers Apple, Dell, Toshiba, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, Sony, MSI, AlienWare, Microsoft Acer, Asus
Size Small and sleek to large and bulky. Screen sizes normally range from 10 to 20 inches across. Netbooks are usually very small in size, ultra-portable devices that replace bulkier laptops.
Constraints The battery life of a regular laptop is limited and deteriorates with age. Over and above the limitations of a regular laptop; netbooks, considering their smaller size, have a smaller capacity hard-drive, slower CPU and a lower RAM capacity.
Usage Primary usage is mobility and replicates the usage of a personal computer with extra durability. The prime focus is internet access — web browsing, emailing, etc.
Cooling system Has fans and other system like in desktop adjusted to suit its use. Netbooks may not have cooling fans to prevent overheating of the processor.
DVD- DRIVES and other Accessories like in Desktop Can be present in an integrated fashion. Netbooks usually do not have integrated DVD drives so that they can be kept lighter.
Use Primarily used for work or gaming. Can be powerful enough to handle difficult tasks. Mostly used for internet browsing and online activities.
OS (Operating System) Almost every laptop is capable of supporting any operating system. The most well known are Windows, OS X (Apple), and Linux. Almost every netbook is capable of supporting any operating system. The most well known are Windows, OS X (Apple), and Linux.
Meaning A laptop is a mobile computer/device, small and light in weight and as the name suggests, sits in the lap of the user. Netbooks are also laptops that are energy efficient, smaller in size and more suitable for wireless communication.
Processing Capacity Laptops are usually associated with higher processing power than notebooks. Normally 1-8 GB RAM. Netbooks usually have a lower speed processor This can cause a degraded experience when doing more intensive tasks such as watching movies or playing games. Intel® AtomTM and Intel® CeleronTM processors
Physical characteristics A laptop usually weighs between 1.4 to 5.4 Kgs. (3 to12 pounds) A netbook weighs between 0.9 Kg to 1.4 Kg.

Differences in features and hardware

Portable computers like laptops and notebooks have been in the market for quite sometime. The new entrant, netbook, has now revolutionized the industry. Gone are the days of carrying a large and heavy laptop around. Netbooks are much smaller in size and hence the portability factor has gained a truly new dimension. While an average laptop weighs a little less than 8 lb, a netbook with weighs much lesser than 5 lb and slides into places that a laptop can only of dream of getting into. Netbooks are generally a range of 12” when it comes to screen size whereas a laptop ranges more than 12”.

Netbook processors consist of a single-core Intel and VIA chips that range from 1.1 GHz to 1.83 GHz but laptops consist of single, duo and even quad processors of Intel and AMD ranging from 1.6 GHz to 2.66 GHz. Netbooks come with a standard memory of 1GB upgradeable to 2GB and low end laptops come with 2GB memory and the high end versions can go up to 8 or even 16GB.

Operating Systems on laptops and netbooks

Invariably, any operating system can be loaded onto a regular laptop. The most preferred operating systems on a netbook are the light-weight ones likes Linux and Windows XP. This is mainly netbooks are typically lower capacity in terms of hardware - processor, hard disk and RAM (memory).

Windows remains the most popular operating system on both laptops and netbooks. However, in recent times, Google's Chrome OS has targeted the Netbook market. Macs and Chrome OS are less vulnerable to spyware because hackers have traditionally targeted Windows PCs.

Price comparison

A netbook is cheaper than a laptop considering the minimalist hardware features that it offers vis-à-vis laptops. This is more useful during credit crunches and for users needing a portable computer for the sole purpose of internet access.

The price for a laptop depends upon the purpose of its usage. A minimum performance laptop would cost between $500 and $600; a higher performance laptop or an Apple Macbook ranges between $1200 and $2500 but a gaming laptop is typically on a higher range and costs anywhere between $3000 and $10,000. The price of netbooks has been declining and they cost at least 40% lesser this year when compared to the previous year. Low end notebooks come at even $150 and the high end ones cost up to $600. The prices are as of the year 2009.

Popularity of Netbooks vs Laptops

Considering the size, weight and price factors, industry analysts opine that the netbook market will hold more potential in the days to come since this has already started burgeoning. The concept of cloud computing has also become predominant with the advent of netbook.

But the market for laptops has not folded since netbooks have limited battery size, processing power and storage space. A netbook is preferred as a cheaper and lighter mode of portable computing.


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