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Netbooks vs. Notebooks

Netbooks vs. Notebooks

Netbooks vs. notebooks... what's the difference between the two? Which is better and why? Read on to see who emerges winner in this debate.
Manali Oak
The smaller the word, lesser the computing power, lesser the speed, and lesser the price. The difference between a notebook and a netbook is as subtle as the difference in the words. Many believe that there is no specific difference between them; it just depends on what one chooses to call them. When laptops hit the market, they were 'lap'tops. They shrank in size and began to be called notebooks. Today, the words 'laptop' and 'notebook' are used interchangeably. Similarly, as notebooks reduced in size, they got the name netbooks. Well, this is what the common perception is. But the truth is slightly different. There are certain differences between netbooks and notebooks in terms of not just their word-lengths; but also their size, computing power, speed, hardware and operating system compatibility, networking support, and other features. Before we begin with a discussion on netbooks vs. notebooks, let's understand them, one at a time. Here's an introduction to both notebooks and notebooks, followed by a discussion on the differences between them. An Introduction to Netbooks
Netbooks belong to the class of subnotebooks or small ultraportable laptop computers. Netbooks are inexpensive in comparison to laptops and other modern-day computers. They entered the computer market in 2007 at surprisingly low prices. What made them relatively inexpensive? Well, they lacked certain features and had less computing power. Their screen sizes ranged from 5 to 10 inches diagonal, they had smaller keyboards and they weighed around 1 kg. Netbooks have less powerful hardware. They lack features like optical hard drives; some do not even have the traditional hard drive. Instead, netbooks use solid-state storage devices. Most netbooks use the Intel Atom processor. The processor speed ranges from 1.2 to 1.6 GHz. Which operating systems do netbooks support? Windows XP is the first most popular operating system that netbooks are shipped with. The second most popular OS is Linux. ASUS Eee PC, a line of ASUS netbooks, has demonstrated the use of Android platform and has planned to develop Android-based netbooks. Chrome OS by Google is being foreseen as the next netbook-specific operating system. FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Darwin are some of the other operating systems that netbooks run on.

Netbooks are 'net'books; their target customers are those wanting easy Internet access. The ones available today support wi-fi networking and some support broadband or dial up Internet access as well. Most netbooks have modem and Ethernet ports and can be used on telephone and wireless networks. They also have bluetooth connectivity, which makes it possible for them to be a part of mobile networks. Some of the latest models of netbooks have built-in 3G, which makes them capable of using mobile broadband services. However, their low-resolution and small-sized screens limit the browsing features making netbooks slightly less user-friendly to an Internet user.

Now, about netbook performance. They do face certain performance-related issues due to limitations in their processing power and feature set. When it comes to running Flash along with certain other software, say a virus scanner, there is a noticeable drop in the computer's speed. Similarly, if you try to open too many applications at a time, there is a substantial drop in speed and performance, and switching between files takes a lot of time in such cases. Working on image files is not a problem in netbooks, but working with video files is. Video editing and the encoding or decoding of videos takes a lot of time on netbooks. Some of these performance issues are related to the low memory capacities that netbooks possess.

All in all, netbooks are suitable for limited use. Their low weight, compactness, and portability are their virtues. Also, they come at relatively lower prices. They support both wired and wireless Internet access. Their only limitations are that they are less feature-rich and their processing powers are less. Netbooks are recent entrants in the computer market and they seem to have a promising future.

An Introduction to Notebooks
Notebooks belong to the class of portable computers or laptops. Laptops are notebook-shaped lightweight computing devices; perhaps their shape gave them their name. Older notebooks were heavier but modern ones weigh between 3 and 12 pounds. Notebook computers are classified on the basis of the purpose for which they are designed and their feature set. Notebooks specifically designed to serve as substitutes for desktop computers, are referred to as desktop replacements. Desktop replacement notebooks are similar to desktops in their functionality and performance level. They are close to what desktops are and hence are less portable; they are less of 'notebooks'. Subnotebooks also belong to the class of notebooks. They are portable, smaller in size, and lighter in weight, for which they have smaller screens, small-sized hardware components, and less number of ports. Netbooks, as already discussed, also fall into the category of notebooks. In fact, netbooks are laptops designed for Internet use. As you already know, they have limited features, they are lightweight, portable, and cheap. Netbooks are cheaper than notebooks.

Now, for some of the basic notebook components. Notebook motherboards do not have expansion slots that desktops have. The functionality is implemented on the motherboard itself. It's quite an 'everyone knows' kind of a fact that notebooks possess less processing power and computer memory. Most notebooks are powered by an internal rechargeable battery. Most of the recent ones use lithium ion or lithium polymer batteries. Generally, the battery life is 2-5 hours after which it has to be charged using an external power supply. Notebooks have advanced power-saving features that desktop computers lack.

Modern-day notebooks have 12-inch display units that use active matrix displays. Newer laptops are equipped with LED screens that consume less power and offer wider viewing angles. CD and DVD drives are the standard media drives that notebooks come with. More commonly, they have Blu-ray drives. Notebooks have physically smaller hard disks. Some newer laptops use flash memory-based SSDs. A touch pad and a pointing stick are the most common input devices that notebooks use. Laptops have USB ports, an external monitor port and an Ethernet network port. Most notebooks are Wi-Fi-enabled and provide easy Internet access.

The advantages of notebooks are quite a few. After portability which is their biggest advantage, come easy Internet access, low power consumption, and a good battery backup. On the other hand, there are limitations in the upgradeability of notebooks, and their processing power and speed are lower in comparison to desktops.

Difference between Netbooks and Notebooks
As we know by now, netbooks are portable computers, specially designed for Internet use, while notebooks are a class of laptop computers. Netbooks are lightweight laptop computers designed for web-based applications. They lack features like optical drives, big screens, and high processing powers, which notebooks possess. Simply put, netbooks are lighter and cheaper notebooks.

Netbooks use less powerful hardware in comparison to larger notebooks; some notebooks have solid-state storage devices instead of conventional hard drives that are heavier and more power-consuming. While netbooks have 8 to 32 GB storage capacities, notebooks come with memory capacities in the range of 80 to 160 GB. Netbooks have less processing powers than notebooks. They cannot take up processor-intensive tasks, which notebooks can. Netbooks are primarily aimed at remotely accessing web-based applications and supporting Internet browsing and emailing facilities. When it comes to netbooks, it is more about remote Internet access, due to which netbook computing relies on access to servers and requires less powerful client computers. This is not the case with notebook computers. In technical terms, notebooks are based on the concept of cloud computing. Interestingly, though netbooks boast of being different, what they use internally is an Intel Atom notebook processor.

The use of netbooks in the education sector is on the rise. Owing to their small size, less weight, and portability, netbooks are best-suited for use in the education sector. Besides providing easy web access, netbooks are ideal for academics-related tasks like word processing, creating presentations, tutorials, and running multimedia applications. This makes them an ideal choice for application in the learning field, giving them an added advantage over notebooks and conventional computers.

Moral of the story; netbooks are not notebooks. They are different. The difference lies in their processing powers and speeds, their storage capacities, and their efficiency. Netbooks are meant for Internet use. And that, in no way means that they can replace notebook computers. Netbooks stand out because of their ultra portability, ease of web access, and moreover, their cost. Nowadays, netbooks are being shipped with Windows XP, with an intention to boost their popularity among the masses. This was not the case a few years ago.

After this discussion on netbooks vs. notebooks and the pros and cons of each, you must have realized the difference between these two computing devices. Both netbooks and notebooks are technological wonders in their own right. In fact, mobile computing is in itself a technological innovation.