The Differences Between Netbooks and Notebooks

It seems like every­one is talk­ing about net­books these days, espe­cial­ly with Google’s recent announce­ment that they will be com­ing out with the Chrome oper­at­ing sys­tem tar­get­ed specif­i­cal­ly at net­books. Net­books have been gain­ing in pop­u­lar­i­ty late­ly, because of their porta­bil­i­ty and low cost com­pared to tra­di­tion­al note­books, but there are impor­tant dif­fer­ences between net­books and note­books, even though they may seem very sim­i­lar. Here are five key dif­fer­ences between net­books and note­books that you should be aware of before mak­ing your next lap­top pur­chase:

1. Size

One of the pri­ma­ry dif­fer­ences between net­books and note­books is their size. Net­books are gen­er­al­ly 12 inch­es or small­er, while note­books are typ­i­cal­ly much larg­er. There are ben­e­fits and draw­backs to this.

On the plus side, net­books are a lot more portable than note­books. They’re lighter to car­ry around, and they’re eas­i­er to pack away. You can eas­i­ly car­ry around a net­book with one hand, with­out get­ting tired, some­thing that’s a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult to man­age with a tra­di­tion­al note­book.

On the down side, net­books often have small­er key­boards than the reg­u­lar note­books. Get­ting used to the small­er keys on a net­book can be dif­fi­cult, espe­cial­ly for users with larg­er hands. Net­books also have small­er screens, which may make them more dif­fi­cult to read than larg­er sized lap­tops, espe­cial­ly for peo­ple who suf­fer from vision prob­lems. Most net­books also lack disc dri­ves, so you won’t be able to use them to play back CDs or DVDs.

2. Pow­er

The small­er size of net­books comes at a price. Net­books are under­pow­ered com­pared to full fea­tured note­books, when it comes to things such as proces­sor speeds and graph­ics cards. This makes net­books less than ide­al for proces­sor inten­sive tasks such as image edit­ing or play­ing the lat­est 3D games, and even sim­ple tasks may seem slow­er on a net­book.

Net­books were pri­mar­i­ly designed for surf­ing the Inter­net (hence the name), so they are more than capa­ble of run­ning a web brows­er, and doing less proces­sor inten­sive tasks such as word pro­cess­ing or putting togeth­er pre­sen­ta­tions, but net­books per­form poor­ly com­pared to note­books on more com­pli­cat­ed tasks.

3. Capac­i­ty

Anoth­er area in which net­books don’t quite stack up to com­pared to larg­er note­books is stor­age capac­i­ty. Many net­books use sol­id state dri­ves, which are ultra ener­gy effi­cient and resis­tant to impact (which makes them ide­al for porta­bles), but do not have as much capac­i­ty as reg­u­lar hard dri­ves. Many net­books have less disk space than the typ­i­cal iPod, which makes them less than ide­al if you have a lot of con­tent that you want to car­ry around.

There are a few net­books that use actu­al hard dri­ves, which top out at around 160GB of capac­i­ty, which is much less than most mod­ern note­books, but is much bet­ter than a sol­id state dri­ve. The down­side of these hard dri­ves is that they are also a lot slow­er than sol­id state dri­ves. If you decide to go for a net­book, you will have to make do with less stor­age space, or car­ry around a sep­a­rate exter­nal hard dri­ve for your stor­age needs.

4. Price

The one area where net­books excel in is price. Most net­books sell for less than $600 US dol­lars, and some can be found for as low as $300. Again, the capa­bil­i­ties of net­books are some­what lim­it­ed com­pared to more full fea­tured note­books, but all you need is a sim­ple portable com­put­er to get you on the inter­net, a net­book can be quite a bar­gain.

5. Oper­at­ing Sys­tem

The final thing to be aware of when shop­ping for a net­book is what kind of oper­at­ing sys­tem it uses. Most com­put­er users are famil­iar with Microsoft’s pop­u­lar Win­dows OS or Apple’s Mac OS. Many net­books, how­ev­er, use an open source oper­at­ing sys­tem called Lin­ux. This helps to keep the cost of net­books down, but can be con­fus­ing to those who might not be famil­iar with that oper­at­ing sys­tem.

If you are look­ing to get a net­book, make sure you know what oper­at­ing sys­tem is installed on the com­put­er. If it is Lin­ux, it may take you a while to fig­ure out how the oper­at­ing sys­tem works. There are also net­books that come installed with the more famil­iar Win­dows, but the cost of these net­books is often high­er, so keep that in mind as well.


If you’re look­ing for an ultra-portable, ultra-afford­able lap­top that you plan to use to surf the web and check your e-mail with, the net­book might be the right com­put­er for you. If you want to do more than that, you’ll prob­a­bly want to go with a more ful­ly fea­tured note­book.

Keep in mind that the dif­fer­ences out­lined above are slow­ly dis­ap­pear­ing, as com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy con­tin­ues to evolve. Even­tu­al­ly, you’ll be able to pur­chase ultra-small and cheap lap­tops, with­out hav­ing to sac­ri­fice on pow­er or per­for­mance. For now, though, there are still some major dif­fer­ence between net­books and note­books that you should keep in mind when decid­ing on which com­put­er to pur­chase.