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What's the difference between Netbooks and notebooks?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 24, 2008 4:55 AM PDT

What's the difference between Netbooks and notebooks?

Lately, I've been hearing quite a buzz around Netbooks; maybe you've seen one, but these particular laptops are super tiny and cute! I'm currently shopping around for my first laptop, not for a desktop replacement, but a portable computer I can take along with me on my travels. I'm new to laptops, but aren't these so-called Netbooks like every other laptop out there, but just smaller in size? I'm having a difficult time differentiate the two types. Can you give me run down on the differences between the two types of laptops? I want something small in size, but does size matter when it comes to performance or operation? I sure don't want to buy something that won't meet my needs. Any information you can help me with this Netbook vs. laptop decision will help me out a great deal. Thanks in advance.

--Submitted by Donna S.

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read up on all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this member's question.

Difference between notebooks and netbooks --Submitted by 3rdalbum

Netbook vs. notebook --Submitted by waytron

What's a netbook? --Submitted by Watzman

Netbooks are... --Submitted by choosenotebook

If you have any additional recommendations or experience using netbooks to share with Donna, let's hear them. Click on the "Reply" link to post. Please be detailed as possible in your answer and list all options available. Thanks!
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Netbooks vs Laptops
by bobsco60 / October 24, 2008 11:41 AM PDT


Be careful. Netbooks may be what you are looking for: they are small, light, and easy to carry. But, many of them have very small storage systems. Some with as little as 8 GB solid state memory. Some have as much as 160GB hard drives. But be aware also that the batteries may be so small that they last little longer than 2 hours, not enough if you plan to travel long distances. Nearly all of them lack a CD/DVD drive.

Aside from these caveats, they are the wave of the future..

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I agree with bobsco60
by nud12 / December 4, 2008 3:08 PM PST
In reply to: Netbooks vs Laptops

I have a similar understanding as bobsco60.

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Smaller, weaker laptops
by Neuro59 / October 24, 2008 11:44 AM PDT

Netbooks are designed for people that just want a portable machine for browsing the internet, or maybe listening to some mp3's.

If this is all you are looking for then a netbook could be just right for you. However, it is good to try something out on your PC first.

The asus EEE netbook for instance has a 800x480 screen resolution. (The newer ones are slightly higher resolution). This to me is the main reason I would never own one. You can test out if this would be something you can deal with by changing your desktop to this resolution on your own computer and try surfing the web with it. I find it hard to deal with anything under 1280x1024 resolution myself. You may not have this difficulty however.

They do have a niche though and their small size, no moving parts design and decent power efficiency make them attractive for mobile users. If size is that important though, you could even look at the smartphones, the itouch from apple or the new g1 from google. This will give you an even smaller size, and doubles as a cell phone.

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what is a netbook
by alien005 / October 24, 2008 11:49 AM PDT

"A netbook is a streamlined mobile device designed for the Internet, so you can stay connected on the go. Get up-to-date news, the latest scores and weather information, access your e-mail and social networking sites, and enjoy digital videos, photos and music.

"Netbooks may look like laptops, but they don't have the full capabilities of a computer. Instead, a netbook specializes in mobility and the Web, so it's great for travel or as a supplement to your main PC

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(NT) what is tha advatages netbook and notebook?
by bib245 / August 17, 2009 11:22 PM PDT
In reply to: what is a netbook
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This Is David Einstein in the SF Chronicle - Oct. 20
by Basuto9 / October 24, 2008 12:00 PM PDT

Q: I'm considering buying a netbook (a mini notebook computer). Aside from the smaller screen and tighter keyboard arrangement, are there other big drawbacks to consider?

A: Netbook is the newest name for something that's been around for years. They're half the weight of a regular notebook PC and considerably smaller. Those are big advantages for business travelers or students who must lug a notebook on a daily basis.

As you point out, there are some disadvantages. Netbook screens are smaller than their notebook counterparts, averaging 9 inches diagonally. The keyboards are smaller, too - although not too much (the keyboard on the HP Mini-Note is only 8 percent smaller than the keyboards on the company's full-size notebooks).

Netbook pricing is all over the map. Entry-level machines running Linux operating systems start at less than $400. But a Windows-based HP Mini-Note with 1 GB of memory and a 120-GB hard drive goes for $600. If you are serious about getting a netbook, I'd shop among Dell, HP and Acer, the leading makers at this point.

Will netbooks finally make it into the mainstream? I'd say yes. In the past, they've failed to catch on because of their smaller keyboards. But to the new generation of users weaned on number pads and the tiny keyboards of cell phones and BlackBerrys, a netbook keyboard must seem gigantic.
(This is from David Einstein's computer Q&A column every Monday in the SF Chronicle. He has a lot of good answers and a lengthy archive. Well worth the trouble to read, and no, he doesn't know me and I don't know him)

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by youknowhat / October 24, 2008 12:01 PM PDT

hi, netbooks are the tiny and cheap way of a computer. They lack performance and come with small hard drives and rarely have windows xp or vista as an OS choice. if you do buy a netbook you are going to be 100% dissatisfied in about a day after you bought it!!

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Netbooks are not new...
by Flashfox / October 31, 2008 3:00 PM PDT

I bought an Acer Aspire ONE w/120GB HDD running in Windows XP, and a 6-cell battery. The Intel Atom processor does a great job for the task... which is surfing, messaging, etc. I use Microsoft Office 2007 without any problems and apart from the small keyboard, it suits me just fine (great for traveling Wink

This being said, the $350 I paid is a far cry from the SONY Vaio TR3-AP1 I had. Granted, it did have an integrated DVD burner, but size wise and battery life were comparable. The SONY had a single core 1 GHz Celeron while the ONE has a 1.6 GHz ATOM.

I also have an even older, fully functional SONY Vaio PCG-C1X "mini notebook" which runs on a 266 MHz Pentium, with 128MB RAM and running in Windows 98SE. It is smaller, was very pricey (back then) and way ahead of its time.

My point is that the "Netbooks" are not new! They have just been rediscovered and offered at much lower prices due to newer technologies.

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Nothing WRONG with the why do not buy?
by N0ISV / November 1, 2008 1:42 AM PDT

After reading the Netbook answers, all of which have the pros and cons of owning a Netbook, only one needed to be corrected! Yes the Netbooks are "tiny and cheap" or better yet, small and inexpensive and have a limited usage. But thats just what they were designed for.
If one knows this before buying a Netbook, their hopes will not be dashed.
My personal experience with a Netbook is...
Frist the HP 1123 Mini Note, top of the line model, 8.9 screen (vista os) and has its pros and cons but works great, and with 0% dissatisfaction.

Second is the MSI Wind U-100, 10.0 screen, (XP os) and it too has its pros and cons, but works great, and with 0% dissatisfaction.

It seems that my Sony TX-650 would have been a good contender in the Netbook craze, although it came along 3 years to early, it fits the bill for a Netbook, even has the CD/DVD drive, but not the cost...$1600.00??? This fact alone would have kicked it out of the Netbook race.

Anyone remember the H/PC days?
HP Jornada 720 and 728? Or the NEC 900 and 900C?
Had Microsoft taken these to the next 3 or 4 levels, this would have been a OUTSTANDING size, weight, and portability compaired to the Netbooks we have now. But their cost then $700-$900 would need to come way down. My Jornada 720 and NEC 900C sure seem better built than the Netbooks.

With some education first, one can decide if the Netbook is for them?

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by lv7fo / April 20, 2009 9:40 AM PDT

I disagree i have a NETBOOK and i have a 20 gig harddrive you can get different ones !! This doesnt lack performance when im watching vids on youtube its clear. i dont know bout windows xp and all that but the net is quick and useful

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They almost always have XP
by rinehartt / September 3, 2009 10:40 AM PDT

I know lots of people that love their netbook but I think they all have a desktop or more powerful laptop at home as their main hardware.

Don't listen to people that say netbooks rarely come with XP.

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RE: What's the difference between Netbooks and notebooks?
by pcrx_greg / October 24, 2008 12:40 PM PDT

Netbooks are an underpowered computer in a notebook form factor. Netbooks are designed for basic internet access only. They are built to surf the web and get e-mail, but if you wish to do any type of computing work, i.e., spreadsheets, gaming, databases, etc., you will need a full notebook. Netbooks are built with the new Intel Atom processor which is a really low power cpu that is designed to extend battery life by minimizing performance. A true netbook will come with Windows XP installed because it is not powerful enough to run Vista. If you are just looking for something small and lightweight but with enough power to be a true computer, you might want to look at something like the HP 2133 Mini-note PC or a Samsung Q1 Ultra Mobile PC which uses a tablet PC form factor.

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Gaming and databases?
by 3rdalbum / December 19, 2008 10:01 PM PST

I must object to the comment of "If you do spreadsheets, gaming or databases you need a full notebook".

Spreadsheets can be done perfectly well on netbooks. If people could do spreadsheets on an Apple 2, I'm sure they can do them on a netbook.

If you want to do gaming, then a "full notebook" is not appropriate either. You need a desktop to properly play games, because no notebook is really powerful enough.

If you're using small databases for whatever trivial reason, then netbooks also work fine. If you're working with enterprise-level databases, then a "full notebook" will not float your boat either.

I'd also take exception to "A true netbook will come with Windows XP installed". To my mind, putting Windows XP on these machines is an attempt at coercing them towards doing things that they are not really designed for, and encouraging users to treat them as a fully-fledged notebook. A good Linux distribution for netbooks will have a customised interface for the small screen that makes it quick to get at the tasks you want to accomplish, be optimised for the processor and chipset, and provide a bit of flexibility for application installing.

Linux is the true operating system for the netbook, because it's been tweaked for netbook use. Windows XP is an ancient desktop operating system that's been shoehorned onto netbooks because its replacement will not run well. For example, ever wondered why Windows-based netbooks have hard disks rather than SSDs? It's because XP doesn't properly support SSDs, and they would start breaking down very quickly with the way XP treats them. You get poor write performance too. XP has an obsolete and ineffective security system that forces you to waste precious processing power on anti-virus software - processing power that is at a premium on a netbook.

No, Linux is an appropriate operating system for netbooks. Windows XP is not, unless your "netbook" is four or five years old.

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A comparison table (that may need reformatting to read!)
by kerkar / October 24, 2008 1:36 PM PDT

Price Under $500 $400 - $3,000
Processor Intel Atom Intel or AMD Dual Core
Memory Hard Drive (80 GB) or Solid State (16 GB) Hard Drive (80 to 250 GB)
Operating System Linux or Windows XP Home Windows Vista
Screen 9? - 10? 12? ? 17?
Weight Under 3 lbs 5 to 9 lbs
DVD / CD Drive None [cannot load software except through download] Yes; CD, DVD, Blue Ray options based on price
Webcam / Microphone Option Option
Wi Fi / Blue Tooth Yes / Option Yes / Option
Application Software Limited such as Sun Open Office Full Office Suite from Microsoft (Option)
Target Use Internet Surfing Full Personal Computing. Entertainment center with options.

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Netbooks are Great
by Vic_2010 / December 18, 2009 2:02 AM PST

I got a MSI Wind U100?869US Netbook from about a month ago and I love it, it has quite a bit a kick for it's size. Now, i am talking about a regular daily activities and portability, if you plan on doing design, get an i7 processor notebook for about 3 times the price. I also installed windows 7 on it ever since I got it and it runs like a champ. Don't know what's up with all the negative reviews, but for what they are designed, Netbooks are great. Try dragging around a 17.5 inch Notebook with double stack battery all day. Yes, it's fast and it has great resolution, but it's 15 Lbs HEAVY.
So, the real question should be: Do you know what do you need?

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Diffenences between Netbook and notebook
by cheppail / October 24, 2008 2:40 PM PDT

Netbooks are used basically to access information from the net wirelessly. Usually it will be 7" to 10" screen size with low hard disk capacity and comes with a low price tag. No personal informatuion are usually carried in it and therefore easy to dispose off.

Notebook in addition of accessing internet that can connected both wired or wirelessly and can be used for all computing activities. It comes with bigger/wider screens higher HD capacity and are more resourceful. People often carry personal information in a notebook that comes at a higher cost.

Hope this will claer your doubt.


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"NETbooks" are for surfing the internet
by ArtDept / October 24, 2008 2:55 PM PDT

and using Gmail, and other online applications.

Not a desktop replacement, they use Intel ATOM processors with lower memory (512K - 2MB) and flash memory and/or smaller hard drives.

Smaller screens 1024x600 and smaller keyboards.

Might be just what you are looking for!

Not for heavy Photoshop use.

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Netbooks are great except for...
by DKDestroyer / October 24, 2008 3:08 PM PDT

If you're comfortable with the keyboard, and are fine with the smaller memory (that you get with some, not all netbooks, besides, a decent-sized SDHC card should fix that), you'll have no problem with a netbook. That is, unless you want to play some recent 3d games. If you're not planning on playing any recent games, you can't beat the $300 to $500 prices on these things. I've got one already, and I absolutely in love with it. If you feel like tossing some Classic console games on it (who wouldn't love playing a bit of Super Mario every once in a while) you'll find they're great for that as well.

Even if you've got a problem with the screen size, you can always plug in your existing monitor and/or keyboard and simply use the system when you're at home like that, then take it around for a few hours on the go!

They're unbelievably durable as well! If you find someone with an Eee PC already, feel how sturdy one of those things are, I think you'll be sold as soon as you use it.

I'd say buy one without a doubt!

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by kaliber12 / December 30, 2008 10:26 AM PST

I agree <img src=''
alt='counter.jpg' border='0'>

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Difference between a laptop and a notebook
by outlaw88 / October 24, 2008 3:49 PM PDT

Notebooks and Laptops are portable computers but there is a minor difference between laptops and notebooks.

Laptop: A portable computer small enough to use on one's lap.

Notebook: A light, portable computer that is generally thinner than a laptop.

Even according to Webopedia, laptop computers are more frequently called notebook computers, though technically laptops are somewhat smaller in size than notebooks.

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Difference between notebooks and netbooks
by 3rdalbum / October 24, 2008 5:17 PM PDT

It's quite simple: Netbooks are indeed smaller than notebooks; we usually say that a netbook can have a screen up to 10 inches from corner to corner. Netbooks are cheap and have relatively slow processors, but this is because they are designed for more basic tasks.

You'll also find that netbooks don't have optical drives. They sometimes have Solid State Drives (SSDs) instead of Hard Disk Drives, which are lower capacity but have no moving parts and should, in theory, increase battery life and speed. The last difference is that most netbooks can run either Linux or Windows XP.

Some people look at notebooks and netbooks and think "Why should I buy a device with a 9 inch screen, slow processor, no optical drive for $500, when I can buy a full-featured notebook for the same amount?". The difference is convenience and speed. A netbook is more convenient because it is generally more resistent to the elements, it's lighter, and it usually has a lighweight operating system. The processor itself isn't as powerful, but there's much less processing that needs to be done with Windows XP or Linux in order to be usable.

Netbooks these days come with one of three processors:

1. Intel Atom. Special low-power processor, which you will see in most netbooks.
2. VIA. Another low-power processor by a chip manufacturer who specializes in this stuff. VIA actually has a reference design for netbooks, and a lot of VIA-based netbooks use this exact design. (the Everex Cloudbook and the Astone UMPC are two examples).
3. Intel Celeron M. Not a good idea - it's just a standard cheap notebook processor.

If you're just looking for a portable computer to take along with you on your travels, to check your e-mail, chat on Skype, watch some Youtube videos, write letters, then a netbook is what you want. If you're going to do intensive image editing, multimedia authoring, gaming etc then a notebook is more suited to your needs. A netbook can do those sorts of tasks too, but more slowly. Heck, even a notebook isn't really appropriate for these sort of things.

I mentioned before that netbooks often come with a choice of Windows XP or Linux. I recommend looking seriously at the Linux models. They don't contract viruses, which means your computer doesn't waste power running viruses in the background. They are often cheaper and come with SSDs, which are faster. The Linux distributions that are on these machines are right up-to-date with the latest software, unlike Windows XP which is about seven years old. They are less likely to crash or need reinstallation, their operating system uses less power because it is specifically designed for the low-power platform, and the interface is designed to be very easy to use too.

Whether you buy a Windows or Linux-based netbook, you can run the other operating system on it, but the Linux netbooks use a special modified Linux distribution to give you the easy interface and the low power use.

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Part of this ....... does not compute
by Dango517 / October 31, 2008 4:09 PM PDT

The cheapest SSD drives cost between $500.00 -$700.00 for 160GBs or less of drive space. These are only just recently entering the Enterprise market and the "very "high end", cost doesn't matter" PC sectors. How can you buy a $500.00 Netbook for less then the cost of a SSD drive? Sorry, doesn't add up. Show us an example please.

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by Distalled / October 31, 2008 6:02 PM PDT

Now the author never stated the size of the SSD's and under 500 you're looking at a 40gig SSD max, most likely even an 8 or 16 gig SSD.
The standard fare HDD's are at the 80+ capacity and are significantly cheaper for the available space.

Please though, don't discredit someone so confidently without doing your homework, or fully reading their post. It's bad manners.

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SSD are now mainstream
by neo1068 / October 31, 2008 8:03 PM PDT

SSD's up until 6 months ago were very expensive. They are now becoming more mainstream and you can purchase 32GB ssd's for as low as $99 for these net books. Faster sata based ssd's for standard notebooks with ultra fast 170mb read and 120 write are now in the $120-$150 range.Prices seem to be dropping weekly so keep your eyes open.

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Size Matters
by jaytee / October 31, 2008 11:10 PM PDT

The SSD you'll see in most of the netbooks range from 8-16 GB. Well below the cost you quoted for 160GB SSD's.


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Minor Confusion
by ViRaL1 / October 31, 2008 11:28 PM PDT

The netbooks that are coming with 160GB drives include HDDs or hard drives with physical disks not SSDs. The SSD netbooks are typically between 4GB and 16GB which are much less expensive than the 160GB SSDs you mention. Anything larger than 16GB in a netbook is TYPICALLY a hard disk drive.

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Part of this ....... does not compute
by vanhate / October 31, 2008 11:44 PM PDT

You are correct as far as high capacity SSD's go. Current netbooks that have SSD's have very low capacity drives. These netbooks are not intended for storing a ton of images and/or music. It's basically a portable e-mail and internet machine. Still very useful if you're on the road, but a refurbed laptop that has higher specs will do better and have many more capabilities.

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Assumptions wrong
by cable2 / November 1, 2008 12:04 AM PDT

If you assume you "need" a 160 Gig HD, you are probably correct. If you search at all, you will find that these netbooks are mostly not going to be used for large scale storage, the main feature being portability and convenience, you can find models with small 8 Gig drives for under $400. Dell with coupons has a few in this range. Check for good deals.

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Yes it does
by porsche10x / November 1, 2008 12:26 AM PDT

RE: "The cheapest SSD drives cost between $500.00 - $700.00 for
>>160GBs ...How can you buy a $500.00 Netbook...Show us an example

It's simple and obvious. The cheapest SS drives are NOWHERE NEAR $500. A netbook with an SS drive may have only EIGHT GB of drive space or LESS!!! You know those 2GB SD cards you can buy for less than $10, sometimes even $2? Think a few of those in a little box. That's why BIG SSD's are so expensive. Think a hundred SD cards in a little box (not quite how it works, but close enough).

Examples? HP just came out with a full line of netbooks starting at, oh, $369? with 8gb of SSD. See Thursday 10/30 circuit section of the NY Times.

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It's all about size
by JDS Dave / November 1, 2008 12:26 AM PDT

The dell Netbook comes standard with a 8GB SSD drive with optional 16GB. But you are right, if it came with a 160GB SSD drive it would be $1,000 today. In six months who knows.

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