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Laptop vs Notebook: What is the Difference?
April 25, 2019
Modern computing and technology introduce consumers to a number of new and inventive names for the thousands of new and inventive products released every year.
Just a couple of decades ago, words like laptop and iPad were nonsense words, not high-powered machinery capable of connecting billions of people across the world. With the evolution of our everyday tech happening more rapidly than ever before, it can be difficult to keep up with terminology.
That leads us to our main question: What is the difference between a laptop and a notebook?
While the two terms seem to be used interchangeably to the computer novice, there is actually a defined difference between the two kinds of portable computers. In essence, the difference between a laptop and a notebook is size and functionality, but there is much more to these portable PCs.
Let’s break it down.
Invented in 1981 by Adam Osborne, the first laptop was a far cry from what we envision when we think of laptops today. 2005 marked the first year where laptop sales surpassed desktop sales, signaling a change of tides in the computer world.
Initially created as a compact and portable sibling to the desktop computer, laptops were all about freedom. During their rise to the top of consumer markets, laptops were advertised as the ideal office solution for business people on-the-go.
1989 brought the NEC UltraLife to life, the first notebook computer to hit the market. Boasting a smaller and more lightweight frame than its laptop sibling, the notebook was geared more toward personal computing rather than business computing. Easy to carry and featuring a clamshell case, the notebook computer earned its name from the very object found in every student or businessperson’s briefcase.
Today’s laptops and notebooks still carry the major appeal of optimized portability. Laptops range greatly in size, featuring screen sizes measuring anywhere from 10 inches to 18 inches. Depending on the manufacturer brand, laptops can be either slim or bulky.
And weighing between 3 to 10 lbs as a rule, laptop weight fluctuates per model. Like desktop computers, laptops can also be engineered toward certain industries and consumers.
Notebook laptops, on the other hand, are generally manufactured to be sleeker, smaller computers with screen sizes of 15-inches or less. Typically weighing less than 5 lbs and measuring less than 3 inches thick, notebooks keep their supreme lightweight portability advantage over laptops. Their consistently small size ensures they fit into backpacks, briefcases, and large purses easily.
Laptops come with price tags that range anywhere between $150 to $2,500 whereas notebooks generally range between $150 and $400. There are also many more variables to take into account when determining the cost of a laptop. Screen size and processing power are just two elements that greatly affect a laptop’s price tag.
Discrepancies arise when the notebook label is dissected into netbook and ultrabook alternatives. Netbooks are more affordable notebooks that offer basic functionality while ultrabooks are actually thinner notebooks that offer more advanced, high-computing features at a higher price than your average notebook.
In short, the drastic difference in price comes with a drastic difference in functionality.
Performance and power
Regardless of the title, a computer’s performance and power are completely determined by CPU, GPU, RAM, disk speed, and other related features.
Most modern computers come well equipped with processing power and adequate displays to provide quality performance. Even lower-priced laptops and notebooks offer satisfactory processing power for the PC novice. Generally speaking, the higher the price of either a notebook or a laptop, the higher the quality of features you get.
Since laptops tend to range higher in price, the integrated features have a higher ceiling and higher performance power. Standard notebooks generally keep features minimalist, giving users enough processing power to complete all of their personal computing tasks without any hassle or extra fancy tech.
Venturing into the world of ultrabooks, these higher priced notebooks come with more impressive CPU, GPU, RAM and more. In this way, ultrabooks can be more easily likened to laptops than their notebook sibling.
Today’s typical laptop boasts 1TB of solid state drive (SSD) and 8GB to12GB of RAM capacity. Typical notebooks come equipped with 512GB HDD and 2GB to 4GB of RAM capacity. This jarring difference caters to two different types of consumers.
Those with high-powered computing needs to manage a business will find everything they’re looking for in a laptop. Those who primarily use their PC for document creation and web browsing will be best suited with a more simplistic notebook.
With all that power comes a weaker battery life for laptops. Typical laptops last between 6 and 10 hours unplugged whereas a typical notebook lasts between 7 to 14 hours unplugged.
Computer manufacturers like Apple and HP® have made strides toward bridging the gap between laptops and notebooks, effectively creating a hybrid niche of ultra-portable and ultra-capable computers.
For example, the HP EliteBook x360 1030 G3 convertible laptop carries a notebook label weighing just 2.76 pounds and measuring under 3/4 inch thick but offers 8GB of RAM capacity, 256GB of NVMe SSD, and nearly 10 hours of unplugged battery life.
This impressive combination of laptop and notebook has proven to be one of the future’s most valuable tech products for personal and business computing alike.
With a newfound understanding of what the difference between a laptop vs notebook is, your last question is probably, “Where can I buy one?”
Since the two terms can be used interchangeably and cause confusion, knowing which brands to look for in your hunt for a notebook or a laptop can help narrow your search.
Notebook makers include:
Laptop makers include:
Notebooks and laptops carry as many similarities as they do differences. Never judge a chassis by its cover, though, it’s the integrated technology that truly sets the two apart.
As time progresses and manufacturers move away from separate labels, we can expect to see many of the world’s most popular computer engineers continue the trend of creating thin, sleek, and ultra-high powered machines to fuel the future of high performance computing.
About the Author: Tulie Finley-Moise is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tulie is a digital content creation specialist based in San Diego, California with a passion for the latest tech and digital media news.