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What exactly is the difference between a "netbook" and a "notebook"? What are some examples?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

From What's the difference between notebooks, netbooks and ultra-mobile PCs? :

The answer to these questions depends upon whom you ask. One person may call a particular PC a netbook while another insists it's a notebook. It's like asking someone to describe an elevated geographic feature -- some may call it a hill and others insist it's a mountain. There's no universal definition upon which you can rely.

There are, however, some general guidelines we can use. Laptop computers, notebooks and netbooks use the same basic form factor -- the main differentiator is size. That form factor is a computer with two main parts: a screen and a ­keyboard attached by hinges. In general, netbook computers are smaller and lighter than notebook computers, which in turn are smaller and lighter than laptops. But there are no specific size or weight classes for computers. So, for example, if the computer has an 11-inch (27.9 centimeter) screen, is it a netbook or a notebook? That's where people disagree.

Another point is that a netbook is guaranteed to have wireless connection, while a notebook is not (although practically speaking they all do today).

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I really do not agree with saying that main criteria is size. It's a low-performance CPU and affordability. Like the ThinkPad X-series and Sony VAIO P-series were always full-powered and very small (and they also used to be very expensive) and were always and still are called ultraportables, even though many are smaller than most netbooks. – paradroid Feb 8 '11 at 21:13

The Register put together an interesting flowchart depicting how to tell if your computer is a laptop, ultraportable, or notebook:

laptop flowchart

I don't necessarily agree with every single thing on here, but it's a good general guide.

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There's no official definition of a netbook - it tends to be a marketing decision whether a particular laptop is called one. You might also see similar machines called a "sub-notebook" or "ultra-portable" depending on what spin the vendor wants to put on the product.

The main defining features of a netbook are low cost, size, weight and performance coupled with long battery life. They're designed for checking e-mail and browsing the web while sitting on the sofa, and little else. Unlike a notebook, they'll struggle with more powerful applications like Microsoft Word, and tend to lack certain hardware such as optical disk drives. They're more likely than a normal notebook to have a built-in 3G data connection, or use a non-Windows alternative operating system - usually based on Linux.

Probably the best known - and one of the first - netbooks is the Asus Eee PC. It's has a seven inch display, 800 MHz CPU, 512MB of RAM, a 2GB SSD and no optical drive. It runs a Linux variant called Xandros.

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Since when has Microsoft Word been considere a "powerful application"? Any decent netbook should be able to handle basic office software... – sleske Feb 8 '11 at 8:56
Microsoft Office isn't basic office software, and therein lies the rub. It runs slow and cranky on every netbook I've ever tried, although your experience may vary - it just goes to show what a vague term netbook is. – Scott Feb 8 '11 at 9:45
So you wouldn't want to know that I am happily running VS 2010 with SQL Server Express on an original Acer Aspire One (Atom/1GB RAM) for development, and apart from compiling speed, it's overall as snappy and fast? – BinaryMisfit Feb 8 '11 at 11:15
On the other hand I know somebody who runs Adobe Photoshop CS4 on their netbook and claims it works smoothly, albeit not so fast as on a normal computer. – nhinkle Feb 8 '11 at 20:08

There is no sharp dividing line.

In 2009 and early 2010, netbooks almost universally featured:

  • Intel Atom processor
  • Integrated Intel graphics with no 3d acceleration
  • A screen 11" or less, 1024x600 resolution
  • 1Gb RAM, no optical drive
  • Long battery life (4-8h)
  • Low price (usually $300 to $500 USD).

One good example is Samsung N150. Notebooks are normally above that spec, for instance featuring a dual-core processor or a larger screen (see ThinkPad x201s).

As times goes by, netbook and low-end laptop categories are merging, and the distinction is becoming meaningless.

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