Netbooks vs Notebooks

Netbooks have become a phenomenon over the last couple of years. What are te pros and cons? This article rounds up the common advantages and disadvantages of netbook and notebooks.




  • Long battery life – typically 4-6 hours
  • Lightweight and smaller than notebooks
  • Typically lower purchase price
  • Relatively low cost unit price


  • Lower powered unit will take significantly longer to accomplish some tasks
  • Limited Windows or Linux reduces usefulness
  • Typically lower specification such as hard disk and RAM, as well as the less-capable processor
  • Less choice of specification, and less expandability

Netbooks are the common name for very small sub-notebook computers. They are lower-specification and lower powered than most notebooks. They typically include smaller hard-drives, less memory, and lesser versions of Windows, or possibly only a version of Linux, which is an alternative operating system to Windows but with very different abilities. For example, you can’t run iTunes or Microsoft Office on Linux (although we do not recommended you run iTunes on a netbook anyway due to their lower powered processor).

The nature of netbooks means that there are only a very limited number of configurations available; again a blessing in that it is much easier to compare units but that it is more difficult to differentiate between them, and therefore make a choice as to which is best. Cost and brand are indicator of quality; Samsung (as with their notebook range) offer very good value for money, and HP/Compaq also have good solid products. Almost all netbooks have a 10″ screen with a resolution of around 1024×600 pixels. Most come with 1Gb RAM, and an Intel Atom processor of around 1.6Ghz.

The Atom processor is a low-powered unit which gives exceptional battery life at the cost of core speed. Whilst the Atom can perform all of the same functions as a notebook computer, it runs slower. It also interacts with the rest of the system at a lower speed, and can support much less system RAM.

Netbooks do not include an optical drive like a CD or DVD drive. You can purchase a USB-attached unit if you need to watch DVDs, or if you need to load software from CD or DVD. It is also possible to use a USB flash memory stick or card (such as SD) and another PC to transfer software from a CD to the netbook via the flash memory stick/card.

Compared to a full notebook or desktop PC, Netbooks will come with either Windows XP Home, or Windows 7 Basic. These are limited compared to their fuller versions, specifically Windows 7 Basic and also when compared to the professional version which allows connection to a Windows based server network. Whilst Windows XP Home and 7 Basic have basic network functionality, they cannot connect to a domain server.

Size can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. Being smaller and light-weight is great for people who regularly travel with their computer, especially with weight restrictions on aircraft. With this brings the issue of usability, since the screens are more difficult to see especially for those with less-than-perfect vision.



  • Wider choice of specifications than netbooks, and usually much better to start with
  • Better vision on the larger screens
  • Usually include optical disk drive
  • More expandability and usually more ports such as USB ports
  • Full docking solutions available


  • Not as portable as netbooks
  • Usually less battery life than netbooks
  • Usually more costly than netbooks

By contrast to netbooks, notebooks have been available for a much longer time than netbooks.They come in a wider variety of specifications and therefore prices to suit everyone. They keep more up to date with technology than netbooks, and therefore run faster.

Compared with netbooks, notebooks usually provide less battery life (typically 2.5-3 hours but sometimes up to 6) and usually less portability (typically 15.6″, but between 12 and 19″) with screen resolutions of 1280×800 or more. They often weigh more than netbooks, partly due to the optical drive and the larger screens.

An often unconsidered element that can also add bulk and weight to a notebook is the power adaptor. Running a more powerful processor and a larger screen requires more power and this usually means a physically bigger and heavier power adaptor.

For the professional user, notebooks offer an advantage that the low-cost netbooks never will; docking capabilities. This is the best-of-both-worlds setup with a full sized monitor, keyboard, mouse, LAN connection and audio setup (amongst others) on the desk at work, but with the portability of a laptop when you need to head out of the office. A docking station converts your laptop into a desktop PC, and then with the press of a button you are mobile again. Not all notebooks offer this; only the professional-class units at the higher-end of the market – but due to their target market, netbooks are unlikely to ever benefit from this functionality.