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Netbooks vs laptops – what should I get?

By Andrei Girbea , updated on June 4, 2014

I told you folks in a recent post what a netbook is and what you should expect from a netbook.

But, it seems that most people are not really interested in what netbooks are but more in the difference between netbooks and laptops. I do recommend you read the previous article too, but in this little post I’ll try to explain shortly the basic differences between the two laptop types.

But now, let’s see who wins this hypothetical battle of a netbooks versus laptop.

Weight and dimensions

Netbooks are known for their compact form and low footprint. Most of them have screens between 7 to 10 inches, but bigger 11.6 inches models have emerged lately. They are also very light, somewhere between 2 lbs for the small versions (and even lower) to 3.2 for the big ones.

Laptops on the other side are bigger and bulkier. Most of them have screen sizes from 14″ to 17″ and even 19″. There are also 13.3″ versions, but those come with other downfalls. And, since they are bigger, they are heavier also. My last 15.4″ laptop for example weighted around 5.5 lbs. Add 1 lbs for the charger and a couple of lbs for the other things in the bag… and you get the point.

Display size

Like i told you before, since laptops are smaller, they do come with smaller screens and resolutions. That is of course translated in a smaller workspace. Nowadays mainstream 10″ netbooks come with 1024 x 600 px res, and the next to come 11.6″ ones will have 1366 x 768 px .

8.9" netbook vs 15.4" laptop

8.9″ netbook vs 15.4″ laptop

The 15.4 laptops on the other side come with 1280 x 800 px (have a bigger dpi rapport, so everything is bigger on them and easier to read) or even 1650 x 1050 px. Bigger laptops can even come with Full HD resolutions.

Battery life

Netbooks are meant to be portable, thus a decent battery life is a must. Most offer at least around 5 hours of real autonomy, while the best can go up to 8-9 hours from a 6 Cell battery.

Few laptops can offer the same things. Of course, there are some, like the new ultra-portable Vaios on the new Macbooks, but they cost many times more than a netbook.

Price tags

Standard netbooks run for $200 to $450 , according to size and features. A good 10″ like the Asus 1005HA for example, with decent hardware and 10.5 hours battery life will only cost you around $360, while being light, durable and good looking.

Laptops on the other side can go for a lot more. It’s true some producers try to offer 15.4″ laptops for around $350 these days, but, you will get crappy hardware and crappy build quality, all in a heavy and bulky device. And that’s just not worth it.

Performance level

Here’s where the line is really drawn. Netbooks’ performances are limited by the hardware inside: they used low voltage CPUs that can only offer so much. They are good for everyday activities and even watching HD ready movies (720p, not 1080p), but not for games and other resources hungry applications. Performances level will increase in the future, with devices housing the Nvidia Ion platform (better graphic performances) and the new Intel CPU line, Pine Trail . But laptops will always be more powerful. Some a lot more powerful actually.


As a wrap up, netbooks are compact and portable devices good enough for regular applications, while laptops can offer better performances, but for a bigger price and sacrificing autonomy and portability. For me, my netbook is the mobile travel companion, while i have a primary desktop computer back home that can give me all the power i need.

So, if you’re in need of a powerful device with a bigger working space area, you will have to get a laptop. If you still want it to be light and have a good battery life, you will have to pay a lot for it, way above $1000.

But, if you don’t need that much power and you’re looking for a device that could easily be carried around and used for every-day actions (surfing the web, watching videos, listening to music, writing texts, blogging etc ), than you have to go for a netbook. You’ll get one for around $350 easily.

In the end, i hope laptops vs netbooks article helped you better understand the differences between a netbook and a laptop/notebok. Choosing the one for you it’s your choice and you should pick the device that better satisfies your needs.

Photo source: here

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Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief at TLBHD.com. This project was born as part of my search for capable mini-laptops that I could easily lug around to work, and still provide the performance that I'd need on a daily basis. I'm primarily using such ultracompact devices and have been testing them since 2006.
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Great article thanks for sharing, I think I am going to purchase a netbook along with fixing my laptop and keeping it at home. Thanks again.

Indrajit Sau

Can I use general netbook for programming purposes or can I be able to use it in software developing work.


@Indrajit, that is the similar question I have.. Can a netbook work well in a programming environment? I would like to do website programming with it (not wild graphics .. that could be done on my desktop). I’m assuming most depends on the network card, but how will the browser (IE, FF?) work with the netbook (speed,javascript, etc) .. what about website requirements like JAVA, MySql ?

Carolyne Morrison

I would like to own a Dell 9″ but as they aren’t being made anymore, I would have to buy a used one. hat are your thoughts about that particular netbook? You recommend buying a new one with a warranty, but in this case as far as I know that size isn’t available.


Hi everybody. I was thinking of buying a netbook in order to use with applications such excel and powerpoint. I was oriented on buying an Asus 1201K, cheap but with a large 12″ display. What do you suggest me? Thanks


What about the fact that netbooks general do not have CD drives… isn’t this worth noting?


Not that much. I can say I haven’t used a CD or DVD for like years… And I’m sure I’m not the only one…


yup..me 2 


Dennis, I frankly don’t consider the lack of an optical unit a con. I haven’t used a DVD/CD in like ages, cause all the content is now available online

As for the Google Docs problem, hmmm, I haven’t noticed it. Are you sure you’re not using the mobile version or something? The only “productivity” problem I find with netbooks is the fact that they have small screens and low resolution, thus you can get only limited info at a time on these displays.


Mike, thanks for the reply. 

No, definitely not a mobile version.

There are two kinds of problems I’ve experienced using my Aspire One netbook for Google Spreadsheets. 

While I can’t replicate at this moment the one I described above, I can replicate this one: The registration of the rows is badly misaligned! I put my cursor on the far left column in a row and what appears is an outlined box around the bottom of one cell and then about 3/4 of the cell below that. Some rows are worse than others — to the extent that you can’t even tell which row you’re on. I can send you offline a document that I’m talking about.

I also will sometimes with only some data-intense spreadsheets get the message below — but not on most docs.

“Your browser’s current zoom setting isn’t fully supported. Please reset to default zoom.” “Dismiss.”


Hi Mike,

I’m considering to buy my first ever Netbook (yikes! :P) and I’ve never used a 10.1″ one before. So could you please tell me that a netbook with 10.1″ screen with res of 1024×600… is it a bit hard on the eyes, I mean, will the windows looks too big or too small??, can it be a pain in the a*$ to use for longer periods ?. Thanks.


Well, it depends. It’s better to go and check out a netbook in a store so you’ll know what to expect


Thanks Mike!, appreciate it


How does the net book compare to say a Kindle Fire? Do either have the capability of windows/printing from?



It is a good comparison and helpful to know the details of mini laptops. I have one information required.

I see one laptop style which is awesome for me and i would like to know the company and model can u tell.

It is your website shows the picture and it didn’t reflect the name of the laptop. Can you tell the name of mini laptop and model. And here in under mentioned the picture name of the mini laptop it is shows your website main page

(“Best 10 inch net books (mini laptops) at the moment”)

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x