Difference between a Laptop and a Notebook

Published on March 18, 2016

When you think about it, laptops and notebooks pretty much have similar traits. They both are lightweight personal computers, internet ready, and have keyboard availability. But even though they do share some similarities, they also have differences that can mean varying comfort and convenience for users.


Laptop vs Notebook

Laptop – Laptops are small and lightweight personal computers that can fit on your lap. They are designed for a major purpose; ‘portability’. They usually weigh around 4 to 8 pounds (2 to 4 Kilograms), depending on the device’s hardware, display size, battery, and other factors. They are basically planned with a ‘clamshell’ design (two or more sections can be folded through a hinge). This is one factor that makes them even smaller and thus, portable. The performance on the other hand, will rely on the model of one’s laptop. Ultimately, a laptop will have the basic components of a computer such as I/O connections, display screen, keyboard, pointing devices, memory, processor, and even a GPU (Graphics processing unit). Also, these components are combined into a thin chassis, becoming a single unit.

The idea of a portable computer was first imagined by Alan Kay at Xerox PARC in 1968, and was described as the ‘Dynabook’. A few years later, on September 1975, the first ever commercial portable computer finally appeared and was called the ‘IBM 5100’. This wasn’t the first laptop with a flip form factor however; it was later in the early 1980’s that these laptops first appeared (Dulmont Magnum, GRiD Compass 1100, and Gavilan SC). From then on, other features were developed and included in laptops such as the touchpad, pointing stick, and handwriting recognition.

Notebook – Same as with laptops, a notebook is an ultra-light personal computer that is usually smaller than your standard laptop. A notebook usually weighs around 5 pounds (2 Kilograms). It was initially designed to be the size of an actual notebook for more portability, hence the name. As with laptops, notebooks also acquired the clamshell design. In terms of its performance, you can expect it to be a bit slower since it can only have so much space for its components. Nowadays, notebooks come in laptop configurations. It may be an added performance on the notebook’s part, but it alleviates the sense of being a ‘notebook’, since it requires a larger and thicker chassis.

The first commercial notebooks were launched in 1989, namely the NEC UltraLite and the Compaq LTE. Their sizes were roughly around 10 inches and weighed about 6 pounds. At that time, they were considerably small, light, and powerful. In 1993, sub-notebooks were developed and were smaller, lighter, and more powerful. This includes Apple’s PowerBook at only 4.4 pounds and Sony VAIO at only 2.5 pounds.

Laptop vs Notebook

What’s the difference between a laptop and a notebook? They may have a lot in common but they also have a few differences that make them what they are.

Starting with their sizes, laptops usually are anywhere from 14 inches to 17 inches across, and can be small and sleek to large and bulky. Notebooks are usually smaller and are anywhere from 12 inches to 14 inches. With their weight, laptops are generally around 3 to 12 pounds, while notebooks are only around 5 pounds or less. In terms of performance, laptops tend to be the preferred device as they usually have a higher processor and more RAM. Now for their usage: laptops are designed to act as a portable desktop PC. This means they have the power to run high-end programs that might be needed for extensive work. Notebooks on the other hand can’t provide such power, due to their size. Although they might not be able to run some extensive work, they still can provide the basic features and functionality a desktop might offer.

When deciding on which one to use, there are actually other factors to consider. One would be their prices. A laptop usually is priced around $500 to $1000, while notebooks are ranged between $150 and $350. One other factor would be using extra peripherals. Laptops usually have more USB ports and plug-in options than notebooks. That said, just make sure you are getting what you need, and you’ll be fine.

Comparison Chart

Bigger, and can measure anywhere from 14 to 17 inchesSmaller, and can go from 12 to 14 inches
Heavier, around 3-12 poundsLighter, less than 5 pounds
More powerfulLess powerful
Usually costs moreUsually costs less
Recommended for heavy tasksRecommended for light tasks