Netbook vs. Notebook - What's the Difference? For an Answer, Look at Performance and Capabilities.

Netbook vs. Notebook - What's the Difference? For an Answer, Look at Performance and Capabilities.
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Future of Mobile Computing

On October 21, 2008 Intel Mobile Platforms Group manager Mooly Eden delivered the second day keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum in Taipei, Republic of China (Taiwan). His address was entitled “Expanding the Frontiers of Mobility.”

One of the many interesting things that Mr. Eden said was that although many industry experts predicted that 2009 will be the year that the crossover happens and more notebooks than desktop PCs are sold, 2008 is the year that Intel will sell more mobile processors than desktop processors. Part of that rapid growth in the mobile field was due to the advent of the Atom-powered mini-computers, the netbooks.

Mooly Eden also offered a look at the netbook vs. notebook question from Intel’s perspective on the past, present, and future of mobile computing.

Design Factors

Netbooks are devices designed purposely for the Internet, to communicate, learn, and view information. They have in common a compact form factor of seven to ten inches, are light-weight, feature comparatively longer battery life than notebooks, and are less dependent on a battery charger during the day. They are easily portable and can be easily moved from one place to another place. They may contain more than one wireless method to connect to the Internet. To see some examples of netbooks on the market, read about how 3 of the top netbooks compare with each another.

Notebooks are more multiple-purpose computers in a form factor of about ten inches and up. Notebooks can create content and handle heavy multi-tasking loads with many applications running at once. They can view, create, and edit high-definition video content and run intensive programs like computer aided engineering and mathematical modeling.

Differences in Mobility

Notebooks, like Netbooks, are portable, but some are becoming increasingly less so (the 17-inchers) some more so (the ultra-thins), and users of notebooks tend to pack them away in bags with all sorts of accessories before moving anywhere beyond the office or home. Although a few notebooks are able to connect to the Internet via cellular networks as well as Wi-Fi, being “locked” to a carrier is not widely considered an advantage. Thus notebook users often invest in wireless modems that are external.

Interestingly, we may see netbooks that are sold by the cellular carriers themselves as a bundle of Internet service and the device. Consumers would be likely to consider an inexpensive netbook expendable and simply stop using the wireless connection when the cellular contract was up.

So netbooks are purpose-built for a limited role, while traditional notebooks are multi-purpose general tool. (Click the image from Intel to enlarge the graphicon that explains the uses of each.)

What Applications Will You Run?

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The central question to be asked, Mr. Eden said, was “What applications do you plan to run on it?”

If you want to run basic applications and surf the web on the go, the netbook is a good solution. However, if you want to “open five windows, if you want to run virus protection and do some indexing . . . or high definition video editing,” said Mr. Eden, then a notebook is better.

Image courtesy of Intel

Mr. Eden said that asking him which is better – the Atom (netbook) or the Core 2 Duo (notebook) processor - is like asking which child he likes best. He says that, although they are different, he likes them both. Then he said he likes all of his kids.

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