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Laptops, Netbooks and Tablets – Oh My!

Author:   |  Published: August 23, 2011  |  Leave your thoughts

As I was growing up, there wasn’t much choice in what computer you bought.  Oh how times have changed!  Aside from the fact that in today everyone and their dog has some kind of personal computing device, if you were to walk into any tech store you would be inundated with choices of what kind of computing device you can buy.  Being a tech junkie myself, I frequently get asked which device to buy.  Here are some of the things to think about before purchasing one of these devices.

Usage

The first thing you’ll want to think through before deciding which device to buy is really what you are going to do with it.  Is this your primary laptop that you’ll be doing school/business related work on?  Or is this your toy that you’ll use while you’re watching television, stalking your co-workers on Facebook and chatting on MSN with your friends?

Portability

The one thing I love about the technology industry is how fast things move.  When I first started university my laptop felt like it weighed 20 lbs – it was basically a brick!  But today we have devices that are less than a pound – simply amazing.  So figure out how heavy (or light) you want your device to be.

Price

When it really comes down to picking a device, the biggest decision maker is price and that is usually the first question I tend to ask folks – “How much do you want to spend?”  Of course, the typical answer is, “as little as possible.”  But realistically you’ll need to understand what you’re willing to spend.

Now that we know what to look for, let’s talk about the devices out there!

Laptops

Laptops have a full keyboard. Some even have a full numeric keypad, with a touchpad.  They have larger screens than any of the other devices, typically ranging from 13.3” to 20.1”.  Laptops have greater processing power, larger hard drives and more memory, but because of their bigger screen size and great computing power, laptops typically have a shorter battery life and weigh more when compared to a tablet.

Laptops also have USB ports, HDMI/VGA outputs, and DVD/Blu Ray drives.   All these extra features and computing power do come with a price tag; laptops range from $400-$2500.  The price difference is associated with brand, screen size, computing power and features – the more you want the more you’ll have to pay.

If your main usage for the device is to be productive and get work done you’ll likely want to get a laptop.

Netbooks

Think of a Netbook as a laptop that you threw in the dryer for way too long and it end up shrinking – yikes!  Netbooks do have a keyboard with a touchpad, but are significantly smaller in size – screen sizes typically range from 9”-12”.  Netbooks typically have a lower battery life than laptops or tablets, but do usually have USB and VGA/HDMI ports.  They do not, however, have DVD/Blu Ray drives.  Because of the lower computing power, the prices of netbooks are a lot lower – ranging from $300-$600.

Netbooks provide you with the functionality of a laptop and the portability of a tablet.  This is for users who travel a lot and want an extremely portable device that they can still be productive on.

Tablet

Tablets do not have a physical keyboard or touchpad and are simplely just a touch screen and range in size from 8”-11”.  Some tablets do provide you with video output and USB ports, but the majority do not.  Certain tablets also have built in carrier network connectivity that you need a service plan for, which allows you to have Internet connectivity anywhere you are (similar to your smartphone).  Others have only WiFi connectivity.

Tablets tend to also have smaller hard drives, memory and processing power and are typically expensive for the form factor and range from $400-$900.  They are, however, usually the lightest in the family.  Because of the lower computing power, tablets tend to have the best battery life as well.  Tablets are for users who are looking for a consumption device as opposed to a creation device – you use a tablet to view information and media as opposed to creating it.

Summary Chart


Laptop

Netbook

Tablet

Screen Size

13.3”-20.1”

9”-12”

8-11”

Average Weight

3.5-10 lbs

2-3.3 lbs

<1 lb

Price

$400-$2500

$300-$400

$400-$900

Battery Life

2-3 Hrs

2-3 Hrs

6-12 Hrs

Keyboard

Physical

Physical

Virtual

Touchpad

Physical

Physical

None

Webcam

Yes

Yes

Yes

USB

Yes

Yes

Some

DVD/Blu Ray

Yes

No

No

All in all, it really comes down to how much money you want to spend and what you’re going to use the device for!

- Mirunan Gunarajah