What Size of Laptop Do You Need?

The Size of Laptop that’s Right for you

Illustration: Gordon McAlpin

You’d like to pick up a laptop, but you can’t make up your mind from the various model types, screen sizes, and configurations. We’ll break it down for you. There are three main sizes of laptops these days: netbooks, ultrabooks and notebooks.

NETBOOKS

Though fallen out of style in recent years, netbooks are still popular among people who want a PC on an extreme budget. For just a couple hundred dollars, you can get a Windows 7 Basic or Windows XP or Linux machine that has a 10″ screen, probably a solid-state hard drive, and a pretty good CPU. It’s not going to run many apps at the same time, but for web usage, especially web apps, it’ll get you online and can handle the web with ease.

Netbooks were really hurt by the rise of tablets, which seem to do everything a netbook can do, plus a touch screen and much faster processor. And the prices are falling into parity as well. It all depends whether you need Windows and its associated apps, or whether a tablet’s apps will serve you well enough.

ULTRABOOKS

We just covered Ultrabooks in a previous article; it’s an Intel-pending trademark on the PC version of the Macbook Air, an extremely light and extremely thin laptop that is still powerful. Ultrabooks have a 13″ screen and a lot of battery life, but are sold at a significant premium over a heavier notebook with the same features. You’re really paying for the lightness and battery life here, so if those two features are a big plus for you, then you’ll want one.

NOTEBOOKS

Notebooks are another name for a standard laptop that’s neither a netbook nor an ultrabook. Notebooks have screens from 13″ to 17″, and battery life can vary from 90 minutes to 9 hours. Notebooks are in the sweet spot: plenty of features for a good price. You’re not getting the cheapness of the netbook nor the lightness and thinness of an ultrabook, but in many ways, the notebook beats both systems.

Notebooks that have 15″ screens gain a significant advantage in battery life over 17″ screens. If the 2″ difference doesn’t matter to you, you’ll appreciate the extra hour or more of time between charges. Also, integrated Intel graphics perform significantly worse than ATI or nVidia chipsets.

Whatever type of machine you choose, compare features, price and, yes, size of the machine. If price and getting online are of chief importance, choose a netbook. If weight, thinness and battery life are primary benefits, choose an ultrabook. If you want a laptop that primarily acts as a desktop and doesn’t travel, or you want features for a low price, choose a notebook. Good luck!

About

Steve Horton has been working with computers for over 20 years. He's dedicated to helping people get the most out of their PCs, and likes playing cards and writing comics.

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  • Andrew Hoare

    Great article. Just what I wanted to know.

  • http://www.reviversoft.com Steve

    That’s what we’re here for, Andrew! Let us know if you have any questions.

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