Laptop vs Notebook vs Ultrabook vs Netbook – What’s the difference?

Does it look very confusing on seeing the title, “Laptops vs Notebooks vs Ultrabook vs Netbook?” It should because all the appliances mentioned above are similar yet different from each other.

For example, a person living in Tamil Nadu will feel that Udhagamandalam and Kodaikanal are situated on top of the mountains. If you ask the same question to a person residing in Shimla or Kulu, he will feel that these are small hills in comparison to what they have in their area.

Therefore, can we say that it is only a matter of perception? In a way, yes, we can say that, but there are subtle differences. We shall see what they are during the course of this article.

Is there any standardised rule as to which constitutes a laptop or a notebook? No, there are no such boundaries. You have 15-inch laptop screens as well as Ultrabooks and notebooks. Yes, netbooks are comparatively smaller. Let us now understand the concept.

We shall throw in an additional device to add to the confusion. Our intention is not to confuse but to educate. We shall now look at five such appliances.

  • Palmtop
  • Netbook
  • Ultrabook
  • Notebook
  • Laptop

We have arranged the appliances in the order of their portability. Yes, you can have an Ultrabook bigger than the notebook, but they are lighter in weight. Here is a comparison between the five computers (yes, they are computers).

Palmtops – Academic interest only

The palmtops are the smallest of all these devices with an average screen size of around 6 to 7 inches. However, they can give you a complete computer experience as they run on a special low-powered version of Windows OS known as Windows CE.

HP Palmtop

Some of the later palmtops work on Windows XP as well. With the introduction of the smartphones and tablets, these palmtops have gone out of fashion. You can still find them in some second-hand electronics shops.


The netbooks with an average screen size of 9 to 10 inches were very popular before the introduction of the iPad. The netbooks presented a complete computing solution because they came with a keyboard where you can type out the words instead of using the touchscreens as you do with the iPad.

These netbooks are different from the tablets because you can run Windows applications on these appliances. The tablets and smartphones cannot run all the regular Windows apps. These netbooks have lost their popularity because the iPad offers greater flexibility than these appliances.

Lenovo Ideapad S10 Netbook

However, the netbooks are still suitable for simple computing jobs. Of course, you cannot play the latest computer games or do video and photo editing. However, you can call them ‘the poor man’s laptop.’


Ultrabooks are similar to notebooks in many ways except for the fact that they are incredibly light. The latest breeds of Ultrabooks weigh less than 1.5 kg and are extremely thin as well. These appliances have got the name from PC manufacturers as a direct response to Apple MacBook Air.

In spite of being very thin (less than 2 cm) the screen sizes of these Ultrabooks can match their rivals, the notebooks. You have Ultrabooks having screen sizes between 11 and 15 inches as well.

New Dell XPS 13 Ultrabooks

Most of the Ultrabooks come equipped with SSD hard drives. Naturally, they are lighter, silent, and much faster than the regular HDD. Therefore, the Ultrabooks have negligible boot-up times. The SSDs are faster than the HDDs but are expensive at the same time.

Consequently, you do not get much memory for the money you pay. You can get up to 128 GB as memory at the most. Remember, Ultrabooks do not have a DVD drive. You have to cut corners if you want to have ultra-thin devices.

Therefore, if your objective is to watch DVDs on your device, stay clear from these Ultrabooks. Gamers might struggle to play the high-end 3D games, but this appliance is ideal for almost all computing and lightweight gaming activities.

Notebooks and laptops

There is not much difference between the notebooks and laptops. Traditionally, the laptop is larger than the notebook. It is designed to be a replacement of your desktop computer so that it could sit on your lap. Notebooks are smaller and lighter thereby enabling easier portability as compared to the laptops.

HP 15.6 inch Laptop

Manufacturers use these two words interchangeably today. You would not find many manufacturers using the word laptops. They prefer to use ‘notebooks.’ The screen size for the notebooks could be somewhere between 12 and 18 inches. The average size is around 15 inches.

Today, notebooks are available with powerful graphics cards that enable 3D gaming. The fundamental difference is that notebooks have a DVD drive. If they do not, you can as well call them ‘Ultrabooks.’

Now that we have cleared the air, the terminologies should not confuse you anymore.

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