Notebook Computer VS Laptop Computer

by: Frank White


You may be wondering what's the difference between a notebook and a laptop computer? The answer often depends on who makes it. Some Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM's) call their mobile computers "laptops" and some call them "notebooks". The terms are often used interchangeably. Lately, a new breed of terms have been popping up. Terms like deskbooks and Tablet PC's.

My distinction between a laptop computer and a notebook computer is this:

Laptop computers are somewhat larger than notebook computers and will accommodate a built-in disk drive unit. That is, a CD/DVD ROM drive is either built into the unit or the unit has a built-in bay that will accommodate a removable CD ROM drive. You should expect the display unit to be at least 15 inches wide, when measured diagonally. It is thought that some OEM use the term Notebook because their Laptop computer generate too much heat to actually use it on your lap.

Notebook computers generally allow you to attach, via  cable, a CD ROM drive. Since the drive is not built into the unit, notebooks are smaller and lighter than laptops. These units are commonly known as "Ultra Portables".  Hence, a notebook is an ultra small laptop. Another way to look at it is a notebook is about the size (or a little larger than) of a real [binder] notebook.

Deskbook computers often refer to mobile computers that can be considered as desktop replacement units. Deskbooks tend to be larger and heavier than average notebook/laptop computers. Generally the display units are 15 inches or larger. They tend to draw down battery power relatively quickly due to their powerful, but power-hungry, processors. Deskbooks often will contain the same processor found in desktop computers. If you are looking for the power of a desktop unit, with the freedom of mobility, then a deskbook may fit the bill.

Tablet PCs are mobile computers with a twist. That is, you can literally twist the monitor.  Tablet display screens will swivel on its base - usually 360 degrees. They generally allow you to capture handwriting, via a special stylus pen, and store it on the computer.  Table PC software automatically turns your handwriting to text. Tablets are no more, or less, mobile than any other laptop or notebook.

Mobile computing - processing power

Processor types play a major role in the type of mobile computer used. The grid below will help you discern the differences. Note that the processor names are closely named and are easily confused.

Type Processor (see note 2)
Laptop Pentium III Processor-M, Pentium 4 Processor-M, Pentium-M (Centrino)
Notebook Pentium III Processor-M ,Pentium-M (Centrino)
Deskbook Pentium 4 Processor-M,
Pentium 4 Processor
Tablet PC Pentium 4 Processor-M, Pentium-M (Centrino)

The power consumption for the processors vary greatly. To get a glimpse of the power requirements for the various processor, PC Magazine has constructed a nice table.


  1. Laptop computers with the Pentium 4 M processor running at high clock speeds tended to generate too much heat to actually use it on the lap for any extended period of time.

  2. The table above is outdated. Newer processors are available that performs as fast, or faster, while drawing less power and generating less heat.

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Revised: 11/24/2007


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