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What are the Different Types of Computer Notebooks?

A notebook.
A person typing on a thin computer notebook.
A stick of DDR-RAM, a type of memory.
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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 March 2014
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Computer notebooks have evolved a great deal in the past decade, transforming from the elite tool only of well-heeled business professionals, into a device that is gradually replacing the desktop computer and becoming pervasive among all users. Students, especially, find computer notebooks ideal for their needs, as they are compact, can be taken to classes or on trips, and are powerful enough for virtually any educational need. As the notebook market has developed, companies have begun to try to differentiate themselves by creating new classes of notebooks, leading to a number of very different types.

As computer notebooks have begun to replace desktops, they have necessarily become ever more powerful, leading to one class of laptop: the desktop replacement. These computers usually have fairly large monitors, in the 15” to 17” (38cm to 43cm) range, have a good enough video card to handle advanced graphics, upwards of 4GB of possible RAM, a DVD player and CD burner, a wireless card for internet connectivity, and hard drives of up to 500GB of storage. This allows them to handle most of the tasks that a desktop computer can, to carry around plenty of videos or music files, and to play and burn CDs and DVDs.

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Even beyond the desktop replacement are computer notebooks that are hardly even portable, sometimes called super-laptops. These may have monitors as big as 20” (51cm), making them comparable to many large desktop systems. Their larger monitor means they have a much larger footprint and weight, making them difficult to transport. It also means there is more space for components, however, so these computer notebooks may contain multiple hard drives for added space, blazing fast video cards, and enormous amounts of RAM. Although not widely popular, these 20” laptops do see some use among gaming enthusiasts, as well as some design professionals and those who want a true desktop replacement that is only slightly portable.

On the other end of the spectrum entirely is the so-called netbook. These computer notebooks are quite tiny, and meant to have limited functionality. Many netbooks are built around the idea of using web applications primarily, so that the need for internal processing power is greatly reduced. At their smallest, netbooks may have monitors as small as 5” (13cm), and rarely exceed 12” (30cm). Netbooks are super portable, often weighing around two pounds (1kg), and their battery life can be quite extensive. In addition to their portability, netbooks are also one of the cheaper of the computer notebooks, and are looked on as many as a greener alternative to larger computers which require more toxic materials.

Another type of super portable laptop has also appeared recently, which aims not to sacrifice too much power for its low weight and footprint. These ultra-thin laptops use solid state hard drives to eliminate a great deal of weight and thickness, and rely on external devices like CD-ROM drives or DVD players. Although not quite as lightweight as netbooks, ultra-thin laptops are usually quite a bit more powerful. With this added power comes a hefty price tag, however, and ultra-thins are usually significantly more expensive than a comparable traditional laptop.

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