Laptops and Notebooks – Is There a Difference?

In the beginning, there was the PC. Big and heavy, consisting of a big housing, a monitor that looked more like an old-fashioned TV with a large and funny back panel, and a keyboard connected to the housing. These computers, and many others that followed occupied a lot of space and were hardly portable. As we could use them only in our houses or offices, we realized that the access to the important information is very limited and it became a great problem because the global modernization required unlimited access at every place and at every time. At this point, we can even say that we have achieved the goal, although it’s not as good as we thought it would be.

However, the problem with computer portability instigated engineers to create lighter and more portable versions of PC, that were named laptops. From that point, the manufacturers were producing smaller and smaller versions. The next generation of laptops was named notebook and further development stages resulted in tablets and smartphones.

In the following text, we will introduce you to all the differences between laptops and notebooks that might interest you and maybe change the course of your search and purchase path.

Basic Explanations

Laptops were first introduced back in 1981, although the first model that wasn’t actually released was made in 1976. The first commercial laptop was named Osborne 1 and it was quite expensive, pretty heavy and bulky. The only power supply option DC power cable (it didn’t have a built-in battery). In the next 3 years, many other manufacturers tried to release their own laptop versions and this is how the development and expansion of portable computers has begun.


Today we have so many models of laptops and notebooks with different features that we have to spend a serious amount of time on choosing the right one. Once very popular and extremely expensive in comparison to the features they offered, they have become less popular and quite affordable due to smartphone and tablet expansion. You may think that there is no big difference between laptops and notebooks but they are originally quite different devices. The line separating them has become very thin because of the technological advance (the possibility to combine powerful features and software with tiny hardware) but this article will show you that the difference still exists.

Laptops were first introduced as portable desktop computer versions that should make it easier for business people to work on the go. They were meant to have all the characteristics of desktop computers and still be lighter and easier to transport. Laptops have quite a few input/output ports, CD/DVD drives, good HD or SSD capacity, fast processors and high-resolution screens. Modern laptops are equipped with HD cameras for video chatting, powerful software packages for both business and entertainment, as well as powerful batteries that can for more than 6 hours per one charge. They usually have full-size keyboards and they weigh approximately 5 pounds, while their screens are on average 15 to 17 inches.

Notebooks, on the other hand, are smaller in size (just like their screens) and they are much lighter because they don’t have built-in CD/DVD drives. Their keyboards are smaller and their HD and RAM memories are smaller than those built into laptops. This happens because the notebooks are not supposed to be only more portable than desktop PCs. They are mainly made for entertainment. They are not meant to run large and powerful software like Photoshop. They are made for reading emails, writing, exploring social networks, etc. You can’t even use them for gaming as they are simply not powerful enough. Their batteries were originally less powerful but the modern versions of notebooks can compete with the laptops in this area. The first models appeared in 1988.


However, the number of differences between laptops and notebooks is seriously reduced as the laptops are becoming lighter, even more portable and smaller but they are trying to keep their performance at the extremely high level. Also, the notebook manufacturers are releasing the improved notebook versions that are becoming more and more powerful. In addition, we can say that the popularity of both devices has decreased due to smartphone and tablet popularity.

Laptops vs Notebooks

We have already explained a lot and we believe that you have understood what are the main differences between laptops and notebooks. However, as this article is all about their main characteristics and differences, we have decided to list all the features that make them completely different devices. We didn’t want to specify if a certain feature is an advantage or a disadvantage because it really depends on the type of device you are looking for as well as their purpose. Depending on your preferences and needs, you will be able to define which characteristics are more or less desirable in your own case.


The first laptops were made by Osborne and Kaypro corporations and they were followed by Compaq and Epson. When today’s manufacturers are concerned, we believe that you are already familiar with most of them: Toshiba, Dell, Acer, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, Asus, MSI, Alienware and, of course, Apple.

When it comes to notebooks, they were first introduced by the Cambridge (Z88), followed by NEC and Compaq, IBM, etc. Today, we have Apple, HP, Dell, Toshiba, Samsung, and Sony.

Dimensions and Weight

As their name says, laptops are small enough to sit comfortably in your lap. They can be smaller or larger/bulkier but they can sit in your lap. As we have previously mentioned, the screen size varies from 15 to 17 inches, and they usually weigh less than 5 pounds, although they were much bigger at the beginning. You can still buy some laptops that are much heavier and apart from the fact that they can have 12 pounds, their weight can be reduced to the weight of a notebook.

Notebooks were given that name because they are not much thicker than a regular paper notebook. Their screens usually have 13in diagonal and they usually weigh less than 5 pounds as they have less to none input/output ports and they don’t have CD/DVD drives.


Laptops are portable computers that can almost deliver the same kind of performance as desktop computers. They come with amazing features (1TB+ HD, similar SSD, powerful processors that can run even the most demanding games and software packages, etc.). The newest models come with screens in HD resolution and even 4k resolution. They have a lot of RAM memory (up to 16GB for gaming models) and their GPU are better (some laptops even feature nonintegrated GPUs).

Notebooks are even more portable but in recent years, they became able to perform at a high level. In this area, they have come very close to laptops. They have better processors, stronger batteries, more RAM memory, and screens in HD resolution.

Cooling System

Laptops have strong fans that enable them to cool effectively, just like desktop computers do.

Notebooks have weaker fans as their performance is at the lower level and it is not considered necessary for them to cool as effectively as laptops.

Accessories (DVD drive, ports, keyboard)

The fact is that laptops have more ports than notebooks. They usually have at least two or three 2.0, 3.0, or 3.1 USB ports and one Ethernet port. This is quite rare with notebooks.

CD/DVD drives are rare on both devices because they occupy a lot of space, they are often the first component that breaks down and also because you don’t need CD/DVD if you have one flash drive and one USB port. USB flash drives have a greater capacity than CDs and they are also more practical and easier to use.

As far as keyboards are concerned, laptops have larger keyboards because they are generally larger and there is more space to place even the numeric keyboard.

Notebooks have significantly smaller keyboards due to limited space.

Battery Life

As we have said, an average laptop has significantly longer battery life than an average notebook. While laptops have batteries that can last up to 14 hours per charge (depending on the activity), notebooks have much weaker batteries. One of the exceptions is a well-known MacBook Air, which has the battery that can last up to 13 hours.


As always, the prices of laptops and notebooks vary a lot. The average laptop price is approximately $500, while they can cost more than $1000 depending on the features.

Notebooks are usually cheaper but the price of the newest models can go well over $1000 (especially if they are made by Apple).

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