Laptop vs. netbook

Updated: 02/01/2021 by Computer Hope
Dell Latitude D610 laptop

When looking for a portable computer, you may be offered the option of purchasing a traditional laptop or netbook. Below we created a chart that compares the two and gives you the pros and cons of each, and helps make your purchase easier.


Laptop - Laptops have more features than a netbook and cost more to manufacture. Because of these costs, it'll cost more to buy a laptop.

Netbook - Netbooks are usually affordable since they're smaller and have fewer components.

Bottom line: Netbooks are often the cheapest portable computer option.


If cost is an important factor, consider a Chromebook. It does not run Microsoft Windows, but for most people, it does everything they need out of a portable computer.


Laptop - Although there are cheap laptops, the processor with most laptops is a lot better than the processors found in most netbooks.

Netbook - The processor is one of the most expensive components in a computer. Therefore, the processor is usually a low-end processor. Using a low-end processor may degrade your experience when doing more intensive tasks such as watching movies or playing games.

Bottom line: Laptops often have a faster processor than netbooks and performs better than a netbook.

Keyboard size

Laptop - Larger laptops come with a larger keyboard, making it easier to type on for users who plan on typing a lot.

Netbook - Because of their small sizes, netbooks have a smaller keyboard. If you need to type a lot, make sure to play with the keyboard first. Some users with bigger hands have an almost impossible time typing on a netbook.

Bottom line: For anyone needing to type a lot, a laptop is often the best solution. However, if you'll be working at a desk, a full-sized USB (universal serial bus) keyboard can connect to a laptop and netbook.


Laptop - Because of its larger size, carrying around a laptop could be more of a burden for some users.

Netbook - With their smaller sizes, netbooks are a lot easier to carry around. For females, these can often even be carried in a purse.

Bottom line: Although laptops have gotten a lot smaller and lighter, netbooks are often a lot smaller than laptops.

Screen size

Laptop - With its bigger size, a laptop has a larger screen size than a netbook, making it easier to read and view.

Netbook - Netbooks are smaller, making the screen smaller. Like the keyboard, we highly recommend looking at the netbook before buying it to make sure it works for you.

Bottom line: You'll have an easier time reading a laptop screen. However, a monitor can connect to a laptop and netbook to make either screen easier to read.

Hard drive

Laptop - Cheaper laptops often use a 5400 RPM (revolutions per minute) hard drive that can be slow when opening a program or otherwise accessing the drive.

Netbook - Netbooks often use an SSD (solid-state drive) instead of a hard drive. Although these drives have a smaller storage capacity, they perform faster when accessing data.

Bottom line: Both laptops and netbooks can have slower 5400 RPM hard drives in them. However, because of their compact size, a netbook often requires an SSD. If you're leaning towards a laptop computer, make sure it comes with an SSD.

Disc drive

Laptop - Like any traditional computer, some laptops come with a disc drive capable of reading and creating CDs (compact disc) and DVDs (digital versatile disc).

Netbook - Many netbooks do not include a disc drive. If you wanted to load something from a disc, play a movie, or listen to a CD, an external drive is needed.

Bottom line: If a disc drive is important to you, get a laptop. However, make sure your laptop comes with a disc drive. Newer laptops are starting to no longer have disc drive options.

Operating system

Laptop - Almost every laptop can support any operating system. Which means you can run the latest version of Windows.

Netbook - Because many netbooks are stripped down to help lower the overall cost and power consumption, many netbooks run Linux or older versions of Windows.

Bottom line: Make sure the laptop or netbook you purchase uses the operating system you want to use.