Laptops fall into several unofficial categories. Retailers often use these terms interchangeably, so we’ve broken down the most common models into six broad families.
Notebook (aka laptop)
A full-sized laptop will include most of the same kind of components as a desktop PC. Standard notebooks are available in models to suit casual, intermediate and power user. They try to strike a balance between portability and functionality. Full-sized notebooks (eg 15-17”) usually have an optical drive, but this adds to the weight and bulk.
Ultraportables are all about being compact and light without skimping too much on performance. The smallest models weigh around a kilogram!
To maintain a slim profile, ultraportables miss out on some features that are standard on larger notebooks. Most don’t have an optical drive, which means you can’t use CD/DVDs without an external add-on; they tend to have fewer ports (USB, FireWire, HDMI etc), and some lack a connection for an external monitor. Some ultraportables use SSDs rather than hard disc drives, as they’re smaller, lighter, faster and less power hungry.
Ultraportable screens rarely exceed 13 inches and keyboards are less than full size. Some rely on wireless connectivity exclusively, as Ethernet ports have been omitted to reduce the overall thickness. There are some models that ship with a USB to Ethernet converter, while others offer this as an extra cost option.
Ultrabooks are a sub-category of ultraportables. Ultrabooks need to meet special criteria set by Intel before they can carry the name officially. This includes using a special, low-powered processor and solid state drives, which improves battery life. Consumers who travel regularly may find the trade off in power for battery life beneficial. Ultraportable is a general term for a slim, lightweight, portable computer. See our review on thin and light laptops
for more information.
Netbooks are small, relatively inexpensive and they run on the fairly low-powered Intel Atom processor. Though once popular, largely due to their low cost, they’ve been phased out as demand dwindled due to the emergence of tablets and ultrabooks.