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Laptop vs Netbook vs Tablet: Which Should I Buy?

Updated on April 7, 2012

After a few years, you may have noticed your computer becoming more and more sluggish. You're using an old Windows Vista laptop and you can't stand it. What should you do? You can upgrade your computer's RAM or even install a new operating system. Some people would rather ditch their old computer for a brand new one. Computer technology has advanced greatly. Performance and speed gaps between desktop and laptop computers have largely been eliminated. It doesn't make much sense to buy a desktop computer. They take up more space compared to even the largest laptops. Laptops are also cleaner than desktops when it comes to wire clutter.

While desktop computers fade away in popularity, most people will be shopping around for laptops, netbooks, and tablets. Each of these computers have advantages and disadvantages. Let's take a look at them and determine which one is best for you and which one you should buy. 

Before we begin, you should ask yourself a few key questions. What are you going to use you new computer for? What do you need it for? Surfing the web? Emailing? Are you going to do video editing or graphic designs? Are you a heavy multi-tasker? Are you going to watch lots of video? Are you going to play games? How much are you willing to spend? These are all important questions you need to consider before making a purchase. Let's break down these three choices in detail. 

Laptops Are In Desktops Are Out

Laptops are the new desktops. They are very versatile. Laptops can be easily folded and transported. Laptops are ideal for high school and college students. Today laptops can do just about everything desktops can do. They are also much cheaper than they once were. You can get a very good laptop for $800 today. High end laptops can handle nearly all the needs of your average user. Desktops still have the advantage over laptops when it comes to gaming although the gap is closing. The highest end laptops such as the Apple Macbook Pro and Sony Vaio Z Series will cost in excess of $2,000. If that is over your budget, Dell's Inspiron and Acer's Aspire line will run you between $500-$700.

Dell Inspiron offering consumers personalization with different color laptops.
Dell Inspiron offering consumers personalization with different color laptops.

The higher end laptops are ideal for power users and professionals that need the most power out of their devices. Unfortunately, a blazing fast processor and a large screen will mean short battery life. If you are always on the go, always bring your power cord with you. Mid-range to high end laptops are great as desktop replacements. This basically means you are going to use your laptop at home and not travel with it. If you are considering getting a laptop as a desktop replacement, get one with the largest screen you can afford. Consider getting one with a 17 inch screen. It doesn't make much sense to buy a laptop that is 14" and plugging in an external 17" monitor when you found out you prefer a larger screen. Make sure you buy a laptop with at least 3 USB ports. 

As far as raw power is concerned, a laptop is the way to go. You can edit videos, surf the web, watch HD movies and even play graphic rich games. I would highly recommend spending at least $500 on a laptop. Cheap laptops are generally sold with slow single core processors. When shopping, take a look at the processor name. If it says "Sempron" or "Celeron", do not buy it. I recommend getting a dual core or quad core processor. Intel Core 2 duo and up are what you should look for. At this time, Intel's CPU's performs better than AMD's Athlon X2 but some laptops offer a dedicated graphics card to offset the difference. In comparison, most Intel cards offer graphic processing on its CPU, called an "integrated graphics card".

"Be smart and don't be intimidated by these clerks."

When buying from an electronics retailer like Best Buy, they may try to sell you virus protection, anti-spyware, and protection plans. Only consider the extended protection plans. You will not need the rest despite how much they try to push it onto you. If you are not tech savvy, get a friend to install you a proper anti-virus. When I purchased my Dell Inspiron 17, I told the store clerk that I didn't need all that stuff because I was going to install Linux. The clerk wasn't familiar with Linux and was surprised when I told him it didn't need those anti-virus softwares. Be smart and don't be intimidated by these clerks. Most of them aren't very smart.

Netbooks Are Tiny Laptops

As you can see, a netbook is considerably smaller than its laptop big brother. Isn't he cute?
As you can see, a netbook is considerably smaller than its laptop big brother. Isn't he cute?

If laptops are the new desktop replacements, then consider netbooks as the new laptops. Netbooks are like small laptops. They are generally between 7"-13" in screen size. Netbooks are smaller and less powerful than laptops. The appeal of netbooks is its portability. Its smaller size and light weight makes it easy to carry around. A netbook's footprint is considerably smaller than a biology textbook making it the ideal computer on the go. While a laptop has a battery life between 2-5 hours, some netbooks can last up to 9 hours before needing a recharge. Not only are netbooks smaller and lighter than laptops, but the longer battery life means you don't have to carry a plug everywhere you go. This is very convenient for those with heavy loads. Its just one less thing to carry. 

It's all about portability.
It's all about portability.

"In other words, they are slow."

Despite the improved battery life and portability, netbooks are limited in terms of what you can do. Compared to laptops, netbooks lack processing power. In other words, they are slow. If you have high expectations, look elsewhere. Netbooks are good at web browsing and email but multi-tasking and flash can be painful. Netbooks are also good for taking note and word processing. Newer dual core netbooks are expected to improve the user experience. The cloak speeds can be misleading to the casual consumer. A single core atom processor at 1.8 ghz performs slower than the desktop Celeron which is considered the lowest class CPU Intel makes. AMD make the Neo processor which is faster than the Atom but it will drain more battery. If you are looking to buy a netbook, consider the advantages of portability and compare it to the disadvantages of performance. I would not recommend buying a netbook if you don't have a desktop or laptop. A netbook is a great compliment to your main computer but it should not be purchased as a laptop replacement. Some good netbook brands to consider are Dell Mini, Acer One, and Asus Eee PC. Expect to pay $250-$500 for a netbook.

Tablets Are Toys?

Mike Lazaridis (RIM's CEO) holding the BlackBerry Playbook.
Mike Lazaridis (RIM's CEO) holding the BlackBerry Playbook.

Tablets are a new breed of personal computers that aims to directly compete against netbooks. Tablets are slate-style computers that uses a touch interface as the primary method of input. The iPad is the main tablet on the market today soon to be followed by many competitors. New tablets like the iPad, BlackBerry Playbook, and Samsung Galaxy Tab are fast and responsive. Tablets are very versatile. They can be used for web browsing, music/video playback, e-book reading, digital picture framing, and much more. Tablets are highly portable. Some tablets, like the Galaxy Tab, can function as a phone if needed. While there is no official standard equipment on tablets, Apple iPad set the pace with its fast touch screen that others will have to match it. The iPad also received it share of criticism of being a big "iPhone" or a "toy". While still new to the market, tablets are generally geared more to buyers that want to consume media. Mainly focused on delivering entertainment, tablets should be perfect for generation X or Y members.

Tablets vary in size but are generally very compact. Some say the iPad is a bit too big to carry around while others don't mind at all. The Galaxy Tab is being advertised as being small enough to fit in a purse or a back pocket while being big enough to enjoy video media. Tablets are very expensive. It's true that you can buy a first generation Archos tablet for around $250 but if you want to get the most out of the tablet experience, expect to pay at least $500 for the entry level iPad. Now, some would argue that $500 for an iPad is about the same as a top netbook or a low/mid-range laptop. That's true but people believe tablets are expensive because aside from media and games, not much can be done on tablets. Like netbooks, tablets are meant to compliment your main computer. It wouldn't be smart to run heavy photo editing software on a tablet. It also wouldn't be ideal. Although the touchscreen is innovative, sometimes it becomes a chore to do simple tasks like copy and paste. Needless to say, it also wouldn't be great to type a term paper on a tablet. Sure it can be done but it wouldn't be very comfortable. This is where people see tablets as a consumer good rather than a useful tool. To some people, it may be the device they need.

Is it "magical"?
Is it "magical"?

"Don't buy a Cruz Tablet!"

If you are in the market for a tablet, don't buy anything with less than a 1 ghz processor. Don't buy a Cruz Tablet! It is ridiculously slow. It's embarrassingly slow. I tried it out at Borders and I wanted to smash it to 73 pieces. Don't waste your money. Spend a bit more for quality. Do some homework. You can try out the iPad at your local Apple store or Best Buy and determine for yourself if it is as "magical" as advertised. Tablet platforms have not been extensively tested yet. Android and iOS feels good on phones but they might feel differently on tablets. Google has come fourth and stated that Android 2.2 is not optimized for tablets. Don't count out some Windows 7 tablets and QNX coming soon on the BlackBerry Playbook. With all these different OS competing in the same market, its easy to get lost. Always try out the product before you buy it. What's nice and cool for some people may be lame and cheesy to others.


A laptop can be a great desktop replacement. Laptops are powerful and capable. Buy a laptop if you really need to replace your old computer and use it as a main. Laptops, can be fairly portable. Laptops are good for gaming and media editing. A netbook is a great second computer to compliment your existing main computer. Netbooks are very portable but not as capable or powerful as laptops. Netbooks are ideal for surfing the web, lightweight gaming, and word processing. Tablets are just as or even more portable than netbooks. Tablets computers are perfect for media consumption. They're ideal for music, watching videos, playing interactive games, e-book reading and browsing the web. They are not ideal for work related processes such as word processing or photo editing.

I am in the market for another computer. Since I already own a capable laptop, I am deciding to get a netbook over a tablet. For my needs right now, that's what I would buy. Your needs may be different. I hope this hub has helped you make a decision on your next computer!


My views have changed. There are a few updated reasons why you may want to buy a tablet over a netbook. Probably the biggest reason for me is portability. I think a 7" tablet is the perfect size to take anywhere and not be a complete hassle.

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    • AJReissig profile image

      Alex J. Reissig 

      6 years ago from New Richmond, Ohio

      As a person who uses all 3, I have to say each has a specific least for me. In my home office, I use my desktop. It is quad core, dual hybrid drive with dual monitors. When I do my work, I often have a dozen or more reference documents open at the same time (I guess that makes me a power user?). My laptop is for computing on the go; I use a lightweight 13" dell. My android tablet is for R&R. I use the e-reader, read rss feeds from my favorite sites, and play a few games.

      Great Hub!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      i am getting a netbook tablet and a netbook laptop hahahahahahhahahahahahahahaha

    • profile image

      prakash electrical engineer 

      7 years ago

      thanks for giving more information about net book and tablet I was in dielema which to buy ,now Iam going for net book .

    • Adroit Alien profile imageAUTHOR

      Adroit Alien 

      7 years ago


      you make some good points but no need to take thing personally. The Macbook pro is a very good laptop in terms of performance and build quality. I don't own any Apple products. Never have in my life but some of my friend have and I would be naïve to say there isn't any quality there.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Laptops aren't 'closing the gap' with desktops at all. For five reasons; they're still far more expensive, they run out of power very quickly if they're high-end speed, they still aren't nearly as fast, they're also far more liable to overheat due to compacted space. These are things which have always been the case and continue to be so. The only people I would ever recommend a laptop to for gaming, is those with a lot of money and a total inability to spend time at home where they can use a desktop instead. I also found it amusing that you list the Apple Macbook pro as the 'highest end laptop' - maybe if you're talking about price that would be true. Anything from Apple is overpriced, and laptops already cost you more than a desktop.

      "Most of them aren't very smart."

      Yes well neither are their customers, as evidenced by this article.

    • Adroit Alien profile imageAUTHOR

      Adroit Alien 

      7 years ago


      Thanks for the comment and you should write a review about that keyboard. I hear lots of people complaining about it's price. For about $100, it seem rather steep as an accessory to something that only cost $200. I would definitely read it. BTW, I love the Star Trek reference.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I found the Blackberry Playbook with the RIM case (including Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad) to be a perfect Netbook alternative. It's portable, fast, can be a tablet or a Netbook, and is gradually replacing my laptop for most tasks.

    • Adroit Alien profile imageAUTHOR

      Adroit Alien 

      7 years ago


      You are right that most tablets do not offer USB modems. Most newer tablets add on expensive data plans like the newer iPads. I have a BlackBerry PlayBook and I am able to get internet with BlackBerry Bridge. The PlayBook connects to my phone kind of like tethering and I can get internet without paying any extra fees.

      I used to feel the same way until I got a tablet for myself. Doing simple tasks like browsing the web is much faster than a netbook but typing is harder. One thing I found to love about tablets is the portability. It is much more portable than my EeePC netbook and I find myself taking it to work every night. Thanks for the comment!

    • bacardimetz profile image


      7 years ago from Palma de Mallorca

      Very nice hub! Tablets did not yet convince me and between them and netbooks, I would go for the later. Besides the limitations U mentioned, what I find totally unacceptable is that tablets cannot take usb internet modem. If there's no wifi around, then we'd better forget it. How come nobody thought of this? after all, with such a simple thing as a usb modem, one can get internet anywhere, which is not exactly the same with wifi.

      Greetings from Spain,


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I just got an iPad...

      I hate it. I have the galaxy s2 with tmobile. It does soo much more stuff.even jail broken the iPad or iPhone doesn't compare to abilities. Everyone I know who has an iPhone agrees my galaxy S2 skyrocket is wayy better.

      Apple sux. Oh u can't get flash player. Unless you buy a shitty app that works like an old xp desktop. Even the browser window looks like it. Also you get kicked off every 10 min.the app costs $3

      You could pay $5 to $10 for unlimited Internet

      The more you pay the better the speed.

      Screw iPad && iphone

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      netbook yet are ideal since using windows 7

      thanks alot very helpful article keep going ,

    • lucasaraujo profile image


      7 years ago from Brasil, Vitoria - ES

      Your hub is very interesting and informative, it helps to understand better what each device has to offer.

      Congratulations on your creativity, you are very good and helped me for a future purchase of these devices!

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      Netbook and tablets both are very nice individually.But if we come through comparing them than the above article will be so helpful for us.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you very much for this comprehensive review. I am torn between buying a netbbok and a tablet, now I've decided to push through with the netbook, Asus eee perhaps. I couldn't agree more with your opinion that typing on touch tabs could be one very difficult plus I give a lot consideration to the memory. Compared to 32-64gig tablets with detachable pads, I would definitely grab the 350HDDgig netbook with a keyboard, more appropriate for my lifestyle and needs.

    • Adroit Alien profile imageAUTHOR

      Adroit Alien 

      7 years ago

      Personally, I don't think any Android tablet is "future-proof" simply because support varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and there is Always a new Android around the corner. if you want a tablet with a keyboard, the iPad and PlayBook have bluetooth keyboards that will work. Not sure if that's an issue with you. Of course if Flash is a must, the iPad 2 is out.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Just wanted to say, to any serious gamer, a desktop is still the way to go because laptops just cant handle it...with maxed graphics and the like. I can barely play TES V: Skyrim on my inspiron with an i5 and 4 gigs of RAM. And that's at lowest settings and res. Of course, gamers dont usually buy a desktop...they build one. But I am thinking about a tablet to basically supplement my laptop as an easier way to skype and stream movies and youtube as well as facebook and check email while in bed, do you think that $500 on the Asus transformer prime tablet is worth it? I know i dont want a pure netbook, but the transformer prime, once I buy the keyboard in a year or two, would be able to double as a netbook for on the go you think its a future-proofed purchase? especially with Andriod 4 coming out soon? (unless Im mistaken and its already out)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks. Good piece of informaton

    • natures47friend profile image


      7 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      Brilliant hub. Interesting info about not getting conned during a purchase!

      My daughters been at me for a laptop...coloured of course...Sony Vaio and the likes of Toshiba...I have said no while the mac is running perfectly fine up to now. You have put me off ipad though...thanks for clearing up my queries.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I am looking for an inexpensive either laptop, netbook, or tablet for my 9yr old. She wants to play on facebook games, webkinz, and you tube what would be best? My niece says I need at least 16mb. What would be the diff between 2, 4, 8, and 16 GB. Which one would be best for my daughter?

    • seriousnuts profile image


      8 years ago from Philippines

      Well written! I own a Toshiba Satellite laptop. I would say that it's a perfect substitute for a desktop computer. It meets my work needs as well as my gaming requirements. I totally agree about your opinion for tablets. My friends urge me to buy one. You see, I type a lot, so I see no need for a keyboardless tablet.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      If you're trying to decide between a netbook or a tablet, keep this in mind: if your digital lifestyle requires serious content creation or management, a laptop or notebook makes a lot of sense. However, if content creation is a low priority, an iPad or other tablet could really enhance the way you consume information.

    • susansisk profile image

      Susan Sisk 

      8 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Good information. Thanks.

    • Adroit Alien profile imageAUTHOR

      Adroit Alien 

      8 years ago

      Excuse my previous post. I meant newer dual-core netbooks with Ion graphics can handle HD videos though most netbook screen are maxed at 600p.

    • Adroit Alien profile imageAUTHOR

      Adroit Alien 

      9 years ago

      Newer dual-core netbooks can play HD videos just fine. Though they will still struggle on high demanding video games. Thanks for the comment!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Yeah, those clerks suck. They're all about that commission. Which is only a few bucks. How are netbooks with video files? Good hub.

    • Adroit Alien profile imageAUTHOR

      Adroit Alien 

      9 years ago

      There's different versions but they retail from $250 - $500. Eee PC are actually one of the top netbooks. They have great battery life and have received many positive reviews. Thanks for the comment!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      hey how much would a EEE netbook cost.? i checked out the cost of dell mini, its around 500$. But have no clue about Eee.

    • Trinsick profile image


      9 years ago from Cali

      So I own a Asus Laptop, and pre-ordered an ipad then got cold feet and canceled my order... I just thought I can't have both...


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