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What Is a Laptop?

Updated on January 11, 2012

Distinguishing Desktop PCs and Laptops and Netbooks

In the most basic of modern terms, there are three main categories of computers. The first is a desktop computer or desktop PC. The other two are much more similar: laptops and netbooks. In fact, you may hear a netbook referred to as a "mini laptop." Keep in mind that the terms "notebook" and "laptop" are the same thing. There is no functional difference between these two terms.

What Is a Laptop?

Before distinguishing between a laptop and a netbook, it is better for beginners in computers to distinguish the features of a desktop and laptop.

In basic terms, a laptop is a computer with keyboard and monitor all in one package. A laptop is designed to be portable, so it can also run on a battery. This battery comes together with the laptop when you buy it. Although times vary, you can typically run a laptop on battery power for 3 to 5 hours. After that, you need to plug in the laptop with the power cord to get power, which also recharges the battery. By the way, the battery in modern laptops is very easy to install or remove. You just snap it in or pull out a couple of clamps to remove it.

A desktop PC is not designed to be portable. It is much bigger than a laptop. The actual computer is housed in a "tower," and it is this tower that makes the desktop computer much heavier and larger than a laptop. On older desktops, the monitors can also be quite large and heavy, but they have gotten more compact over time. Besides the tower, you have a separate monitor and a separate keyboard. Unlike the laptop, which already has the keyboard and monitor integrated, you must connect the keyboard and monitor to the computer that is housed in the desktop PC's tower. While the size and weight of a desktop are not suitable for travel, you may find it better from the standpoint of having a bigger monitor.

All in all, you will find that a laptop performs very well while also being much more convenient for either travelling or moving around the house. It is very difficult to move a desktop PC because you also have to consider the power source in addition to space requirements. Conversely, you can just take your laptop to the bathroom or use it in bed anytime you want (although you will have to recharge the battery after a while if you don't have a power source nearby).

The last big difference is that a laptop typically includes a touchpad as part of the computer. This touchpad takes the place of a mouse. For convenience, however, you can always buy a mouse and use it with your laptop. By the way, laptops typically come with one or more USB devices or other ports for using a mouse, printer and other peripheral devices. There are often more connection ports on a desktop PC, however. Thus, you may prefer a desktop when you are using a large number of peripheral devices and do not need the computer for travelling.

As stated previously, netbooks are basically mini laptops. However, they are really not that much cheaper in many cases, and netbooks are not really suitable for some activities. For example, you might find it harder to read or play games on the smallish monitors that come with a netbook. At least go by a computer store and check out a netbook in action before deciding that it is ideal for your particular usage requirements. On the flip side, netbooks are smaller and lighter, which makes it convenient for some users. Nonetheless, the typical users of netbooks are casual surfers, not hardcore gamers, video watchers or those who sit in front of a computer for hours a day doing various tasks.


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