Difference Between Notebook and Laptop

Notebook vs Laptop

With the advancements in the information technology and the developments in the supporting infrastructure; the difference between Laptops and Notebooks has become a thin layer of ice that is breaking off day by day. Both of these terms refer to mobile computing platforms that were used for different purposes in the past. However, the distinction is no longer apparent now, and consumers tend to use these words interchangeably. In order to understand the difference between these two computing platforms, we need to look at their history and how they originated.


As the name implies, Laptop is a device that can sit on your lap and provides you with a portable mobile computing experience. They were made to mimic the capabilities and extensions of your ordinary PC with portability in mind. As such, mobility was not a priority. Someone might ask what the difference is; back in early 1990s, the ordinary PCs were sufficiently large to be carried around even inside a moderate conference hall. The laptops were built to address this problem where you can take it here and there inside a closed place without much hassle and wires tangling you.

Following the loosely defined specifications; one can understand that Laptops had more features than notebooks. They had more resemblance to your PC with extendable ports and peripherals. The hardware components used were also different which mimicked the PC as much as possible while being limited by the restrictions of battery power. A fine example for a Laptop is Compaq SLT/286, which was released in late 1980s. It weighed around 15 pounds and was rather thick. If you are familiar with the old IBM horizontal casings with a floppy drive in the front, you can easily imagine the SLT/286, as well.


A Notebook is also a mobile computing platform and a subset of Laptops where it mainly differs from size and weight. It is bound to be extremely lightweight, and the benchmark measure is 6 pounds or less. Notebooks are also smaller than Laptops and may have smaller display panels with less features and extensions compared to Laptops. This difference in physical appearance made Notebooks more suitable as mobile computing platforms rather than portable computing platforms. People were ready to play along with a trade off in performance for the purpose of mobility.

In 1989, NEC revealed a notebook called UltraLite, which can be considered as a good example for a notebook. It only weighed 5 pounds and had more or less all the extensions in a laptop encased in a smaller package. It was obviously more expensive and relatively less powerful than the Laptop then. However today; both takes up an entirely new form factor and features which makes them difficult to differentiate.


As it is for any other product in the market, Laptops and Notebooks have also evolved. They were both invented for two different reasons, but somewhere along the line, the two objectives were merged to be one which made it difficult to differentiate Laptops and Notebooks. Hence in the current market, difference between the laptops and notebooks lies in what the manufacturer decides to call them. For instance, HP has completely switched to calling their products Notebooks while Dell still continues to call their products Laptops. As a consumer, these two phrases are used interchangeably, and today’s market trend justifies that perfectly. However, for the purpose of clarification, you can mark the difference in weight and thickness as differentiating characteristics. Usually Notebooks will weigh less than 6 pounds and may have less performance compared to Laptops. Laptops will be heftier and would also host bigger display panels. Although we point out the difference, the name laptop has outlived its meaning because of the high performance laptops nowadays; with their high end hardware and weight, it’s questionable whether you can let them sit on your lap without an apparent risk to your health.