Ultrabook or netbook, notebook or MacBook?

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

If you are thinking about buying a laptop, or have bought one before, then you will know that it is not that easy.

It is not easy, because of the amount of choice! There are so many laptops, each with their own pros and cons in terms of hardware.

Not to mention the different types of laptop that are on the market.

First of all, what is the difference between a laptop and a notebook? There is none, they are one and the same.

A netbook however, is a smaller type of laptop, usually without a CD or DVD drive and which often has a scaled down operating system.

Netbooks often make use of solid state technology to save space and reduce power consumption, without reducing performance. In addition, some use processors that have been designed primarily for mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets.

An Ultrabook is a thin and lightweight laptop that does not compromise on hardware. Often with an SSD (Solid State Disk) rather than a conventional HDD (Hard Disk Drive) they are fast and capable machines. They are aimed at the high end performance market, which is reflected in the price you have to pay!

Those are the basics in terms of hardware, next you have to consider the operating system.

It is probably fair to say that the majority of laptops you will find in your local high street store (the big chains) will come will one version or another of Microsoft Windows installed. There are alternatives you might wish to try.

Apple MacBooks have been a popular alternative to Windows based laptops for a long time. If you want specialist advice, or just want to see an Apple product before making a decision, then you will need to find a specialist store.

Apple Stores themselves are few and far between, but you can find a list of retailers that stock Apple products if you visit the Apple website.

Chromebooks are a relative newcomer to the laptop market. Running Google’s Chrome OS (a variant of Linux), they are primarily designed for cloud based computing. There are offline versions of some things (Google Drive for instance) in case you find yourself without an internet connection. Chrome OS updates itself in the background and so is always kept up to date and boot times are fast.

Ubuntu is another Linux operating system available pre-installed on several laptops, but unlike Chrome OS it comes complete with a suite of traditional ‘offline’ applications for you to use. Laptops with Ubuntu are not as common, but if you shop online you can find them.

One final consideration is battery life. If you are going to use a laptop away from a power source, make sure it has a good battery!

Alan Stainer