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Netbook v.s Notebook

There has been much confusion around what the netbook is for, where it fits in and who should buy one. SEAN BACHER delves in and speaks to an expert to see if he can shed some light on the confusion.

Since the arrival of the netbook on the consumer scene, there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what exactly a netbook is, where it slots into the portable devices arena and what it is capable of.

This was especially brought to my attention when someone I know asked me what notebook I thought he should buy. I told him that no notebook is really better than the other, they all perform the same tasks: the only difference being what is under the hood. I also suggested he take a drive to his closest consumer retail outlet and have a look at what they have. He then came back to me with notebook he had seen that was really cheap ‚ the salesman had said it will perform to his specifications and he would not look back once he had bought it.

As it turns out, the reason this notebook was so cheap was that it was in fact a netbook and not a notebook. When I informed my friend of this he was rather confused and asked: ‚So what is the difference? This one is a lot cheaper than all the rest.‚ I then told him that this one did not have an optical drive, to which he replied ‚ ‚well that’s rather useless.‚ I agreed with him but then stressed that the netbook isn’t in fact useless but instead is geared at a totally different market segment.

With this in mind, I decided to do some investigating and spoke to John David, product marketing manager for consumer products for Africa at Lenovo to find out exactly what the differences are and who would actually go out and buy a netbook instead of a fully fledged notebook.

John David, product marketing manager for consumer

David’s first remark was yes, there is a lot of confusion for both the consumer and the sales person. ‚Don’t get me wrong, the fact that a sales person is good or bad is irrelevant when it comes selling consumer devices such as notebooks. The salesperson is merely trained on the specs of the various machines and therefore does not really know where each one would fit in and which type of consumer it would suit.‚

He says that when the consumer walks into the store he or she needs to have a clear understanding as to what the device is intended for. ‚Is the device going to replace my current desktop computer? Is it going to supplement my current notebook or desktop machine? Or is it going to be used purely as an entertainment device?‚

David believes that the above three questions would determine which type of portable device a consumer should go for.

If a consumer is looking for a device to supplement his current notebook or desktop then the netbook would be the device to go for. ‚It is cheaper, lighter, comes with all the connectivity a user would need and is therefore perfect for a person who is constantly on the move.‚ The netbook was not designed to become a main production machine, but instead as a supplementary machine. A user would carry it around to meetings and the like, check email, do a little word processing, browse the Internet and perhaps listen to some music pre-loaded on the hard drive ‚ basically what a netbook is for. At the end of the day this netbook would then be synced up to the user’s primary computer. This process would be done every time the netbook is used instead of the primary machine.

If a consumer is looking for a portable device to replace his current computer, then a notebook would be the answer. It is powerful enough to run all current applications, has vast amounts of memory and hard drive space, can easily and readily be upgraded and therefore can become a substitute for most desktops today.

Finally, if a user is looking for a mobile device to use as a home entertainment system, then he would be categorised as a prosumer and would therefore need the best on the market. ‚A prosumer is someone who wants to watch DVDs on his machine and wants to play games,‚ comments Dave. ‚These machines would therefore cost a lot more than many others and would sport huge screens, fast processors, surround sound ‚ in fact all the bells and whistles.‚ Although they still qualify as notebooks, portability is not their forte.


Dave goes on to say that besides the lack of an optical device, netbook and notebooks differ in many other ways. ‚For instance, when it comes to operating systems, most netbooks these days come with Windows 7 Starter. This is a lighter version of the standard Windows 7, meaning that it is less processor intensive and therefore is able to run off less power.‚ Notebooks on the other hand come with a standard flavour of Windows 7, meaning there is a lot more functionality. He does however enforce that Windows 7 Starter is by no means a watered down version of Windows 7. ‚Should a user compare a Windows 7 Starter OS to that of the Standard Windows 7, the differences will be very difficult to find,‚ he adds.

He also notes that netbooks have a lot less memory. The typical netbook comes with around one or two gigs of memory, whereas the typical entry level notebook starts at two gigs and goes up. ‚Furthermore, processors play an important role in differentiating between a netbook and a notebook,‚ he comments. The average notebook these days comes with the equivalent of an Intel Celeron or Dual Core processor. Netbooks, on the other hand use processors such as the Intel Atom ‚ the main differentiator being that the netbook processors are far less power hungry than that of their notebook siblings.

In closing, he says that many netbook vendors are packaging external optical drives with their netbooks. However, he asked a very critical question: ‚When was the last time you really had to access something off a CD or DVD that could not wait until you got back to your primary machine?‚

Lenovo’s S10 Netbook

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