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What Is A Netbook? Chromebook vs Netbook vs Laptop

What Is A Netbook? Chromebook vs Netbook vs Laptop

For those who have never owned a laptop, it appears as the most simple thing. It's just a portable pc that's all there is to it really. However, when the time comes for you to buy a laptop, you'll likely encounter many different laptop types.

Some of which most people have never even heard of. There are gaming laptops, notebooks, ultrabooks, two-in-one laptops, Chromebooks, elite books, and so on and so forth. If you dig deep enough you'll even encounter the term netbook.

In this article, I'll be explaining just what exactly a netbook is? How it differs from other laptops and most importantly whether or not it's even worth getting?

What Is A Netbook?

What Is A Netbook? Chromebook vs Netbook vs Laptop

Not to be confused with the far more popular notebooks. Netbooks are exceedingly small and lightweight laptops designed for casual tasks like web surfing and multimedia content. Aside from the compact frame and lightweight nature, another thing that separates the netbook from your typical laptop is the affordable price tag.

So in essence, it's a smaller and cheaper laptop, targeted at people for whom a regular laptop is too cumbersome and a smartphone too restrictive. If this sounds familiar, it's probably because it occupies the same design space as the tablet and this is why we don't really have netbooks anymore.

They exploded in popularity back in 2007 as an excellent alternative for folks who didn't need the processing power and optical drives that the more expensive notebooks came with. But their popularity was short-lived and much of it is attributed to the advent of a better alternative that fitted the same niche which is the tablet.

If the idea is to have a device that's midway between a full-blown laptop and a smartphone then tablets are superior in almost every way. They're lighter. They're more ergonomic. They have higher-quality screens and they just work better.

In the original iPad presentation in 2010, steve jobs famously ridiculed the netbook by claiming that a device that fills the niche between laptops and smartphones should be better at certain things than either of them. The netbook as he stated was no better at all.

And, even if you liked the idea of a super-portable mini-laptop that had a proper physical keyboard. You still couldn't argue with jobs because netbooks were plagued with numerous problems as a result of manufacturers trying to cut corners. To touch on some of the main issues of netbooks, I'll just say that they had infamously bad keyboards.

They were built with cheap plastic and packed hardware so underpowered that they sometimes had a hard time running the latest versions of Windows and Linux. After tablets entered the market and completely replaced netbooks. Most of the major manufacturers stopped producing them all together in 2012. and this takes us to the next question.

Why are we even talking about netbooks if they've basically disappeared off the face of the earth all the way back in 2012?

Well, the premise of the netbook was a really interesting one. They turned bad in practice due to the faulty keyboards, cheap builds, and severely underpowered hardware.

But in theory, they can exist without these things and that's where we come to Chromebooks. Chromebooks are essentially the spiritual successors of netbooks that do away with all of the negatives that give netbooks such a bad rap.

They aren't the only spiritual successors but they're the most famous ones and the only ones that we'll be discussing in this article. So, to answer the question posed in the introduction 'NO' netbooks aren't worth it, or rather they wouldn't be worth it if you could get them.

But let's see whether Chromebooks managed to improve upon netbooks to the point where it would make them worth buying. First, let's define exactly what a Chromebook is?

What Is A Chromebook?

What Is A Netbook? Chromebook vs Netbook vs Laptop

Much like the netbook, it's a small, light, and generally affordable type of laptop but it does have a few key differences that are worth mentioning.

First and foremost, Chromebooks run Chrome OS. Chrome OS is google's Linux-based operating system that's rather limited in scope compared to Windows and other Linux distributions.

It feels more like a mobile OS than anything else and in some ways, this isn't far from the truth. It does support Android apps from the play store as well as regular desktop Linux apps and this is a good thing.

As I mentioned, the notebook had trouble running even windows properly, and while many blamed the underpowered hardware for this the truth of the matter is that windows is a robust and demanding operating system that same hardware would have had a much easier time running on something like chrome OS.

So, that's one of the pros of Chromebooks. Even though their hardware is still weak overall. Their operating system is actually equipped to make the best of it. It also keeps the positives of netbooks of old.

The lightweight and portable frame, good battery life, the affordable price tags are all there their keyboards and overall build aren't as flimsy as those of previous netbooks. And we wouldn't call them premium quality but they shouldn't give you any trouble either.

All in all, Chromebooks are great for casual tasks such as web browsing and multimedia viewing. And with access to google workspace apps. They also make for decent work laptops.

If you don't mind the small screen size and resolution, that said they aren't perfect. 

Here are some downsides to keep in mind if you're considering buying a Chromebook.

1. Firstly, they don't support many desktop programs including Microsoft Office and adobe premiere. So those of you who need Microsoft excel for work should avoid Chromebooks. And this isn't something we should bemoan since the hardware used in Chromebooks couldn't keep up with more demanding desktop software if the OS supported it.

2. Secondly, Chromebooks come with notoriously limited storage, forcing you to rely on cloud storage in most cases. There are many benefits to cloud storage that I've discussed in my articles on this topic. But if you aren't a fan of this, then you should double-check to see whether the physical storage in Chromebooks is big enough to accommodate your needs.

3. Thirdly, Chromebooks are not good for gaming or more serious work as both of these typically require hardware power or features that chrome OS simply doesn't have or support.


Netbooks were an early attempt to offer a niche device that filled the gap between smartphones and laptops. They had a lot of merits in theory but they never lived up to their potential as manufacturers cut way too many corners in an effort to bring down the price.

No wonder, that they were all but annihilated by tablets which filled the gap between smartphones and laptops much more competently. Chromebooks are a spiritual successor to netbooks that fixed many of their old issues by adopting a more appropriate, albeit less comprehensive operating system.

If you like the idea of a portable device having a physical keyboard and battery life that blows most tablets out of the park then a Chromebook may just be the thing for you.

Keep in mind though, that it cannot run your typical laptop programs like Microsoft Office and adobe premiere.

That it has limited physical storage and that it isn't great for gaming. Those looking to game casually on a portable device would find a better value in tablets. High-end netbooks can get the job done but you shouldn't buy a high-end netbook if gaming is your primary concern.

We never even touched on the concept of high-end netbooks in this article as they somewhat defeat the purpose of a netbook. And for those of you who are down for some serious gaming on a portable device, nothing will ever beat a laptop. Especially, if you connect an external GPU to it.

External GPUs aren't exactly the picture of portability but they're the best way to transform a laptop into something akin to a regular desktop gaming pc. In any case, I hope you found this article helpful, you can let me know if you have by sharing it with friends and leaving a comment. 

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