Types of Portable Computers

By Ticara Gailliard

With the more mobile lifestyle that many people now embrace, having a computer that comes along with you puts convenience on the go. Several different portable computer options exist to fit any lifestyle and budget. They pack the power of a desktop computer into a portable device. Prices vary depending upon size, with the smallest computers costing less than the larger portable devices.


As one of the earliest portable options to the desktop, notebooks, also known as laptops, embody the power of a desktop in a mobile form. Notebooks feature a keyboard, built in touchpad mouse and a monitor screen that folds down. They range in size from ten inches up to 20 inches, with screen aspect ratios of 4:3, 16:10 or 16:9 (the widescreen). Most notebooks feature a 15.4-inch widescreen format for an optimal combination of portability and functionality. Notebooks weigh less than desktops, making them easily portable. Some thin notebooks weigh as little as three pounds. Notebooks feature ports that allow connection of an external mouse, HDMI television cables and Ethernet cables.


Similar to notebooks, netbooks offer portability, but in an even more compact size. Netbooks feature nine- to 10-inch screens and weigh between two and three pounds. These computers, first created in the early 2000s, lack the CD-ROM tray that notebook computers have, allowing them to have a smaller size. The keyboard is likewise scaled down. While netbooks have a smaller footprint than notebooks, they also have less power than notebooks and desktops. But this presents its own advantage: Less power consumption means longer battery life.

Tablet PC

Tablet PCs have had a surge in popularity since the inception of the Apple iPad in 2010. These portable computers have a flat design, as opposed to the clam shell format of netbooks and notebooks. They also use a capacitive touch screen and can be controlled with a stylus or fingers. Tablet PCs come in two types -- a slate version and a convertible version. The slate, such as the iPad or the Motorola Xoom, features the typical flat style of a tablet PC; while convertible tablet PCs, such as the Asus Eee Transformer, can be attached to a keyboard dock, turning them into something resembling a notebook computer.

Smartphones and PDAs

Some of the smallest portable computers come in the forms of smartphones and PDAs. PDAs, short for personal digital assistants, have been around since the mid-1990s. They act as handheld computers that combine several features, such as phone, fax, Internet connection and networking. They often use a stylus rather than a keyboard. Other names for PDAs include pocket computers, handheld computers or palmtops. Smartphones recently took on many of the PDA functions, cutting down on the need for separate cell phones and PDAs. Smartphones such as the Motorola Atrix and the Apple iPhone are being built with faster processors that make them more like small computers than phones.