What Is the Difference Between Laptops and Notebooks?

By Mike Sweeney

Apple uses the word "notebook" on its website, whereas Dell uses "laptop" and "2-in-1 PCs" to describe its comparable models. Hewlett-Packard often uses “laptop” and “notebook” interchangeably to describe the same product. It seems the use of the word “laptop” and “notebook” is more of a marketing distinction and a way for each manufacturer to describe its model’s features and benefits. With the rapid growth and acceptance of the iPad and other tablets as viable alternatives to laptops, using the word "notebook" to describe the latest technologies in the laptop market has become more commonplace and a way to distinguish the category from tablets.


A relatively new category of notebooks introduced by Intel a few years ago, each Ultrabook must meet Intel’s minimum requirements of size, thickness and battery efficiency. Using Intel’s innovative processors, Ultrabooks are lightweight alternatives that offer powerful computing power for any user. Screen sizes range from around 11” to 14,” and weight ranges from two to four pounds, due to the elimination the optical drives to reduce thickness and weight, and the use of solid state drives. Several top-rated Ultrabooks are the Acer Aspire S7-392-6411, the Dell XPS 13 Touch and the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51. All three effectively compete with the MacBook Air, the much emulated standard in this growing category.

Hybrid Laptops

Depending on the manufacturer, hybrid laptops also go by the name “detachable” or “2-in-1” personal computers. These are a combination of a laptop computer and a tablet. When the screen is removed, the portable PC becomes a tablet that can be used in the same way as any tablet device. If the hybrid is a Windows 8 laptop, when the screen is removed, it becomes a Windows 8 tablet. A few examples are the HP Spectre x2, the Acer Aspire Switch 11 and the ASUS Transformer Book T300.

Convertible Laptop

Convertible laptops are similar to hybrid detachable laptops in that they both can become tablets. The difference between the two is the convertible laptop screen folds into a tablet by swiveling around and folding into the product to produce a rectangular tablet. When it is folded and flush with the keyboard, the notebook becomes a heavier and thicker version of a tablet comparable to any Android model or iPad. Additionally, with the unique 360° hinge technology, you can fold the notebook into a “tent to play” or “stand to watch” version. These are also sometimes called "2-in-1" laptops. The Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro and the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series are two excellent convertible laptops, with different price points to serve different needs.


Taking a different approach to the way a laptop interacts with the end user, the Chromebook uses Google’s Chrome operating system and Chrome Web browser to provide an Internet-based operating experience. Requiring an Internet connection, the Chromebook starts up quickly and is easy to use by anyone with a basic understanding of Google software and the Internet. User data is stored in the cloud on Google servers, and, to provide some flexibility, flash drives, external hard drives and other devices can be plugged in via USB. Chromebooks are among the fastest growing segment in the marketplace due primarily to Google's aggressive, budget-conscious pricing. The Acer Chromebook C720P and HP Chromebook 11 are two examples of well-reviewed models priced very competitively.