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When is it a Netbook and not a Tablet?

posted Jul 14, 2011, 8:38 PM by Nathan Eliason   [ updated Jul 20, 2011, 3:43 PM ]
Looking at the increasingly fine line between notebooks, netbooks, and tablets, functionality is the key determining factor. As models and capabilities of mobile computer steadily improve, the difference between all this terminology is blurred.
    One would think that a tablet computer stands out from the rest of the mobile industry. A tablet is normally a touchscreen computer that is thin and rectangular, with no external keyboard. (The device on the right side of our logo is a great example.) Normally, there is just the one screen for input, with the possibility of a few buttons around the edges for power, volume, and the like. Apple's renowned iPad is a classic example of a tablet.
    On the other hand, a notebook, or laptop (essentially the same thing) is a mobile computer with a single screen and external keyboard. The keyboard is physical, and laptops usually have a track pad as an alternative to moving the mouse around. As shown on the left side of our logo, the screen and attached keyboard fold up into a very compact and mobile computer. This enables users to take their laptops places and use on their laps, hence the name.
    A netbook is a smaller version of a laptop, usually made for browsing the internet and checking emails on the go. These netbooks usually come with a data plan through cell phone carriers, where users pay a monthly fee for 3G and 4G internet on the go, as well as hook up to WiFi at coffee places and the like.
    Each term therefore has a cookie cutter example of what it should be. With recent advances in technology, however, it is becoming less clear when something is a tablet, laptop, or netbook, or something entirely different altogether. For example, the Nook and Kindle, portable tablets for reading books in electronic format, are not actually usually considered tablets at all, but in a new class called e-readers. 
    In another example, a new product from Toshiba, the Libretto, defies any categories previously placed. Although not game-
changing in the industry, more of its kind are popping up on the market, and we can't exactly place them. Shown in this image, we see it includes two touch screens as well as a folding capability like a laptop or netbook, but no external keyboard, instead an on-screen one. With Windows 7, it does have its capabilities, and also drawbacks, as processor power is a bit limited. Click on the image to go to the Toshiba website where it describes this product in better detail. When it comes down to it, this mobile computer turns out to be a nice tablet with an annoying bar (where it folds) running down the middle of the screen. Indeed, though, the portability of this product is far better than that of tablets, whose large area make it almost as bulky as a laptop. Though many places are describing the Toshiba Libretto as a laptop, it is much too small, with no keyboard, and is missing many key features. Plus, with a price tag of over a thousand dollars, this really isn't living up to the expectations of its "25 years of laptop innovations", as claims the website.

When it comes down to functionality, I guess it doesn't really matter whether these products on the fence really have a category or not, and it's not worth it creating one for every misfit product on the market, but just know that there is probably a product out there that fits your mobile needs, be it a laptop, netbook, e-reader, tablet, or something in between.