back to article Punters 'confuse' netbooks with notebooks

Guess what: ordinary folk don't know the difference between netbooks and notebooks, at least as far as the functionality of the two types of laptop go. That's the conclusion of a survey carried out in the US by local market watcher NPD. Almost 600 people took part in the online survey, though how many of them own netbooks, NPD …


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  1. northern monkey

    I can see it now...

    I'll just rip this cd for you. Oh crap!!!

  2. Tim Greenwood


    I have bought exactly on size and price. I accept some compromise on performance but the alternative "thin and light" notebooks are seriously more expensive for insufficient performance gain.

    The form factor is appealing and the price is reasonable so people buy a "little notebook". If they are migrating from a mif range PC of 4-6 years vintage then the performance will be comparable or improved anyway.

  3. Alex Connor


    How can anybody be confused?? before buying any electronical equipment you need to do some research about it, computer equipment included.

    I own an ASUS 901, currently running eeebuntu 3.0 which is swish. Previous to that i had windows 7 and had both Everquest and Eve-Online running on it, they struggled to get more than 7-8fps but i was still mildly suprised they ran at all.

    But i've been impressed with how versatile and useful my netbook has been. Am currently able to write python scripts with my netbook when out and about, which is handy, and it's easy to sync all my files on the netbook to my desktop.

    So for me, i'm impressed, it does more than i thought it could. Most people i've spoken to whom have one think the same.

    Maybe i should do my own poll about it.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    I bet the manufacturers don't know the difference either

    It seems to me that the manufacturers lost sight of raison d'etre of netbooks.

    For me, my purhcase of an Eee netbook on release, and then of an Asus Aspire One 12 months later, was led by my desire to have a machine that would boot quickly and allow me to get on the Internet for browsing and email access.

    I was sick of waiting for XP to launch, not to mention the need to rebuild the damn thing every 12 months because of its inherent speed reduction over time (still haven't found that registry key).

    Manufacturers, and to my mind Acer were the worst offenders with the Eee range, steadily increased the size of their machines, switched to spinning disks and XP, started adding notebook features, and pushed the price ever upwards to where a netbook with 'limited' features was more expensive than a full laptop. Now the original intent of the format seems to have been forgotten.

    If consumers are confused, I'd like to see a similar survey directed at the manufacturers, and see what THEY think the difference is between a netbook and a notebook.

  5. uhuznaa

    Asus with the Eee...

    ...accidentally stumbled over the truth, but then picked itself up and continued on. Others even didn't stumble.

  6. Andrew Halliwell

    Anonymous Coward

    You're a little confused yourself.

    Asus aspire one?

    Acer eeepc?

    Mine's the one without the brainfart in the pocket.

  7. Martini


    That will teach the yanks to change the name of a laptop! If they'd left it alone, they wouldn't have a problem!

  8. The Vociferous Time Waster

    Come the revolution...

    Come the Linux revolution, anyone who bought a netbook with XP on it will be third against the wall. They can have a few moments standing there shaking like a sh*tting dog, blindfolded atop the already putrid bodies of Mssrs Gates and Balmer.

    Who am I kidding? There won't be a Linux revolution because Linux is a little like communism, a great idea in theory but always mucked by in the implimentation by the egotistical meglomaniacs it attracts.

    Today is a good day to flame!

  9. Andus McCoatover
    Thumb Up

    eeebuntu - Thanks, El Reg!

    My local pub manager was pissed off - in the "Why did I buy this effing 701" class.

    When the Reg. did it's distro's for netbooks" I slammed eeebuntu onto mine.

    Love it, all - I mean ALL - works. (OK added Adobe flash player).

    Showed my barman - he was impressed - so last weekend I stuck it on his 701/4G, replacing Xandros. Loves it. Result?

    PINT CITY!!!!

    'Course, whenever I'm there it's "how do I do this" - show him, ANOTHER FREE PINT!!!!

    BOFH should be more helpful. He'd kill his liver quicker!

  10. Jonathan 6


    Quote: "If consumers are confused, I'd like to see a similar survey directed at the manufacturers, and see what THEY think the difference is between a netbook and a notebook."

    Isn't it obvious? Profit! One gives them barely any the other does.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    there is no difference

    ...any difference is created on the balance sheets of the vendors... i recenly bought a very powerful new laptop ..

    (i still refuse to call them notebooks... since a notebook is something that has paper on it around a plastic spindle).... I was not confused by netbooks, they are just very little computers.. my need involved processing power and disk space... obviously not something you find in the palm alike netbooks.

    Sounds to me like the vendors are finally just listening to themselves and their own sillyness - windows start edition .. (most people read that as being the crappy one) ... netbook (ooh guess that is a crappy notebook then) .. .

  12. andy gibson

    Satisfied or not

    I suppose it all depends on which model you bought and which OS came with it as a big factor if you were satisfied with it.

    My first experience was with an Acer Aspire One (1GB ram, 160Gb HDD) running Windows and it was pretty good, although battery life isn't great.

    But a recent purchase on an Eee 901 (1GB RAM, Windows, 16Gb SSD) was dire. The machine keeps locking up and is unresponsive.

  13. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    I call shenanigans

    As far as I can tell, a netbook is a notebook with a smaller screen and is intended to run applications in a more network-centric way. That's intended by the manufacturer - the user will have the last say on that.

    Did I miss something? Because personally I don't see any clear-cut distinction here, or in fact any distinction at all between a "netbook" and an "ultra-portable notebook", - a perfectly good label to describe what I see as the same thing.

  14. Efros
    Paris Hilton


    Always have a hidden agenda, my feeling about netbooks is that certain manufacturers of both hardware and software have been trying, since the devices first appeared, to kill them off. This survey is one more drip. I can see a few punters buying a netbook and then getting pissed when they cant edit a 25MB image in photoshop, but then these are the very same punters that will try and run Crysis on a 10 year old Windows 98 machine, and get pissed when it wont work. Netbooks have their place, I just hope that the concerted upspeccing campaign doesn't kill the breed off.

    Paris cos she knows her strengths and constantly flashes them.

  15. SimonK

    I'll admit that I'm confused

    Thing is, I think of myself as reasonably IT literate, though certainly no expert. I know who Linus Torvalds and Steve Jobs are, understand that there's a difference between an iPhone and a Palm Pre (even if I've never used either one), know when Wikipedia can be trusted (and no, the answer isn't "never") and when it should be avoided like the plague. I read at least something on The Register most days.

    And yet, before I read this article, I'm not sure I would have known that there was a difference between a netbook and a notebook. At best, I'd have thought that it was a branding thing - I *might* have worked out that a netbook ran Linux and a notebook Windows, but I'm sure I couldn't have told you much more.

    If I'm thinking like that, what chance your average joe punter?

  16. Jess

    And how many of them ...

    still wouldn't notice the difference if they actually used both of them?

  17. David Hicks

    Small, cheap, no moving parts...

    I thought that was the point?

    I'm very, very happy with my eee 901, but that's because I have a relatively lightweight OS (debian) on it and didn't expect it to perform like my Core 2 Duo laptop.

    That said, there's not much it can't do. Even (just about) 720p video to a large external screen.

    Perhaps most people are disappointed with what they can do because they naturally went for windows (familiar interface and apps) but found out that their netbook just can't cope with XP and whatever else it is they want to do.

  18. Anonymous Coward


    net book = small notebook normally without cd/dvd drive

    Who uses cd/dvd drives any more? - not enough to justify the space.

    So in short consumers are correct that there is not a significant difference.

  19. James 51


    I think you got Acer and Asus mixed up there. Still Acer have been launching more virtually identical netbooks as well lately with a steady creap in the price.

  20. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    @Alex Connor

    > before buying any electronical equipment you need to do some research about it, computer equipment included.

    What you should do and what people actually do is another matter entirely!

    "I'll have that one because I've heard of their company name".

    "I'll have that one because it looks pretty".

    "I'll have that one because the salesman says it's right for me (and his commission)"...

  21. Matthew Ellen
    Thumb Up

    Is that a problem for anyone other than Linux advocates?

    *Sob* Damn you consumers wanting windows on your machines, and damn you vendors for giving consumers what they want!


    Seriously, though, when I first heard of SCCs and that they would be Linux based from the off, I wet my pants with excitement. This is exactly what I had been looking for, and in my price range too. I was very happy with my eee 901 until it broke (hardware fault, but asus are calling me retarded and swearing that it's a software error, without taking a look at the netbook).

    I was hoping that this would spur consumer interest in Linux, but it didn't. This isn't the fault of the vendors, the consumers, or Microsoft.

  22. Stuart 22

    What netbooks?

    I love netbooks. I have bought two. I would like to buy more. They suit my company's need perfectly alongside notebooks.

    But every manufacturer is dumping the netbook and replacing them with notebooks. You know, 10"+ screens, funny whizzing things inside and Windows 7 when it arrives. Expecting me to pay for things we don't want and won't fit in our bags.

    Its manufactyrers who are confused, not the consumer. There are two markets - for netbooks and small notebooks. There is a difference. It is unsurprising that if the manufacturers don't see that then the wrong thing gets sold to the wrong user.

    Horses for courses please.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No, consumers are not confused

    They are disappointed. Netbooks were meant to run Linux as their OS, for price and performance reasons. By moving into this market segment and by squeezing out Linux, Microsoft made netbooks pretty much useless (please note that they were not very pleased with this species anyway). Real losers here are in my opinion netbook manufacturers who lost an opportunity to make some money without having to share it with Microsoft. At this point, netbooks might not have any future at all unless Microsoft will come up with a version of Windows tuned for both performance AND price to run on them. By crippling hardware specs and by forcing OEMs to install a castrated version of Windows on netbooks, Microsoft has shown us the way it decided for us to go.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why does it matter?

    It's the difference between a Ford Ka and a Ford Fiesta isn't it? They all get you round and if that is what you want/need either would do?

  25. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    This push bike is as fast as a Ferrari, honest.

    Buyers range between those who know what they are buying and make an informed decision and those who don't have a clue. The less informed either gets taken for a ride by being fooled into buying something far more powerful and expensive than they need or choose to buy cheap and often end up with something under-powered for what they need. It's nothing new for sales people to over-hype product they shift so hardly surprising when some people find a NetBook doesn't live up to expectations and they are disappointed.

    Frankly I'm surprised anyone can buy a NetBook / NetDeskTop and be unaware it 'under performs' as nearly all the reviews I read slag them off ( quite unreasonably ) because they aren't multi-core, soaring-GHz 'real desktops' - Well D'uh !

    I bought an Asus Eee PC B202 because I wanted an always-on, wired system, drawing low power and whisper quiet, running a Windows OS ( XP Pro installed ). Performance and graphics' speed were secondary concerns but it performs better than other desktops I have which are a generation or two out of date. It serves its purpose brilliantly.

    I'm sure some people do see a sub-£100 NetBook, think "that's a bargain", and naively believe it will do all that a more expensive laptop will. Probably the same people would buy an empty "Xbox 360 box" from eBay for a fiver and feel hard done by.

    I expect most of those who are disappointed with their NetBook's bought the wrong thing to start with.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    But netbooks are just little notebooks/laptops

    Only forth-rate IT "journalists", "analysts" and joyless pedants will haggle over the taxonomy..

  27. Torben Mogensen

    Main difference

    Netbook: 1024x600 resolution.

    Notebook: At least 1280x768 resolution.

    My newest notebook has no CD/DVD drive built in, so the main thing that differentiates it from a netbook is a slightly larger screen (12") and a substantially larger screen resolution (1440x900).

    It has a somewhat faster CPU and more memory than a typical netbook.

    My previous notebook had a 10" screen, 1280x768 resolution and a built-in CD/DVD drive. It had slower CPU and less memory than a typical netbook.

    Both are slightly over 1kg in weight.

    The only thing that differentiates both notebooks from a netbook is, hence, screen resolution.

  28. Haku

    @Stuart 22

    Damn straight! I really like my Eee 900 because it was cheap, small, light, doesn't have a spinny disc so can withstand being carted around in panniers on crappy roads (I think I live in Pothole Land, millions of the buggers everywhere)

    I saw a pic of an Eee with a 8.9" screen next to one of their 10"ers and no way would I buy any laptop with a screen bigger than 8.9 -

    And I really don't like how it appears all the newer netbooks all have that bloody iPod style curvyness on the edges, I like the bevel edges! I want a tool, not a damn fashion acessory!

  29. WhatWasThat?
    Paris Hilton

    Coming to Terms

    I think we need a good terminology to clear this up:

    Lappy - [Fends off the Moderator Beat Stick(c)] True laptop computer you can use on your... well... lap. If European, this usually means you have enough lap for 17" screen, etc. And the CPU core in the upper left hand corner of the machine keeps your crouisants tasty.

    Handy - Smaller "laptop" or "handtop" computer you can use on your lap or hold one-handed. If Merikin, the usually means that it will fit on what's left of your lap or perch on the "beer holder" plateau of your belly. Sorry - no cup holder on these models.

    Yes, I am from the Midwest US. If you can't laugh at yourself, you can't laugh at others.

    Paris - because no consumer would EVER confuse her terminology of "lappy" and "handy", eh?!

  30. W

    A brief history of netbooks...



    "net book = small notebook normally without cd/dvd drive" - By Anonymous Coward Posted Tuesday 23rd June 2009 12:28 GMT


    Chapter 0: Psion Series 3

    In the beginning there was the Psion Series 3. I used them at school, in Physics classes, in conjunction with electronic thermometers. I thought I was living in the future. There were other mobile computers, but they're irrelevant to today's story. Read about them in the old testament.


    Chapter 1: EEE 701 4GB

    When the granddaddy of all modern netbooks, the EEE 701 4GB came out, the compromises were understood and accepted. Perfect for for on-the-go lightweight tasks that a smartphone isn't really suited to. Most folk were happy to tinker away and install their own flavour of Linux or crowbar XP on to it if deemed to be absolutely necessary. The only real wishes at that time were that they'd fill out the lid by installing a 'proper' (1024 horizontal resolution) screen. After all, there was room for one. And obviously, the eternal quest for an improved battery life. Not bad for around £200.

    I resolved to hold out for a 9" version.


    Chapter 2: Aspire One

    Low end Aspire One models weighed in with an attractive price comparable to the 701. It was a nice machine that solved the screen size issue and had a nice keyboard, but was not a credible on-the-go champion due to the the hopeless sub-2hr 3 cell battery life was WORSE than the 701. Though critically, the Atom 1.6GHz chip was on-board. Suddenly we're looking at grunt not far short of what we were using in our desktops not so long ago. (Hey, I'm typing this on a 1.6GHz, 512MB, XP desktop machine. It's the most powerful machine in the office. An Architect's office. Yes, really. I'm running AutoCAD and 1GB RAM really would be nice, but 512MB is adequate.)

    The Aspire One was very tempting, but the 901 was just around the corner so I waited a small while longer for that.


    Chapter 3: EEE 901 (and 1000)

    Back to the netbooks... more specifically the EEE 901. Asus had messed around with all kinds of duff EEE 900 models. But none of them were a proper step forward compared to the 901, which finally arrived around 8 months or so after the 701. Atom chip, usable 1028 res screen, 6 hour battery life, bluetooth, n WiFi, SSD... it was all there. The only small quibble was that the keyboard wasn't perfect. Oh. And the price. A price on the wrong side of £300. A whole 50% more than the 701. But next to the 701, the size differential was negligible. Though, if you're you're prepared to trade off the portability of the 901's near-701 form factor you'd be wanting the EEE 1000 - basically a bigger 901 with a more comfortable screen and keyboard. At a price. A price approaching £400 quid on release. The price of netbooks now touched that of laptops. But hey, horses for courses. You pays yer monies and you takes your choice.

    The thing about the 901 is that it was a real turning point. It was the last (only?) 9" machine that could credibly claim to be the full package and yet still be closely related to the ethos of the granddaddy: the 701. And these were still the heady days when (a crippled) Linux pre-installed was an option.

    I resolved to buy a 901 as soon as the price fell to £250.


    Chapter 4: Samsung NC10

    Whilst waiting for the price of the 901 to fall to a sensible level. Dell released their Mini 9. It was nice enough, but didn't really offer anything new. And right across the board the netbook spec was beginning to standardise: 10" screen, 1.6GHz Atom, 1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, g WiFi, Bluetooth, VGA-out, Line in/out, SD slot, 3 USB sockets. With XP pre-installed - hardly a surprise really. Yes, Dell went with Ubuntu and HP had SuSE. But the big-sellers were from Acer and ASUS. And their Xandros and Linpus variants were needlessly hidden behind restrictive front-ends that undermined the true ability of the machine. MS may well have slashed the price of XP licenses, but at about £20, I'd take XP over a borked Linux any day. And regardless of what some folk seem to have convinced themselves to be the truth, XP on a 1.6GHz Atom with 1GB runs just fine.

    Anyway, the 901 barely ever made it down to £250 before Asus decided to release another 153 different EEE variants, all seemingly more expensive than the last. On the other hand, Samsung managed to retain a degree of sanity in terms of choice (1 definitive model - just pick a colour). £300, is admittedly at the very top end of what could credibly be described as cheap, but the NC10 is basically the benchmark.

    I love mine.



    Yeah, I think the NC10 is great, but it's not perfect. What's happened to SSD, 20 second boot-up, and built-in 3G?

    Sadly, it seems like the next 'innovation' is gonna be selling a netbook with Windows 7 and more grunt. Big wow. A sorry case of up-selling if ever there was one.

    So on the one hand, I agree with the AC above - a netbook is just a small laptop without an optical disc drive. It doesn't necessarily have to be cheap.

    Having said that, which manufacturer is gonna take a step back from the unwanted feature creep and focus on improving the boot time, include SSDs and add 3G in an EEE 901 sized machine instead of just playing safe and making more small laptops without optical drives?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only thing I've had problems with on my Acer Aspire One

    Is that it struggles with high definition MKV files; everything else just works nicely. I've even got used to using it as a RAW converter when I'm out and about with a camera. Sure it can run a little slow when crunching a 14 megapixel image, but that's not such a problem.

    Okay for my next one I want more RAM so I can keep more tabs open in the browser, a digital video out and a slightly higher res screen.

    Apart from that, keep them small, keep them cheap.

  32. J 3

    Whose problem?

    "Is that a problem for anyone other than Linux advocates?"

    I'd say so. Well, it's a problem for anyone who wants a *cheap*, reliable machine to do NET stuff. You know, like the netbook was, but the mini-laptops aren't. I got a mini-laptop and love it, works very well (UNR 9.04), but it sure is no netbook. And the price wasn't a netbook's price, either. But I knew what I was getting myself into, so I'm not complaining about it.

    People just don't know what they are buying and then whine. And they don't know what they're buying because the marketing is... well, marketing people are usually lying bastards who've heard of scruples, so what does one expect? For the users to know exactly what they're buying just by seeing ads? Is that an airborne swine I see over there? I thought not...

  33. IPB

    XP vs Linux

    Right.... I own two net books. The Eee 701 (linux) and the Eee PC with the 9" screen on the 10" chasis (XP).

    Guess which one I use all the time and which one stays in the drawer?

    The XP one boots in 20 seconds and will run DIVX and RealPlayer and means I can actual use it for watching media, browsing the web and making docs using the Google cloud or MS Works (Which for basic stuff is more than OK).

    The Linux one could barely run the installed programs and lots of them weren't sized correctly for the screen, which for a bespoke OS is just not good enough. And as for trying to customise it.. I gave up at the first hurdle. I shouldn't have to use a command line to get things done.

    XP is perfect for netbooks as long as you have reasonable RAM and don't bloat it. Also it was the least bloated Windows box I have ever seen when new. Lovely.

  34. kissingthecarpet
    Gates Horns

    MS is another ingredient

    in the recipe for confusion - I'm sure there has been plenty of behind-the-scenes arm-twisting by Ballsmer & his henchmen.

    They have caught a glimpse of a future where everyone is walking around with ARM-powered net/note/smart books that use a fraction of the power of current laptops, running some kind of free OS that isn't theirs(& didn't cost anything).

  35. Kurt Guntheroth

    earth to Intel...come in Intel

    Atom is fast enough. It is faster than machines that we thought were fast in 2001. It'll do. Intel doesn't want you to hear this secret. Intel wants to figure out how to use up the horsepower of its thousand dollar chips, so you'll have to pay $2k for a PC like you willingly did in 2001. Intel are begging software developers to think up something to do with all those cores, only the workloads are still mostly serial, so it's no-go.

    Netbooks are the look-over-here-it's-not-really-the-same-only-cheaper product. Customers want a laptop. Only they want it to weigh two pounds and run 8 hours on a battery, so they can actually carry it around. Sony wants you to pay $2k for a laptop that is thin and light, and the VAIOs are awesome if money is no object. But is the VAIO actually FIVE TIMES as useful as a $400 netbook? Is a Macbook Air FOUR TIMES the computer?

    People are now arguing over whether they want to pay $400 or $600 for a decently portable computer, and how much compromise they will accept to get it. But here's a secret. We already know people will buy computers with 10 inch screens. They did it in the '90's. We already know people will buy computers without optical drives built in. Like the iPhone. Like older laptops. These are not impossible tradeoffs. What people are saying they do not want is 2 hour battery life and 8 pounds of bulk to lug around, just so the already imperceptible time it takes to refresh their browser screen can get even shorter.

    This sucks for Intel and for Microsoft, but they better get used to it. Average prices are going nowhere but down, even as features improve. I'm having trouble feeling sorry...

  36. Quirkafleeg

    Re: XP vs Linux

    I see that you have Linux (well, XandrASUS) on the lesser of the two. What's up with comparing the two OSes on the *same* hardware?

  37. Ryan Barrett

    Portability and excellent battery time.. why netbooks are *better* than notebooks. They're giving consumers what they want: something which is easy to take with them, and doesn't require an wall socket to work for any amount of time.

    That's why we're seeing 12inch models costing more than far faster notebooks from the likes of Dell and HP.

  38. A B 3

    The Leading Edge

    You have to stay alert for latest tech goss, aight? Nerds go around playing chinese whispers, placing glasses on wooden doors... The old fashioned way to get information. Technophobes unfortunately can't see the forest for the trees. Behind us sweeps a large vortice trapping the 'slowies' in infinite loops. (I hope I didn't sound too cryptic).

  39. F Seiler

    sure din't happen to me

    I have an aspire one SSD/linux. It way a buy out of mood - "i want this", not "i need a mobile computer" - but at a time i was already pretty convinced i'd never again buy neither one of the big laptops nor a harddrive based mobile device.

    Turned out i quite like this machine. I'm really not a fan of linux. But for what i use the machine, i don't give a rat's what the OS is as long as it can has firefox, acrobat reader, open office, boots quick, and the handling is close enough to windows (keyboard shortcuts..).

    The only concern was "interweb on a stick" but for that i found a vodafone app that could be bent (by me as reasonably noob user in the field) to work with the stick i have, which came only with windows support.

    This is certainly a matter of personal taste, but for me a computer to do actual work on can never be a mobile computer and a mobile computer is not ment to do much more than provide an easy interface to read documents, the web and occasional writing some notes / work on a document ("work" for me +/- requires two screens, a *real* keyboard, proper desk for mouse etc).

    Naturally the "original" SCC generation was basically the best mobile device that could happen to me. Maybe except for the eyewateringly short battery runtime.

    Pingu because he can handle the darn SCCs, while microsoft seems to want to see SSCs as dead as it liked the bird.

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