So, you’re a MacBook owner, right? Is Apple’s biggest selling Mac a notebook computer, or a laptop computer? Officially, Apple calls the MacBook line a notebook, not a laptop. Common terminology for most portable PC users is laptop, not notebook. Netbook is different. Which term should be used?
By any other name?
The problem with assuming that it doesn’t matter is that not every portable PC or Mac is created equal. By size, a MacBook Air may not be considered a laptop because it’s rather small to be used on your lap.
Apple calls the gargantuan 17-inch MacBook Pro, which costs more than a 24-inch iMac, a notebook. Shakespeare’s Juliet said:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Laptop or notebook? Does it matter? Does it matter to Mac users if Windows users call Macs PCs? Ugh.
First came the personal computer generation. Computers that sat on the desktop, mostly hard wired to a single spot in home or office. Shortly after that came the portables.
One of the most popular was also my first computer, the Osborne 1, a sewing machine case sized portable computer that ran CP/M, dBase II, WordStar, and SuperCalc on a tiny black and white 9-inch screen.
It was more luggable than portable, as were the similarly sized Compaq portables that came afterwards. No one would consider those models laptops or notebooks, which came a few years later in clamshell designs.
What’s the Difference?
Laptop is a descriptive term, which implies a portable computer that fits on your lap. I stopped using laptop with my first aluminum Mac PowerBook. Why?
There was that very hot spot on the bottom of the PowerBook which was too hot for my lap, regardless of what I was wearing at the time. After that, all my portables became notebooks.
If anything, I’m verbally pragmatic.
Notebooks are generally smaller, thinner, and much lighter than the original laptops of the last century. In other words, they look like, well, note books. These can easily be tossed into a briefcase or backpack for transporting.
Some may different laptop to notebook when screen sizes hit 15-inches and above, relegating the upper range MacBooks to laptop status. Look at the difference between Dell’s cheap 15-inch and 17-inch models, which often are twice as thick, and much heavier.
The MacBooks are in a different class, hence Apple’s use of the term notebook vs. laptop, often used for large models. Whether the portable computer actually can be used on a lap doesn’t matter.
Of Netbooks & Handhelds
The 21st century brought changes to the portable computing line, especially in size, power, and capability. The inappropriately named netbook class of notebooks, and the appropriately named handhelds, embodied by the iPod touch and iPhone.
A netbook is simply a very small, very inexpensive, often underpowered notebook. It may run Linux, Windows XP, and future versions may run Windows 7, but the hallmarks are small screen, small keyboard, low price.
The closest Mac to the netbook genre is the MacBook Air, large by netbook standards, and priced over $1,000 above mid-range netbooks.
So, is it notebook or laptop? I say notebook. Laptops are large, clumsy, bulky portables. Notebooks are sleek, slender, full-featured, and fast.