1. Technology
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Netbooks vs. Tablet PCs

Which Offers The Better Mobile Computing Experience?


Girl engaging with tablet computer
Lilly Roadstones/Taxi/Getty Images

Netbooks have been on the market for several years and have been extremely popular with consumers who want to compute on the go without spending much or having too large of a system. Tablet PCs are the newcomers that offer friendlier interfaces and slimmer profiles that are extremely tantalizing to consumers. Just look at the success of the iPad even with its $499 starting price tag. In this article, we take a closer look at the two types of mobile computing platforms and hopefully answer the question of which is better for individuals.


Let's start off with netbooks since they have been on the market for a while. They originally started out as extremely compact laptops with just a 7-inch screen but have slowly grown into the popular format with a 10-inch display and roughly 3 pound weight. The resemble a standard laptop in appearance but in a smaller form factor. While early versions of the netbooks often ran Linux, most sold in the United States now run some version of Windows. Prices typically range between $300 and $400 with some models available for less and some available for much more.

So, why buy a netbook instead of a laptop? Well, netbooks offer a much smaller and more compact design that is easier to tote around when traveling. They also are much more efficient when it comes to power consumption that can let them to run for much longer than a typical laptop. This is why they are popular for anyone with long flights or travel times for business or even holidays. They also run the same operating system that most people are familiar with meaning that they don't have to learn a new system to use the netbook.

While most of these aspects are quite nice, netbooks did have their problems. The biggest issue with them is their lack of performance. Since they run the standard Windows operating system, their hardware restrictions end up with a much slower overall computing experience. Some applications are nearly impossible to run on a netbook. Then again, most people needing to run them would probably opt for a traditional laptop instead.

One of a big benefits of their small size was using them as portable media players. The problem is that the netbook format is not very well suited for this purpose. Sure, it can handle streaming standard definition video or playback audio files but the screen and the audio on these are general of lesser quality in order to keep costs down.


  • Use Standard Windows Based Applications
  • Can Be Extremely Affordable
  • Capable Af All-Day Computing


  • Lack Performance For Some Applications
  • Not Well Suited To HD Video Playback

Tablet PCs

There have been attempts at touchscreen computers in the past, but the latest generation tablet PCs are affordable and compact. The iPad is roughly the same size as a small pad of 8 x 11 inch paper and weighs just a pound and a half. This is one of the larger sized tablet PCs as most will be featuring 7-inch display surfaces and some will even use 5-inch displays. This makes they very easy to carry around and slip into a standard briefcase, messenger bag, purse or backpack. Prices range wildly between several hundred for some upcoming Android models to over $800 for the high end iPad.

One of the big benefits of the tablet PC is the simplified touchscreen interfaces. By not having a keyboard, the devices can be more compact and the multitouch gestures can make manipulating programs and media very quick. These styles of interfaces are very easy for people who an unfamiliar with computers. This simplicity also has its drawbacks. In particular, anyone who has to input a large amount of text will long for a traditional keyboard to a virtual keyboard on a touchscreen. While it is certainly possible to write documents on tablets, it is also much faster on a netbook.

Tablet PCs are also great portable media players. Their compact size and large screens make them easy to carry and watch while on the go. The smaller 5-inch models are great for subways and buses where the 10-inch versions are great for sitting on an airplane or long car ride. Many can even handle playback of high definition video sources which the current netbooks have trouble with.

Unlike netbooks, tablet PCs will not be running a standard desktop operating system. Instead they use a variation of mobile operating systems originally designed for smart phones. This allows them to run on more limited performance hardware and easily function with a simplified interface. The downside to this is that they do no use the standard applications that one uses with a traditional computer. Owners will have to obtain and learn how to use programs for cross compatibility with their computer applications.


  • Easy to Use Touch Interfaces
  • Excellent As Media Players
  • Some Can Double As Mobile Phones


  • Require A Different Set of Mobile Applications
  • Virtual Keyboards More Difficult To Use
  • Limited File Storage Space

So Which Is Better?

The answer to that question really comes down to what you want to use a mobile computer for. Netbooks make excellent choices for those that want to use their standard computer programs but in a mobile format. It is also excellent for using them heavily for creation of typed documents as the keyboards are better than virtual ones on a touchscreen. On the other hand, if you want to just pick up a mobile PC and use it to watch some videos, check mail or play a game or two, then a tablet PC is a more compact and easy to use platform. Before deciding which one is right for you, take a close look at what you want to use it for.

  1. About.com
  2. Technology
  3. PC Hardware / Reviews
  4. Find the Right PC
  5. Netbooks vs. Tablet PCs - Which Is Better?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.