Laptops, Ultrabooks, Tablets, Netbooks… What are they all and what do they do?

Rohan Brown

With the world of technology developing constantly, the days of just buying a computer with a screen, mouse and keyboard are gone. Mobile device innovations mean we now have a huge range of laptops, netbooks, ultrabooks and tablets to choose from. Not to mention the hybrids that mix laptops and tablets together! The mind boggles!

But what are they all and what do they do?

Laptops and ultrabooks are quite similar. Their main difference is size. Ultrabooks are lighter, and don’t usually have a CD/DVD drive or a hard drive, instead working more like a USB drive with a screen and keyboard.

Netbooks are miniature versions of laptops with limited capability in terms of handling software and data. They are excellent for people using web-based applications but struggle when using ‘bulky’ software like Microsoft Word and Excel.

Tablets are taking the world by storm at the moment and are fast replacing netbooks in the market. They don’t generally have a built-in keyboard, and are quite small. Tablets are perfect for people using internet based applications, email and general internet, who don’t have a need for a dedicated keyboard.

To confuse things further, users have a choice of operating systems.

Windows and Microsoft have been in the market place for quite some time and most people will be familiar with these brands. You will find that most PCs, laptops and ultrabooks use Windows products. These brands have however been hit hard by the up rise of the tablet and in response have recently released Windows 8, which has been significantly changed from the earlier XP, Vista & Windows 7 releases, to be more suitable for use in a tablet environment – specifically Microsoft’s Surface RT and soon-to-be-released Surface Pro. Most software – both industry, accounting and otherwise – will be compatible with Windows/Microsoft.

Apple is the other major player in the operating systems market. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you will have heard of Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Along with their Mac Book Pro laptop and Mac Book Air Ultrabook, they run Apple’s iOS system. While the major advantage is that there are fewer viruses developed for iOS, not all software is compatible with the iOS framework. The range of ‘apps’ available however for iOS through Apple’s AppStore far exceeds the variety available for other operating systems.

Google have also entered the game with the Android operating system for smart phones and tablets, and the Chromebook operating system for ultrabooks (no, not a shiny computer!). To date, the Android operating system has been by far the most popular, more popular in fact than Apple’s iPhone iOS! But the biggest mover has been the Chromebook, which is perfect for pure ‘Cloud’ computer users who use all their applications via the internet (e.g. email, data storage, Office 365, MYOB Live Accounts and BankLink Notes Online). Chromebook’s are unable to run software from the machine and no data storage is available – everything is stored and run via the cloud.

At the end of the day the choice comes down to what you will use the device for… Do you want something that is portable and based around the internet and ‘apps’? Or are you looking for something that has a keyboard, can handle running software off of the machine itself, but also allows cloud based options? With endless options (and only a few touched on here!), the easiest thing can be to follow the ‘crowd’! The most difficult decision then becomes which crowd to be a part of?!?

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