Laptops comes in all different kinds of shapes and sizes, each with its own set of pros and cons. While the smallest laptops are the most portable (and often the coolest-looking), they also have smaller keyboards and displays, fewer features, and slower performance than their bulkier brethren. Conversely, more full-featured laptops are generally more difficult to carry and take up more space on your desk and in your bag. Until they make the perfect laptop, you’ll have to sacrifice something, so think about what’s most important to you – computing power, a complete set of features, long battery life, good looks, a small form factor, or a low price. Take a look below to learn more about what each type of laptop has to offer.
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The smallest, most lightweight laptops are called ultraportables. Their compact form factor is crucial for people who need to have their PC with them all the time, especially frequent business travelers. What you gain in portability, however, you usually give up in terms of weaker performance, smaller keyboards and displays, and fewer features. And what’s more, ultraportable laptops almost always carry a premium price tag. Still, a compact, lightweight profile can make all the difference if you spend a lot of time on the road.
A thin-and-light offers the optimal combination of portability, performance, features, and cost. Power-tuned mobile processors deliver enough power to keep you working smoothly, and unlike ultraportables, most thin-and-lights have a more reasonably sized keyboard and display, a larger hard drive, and a built-in optical drive. Yes, they’re more expensive than slightly larger, heavier midsize laptops, but if you need maximum productivity in a portable package, this is the best choice.
Midsize (aka mainstream)
Not all midsize laptops are inexpensive, but most inexpensive laptops are midsize. Why? Whereas a desktop replacement is designed to deliver high performance and a thin-and-light is optimized for portability, the typical midsize laptop isn’t specialized. Rather, a midsize laptop gives you everything you need for basic computing (word processing, storing digital photos), home entertainment (burning CDs, watching DVDs), and online communication (e-mail and Web surfing). Slightly smaller than desktop replacements and with limited battery life, midsize laptops aren’t particularly well suited for regular travel.
The largest and heaviest type of laptop, desktop replacements are designed to deliver the power and features you’d get from a desktop PC. Too bulky for anything but room-to-room travel within a house or an office, desktop replacements typically offer the best performance, the largest screens and keyboards, and the most complete set of features available on a laptop. Popular among home and business users, these systems can deliver enough computing muscle for serious gaming, multimedia authoring, and even high-level digital audio and video work.
Usually comparable in size and weight to ultraportable or thin-and-light laptops, tablets let you take handwritten notes and navigate menus, documents, and Web pages using a stylus directly on the screen. The most common type is the convertible tablet, which looks much like traditional a laptop but has a display that swivels 180 degrees and folds flat over the keyboard. (Some manufacturers are incorporating this type of tablet functionality into larger midsize and thin-and-light laptops.) Slate tablets, on the other hand, lack keyboards–they’re all screen. The smallest tablets, ultramobile PCs, bridge the gap between PDA and ultraportable, with 7-inch touch-screen displays and enhanced media player features. Once only the tool of specialized industries, tablets are gaining a wider audience, thanks to their portability, flexibility, and wow factor.