Tablet vs netbook

Tablet vs netbook



Between tablets and netbooks, it’s easy to get confused and not know which one you should buy. While tablets are usually lighter, smaller and much simpler to use, netbooks have the upper hand when it comes to customization thanks to their full operating system. You will need to know what your needs are as a user and professional before taking a decision.

In this article, I’ll lay down the pros and cons of tablets and netbooks, and offer a conclusive comparison at the end.



Netbooks: advantages and disadvantages

Netbooks are small laptops. Their size usually varies from 7 to 11 inches and their weight from 2 to 4lbs. The battery life of a typical netbook can go from 2 to 5 hours, depending if it has a three or six-cell battery. Since the arrival of tablets, netbook sales have decreased a lot and blogs like Gizmodo even proclaimed them dead last month. However, they are still sold and remain an intermediary solution for shoppers looking for something smaller than a laptop, yet faster and most customizable than a smartphone.

Netbooks are ideal for browsing the internet, word-processing, watching video, playing online games, social networking and perhaps even doing some light photo editing.



  1. Very portable: Netbooks are small and easy to carry around with a weight from 2 to 4 lbs. They are light enough to fit inside a purse.
  2. Replaceable battery: Unlike tablets, Netbooks’ battery can be replaced easily by their owners. This way, if you travel, you can also carry a spare around.
  3. Operative system: Netbooks will usually carry Windows7 Starter Edition. This means you can install almost any program you want on your netbook. It also means you can install add-ons on your favourite browser, something you cannot do on a tablet. Basically, if you need a photo-editing program like Photoshop Elements or Picasa, you will be able to install it. Keep in mind though that netbooks are much slower than regular laptops.
  4. Low price: For a decent netbook, you will pay from $250 to $500. It’s more affordable than a regular laptop or desktop computer, as well as most tablets.
  5. Many choices: There are quite a lot of netbooks on the market to choose from. This can be confusing but it also means you’ve got a lot of options if you don’t like any particular model. Almost all major PC brands produce netbooks.



  1. Short battery life: Let’s face it: 2-5 hours of battery life in the best cases isn’t enough. You will need to carry your charger around at all time.
  2. Tiny screen resolution: The typical maximum resolution for a netbook is 1024×600 pixels, give or take. It’s small and most websites barely fit within that resolution. The desire to pull your eyes out is a common side effect you may experience after working for several hours on such a small monitor.
  3. Slowness and outdated hardware: You get what you pay for. Netbooks are affordable because the hardware inside them is outdated and slow. While most good laptops in 2011 have quad core processors, or at the very least a very good dual core, the best netbook according to CNET, the Asus Eee PC 1018PB, uses an Intel Atom N540. It does the job but it’s not very fast. The memory inside netbooks is also old and limited, usually 1 to 2GB DDR2. And there is no usually no possibility to update anything from within a mini-laptop.
  4. Netbooks sales are decreasing: Although this won’t affect you in the short-term, this trend means that in a few years, netbooks might have all but disappeared. Drawbacks to buying outdated electronics are difficulty getting customer support, spare parts and bad performances.



Tablets: advantages and disadvantages

Tablets are small flat and highly portable computers. Since the launch of the iPad in 2010, the tablet sales have sky rocketed. Their size generally varies from 7-11 inches and their battery life usually goes up to 10 hours for video playback (longer for tasks like reading or listening to music). They differ from netbooks because of their tactile interface and mobile operative system, designed to support most productivity and entertainment-related tasks. Although they are equipped with a touch-screen, most tablets offer an external keyboard option as well to accommodate users who like physical keyboards.

Although tablet sales are exploding, there are not a lot of good models. Apple and Samsung unarguably have the best tablets on the market and, as of September 2011, Apple owns 68.2% of the worldwide tablet market share, with reason.



  1. Long battery life: Apple’s iPad 2 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 respectively offer 10 and 9 hours of battery life when watching videos, plenty to go through a whole meeting or the whole day without need for recharging.
  2. Great browsing experience: Browsing the web with a tablet is incredible, especially compared to a netbook. Pages will adapt to your screen’s resolution and it’s easy to zoom in and out on a page à volonté.
  3. Speed: Since tablets have their own operative system (iOS for iPad and Honeycomb for Samsung, as well as any other Android-based tablet computer), all the applications developed for them are made to run smoothly. They require less RAM and slower processors than netbooks, yet they are much, much faster.
  4. Portability: Tablets are light and take almost no space. They usually weight around 600g (1.33lbs). Tablet accessories are also light and portable.
  5. Easy to use: Everyone can use tablets, even toddlers. No really. Their interface, especially the iPad’s, is so user-friendly that it is near-impossible to get lost. You will never have owned a simpler computer.
  6. Video-conferencing made easy: Thanks to their front and rear cameras, many tablets offer video-conferencing. Although the quality isn’t stunning, it’s not worse than a regular laptop’s webcam and does the job nicely, especially Apple’s Facetime. For us, it replaced Skype completely.



  1. Limited applications: Unlike on a netbook or laptop, you can’t install anything on a tablet. There are over 140 000 apps for iPad which is great, but only a bit over 200 on the Android-based tablets. That means you are limited to what the mobile OS can handle and offers to its users; no Photoshop, no Torrents, no high-end gaming. But then again, you can hardly do any of this on a netbook either… except torrents, but I won’t get into that.
  2. No Flash, or barely: Since iPad’s initial launch in 2010, Flash has taken a dramatic drop as iOS doesn’t offer Flash support. Tablets like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab support Flash but it has been demonstrated that, in its current version, Flash running on mobile phones and tablets is pretty bad; the device will freeze, crash or the battery life will decrease incredibly fast. So if Flash is a must for you, tablets are a bad idea.
  3. No hardware upgrades: Tablets are so tiny it would be madness to try to open them and replace hardware (note that it is possible, but not offered as official support). In fact, most companies will simply swap your broken or defective tablet for a brand new one instead of opening it. That means what you see if what you get, and there is no possibility of getting more RAM, more space (in most cases) or a battery replacement.
  4. Limited choices: The tablet market is still small, mostly because Apple beats almost all the competition. Therefor, if you hate Apple or the iPad for some reason, your choices will be very limited.


Tablet vs netbook: the winner

Both tablets and netbooks have advantages and inconveniences. But if you must pick, go for a tablet, more specifically an iPad if you don’t mind Apple, as the pros surpass the cons. The only feature netbooks have that tablets don’t is their operative system which gives you the freedom to install any software, but their hardware is so old and slow you will not be able to really use any heavy programs on them anyway. I own a netbook and although it’s a great alternative to nothing, I envy my friends who own tablets.

Get a mini-laptop if Flash is extremely important to you (I don’t see why it would be though) or if you have a very tight budget and really can’t afford investing an extra $100 on a tablet.

About the author

Tina Mailhot-Roberge is a graphic designer, illustrator and co-founder of Veodesign. She holds a BFA in Design from Concordia University, Montréal. She loves to help people and wirte about arts, design, web and technology. Find her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.