It used to be that your real computer was always your desktop. Your notebook was always the standby – what you tried to use when you were outside. You came home and tried to sync your laptop to your real computer so that you could get some real work done. But that’s all changed now. There is only one real computer in our lives, and it isn’t a desktop. Choosing a laptop these days though isn’t just about choosing a laptop. Laptops have just gone and morphed themselves into a half-dozen different subcategories.
There are the full-featured laptops of course that everyone knows and pays $1500 for. But there are lots of other contenders for the throne – chrome books, net books and ultra-books being important among them. How do you know what to buy?
Let’s start with the newest in this category – the ultra-book. As far as mobile electronics manufacturers are concerned, thin and light are the mantras to live by. It’s actually a pretty great one as mantras go, and it’s driving quite a bit of innovation in the mobile PC market right now. You could say that Apple invented the ultra-book category with its MacBook Air. These are notebooks that have a full-sized keyboard and screen and full-sized power – except that the notebooks are thin enough to dangerously bend when you try to do that.
The MacBook Air was quite expensive at first; and rare. But many manufacturers have hopped on the bandwagon now and they all offer something at about $1000. These laptops are quite powerful full-sized devices; the only place they ask you to sacrifice anything is in the connectivity options they give you and in the presence of an optical drive.
Asus invented the netbook category. It was so successful that Intel really went to town with a whole new kind of stripped-down processor for the category – the Atom. While ultra-books look incredibly sleek and attractive, net books don’t try to be small in that way. They’re actually just small – with screens under 10 inches.
Their keyboards are small and cramped, and they clearly look like budget offerings. But they’ve been runaway hits with physically very small. You can get netbooks the size of paperback novels for $250, and they fill a real need – anyone can throw one of these into a handbag or even a coat pocket. And for most purposes, these do work like actual full-sized laptops.
Google came into the market at some point and wondered if it could do something with the popularity of the netbook and hijack the market to its own ends. They’ve come out with something they call the chromebook. While netbooks and ultra-books run proper Windows or OS X operating systems and are real computers in every sense of the term, chromebooks run a special Crome OS. It’s an all new operating system that you can’t really install programs on. There’s just one thing you can do with it – you can run the Chrome web browser. Whatever you want to do, you’re supposed to do on the cloud through this web browser.
Ultra-books really are the perfect compromise. While they are full-size, they’re very light. And you don’t sacrifice any on performance. The ultra-book can usually give you almost everything you are looking for in a computer. They’re the new benchmark.