R4,000 Laptop vs. Netbook vs. Tablet

Consumers with R4,000 to spend on a mobile computing device have a range of options to choose from, including laptops, netbooks and tablet PCs. Each of these device types has it’s own set of strengths and weaknesses, and targets a slightly different section of the mobile computing market.

To help decide which option is best for you, we’ve compared devices from each category currently retailing for R3,999.95 from local retailer Incredible Connection.

For laptops we’ve used the Samsung RV511, an entry level 15-inch notebook whose list of features closely resembles a desktop computer.

For netbooks we’ve chosen the HP 210 Mini, a mid-to-high-end device that trades size and performance for portability and battery life.

Finally for tablet PCs we’ve settled on the Apple iPad 2 Wi-Fi 16GB, Apple’s previous generation tablet PC that will continue to be sold at a lower price point than the company’s flagship device, the iPad 3.

Below is a table comparing the device specifications:

Samsung RV511 HP Mini 210 Apple iPad 2 16GB Wi-Fi
Display 15.6 inch 10.1 inch 9.7 inch
Resolution 1366 x 768 1024 x 600 1024 x 768
CPU Intel P6100 2GHz dual-core Intel Atom N570 1.66GHz Cortex A9 1GHz dual-core
RAM 2GB 2GB 512MB
GPU Intel GMA 4500 Intel GMA 3150 PowerVR SGX543MP2
Storage 500GB 320GB 16GB (Flash storage)
Battery life 3.5 hours 8 hours 10 hours
Weight 2.5kgs 1.4kgs 0.6kgs

Laptop overview (Samsung RV511)

The Samsung RV511 is an entry-level machine featuring: P6100 2GHz dual core CPU; 2GB RAM; 500GB hard drive; Intel GMA4500M graphics processor; 15.6-inch 1366 x 786 screen; DVD writer optical drive; and Windows 7 Home Basic.

This is the most powerful machine of the three devices discussed here, with the largest screen, largest hard drive and widest range of additional features. These include a webcam, Wi-Fi, full keyboard and trackpad, media control keys, a media card reader and Bluetooth.

There are some drawbacks to incorporating all of the above features however. The device is very large compared to the netbook, measuring in at 34.6cm x 3.5cm x 23.8cm (WxHxD); and it is on the heavy side, weighing 2.5kg.

The battery life is also shorter than the netbook and tablet, lasting for 3.5 hours on a full charge.

Strengths

  • Large screen;
  • Large Keyboard and trackpad;
  • Powerful CPU/GPU;
  • Optical drive;
  • Full desktop operating system.

Weaknesses

  • Size and weight;
  • Battery life.
Samsung RV511 laptop
Samsung RV511 laptop

Netbook overview (HP Mini 210)

One of the alternatives to a full laptop is a netbook. R4,000 will get you an upper-range netbook such as the HP Mini 210.

This device is smaller than a conventional laptop, featuring a 10.1-inch 1024 x 600 screen, and a reduced size keyboard (93 percent the size of a full keyboard).

Notably there is no optical drive, and it comes with Windows 7 Starter, which has less features than Home Basic found on the Samsung RV511 laptop.

Performance-wise, the Mini 210 sports an Intel Atom N570 1.66GHz CPU, 2GB of RAM, 320GB hard drive and an Intel GMA 3150 GPU.

While the netbook does have a shorter list of features and less powerful hardware, it measures in at 19.1cm x 3.2cm x 26.8cm (WxHxD) and weighs 1.4kgs, making it smaller and lighter than the laptop.

The other advantage the netbook has is longer battery life. HP claims 8 to 10 hours of battery life, meaning it will last up to 2.5 times longer than the Samsung RV511.

Strengths

  • Small form factor portability;
  • Battery life;
  • Integrated keyboard/trackpad.

Weaknesses

  • No optical drive;
  • Small screen, lower resolution than laptop;
  • Watered down desktop operating system.
HP Mini 210 netbook
HP Mini 210 netbook

Tablet overview (Apple iPad 2 16GB Wi-Fi)

Tablet PC devices have seen phenomenal sales in the last two years. The entry level iPad 2 16GB Wi-Fi is priced at R3,999.95 and offers an alternative to both the laptop and the netbook.

It features a 9.7-inch touch-screen at 1024 x 768 resolution. Multi-touch gestures are used to control the device rather than a keyboard and track pad, while connectivity is handled by Wi-Fi.

On the performance side, the iPad 2 has a 1GHz dual core processor, 512MB of RAM, a 16GB SSD storage drive and a PowerVR SGX543MP2 graphics chip.

The iPad measure in at 18.6cm x 24.1cm x 0.9cm (WxHxD) and weighs 0.6kgs, making it smaller and lighter than both the laptop and the netbook. The device also has a 10-hour plus battery life, lasting longer than the other devices.

iOS is the operating system found on the iPad, and is made for mobile devices rather than PCs. This can be both a positive and negative feature, depending on what you intend using the device for.

A positive, because the wide range of applications available on iPad are designed specifically for the device and will work without much issue. By comparison, the netbook and laptop are able to run intensive applications such as Photoshop, however their ability to do so smoothly is in question.

The negative aspect of running a mobile operating system is the limited nature of applications on iOS. The counterparts that can run on Windows-based devices are often more feature-rich and familiar to PC users.

Strengths

  • 10 hour battery life;
  • Touch screen interface;
  • Size/weight;
  • Number of applications for mobile OS.

Weaknesses

  • Can’t run full x86-based software;
  • No built in keyboard/trackpad.
iPad 2
iPad 2

Conclusion

As ever, there is no clear cut winner. Each of the devices has a unique set of features that will appeal to a different type of consumer.

Consumers who want a portable PC should consider the laptop over the other device. It is the closest device to a desktop computer in terms of features such as optical drives, full desktop PC OS and screen size, as well as performance.

Consumers who want some desktop PC feature with improved portability should consider a netbook. The netbook is well suited to basic tasks such as word processing and internet browsing. This coupled with its small size, low weight and 8 hour long battery life makes it perfect for someone who favours portability.

Consumers who want a portable device in order to consumer media on the go should consider a tablet PC. While tablets are not as powerful in the traditional desktop PC sense when compared to the laptop and netbook, they offer versatility of their own in the form of mobile operating system apps. They are great for consuming content, and are even more portable than netbooks while staying in the same screen-size and resolution class.

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R4,000 Laptop vs. Netbook vs. Tablet