Computer systems are typically divided into several classifications, including desktops, laptops and notebooks, among others. Each category has slightly varying features, though the differences between a laptop and notebook are minor, with the terms often used interchangeably.
The term desktop refers to a stationary computer that includes a desktop tower and an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor. The tower contains the computer itself, which consists of the motherboard, processor, hard drive, and other components. Today, desktops are available in all sizes, from ultra-compact form factors that are the size of a novel, to large mid-tower or full-tower cases. Some integrate the main components into the monitor and are called all-in-one systems, while others are slightly larger than a flash drive and plug directly into a monitor. Desktops typically offer higher performance, lower costs, and more customization options than portable machines.
Laptops tend to be larger than notebooks, which allows them to offer higher performance and more features than notebooks, such as integrated optical drives or discrete graphics. Both laptops and notebooks are portable, with integrated screens, batteries, keyboards and pointing devices. Laptops typically have screens ranging from 14 to 19 inches, and the largest are often called desktop replacements.
Notebooks tend to be smaller than laptops, with slightly less performance, and they are unlikely to include features such as optical drives or discrete graphics. Newer categories of laptops include ultra-portables, which are small, high-performance systems, and cloudbooks, which are inexpensive, low-power systems that use cloud-based services to complement their minimal local storage and lack of complex applications. Notebooks feature screens ranging from 10 to about 14 or 15 inches.
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