For Seniors: Laptop Buying Decisions — What Type?

Today, there are several types of laptop that vary by size and weight, functionality, and the way you enter information into them. Here are some options that are available to you:

  • The garden-variety laptop (also referred to as a notebook computer) runs around 5–8 pounds and has a monitor size ranging from about 13 inches to 16 or so. It’s portable and can handle most computing tasks. Multimedia/gaming laptops are laptops that have more sophisticated graphics and sound cards.

  • Desktop replacements are laptops with more heft. They might weigh more than 10 pounds and have larger monitors (perhaps as big as 20 inches). Their keyboards are roomier as well. However, although they aren’t too difficult to move around your home, they aren’t meant to be as portable as other types of laptops.

  • Ultrabooks are thinner, lightweight laptops that have lower-power processors for longer battery life. Whereas laptops usually weigh in at about 4 to 7 pounds, ultrabooks weigh a mere 3 pounds or so and their screens come in at around 12 to 15 inches. Of course, their light weight has tradeoffs, mainly in the form of a smaller keyboard, no DVD drive, and a heftier price point.


You may be wondering about netbooks, very small, inexpensive laptops that came out around 2007. Netbooks had less powerful processors than most laptops and very small keyboards. By 2009, netbooks had grown to become essentially small laptops, using the Windows 7 Starter operating system (still a bit limited compared to the full Windows 7).

Netbooks are still around, but have pretty much been upstaged by ultrabooks and by tablet computers such as iPad or Microsoft’s Surface that provide the same functionality in an even sleeker package at a similar price.