laptop/notebook PC/pad/computer/PC


German - Germany
Hi Everyone, I wondered if my understanding is correct about the difference among laptop/notebook PC/pad/computer/PC:
1. laptop: Apple Mac/Thinkpad
2. notebook PC: equivalent to laptop
3. Pad: iPad.
4. PC: all the computers used by personal
5. Computer: all of computers.
Could you advise how do [most of Americans] say them every day? Thanks.
  • PaulQ

    English - England
    1. laptop: Any portable computer with a screen size of more than about 12 inches
    2. notebook PC: - usually simply ""notebook" (without "PC") Any portable computer with a screen size of less than about 12 inches
    3. Pad: iPad. -> "pad" is not used on its own.
    4. PC: PC = "personal computer" -> any computer, but mainly a desktop computer.
    5. Computer: all of computers.


    Senior Member
    I would say;

    1. laptop = a portable computer small and light enough to sit on your lap and with a keyboard attached. It has a screen that one can unfold and that is attached to the "base" (which has the keyboard).

    2. notebook PC (I would say "notebook" only, and omit "PC") = a laptop which as Paul says has a smaller screen, but also arguably is lighter and thinner than the average "laptop". If you work in very heavy media creation for example, a field that requires very powerful computers, you would likely end up with a laptop and not a notebook. Notebooks (I think) tend to be smaller and use less power which means less powerful processing inside.

    3. Pad = Like Paul said, we usually don't hear the word by itself. I would say then that perhaps "Pad" is slang for "iPad". The general term for the type of device the iPad is is "tablet".

    4. PC = Although I agree with Paul, the term has come to be used to distinguish between a computer using the Apple operating system (currently "OS X") which is often called "a Mac" and one using Microsoft's Windows operating system which is then often what "PC" refers to. So if you hear someone ask "Do you have a Mac or a PC?" they're really asking if the PC you're using uses OS X or Windows.

    5. = Like Paul said......

    By the way, I made the addition to the first two because we're seeing more and more a blurring of lines between devices. Now, some devices which would normally have been called "laptops" come with detachable screens. This means they look and act like a laptop when the screen is attached, but like a tablet when it is detached. Microsoft's "Surface book" is one example. And Microsoft's "Surface" (without the "book") seems more like a powerful tablet with a keyboard instead...

    I hope I didn't make things less clear.


    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I agree with Mattias about "laptop" and "notebook." You could use PaulQ's 12 inch screen as a good general guide but sometimes a lightweight, low power portable computer with a slightly larger screen might get called a notebook computer. MattiasNYC's explanation of how a laptop has a screen attached to a computer unit that folds out etc is very good. Laptops are also typically running Windows operating system or Linux, but if it is a macbook it can also run MacOS, and a chromebook runs Android. It would be unusual (but not wrong) to refer to a machine as 'a laptop' or 'a notebook' if it is a macbook or chromebook.

    As he also says, the general term for the iPad and similar devices is "tablet" and this includes for the most part only iPads and similar form Android devices, but you will occasionally see a "Windows tablet" and then there is also something like the Surface, which has a removable keyboard so it is a "detachable" which is a "tablet that can replace your laptop" according to Microsoft.

    Mattias's point about PC is also true of laptops as I said above - PC means "personal computer" so it refers in general to any desktop computer. But it doesn't usually refer to Apple personal computers, which are "macs" instead. So you have a Mac or a PC. But, PCs, while they can run Windows, can also run Linux - any device that will run one, will run the other - and newer macs (short for Macintosh, the brand of Apple personal computers started around 1990) will also run Windows, using "boot camp" software. So the "do you have a Mac or a PC" question isn't really asking if the PC you're using runs one operating system or the other, it's asking was it manufactured by Apple or not.

    Personal computer is not "any" computer, but it is any computer mainly used by one individual at a time, to do office work, or graphic design, or play games, or browse the web, or write programs - there have been many types of personal computers over the years, starting with the Osborne. Computers designed for this type of work are also called "workstations." Personal computer is mostly the same definition as microcomputer but also used by a person as I said. When a microcomputer is not used this way, but instead is used otherwise, it can be called a "server" which means it's used to power programs that are likely to be used by multiple people at once via a network.

    As for "all of computers," that doesn't seem like native English - I think it'd be better as "all computers." But then it's a tautology. The term "computer" covers every sort of general purpose computing device that is stand alone - from the behemoths that used vacuum tubes in the 1940s /50s like ENIAC - Wikipedia to supercomputers like Sunway TaihuLight - Wikipedia and tiny devices like Michigan Micro Mote - World's Smallest Computer - none of which are "personal computers" but all of which are "computers."
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