Personal computers (PCs) have always been equated with desktop computers, even as laptops become more and more mainstream during the late 80s. Fast forward to modern-day, the question of “is a laptop a PC?” often arises. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss in great detail why a laptop is a PC.
Is a laptop a PC?
Yes, a laptop is a PC. The smaller form factor of a laptop may be different than a desktop PC, but the overall underlying technology, fundamental components, and functionality are quite similar hence both are referred to as PC. Laptops even use the same operating systems without any significant usage differences across platforms. Like desktop PCs, Laptops are designed in such a way that it’s intended for individual use only – one person at a time. This makes a laptop a personal computer.
Think of laptops more as a subcategory of PCs. Desktops are the somewhat bulkier, less portable type that is dependent on an AC outlet, while laptops are the sleekier, more packaged-in-one type that can be brought anywhere, even if its battery power usage time is still limited.
In fact, with the advent of top-of-the-line gaming laptops over the last few years, the performance line between the two is becoming less and less important. Oftentimes, a certain laptop configuration would only be one tier lower in performance than the desktop counterpart. And even then, casual users would hardly even notice the difference without benchmarks.
If there still would be one glaring difference of note today, it would be the thermal efficiency of laptops. Even if designed not to thermally throttle easily, standard laptops are still considerably hotter than standard (desktop) PCs today. It is the necessary sacrifice, to squeeze desktop-level performance within a portable form factor that is simply too inherently constrained.
What is a PC?
A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose microcomputer whose size, capabilities, features, and price make it ideal for individual users. A PC is operated directly by its sole intended end user. Therefore, both desktop and laptop computers are considered PCs.
What is a laptop?
A laptop is a type of small personal computer built for portability. The name comes from its original purpose: a computer to be placed on one’s lap for regular use. Aside from size, the biggest difference between a laptop and ordinary (desktop) PCs is the number of built-in peripherals. It has its screen and keyboard for example, with a “UPS” unit also provided in the form of its battery.
Types of Laptops
Larger Laptops with discrete GPUs, for example, have the same typical clamshell design and appearance as a smaller laptop. But they are significantly bigger and heavier. They are in no way intended to be used “on top of a lap”, even if they are designed for a few unplugged hours of non-gaming use. After the wide availability of competitive portable PC hardware, these often come in the form of high-end gaming laptops.
Thinner/smaller laptops often without discrete GPUs tend to focus more on active multi-tasking and productivity-based CPU applications. These units typically have longer battery life and thus are intended to be used “on top of a person’s lap” on battery power for extended periods of their time.
The advent of 2-in-1 laptops also stretched the definition of the hardware even further. Instead of a simple, portable design with a built-in keyboard and monitor, these modern iterations can either completely bend the unit 180 degrees, or detach the now-touchscreen monitor section completely.
But to summarize, a laptop is any computer powerful enough to run a standard operating system, built on a foldable clamshell design that can operate under its own power for a defined amount of time.
In conclusion, a laptop is a PC. Traditionally, it is often a typical recommendation to favor desktops over laptops when it comes to owning PCs. Unless you need the portability and a smaller desk footprint, desktops are often more thermally efficient, more serviceable, and generally cost less.
Today, laptops have evolved significantly that even if their inherent weaknesses are still there, they can now compete toe-to-toe with desktops when it comes to average performance requirements. This then greatly helps laptops in solidifying their classification as PCs.
Is a laptop a computer?
Yes, a laptop is a computer. It has all the components of any standard PC, only the form factor is different.
Is a Chromebook a PC?
It depends. When exclusively viewed via its components and basic features (apps), yes it is still a PC. When viewed from its operating system (ChromeOS), however, its limited capabilities probably only warrant a partial classification.
Is a Mac a PC?
Yes, a Mac is a PC, despite what Apple might technically define otherwise (since Apple refers to “PCs” as “Windows machines”). As per our definition, it is still directly intended for an end-user without intermediaries, has all the components PCs have, and uses a robust operating system that offers all the software capabilities of a typical OS.