List the Various Types and Characteristics of Personal Computers

A personal computer (PC) is a small microprocessor based computers used by one person at a time. Today, the term personal computer usually refers to a computer running a Windows operating system; however, Mac computers and those running Linux operating systems are also personal computers.


A desktop computer is a personal computer that fits into a workspace, such as a desk or counter. Desktops range in price from under $300 for basic personal systems computers, to thousands of dollars for cutting edge machines used for video editing, gaming, and number crunching. Desktop computers offer the most speed, power, and upgradability for the lowest cost. A workstation is a high end desktop computer or one that’s attached to a network in a business setting.

An all in one computer is a compact desktop computers with an integrated monitor and system unit (Figure 1). Some all in ones are wall mountable. All in ones save desktop real estate but may be difficult to upgrade because of their small size. They are popular in places where space is at a premium, such as emergency rooms, bank teller windows, and classrooms.

FIGURE 1 An all in one desktop computer with the components mounted behind the monitor is popular in settings in which desktop space is limited.
FIGURE 1 An all in one desktop computer with the components mounted behind the monitor is popular in settings in which desktop space is limited.

Notebook Computers

Notebook or laptop computers are portable personal computers. Notebook computers can rival desktops in power and storage capacity but a notebook can cost significantly more than a comparable desktop system. In spite of the higher cost, notebooks have become more affordable, and thus more popular. In 2015, notebooks outsold desktops computer more than 2:1. Modern notebook computers come with built-in wireless networking capabilities, computer webcams, and bright widescreen computer displays, and can handle most ordinary computing tasks with ease.

A convertible notebook computer has a screen that can swivel to fold into what resembles a notepad or tablet. These computers include a touch screen or a special digital pen or stylus that enables you to write directly on the screen, making them useful for taking notes or drawing diagrams, and for making information such as sales catalogs portable. The Windows Continuum and Apple iPad Pro are examples of two-in-one notebooks a portable computer that converts to a tablet by detaching the screen from the computer keyboard. A tablet is a handheld mobile device that falls somewhere between a notebook and a smartphone. 

A tablet has an LCD liquid crystal display screen, a long battery life, and built in wireless connectivity. Tablets are a good choice for travel. A tablet may have a detachable keyboard, making it more notebooklike with the keyboard in place. Tablets come with a variety of preinstalled mobile applications, or mobile apps programs that extend the functionality of mobile devices. Thousands of apps can be downloaded and installed to make the device even more versatile. With these devices, you can edit documents, take photographs, surf the web, send and receive email, and watch videos. Cellular enabled tablets use the same network as your smartphone to access the Internet. You need to purchase a data plan from your cellular carrier to use this feature.

The smallest type of notebook computer is a netbook. These lightweight, inexpensive computers are designed primarily for Internet access. Low cost notebooks and subnotebooks have largely replaced netbooks. A subnotebook is a notebook computer that is thin and light, has high end processing and video capabilities, and has a higher price tag to match. The screen on a subnotebook is typically larger than on a netbook, in the range of 13–15 inches. Ultrabooks that run Windows, Chromebooks, and Apple’s Macbook Air are examples of subnotebooks (Figure 2).

FIGURE 2 This subnotebook computer is thin, light, and powerful.
FIGURE 2 This subnotebook computer is thin, light, and powerful.


In the personal computers market, there are two main platforms of personal computers to choose from: Macs and PCs. A computers platform includes both the hardware and software that make up a computer system. What’s the difference between the two, and which one should you choose? Most of the configurations of computers discussed in this chapter are available in both platforms. The primary difference between them is the operating system they run. An operating system is software that provides the user with an interface to communicate with the hardware computer and software on a computer. A computers can’t run without an operating system installed. Operating systems are discussed in detail in another chapter.

Mac computers are built by Apple and run the OS X operating system. Using a program called Boot Camp that’s included with OS X, users can also run Microsoft Windows on a Mac. Macs have a reputation for being secure, stable, and fun. They come with a variety of useful programs already installed and are very user friendly. Macs are often used in creative businesses, such as advertising and graphic design, and are growing in popularity in the home market.

PCs can be built by any number of companies, including Sony, Asus, Lenovo, and Toshiba. PCs that run some version of the Windows or Linux operating systems constitute over 90 percent of the U.S. market share. Because PCs are produced by many manufacturers, they are available in numerous models, configurations, and price ranges. PCs can also run a vast selection of available software.

The type of computers you choose depends on many factors, including personal preferences, the types of software you use, compatibility with school or work computers, and cost. Figure 3 highlights some of the features of Macs and PCs. Personal computers have become so commonplace that roughly 80 percent of U.S. households have at least one personal computer. In addition, tablet sales are soaring and by 2014 they rivaled PC sales.

FIGURE 3 Comparing Macs and PCs
FIGURE 3 Comparing Macs and PCs

Mac Advantages

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Great multimedia capabilities
  • Secure and stable
  • Productivity and entertainment software included

PC Advantages

  • Less expensive for similar configuration
  • Can run many versions of Windows and Linux
  • More configuration choices
  • The preferred platform in most businesses
  • Can run many computer games that are not available for other platforms


Ergonomics is the study of the relationship between workers and their workspaces. An improperly set up workspace can affect your health, comfort, and productivity. Ergonomic design creates a work environment designed to reduce illnesses and musculoskeletal disorders. The furniture you use, the lighting in the room, and the position of your equipment all affect your work environment.

Your goal should be to keep your body in a neutral position, without twisting or turning to reach or see your screen. You should not need to lean forward, and your feet should be flat on the ground or on a footrest.

Your monitor should be at or below eye level so you don’t need to tilt your neck to see it, and the lighting shouldn’t cause glare on your screen. The keyboard and mouse should be positioned so your arms are in a relaxed position, as shown in Figure 4.

FIGURE 4 An Ergonomic Workstation
FIGURE 4 An Ergonomic Workstation

One important step that many people forget is to take regular breaks to stretch and move around. Whether you’re writing a report for school, doing your income taxes, or playing a video game, following ergonomic design principles will help you work more comfortably and reduce strain on your body. Ergonomic design creates a work environment designed to reduce illnesses and musculoskeletal disorders.

Universal Design

Universal design principles not only help create environments that accommodate people with disabilities, but also benefit those with no special needs. For example, wider doorways allow wheelchairs and walkers through and also make it easier to carry merchandise and move furniture. In technology, applying universal design means designing spaces that are easily accessible. This term also refers to input and output devices that can be used and adjusted by everyone. Devices should be simple and intuitive to use for everyone.

5 Things You Need to Know
Key Terms
·         Desktop computers give you the most bang for your buck.
·         Notebook or laptop computers are portable PCs.
·         Subnotebooks and netbooks are specialized notebook computers.
·         Tablets fall somewhere between notebooks and smartphones.
·         The primary difference between a Mac and a PC is the software.
all-in-one computers
convertible notebook
desktop computer
mobile application (mobile app)
operating system
personal computer (PC)
Universal design