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Laptops and notebooks are mostly marketing categories and used mostly interchangeably. I think you are talking about netbooks. They are indeed cheaper and a lot lighter. Most of them are around 1-1.5 kg, which makes a huge difference compared to 2.5+kg of normal notebooks if you have to carry them around a lot.
The computing power of netbooks is more than enough for office applications and reading pdf files (I guess that's what you mean by Adobe). Ummm what is RASMOL?
Something else to think about is the size of the harddisk most netbooks habe 160gig, some have solid state "disks" which are a lot smaller, but make the netbooks lighter and run longer without having access to mains. So think about how many documents you will need unless you are willing to carry an extra USB stick with your netbook. Most solid state netbooks will have Linux as operating system, which means no Microsoft Office, but Open Office.
How much time will you spent relying on battery power alone? If that's an issue make sure your netbook has a 6 cell battery pack.
The cheaper notebooks have 15.4" screens, which is enough for most applications. But they weight about 2.5kg, most of them closer to 3kg, they cost about the same as netbooks, but have more computing power and have a DVD writer built in, which netbooks don't have.You can get notebooks with 18" screens by now, but they are still expensive and HEAVY. They are concidered as desktop replacements.
Ummm, that's all I can think of at the moment. HTH
Feel free to ask more questions, and to post the specs of the netbooks/notebooks you are considering to buy. The guys at the shops often aren't that neutral, they want to sell you something after all.