The era of the notebook computer has arrived; with sales of PCs dropping dramatically it seems the sky's the limit for the notebook market.

Research firm Gartner Dataquest showed the mobile PC market had grown by 6.1 percent last year, with many people now opting to buy laptops instead of PCs.

"We have machines that go up to 2GHz which offer the added benefit of mobility. Notebooks are getting smaller, more powerful and the home mobile office has really taken off [over the last year]," said Paul McGovern, product manager at Dell.

But many people are still reluctant to trade in their old PCs for notebooks, with fears of limited processing power, poor battery consumption and overheating still prevalent in their minds.

A recent poll conducted by PC Advisor found that a massive 67 percent of readers had no intention of swapping their PCs for laptops.

"Even as little as a year ago people had to compromise on graphics and screen resolution, which meant they tended to buy laptops to accompany their PCs rather than replace them," said McGovern. "Now many laptops can easily stand up to PCs [running at the same speed]."

"Functionality is now easily comparable especially with the availability of dedicated graphics cards [and other peripherals]," said Kenneth Chan, notebook product manager at Toshiba.

Toshiba and Dell saw the biggest growth in notebook sales, up 11.4 and 10.6 percent respectively, by introducing a range of desktop processors in their laptops, offering customers a cheaper alternative to mobile processors.

"Initially we stayed away from desktop processors as we wanted to develop our product as a mobile laptop first," said McGovern. "For us the benefits of the mobile processor outweigh the issues but our customers wanted a cheaper alternative."

Toshiba agrees price is key to the laptop's success.

"We have been working hard to provide value for money in our range [by introducing desktop systems]" said Toshiba's Chan. "[But] price will always remain a diving factor [between PC and laptop sales]."

When it comes to notebooks, as with most things, you get what you pay for. Short battery life and heat dispersion are problems associated solely with cheaper desktop processors, but McGovern insists these problems are improving and the machines are selling.

According to Dell, people are more willing to experiment with their computer equipment and many of its customers are buying notebooks for the first time.

"We are now marketing notebooks more aggressively and I think the rise of GPRS (general packet radio services) will see sales increase even further," added McGovern.