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Table of contents
Bluetooth is a short-range wireless data transfer technology used in various Bluetooth-supporting devices. These include laptop/notebook computers, cell phones, keyboards and mice. For example, Bluetooth technology can connect a supporting cell phone and notebook to enable Internet access on the go.
There are two types of card slot in notebook/laptop computers today: PCMCIA and ExpressCard. Both are designed for the connection of expansion devices such as a WLAN (Wireless LAN) card or a card reader.
The ExpressCard is the successor to the PCMCIA Card and is produced in two form factors: ExpressCard|34 (34 mm wide) and ExpressCard|54 (54 mm wide, in an L-shape)
The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is essentially the brain of the laptop computer and the largest single determinant of system performance. Where a laptop CPU can differ from a desktop CPU is in its advanced power management features that are used to help extend battery life. A long battery life means you can use your laptop computer without the help of an AC adapter for longer periods of time when a power outlet isn't available.
Generally speaking, processors with higher clock speed, which measures the rate at which computer instructions are executed, generate better performance. Laptop process clock speeds range from 1.0GHz to 2.9GHz in the very high end. The following chart covers the most popular laptop CPUs available today.
Laptop computers generally utilize built-in LCD displays. The newer models come with LED backlight technology which produces sharper image. Larger-size displays can provide a greater viewing area and higher resolutions. Screens are measured diagonally from the lower screen corner to the opposite upper corner of the screen. Different classes of laptops tend to have common screen sizes.
Many new laptops sport widescreen displays with a 16:9 aspect ratio because the widescreen format allows more onscreen content which is especially important for multi-media applications, such as video watching.
Below is a chart of the most common display resolutions.
Graphics (Video Card)
Notebook video cards are divided into discrete and integrated versions. If you use the notebook primarily for document processing, web surfing, chatting, music listening, movie watching, and even some light gaming, an integrated video card is usually good enough. For serious gaming or multimedia processing, a discrete video card is usually the better choice.
Among the various notebook types, the Ultraportables typically feature integrated video cards, while most thin-and-lights and mainstream notebook computers use either integrated or mid-range discrete video cards. Most desktop replacement notebooks are installed with mid-range or high-end discrete video cards.
Integrated video cards feature GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit) integrated directly onto the chipset and share some system memory as video memory. Discrete video cards feature a separate GPU and local video memory to free up system memory. Notebook computers featuring discrete video cards can provide better graphics performance.
The hard drive stores almost all the data required by the computer system including the operating system, applications and user data. The desktop computers typically use 3.5-inch hard drives, while laptop computers use smaller 2.5-inch drives. There are currently four hard drive speeds in use: 4200rpm, 5400rpm, 7200rpm, and 10000rpm. Generally speaking, higher rotational speeds equal faster performance.
Laptop computers are usually configured with hard drives from 320GB to 750GB, which should be sufficient for most users. Users who store more documents, movies or music files may require higher capacity hard drives of 1TB (1,000GB) or greater. Some laptops allow the use of a solid-state drive (SSD) instead of a standard hard drive. While SSD drives tend to cost more, they are faster and much more durable, since they have no moving parts. SSDs are also more power efficient than regular hard drives.
IEEE 1394, also known as FireWire or i.Link, is a widely-adopted serial bus interface/port used to connect peripheral devices. There are two IEEE 1394 standards in use today:
Notebook IEEE 1394 ports are typically IEEE 1394a ports.
Infrared Data Association (IrDA) is general port in most notebook computer. With the IrDA port, users can easily exchange data between two devices with IrDA port. For example, users can send pictures through IrDA port to a mobile phone also built-in IrDA port.
A LAN (Local-Area Network) is a computer network that connects PCs, workstations or other LANs and networks to enable data and device access and sharing. It is used to cover a small local area such as a home, office or small group of buildings. Current LANs are most likely to be Ethernet (wired, mostly use the RJ45 port) or Wi-Fi (wireless) based. Most notebooks feature a built-in LAN adapter, which should be capable of 10/100Mbps, 10/100/1000Mbps, or even 10/100/1000Mbps (Gigabit LAN) data transfer rates.
Memory or RAM (Random Access Memory) is used to store application data for the CPU. To allow your notebook computer to run smoothly, at least 2GB memory is needed by today's applications. If you plan on running a number of applications simultaneously, the general rule of thumb where memory capacity is concerned is: the more the better.
There are two types of memory used in notebook computers: DDR2 and DDR3, though DDR3 is used more widely these days than DDR2. Generally speaking, DDR3 has the advantages of reduced power consumption and a higher performance potential than DDR2. DDR3 can provide up to twice the bandwidth than DDR2 and requires less power (1.5 volts versus 1.8 volts). Your choice of memory type is restricted to the notebook computer you choose.
Memory clock speed like 1333MHz or 1600MHz is another factor affecting a notebook’s performance. The higher number indicates faster speed. In general, spend the money to get more RAM first, and then worry about speed. If you are choosing between 4GB of 1066MHz DDR2 memory or 2GB of 1333MHz DDR3 memory, go with the 4GB of slightly slower RAM, because you’ll get better performance.
The modem (short for modulator and demodulator) is a device that connects a computer to a network (such as the Internet) through a telephone line.
All new notebook computers are equipped with wireless networking capability to connect to a local area network at home, at work, and elsewhere. Ethernet ports for wired connection are no longer a standard configuration.
The four wireless networking standards currently in use are:
The fastest 802.11n supports data transfer speed up to 450 Mbps (Mega bit per second); 802.11g supports speed up to 54Mbps; 802.11b supports transfer speed up to 11Mbps; and 802.11a standard has a maximum data transfer rate of 54 Mbps. 802.11n, which was introduced in 2009, is becoming more prevalent in new notebooks and it is backward compatible with older 802.11a/b/g standards.
Some newer notebooks also come with Bluetooth function, which provides short distance wireless connections to other devices equipped with Bluetooth technology such as Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth printers.
Almost all laptop computers, with the exception of Ultraportables, feature internal optical drives. DVD-ROM, DVD-RW, or Blu-ray-RW (BD-RW) drives are currently most popular. If you only read data discs and watch DVD movies, a DVD-ROM drive is sufficient. A DVD-RW combo drive has the added ability to write/burn CD-R/RW discs (700MB max capacity). If you require more data storage or wish to burn your own DVD movies, a DVD burner is recommended (single-layer DVDs provide a capacity of 4.3GB). For even greater capacity, a BD-RW can store 25GB on single-layer discs (50GB on double-layer discs).
Parallel Port or LPT
Originally called LPT, the Parallel Port is an interface in a computer system where data is transferred in parallel. It has been replaced by the USB port, and is considered to be a legacy port.
The Port Replicator is a device featuring a variety of expansion ports such as USB, D-Sub (VGA), PS/2, and audio jacks. The port replicator port on a notebook computer is a special port used to connect the port replicator.
The resolution of an LCD screen is the number of physical pixel units on the LCD panel. For example, if an LCD resolution is 1280x1024, it means there are 1280 horizontal pixel rows and 1024 vertical pixel columns for a total of 1,310,720 total physical pixels.
The following screen resolutions are offered in contemporary notebooks:
An input device for notebook computers, the Touchpad accepts finger motions as a substitute for computer mouse movement in order to move the onscreen pointer. The Touchpad is typically a rectangular touch-sensitive pad located below the notebook keyboard with mouse buttons below it.
TrackPoint / Pointing stick
The TrackPoint / Pointing stick is a pointing device for notebook computers. It substitutes for a computer mouse and is used to move the onscreen pointer. The TrackPoint is typically placed between the 'G', 'H' and 'B' keys on a standard keyboard. The mouse buttons are located below the keyboard space key.
The USB (Universal Serial Bus) port is a popular I/O interface used for connecting computers and peripherals or other devices. It is capable of supporting up to 127 daisy-chained peripheral devices simultaneously. The latest USB 2.0 specification can deliver 480Mbps data transfer bandwidth.
Video memory (VRAM) is Random access memory for storing video information. There are two types of VRAM: shared and dedicated. Shared VRAM allows the notebook's graphics card to access and share a portion of system memory, while dedicated VRAM are VRAM chips on the notebook motherboard (i.e. memory dedicated for use by the graphics card).
Wi-Fi allows you to connect to the internet from virtually anywhere at speeds of up to 54Mbps. Wi-Fi-enabled computers and handsets use radio technologies based on the IEEE 802.11 standard to send and receive data anywhere within the range of a base station.
Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). There are currently three wireless interface standards established by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers):
Other Useful Components
Most new laptops/notebooks are equipped with at least one HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) connector, which is designed for audio/video transfer through one single cable. It makes it handy to project videos from a laptop to a big screen TV. The latest HDMI 1.3 standard supports video transfer of 2560x1600 maximum resolution across a single digital link.
While HDMI is pretty much standard in most laptops, there are still many computer peripherals using USB connection. If you have to deal with a lot of USB devices, a laptop computer with at least 2 USB ports is recommended. Otherwise, you can opt for a USB hub to increase the number of USB ports available. The most prevalent current USB port standard is USB 2.0, which supports a data speed of 480Mbps (Mega bit per second). Some laptop manufacturers are installing USB 3.0 ports on their new models. USB 3.0 standard supports a much higher data transfer rate of 5Gbps (Giga bit per second).
Apple laptop computers have a new connector called Thunderbolt. It features a faster data transfer rate of 10Gbps.
Many laptops/notebooks come equipped with a built-in webcam (video camera), which is especially useful if you want to video chat with family, friends or business associates.