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Introduction to Laptop Computers and Their Features

February 19th, 2009


This rather lengthy article on the various components of laptop computers is one that I managed to acquire from one of those infamously anonymous authors from the DigitalPoint forums. Although the English usage in the original copy was rather choppy in places, I was able to salvage it by applying my editing and proofreading skills. Meanwhile, the image to the left links to the Acer Aspire One AOA150-1447 8.9-Inch Netbook, which is currently one of the most popular laptops available at Amazon. Of course, you can also choose from several other models after clicking through to the page.


Relegated a few years ago to primarily office use, the laptop now has a capacity for processing and storage that is close to the desktop, allowing it to easily provide cutting-edge multimedia functions such as DVD, video games, 3D image processing, and many others. Although the price of a laptop remains higher than that of a desktop computer because of its mobility, its use is also more diverse as it can be taken almost anywhere.

However, given its small footprint, most parts of the laptop are integrated and can be changed, which is why it is necessary to choose its features and technical specifications according to what you actually want to do with it. An additional advantage is that the integration of all parts by the manufacturer minimizes the risk of conflicts due to incompatible hardware.

Description

A laptop is a computer that integrates all of the elements it needs to operate, including a battery power supply, display, and keyboard in a relatively small box.

Interest of a laptop

Once You Know, You NeweggThe main interest of a laptop over a desktop computer is its mobility and reduced footprint. However, the price is generally higher for slightly less performance and hardware configuration of the laptop is much less flexible, except for the connection of additional external devices through multiple ports. Buying a laptop must be primarily motivated by a need for mobility or as an economy of space. With the emergence of wireless networks, particularly WiFi, it becomes very easy to connect to the Internet in public places equipped with hot-spots or simply any room of the home; for this purpose it is equipped with a WiFi terminal. For advanced multimedia uses (for example, manipulation of digital video, connecting a digital camera, plugging in an mp3 player, etc.), the choice should stand on not only the computer’s performance (both in graphics computing power) but also the types and numbers of entry-exit ports available.

Processor and memory

The processor is essentially the “brain” of the computer. Its speed is generally determined by its frequency (MHz), although two processors of different brands can have performance that is roughly equivalent but with very different frequencies. If the processor frequency remains an essential part of the criteria for choosing a laptop, it is often preferable to seek a better quality of important components (such as the graphics card or memory) instead of just basing your decision on the single value of the processor’s frequency. Moreover, the amount of RAM may have considerable effects on performance, especially for multimedia uses. In addition to the amount of memory, it is also important to be attentive to its operating frequency, corresponding to the frequency which will run most devices.

Screens and monitors

The portable computer monitors are flat screens. They are mostly active matrix (usually with Thin Film Transistor, or TFT, technology), which means that each pixel is controlled individually, thus enabling a smoother display than passive matrix displays, for which the pixels are controlled by row and column. The latest generations favor active matrices over the passive ones. The monitor size is characterized primarily by its height in inches, corresponding to the diagonal of the screen. Unlike monitors with cathode ray tubes (CRT), the diagonal of a flat screen is the display bleeding.

On the other hand, given the technology-based liquid crystals used in flat panel displays, the quality of a flat screen is defined by the response time, which is the time needed to bring a pixel from white to black, and then from black to white. The display format is generally 4:3 (4 units wide to 3 units high), but there are other formats for laptop screens such as 16:9 or 15:10, which are sometimes more suitable for viewing video (DVD for example). This type of screen usually has a diagonal size that does not measure as a whole number (for example 15.4 inches).

Hard drive

The hard drive is the storage place for data from the computer, unlike RAM which is a volatile memory used only to transmit information in the operation of the computer. The most important feature of the hard disk drive is capacity (usually expressed in gigabytes or GB) because it determines the total amount of data that can be stored. However, you should pay special attention to its performance as well, particularly its rotational speed. If this speed is too low, it can penalize the overall capabilities of the system.

Graphics card

The graphics card in the laptop is integrated. In other words, it is a specialized graphics chip that is soldered to the motherboard, which means that it is not possible to change it once the laptop computer is purchased. Thus if the laptop is to be used for graphics applications (viewing or manipulating video, video games, 3D applications, etc.) it is advisable to choose one with an acceptably high quality graphics card.

Drive or CD / DVD

More and more laptops include standard CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or some type of CD “burner” configuration. When the player combines several of these functions it is known as a “combo”. There are different types of CD (whose capacity is about 700 MB) and DVD (with a capacity of 4.7 GB).

  1. The term “CD-R” means recordable compact discs.
  2. The term “CD-RW” denotes rewritable compact discs.
  3. The term “DVD-R” means recordable DVDs.
  4. The term “DVD-RAM” means the DVD is also rewritable.

Interfaces input-output

The interfaces of input-output can extend the functionality of laptop computers by allowing connections to additional devices. Laptops usually have connectors on a PC Card (PCMCIA) to insert additional devices. The USB ports are present on all recent laptops, but it is important to note whether this is USB 1.0, offering a maximum speed of 12 Mbps, or USB 2.0 ports, up to 480 Mbps.

The presence of IEEE 1394 (bearing the name of Fire wire for Apple and I. LINK for IBM) may be particularly interesting for the video from a DV camcorder. The FireWire ports can achieve speeds of around 800 Mbps! Some have portable drives as standard Multi able to read the flash memory format Secure Digital (SD Card), Multimedia Card (MMC), Memory Stick (MS), SmartMedia (SM), Compact Flash (CF) or xD picture card. This type of player can be extremely useful for owners of mp3 players, digital cameras, or PDAs because it makes possible the direct copying of files at high speed (for example transferring music or digital photos).

Input-output audio and video

The laptop has a screen and internal speakers but in some circumstances it is useful, even necessary, to be able to connect to hi-fi systems or video performance, for example for a presentation or for the screening of a DVD. The laptops offer as standard a VGA connector to connect an external monitor or projector. Sometimes laptops are equipped with a video output (called TV-output), that is to say, an S-Video connector to connect the computer directly to a TV. Regarding the audio, laptops have a headphone jack and a microphone input jack as standard, as well as stereo speakers which are of more or less good quality. The presence of an S / PDIF (digital audio output) can connect the computer to a sound system that supports a refund in Dolby Digital 5.1 (for use Home Cinema, for example).

Pointing Device / Keyboard

Laptops typically include a standard keyboard and a pointing device. The pointing device is typically a touchpad, meaning that a flat touch will move the cursor like a mouse. Some laptops are equipped with a track point, which works by touching a small cap (usually red) located in the center of the keyboard to move the cursor by tactile stimulation. Keyboard and pointing device should be selected based on their ergonomics; it is advisable to try to determine whether to use them properly. It should be noted however that nothing prevents a mouse connect to the traditional laptop for comfort.

Mobility and network connectivity

In a world of communication it is inconceivable to imagine a laptop without networking features. It speaks of mobility to describe the ability of an individual today who can access information through the Internet, regardless of where the computer is located. Most laptops are equipped with standard 56K V90 modem, for connecting to the Internet through the telephone network (PSTN, switched telephone network). The connector network 10/100 Mbit Fast Ethernet can connect to a local area network (LAN) or connect the computer to network equipment such as a DSL modem, a router, or directly to another computer through a network crossover cable.

With the emergence of wireless networks and the proliferation of access points for wireless networks in both public and private spaces (called Hot Spots), the concept of motility makes sense. For example, some laptops offer integrated or non-integrated WiFi adapters as standard. WiFi technology allows people to connect computers equipped with specialized adapters (WiFi card) on a radius of several tens or even hundreds of meters and possibly connect to the Internet through a wireless router (wireless terminal). There are several wireless standards using different channels:

  1. WiFi 802.11a allowing a theoretical speed of 54 Mbps (30 Mbps actual)
  2. 802.11b WiFi allowing a theoretical speed of 11 Mbps (6 Mbps actual) with a range of up to 300 meters.
  3. 802.11g WiFi allowing a theoretical speed of 54 Mbps (30 Mbps actual) on the frequency of 2.4 GHz.

Bluetooth technology on some laptops is also a technology for wireless networks but its use is mainly focused on wireless personal networks (WPAN, Wireless Personal Area Network), which are intended for connection of small household appliances such as wireless phones, PDAs, etc. The IrDA (infrared) can be used to connect small devices by wired connection but without suffering, unlike Bluetooth technology, which has limitations in terms of distance and reduced flows.

Specifications

When buying a laptop, in addition to the choice of material, it is important to ensure the following features:

  1. Weight: a laptop is made for transport, so it is essential to choose the lightest possible.
  2. Autonomy: Autonomy of the computer depends on the power consumption of its components and the characteristics of the battery.
    1. Ni-Cad (Nickel / Cadmium) rechargeable batteries which are becoming obsolete because they suffer from memory effect, which is a gradual decline of the maximum load when it is recharged.
    2. Ni-MH (Nickel / Metal Hybrid): rechargeable batteries that are more efficient than nickel-cadmium batteries.
    3. Li-Ion (Lithium / Ion) rechargeable batteries fitted to most laptops. The Li-Ion batteries provide excellent performance for a modest cost. On the other hand, Li-Ion batteries do not suffer from memory effect, which means it is not necessary to drain the battery completely before recharging the device.
    4. Li-Polymer (Li / Polymer) rechargeable batteries with performance equivalent to Li-Ion batteries but much lighter as the liquid electrolyte and microporous separator of Li-Ion batteries are replaced by a solid polymer, which is much lighter. The disadvantage to this type is that the charge time is greater and their life is lower.

    The autonomy of the laptop computer may also be characterized by the average time of activity of the computer when it is in standby mode or in use.

  3. Operating temperature: The functioning of the various elements of the laptop (including the processor) can cause an increase in temperature of the laptop, which can sometimes be annoying, especially when the temperature becomes too high for the keyboard. There may be a danger due to overheating, particularly accentuated when the laptop works with the screen closed, because this can prevent proper heat dissipation.
  4. Noise: In order to dissipate heat due to the operation of the various elements of the laptop, they are sometimes equipped with cooling devices such as fans, which can create significant discomfort to one’s hearing. The same goes for the engines of rotating hard drives or CD/DVD drives. It is therefore necessary to learn about the noise level of the computer when it is actually running.

Docking

Some laptops are provided with a docking station (also called a dock station or port replicator). It is a receptacle that accommodates the laptop to connect easily to a keyboard, mouse, monitor, or other peripheral device.

Guarantee

Buying a laptop is an important investment, so it is essential to prevent risks related to a malfunction in acquiring a guarantee whenever possible. The guarantee is especially important on a laptop where it is not possible to swap components such as graphics cards or sound cards. Most companies will offer some type of guarantee that will last for a few months to a year, but it may be wise to take an extended warranty that lasts for a few years to cover the maximum risk. Be sure to ask about the type of damage covered by warranty. The batteries are rarely covered.

Cover

When the laptop is intended for use while traveling, a carrying case is needed to protect and transport the main unit and all of its accessories. It is also advisable to invest in a security cable for attaching your laptop to an item of furniture or other solidly grounded structure to minimize the risk of theft. Obviously you would not want to lose your beloved laptop to an opportunistic thief, who will not only be able to use the computer itself, but will also have access to its stored data, possibly leading to additional unfavorable consequences for you later.



5 Responses to “Introduction to Laptop Computers and Their Features”

  1. comment number 1 by: ayanda

    would you help me about the features and cost of laptop computer,smart phone and PDI

  2. comment number 2 by: ayny laurente

    thank you so much for the information.

  3. comment number 3 by: Anonymous

    I love you Site. I’m in FUTO, IMT. I enjoyed your class. Help me out in this course. Aiming at an ‘A’. Tnx.

  4. comment number 4 by: rajesh

    thanks for information about laptops

  5. comment number 5 by: Kim J.

    thanks :) this helps me a lot :)

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