Small, compact, portable computers really were nothing more than a pipe dream as little as 20 years ago, but thanks to advances in technology, such as the flatscreen and small, powerful processors laptops aren't just a reality, but the most versatile computers on the planet that allow you to play games, edit videos or just surf the Internet.
The components inside Laptops are designed to be smaller and more power efficient than that of a desktop PC. It is therefore usually more expensive to buy a laptop with the same performance as a desktop computer.
Advantages of laptops is that they are portable and quiet, and have a long battery life. Laptops have sold better than desktop computers for some years now and are the number one choice in computing.
The processor is the computer's brain, and it determines and prioritizes various instructions and calculations. Intel and AMD are the two largest producers, with trademarks Core, Atom, Fusion and Ontario. The speed of the processor is measured traditionally in clock frequency of hertz (Hz).
One can no longer make the general assumption that a higher clock frequency means a faster computer. An Intel Atom processor at 1.5 Ghz will not be as fast as an Intel Core i3 processor of 1.3 Ghz, as the i3 is a superior processor. You should also not compare the clock frequency on an Intel processor with a processor from AMD, because the each maker has its own advantages and disadvantages. This makes it difficult to compare different processors with each other.
Generally speaking one can say, the more you pay for a processor, the better it is likely to be. More expensive models have four or six cores, higher bus speed and 64-bit technology. The best processors right now are fourth and fifth generation Intel processors based on Haswell architecture, with model descriptions i3, i5 and i7. For example, an Intel Core i7-4700MQ is a high-performance processor found in high-end laptops.
The graphics card is an additional processor that is dedicated to the computerization of what appears on the screen. This extra horsepower is needed for heavy graphics applications like gaming, video editing or to view a movie with 4K resolution on an additional LCD monitor or TV. Prices range from a few hundred pounds to several thousand, depending on the graphics card performance. With very expensive graphics cards you can play graphic heavy games like Grand Theft Auto 5, Black Ops II or Battlefield 4. Powerful machines, however, get warm quickly and need powerful and often noisy fans to keep them cool.
Producers Nvidia and ATI dominates the market for dedicated graphics card with its series GeForce and Radeon.
If you only intend to use your computer to surf the web, pay bills or use office applications, a basic built-in graphics card will suit your needs. These are integrated into the processor and use the system's memory.
Today LCDs have better image quality, improved brightness, better black level and higher contrast than ever. Glossy screens dominate, as these have better color reproduction than the matte screens that were common before. The disadvantage of this is that reflections arise in a bright environments. To compensate for this the brightness has been dramatically improved and the best displays have up to 400 candelas per square meter at maximum brightness. The screen resolution is also improved, and full HD 1080p and even 4K is now becoming common on larger screens.
If the laptop is to be used as your primary computer, the screen size should be at least 13 inches. Computers with screen size of 13 inches are easy to carry, but have poorer performance in lower price ranges. Many also think that such a size is too small for long work sessions. A laptop with screen of 15 inches is the most commonly purchased, since these generally have a good combination of performance, price and mobility. They are suited both for home use and travel. 17 inches are often on powerful gaming machines where the processor, graphics card and the big screen consumes considerably more power. There weigh is higher, but are a good choice for those who want to replace a desktop computer. Mini-PC or Netbook, have displays of between 9 and 12 inches and energy efficient processors such as Intel Atom, AMD Brazos 2.0 or Nvidia Tegra 3. They are superb for simple tasks like surfing the net. Netbooks are available with Windows 8 and Linux, but also without operating system.
Windows 8 and 10 are designed specifically to be used with touch screens and therefore has finger-friendly icons. Touch feature is surprisingly often useable, but not all applications can benefit from this technology quite yet. A number of manufacturers have begun selling laptops with touchscreen. Many users are going to love the touch function, since many are familiar with the iPhone or an Android phone. Others think however it is an unnecessary gimmick. Many computer experts believes that touchscreens will be standard on all computers within a few years.
Operating a laptop requires the use of memory, also called RAM. More memory means that the computer can run more applications at once without being slow. One should not be stingy with memory, since you then run the risk that it may become a bottleneck that prevents the processor from using its full potential. All modern laptops come with significant amount of memory to run multiple programs at once. You can also easy upgrade a laptop with more RAM if needed.
Low-end laptops are usually supplied with at least 4GB of DDR3 RAM and more powerful and intensive ones with up to 16 GB.
The optical drive doesn't necessarily have the same importance today as it did five years ago. People used a CD or DVD burner to store and move files, a feature which today has been replaced by external hard drives and USB devices. Cheap Netbooks PCs and thin and expensive ultrabooks like the MacBook Air and ASUS Zenbook simply has no space for an optical drive. The optical drive thus seems to be becoming slowly obsolete and may meet the same fate at the floppy drive in time.
Blu-Ray drives have been very popular in multimedia machines. Video with high resolution quality will make heavy demands on the rest of the hardware on your laptop. For example, one must have an HDMI output to connect your computer to your TV or projector. To fully experience the image quality on the computer your monitor must be able to show full HD resolution with 1920 x 1080 pixels. Since many cheap integrated graphics cards cannot handle HD decoding, one must also have a good graphics card if they are to view contents in full HD glory.
For hard drives, there are two factors that count: size and speed.
A larger hard drive allows you to install more applications and store more files. Users who download a lot movies and music from the Internet, and has a constant need for more storage capacity will need a large hard drive. A hard disk dirve of 500 gigabytes is enough to save approximately 350 movies or 9,250 hours of music. If this is not sufficient, one should look for a capacity of 1 TB and above or buy an external hard drive or stream files from a media server or NAS server. External hard drives are important to back up important files such as images or movies, and personal data.
A hard disk stores information magnetically on rotating metal plates. The speed is measured in RPM, revolutions per minute, and today 5400 RPM is the most common for 2.5 inch hard drives used in most laptops. If you need extra performance, the next step is 7400 RPM. Higher speeds, however, entail higher heat, noise and battery consumption.
The fastest and newest hard drives are called SSD (Solid State Drive). They work in principle as a large memory and have no moving parts. Therefore lower energy consumption and impact-resistant is better than traditional hard drives. The disadvantage is that these new hard drives are extremely expensive. Many high-end laptops now incorporate both a traditional hard drive and solid-state drive. For example, it may come with a 1 TB normal drive and a 250 GB SSD, to which you can install the more demanding programs for better performance.
The power of a battery depends on how many cells it contains, as well as capacity (mAh) and voltage (V). Higher values provide longer life, but also makes the battery heavier. Power consumption is also in direct relation with the performance of the laptop. Fast processors and powerful graphics card gobbles battery power, so you'll quickly need access to charger or you'll need a spare battery in your computer bag. A small netbook or ultrabook can therefore have a much longer and useful life than a portable game machine with a large battery.
The most common specifications today is 6-cell or 9-cell batteries. Manufacturers often give very optimistic estimate when they provide battery life. It can range from two hours up to twelve hours. However, one should take this information with a large pinch of salt, as they are based on non-demanding conditions. One can instead assume that the battery holds 2/3 of the stated time when browsing and half the time if you watch movies or play games.
Today batteries are of a lithium-ion or lithium polymer. They have better life and lifespan than previous technologies of nickel cadmium (NiCd) and nickel metal hydride NiMH). They are also more environmentally friendly.
All laptops now come with both fixed and wireless connectivity.
Fixed connections such as USB and Firewire are used to connect a variety of different products to your computer. Such products may include digital cameras, printers and webcams. The latest standards USB 3.0 and Firewire 800 provides significantly higher transfer speeds, but these are mostly only in more expensive machines.
The most common connections to monitors are digital HDMI, DVI and Mini DisplayPort, but the older analog standards of VGA and S-Video are still frequently used. Embedded memory card readers allow quick file transfer. A common port can support several different formats, such as SD, ExpressCard and Memory Stick Pro.
Wireless connections such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth has revolutionized laptop portability and laid the foundation for modern file transfer. To create a wireless network for Internet connectivity, you will need a router. The newest models support 802.11n, which is required for streaming movies with high resolution. Where there is no Wi-Fi, wireless mobile broadband and a USB modem are a good alternative. With 3G subscription you can surf up to 16 Mbit/s, while 4G offers speeds up to 80 Mbit/s.
We recommend that you purchase and install an antivirus program before you connect to the Internet. Antivirus searches for malicious software on your computer, such as viruses, Trojans or other malicious programs that are designed to destroy files, steal passwords or bombard you with advertising. The antivirus program detects and removes these harmful programs.
To function properly antivirus software must be updated and active all the time when your computer is connected to the Internet. Modern antivirus programs update automatically and requires overall very little processing power, so you will not even notice it running. There are many different manufacturers of antivirus program, but the basic features are mostly the same. Some of the biggest producers are McAfee, Panda and AVG. There are also several great free antivirus programs available for download, and though they may not offer as many features and protection as the paid versions, they are still very good.