A laptop (notebook) is a personal computer for mobile use. A laptop integrates most of the typical components of a desktop computer, including a display, a keyboard, a pointing device (a touchpad, also known as a trackpad, and/or a pointing stick) and speakers into a single unit. A laptop is powered by mains electricity via an AC adapter, and can be used away from an outlet using a rechargeable battery. A laptop battery in new condition typically stores enough energy to run the laptop for three to five hours, depending on the computer usage, configuration and power management settings. When the laptop is plugged into the mains, the battery charges, whether or not the computer is running. Yet as it ages the battery’s energy storage will progressively dissipate to lasting only a few minutes.
The term “laptop” can refer to a number of classes of small portable computers :
- Full-size Laptop: A laptop large enough to accommodate a “full-size” keyboard (a keyboard with the minimum QWERTY key layout, which is at least 13.5 keys across that are on ¾ (0.750) inch centers, plus some room on both ends for the case). The measurement of at least 11 inches across has been suggested as the threshold for this class. The first laptops were the size of a standard U.S. “A size” notebook sheet of paper (8.5 × 11 inches) but later “A4-size” laptops were introduced, which were the width of a standard ISO 216 A4 sheet of paper (297 mm, or about 11.7 inches), and added a vertical column of keys to the right and wider screens.
- Netbook: A smaller, lighter, more portable laptop. It is also usually cheaper than a full-size laptop, but has fewer features and less computing power. Smaller keyboards can be more difficult to operate. There is no sharp line of demarcation between netbooks and inexpensive small laptops; some 11.6″ models are marketed as netbooks. Since netbooks, compared to laptops, are quite small in size, CDs cannot be used in these computers.
- Tablet PC: these have touch screens. There are “convertible tablets” with a full keyboard where the screen rotates to be used atop the keyboard, and “slate” form-factor machines which are usually touch-screen only (although a few older models feature very small keyboards along the sides of the screen.)
- Rugged: Engineered to operate in tough conditions (mechanical shocks, extreme temperatures, wet and dusty environments).
The basic components of laptops are similar in function to their desktop counterparts, but are miniaturized, adapted to mobile use, and designed for low power consumption. Because of the additional requirements, laptop components are usually of inferior performance compared to similarly priced desktop parts. Furthermore, the design bounds on power, size, and cooling of laptops limit the maximum performance of laptop parts compared to that of desktop components. The components are :
The following list summarizes the differences and distinguishing features of laptop components in comparison to desktop personal computer parts:
- Motherboard : Laptop motherboards are highly make and model specific, and do not conform to a desktop form factor. Unlike a desktop board that usually has several slots for expansion cards (3 to 7 are common), a board for a small, highly integrated laptop may have no expansion slots at all, with all the functionality implemented on the motherboard itself; the only expansion possible in this case is via an external port such as USB. Other boards may have one or more standard, such as ExpressCard, or proprietary expansion slots. Several other functions (storage controllers, networking, sound card and external ports) are implemented on the motherboard.
- Central processing unit (CPU) : Laptop CPUs have advanced power-saving features and produce less heat than desktop processors, but are not as powerful. There is a wide range of CPUs designed for laptops available from Intel (Pentium M, Celeron M, Intel Core and Core 2 Duo), AMD (Athlon,Turion 64, and Sempron), VIA Technologies, Transmeta and others. On the non-x86 architectures, Motorola and IBM produced the chips for the formerPowerPC-based Apple laptops (iBook and PowerBook). Some laptops have removable CPUs, although support by the motherboard may be restricted to the specific models. In other laptops the CPU is soldered on the motherboard and is non-replaceable.
- Memory (RAM) : SO-DIMM memory modules that are usually found in laptops are about half the size of desktop DIMMs. They may be accessible from the bottom of the laptop for ease of upgrading, or placed in locations not intended for user replacement such as between the keyboard and the motherboard. Currently, most midrange laptops are factory equipped with 3–4 GB of DDR2 RAM, while some higher end notebooks feature up to 8 GB of DDR3 memory. Netbooks however, are commonly equipped with only 1 GB of RAM to keep manufacturing costs low.
- Expansion cards : A PC Card (formerly PCMCIA) or ExpressCard bay for expansion cards is often present on laptops to allow adding and removing functionality, even when the laptop is powered on. Some subsystems (such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or a cellular modem) can be implemented as replaceable internal expansion cards, usually accessible under an access cover on the bottom of the laptop. Two popular standards for such cards are MiniPCI and its successor, the PCI Express Mini.
- Power supply : Laptops are typically powered by an internal rechargeable battery that is charged using an external power supply, which outputs a DC voltage typically in the range of 7.2–14.8 volts. The power supply is usually external, and connected to the laptop through a AC connector cable. It can charge the battery and power the laptop simultaneously; when the battery is fully charged, the laptop continues to run on power supplied by the external power supply. The charger adds about 400 grams (1 lb) to the overall “transport weight” of the notebook.
- Battery : Current laptops utilize lithium ion batteries, with more recent models using the new lithium polymer technology. These two technologies have largely replaced the older nickel metal-hydride batteries. Typical battery life for standard laptops is two to five hours of light-duty use, but may drop to as little as one hour when doing power-intensive tasks. A battery’s performance gradually decreases with time, leading to an eventual replacement in one to three years, depending on the charging and discharging pattern. This large-capacity main battery should not be confused with the much smaller battery nearly all computers use to run the real-time clock and to store the BIOS configuration in the CMOS memory when the computer is off. Lithium-ion batteries do not have a memory effect as older batteries may have. The memory effect happens when one does not use a battery to its fullest extent, then recharges the battery. New innovations in laptops and batteries have seen new possible matchings which can provide up to a full 24 hours of continued operation, assuming average power consumption levels. An example of this is the HP EliteBook 6930p when used with its ultra-capacity battery.
- Video display controller : On standard laptops the video controller is usually integrated into the chipset to conserve power. This tends to limit the use of laptops for gaming and entertainment, two fields which have constantly escalating hardware demands, and because the integrated chipset is very difficult to upgrade for a standard user, laptops may grow obsolete quickly for use in gaming and entertainment. Higher-end laptops and desktop replacements in particular often come with dedicated graphics processors on the motherboard or as an internal expansion card. These mobile graphics processors are comparable in performance to mainstream desktop graphic accelerator boards. A few notebooks have switchable graphics with both an integrated and discrete card installed. The user can choose between using integrated graphics when battery life is important and dedicated graphics when demanding applications call for it. This allows for greater flexibility and also conserves power when not required.
- Display : Most modern laptops feature 13 inches (33 cm) or larger color active matrix displays based on CCFL or LED lighting with resolutions of 1280×800 (16:10) or 1366 × 768 (16:9) pixels and above. Some models use screens with resolutions common indesktop PCs (for example, 1440×900, 1600×900 and 1680×1050.) Models with LED-based lighting offer a lesser power consumption and wider viewing angles. Netbooks’ with a 10 inches (25 cm) or smaller screen typically use a resolution of 1024×600, while netbooks and subnotebooks with a 11.6 inches (29 cm) or 12 inches (30 cm) screen use standard notebook resolutions.
- Removable media drives : A DVD/CD reader/writer drive is nearly universal on full-sized models, and is common on thin-and-light models; it is uncommon on subnotebooks and unknown on netbooks. CD drives are becoming rare, while Blu-Ray is becoming more common on notebooks.
- Internal storage: Laptop hard disks are physically smaller—2.5 inches (64 mm) or 1.8 inches (46 mm) —compared to desktop 3.5 inches (89 mm) drives. Some newer laptops (usually ultraportables) employ more expensive, but faster, lighter and power-efficient flash memory-based SSDs instead. Currently, 250 to 500 GB sizes are common for laptop hard disks (64 to 512 GB for SSDs).
- Input: A pointing stick, touchpad or both are used to control the position of the cursor on the screen, and an integrated keyboard is used for typing. An external keyboard and/or mouse may be connected using USB or PS/2 port, or Bluetooth (if present).
- Ports : several USB ports, an external monitor port (VGA, DVI, mini-DisplayPort or HDMI), audio in/out, and an Ethernet network port are found on most laptops. Less common are legacy ports such as a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, serial port or a parallel port. S-video or composite video ports are more common on consumer-oriented notebooks.
Portability is usually the first feature mentioned in any comparison of laptops versus desktop PCs. Portability means that a laptop can be used in many places, not only at home and at the office, but also during commuting and flights, in coffee shops, in lecture halls and libraries, at clients’ location or at a meeting room, etc. The portability feature offers several distinct advantages:
- Productivity: Using a laptop in places where a desktop PC can not be used, and at times that would otherwise be wasted. For example, an office worker managing their e-mails during an hour-long commute by train, or a student doing his/her homework at the university coffee shop during a break between lectures.
- Immediacy: Carrying a laptop means having instant access to various information, personal and work files. Immediacy allows better collaboration between coworkers or students, as a laptop can be flipped open to present a problem or a solution anytime, anywhere.
- Up-to-date information: If a person has more than one desktop PC, a problem of synchronization arises: changes made on one computer are not automatically propagated to the others. There are ways to resolve this problem, including physical transfer of updated files (using a USB flash memory stick or CDRs) or using synchronization software over the Internet. However, using a single laptop at both locations avoids the problem entirely, as the files exist in a single location and are always up-to-date.
- Connectivity: A proliferation of Wi-Fi wireless networks and cellular broadband data services (HSDPA, EVDO and others) combined with a near-ubiquitous support by laptops means that a laptop can have easy Internet and local network connectivity while remaining mobile. Wi-Fi networks and laptop programs are especially widespread at university campuses.
- Size: Laptops are smaller than desktop PCs. This is beneficial when space is at a premium, for example in small apartments and student dorms. When not in use, a laptop can be closed and put away.
- Low power consumption: Laptops are several times more power-efficient than desktops. A typical laptop uses 20–90 W, compared to 100–800 W for desktops. This could be particularly beneficial for businesses (which run hundreds of personal computers, multiplying the potential savings) and homes where there is a computer running 24/7 (such as a home media server, print server, etc.)
- Quiet: Laptops are often quieter than desktops, due both to the components (quieter, slower 2.5-inch hard drives) and to less heat production leading to use of fewer and slower cooling fans.
- Battery: a charged laptop can continue to be used in case of a power outage and is not affected by short power interruptions and blackouts. A desktop PC needs a UPS to handle short interruptions, blackouts and spikes; achieving on-battery time of more than 20–30 minutes for a desktop PC requires a large and expensive UPS.
- All-in-One: designed to be portable, laptops have everything integrated in to the chassis. For desktops (excluding all-in-ones) this is divided into the desktop, keyboard, mouse, display, and optional peripherals such as speakers.
Compared to desktop PCs, laptops have disadvantages in the following fields:
While the performance of mainstream desktops and laptops is comparable, and the cost of laptops has fallen more rapidly than desktops, laptops remain more expensive than desktop PCs at the same performance level. The upper limits of performance of laptops remain much lower than the highest-end desktops (especially “workstation class” machines with two processor sockets), and “bleeding-edge” features usually appear first in desktops and only then, as the underlying technology matures, are adapted to laptops.
Upgradeability of laptops is very limited compared to desktops, which are thoroughly standardized. In general, hard drives and memory can be upgraded easily. Optical drives and internal expansion cards may be upgraded if they follow an industry standard, but all other internal components, including the motherboard, CPU and graphics, are not always intended to be upgradeable. Intel, Asus, Compal, Quanta and other laptop manufacturers have created the Common Building Block standard for laptop parts to address some of the inefficiencies caused by the lack of standards.
Ergonomics and health
Because of their small and flat keyboard and trackpad pointing devices, prolonged use of laptops can cause repetitive strain injury.Usage of separate, external ergonomic keyboards and pointing devices is recommended to prevent injury when working for long periods of time; they can be connected to a laptop easily by USB or via a docking station. Some health standards require ergonomic keyboards at workplaces. The integrated screen often causes users to hunch over for a better view, which can cause neck or spinal injuries. A larger and higher-quality external screen can be connected to almost any laptop to alleviate that and to provide additional “screen estate” for more productive work. Heat from using a laptop on the lap can also cause skin discoloration on the thighs known as “toasted skin syndrome”
Due to their portability, laptops are subject to more wear and physical damage than desktops. Components such as screen hinges, latches, power jacks and power cords deteriorate gradually due to ordinary use. A liquid spill onto the keyboard, a rather minor mishap with a desktop system, can damage the internals of a laptop and result in a costly repair. One study found that a laptop is three times more likely to break during the first year of use than a desktop.
Original external components are expensive, and usually proprietary and non-interchangeable; other parts are inexpensive. A power jack can cost a few dollars but their replacement may require extensive disassembly and reassembly of the laptop by a technician. Other inexpensive but fragile parts often cannot be purchased separate from larger more expensive components. The repair costs of a failed motherboard or LCD panel often exceed the value of a used laptop.
Laptops rely on extremely compact cooling systems involving a fan and heat sink that can fail due to eventual clogging by accumulated airborne dust and debris. Most laptops do not have any sort of removable dust collection filter over the air intake for these cooling systems, resulting in a system that gradually runs hotter and louder as the years pass. Eventually the laptop starts to overheat even at idle load levels. This dust is usually stuck inside where casual cleaning and vacuuming cannot remove it. Instead, a complete disassembly is needed to clean the laptop. Note: The use of canned air can remove a part of the dust inside.
Bettrey life is limited because the capacity drops with time, necessitating an eventual replacement after a few years. The battery is often easily replaceable, and one may replace it on purpose with a higher capacity model to achieve better battery life.
Topic : Laptop
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