A portable computer with an LCD screen that weighs from two to 12 pounds (see chart below). It uses batteries for mobile use and AC power for charging and desktop use. High-end laptops provide nearly all the speed and capabilities of desktop computers. Following are their major features:|
Keyboard layout is often sacrificed. Home, End, PageUp and PageDn keys may not be dedicated, requiring that you hold down the Fn key at the same time. Often unavoidable on very small laptops, these keys are cumbersome if used a lot. Some or all keys are often made smaller, and keyboards feel different. Two rules. Rule 1: spend time testing the keyboard. Rule 2: spend time testing the keyboard. See Fn key.
Screen Resolution - Internal/External
Today, laptops use high-quality active matrix LCD screens. However, the built-in display system can also feed an external monitor or data projector. Unlike a desktop computer, you cannot replace the display subsystem, so be sure the laptop has the resolution you require for the external monitor if you plan on connecting one.
Expansion and Desktop Use
Modern laptops have PC Card slots and USB ports, making them very flexible for expansion. However, if you plan on using an external monitor, make sure the laptop has enough ports for the monitor, keyboard and mouse along with whatever other peripherals you might wish to connect such as a backup drive. If a docking station is available for your laptop, all essential ports are provided. See docking station, USB and PC Card.
Built-in Pointing Device
Either a touchpad or pointing stick is built into the laptop. Try it. There are differences. A regular mouse is always an option and connects via the mouse or USB port.
Battery life is critical. The standard battery can usually be replaced with an extended life battery, but that adds more weight. Flat auxiliary batteries are available that most laptops can plug into (see image below).
Video requires a fast, smooth graphics processor and music requires quality speakers. Machines differ. Test drive before you buy.
Six pounds does not sound like much until you lug it around all day. To reduce poundage, subnotebooks use external CD/DVD drives. Also, check the weight of the external power supply (see power adapter). This plastic brick adds one or two more pounds in your travel bag and is never included in the advertised weight. Following is a rough guide to all portable categories by weight. See subnotebook.
Approximate Weight Range
Portable (generic) 2 - 15**
Laptop (generic) 2 - 12
Notebook 4 - 6
Subnotebook/Ultraportable 2 - 4
Ultrathin 3 - 4
Netbook/Mini Laptop 2 - 3
Ultra-Mobile PC 1 - 2
Pocket .3 - 1
**15-pound portables are shoe-box sized
with slots for expansion and a handle.
In 1983, Tandy's Radio Shack division launched the Model 100 Micro Executive Workstation. It weighed only four pounds and included a built-in word processor, name and address list and modem. The Model 100 was inspiration for the huge portable market that followed. (Image courtesy of Tandy Corporation.)
Comparing the specifications of these two Toshiba laptops is striking. With a CPU sixty times faster, a hundred times more memory and two hundred times more disk space, the model on the right bears little resemblance to the one on the left with its small 8.5" screen.
The only problem with portable computers is that the batteries never last long enough. This lithium ion battery from Hi-Capacity (www.hicapacity.com), which easily slips under the laptop, can add up to seven more hours of run time.