If you read through this entire article, you will have all of the information you need to make a sensible decision involving the purchase of a laptop or netbook computer and you will know how it can be looked after, serviced, repaired and upgraded. Moreover, the Laptop Problems pages of this website, in the form of Q&As, address a wide range of laptop-PC problems.
Click here! to go to a separate page on this website on tablet PCs. Now that there are some very decent alternatives to the iPad, a separate page is required.
This article on laptops currently consists of four long pages, because I prefer information on webpages to be on long scrollable pages instead of many short pages and I am sure that most people feel the same way. I have not created a contents menu because there is far too much information provided on each page, but the contents are displayed in such a way that makes it is a simple matter to scroll down and read the headings to find out what is offered. Moreover, if you want to save the information you can do so relatively quickly without having to save 20+ short pages.
Click here! to go to the laptop/notebook problems dealt with on this site.
Another name for a laptop PC/computer is notebook computer.
There are two main species of laptop/notebook computers - the PC laptop that runs Windows (the latest officially-released version of which, since 26 october 2012, is Windows 8) and Windows software, and the Apple Mac that runs its own operating system called Mac OS X (the latest version is called Lion), which has software specially written for it. Apple calls it "the world's most advanced operating system". Laptops running Google's Chrome operating system called Chromebooks designed to access the web with very limited offline capability were available from June 2011, but you should read the reviews, especially purchaser reviews, before deciding to use it instead of Windows 7. The main detraction in using Google products and services is that they are almost all designed to provide Google with information about their users that are used to compile personal profiles that are used by Google to deliver ads across the web and elsewhere, such as on smartphones using its Android operating system.
Note that Windows 8 was released on October 26, 2012. A news item on the release is provided further down on this page. This means that new laptop and desktop PCs will be coming with a version of it preinstalled. If you buy a computer that comes with Windows 7 preinstalled, an upgrade to Windows 8 costs only $14.99. There is more useful information on the following page of this website.
Essential Information on Upgrading to Windows 8 from Windows 7, Vista and Windows XP -
Touchscreens are more expensive to produce than standard LCD LED screens, so there were fears that the price of laptops would be increased, but this has turned out not to be a significant concern, because it is possible to buy a decent Windows 8 touchscreen laptop for £400.00, such as the one reviewed on the following webpage.
Asus VivoBook S200 review -
Note well that Windows 8 is a new design that departs significantly from its predecessors. For example, there is no Start menu. Here is an article the differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8:
Windows 7 vs Windows 8: what's the difference between Windows 8 & Windows 7 -
There are several ways to get Windows 8 back working in the way the previous versions of Windows with a Start menu do and these will be increasing as more developers provide a solution for users who prefer the old way of using Windows. Here is an article that provides a few methods:
How to Get the Classic Start Menu Back in Windows 8 -
Since 1 March 2012, a serious privacy issue is associated with every Google service or product, because Google now has a single set of privacy policies that unite all of them, allowing Google to compile a personalised database on everyone who has a Google account in order to be able to deliver individually personalised web-search results and ads. Google's Android operating system used on many smartphones and tablets requires logging into a Google account in order to be able to use the phones features and to download and use aps from the Android Market (now renamed Google Play). In short, when you are using any Google service or product you are giving Google permission to track you across the web and make use of the information it discovers about you to deliver ads as you surf the web.
For example, if you have been visiting a property-related site, the ads delivered by a non-property website that you visit next, which runs Google ads, will probably display property-related ads, because Google's system knows that you were just looking at a property-related site. Apple does not track the users of its products and does not supply them with ads. I am including this information here because privacy is an important factor to many people and they now have to take it into consideration when choosing to buy a smartphone, laptop, netbook or tablet computer.
Netbook PCs are a sub-category of laptop PCs. They are small, light mobile machines that have slower processors than laptops (usually low-powered Intel Atom dual-core processors), a graphics chip integrated into the motherboard and don't have some hardware that is standard on a laptop, such as a CD/DVD drive. If you want to install software, it has to be done by downloading and installing it or by using an external CD/DVD drive or a flash drive.
Note that netbook PCs were being made by most laptop manufacturers before tablet PCs, which have eclipsed them, took off. Now only a limited number of manufacturers are making netbooks, notably Toshiba (e.g., the NB510-11E, costing only £240, got good reviews) and Packard Bell. That said, millions of them have been sold. The problems they suffer from are more or less the same as those that beset laptops. It probably won't be long before they are no longer being manufacturerd.
Netbook - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netbook
Before you read about laptop PCs in this article, you should read this article that shows what can happen to your laptop in a repair shop.
Exposed: Repair Shops Hack Your Laptops (Opens in a new tab) -
2012 has seen the arrival of Ultrabooks - very light, very thin, high-specification Windows laptops, similar to Apple's Macbook Air, that adhere to a specification created by Intel, use a wholly electronic solid state drive (SSD drive) instead of a mechanical hard disk drive, provide 8+ hours of battery life and introduce other technological advances. Note that a laptop can only be called an Ultrabook if Intel says that it is one; if a laptop has exactly the same specifications as an Ultrabook but has no endorsement from Intel, it can only be called an ultra-portable laptop.
The installation of a 2.5-inch SSD drive in a desktop PC is easy using the caddy that comes with the drive, allowing it to be installed in a 3.5-inch drive bay designed for 3.5-inch hard drives. Some laptop PCs come with a spare drive bay that allows the installation of an extra hard disk drive or SSD drive, but the installation can prove to be very problematic, as illustrated by Fred Langa in the following article.
Some ugliness installing an after-market SSD -
Note that SATA-to-IDE adapters are available for use with both desktop and laptop PCs that convert a current SATA drive so that it can be connected to an IDE connector on the PC's motherboard. The IDE standard was in use for many years before it was replaced by the SATA standard for storage and CD/DVD drives, but many laptops use an IDE hard drive, so this adapter is particularly useful with a laptop, which usually only has room for one hard drive, that has an IDE hard drive. An SATA hard drive cannot use the IDE power and data cabling unless an adapter is used. To locate vendors, use a web search query in a search engine such as: desktop/laptop sata-to-ide adapter. Since the SSD drives that can be used instead of hard drives use the SATA interface, adapters that make it possible to use one on an IDE type of connection are also available, but are currently more difficult to find, probably because the much more expensive SSDs are not being widely used yet.
AMD has countered Intel's Untrabooks with its Ultrathin laptops that run its second-generation A-Series APU processors, code-named Trinity, which all have an onboard graphics chip. Here is a good review of these processors:
At the time of writing (June 2012), the desktop versions of the new AMD Series-A APUs, code named Piledriver, were being shipped to computer manufacturers, but were not expected to be available in PCs for several months.
Due to the much higher cost of the flash memory that SSDs use, the storage capacity, usually 128GB, is much less than laptops that use a hard disk drive. (Being made of flash RAM, SSD drives come in the same capacities as RAM modules - 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, etc.) HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, Asus and Toshiba are expected to make their Ultrabooks available this year. As soon as more information is made available on them, I will provide it here. Here is a review of the first Ultrabook from HP:
HP Envy 14 Spectre review: first-look -
Intel showed off its upcoming Ultrabooks at the CES technological show that convert into a tablet computers with touch screens, voice control and gesture recognition. For more information read the following article that also provides a video:
Intel shows off hybrids: Ultrabooks that turn into tablets [Jan 9, 2012] -
The pages of this article deal mainly with PC laptops, which when bought new now usually run a version of the Windows 7 operating system. Click here! to view a recent video review of the Toshiba Satellite C660 laptop that comes in two models - the C660-120 (priced at around £280 in April 2011) and the C660-155 (£400).
There is a £120 difference in the price of the two models, which can be accounted for mainly by the superior processor of the C660-155 (first-generation Intel Core i3 380M vrs Intel Celeron T3500 of the C660-120, both dual-core processors), double the amount of RAM memory (4GB vrs 2GB), and longer battery life (4 hours vrs 5.3 hours). Both laptops have a graphics chip built into the motherboard instead of a dedicated graphics card with its own graphics memory. An integrated graphics chip is the cheaper option and shares system memory, thereby leaving the system with less memory at its disposal. A laptop PC with a graphics card would be more expensive than £400.
Note that the Toshiba C660-155 has a first-generation Intel Core i3 380M processor, which might suit your processing needs perfectly, but you should be aware that the second-generation, Sandy Bridge, Core i3 processors are superior products that provide better performance and battery life and the latops running them, if more expensive, are not significantly more expensive. Laptops with the third-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors are also available. Searching intel.com for 2nd Generation Intel Core i3 Processors should bring up a page listing them. Excellent budget laptops with a second-generation Sandy Bridge processor, such as the Acer Aspire 5749 with an i3 -2330M processor, can be purchased for around £400 (December 2011).
It is also now possible to buy an ultra-portable laptop that uses an external graphics card to supplement the onboard graphics provided by a second-generation Intel (Sandy Bridge) dual-core processor. The external graphics card can only be used when the laptop is connected to the mains power supply. An example of such a laptop is the very expensive Sony Vaio Z21M9E, at around £2400 in August 2011, rocketing to just under £4,000 if configured as high as it can be, which has a dual-core Intel Core i5-2410m processor and an external base unit housing a 1GB AMD Radeon 6650M graphics card, which uses Intel's LightPeek technology. Also included is a 128GB flash-memory SSD drive instead of a mechanical hard disk drive, which can be upgraded to a 512GB SSD drive for around £1200.
It is now possible to buy an inexpensive laptop PC that is capable of playing the latest PC games at high detail settings. For example, the HP Pavilion DV6 laptop (current in June 2012) has an AMD A6-3430MX processor that has an onboard graphics chip (all of the AMD A-Series processors for the desktop and laptop PC have onboard AMD Radeon graphics chips). It also has a dedicated AMD Radeon 7470M graphics card that runs in tandem with the processor's graphics chip in CrossFire mode. In tests it has managed an impressive 43fps (frames-per-second) when playing the demanding Dirt 3 game. This laptop also provides 7 hours of battery life when performing undemanding tasks such as office work, accessing the web, etc. Note that although Intel's latest third-generation Core (Ivy Bridge) processors also have an onboard graphics chip, they are unable to play the latest games on their own at any more than console-level graphics and cannot be used in conjunction with a dedicated graphics card.
To play the latest games with performance coming close to the performance that high-end desktop computers (that are designed for gaming) can deliver requires a laptop computer running a desktop processor and powerful video chip (graphics card with its own RAM memory), because raw processing power is required.
The most powerful power-saving mobile processors that Intel and AMD have created for laptops can be used, but they can't perform as well as the most powerful desktop processors, because they're designed to keep cool and to save battery power.
Therefore, a laptop designed for playing the latest games, such as Crysis, gives off plenty of heat. Consequently, large heatsinks have to be used, and that results in a bulky case.
Battery power won't last very long if a non-power-saving desktop processor is installed in a laptop. Consequently, the user will probably want to carry the mains power adapter around with the laptop. But doing that isn't going to be very comfortable with the bulkiest gaming laptops, because they usually have matching bulky brick-sized mains adapters.
Many PC gamers if they use a gaming laptop prefer using an external monitor instead of the laptop's display. If you want to do that, you need a LCD monitor with the fastest available pixel response time, which is now down to as low as 2ms (2 milliseconds). A monitor with a pixel response time of 25ms or even 16ms is too slow to display high-frame-rate, rapid-motion video undistorted or without ghosting.
Visit http://www.overclockers.co.uk/ and have a look at the comprehensive specifications for the LCD monitors, which includes their pixel response times. For example, the Samsung SM-940BF 19" LCD Monitor has a 2ms response time.
Best gaming laptops -
Origin PC Eon11-S: Great Gaming Performance From A Tiny Notebook? -
Nvidia's GeForce GT 650M graphics and Intel's Core i7-3720QM quad-core CPU in an 11.6” ultra-mobile laptop.
Dell XPS L502X laptop - Review Date - 19 Mar 2011 - Review - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops/1283692/dell-xps-l502x - Price when reviewed - £929 - Supplier - http://www.dell.co.uk/ - - "Verdict: Fast in games and applications, a good battery life, a fantastic Full HD screen, powerful speakers plus USB3 ports. This is the best laptop you can buy."
It is advisable to search the web for reviews of a laptop before you make a purchase. As an experiment, you can try finding reviews for the Dell machine by entering Dell XPS M1730 in a search engine.
If you are only going to use the laptop for running office applications, watching movies, emailing and perhaps using the free Skype to video call (you can see the other person and he/she can see you in real time if both computers are running Skype), the lower-priced model would do just as well as the higher-priced model, because both have a webcam camera.
Skype - http://www.skype.com/
Note that machine specifications often don't tell you if the processor is single-core, dual core, quad-core, etc., or that the graphics is integrated instead of provided by a dedicated graphics card. If not, you have to conduct a web search of the technical spec yourself. Desktop and laptop PCs now have processors that have two, four or six identical processing cores housed in a single case. Having a dual-core processor in a computer means that it has two identical processors in a single unit that is installed on the computer's motherboard. Eight-core (octo-core) processors were first made available by AMD in 2011 - the FX range code-named Bulldozer for the desktop PC, but, by June 2012, I could not find any laptops using them. Here is a webpage that lists all of the available processors for mobile computers (laptops, netbooks):
Intel, AMD & ARM Processors - "An overview of notebook and desktop processors offered by Intel and AMD, brief coverage given to ARM whose processors are found in tablets and smartphones." -
The stereo speakers that most laptops, netbooks and tablets provide are adequate for most users' needs, but if you want high quality audio, you should buy a set of external speakers or headphones. The speakers can be a large self-powered set or a small portable set. Some laptops are now provided with what is called a subwoofer to improve the bass sound. A genuine subwoofer has to be placed in the best position in a room in order to produce the best bass sound, which cannot be achieved from a laptop with a third speaker that attempts to behave in the same way as a genuine subwoofer.
For your information, low bass frequencies produced by subwoofers carry plenty of energy and, as such, can be heard through couches and other furniture, so they can't be placed anywhere in a room for the best audio effects. But some placing are better than others depending on the shape and size of the room. Probably the worst placing is in the middle of a room. Better to have it near a wall or in a corner if being there doesn't create a boom effect. I find that the best position for a sub in my sitting room, which has the lounge suite in the middle with plenty of space all around, is to have it in corner at the back of the main couch, which faces the TV. You have to experiment with your own room where best to situate it for the best audio.
October 26, 2012. - The three versions of Windows 8 were released worldwide today. Windows 8 is the version for the home user. The Home Premium designation used in Windows Vista and Windows 7 has been dropped. The other two versions are Windows 8 Pro for enthusiasts and small business users and Windows 8 Enterprise for big business. The Ultimate version available in Vista and Windows 7 has been dropped.
The version of Windows used by the Microsoft's Surface tablet PCs is a cut-down version of Windows 8 called Windows RT, which is not for sale and can only come preinstalled on a Surface tablet and some other brand-name tablets and convertibles, such as the ones shown on the following Microsoft site.
Windows RT: Frequently asked questions -
Win8 vs. Windows RT: What to know before you buy -
Microsoft will be providing the full home version of Windows 8 for its Surface and other makes of tablet some time next year. Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote 2013 come with RT. However, there is a lack of apps for Surface compared to iPad and Android-powered tablets. It remains to be seen if people will pay £399 for a tablet that presently just demonstrates what the software is capable of, not a demonstration of its full potential.
Laptops and desktop PCs with Windows 8 will be on sale from today. If you buy a computer that comes with Windows 7, updating it to Windows 8 costs only $14.99. A similar update from Windows Vista to Windows 7 was free, but this is excusable since the Upgrade version of the home version of Windows 8 costs only £40, which is half the price of the Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade version. Windows 8 does not come with the Media Center (which can be used to access TV programmes online or by using a TV tuner) as Vista and Windows 7 do. Instead, it is a separate purchase costing $69.99. However, it can be obtained free for Windows 8 Pro until January 31, 2013.
Windows 8 Media Center Pack is free until January 31 2013 -
The roll up to today's official release has been a long one with several public test releases, so most Windows users who have read the tech news over the last few years will be familiar with what Windows 8 has to offer. There are plenty of online reviews available. Here is a good one:
Microsoft Windows 8 review -
BatteryCare - http://batterycare.net/en/index.html
If the CPU temperature reaches 80 degrees Centigrade, you should reduce running programs, including a browser playing, say a video, to bring the temperature down. My laptop has on occasions suddenly frozen during the playing of a video on a hot day and had to be rebooted. This was no doubt due to the processor getting too hot. The system then freezes to prevent damage to the processor. The methods that can be used to keep a laptop PC cool are discussed futher down in this article. These include using a laptop stand or fitting an external cooling unit.
Both Intel and AMD now have ranges of laptop (mobile) processors that provide the computer's graphics capability and which can switch to a dedicated graphics card in order to run more demanding software such as the latest games. The onboard graphics chip within AMD's new A-Series Fusion APU mobile processors can run in tandem with a suitable dedicated AMD graphics card to increase 3D performance dramatically. Of course, the laptop must already provide a dedicated graphics card or have the capacity to install one in order to be able to switch from onboard graphics to a dedicated card or, in AMD's case, run the graphics card in tandem with the processor's graphics chip. If the laptop can only use the processor's graphics chip, then you're stuck with its onboard graphics provision unless the processor can be upgraded, which is not usually the case with a laptop.
In the US, in mid-June 2011, HP began selling a new range of laptops with AMD processors for the first time, no doubt because the AMD Fusion quad-core laptop processors, which AMD calls Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) because they have an onboard graphics chip, outperform Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 equivalent processors in 3D graphics by quite a long way and that higher comparative performance can be increased further if you install a suitable dedicated AMD graphics card, because it will use the graphics chip integrated into the processor in tandem with the graphics card in CrossFireX mode.
If I were buying a Windows laptop PC today, I would definitely choose one of these HP models (or any other make/model using these AMD processors), because they are also more upgradable than equivalent laptops with Intel's latest Core processors and they cost significantly less. When HP is using AMD processors instead of its previous policy of Intel-only processors, you know that these AMD chips are now competitive with Intel's.
New AMD 'Llano' [desktop and laptop PC] processors promise graphics 60% faster than Intel - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/processors/1285285/...
September 2011. - The Toshiba Satellite L755D-12L is the first laptop to be made available in the UK that uses an AMD Fusion Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), combining processor and graphics chip. This laptop provides plenty of RAM memory (6GB) and has a low-end AMD Fusion A6-3400M APU that runs at 1.4Ghz, which when using AMD’s new Turbo Core feature can increase up to 2.4GHz for better performance when running processor- and graphics-intensive applications, such as the latest games. With a bit of tweaking it can run the latest games. To read the excellent reviews it is receiving, use its make/model as a search term in a web search engine.
Almost all new laptop PCs, but not yet netbook computers (dealt with further down this page), have at least a dual-core AMD or Intel processor that have two identical processors that work in conjunction, combined in a single unit. Laptops with a single-core processor are still available, but should not be purchased because far superior dual-core models don't cost much more. If the number of cores is not specified for a particular model, you can find out how many cores it has by visiting the AMD or Intel website and searching for the processor's model, or use the make/model in a search engine. Now that AMD's inexpensive quad-core Fusion laptop processors are available in laptops it won't be long before laptop with a quad-core (4-core) processors are the standard option.
For example, the Dell Inspiron 1545 was being sold in February 2011 with a choice of several processors, mostly dual-core, but the cheapest option was the Intel Celeron Processor 900, which is a single-core processor, as can be seen in its specification page on Intel's website here: http://ark.intel.com/products/41498/....
Laptop PCs are evolving into upgradable computers that have separate, removable graphics cards and processors. The hard disk drives have always been replaceable or upgradable. It is now possible to buy external USB sound cards that are designed mainly for use with laptop PCs, but which can also be used with a desktop PC. This makes upgrading the sound device of a laptop easy. Here is a review of one:
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi 5.1 Pro review - "Verdict: This little [USB] external sound card from Creative is a good buy for laptop users, although it doesn't support maximum DVD sample rates on all surround sound channels." Review Date: 27 Feb 2011 Price when reviewed: L57 Supplier: http://www.amazon.co.uk -
If you only use a laptop for is running office software and accessing email or the web, it will do the job as well as a dual-core model, but why buy something that is inferior when you get a much superior dual-core machine for a little more money? You could run your office applications and access the web at the same time without the deterioration of performance that a single-core machine would suffer, because each activity would have its own processor instead of just one processor for both of them.
Intel's Sandy Bridge Core i3, i5 and i7 processors were made available for desktop PCs at the beginning of January 2011 later became available in laptops. Example: Sony Vaio VPC-CA1S1E has a dual-core Intel Core i5-2410m processor that runs at 2.3GHz, which can be boosted by its Turbo Boost feature to run at 2.9GHz. Moreover, it supports Hyper-threading technology, which makes a dual-core processor function as if it has four processing cores, making multitasking effortless.
Sony Vaio VPC-CA1S1E review -
Intel's third-generation Core processors, code-named Ivy Bridge, are now available for desktop and laptop PCs (May 2012). You should be aware that laptops running all three generations of the Core processors are now available, so make sure you are getting the generation that you want. If you want third generation, make sure you aren't buying first or second, etc. The firat generation processors still perform most computing activities as fast as most users would require. The third generation Core processors are competeing with AMD's second-generation A-Series processors code-named Trinty.
AMD's Trinity Processor vs. Intel's Ivy Bridge -
Dual-core laptops provide all of the computing power required for most home and office users, especially if it has a Sandy Bridge processor. Quad-core laptops, which have a processor that has four identical processor cores, are available, but are only necessary if the user undertakes work that requires as much processing power as possible, such as editing HD video. However, if you can buy a quad-core laptop for not much more than a dual-core laptop, why not go for it?
A new addition is the 3D laptop, which has a 3D screen that is usually viewed with special 3D shutter glasses, but in July 2011 Toshiba released the Qosmio F750, the first laptop with a screen that doesn't require shutter glasses in order to view the 3D effects.
HP to announce 3D laptop, fastest netbook -
"HP supplies 3D active shutter glasses, which wirelessly communicate with the laptop for users to view 3D content. The laptop can be switched to a 2D mode for users to view normal content." - http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9183100/...
LG launches 3D laptop, monitor, projector - "Despite concerns that 3D technology could leave a not-inconsiderable number of the population cold, LG Electronics is forging ahead with a trio of new 3D products: a gaming laptop, a monitor, and a projector." -
Touchscreen laptops are also available that allow the computer to be controlled by touching the screen instead of using a mouse or touch pad. I have used one for a few weeks and I prefer using a wireless mouse, but that could be just because I have used a mouse for decades.
Touchscreen - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touchscreen
Touch Screen Laptops -
Review: 3 Windows 7 touch-screen laptops -
Reviewed are laptops from Fujitsu, HP and Lenovo which take advantage the touchscreen feature made available by Windows 7. -
You can also buy a laptop that has a backlit keyboard so that you can see the keys in the dark, such as the Sony VAIO Z Series laptops, an example of which is shown in the image below. My WiFi from Intel enables fast, automatic syncing with digital cameras and smartphones, copying of documents and photos to printers and streaming videos to digital projectors.
You need to make the correct choice, because if you buy a laptop, netbook or tablet computer that does not provide the features you need, you cannot return it just for that reason. You will only be able to return it if the computer that you received was not the make/model that you ordered, it was missing features or components that you ordered, or it was not working out of the box, or it stopped working at a later date and could not be repaired by the vendor or manufacturer. If it was not working out of the box, you are entitled to a replacement of the same model. In that event, if you discovered that you had made the wrong choice, you could negotiate with the vendor in order to be supplied with a more appropriate choice.
You should always read the most recent purchaser reviews of a laptop/netbook/tablet PC before you buy it, because faults and limitations are usually reported. You have to read the purchaser reviews on a website that does not remove negative reports or comments, such as Amazon. If old reviews highlight a fault, it will probably have been fixed by the manufacturer, but that might not be the case, so do some more research. Most manufacturers usually run a support forum, so check it. Here is a purchaser review that was recent at the time of writing this that comments on a review that reports a fault with a laptop's case hinge that joins the screen to the body of the laptop, which is model with an excellent specification:
"Was on the brink of getting one of these - not now! Thanks for the hinge information - the Lenovo owner forum reads like a set of horror stories, some with this one [Lenovo G570 laptop] and some with the G560. Support reported as dreadful over several areas of the world too, not just one. This was quite an education!"
If you are going to use the battery for long periods, you must make sure that any laptop/netbook/tablet computer you buy provides long battery life. Mobile computers have batteries that are made up of cells - usually from 3 to 9 cells. Usually the more cells a battery has, the longer it will last when fully charged. However, a laptop with a 3-cell battery of the same type from a particular manufacturer will not last as long as a 6-cell battery of the same type from the same manufacturer, but a 3-cell battery from another manufacturer of the same type can last longer than a 6-cell battery of the same type made by other manufacturers, etc.
Therefore, before you make a purchase, you must read the reviews of a particular laptop to find out which type of battery is provided and its expected running time, which depends on the kind of use it is being put through. Heavy PC gaming or playing a video uses more power than using office applications. Most brand-name laptop manufacturers that sell online, such as Dell, provide a choice of batteries of the same type (3-cell, 6-cell, 9-cell). However, if you buy a laptop from a retail store, the battery might not be customisable (you have to accept the battery it comes with).
A battery's mAh rating refers its storage capacity. A battery with a capacity rating of 2400 mAh should be able to deliver a current of 2400mA for one hour. Higher mAh ratings for the same battery type almost always means that the battery will provide power for longer. For example, a 6-cell 4800 mAh Dell Vostro 1510 laptop battery won't last as long as a 9-cell 7200 mAh Dell Vostro 1510 laptop battery. The following link provides information on those two batteries for the Dell Vostro 1510 laptop. You should only consider buying a laptop/netbook that has a Li-ion battery, which almost all current laptops have.
The batteries shown in the page linked to above are OEM-compatible batteries, not original OEM Dell batteries made by Dell's official manufacturers. Although they are described as "OEM battery for Dell Vostro 1510", this small print on the page: "These Dell Vostro 1510 batteries are 100% OEM compatible with the original Dell Vostro 1510 battery", means that they are only OEM-compatible replacement batteries.
Replacement batteries can be every bit as good or even better than the OEM batteries and if the are good they are almost always much cheaper than the OEM batteries that they can replace. The Dell 9-cell li-ion battery for an Inspiron 1545 laptop was priced at £130 in January 2011, but the 9-cell li-ion replacement battery provided from the page linked to below is a quality product costing less than half that price (ex a £10 delivery charge).
There are always rip-off vendors out there, so make sure that you search the web for any reputable negative comments about any vendor, while remembering that anyone, including a company's competitors or just people being mischievous can post bad reviews.
The best way to search for alternative suppliers is to find what the original Dell battery's part number is from Dell's website, which is 451-10534 in this example, and then use a search engine to search for it.
A Dell battery has the words Dell printed on it. If you purchase an OEM battery there is a good chance that it won't be able to charge using the Dell charger that is built into your Dell laptop because it's part number identification won't be recognised; you will probably have to buy an external battery charger capable of charging it, which is best bought from the same company that sells the OEM-compatible batteries. If you want to avoid any problems, buy OEM laptop batteries from the laptop manufacturer itself. They will almost always be significantly more expensive than non-official OEM-compatible batteries. You must visit Dell's website to buy OEM batteries and you must only purchase a battery for your model of laptop. A battery made for one particular model is unlikely to work with another model - even a model with the same name, say, Inspiron, but with a different model number.
The following free utility helps you to prolong the life of your laptop's battery and provides the current temperatures in degrees centigrade of the processor (CPU) and hard disk drive (HDD). It is accessed via its icon in the Notification Area of the screen (bottom left corner). Just holding the mouse pointer over the icon provides the temperatures.
BatteryCare - http://batterycare.net/en/index.html
Detailed information on laptop batteries is provided further down in this article.
A subspecies is called the netbook, which has become a very popular purchase during the credit crunch. Wikipedia defines it as follows:
"A netbook is a light-weight, low-cost, energy-efficient, highly portable laptop that achieves these parameters by offering fewer features, less processing power and reduced ability to run resource-intensive operating systems (e.g., Windows Vista). Suitable for web browsing, email, and general purpose applications, netbooks are targeted increasingly at users accessing web-based applications, also known as Cloud computing, that do not require intensive resources available on the client computer. Although specifications and features of netbooks are highly variable, one report at the end of 2008 suggested the typical netbook featured a 3-lb (1.4 kg) weight, a 9-inch (23 cm) screen, wireless Internet connectivity, Microsoft Windows XP, an Intel chip [processor], and a cost of less than US$400." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netbook
Netbooks are now available with dual-core processors (two processors housed in a single unit).
As a matter of interest, there is now a free version of the Ubuntu Linux operating system (all versions of Ubuntu or any other distribution of Linux are free if downloaded instead of purchased as a packaged product that provides support) that is designed for netbook computers, which can be used instead of Windows XP or Windows 7.
Canonical Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition review - "It certainly makes the most of a netbook screen, but not all parts of the interface are easier to use and there could be some hardware issues." - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/software/1280353/...
There is a version of Windows 7 called Windows 7 Starter Edition that is available only when preinstalled on a new netbook computer. The desktop wallpaper can't be changed, the screen size is limited to 10.2 inches, Windows Media Center is not available, the multiple monitors feature is not supported, so expanding the desktop to a external monitor from the netbook is not possible, hard disk drive support is limited to disks no bigger than 250GB, the processor has to be single-core below 2.0GHz and fitted RAM memory is limited to 1GB. Otherwise , it is completely usable.
You should take care when buying a netbook to make sure that it meets your computing needs. For example, the Compaq Mini 702EA PC is a netbook that has a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 single-core processor (most laptops have dual-core or quad-core processors; dual-core Atom processors are available, currently only for small desktop PCs, but are soon to be available for netbooks). MSI has marketed netbooks with dual-core processors other than the Atom.
The more cores a processor has the more capable it is - especially if the software the computer is running has been written for multiple cores - because each core can run its own program/application or set of programs/applications. If you click on the make/model link, above, you will be taken to the page providing its specifications. Note that currently none of the Intel Atom single-core processors runs faster than 2.0GHz.
Buyer's guide to netbooks - http://www.pcpro.co.uk/html/buyers-guide-to-netbooks/
Tom's Definitive 10.1" Netbook Buyer's Guide: Fall 2010 -
"We run through an in-depth guide to 10.1" netbooks from Acer, Asus, Dell, Gateway, HP, Lenovo, and MSI. We even coded a special set of benchmarks. If you are in the market for a netbook, this guide gives you the performance and design cues you need." -
Dual-core Atom 330 benchmarked -
Intel to launch dual-core Atom processor for netbooks this quarter -
April 14, 2010 - "Otellini was vague on details, and did not specify whether the upcoming dual-core Atom would be for netbooks or small desktops. When asked about the possible launch of a dual-core Atom processor for netbooks this quarter, an Intel spokeswoman declined to comment, only saying a few Atom-related announcements are expected. Intel already offers dual-core chips for small desktops, including the Atom D410 and D510. -
MSI announces Wind U210 dual-core netbook -
"MSI has become the first company to announce a dual-core netbook, the 12.1in Wind U210. Two models have been announced, both of which will be powered by AMD's 1.6GHz Neo NV-40." -
Video preview of the dual-core MSI Wind U210 -
You are advised to look carefully at all of the hardware specification of a netbook before you buy it. For example, almost all netbooks do not come with a DVD writer, so you would have to use an external DVD writer for data storage if using a USB flash drive doesn't meet your needs.
The Western Digital Scorpio Blue 1TB standard-sized 2.5-inch SATA laptop hard disk drive, priced at around £90 in September 2011, now makes it possible to have 1TB of storage in any laptop PC that supports SATA drives. 1TB is 1000GB. To software developers 1TB is 1024GB because it is built up using binary decimal numbers, but hard-drive manufacturers use the round 1000GB equals 1TB. After the drive has been formatted to add a file system it has 931GB of free disk space. Previously 1TB of disk space was not possible because the hard drive would have to be too large to fit in a laptop's case. Note that older laptops that only support the previous IDE drive standard cannot use an SATA drive unless it is installed with an SATA-to-IDE adapter that fits to the SATA drive's power and data ports and provides IDE power and data ports on the other end.
Kensington lock slots are provided on almost all recent laptops. The slot on the laptop , usually placed on the top left or right hand corner, usually has a picture of a lock beside it. Such a slot allows the owner to tether the laptop securely to a large immobile object such as a heating radiator. Some cheap locks are advertised as a Kensington-style lock, which is not the genuine article that you won't get for less than £17. Read the purchaser reviews of this example:
Kensington Slim Microsaver Cable -
"If you want what you see on the screen, a genuine Kensington lock, then my advice is to beware of ordering from Beaufort. I know the Kensington lock well, we have them at work, so I ordered one knowing the quality. What I received was a Compaq branded item with a thinner cable and a lock which does not inspire the same confidence as the genuine Kensington item." - http://www.amazon.co.uk/...
Most home insurance policies have a £1,500 limit on single items and most laptop PCs cost less than than that, so they should be covered. If a laptop you own costs more than that, you will have to declare that to the insurance company. You should keep the box that the laptop came in and the receipt to facilitate making a claim. Many insurers replace a laptop on an old-for-new basis. If the model you have is not available, the insurer will find an equivalent replacement. Since laptop technology advances so quickly, you could receive a superior replacement.
Most home contents policies cover against loss and theft outside the home. However, accidental damage is usually an optional extra. If you make use of your laptop outside your home, make sure that you are specifically covered for its theft or loss outside the home. Note that loss of data is not covered, so you must make regular restorable backups.
Since the USB 3.0 standard has just come out, not many laptops will have USB 3.0 ports, but they can be added via an ExpressCard adapter. Adapter cards are also available for desktop PCs. Here is a review of an adapter for a laptop:
Buffalo 2 Port USB 3.0 Express Interface Card review -
"It's the best USB3 ExpressCard adaptor we've seen, but it's not as fast as the ports on PC motherboards." - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/gadgets/278347/...
Note thet the laptop must have an ExpressCard slot (the latest standard), not an older CardBus PCMCIA slot. Click here! to go to the information in this article on those two types of adapter cards and their slots.
Almost every recently-purchased laptop PC has a built-in wireless adapter that can tune into a wireless router (that has a built-in ADSL modem) automatically and thereby share an Internet connection (provided by an Internet Service Provider (ISP), such as Virgin, O2, Sky, etc.).
If your laptop or or desktop PC doesn't have a wireless network adapter, they can be purchased in the form of a USB wireless network adapter that looks like a flash drive (memory stick) for as little as £7.
Click Essentials: Wi-fi - "It is possible to set up wireless, whatever your home. If you have already got a broadband router, chances are it has got wireless built-in, and if you do not have one they are pretty cheap to buy these days." -
If you edit videos and photos it is essential to have colour accuracy. To achieve the most natural colours, the monitor has to be calibrated. An uncalibrated monitor will probably look fine, but, if the colours are wrong, any prints will not show natural colours. If the brightness is set too high, prints will look dark. A laptop computer's screen does not usually have the colour controls of a PC monitor, so using a colour calibrator is especially useful with a laptop.
Here are links to reviews of colour calibration devices made by Datacolor:
Datacolor Spyder3Pro review -
Datacolor Spyder3Express review -
To perform a manual calibration, print a photo and hold it up to the screen that is displaying the same photo. Then use your monitor's and your PC monitor's colour controls to match the colours on the screen with those on the print. In Windows XP/Vista/7, the graphics card's controls are under Display in the Control Panel.
Comparison of laptop PC graphics cards
Comparison of Laptop PC Graphics Cards -
"In the following we will briefly list all graphics cards which are available for notebooks at the market today. The GPUs are sorted by performance and classified in different classes. To get a better overview on current laptop graphic cards, older cards can be greyed out." -
Windows 7 Starter Edition is the cheapest version of Win7 that comes preinstalled only on netbook computers that meet certain restrictions. Starter Edition cannot play DVD movies. If the manufacturer of the netbook or the manufacturer of an external CD/DVD/Blu-ray optical drive that you can buy to use with it don't bundle DVD software such as PowerDVD or WinDVD, you could use the highly-acclaimed and free VLC media player. Starter Edition is fine if your computing needs only involve using an office application, email and web browsing, but it is advisable to consider using Windows 7 Home Premium instead, because it may be available on a netbook without adding very much to its cost.
If you have a desktop PC monitor or a laptop PC the screen of which supports touch-screen control, Windows comes with Touch Screen Controls that allow you to operate the computer by touching the screen. The best way to learn how to use them is to watch a video such as the one on this webpage:
Windows 7 Video Guide: Touch Screen Controls -
The battery of a netbook can last from between two and five hours, with some exceptional netbooks, such as the Samsung N110, lasting up to 9.5 hours. How long the battery lasts depends on how many cells it has or its mAh rating, the power use of hardware specification and what the netbook is used for. If you need to use a netbook on the move, you should choose one that provides the length of battery life between charges that you require.
Compaq Mini 702EA PC netbook has 1024MB (1GB) of RAM memory and no free memory slot, so the memory cannot be upgraded. It has a DVD-RW rewriter and a 60GB SATA hard disk drive, not a Solid State Drive (SSD), which uses flash memory, that works at 4,200 RPM (revolutions per minute), which is very low compared to the 7,200 RPM of most laptop hard drives, so disk-access speeds will be slow. It comes with a 30W AC power adapter and provides 802.11b/g wireless network and Bluetooth wireless-peripheral support (mobile phone, keyboard, mouse, etc.). It has a small 3-cell Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) battery, so battery life will not be long. Reports on the web say battery life is under two hours. However, a web report (not an HP/Compaq report) said that a 6-cell battery that has up to five hours of battery life will soon be available for around £100 - more than a third of the price of the netbook itself.
I have seen the Compaq Mini 702EA PC advertised in different sources as coming with Windows XP SP3 and Windows Vista Home Premium. It should work best with Windows XP because it can run nicely on its hardware, but with Windows Vista Home Premium, the processing power of the Atom processor, only 1GB of memory and an integrated graphics chip (not a separate graphics card), it will be slow. Vista should run on a minimum of 2GB of memory and a 2GHz processor.
That said, the latest versions of Windows - Windows 7 - officially released on October 22, 2009, has much lower processing and memory requirements than Windows Vista, so you should only buy a laptop with Windows 7 preinstalled. Windows 7 Home Premium is the best and cheapest version to buy
Click here! to go to the section of this website on the versions of Windows 7. The best version for ordinary home use is Windows 7 Home Premium.
Windows 7 vs Windows XP on netbooks -
Here are some a good reviews of a netbook that provides most of what a user could require of one. They all provide information that the others miss:
MSI Wind U100-641US 10-Inch Netbook Review -
You can read purchaser reviews here:
Most netbooks use a conventional laptop hard disk drive or a solid-state drive (SSD), which uses flash memory, but MSI has launched the first hybrid netbook that has both types of drive.
MSI launches hybrid netbook -
"MSI claims to have launched the world's first hybrid netbook, sporting both a solid-state disk [should be drive, because an SSD does not use disks] and a conventional hard disk [drive]. The MSI Wind U115 has the operating system installed on the SSD, leaving the hard disk for file storage." -
Another subspecies is called the sub-notebook, which is smaller and lighter than full-notebook-sized laptops. They are smaller than the ultra-portable 'mobility' netbook laptops sold by the major manufacturers such as Dell and HP. In fact, at the time of writing (March 2008), there were no sub-notebooks being sold by those two manufacturers. Sub-notebooks are not as popular as full-sized models and are usually made by less-well-known manufacturers such as Vye.
The alternative type of computer are desktop PCs, which are dealt with in the Desktop PCs section of this site. Here is a link to an article that compares the two types.
What to Buy, a Notebook or Desktop PC? -
Most new laptop/notebook PCs now come with a version of Windows 7 pre-installed, but they are still available new with a version of Windows Vista pre-installed, and they will be available second-hand with a version Windows XP for many years to come.
The vast majority of new desktop an laptop computers now come with Windows 7 preinstalled and operate some kind of recovery system, be it via access to a genuine Windows 7 DVD, a Recovery Disc that usually restores the system to its factory state, or a recovery partition on the PC's hard disk drive that the recovery system uses from within Windows.
Visit the Using Windows Vista section of this site and Install, Use, Restore, Recover and Repair Windows 7 - Win7: How It Differs from Windows XP and Vista for detailed information on those versions of Windows.
Microsoft stopped selling licences for Windows XP after 30 June 2008, but paid-for and free support for it will continue up to 2014. Support for Windows XP has to be paid for now, but security updates will be free until 2014. Visit the Windows Support section of this site for pages that deal with Windows XP.
Microsoft: June 30 not end of Windows XP support -
"Windows XP will remain in what Microsoft calls "mainstream support" to April 14, 2009, and continue in "extended support" though April 8, 2014..." -
The table a little further down this page provides the typical specifications for budget, midrange and ultra-portable notebook/laptop computers.
Note that the size of the hard disk drive has been determined by using the size of a gigabyte (GB) that is used by hard disk drive manufacturers, not the size of a gigabyte used software developers. 1GB is 1,000MB, not the 1024MB used by software developers. If the latter measurement is used, the drive size is smaller because the size of a gigabyte of disk space is larger.
All of the notebook computers listed below use Li-ion (Lithium Ion) batteries. Alternatives are the cheaper, inferior Ni-MH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries that have a shorter battery life.
The screen size and the type of screen is important. As you can see in the table below, the bigger the screen, the higher its native screen resolution is and the more information it can display at once without having to use scroll bars. Most current laptops have a 15" screen, but it is possible to buy laptops with 17" screens, however, the larger the screen, the less mobile the computer becomes.
Note that some laptops are now coming out with internal Blu-ray optical drives. A BD-ROM drive is a Blu-ray drive that can only read Blu-ray discs. Blu-ray Disc (BD) is Sony's optical disc format designed to replace the current DVD format that beat its competitor, Toshiba's HD DVD. Toshiba is no longer developing HD DVD, soyou should not buy an HD DVD drive or player. A Blu-ray writer uses BD-R (record-once) and BD-RW (record multiple times) discs. Visit the following site for the latest information on Blu-ray.
"Welcome to Blu-ray.com, your source for everything related to Blu-ray Disc (BD). We offer Blu-ray reviews, releases, news, guides and forums covering Blu-ray movies, players, recorders, drives, media, software and much more. For more information about Blu-ray, see What is Blu-ray? or the Blu-ray FAQ."
The table below is provided just to show you what types of laptop are available and the specifications to look for in a laptop, not to show the latest models.
Computer Shopper/Expert Reviews Best
Buy award - September 2010
Computer Shopper/Expert Reviews Best Buy award - November 2010 Click here! to go to the review page showing the specifications
For the latest mobile processors visit Comparison of Mobile Processors: http://www.notebookcheck.net/...
|Intel Core i3-370M dual -core processor - 2.4GHz clock speed - each core operates at 2.4GHz||Intel Core i5 450M dual-core processor -||Intel Core i3-370M dual-core processor - each core operates at 2.4GHz - Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology that makes each core operate as if if were 2 cores - Integrated graphics, so no graphics card or chip required on the motherboard - No Turbo Boost, which overclocks the processor automatically as its workload increases|
|RAM INSTALLED/MAXIMUM||4GB installed - two free memory slots, so you can add up to 4GB of extra memory||2048MB (4GB) installed / 8GB maximum - No free memory slots, so you will have to remove one or two modules of the existing memory to upgrade it - remove both modules to upgrade to 8GB with 4GB modules||4GB installed / 8GB maximum - No free memory slots, so you will have to remove (and sell) both modules of the existing memory (2 X 2GB modules) to upgrade it to 8GB (2 X 4GB modules)|
|BATTERY TYPE||Li-ion six-cell battery||Li-ion - The battery life is excellent if you don't push to the max - it easily lasts for over 8 hours.||Li-ion|
|SOUND CHIP||Realtek HD Audio||Realtek HD audio||Realtek HD audio|
|TFT LCD SCREEN SIZE||15.6" widescreen LCD||14" widescreen LCD||13.3" widescreen LCD|
|NATIVE SCREEN RESOLUTION||1,366x768||1,366x768||1,366x768|
VIDEO CHIP - Comparison of Laptop PC Graphics Cards "In the following we will briefly list all graphics cards which are available for notebooks at the market today. The GPUs are sorted by performance and classified in different classes. To get a better overview on current laptop graphic cards, older cards can be greyed out." - http://www.notebookcheck.net/...
Dedicated Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics card
|ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500|
|VIDEO CONNECTORS/PORTS||VGA, HDMI (high definition) - no digital DVI port||Analog VGA, HDMI (no digital DVI)||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|GRAPHICS RAM MEMORY||1,024MB dedicated video RAM memory||Separate graphics card - Graphics Memory - 512MB dedicated graphics RAM memory (not integrated graphics chip on the motherboard that uses system RAM memory)||384MB dedicated graphics RAM memory (not integrated graphics chip on the motherboard that uses system RAM memory)|
HARD DISK DRIVE
|CD/DVD OPTICAL DRIVE||Internal DVD+/-RW +/-DL writer||Optical drive model Acer HL-DT-ST GU10N Optical drive type - DVD+/-RW +/-DL||Internal DVD+/- RW DL writer|
Click the link above to go to information on these CD/DVD standards on this website.
|Not available but DVD writer/drive supports all of the CD/DVD standards that are commonly used||Not available but DVD writer/drive supports all of the CD/DVD standards that are commonly used||Not available but the DVD writer/drive supports all of the CD/DVD standards that are commonly used|
|FLOPPY DISK DRIVE||No||No||No|
|USB 2.0 PORTS||3||4||2|
|NETWORK SUPPORT||Wired Gigabit Ethernet network ports -1x 10/100/1000 - Wireless networking support - 802.11n||Wired Gigabit Ethernet network ports - 1x 10/100/1000 - Wireless networking support - 802.11n||Wired Gigabit Ethernet network ports - 1x 10/100/1000 - Wireless networking support - 802.11n|
|PC CARD SLOT(S)||1x ExpressCard/34||
|DIAL-UP 56K MODEM||No||Yes||No|
|LEGACY PORTS - old serial and parallel ports||None||None||None|
|OTHER PORTS - Many notebooks have memory card readers that make transferring digital photos from a camera easy. Just make sure that any notebook you buy has a reader that supports the kind of memory cards that your cameras use.||
Memory card reader
Supported memory cards - SD, MMC, Memory Stick Pro, xD
eSATA for external hard drive/DVD drive (shared with USB socket), minijack audio output, minijack microphone input
Supported memory cards - SD, SDHC, Memory Stick PRO, MMC, xD
Memory card reader
Supports SDHC, MMC
|DIRECT CD CONTROL - The controls for the optical DVD drive are built into the front of the laptop's case.||No||No||No|
WINDOWS: VERSION - Note that most computers now come with a version of Windows 7 preinstalled.
|Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit||Windows 7 Professional 32-bit|
|Backup and recovery software that allows you to create your own backups||Operating system restore option - burn your own restore disc||Download and burn your own Recovery disc|
|BUNDLED SOFTWARE||Microsoft Works 8.5||Microsoft Works 9.0, NTI Backup Now 5, NTI Media Maker 8||Nero 9 Essentials, Toshiba Value Added Package suite|
|WARRANTY||One year collect and return (C&R)||One year collect and return (C&R)||One year return-to-base (RTB) warranty|
|TECHNICAL SUPPORT||Telephone and Internet||
Telephone and Internet
"Please note that all Acer products purchased from PC World, Dixons or Curry's are supported via the store from which the product was purchased."
|Telephone and Internet|
|COMPANY WEBSITE||Click here!||Click here!||Click here!|
The full reviews of the latest laptop/notebook/netbook computers can be found on the following page:
Laptop/notebook computer reviews - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops
Here is a review of an interesting laptop with both a graphics chip integrated on the motherboard and a dedicated graphics card. It can use the less power-hungry integrated graphics chip when running on battery power, making it possible to play most of the latest games for the PC. Given a five-star Best Buy rating.
Acer Aspire Ethos 8943G review - "The 8943G has everything: great performance in both Windows and games, a Full HD display and Blu-ray drive. Even battery life is good... You can switch between the Core i5 450Ms built-in graphics chip and the dedicated ATI HD 5650 chip depending on whether you need the 3D power or you want to conserve power, which is an odd choice for a gigantic 18.3in laptop that weighs 4.6kg. Incredibly, its battery will last for up to five and a half hours if you do want to be disconnected from the mains." -
Price when reviewed: £1000.00 - Review Date: 25 November 2010
Note that a laptop/notebook computer that has a graphics card (that has its own dedicated RAM memory) is a superior option to one that has a graphics chip built into (integrated into) the computer's motherboard that shares the system RAM memory. Very few laptops that use system memory are able to play the latest PC games. Also note that most new laptop PCs come with Windows 7 preinstalled (Windows 8 is released on 26 October 2012), which requires a recommended minimum of 1GB of RAM memory to run, but you should not buy a laptop PC with less than 2GB, especially if its graphics engine shares system memory, unless it has one or more spare memory slots for a memory upgrade.
Note well that a 64-bit version of Windows XP / Windows Vista / Windows 7 requires twice as much memory to run as a 32-bit version. Most new laptops come with a version of Windows 7 preinstalled and between 2 and 4GB of memory. However, economy models can come with 1GB, which runs Windows 7 fairly well. So, if you want an economy laptop or a netbook computer and it only has 1GB of RAM memory, it would be best to buy one with Windows 7 preinstalled on it. Note that the 64-bit versions of Windows 7 require 2GB or more of memory.
Note that most new laptops will be coming with a version of Windows 8 preinstalled after Win8 is made available on 26 October 2012. Win8's hardware requirements are similar to those of Win7, because it is designed to run on relatively low-specification tablet PCs.
All laptop PCs come with a DVD writer, but not many come with a Blu-ray writer, because they add considerably to the cost, so I will indicate here if that is the case. If there is no such information provided, assume that the laptop has a DVD writer. Some laptops are now coming with DVD writers than can read Blu-ray read-only BD-ROM discs - that is can play Blu-ray movies.
If you want to find out about the technical details involved in laptop/notebook computers, the article called, How Laptops Work, is a good place to start.
The myriad of cables that are in use are often very confusing to the home computer user. The following link provides a slide show of the cables and information on what each cable is used for that should dispel most of the confusion.
A World of Cables, Unknotted [Slideshow of all the cables used with a computer] -
"You can spend weeks researching which TV or Blu-ray player to buy, and then you would still have to deal with the conundrum of the cables. Other format wars get resolved fairly quickly and definitively (Blu-ray over HD-DVD, VHS over Beta), but cable formats last, it would seem, forever." -
Here is another similar page that goes through every possible type of connector:
Pictorial guide to PC sockets and cables -
All laptop/notebook computers come with inbuilt speakers for sound. The quality of sound that is delivered varies from one make/model to another. The speakers are usually situated on the top left and right hand corners of the main body of the machine. Some laptops, such as the MSI EX620 laptop, comes with two high-quality Hi Fi speakers that deliver Second Generation Dolby Surround Sound - and even what is called a subwoofer on the bottom of the case, which is really just a third speaker. A genuine subwoofer needs to be specially placed in a room to deliver the best bass sound.
Dell produces excellent service and user manuals for its laptop PCs and you can find YouTube videos on how to add a new hard drive, keyboard, optical drive, upgrade memory, etc. to Dell laptops.
You won't know what the sound quality is unless you test it out for yourself in a showroom. However, most laptops deliver an acceptable quality of sound considering the size of the speakers. Of course, you can add you own external set of portable speakers. All new laptops come with input and output sound ports, and many come with an inbuilt microphone. You can find vendors for portable speakers by entering a search term such as laptop speakers in a search engine.
The sound chip will usually provide a sound-configuration tool in the Control Panel in Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 that allows you to choose sound schemes. In my current laptop it is the Realtek HD Sound Effect Manager.
A very nice set of portable speakers (August, 2010) are the Logitech Z205 USB speakers. "A clip-on, laptop-powered, USB stereo speaker that's as portable as your laptop — with better sound." —
July 1, 2010. - Sony warns of overheating problems in 535,000 Vaio laptops -
June 11, 2010. - Intel has released its latest generation of its Core Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processors, which were designed for users that require all-day battery life and increased performance.
The new Core ULV mobile processors have the same performance-enhancing features as the full-sized laptop and desktop-PC equivalents - Turbo Boost that provides an overclocked incremental speed boost when it is required and Hyper-Threading Technology that effectively doubles the number of cores (processing chips) that the processor has, providing enhanced multitasking abilities.
However, as might have been expected, with better all-round performance on offer, the Intel Core ULV laptop chips cost more than the less optimised equivalent Intel Core processors.
Intel Expands 2010 Intel Core Processor Family to Stylish Ultra-Thin Laptops -
Intel announces new Core ULV processors for ultra-portable laptops -
April 20, 2010. - Microsoft has made available beta (test) troubleshooting software called Fix It Center that works on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. You can download it as a file and then install it, or use the Run option (to install it directly) that presents itself after you click on the Try it now button on the download webpage provided below.
In Windows XP, you are provided with five troubleshooting options, but there are many more troubleshooting options with Windows Vista and Windows 7. You are provided with an option to create an online Fix It Center account that puts you in touch with Microsoft's support personnel for additional help. The following webpage provides the download or direct installation option plus information on the new software. - http://fixitcenter.support.microsoft.com/Portal
July 23, 2009 - Unscrupulous staff in some of the major laptop PC repair shops in London have been exposed by an investigation conducted by Sky News.
To conduct the investigation a laptop PC had a RAM memory chip loosened so that it would not boot. Key-logging software was installed to monitor what was accessed on the computer and the laptop's built-in camera was activated to show what was going on in the repair shops.
Files were illicitly accessed, an attempt was made to use fake bank details that were placed there on purpose, some shops said that the motherboard needed to be replaced, charged for replacing it, but obviously didn't replace it because it wasn't faulty. However, none of the shops attempted to install spyware, which would be the most serious crime, because it could allow remote access to the computer and therefore compromise its security.
Only one of the investigated shops was honest. Its technician discovered the loose chip, reseated it and said that there was no charge.
If you want to read advice on what to do to avoid being ripped off or having your computer abused by repair shops, read this Q&A on this website: Crooked PC repair companies or technicians: If I have to send my desktop or laptop PC in for repairs or recovery, how can I protect the files, data and hardware from unscrupulous repair companies or technicians.
Exposed: Repair Shops Hack Your Laptops -
There is now so much choice in the components installed in a desktop or laptop pc, it can be so confusing to buyers that they just make a choice on purely on price or the advice of vendors - advice that more often than not is provided by people who don't know what they are talking about.
To add to the confusion, you can have a 32-bit system or a 64-bit system. The PC's processor can be a 32-bit processor or a 64-bit processor, and the operating system, which is usually a version of Windows can be a 32-bit or a 64-bit version.
All of the latest processors (since 2006) from the two major manufacturers - AMD and Intel - are 64-bit and will run a 32-bit or a 64-bit operating system (Windows, Linux, Apple OS X). Note that a 32-bit processor cannot run 64-bit software, so it must use a 32-bit operating system.
If you're the average user whose computing needs don't require more than 3.2GB of RAM memory, the limit of a 32-bit operating system, that choice will do just fine. It is compatible with almost all software applications, and compatible hardware device drivers are easily available.
64-bit operating systems will one day be the norm as 32-bit systems are now. However, you should only choose a 64-bit system if the programs you plan to use in the future require a 64-bit system, or more than 3.2GB of RAM memory (i.e., you use 3D-rendering software, intense graphics, etc.). Otherwise, there are currently more drawbacks to running a 64-bit system than there are advantages. The non-availability of 64-bit device drivers for peripherals such as printers, routers, scanners etc., is the major drawback. A 64-bit operating system cannot use 32-bit device drivers, they must all be 64-bit. Note well that although a 64-bit processor can run both 32-bit and 64-bit software, a 64-bit operating system can only run 64-bit software, so your old 32-bit applications will have to be upgraded to their 64-bit versions.
The typical computer user is unlikely to notice any gain in performance from a 64-bit system. Most of the versions of Windows 7 and Windows Vista have a 64-bit version, but onlt Windows XP Professional does and it is unrelaible due mainly to the lack of the 64-bit device drivers that are required.
Note that almost all applications, programs and utilities that run under Windows XP will run properly in Windows 7, including MS Office 2000, which means that there is no need to buy a version of Windows 7 that provides Windows XP Mode.
Note also that most programs designed for the 32-bit version of Windows will work on the 64-bit version of Windows. Notable exceptions are many antivirus programs. -
32-bit and 64-bit Windows: frequently asked questions -
"SpeedFan is a program that monitors voltages, fan speeds and temperatures in computers with hardware monitor chips. SpeedFan can even access S.M.A.R.T. info and show hard disk temperatures. SpeedFan supports SCSI disks too. SpeedFan can even change the FSB on some hardware (but this should be considered a bonus feature). SpeedFan can access digital temperature sensors and can change fan speeds accordingly, thus reducing noise. SpeedFan can find almost any hardware monitor chip connected to the 2-wire SMBus (System Management Bus (trademark belonging to SMIF, Inc.), a subset of the I2C protocol) and works fine with Windows 9x, ME, NT, 2000, 2003, XP and Windows Vista. It works with Windows 64 bit too." -
Apple Mac desktop and laptop computers used to have their own processors, but Apple has recently reluctantly relented and allowed its computers to run the latest processors made by Intel. The latest models are called the Macbook and the Macbook Pro. Only Apple makes Macs, but, as is the case with desktop PCs, PC laptops are made by several major manufacturers, such as Sony, HP, Dell, Toshiba, and Acer. Dell used to sell all of its computers directly, but the demands of the marketplace have recently made the company decide to sell them via retail stores.
Most of hardware information that applies to PC laptops also applies to Apple Mac laptops, so I don't need to distinguish between them in that regard. Using PCs vs Apple Mac as the search query in a search engine, such as Bing, brings up many relevant links that provide comparative information on cost, ease of use, etc.
Since laptop/notebook computers can easily be damaged by dropping them or spilling liquids on them, etc., you are advised to take care when buying one second-hand. Refurbished laptops offer the reliability and performance of a new unit with the savings of a used model. If you want a second-hand machine that has a good specification, you can buy refurbished models with warranties directly from manufacturers such as Dell and Apple.
Two very good tips to bear in mind when buying a laptop are:
1. - Don't be tempted to buy the cheapest model, because it is likely to have a low specification, which means that it probably won't be able to run Windows 7 Home Premium Edition (the most popular version of Win7) and the latest software comfortably or for long (will drain an economy 6-cell battery) when not connected to the mains, and it won't be able to play the latest PC games.
By current standards, this is a low-specification model:
Acer Gemstone AS5315 laptop PC for just L299.98 - Intel Celeron M 530 single-core processor - 80GB hard drive - 1GB RAM memory - Dual layer DVD writer - WiFi ready - Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic Edition
Note that if the specifications for the processor (CPU) don't state that it is a dual-core or a quad-core processor, which have two and four processing cores respectively, then it will be a single-core processor, which is inferior to a dual-core and quad-core processor.
However, note that if you are only going to use the laptop PC for accessing the Internet and running office applications, such as MS Office, OpenOffice (still free), or LibreOffice, a machine with the specification listed above will do just fine.
You should not consider buying an expensive new laptop unless it has an Intel or AMD dual-core processor, 1GB RAM memory (preferably 2GB), and Windows 7 Home Premium as the operating system. The more memory it has the better. If it has a 64-bit edition of Windows 7, it should have a minimum of 2GB of memory.
2. - It is often possible to buy the same make/model cheaper online from a reputable vendor than it is to buy it from a retail shop. Just make sure that you buy online using a credit card, because you will be able to reclaim your money from your credit-card company should the online store go bankrupt. Debit cards do not provide any cover.
You can also download the user manual for a particular model from the manufacturer's website. It provides the machine's specification (the hardware that it provides - the type and amount of memory, the size and type of the hard disk drive, etc.), and how to use it. Having read all of the information provided on these pages, you will then be able to make sense of the information in a user manual for a particular laptop computer and use it to help you make up your mind whether or not to make a purchase. The user manuals are usually in the PDF format that requires a PDF reader, such as the free Foxit.
If you need to get a good idea of the components that are used in current desktop and laptop computers all you need to do is read the reviews of the latest machines on the market. Then you can read the detailed information provided about those components on these pages. Here are two links to get you started:
Reviews of desktop PCs - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/pcs
Reviews of laptop/notebook PCs - http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/laptops
Some of the software that is preloaded in many new desktop and laptop PC's is very useful, but much of it is not. Indeed, there can be so much trial and junk software installed that it can slow the system down considerably. Therefore, it is a good idea to remove it by making use of a particular program's own uninstall option, or by using Add or Remove Programs in Windows XP in the Control Panel. In Windows Vista and Window 7 that feature is now found under the Programs and Features category in the Control Panel.
Note well that the versions of Windows Vista for the home user were officially made available on January 20, 2007. The versions that most home users opt for are Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, and Vista Ultimate. Since then, the versions of Windows 7 have been made available. Win7 is a superior operating system than Windows Vista.
Note that Windows 8 (for the home user), Windows 8 Pro for professionals and Windows 8 Enterprise (for big businesses) - there is no Ultimate version - are to be made available on 26 October 2012.
Desktop PCs are still the most numerous type, but laptop/notebook PCs are quickly gaining ground on them in popularity due to improved technology that is almost as good as desktop technology, and improved battery life.
Note well that power notebooks that can be used as alternatives to desktop PCs don't usually have good battery life. However, there are exceptions to the rule. A good example of such an exception is the HP Pavilion dv8135EA. It has a 17" widescreen, two 100GB hard drives, and 1GB of RAM, yet its battery can last as long as three hours, which is regarded as good. Four hours of battery life is regarded as excellent.
Power Options in the Windows 7 Control Panel provides three power plans - Balanced, which increases the power when required and decreases it when it is not rquired - Power Saver, which dims the screen, slows the processor down and halts unnecessary services to save battery power - High Performance, which allows all of the components to draw as much power as they need. When you open Power Options, the Balanced plan will be enabled by default and the Power Saver plan is provided as an alternative option. Clicking on Show additional plans reveals the High Performance plan. The settings for any power plan can be changed. The other power settings, such as Choose when to turn off the display ... when the computer sleeps, etc., can be explored. Power Options is also provided in the Control Panel in Windows XP and Windows Vista.
Most new laptop PCs now have their displays in the widescreen format. Standard screens have a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is the ratio of the screen's width to its height. This makes them almost square. However, widescreen displays have an aspect ratio of 16.10 or 16:9, (the later matches the aspect ratio of widescreen movies) which makes them rectangular, with the width of the screen being almost twice its height. Widescreen displays are ideally suited for watching widescreen movies, and using them feels more comfortable when working with panoramic photos and expansive spreadsheets.
Visit the Monitors section of the site for information on aspect ratios.
There is no such thing as a minimum or ideal specification to aim for when purchasing a new or used notebook (laptop) computer. To find out which product to buy requires identifying what you intend to do with the machine and then looking for a make and model that meets those needs as closely as possible. This requires knowing what the specification of the machine is in detail. Click here! to read examples of the specifications of budget, midrange, and ultra-portable notebook/laptop computers further up (not down) this page.
Although laptops/notebooks are still being sold with a single-core processors, the models with much faster dual-core and quad-core processors don't cost much more, so, in order to future-proof your investment as much as possible, a laptop with an Intel or AMD dual-core or quad-core processor is the best choice.
Mobile CPU [Processor] Chart Update and Forecast -
The graphics of a laptop PC can be powered by a graphics chip integrated on the motherboard, which usualy uses system RAM memory or by a separate graphics card that can often be upgraded and which has its own video RAM memory. Here is two lists of all of the current (and past) laptop graphics solutions:
Comparison of Laptop PC Graphics Cards -
"In the following we will briefly list all graphics cards which are available for notebooks at the market today. The GPUs are sorted by performance and classified in different classes. To get a better overview on current laptop graphic cards, older cards can be greyed out." -
The Mobile GPU Comparison Guide -
You should also buy one with a hard disk drive with as much data-storage capacity as possible. Have a look at the Dell website where the specifications for the various models in a range of laptops are easy to view all at once. You can find out what the data-capacity specifications measured in gigabytes (GBs) are for the hard drives used in expensive and budget models. By October 2012, laptops with 1TG (1000GB) were common and it was possible to buy a 500GB laptop hard drive for under £40.
If you want to use a PC Card to add a feature to a laptop/notebook computer, such as wireless networking, or a wireless broadband Internet connection, you should make sure that the slot that it provides supports the type of expansion card. For example, your laptop may have a slot for a PC Card (PCMCIA card), but not an ExpressCard slot , which is the latest standard for laptop adapters that almost all of the laptop computers have. Very few Dell laptops now provide a PCMCIA card slot. Unfortunately, the specifications provided by laptop manufacturers or vendors often don't say which type of slot is supported. There is more information on this subject on Page3 of this article. Note the most mobile broadband providers now provide a wireless USB dongle instead of an adapter card for mobile Internet access.
If you want to connect a laptop computer to a mobile phone, the phone and the laptop must be able to be connected together via either a USB cable or by a Bluetooth wireless connection. Therefore, the phone must support a USB cable connection (all current desktop and laptop computers support USB 2.0 and some also support USB 3.0), and the laptop and the phone must support Bluetooth.
If you have an erratic power supply, you can protect your laptop computer with a surge protector, or an Uninterruptible Power Supply, (UPS) that provides surge protection and continuous power to the computer in the event of a power failure. You can buy an UPS for less than £50 from reputable computer stores or online that provides power backup and can shut down the computer in your absence. It is best not to buy an UPS that can only provide a power backup. Some UPS provide insurance that covers your losses if your equipment is destroyed by a power surge or failure.
To locate further sources of information on Uninterruptible Power Supplies or suppliers, try entering a search term such as uninterruptible power supply in a search engine.
Visit the Windows 7 section of this site for more information of the latest versions of Windows.
Visit the Media Center PCs page on this site for more information about them and how to build one of your own. Use your browser's Back button to return to this page.
Note well that brand-name and generic (unbranded) components are very easy to obtain for desktop computers. Unfortunately, with the exception of hard disk drives, this is not usually true of laptop/notebook computers, the parts for which are rarely interchangeable, including the RAM modules. For that reason alone, it's advisable to buy a laptop/notebook computer from the major brand-name manufacturers. There are other reasons to follow that policy, such as the availability of device drivers and BIOS updates. You often have to update the video chip's drivers in order to be able to use updated software such as DirectX and OpenGL, and a BIOS update is often required to run a new operating system or to fix bugs in the original BIOS setup program.
The major manufacturers of laptop computers are companies such as IBM, Dell, HP, Acer, Toshiba, Asus, Samsung, Hi-Grade, Fujitsu-Siemens, and Sony.
Click here! to go to the laptop/notebook problems dealt with on this site.