The central processing unit (CPU) is the controlling component of your laptop computer. Processor speeds for computers are measured in gigahertz (GHz). Multi-core processors have more than one processor core on the same chip. Speed ratings for these processors indicate the speed of each individual core. The faster the speed, and the more cores the laptop processor has, the more tasks the laptop can do simultaneously.
The hard drive is the memory storage of your laptop. A big hard drive allows you to install more, larger programs and save more files. Today’s high-performance laptop computers have hard drives with hundreds of gigabytes of storage space. Typical hard drives run at 5,400 rpm, but you can get a performance boost with a 7,200 or even 10,000 rpm hard drive. You can also set up multiple hard drives.
Random access memory (RAM) is one of the main components that will make your laptop run faster. A lot of RAM will allow your computer to run more programs simultaneously, as well as work with larger multimedia programs. A Web-browsing laptop needs about 2 GB of RAM, while an entertainment laptop can have anywhere from 4 to 8 GB.
Laptop screens use thin liquid crystal display (LCD) screens. You get the clearest picture running your laptop display at the native resolution, which is the resolution at which the image matches the exact number of pixels on the screen. The higher the laptop screen’s native resolution, the more detailed the picture quality will be. Many new models include a convenient touch screen feature.
The laptop’s optical drive is its DVD or CD drive. Most new laptops come with a DVD+/-RW drive, also called the burner, which reads and writes blank DVDs and CDs in all formats. These are handy for backing up your important files as well as putting your home videos onto a disc. Some smaller laptops save on space and weight by not having an optical drive to, but the vast majority of notebook computers will have them. Weigh the additional features of New Laptops vs. Refurbished Laptops.
The number of external ports varies from laptop to laptop. All will have at least a couple of USB ports to connect to a printer, smart phone, or camera. You might also look for a VGA port if you want to connect to a separate monitor or a projector. Your laptop computer may also feature memory card slots for MMC and SD cards.
An Ethernet port will allow you to connect through an Ethernet cable to a network. Wireless connections, using a wireless-G or wireless-N signal, are nearly universal in newer laptops. Lots of families now set up home wireless networks, too, so they can use their laptop to surf the Web from the sofa or at the breakfast table. Compare networking options in our guide to Wireless Routers vs. Wireless Connections.
Also called graphics cards, video cards generate graphics on your laptop display. All laptop CPUs have a graphics controller, which allows the computer to display basic video and graphics. A video card, however, is an extra device that takes the load off the processor, allowing the laptop to run smoothly and quickly when playing movies or working with photos. Some video cards have their own system memory, which makes for faster, more seamless performance.