Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How is a laptop different from a desktop?
A: Laptops are portable, use less energy, and make less noise than desktops. Other than that, they're not much different. In a laptop, the screen (monitor) and keyboard is integrated and the components are installed in the laptop's design to fit snugly together. In a desktop, the monitor and keyboard must be installed and the components are more widely spaced.
Q: Laptop? Notebook? What's the difference?
A: Laptop is the original term given to mobile personal computers. While they were smaller than desktop computers and could be set on your lap (thus the moniker), they were still fairly sizable. Certain laptops today come much smaller and lighter and are roughly the size of an A4 sheet of paper, thus the term "notebook". Other than that, they are one and the same.
Q: What screen size should I look for?
A: Laptops are portable, use less energy, Laptops generally have 12-17" screens or wide screen displays. Larger screens equal heavier laptops. Predictably, smaller screens will generally mean smaller weights.
Q: How much memory is enough memory?
A: About 2 GB of memory is good starting ground, but 4 GB to 8 GB is much better for getting the best performance out of your system. And always remember that memory is upgradeable.
Q: What is a graphics controller?
A: The graphics controller, or graphics card, is the part of your laptop that handles everything that shows up on your screen. Graphics controllers can be integrated fully into your laptop's motherboard and share video memory with your system's onboard RAM. This means that if you have 512 MB of memory for you laptop and your graphics controller shares 128 MB of the system memory, at peak usage you would have 384 MB of memory free for other programs. Other graphics controllers come with there own onboard video memory separate from the laptop's system memory. This means your graphics controller doesn't need to pull from system memory.
Q: I want to use my laptop for gaming. What kind of graphics card do I need?
A: The integrated graphics card in most laptops will provide the necessary graphics support for e-mail, word processing, and browsing the Web. Mid-range cards are usually sufficient for casual gamers. Hardcore gamers and people who do 3-D work may want to look into higher-end cards or dedicated graphics cards.
Q: I'm a student and I need a laptop for school. What should I look for?
A: Price is usually the biggest concern for students. Obviously, you have to stay within your budget. However, it is important to choose a laptop that will be expandable later. If you get 256 MB of memory (about as low as it goes these days) you should make sure that your new laptop comes equipped with additional memory slots. Also, check with your university- they usually make recommendations as to what laptops are appropriate for your coursework.
Q: What kinds of laptop batteries are there and how to they differ from one another?
A: The first, Lithium Ion (Li-Ion), is one of the newest cell types available. It's lighter than any other battery type currently on the market and provides more power than other main battery types. It's easy to care for, but its high engineering cost also makes it more expensive. Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) was the most commonly battery found in laptop computers today, though the Li-Ion battery has overtaken it in popularity. It is cheaper than Li-Ion to manufacture and therefore cheaper in price. Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) is one of the oldest types of batteries and is generally only found in older laptop models.
Q: What is the average life of the Li-Ion battery in my laptop?
A: They may last an average of 2.5 to 3 hours for a 6-cell battery and 4 to 6 hours for a 9-cell.
Q: Should I purchase an extra battery?
A: If you plan on traveling extensively it is essential to pick up a spare battery. There is nothing worse than needing access to your precious data, but running out of battery at the worst time.
Q: What is FireWire?
A: FireWire is a name for the IEEE 1394 interface. FireWire transfers data at higher speeds than USB and allows you to transfer data quickly to FireWire equipped products like digital cameras, printers, external hard drives and iPods.
Q: What resolution should I look for?
A: What you use your laptop for dictates on what resolution you may need. If you spend most of your time doing spread sheets and the like, having super resolution is not a necessity. If you deal with lots of graphics and digital imaging, having the larger resolutions give more room to work with and usually come with the graphics controller to push those images across your LCD screen. Generally speaking, more pixels mean a crisper screen image, but it's necessary to view the screen in different light settings. A screen may look good in normal light, but unviewable in bright or low light environments.
Q: What is XGA?
A: XGA refers to screen resolution. Laptops come with resolutions from XGA (1024 x 768) to SXGA (1280 x 1024) to UXGA (1600 x 1200) for standard viewing screens. A "W" in the title means widescreen and gives you resolutions of WXGA (1280 x 800) to WSXGA (1680 x 1050) to WUXGA (1920 x 1200).
Q: What is a modular bay?
A: Some laptops come with what is known as a modular bay. This is a swappable slot for optical drives, extra hard drives, or extra batteries. This is a great option to have for those that need all the functionality of a desktop on the go.
Q: What is caching?
A: Cache technology uses a smaller, but faster memory type to accelerate a larger, but slower memory type. Simply put, it helps to maximize the speed of your laptop by performing tasks more efficiently.
Q: What is the difference between L1 and L2 caches?
A: L1 cache means the memory accesses at full microprocessor speeds "about 10 nanoseconds" whereas L2 cache has a speed of about 20 to 30 nanoseconds.
Q: Should I purchase a case?
A: A case is one more way to protect your investment. Manufacturers offer cases designed specifically for their products, while other companies produce cases designed to fit a variety of brands. Don't worry - you should be able to find a style that matches your outfit.
Q: Do I need an extended warranty?
A: Laptops are sensitive, complicated pieces of equipment and a lot can go wrong. A good warranty covers you on parts and labor for three years, as well as having toll free phone assistance. While most of the time you won't encounter problems, it is better to be safe than sorry. Super Warehouse offers warranty coverage that extends beyond the basic manufacturer's warranty and can be purchased for about 10% of the total cost.
Q: What other features should I consider when choosing a laptop?
A: Other good features to look for when shopping for a laptop are USB and FireWire connections, a DVD player, and anti-theft/security devices or software.
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