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Home > Laptops > Glossary




Back Light - Back lighting is a way of illuminating the LCD display so that it can be seen in various lighting conditions. The brighter the display, the better it can be seen, even in daylight.

Bays - (see "Modular Bay")

Bluetooth - Bluetooth is a wireless short range connection technology that works in laptops, cell phones, mice, keyboards, printers, cameras, and a variety more of tech devices. It allows devices equipped with Bluetooth to connect and share data with each other within a 300 foot radius.

Broadband - Broadband is a high speed network where many data streams can run at the same time. Broadband also encompasses DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines) and cable modem connections.

Buffer - A set aside amount of memory that keeps data temporarily to offset for different transfer rates of data from one device to another.


Cache Memory - Cache memory is situated between the CPU and the main supply of memory and holds the most recently accessed data. Data stored in the cache memory helps to bump up the computer's operation speed by keeping in reserve the data most frequently called upon by the user. So, instead of running all the way to the hard drive, it grabs the data first form the internal cache on the CPU, then looks to the memory cache on the motherboard. This cache memory is typically called the L1 or L2 Cache.

Card Slot - Laptops have two types of card slots. There's the PCMCIA and the ExpressCard slot. They allow you to connect card readers for flash memory cards and Wireless LAN Cards.

CD - Compact Disc. CDs can hold up to 80 minutes of audio or up to 700 MB of data.

CD-ROM, CD-R/RW - Compact Disc Drives (see also "Optical Drive")

Centrino Mobile Technology - Intel's suite of mobile technologies that give laptops longer battery life, better overall performance and wireless capabilities, and they do not heat up like older P4 Intel CPUs. The better cooling capabilities also allow the laptop to be thinner and lighter because the need of a cooling system is nullified with a Centrino system.

CPU - Central Processing Unit. (see also "Processor")


DDR SDRAM / DDR II SDRAM - Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory. This type of memory can nearly doubles the transfer rate of memory without bumping up the frequency of the front side bus.

Display - Laptop displays are all LCDs. TFT, or active displays, are faster and brighter than older LCD displays. Display sizes are measured diagonally from one corner to the other. Display go from 8.9" to 20".

Display Resolution - Display resolution is how detailed an image can appear measured in a pixel by pixel count.

Docking Station - An expansion device that connects your laptop to an external monitor, keyboard, printer, and other peripherals through expansion slots, effectively turning the laptop into a desktop.

Driver - Drivers allow peripherals such as printers to communicate with your laptop.

DVD - Digital Versatile Disc. DVDs hold 4.7 GB of data. Dual Layer DVDs can hold up to 8.5 GB of data.

DVD-R/RW - Digital Versatile Disc Drive (see also "Optical Drives").

DVI - Digital Visual Interface. A video connection port designed to bring out the best in LCD displays and projectors.


Ethernet - A network standard used to connect computers and laptops to a LAN. A cable runs from an interface card with a RJ-45 connection in the computer to the network to gain access to the internet or servers. Ethernet comes in three Mbps (mega-bits per sec.) speeds: Basic Ethernet 10/Base-T, Fast Ethernet 100/Base-T, and Gigabit Ethernet 1000/Base-T.

Expansion Slot - A socket or slot where memory or an expansion board can be connected a laptop.


Firewall - Set of programs that protect a network or single computer from users on other networks.

Fire Wire - Fire Wire is a high speed external connection also known also as IEEE 1394. It connects external peripherals such as hard drives to a laptop.

Front Side Bus - A group of wires that act as the path for data to travel from the memory to the processor.


GB (Gigabyte) - A term for 1,023,741,824 bytes; simplified to 1024 megabytes.

GHz (Gigahertz) - This describes the processing speed of a laptop's main processor. A single GHz is one billion cycles per second of processing. The more one billion cycles per second you have, the better.

Graphics Controller - A graphics controller acts as the main device to process all the images that run across your display. Depending on the setup, it may share memory with the onboard memory of the laptop or supply its own. If it is fully integrated into the motherboard, it will share memory, say, 128 MB of the installed 512 MB of RAM. Some graphics controllers have their own video memory, currently up to 512MB, and do not pull from the laptop's RAM.


Hard Drive - This is the place where all your information and data are stored. Hard drives are measured Gigabytes (GB). The RPM of a hard drive is the speed at which the hard drive spins. Laptop hard drives operate at speeds of 4200, 5400, or 7200 RPM. You get better performance out of a hard drive with faster RPMs.

Hardware - Devices such as hard drives and optical drives.


IEEE 1394 - (see "Fire Wire")

IEEE 802.11 - A printer that uses the force of an impact through an ink ribbon to create a printed character on a page. This impact is delivered by a rotating ball or wheel or through a grid of pins. This type of printer is generally slow and noisy.

IrDA - Infrared Data Association. For use with other devices that are IrDA enabled. It allows you to transfer data through infrared ports from the laptop to, say, an IrDA enabled cell phone. The connection is similar to that of a TV remote to a TV.


LAN - A LAN is a Local Area Network. It's a group of computers linked together and sharing connections to the internet, printers, and other devices. These networks can be Ethernet wired with RJ-45 cables or a wireless Wi-Fi based connection.

Laptop - Laptops are mobile PCs with a built in flat LCD screen and interface devices such as keyboards and touch screens. They are small enough to be transported around without much hassle for the user. Laptops are powered by rechargeable batteries or a pluggable power adapter.

LCD - Liquid Crystal Display (see "Display").

Lithium Ion - Lithium ion batteries are the main source of mobile power for laptops. They give longer battery life than other rechargeable technologies.


MB (Megabyte) - A megabyte is about 1,000 kilo bytes. 1,024 megabytes is a gigabyte. RAM is typically measured in MB.

Memory - The system RAM (Random Access Memory) stores data to be recalled and read in any order, randomly. This is considered the main memory storage of the laptop. It is used for working with all applications you are currently or have recently accessed. Memory can be upgradeable depending on the laptop setup.

Modem - The "Modulator / Demodulator" allows the laptop to send and receive data through an RJ-11 port that connects to a telephone line. Laptops can use this connection to connect to the internet at a maximum speed of 56kbps (kilobytes per second).


Operating System - The software that allows you to navigate and operate your laptop. Using a Graphical User Interface (GUI), the software is the go between connecting you and the laptop. The most common operating systems are the Microsoft Windows family, Linux, and MAC OS.

Optical Drive - The optical drive is a read and store device. It uses lasers to read from CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs. CD-RW and DVD-RW drives are able to write, or "burn"; data onto writeable CDs and DVDs. Some DVD burners allow you to write onto Dual Layer DVDs. The newest optical drives feature HD-DVD drives or Blu-Ray Disc drives.


Parallel Port - A legacy port that has been replaced, for the most part, by the USB port. Use the parallel to connect devices to the laptop.

Peripherals - Devices that connect externally to the laptop such as mice, external drives, or docking stations.

Pixel - The smallest element of an image that can be processed by itself on a video display system.

Pointing Stick - No, there is not a pencil embedded into the center of your keyboard. That is a pointing stick. Move it around to control the cursor on screen.

Port Replicator - The Port Replicator connects the laptop to monitors, keyboards, printers, and other devices through one connection. It does not have any expansion card areas.

Ports - These are connection sockets for peripherals.

Processor - The main component of the laptop computer system. It has the necessary circuitry to understand, translate and execute program instructions.


RAM - Random Access Memory (see also "Memory")

Resolution - (see "Display Resolution").

RJ-11 Cable - Same as a telephone cable.

RJ-45 Cable - Ethernet cable.


Software - Programs that allow the laptop to function like operating systems and file management applications.


TFT - Thin Film Transistor, also known as active matrix, offer brighter displays with much wider viewing angles than older LCD screens.

Touchpad - That small rectangular pad just below the keyboard is the touchpad. Drag your fingertips over the surface to guide the cursor on the screen.


USB - Universal Serial Bus is the standardized connection method for most computer peripherals.


WLAN - Wireless Local Area Network. (see also "IEEE 802.11")

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