Although the personal computer industry began less than 50 years ago, computers have quickly become an important part of everyday life. People use computers at work, school, at home and on-the-go on a daily basis. Because of the increasing demand to access the Internet and get work done while away from home, laptops have become a popular option for many people, including students and those in the business world.
Laptop prices have dropped significantly in recent years, and capacity and computing power has increased substantially as newer technologies allow more processing power to be contained within a smaller footprint. Those looking to invest in a laptop will find models in every price point from economy, which tend to be smaller and offer fewer features, to high-end models that have plenty of bells and whistles. Whether laptop buyers opt for a smaller laptop with fewer built-in features or one of the larger-screened, feature-rich models, there are many things laptop owners can do to get the best performance and the most value out of their investment.
History of Laptop Computers
The idea for the laptop computer, as we know it today, was first devised in the 1970s, though the technology did not yet exist to turn this idea into a reality. Several prototype portable computers were built in the 1970s, but it was IBM who introduced the first commercially available portable computer in 1975. The early 1980s saw the release of the first laptops to flip open, although the processing speed and screen image quality was still lacking. Technological advances in the 1980s and 90s allowed laptop manufacturers to increase battery life, improve processing speeds and offer color VGA resolution screens.
Early laptop computers featured DOS or early Windows-based operating systems. While Apple made a name for itself in the personal computer industry in the 1980s, the company did not introduce its first laptop computer until 1989. The Macintosh offered a longer battery life and featured a clearer display than its competitors, but it was too bulky and heavy to actually be considered a portable computer. Today, Apple manufacturers a wide range of laptop models ranging from entry level to top-of-the-line, full-featured laptops.
Laptop architecture and operating systems varied greatly in the early years. It wasn't until Microsoft released Windows 95 that non-Apple laptop computer manufacturers began standardizing. CD-ROM drives became fairly standard at this time, as did 3.5-inch floppy disk drives.
Types of Laptop Computers
By definition, all laptop computers are portable and lighter weight than their desktop counterparts; however, there are several distinct classifications of laptop computers, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Many of the more popular laptop manufacturers, including Dell, Toshiba, Sony, and Acer, produce several different models of laptops to appeal to a wide range of laptop buyers. The best type of laptop for a potential buyer depends on how he or she plans to use the computer and his or her budget.
To learn more about the different types of laptops, check out this video:
The term full-size laptop refers to a laptop that is large enough to house a full-size keyboard and is typically at least 11 inches in length.
Netbooks are the smallest of the laptop computers and offer smaller screens, usually around 10 inches or so, less storage capacity, and less advanced processors. Netbooks are popular among students because of their small size and affordability.
The ultrabook is a very light laptop computer manufactured solely with Intel-based architecture. These lightweight laptops are usually short on storage capacity and expansion slots, due to the slim, lightweight design. Consumers will usually find mid-range processors in ultrabooks to provide plenty of processing power without sacrificing battery life.
Desktop Replacement Laptop
The desktop replacement laptops are the most powerful and usually the most expensive category of laptops. They are feature-rich and have large displays because they often serve as a replacement for a desktop computer. While these laptops normally feature fast processors, plenty of memory and storage, and high-end graphics cards, they are heavier and bulkier than many of the other classes of laptops and are, therefore, more difficult to tote around on a regular basis.
Battery life is one of the more commonly lamented problems with many laptops. Battery life varies from model to model and is affected by screen brightness, processor speed, and how many applications are running, among other things. For laptop users who want to make their battery last as long as possible between charges, there are several things that can be done. First, reduce the brightness of the laptop screen and turn off the backlight on the keyboard if the computer has one. This will reduce how much battery power is spent on illuminating the laptop. Quitting all applications that are not necessary and disconnecting from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when they are not needed are also ways to conserve laptop battery power.
While it isn't possible to adjust a processor's speed, consumers should consider processor speed when making a purchase decision, especially if battery life is one of their top decision making factors. Activating the power saving mode on a laptop is also an efficient way to increase battery life and can be done regardless of the model and processing speed of a laptop.
Some consumers choose to purchase extra battery packs and chargers, or larger capacity batteries to avoid running out of juice at inopportune moments. This is definitely an option for users who will spend the majority of their laptop time unplugged, but consumers should keep in mind that batteries start to age immediately so even if they sit in a drawer for a year before being called into service, they have already aged and lost some of their capacity even though they have never been used.
Users who travel frequently with their work laptop may want to invest in an additional power cord so they don't find themselves away on a business trip without a cord to charge their laptop battery. Purchasing an extra cord allows the user to leave one at work, or wherever the laptop is typically used, and keep one in the laptop bag so he or she does not forget to pack the cord when heading out on a business trip.
Utilizing peripherals is another way to take advantage of all the laptop has to offer. The term peripheral applies to any devices that are plugged into a laptop or computer. One of the most popular peripherals for laptop users is an external mouse. Most modern laptops have trackpads incorporated into the keyboard for navigation, but many users find these difficult to use and they are not very ergonomic. Laptop users can opt for an RF wireless mouse or a Bluetooth mouse, both of which are wireless. Wireless mice are relatively inexpensive and are typically smaller than standard, wired mice, so they easily fit into any laptop bag.
There are a plethora of other peripheral devices available for laptops of all makes and models. Consumers may opt for headphones so they can watch movies or listen to music without disturbing those around them, webcams so they can video-conference, or laptop stands or docking stations so they can turn their laptop into a desktop computer.
Software for both Windows-based laptops as well as Apple laptops is quite ubiquitous. Which program a laptop user purchases and installs depends on his or her needs and interests, although most users will benefit from an office suite that contains a word processor and spreadsheet program, as well as good antivirus software. A good backup program is also recommended, unless the user prefers to back up his or her files manually.
Regardless of the programs a laptop user purchases, he or she should keep the installation CDs in a safe place or burn copies of any software downloaded; so if the need should arise, the user can restore programs easily. If the user opts for a backup program, this program will typically backup all personal files as well as all program files.
Although Apple computers are less likely to be affected by viruses that could wipe out their hard drives or steal personal data, there are a few that could cause some damage; it is therefore important for all laptop users to install an antivirus program and make sure it's scheduled to run regularly. Users will find a wide range of free and paid antivirus programs online. The free programs typically provide all the protection needed by laptop users, though the paid programs tend to offer extra features and services that laptop users may find useful.
Purchasing a Laptop Computer
There are many factors consumers should consider before purchasing a laptop computer. While price will play a big role in the make and model of laptop a consumer purchases, the consumer should take the time to compare all laptops in his or her price range and determine which model offers the features that best meets his or her needs. Once a buyer has decided on a specific model, he or she should check around, both locally and online, before making a decision. Consumers will find that the prices for the same model of a computer vary greatly from retailer to retailer. Buyers should be sure to compare model numbers carefully though because often manufacturers create multiple models with very similar model numbers, so buyers may be comparing apples and oranges if the model numbers do not match exactly.
Another important step before making a purchasing decision is to see what kinds of laptops are available either used or refurbished. Online auction sites, such as eBay, often have listings for new, refurbished, and used laptops allowing users to find laptops with more features, larger capacity hard drives, or faster processors that are still within the buyer's price range.
Buying Laptops on eBay
If you're ready to check out some specific laptops on eBay, head to the Computers, Tablets and Networking section and proceed to the Laptops and Netbooks subsection. From there, you can choose to browse by either Apple Laptops or PC Laptops and Netbooks. You can also take advantage of the brand, price, condition, screen size, memory, processor speed, and other search modifiers in order to the find the laptop that's powerful enough, and inexpensive enough, for your personal needs.
Laptops are quickly becoming a popular option for many computer users who want the freedom to compute on the go. There are laptops on the market for every budget, style, and purpose, so consumers should consider all of their options and review the different types of laptops before deciding which type is right for them. Once a laptop is purchased, the laptop user should take advantage of the available software, including an antivirus program and peripherals he or she needs to get the most functionality out of his or her laptop.