A laptop, often called a notebook computer or just notebook, is a
small, portable personal computer with a "clamshell" form factor,
having, typically, a thin LCD or
LED computer screen mounted on the
inside of the upper lid of the "clamshell" and an alphanumeric
keyboard on the inside of the lower lid. The "clamshell" is opened up
to use the computer.
Laptops are folded shut for transportation, and
thus are suitable for mobile use. Although originally there was a
distinction between laptops and notebooks, the former being bigger and
heavier than the latter, as of 2014, there is often no longer any
Laptops are commonly used in a variety of settings,
such as at work, in education, in playing games,
Internet surfing, for
personal multimedia and general home computer use.
A standard laptop combines the components, inputs, outputs, and
capabilities of a desktop computer, including the display screen,
small speakers, a keyboard, hard disk drive, optical disc drive
pointing devices (such as a touchpad or trackpad), a processor, and
memory into a single unit. Most modern laptops feature integrated
webcams and built-in microphones, while many also have touchscreens.
Laptops can be powered either from an internal battery or by an
external power supply from an AC adapter. Hardware specifications,
such as the processor speed and memory capacity, significantly vary
between different types, makes, models and price points.
Design elements, form factor and construction can also vary
significantly between models depending on intended use. Examples of
specialized models of laptops include rugged notebooks for use in
construction or military applications, as well as low production cost
laptops such as those from the
One Laptop per Child
One Laptop per Child (OLPC)
organization, which incorporate features like solar charging and
semi-flexible components not found on most laptop computers. Portable
computers, which later developed into modern laptops, were originally
considered to be a small niche market, mostly for specialized field
applications, such as in the military, for accountants, or for
traveling sales representatives. As portable computers evolved into
the modern laptop, they became widely used for a variety of
1 Terminology variants
3.1 Traditional laptop
3.4 Convertible, hybrid, 2-in-1
3.5 Desktop replacement
3.6 Rugged laptop
3.7 Business laptop
4.2 Central processing unit
4.3 Graphical processing unit
4.5 Internal storage
4.6 Removable media drive
4.8 Input/output (I/O) ports
4.9 Expansion cards
4.10 Battery and power supply
4.12 Docking station
4.13 Charging trolleys
4.14 Solar panels
4.16 Obsolete features
5 Comparison with desktops
5.2.3 Ergonomics and health effects
18.104.22.168 Neck and spine
22.214.171.124 Possible effect on fertility
126.96.36.199 Equipment wear
188.8.131.52 Parts replacement
184.108.40.206 Heating and cooling
220.127.116.11 Battery life
5.2.5 Security and privacy
6.2 Market Share
7 Extreme use
8 See also
10 External links
The terms laptop and notebook are used interchangeably to describe a
portable computer in English, although in some parts of the world one
or the other may be preferred. There is some question as to the
original etymology and specificity of either term—the term laptop
appears to have been coined in the early 1980s to describe a mobile
computer which could be used on one's lap, and to distinguish these
devices from earlier, much heavier, portable computers (informally
called "luggables"). The term "notebook" appears to have gained
currency somewhat later as manufacturers started producing even
smaller portable devices, further reducing their weight and size and
incorporating a display roughly the size of A4 paper; these were
marketed as notebooks to distinguish them from bulkier laptops.
Regardless of the etymology, by the late 1990s, the terms were
Main article: History of laptops
Alan Kay holding the mockup of his
Dynabook concept (photo: 2008 in
Mountain View, California)
The Epson HX-20, the first laptop computer, was invented in 1980 and
introduced in 1981
As the personal computer (PC) became feasible in 1971, the idea of a
portable personal computer soon followed. A "personal, portable
information manipulator" was imagined by
Alan Kay at
Xerox PARC in
1968, and described in his 1972 paper as the "Dynabook". The IBM
Special Computer APL Machine Portable (SCAMP) was demonstrated in
1973. This prototype was based on the IBM PALM processor. The IBM
5100, the first commercially available portable computer, appeared in
September 1975, and was based on the SCAMP prototype.
CPU machines became widely accepted, the number of portables
increased rapidly. The first laptop-sized notebook computer was the
Epson HX-20, invented (patented) by Suwa Seikosha's Yukio
Yokozawa in July 1980, introduced at the
COMDEX computer show in
Las Vegas by Japanese company
Seiko Epson in 1981, and widely
released in 1982. It had an LCD screen, a rechargeable
battery, and a calculator-size printer, in a 1.6 kg (3.5 lb)
chassis, the size of an A4 notebook. It was described as a
"laptop" and "notebook" computer in its patent.
The portable micro computer
Portal of the French company R2E Micral
CCMC officially appeared in September 1980 at the Sicob show in Paris.
It was a portable microcomputer designed and marketed by the studies
and developments department of R2E
Micral at the request of company
CCMC specializing in payroll and accounting. It was based on an Intel
8085 processor, 8-bit, clocked at 2 MHZ. It was equipped with a
central 64K bite Ram, a keyboard with 58 alpha numeric keys and 11
numeric keys ( separate blocks ), a 32-character screen, a floppy
disk : capacity = 140 000 characters, of a thermal printer :
speed = 28 characters / second, an asynchronous channel, a synchronous
channel, a 220V power supply. It weighed 12 kg and its dimensions
were 45cm x 45cm x 15cm. It provided total mobility. Its operating
system was the aptly named Prologue.
Portal laptop in September 1980 at the SICOB show in PARIS
The Osborne 1, released in 1981, was a luggable computer that used the
Z80 and weighed 24.5 pounds (11.1 kg). It had no
battery, a 5 in (13 cm) cathode ray tube (CRT) screen, and
dual 5.25 in (13.3 cm) single-density floppy drives. Both
Hewlett Packard (HP) also produced portable
computers of varying designs during this period. The first
laptops using the flip form factor appeared in the early 1980s. The
Dulmont Magnum was released in Australia in 1981–82, but was not
marketed internationally until 1984–85. The US$8,150 (US$20,670
GRiD Compass 1101, released in 1982, was used at
NASA and by
the military, among others. The Sharp PC-5000, Ampere and
Gavilan SC released in 1983. The
Gavilan SC was described as a
"laptop" by its manufacturer, while the Ampere had a modern
clamshell design. The
Toshiba T1100 won acceptance not only
among PC experts but the mass market as a way to have PC
From 1983 onward, several new input techniques were developed and
included in laptops, including the touchpad (Gavilan SC, 1983), the
pointing stick (IBM
ThinkPad 700, 1992), and handwriting recognition
(Linus Write-Top, 1987). Some CPUs, such as the 1990
were designed to use minimum power to increase battery life of
portable computers and were supported by dynamic power management
features such as
PowerNow! in some designs.
Displays reached 640x480 (VGA) resolution by 1988 (
and color screens started becoming a common upgrade in 1991, with
increases in resolution and screen size occurring frequently until the
introduction of 17" screen laptops in 2003. Hard drives started to be
used in portables, encouraged by the introduction of 3.5" drives in
the late 1980s, and became common in laptops starting with the
introduction of 2.5" and smaller drives around 1990; capacities have
typically lagged behind physically larger desktop drives. Optical
CD-ROM followed by writeable CD and later read-only
or writeable DVD and Blu-ray players, became common in laptops early
in the 2000s.
MacBook Pro, a laptop with a traditional design
MacBook Air, an ultraportable laptop
ThinkPad business laptop
Asus Transformer Pad, a hybrid tablet, powered by Android OS
Microsoft Surface Pro 3, 2-in-1 detachable
Alienware gaming laptop
Toughbook CF-M34, a rugged laptop/subnotebook
Since the introduction of portable computers during late 1970s, their
form has changed significantly, spawning a variety of visually and
technologically differing subclasses. Except where there is a distinct
legal trademark around a term (notably Ultrabook), there are rarely
hard distinctions between these classes and their usage has varied
over time and between different sources. Despite these setbacks, the
laptop computer market continues to expand, introducing a number of
laptops like Acer's Aspire and TravelMate, Asus' Transformer Book,
VivoBook and Zenbook, Dell's Inspiron, Latitude and XPS, HP's
EliteBook, Envy, Pavilion and ProBook, Lenovo's
IdeaPad and ThinkPad
and Toshiba's Portégé, Satellite and Tecra that incorporate the use
of laptop computers.
The form of the traditional laptop computer is a clamshell, with a
screen on one of its inner sides and a keyboard on the opposite,
facing the screen. It can be easily folded to conserve space while
traveling. The screen and keyboard are inaccessible while closed.
Devices of this form are commonly called a 'traditional laptop' or
notebook, particularly if they have a screen size of 11 to 17 inches
measured diagonally and run a full-featured operating system like
Windows 10, macOS, or Linux. Traditional laptops are the most common
form of laptops, although Chromebooks, Ultrabooks, convertibles and
2-in-1s (described below) are becoming more common, with similar
performance being achieved in their more portable or affordable forms.
Main article: Subnotebook
A subnotebook or an ultraportable, is a laptop designed and marketed
with an emphasis on portability (small size, low weight, and often
longer battery life). Subnotebooks are usually smaller and lighter
than standard laptops, weighing between 0.8 and 2 kg
(2-5 lb), with a battery life exceeding 10 hours. Since
the introduction of netbooks and ultrabooks, the line between
subnotebooks and either category has blurred.
Netbooks are a more
basic and cheap type of subnotebook, and while some ultrabooks have a
screen size too large to qualify as subnotebooks, certain ultrabooks
fit in the subnotebook category. One notable example of a subnotebook
is the Apple
Main article: Netbook
The netbook is an inexpensive, light-weight, energy-efficient form of
laptop, especially suited for wireless communication and Internet
Netbooks first became commercially available around
2008, weighing under 1 kg, with a display size of under 9". The
name netbook (with net short for Internet) is used as "the device
excels in web-based computing performance".
initially sold with light-weight variants of the
system, although later versions often have the Windows XP or Windows 7
operating systems. The term "netbook" is largely obsolete,
although machines that would have once been called netbooks—small,
inexpensive, and low powered—never ceased being sold, in particular
Convertible, hybrid, 2-in-1
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Main article: 2-in-1 PC
The latest trend of technological convergence in the portable computer
industry spawned a broad range of devices, which combined features of
several previously separate device types. The hybrids, convertibles
and 2-in-1s emerged as crossover devices, which share traits of both
tablets and laptops. All such devices have a touchscreen display
designed to allow users to work in a tablet mode, using either
multi-touch gestures or a stylus/digital pen.
Convertibles are devices with the ability to conceal a hardware
keyboard. Keyboards on such devices can be flipped, rotated, or slid
behind the back of the chassis, thus transforming from a laptop into a
tablet. Hybrids have a keyboard detachment mechanism, and due to this
feature, all critical components are situated in the part with the
display. 2-in-1s can have a hybrid or a convertible form, often dubbed
2-in-1 detachables and 2-in-1 convertibles respectively, but are
distinguished by the ability to run a desktop OS, such as Windows 10.
2-in-1s are often marketed as laptop replacement tablets.
2-in-1s are often very thin, around 10 millimetres (0.39 in), and
light devices with a long battery life. 2-in-1s are distinguished from
mainstream tablets as they feature an x86-architecture
a low- or ultra-low-voltage model), such as the
Intel Core i5, run a
full-featured desktop OS like Windows 10, and have a number of typical
I/O ports, such as
USB 3 and Mini DisplayPort.
2-in-1s are designed to be used not only as a media consumption
device, but also as valid desktop or laptop replacements, due to their
ability to run desktop applications, such as Adobe Photoshop. It is
possible to connect multiple peripheral devices, such as a mouse,
keyboard, and a number of external displays to a modern 2-in-1.
Microsoft Surface Pro-series devices and
Surface Book are examples of
modern 2-in-1 detachables, whereas
Lenovo Yoga-series computers are a
variant of 2-in-1 convertibles. While the older
Surface RT and Surface
2 have the same chassis design as the Surface Pro, their use of ARM
Windows RT do not classify them as 2-in-1s, but as
hybrid tablets. Similarly, a number of hybrid laptops run a mobile
operating system, such as Android. These include Asus's Transformer
Pad devices, examples of hybrids with a detachable keyboard design,
which do not fall in the category of 2-in-1s.
Main article: Desktop replacement computer
See also: Gaming computer § Gaming laptop computers
A desktop-replacement laptop is a class of large device which is not
intended primarily for mobile use. They are bulkier and not as
portable as other laptops, and are intended for use as compact and
transportable alternatives to a desktop computer. Desktop
replacements are larger and typically heavier than other classes of
laptops. They are capable of containing more powerful components and
have a 15-inch or larger display. Desktop replacement laptops'
operation time on batteries is typically shorter than other laptops;
in rare cases they have no battery at all. In the past, some laptops
in this class used a limited range of desktop components to provide
better performance for the same price at the expense of battery life,
although this practice has largely died out. The names Media
Laptops and Gaming
Laptops are used to describe specialized
notebook computers, often overlapping with the desktop replacement
Main article: Rugged computer
A rugged laptop is designed to reliably operate in harsh usage
conditions such as strong vibrations, extreme temperatures, and wet or
dusty environments. Rugged laptops are usually designed from scratch,
rather than adapted from regular consumer laptop models. Rugged
laptops are bulkier, heavier, and much more expensive than regular
laptops, and thus are seldom seen in regular consumer use.
The design features found in rugged laptops include a rubber sheeting
under the keyboard keys, sealed port and connector covers, passive
cooling, very bright displays easily readable in daylight, cases and
frames made of magnesium alloys that are much stronger than plastics
found in commercial laptops, and solid-state storage devices or hard
disc drives that are shock mounted to withstand constant vibrations.
Rugged laptops are commonly used by public safety services (police,
fire, and medical emergency), military, utilities, field service
technicians, construction, mining, and oil drilling personnel. Rugged
laptops are usually sold to organizations rather than individuals, and
are rarely marketed via retail channels.
A business laptop is a laptop designed for those in a workplace.
Typically, it is ruggedised, with consumer facing features, like high
resolution sound removed to allow the device to be used for pure
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Personal computer hardware
Miniaturization: a comparison of a desktop computer motherboard (ATX
form factor) to a motherboard from a 13" laptop (2008 unibody Macbook)
Inner view of a Sony
SODIMM memory module
The basic components of laptops function identically to their desktop
counterparts. Traditionally they were miniaturized and adapted to
mobile use, although desktop systems increasingly use the same
smaller, lower-power parts which were originally developed for mobile
use. The design restrictions on power, size, and cooling of laptops
limit the maximum performance of laptop parts compared to that of
desktop components, although that difference has increasingly
In general, laptop components are not intended to be replaceable or
upgradable, with the exception of components which can be detached,
such as a battery or CD/CDR/DVD drive. This restriction is one of the
major differences between laptops and desktop computers, because the
large "tower" cases used in desktop computers are designed so that new
motherboards, hard disks, sound cards, RAM, and other components can
be added. In a very compact laptop, such as laplets, there may be no
upgradeable components at all.
Intel, Asus, Compal, Quanta, and some other laptop manufacturers have
Common Building Block standard for laptop parts to address
some of the inefficiencies caused by the lack of standards and
inability to upgrade components.
The following sections summarizes the differences and distinguishing
features of laptop components in comparison to desktop personal
Most modern laptops feature a 13 inches (33 cm) or larger color
active matrix display based on
LED lighting with resolutions of
1280×800 (16:10) or 1366×768 (16:9) pixels and above. Models with
LED-based lighting offer lesser power consumption, and often increased
Netbooks with a 10 inches (25 cm) or smaller screen
typically use a resolution of 1024×600, while netbooks and
subnotebooks with a 11.6 inches (29 cm) or 12 inches (30 cm)
screen use standard notebook resolutions. Having a higher resolution
display allows more items to fit onscreen at a time, improving the
user's ability to multitask, although at the higher resolutions on
smaller screens, the resolution may only serve to display sharper
graphics and text rather than increasing the usable area. Since the
introduction of the
MacBook Pro with Retina display in 2012, there has
been an increase in the availability of very-high resolution
(1920×1080 and higher) displays, even in relatively small systems,
and in typical 15-inch screens resolutions as high as 3200×1800 are
available. External displays can be connected to most laptops, and
models with a
Mini DisplayPort can handle up to three.
Central processing unit
A laptop's central processing unit (CPU) has advanced power-saving
features and produces less heat than one intended purely for desktop
use. Typically, laptop CPUs have two processor cores, although 4-core
models are also available. For low price and mainstream performance,
there is no longer a significant performance difference between laptop
and desktop CPUs, but at the high end, the fastest 4-to-8-core desktop
CPUs still substantially outperform the fastest 4-core laptop
processors, at the expense of massively higher power consumption and
heat generation; the fastest laptop processors top out at 56 watts of
heat, while the fastest desktop processors top out at 150 watts.
There have been a wide range of CPUs designed for laptops available
from both Intel, AMD, and other manufacturers. On non-x86
architectures, Motorola and IBM produced the chips for the former
PowerPC-based Apple laptops (iBook and PowerBook). Many laptops have
removable CPUs, although this has become less common in the past few
years as the trend has been towards thinner and lighter models. In
other laptops the
CPU is soldered on the motherboard and is
non-replaceable; this is nearly universal in ultrabooks.
In the past, some laptops have used a desktop processor instead of the
laptop version and have had high performance gains at the cost of
greater weight, heat, and limited battery life, but the practice was
largely extinct as of 2013. Unlike their desktop counterparts, laptop
CPUs are nearly impossible to overclock. A thermal operating mode of
laptops is very close to its limits and there is almost no headroom
for an overclocking–related operating temperature increase. The
possibility of improving a cooling system of a laptop to allow
overclocking is extremely difficult to implement.
Graphical processing unit
On most laptops a graphical processing unit (GPU) is integrated into
CPU to conserve power and space. This was introduced by
the Core i-series of mobile processors in 2010, and similar
accelerated processing unit (APU) processors by
AMD later that year.
Prior to that, lower-end machines tended to use graphics processors
integrated into the system chipset, while higher end machines had a
separate graphics processor. In the past, laptops lacking a separate
graphics processor were limited in their utility for gaming and
professional applications involving 3D graphics, but the capabilities
of CPU-integrated graphics have converged with the low-end of
dedicated graphics processors in the past few years. Higher-end
laptops intended for gaming or professional 3D work still come with
dedicated, and in some cases even dual, graphics processors on the
motherboard or as an internal expansion card. Since 2011, these almost
always involve switchable graphics so that when there is no demand for
the higher performance dedicated graphics processor, the more
power-efficient integrated graphics processor will be used. Nvidia
Optimus is an example of this sort of system of switchable graphics.
Most laptops use
SO-DIMM (small outline dual in-line memory module)
memory modules, as they are about half the size of desktop DIMMs.
They are sometimes accessible from the bottom of the laptop for ease
of upgrading, or placed in locations not intended for user
replacement. Most laptops have two memory slots, although some of the
lowest-end models will have only one, and some high end models
(usually mobile engineering workstations and a few high-end models
intended for gaming) have four slots. Most mid-range laptops are
factory equipped with 4–6 GB of RAM.
Netbooks are commonly equipped
with only 1–2 GB of RAM and are generally only expandable to 2 GB,
if at all.
Laptops may have memory soldered to the motherboard to
conserve space, which allows the laptop to have a thinner chassis
design. Soldered memory cannot be upgraded.
Traditionally, laptops had a hard disk drive (HDD) as a main
non-volatile storage, but these proved inefficient for use in mobile
devices due to high power consumption, heat production, and a presence
of moving parts, which can cause damage to both the drive itself and
the data stored when a laptop is unstable physically, e.g. during its
use while transporting it or after its accidental drop. With the
advent of flash memory technology, most mid- to high-end laptops opted
for more compact, power efficient, and fast solid-state drives (SSD),
which eliminated the hazard of drive and data corruption caused by a
laptop's physical impacts. Most laptops use 2.5-inch drives, which
are a smaller version of a 3.5-inch desktop drive form factor.
2.5-inch HDDs are more compact, power efficient, and produce less
heat, while at the same time have a smaller capacity and a slower data
transfer rate. Some very compact laptops support even smaller 1.8-inch
HDDs. For SSDs, however, these miniaturization-related trade-offs are
nonexistent, because SSDs were designed to have a very small
footprint. SSDs feature a traditional 2.5- or 1.8-inch or a
laptop-specific mSATA or
M.2 card's form factor. SSDs have a higher
data transfer rate, lower power consumption, lower failure rate, and a
larger capacity compared to HDDs. However, HDDs have a
significantly lower cost.
Most laptops can contain a single 2.5-inch drive, but a small number
of laptops with a screen wider than 15 inches can house two drives.
Some laptops support a hybrid mode, combining a 2.5-inch drive,
typically a spacious HDD for data, with an mSATA or
M.2 SDD drive,
typically having less capacity, but a significantly faster read/write
speed. The operating system partition would be located on the SSD to
I/O performance. Another way to increase performance
is to use a smaller SSD of 16-32 GB as a cache drive with a compatible
OS. Some laptops may have very limited drive upgradeability when the
SSD used has a non-standard shape or requires a proprietary daughter
card. Some laptops have very limited space on the installed SSD,
instead relying on availability of cloud storage services for storing
of user data;
Chromebooks are a prominent example of this approach. A
variety of external HDDs or NAS data storage servers with support of
RAID technology can be attached to virtually any laptop over such
interfaces as USB, FireWire, eSATA, or Thunderbolt, or over a wired or
wireless network to further increase space for the storage of data.
Many laptops also incorporate a card reader which allows for use of
memory cards, such as those used for digital cameras, which are
typically SD or microSD cards. This enables users to download digital
pictures from an SD card onto a laptop, thus enabling them to delete
the SD card's contents to free up space for taking new pictures.
Removable media drive
Optical disc drives capable of playing CD-ROMs, compact discs (CD),
DVDs, and in some cases, Blu-ray Discs (BD), were nearly universal on
full-sized models by the early 2010s. A disc drive remains fairly
common in laptops with a screen wider than 15 inches (38 cm),
although the trend towards thinner and lighter machines is gradually
eliminating these drives and players; these drives are uncommon in
compact laptops, such as subnotebooks and netbooks.
drives tend to follow a standard form factor, and usually have a
standard mSATA connector. It is often possible to replace an optical
drive with a newer model. In certain laptop models there is a
possibility to replace an optical drive with a second hard drive,
using a caddy that fills the extra space the optical drive would have
Closeup of a touchpad on an Acer laptop
An alphanumeric keyboard is used to enter text and data and make other
commands (e.g., function keys). A touchpad (also called a trackpad), a
pointing stick, or both, are used to control the position of the
cursor on the screen, and an integrated keyboard is used for
typing. An external keyboard and mouse may be connected using a USB
port or wirelessly, via
Bluetooth or similar technology. With the
advent of ultrabooks and support of touch input on screens by 2010-era
operating systems, such as Windows 8.1, multitouch touchscreen
displays are used in many models. Some models have webcams and
microphones, which can be used to communicate with other people with
both moving images and sound, via Skype,
Google Chat and similar
Laptops typically have
USB ports and a microphone jack, for
use with an external mic. Some laptops have a card reader for reading
digital camera SD cards.
Input/output (I/O) ports
On a typical laptop there are several
USB ports, an external monitor
port (VGA, DVI,
HDMI or Mini DisplayPort), an audio in/out port (often
in form of a single socket) is common. It is possible to connect up to
three external displays to a 2014-era laptop via a single Mini
DisplayPort, utilizing multi-stream transport technology. Apple,
in a 2015 version of its MacBook, transitioned from a number of
I/O ports to a single
USB-C port. This port can be used
both for charging and connecting a variety of devices through the use
of aftermarket adapters. Google, with its updated version of
Chromebook Pixel, shows a similar transition trend towards USB-C,
although keeping older
USB Type-A ports for a better compatibility
with older devices. Although being common until the end of the
Ethernet network port are rarely found on modern
laptops, due to widespread use of wireless networking, such as Wi-Fi.
Legacy ports such as a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, serial port, parallel
Firewire are provided on some models, but they are
increasingly rare. On Apple's systems, and on a handful of other
laptops, there are also Thunderbolt ports, but
Thunderbolt 3 uses
Laptops typically have a headphone jack, so that the user can
connect external headphones or amplified speaker systems for listening
to music or other audio.
In the past, a
PC Card (formerly PCMCIA) or
ExpressCard slot for
expansion was often present on laptops to allow adding and removing
functionality, even when the laptop is powered on; these are becoming
increasingly rare since the introduction of
USB 3.0. Some internal
subsystems such as: Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or a wireless cellular modem can
be implemented as replaceable internal expansion cards, usually
accessible under an access cover on the bottom of the laptop. The
standard for such cards is PCI Express, which comes in both mini and
M.2 sizes. In newer laptops, it is not uncommon to also
see Micro SATA (mSATA) functionality on
PCI Express Mini or
slots allowing the use of those slots for SATA-based solid state
Battery and power supply
Main article: Smart Battery
Almost all laptops use smart batteries
2016-era laptops use lithium ion batteries, with some thinner models
using the flatter lithium polymer technology. These two technologies
have largely replaced the older nickel metal-hydride batteries.
Battery life is highly variable by model and workload, and can range
from one hour to nearly a day. A battery's performance gradually
decreases over time; substantial reduction in capacity is typically
evident after one to three years of regular use, depending on the
charging and discharging pattern and the design of the battery.
Innovations in laptops and batteries have seen situations in which the
battery can provide up to 24 hours of continued operation, assuming
average power consumption levels. An example is the
HP EliteBook 6930p
when used with its ultra-capacity battery.
A laptop's battery is charged using an external power supply which is
plugged into a wall outlet. The power supply outputs a DC voltage
typically in the range of 7.2—24 volts. The power supply is usually
external, and connected to the laptop through a
DC connector cable. In
most cases, it can charge the battery and power the laptop
simultaneously. When the battery is fully charged, the laptop
continues to run on power supplied by the external power supply,
avoiding battery use. The battery charges in a shorter period of time
if laptop is turned off or sleeping. The charger typically adds about
400 grams (0.88 lb) to the overall transporting weight of a
laptop, although some models are substantially heavier or lighter.
Most 2016-era laptops use a smart battery, a rechargeable battery pack
with a built-in battery management system (BMS). The smart battery can
internally measure voltage and current, and deduce charge level and
SoH (State of Health) parameters, indicating the state of the
Waste heat from operation is difficult to remove in the compact
internal space of a laptop. Early laptops used heat sinks placed
directly on the components to be cooled, but when these hot components
are deep inside the device, a large space-wasting air duct is needed
to exhaust the heat. Modern laptops instead rely on heat pipes to
rapidly move waste heat towards the edges of the device, to allow for
a much smaller and compact fan and heat sink cooling system. Waste
heat is usually exhausted away from the device operator towards the
rear or sides of the device. Multiple air intake paths are used since
some intakes can be blocked, such as when the device is placed on a
soft conforming surface like a chair cushion. It is believed that some
designs with metal cases, like Apple's aluminum
MacBook Pro and
MacBook Air, also employ the case of the machine as a heat sink,
allowing it to supplement cooling by dissipating heat out of the
device core. Secondary device temperature monitoring may reduce
performance or trigger an emergency shutdown if it is unable to
dissipate heat, such as if the laptop were to be left running and
placed inside a carrying case. Aftermarket cooling pads with external
fans can be used with laptops to reduce operating temperatures.
Docking station and laptop
A docking station (sometimes referred to simply as a dock) is a laptop
accessory that contains multiple ports, and in some cases expansion
slots or bays for fixed or removable drives. A laptop connects and
disconnects to a docking station, typically through a single large
proprietary connector. A docking station is an especially popular
laptop accessory in a corporate computing environment, due to a
possibility of a docking station to transform a laptop into a
full-featured desktop replacement, yet allowing for its easy release.
This ability can be advantageous to "road warrior" employees who have
to travel frequently for work, and yet who also come into the office.
If more ports are needed, or their position on a laptop is
inconvenient, one can use a cheaper passive device known as a port
replicator. These devices mate to the connectors on the laptop, such
USB or FireWire.
Laptop charging trolleys, also known as laptop trolleys or laptop
carts, are mobile storage containers to charge multiple laptops,
netbooks, and tablet computers at the same time. The trolleys are used
in schools that have replaced their traditional static computer
labs suites of desktop equipped with "tower" computers, but do not
have enough plug sockets in an individual classroom to charge all of
the devices. The trolleys can be wheeled between rooms and classrooms
so that all students and teachers in a particular building can access
fully charged IT equipment.
Laptop charging trolleys are also used to deter and protect against
opportunistic and organized theft. Schools, especially those with open
plan designs, are often prime targets for thieves who steal high-value
items. Laptops, netbooks, and tablets are among the highest–value
portable items in a school. Moreover, laptops can easily be concealed
under clothing and stolen from buildings. Many types of
laptop–charging trolleys are designed and constructed to protect
against theft. They are generally made out of steel, and the laptops
remain locked up while not in use. Although the trolleys can be moved
between areas from one classroom to another, they can often be mounted
or locked to the floor or walls to prevent thieves from stealing the
laptops, especially overnight.
Main article: Solar notebook
In some laptops, solar panels are able to generate enough solar power
for the laptop to operate. The
One Laptop Per Child
One Laptop Per Child Initiative
OLPC XO-1 laptop which was tested and successfully
operated by use of solar panels. Presently, they are designing a
OLPC XO-3 laptop with these features. The
OLPC XO-3 can operate with 2
watts of electricity because its renewable energy resources generate a
total of 4 watts.
Samsung has also designed the NC215S
solar–powered notebook that will be sold commercially in the U.S.
A common accessory for laptops is a laptop sleeve, laptop skin, or
laptop case, which provides a degree of protection from scratches.
Sleeves, which are distinguished by being relatively thin and
flexible, are most commonly made of neoprene, with sturdier ones made
of low-resilience polyurethane. Some laptop sleeves are wrapped in
ballistic nylon to provide some measure of waterproofing. Bulkier and
sturdier cases can be made of metal with polyurethane padding inside,
and may have locks for added security. Metal, padded cases also offer
protection against impacts and drops. Another common accessory is a
laptop cooler, a device which helps lower the internal temperature of
the laptop either actively or passively. A common active method
involves using electric fans to draw heat away from the laptop, while
a passive method might involve propping the laptop up on some type of
pad so it can receive more air flow. Some stores sell laptop pads
which enable a reclining person on a bed to use a laptop.
Features that certain early models of laptops used to have that are
not available in most 2017 laptops include:
Reset ("cold restart") button in a hole (needed a thin metal tool to
Instant power off button in a hole (needed a thin metal tool to press)
Integrated charger or power adapter inside the laptop
Floppy disk drive
Shared PS/2 input device port
VHS or 8mm VCR
PC Card /
Comparison with desktops
A teacher using laptop as part of a workshop for school children
Jimmy Wales using a laptop on a park bench
Portability is usually the first feature mentioned in any comparison
of laptops versus desktop PCs. Physical portability allows a
laptop to be used in many places—not only at home and at the office,
but also during commuting and flights, in coffee shops, in lecture
halls and libraries, at clients' locations or at a meeting room, etc.
Within a home, portability enables laptop users to move their device
from the living room to the dining room to the family room.
Portability offers several distinct advantages:
Productivity: Using a laptop in places where a desktop PC cannot be
used can help employees and students to increase their productivity on
work or school tasks. For example, an office worker reading their work
e-mails during an hour-long commute by train, or a student doing their
homework at the university coffee shop during a break between
Immediacy: Carrying an laptop means having instant access to
information, including personal and work files. This allows better
collaboration between coworkers or students, as a laptop can be
flipped open to look at a report, document, spreadsheet, or
presentation anytime and anywhere.
Up-to-date information: If a person has more than one desktop PC, a
problem of synchronization arises: changes made on one computer are
not automatically propagated to the others. There are ways to resolve
this problem, including physical transfer of updated files (using a
USB flash memory stick or CD-ROMs) or using synchronization software
over the Internet, such as cloud computing. However, transporting a
single laptop to both locations avoids the problem entirely, as the
files exist in a single location and are always up-to-date.
Connectivity: In the 2010s, a proliferation of
Wi-Fi wireless networks
and cellular broadband data services (HSDPA,
EVDO and others) in many
urban centers, combined with near-ubiquitous
Wi-Fi support by modern
laptops meant that a laptop could now have easy
Internet and local
network connectivity while remaining mobile.
Wi-Fi networks and laptop
programs are especially widespread at university campuses.
Other advantages of laptops:
Laptops are smaller than desktop PCs. This is beneficial when
space is at a premium, for example in small apartments and student
dorms. When not in use, a laptop can be closed and put away in a desk
Low power consumption:
Laptops are several times more power-efficient
than desktops. A typical laptop uses 20–120 W, compared to 100–800
W for desktops. This could be particularly beneficial for large
businesses, which run hundreds of personal computers thus multiplying
the potential savings, and homes where there is a computer running
24/7 (such as a home media server, print server, etc.).
Laptops are typically much quieter than desktops, due both to
the components (quieter, slower 2.5-inch hard drives) and to less heat
production leading to use of fewer and slower cooling fans.
Battery: a charged laptop can continue to be used in case of a power
outage and is not affected by short power interruptions and blackouts.
A desktop PC needs an
Uninterruptible power supply
Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to handle
short interruptions, blackouts, and spikes; achieving on-battery time
of more than 20–30 minutes for a desktop PC requires a large and
All-in-One: designed to be portable, most 2010-era laptops have all
components integrated into the chassis (however, some small laptops
may not have an internal CD/CDR/DVD drive, so an external drive needs
to be used). For desktops (excluding all-in-ones) this is divided into
the desktop "tower" (the unit with the CPU, hard drive, power supply,
etc.), keyboard, mouse, display screen, and optional peripherals such
Compared to desktop PCs, laptops have disadvantages in the following
While the performance of mainstream desktops and laptop is comparable,
and the cost of laptops has fallen less rapidly than desktops, laptops
remain more expensive than desktop PCs at the same performance
level. The upper limits of performance of laptops remain much
lower than the highest-end desktops (especially "workstation class"
machines with two processor sockets), and "bleeding-edge" features
usually appear first in desktops and only then, as the underlying
technology matures, are adapted to laptops.
Internet browsing and typical office applications, where the
computer spends the majority of its time waiting for the next user
input, even relatively low-end laptops (such as Netbooks) can be fast
enough for some users. Most higher-end laptops are sufficiently
powerful for high-resolution movie playback, some 3D gaming and video
editing and encoding. However, laptop processors can be disadvantaged
when dealing with higher-end database, maths, engineering, financial
software, virtualization, etc. This is because laptops use the mobile
versions of processors to conserve power, and these lag behind desktop
chips when it comes to performance. Some manufacturers work around
this performance problem by using desktop CPUs for laptops.
Upgradeability of laptops is very limited compared to desktops, which
are thoroughly standardized. In general, hard drives and memory can be
upgraded easily. Optical drives and internal expansion cards may be
upgraded if they follow an industry standard, but all other internal
components, including the motherboard,
CPU and graphics, are not
always intended to be upgradeable. Intel, Asus, Compal, Quanta and
some other laptop manufacturers have created the Common Building Block
standard for laptop parts to address some of the inefficiencies caused
by the lack of standards. The reasons for limited upgradeability are
both technical and economic. There is no industry-wide standard form
factor for laptops; each major laptop manufacturer pursues its own
proprietary design and construction, with the result that laptops are
difficult to upgrade and have high repair costs. Devices such as sound
cards, network adapters, hard and optical drives, and numerous other
peripherals are available, but these upgrades usually impair the
laptop's portability, because they add cables and boxes to the setup
and often have to be disconnected and reconnected when the laptop is
on the move.
Ergonomics and health effects
Laptop cooler (silver) under laptop (white), preventing heating of lap
and improving laptop airflow
Prolonged use of laptops can cause repetitive strain injury because of
their small, flat keyboard and trackpad pointing devices,. Usage
of separate, external ergonomic keyboards and pointing devices is
recommended to prevent injury when working for long periods of time;
they can be connected to a laptop easily by
USB or via a docking
station. Some health standards require ergonomic keyboards at
Neck and spine
A laptop's integrated screen often requires users to lean over for a
better view, which can cause neck or spinal injuries. A larger and
higher-quality external screen can be connected to almost any laptop
to alleviate this and to provide additional screen space for more
productive work. Another solution is to use a computer stand.
Possible effect on fertility
A study by
State University of New York
State University of New York researchers found that heat
generated from laptops can increase the temperature of the lap of male
users when balancing the computer on their lap, potentially putting
sperm count at risk. The study, which included roughly two dozen men
between the ages of 21 and 35, found that the sitting position
required to balance a laptop can increase scrotum temperature by as
much as 2.1 °C (4 °F). However, further research is needed
to determine whether this directly affects male sterility. A later
2010 study of 29 males published in Fertility and Sterility found that
men who kept their laptops on their laps experienced scrotal
hyperthermia (overheating) in which their scrotal temperatures
increased by up to 2.0 °C (4 °F). The resulting heat
increase, which could not be offset by a laptop cushion, may increase
A common practical solution to this problem is to place the laptop on
a table or desk, or to use a book or pillow between the body and the
laptop. Another solution is to obtain a cooling unit
for the laptop. These are usually
USB powered and consist of a hard
thin plastic case housing one, two, or three cooling fans –
with the entire assembly designed to sit under the laptop in
question – which results in the laptop remaining cool to the
touch, and greatly reduces laptop heat buildup.
Heat generated from using a laptop on the lap can also cause skin
discoloration on the thighs known as "toasted skin
A clogged heat sink on a laptop after 2.5 years of use
Laptops are generally not durable, however there are certain
Laptop keyboard with its keys (except the space bar) removed,
revealing crumbs, pet hair and other detritus to be cleaned away.
Because of their portability, laptops are subject to more wear and
physical damage than desktops. Components such as screen hinges,
latches, power jacks, and power cords deteriorate gradually from
ordinary use, and may have to be replaced. A liquid spill onto the
keyboard, a rather minor mishap with a desktop system (given that a
basic keyboard costs about US$20), can damage the internals of a
laptop and destroy the computer, result in a costly repair or entire
replacement of laptops. One study found that a laptop is three times
more likely to break during the first year of use than a desktop.
To maintain a laptop, it is recommended to clean it every three months
for dirt, debris, dust, and food particles. Most cleaning kits consist
of a lint-free or microfiber cloth for the LCD screen and keyboard,
compressed air for getting dust out of the cooling fan, and cleaning
solution. Harsh chemicals such as bleach should not be used to clean a
laptop, as they can damage it.
Original external components are expensive, and usually proprietary
and non-interchangeable; other parts are inexpensive—a power jack
can cost a few dollars—but their replacement may require extensive
disassembly and reassembly of the laptop by a technician. Other
inexpensive but fragile parts often cannot be purchased separate from
larger more expensive components. For example, the video display cable
and the backlight power cable that pass through the lid hinges to
connect the motherboard to the screen may eventually break from
repeated opening and closing of the lid. These tiny cables usually
cannot be purchased from the original manufacturer separate from the
entire LCD panel, with the price of hundreds of dollars, although for
popular models an aftermarket in pulled parts generally exists. The
repair costs of a failed motherboard or LCD panel often exceeds the
value of a used laptop. Parts can also be ordered from third party
Heating and cooling
Laptops rely on extremely compact cooling systems involving a fan and
heat sink that can fail from blockage caused by accumulated airborne
dust and debris. Most laptops do not have any type of removable dust
collection filter over the air intake for these cooling systems,
resulting in a system that gradually conducts more heat and noise as
the years pass. In some cases the laptop starts to overheat even at
idle load levels. This dust is usually stuck inside where the fan and
heat sink meet, where it can not be removed by a casual cleaning and
vacuuming. Most of the time, compressed air can dislodge the dust and
debris but may not entirely remove it. After the device is turned on,
the loose debris is reaccumulated into the cooling system by the fans.
A complete disassembly is usually required to clean the laptop
entirely. However, preventative maintenance such as regular cleaning
of the heat sink via compressed air can prevent dust build up on the
heat sink. Many laptops are difficult to disassemble by the average
user and contain components that are sensitive to electrostatic
Battery life is limited because the capacity drops with time,
eventually requiring replacement after as little as a year. A new
battery typically stores enough energy to run the laptop for three to
five hours, depending on usage, configuration, and power management
settings. Yet, as it ages, the battery's energy storage will dissipate
progressively until it lasts only a few minutes. The battery is often
easily replaceable and a higher capacity model may be obtained for
longer charging and discharging time. Some laptops (specifically
ultrabooks) do not have the usual removable battery and have to be
brought to the service center of its manufacturer or a third-party
laptop service center to have its battery replaced. Replacement
batteries can also be expensive.
Security and privacy
Because they are valuable, commonly used, portable, and easy to hide
in a backpack or other type of travel bag, laptops are often stolen.
Every day, over 1,600 laptops go missing from U.S. airports. The
cost of stolen business or personal data, and of the resulting
problems (identity theft, credit card fraud, breach of privacy), can
be many times the value of the stolen laptop itself. Consequently,
physical protection of laptops and the safeguarding of data contained
on them are both of great importance. Most laptops have a Kensington
security slot, which can be used to tether them to a desk or other
immovable object with a security cable and lock. In addition, modern
operating systems and third-party software offer disk encryption
functionality, which renders the data on the laptop's hard drive
unreadable without a key or a passphrase. As of 2015, some laptops
also have additional security elements added, including eye
recognition software and fingerprint scanning components.
Software such as LoJack for Laptops,
Laptop Cop, and GadgetTrack have
been engineered to help people locate and recover their stolen laptop
in the event of theft. Setting one's laptop with a password on its
firmware (protection against going to firmware setup or booting),
internal HDD/SSD (protection against accessing it and loading an
operating system on it afterwards), and every user account of the
operating system are additional security measures that a user should
do. Fewer than 5% of lost or stolen laptops are recovered by
the companies that own them, however, that number may decrease due
to a variety of companies and software solutions specializing in
laptop recovery. In the 2010s, the common availability of webcams on
laptops raised privacy concerns. In Robbins v. Lower Merion School
District (Eastern District of Pennsylvania 2010), school-issued
laptops loaded with special software enabled staff from two high
schools to take secret webcam shots of students at home, via their
Major laptop brands
Acer / Gateway / eMachines / Packard Bell: TravelMate, Extensa,
Ferrari and Aspire;
Packard Bell Easynote; Chromebook
MacBook Air and
Asus Eee, Lamborghini,
Dell: Alienware, Inspiron, Latitude, Precision, Studio, Vostro and XPS
Falcon Northwest: DRX, TLX, I / O
HCL (India): ME Laptop, ME Netbook, Leaptop and MiLeap
Hewlett-Packard / Compaq: HP Pavilion, HP Envy, HP ProBook, HP
Lenovo: ThinkPad, IdeaPad, and the Essential B and G Series
Medion: Akoya (OEM version of MSI Wind)
MSI: E, C, P, G, V, A, X, U series and Wind Netbook
Panasonic: Toughbook, Satellite, Let's Note (Japan only)
Samsung: SENS: N, P, Q, R and X series; Chromebook, ATIV Book
TG Sambo (Korea): Averatec,
Toshiba: Dynabook, Portege, Tecra, Satellite, Qosmio, Libretto
Main article: List of laptop brands and manufacturers
Further information: Market share of personal computer vendors
There are many laptop brands and manufacturers. Several major brands
that offer notebooks in various classes are listed in the adjacent
box. The major brands usually offer good service and support,
including well-executed documentation and driver downloads that remain
available for many years after a particular laptop model is no longer
produced. Capitalizing on service, support, and brand image, laptops
from major brands are more expensive than laptops by smaller brands
and ODMs. Some brands specialize in a particular class of laptops,
such as gaming laptops (Alienware), high-performance laptops (HP
Envy), netbooks (EeePC) and laptops for children (OLPC).
Many brands, including the major ones, do not design and do not
manufacture their laptops. Instead, a small number of Original Design
Manufacturers (ODMs) design new models of laptops, and the brands
choose the models to be included in their lineup. In 2006, 7 major
ODMs manufactured 7 of every 10 laptops in the world, with the largest
one (Quanta Computer) having 30% of world market share. Therefore,
identical models are available both from a major label and from a
low-profile ODM in-house brand.
Battery-powered portable computers had just 2% worldwide market share
in 1986. However, laptops have become increasingly popular, both
for business and personal use. Around 109 million notebook PCs
shipped worldwide in 2007, a growth of 33% compared to 2006. In
2008 it was estimated that 145.9 million notebooks were sold, and that
the number would grow in 2009 to 177.7 million. The third quarter
of 2008 was the first time when worldwide notebook PC shipments
exceeded desktops, with 38.6 million units versus 38.5 million
May 2005 was the first time notebooks outsold desktops in the US over
the course of a full month; at the time notebooks sold for an average
of $1,131 while desktops sold for an average of $696. When looking
at operating systems, for
Microsoft Windows laptops the average
selling price (ASP) showed a decline in 2008/2009, possibly due to
low-cost netbooks, drawing an average US$689 at U.S. retail stores in
August 2008. In 2009, ASP had further fallen to $602 by January and to
$560 in February. While Windows machines ASP fell $129 in these seven
months, Apple macOS laptop ASP declined just $12 from $1,524 to
See also: International Space Station § Computers
Grid Compass computer was used since the early days of
the Space Shuttle program. The first commercial laptop used in space
Macintosh portable in 1991 aboard Space Shuttle mission
STS-43. Apple and other laptop computers continue to be
flown aboard manned spaceflights, though the only long duration flight
certified computer for the International Space Station is the
ThinkPad. As of 2011, over 100 ThinkPads were aboard the ISS.
Laptops used aboard the International Space Station and other
spaceflights are generally the same ones that can be purchased by the
general public but needed modifications are made to allow them to be
used safely and effectively in a weightless environment such as
updating the cooling systems to function without relying on hot air
rising and accommodation for the lower cabin air pressure. Laptops
operating in harsh usage environments and conditions, such as strong
vibrations, extreme temperatures, and wet or dusty conditions differ
from those used in space in that they are custom designed for the task
and do not use commercial off-the-shelf hardware.
List of computer size categories
List of laptop brands and manufacturers
Internet device (MID)
Personal digital assistant
Subscriber Identity Module
Open-source computer hardware
Portal laptop computer
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