- Questions to ask yourself
- Desktop PC or notebook?
- How important is mobility?
- What will I be using the notebook for?
- How much do I need to spend?
- Specialised portable computers?
- Ultraportable notebooks
- Tablet PCs
- Palm/hand top computers
- Ruggedised portables
- Processor and chipset
- Intel versus AMD
- Intel notebook processors
- AMD mobile processors
- Other key components
- Questions to ask the retailer
- The market
All computers, particularly notebooks, need to be connectable. Some notebooks feature older PS/2 and serial legacy ports, but these days most don't. The reason for this is because most peripherals (such as keyboards and mice) now connect via USB 2.0 or FireWire.
Some notebooks have a single FireWire connection (enabling peripherals like video cameras to connect at approximately 400Mbps) but nearly every new notebook will have around three USB 2.0 ports.
Also known as Hi-Speed USB, USB 2.0 allows data transfer at 480Mbps (instead of USB 1.1's 12Mbps).
Another common task is to connect an external monitor using a notebook's VGA-out port.
PC Cards are a notebook's equivalent of a desktop computer's PCI slot -- both are used for expanding a machine's capabilities by introducing new hardware. PC Cards are shaped just like a card and have for years been the preferred means of connecting notebooks with add-ons such as sound cards, extra ports and more. However, now PC Cards are making way for a smaller, faster, and more desktop-friendly format called ExpressCard.
Members of the PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) -- the trade group responsible for PC Card standards -- introduced the first ExpressCard modules in 2004 in part to meet PC industry demands for smaller PC Cards for today's shrinking portables.
Sound quality is no longer an afterthought with many notebook vendors installing loud, bass-driven speakers from quality manufacturers such as Harmon Kardon (Toshiba) and Altec Lansing (HP).
Basic sound chips are still the most common, but quality is improving. Intel's reference design for its Centrino platform gives notebook manufacturers the choice to include Intel Hi-Definition audio that supports DTS, THX and Dolby technologies for up to eight channels at 192kHz/32-bit quality. In addition, some notebook vendors are including optical or S/PDIF audio-outputs built-into their machines as standard
If you love the idea of a notebook, but audio quality is important to you professionally or personally, then rest assured that there are also many USB, FireWire and PC Card external sound card options available.