laptop computer

Contributor(s): Blair Alpert-Sandler

A laptop computer, sometimes called a notebook computer by manufacturers, is a battery- or AC-powered personal computer generally smaller than a briefcase that can easily be transported and conveniently used in temporary spaces such as on airplanes, in libraries, temporary offices, and at meetings. A laptop typically weighs less than 5 pounds and is 3 inches or less in thickness. Among the best-known makers of laptop computers are IBM, Apple, Compaq, Dell, and Toshiba.

Laptop computers generally cost more than desktop computers with the same capabilities because they are more difficult to design and manufacture. A laptop can effectively be turned into a desktop computer with a docking station, a hardware frame that supplies connections for peripheral input/output devices such as a printer or larger monitor. The less capable port replicator allows you to connect a laptop to a number of peripherals through a single plug.

Laptops usually come with displays that use thin-screen technology. The thin film transistor or active matrix screen is brighter and views better at different angles than the STN or dual-scan screen. Laptops use several different approaches for integrating a mouse into the keyboard, including the touch pad, the trackball, and the pointing stick. A serial port also allows a regular mouse to be attached. The PC Card is insertable hardware for adding a modem or network interface card to a laptop. CD-ROM and digital versatile disc drives may be built-in or attachable.

This was last updated in July 2008

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The line is blurring between laptops and tablets, I think. Add some of the better smartphones, too.

Now that the functionality of all those devices has converged (and touchscreens are far more commonplace), my "laptop" is whatever computing device I picked up to do my job. That may be the rather clunky (in comparison) device that weighs in a 5 or 6 pounds (best when my lap is immobile) or my tablet (well under a pound) when I'm on the go or need a computing device when I'm not settled down. And, of course, when those two fail me for some reason, I grab the few ounces of my cellphone and continue my work unabated. Perhaps less conveniently, but seamlessly just the same. 

So, sorry for being so long-winded here. My "laptop" is whatever computing device I have on my lap or in my hand, nomenclature be damned.
I will agree with @ncberns thoughts here to a degree that the line is between laptops and tablets is blurring.  But tablets are sadly lacking in some features that I feel are still needed in laptops and desktops.  Most certainly is the CD / DVD / Blue Ray drive.  That is very critical still.  The ability to attach peripherals to a tablet is sadly lacking too, unless you have it in a docking station, and then you might as well have a laptop.  I feel that tablets do have a place in a work environment, but they are still lacking.