In this series we’ll discuss “Consumer Electronics Buying Considerations” starting with “Laptop Buying Guide”. So what are the key considerations you need to look into while buying a Laptop? Let’s get started…
1. Performance of the Laptop Processor : The Brain.
2. Laptop Battery : The Heart.
3. Laptop Connectivity : The Sense Organs.
4. Laptop Display : The Face.
5. Laptop Security : The Immune System.
This ranges from Physical Security of the laptop with a Kensington Lock Port to the Trusted Platform Module(TPM) chip on the motherboard. There are a list of options to look at. The Finger Print reader and smart Card reader provides additional security against misuse of unwanted accessibility. The TPM is a special hardware on the Motherboard that stores encryption keys and passwords and keeps the platform trustworthy. So the security information present in the hardware provides a better defense against external malicious software attacks. For example, if the configuration of the system is changed unexpectedly at the start-up, the accessibility to the secure applications can be blocked providing a more secure environment until the issue is resolved. Therefore in analogy, security options in the laptop are like it’s immunity.
6. Laptop Dynamic Storage : The Memory for the Brain.
7. Laptop Static Storage : The Stomach.
Hard Disk Drive ( HDD ) and Solid State Drive ( SSD ) makes the static storage. HDDs comes in Terabytes now a days that is more than a 1024 Gigabytes and SSDs in Gigabytes usually. The higher the GB capacity, the more the storage option. Points to note are while HDDs comes with more capacity, SSDs are more reliable and faster because of their overall structure of not having any mechanical components like HDDs.
8. Laptop Portability : The Weight.
So let’s also discuss the Ports that matter in this Laptop Buying Guide
USB1 or Low Speed USB.
This is essentially a serial bus for connecting a mouse to the PC and runs at 1.5 Megabits per second that is about 1.5 Million bits/second.
USB1.1 or Full Speed USB.
This bus connects your keyboard to the PC and runs at 12Mbps.
Backward compatible with USB1 and USB1.1 runs at 480 Mbps and this bus is rightly termed as High Speed USB.
So what is backward compatibility? In simple terms the same USB2.0 port on your PC can connect to a pen drive running at 480Mbps, a keyboard at 12Mbps and a mouse at 1.5 Mbps.
Backward compatible with USB2.0, USB1.1 and USB1 and running at 5 Gigabits per second. That’s about 10 times faster than USB2.0. So a USB3.0 port on your PC also known as a host port can be connected to a USB3.0 pen drive, USB2.0 Pen drive, USB1.1 Keyboard and USB1 Mouse. This backward compatibility is only true for host ports like that on a PC. However, a USB3.0 pen drive would not connect with a USB2.0 Host port on the PC at 5Gbps.
Next comes USB3.1
Host Port is backward compatible and can be connected with USB3.0, USB2.0 and USB1.1 devices. This has a data rate of 10Gbps.
However a USB3.1 device might not connect with a USB3.0 port at 10Gbps.
And the ubiquitous USB C Port.
The beauty of USB C is the small sized connector yet with higher number of pins in the connector with multiple serial lanes, resulting in an overall increase in speeds up to 10Gbps while also catering to providing a higher wattage of power up to 100 Watts at 20 Volts to devices. The multiple serial lanes can also carry HDMI and Display Port Signals and USB C is backward compatible with all USB standards with additional adapters making it truly ubiquitous.
Carry all video and audio on serial copper lanes. HDMI does exactly that. But what’s evolving the standard? The need of picture clarity and color has increased the pixel quantity and resolution of the display. So, Higher the Display (usually termed as HDMI Sink) pixels and higher the resolution, higher is the amount of data that need to be transferred from any HDMI Source to that Display sink. And why not? In practical terms, you would clearly see the difference between VGA and HDMI. HDMI carries much more Mbps per second compared to VGA making the picture quality much clear and crisper. Therefore, given an option to connect VGA or HDMI, always choose HDMI for a better visual experience.
How does HDMI do it?
HDMI carries three pairs of data lanes each at a specific frequency. This adds up to a much higher rate and all synchronized to a single clock pair. So your HDMI connector has multiple serial data pairs and a clock pair. This, along with Power and Ground pins are connected to the Printed Circuit Board of the product in discussion.
So let’s look at different speeds, HDMI caters to and start with the minimum ones contained in any product now a days.
So the clock speed that we discussed above is now driven at 340 MHz and 10 bits of data per serial lane is transferred at 340 MHz making the overall speed per lane at 3400Mbps. This multiplied by three pairs make it a total of 10.2 Gbps of data transfer between Source and Sink and hence this enables to carry 3D data and much deeper color bit per pixel as required by the sink Display. To make it simple, we’ve left out the 8b/10b encoding overhead applied to 10.2 Gbps, making the overall data at about 8Gbps.
The clock speed now increases to 600 MHz and 10 bits of data per serial lane is transferred at 600 MHz. So this makes the overall speed per lane at 6000Mbps that is 6Gbps. This multiplied by three pairs make it a total of 18 Gbps of data transfer between Source and Sink. This enables to carry 3D data at 60Hz and much deeper color bit per pixel as required by the sink Display.
Display that is Sink device specs need to be looked into before arriving at any conclusion. 4K X 2K display resolution at 60 Hz usually goes well with HDMI 2.0. It’s good to have HDMI 2.0 on your Source Product. But, does the Display device support HDMI 2.0 is what is to be addressed before arriving at a decision. Another key thing is the interface connector itself. This can range from HDMI-A to HDMI-E and can be a Micro or a Mini HDMI form factor.
The new age Gamers should look at the coming up standard HDMI2.1, that would enable 4K X 2K, 8K and higher resolution with higher refresh rates up to 120 Hz.
A Note on Cores and Threads.
A Thread is a subset of the process. Every application running on the PC is either single threaded or multiple threaded. Therefore more threads the processor core can handle, the better it performs with multitasking. This increase the performance of the Processor.