Friday, February 06, 2009

Deciphering Laptop Specs

Planning to buy a new laptop?

Here is an attempt to see what all those acronyms and terms actually mean -

Base Systems:

Base systems refer to the heart of the machine - the processors. This area is dominated by Intel, with AMD having a small but growing share of the market. At Intel the evolution of processors started with the four-bit, single chip 'Intel 4004', and has now moved to Itanium - Xeon - Celeron - Pentium - Dual Core - Core2 Duo - Core2 Quad - Core2 Extreme - Core i7. Within each family, processor numbers are not a measurement of performance. They are merely to differentiate product features.

For instance 'Core2 Duo T6400' offered with the laptop Dell Studio-14 is just one of the 58 in the Core2 Duo family. And this is not even listed among the list of 'All Core2 Duo Processors' at the Intel website! Neither is T5800 used by many Sony-Vaio models.

Comparison of Intel Processors

All Core2 Duor Processors
Core-2 Duo T6400

xGHz = Refers to the Clock Speed of the processors

Operating Systems:

This is where you meet the arm-twisters from Microsoft. These days they are pushing the Vista series so its every difficult to find laptops that give you the option of picking tried & tested systems like the XP, compared to which the Vista sits like a overweight gorilla on your RAM.
If you can't afford a mimimum of 2GB RAM, stay away from Vista (if you can).


Usually described as something like "14.1 Widescreen WXVGA CCFL (1280x800)". 14.1 refers to the diagonal length of screen.

WXGA = Wide eXtended Graphics Array. Evolved from a display standard (1024x786 pixels) used by IBM in the 1990's. In laptop machines the density of pixels is extended to 1280x800 making the images 27% wider and sharper.

Wiki - WXGA

CCFL = Cold Cathode Fluroscent Lamps. Used for Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) backlighting.

TFT Display = Thin Film Transistor Display. A type of LCD in which each pixel is controlled with its own transistor switch. This not only prevents voltage from leaking away but also results in better control of contrast and color.

Memory - RAM:

Random Access Memory (RAM) is usually described as something like "3GB (1x1 GB + 1x2GB) DDR2 SDRAM".

GB = Giga Byte or 1000,000,000 bytes. In binary terms this is bigger than on billion bites becasue it is calculated in multiples of 1024 Bytes. So 1GB is actually 1024x1024x1024 = 1.073 billion Bytes.

DDR SDRAM = Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory. An integrated circuit that achieves double the bandwidth of SDRAM without taking extra time. DDR2 achieves double the speed of DDR by improved bus signalling and by operating the memory cells at double the speed.

Hard Drives: -

"320GB SATA Hard Drive"
SATA = Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. AT Attachments are interface standards for connecting storage devices that were first introduced with the IBM PC/AT in 1984. Earlier the connections used to be with Parallel (P-ATA), ribbon like cables encasing parallel wires terminating in 40-pin connectors. Since its introduction in 2003, S-ATA has been preferred for its higher bandwidth and transfer speeds.
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