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A laptop computer, or simply laptop (also notebook computer or notebook), is a small mobile computer, which usually weighs 2.2-18 pounds (1-6 kilograms), depending on size, materials, and other factors.

  • Most modern laptops feature 12 inch (304.8 mm) or larger active matrix displays with resolutions of 1024×768-pixels and above, and have a PC Card (formerly PCMCIA) or ExpressCard expansion bay for expansion cards. Internal hard disks are physically smaller –2.5 inch (63.5 mm)– compared to the standard desktop 3.5 inch (88.9 mm) drive, and usually have lower performance and power consumption. Video and sound chips are usually integrated. This tends to limit the use of laptops for gaming and entertainment, two fields which have constantly escalating hardware demands. However, higher end laptops can come with dedicated graphics processors, such as the Dell Inspiron E1505 and E1705, which can be bought with an ATI Mobility Radeon X1300 or similar. These mobile graphics processors tend to have less performance than their desktop counterparts, but this is because they have been optimized for lower power usage.
  • There is a wide range of laptop specific processors available from Intel (Pentium M, Celeron, Intel Core and Intel Core 2) and from AMD (Athlon, Turion 64, and Sempron) and also from VIA (C3 and C7-M). Motorola and IBM developed and manufactured the chips for the former PowerPC-based Apple laptops (iBook and PowerBook). Generally, laptop processors are less powerful than their desktop counterparts, due to the need to save energy and reduce heat dissipation. However, the PowerPC G3 and G4 processor generations were able to offer almost the same performance as their desktop versions, limited mostly by other factors, such as the system bus bandwidth; recently, though, with the introduction of the G5s, they have been far outstripped. At one point, the Pismo G3, at up to 500 MHz, was faster than the fastest desktop G3 (then the B&W G3), which ran at 450 MHz.

For a given price range (and manufacturing base), laptop computational power has traditionally trailed that of desktops. This is partly due to most laptops sharing RAM between the program memory and the graphics adapter. By virtue of their usage goals, laptops prioritize energy efficiency and compactness over absolute performance. Desktop computers and their modular components are built to fit much bigger standard enclosures, along with the expectation of AC line power. As such, energy efficiency and portability for desktops are secondary design goals compared to absolute performance.

For typical home (personal use) applications, where the computer spends the majority of its time sitting idle for the next user input, laptops of the thin-client type or larger are generally fast enough to achieve the required performance. 3D gaming, multimedia (video) encoding and playback, and analysis-packages (database, math, engineering, financial, etc.) are areas where desktops still offer the casual user a compelling advantage.

With the advent of dual-core processors and perpendicular recording, laptops are beginning to close the performance gap with PCs. Intel's Core 2 line of processors is efficient enough to be used in portable computers, and many manufacturers such as Apple Computer and Dell are building Core 2 based laptops. Also, many high end laptop computers feature mobility versions of graphics cards, eliminating the performance losses associated with integrated graphics.

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