Laptop computers - also called 'laptops' - are computers that are designed to be portable. As a result they are usually small and light enough to comfortably sit on a person's lap (which is naturally where their name came from). Due to their portability, it is common for people - especially those on business - to use a laptop computer when on a train or plane. They can run off mains electricity, however they also have a rechargeable battery which allows them to be run for (on average) 3-5 hours before needing to be recharged again.
Whilst there were many attempts at bringing out laptops to the mainstream public in the 1970s and 80s, they only started to increase in popularity in the 1990s.
This was because from around 1985, there were some big improvements in power management technology (both built in to operating system software, and also the hardware itself) - along with increases in storage technology and display devices - which allowed for them to be built with greater efficiency and quality and also at lower costs.
This increasing quality and falling prices meant that they quickly became desirable to the wider public.
Unlike desktops, laptops have a monitor, keyboard, speakers and a touch-sensitive pointing device (the equivalent of a mouse) all built in to one unit. The average laptop has a 17" display screen, however variations with larger and smaller screens are available.
They use a flip form which allow you to close them when they are not in use, thus protecting the screen and also the keyboard and pointing device. The flip form also makes them very compact which makes it relatively easy to transport in a suitable carrying case.
An image of a typical laptop (when open) is below:
Laptops offer a range of advantages over desktops including higher productivity (making it easier to do work whilst travelling), a smaller size (so they take up less space, which is especially useful in smaller work areas), a lower power consumptions (they can be 80% or more power efficient) and they are 'all in one' (compared to desktops which have a separate case, monitor, keyboard and mouse).
They also have wireless functionality built-in (and thus are sometimes called 'Wireless laptop computers') - this allows for them to connect to the internet with relative ease (i.e. without the need for cables). Naturally, though, they have their disadvantages too (for example, they tend to be less powerful than desktops and they also can't be upgraded easily since they use mainly unique components).
Despite their disadvantages, many people nowadays are opting for laptops over desktops. For example, in October-December 2008 there were 38.6 million laptop sales which exceeded desktop sales by 100,000-150,000 units sold. And the average price of a laptop on the market today is around $550 which is viewed as an affordable 'major' purchase by the average US household.
The following list gives the various topics in this category. Whether you are looking for really cheap laptop computers, Dell laptops or 'best buy' laptops (ones which represent the best value for money), the following sections should have all the information you will need.