A Guide to Laptop Parts And Their Functions

Generally, we come across laptop reviews on how a specific laptop performs. It could be everyday computing or gaming. However, people ignore the laptop parts that make it perform. This article concentrates on all laptop parts and explains each component’s significance in detail.

We shall divide the laptop constituents into two sections, the external parts, and the internal components. Let us first look at the parts that are visible to us, the external components. Simultaneously, we shall discuss the connected parts for a better understanding.

Display

The LCD screen is the most crucial part of the laptop because, without the display, you cannot view anything on it. Therefore, if you accidentally crack the screen, the only remedy is to replace it.

Laptop with Full HD display

The display consists of an LCD panel that requires a backlighting arrangement to illuminate the pixels. You have different types of display panels on laptops. You can refer to our detailed article on TV panels to understand their working.

Though you have different types of LCD panels like IPS, VA, and TN, it is always advisable to opt for a laptop display with IPS technology that offers better viewing angles. Besides, you should also look for anti-glare technology to make working in bright lighting conditions easier for you.

Today, you have touchscreen laptops that offer better convenience as you can use the laptop as a tablet by turning over the screen 360 degrees. These displays come with touchscreen technology you observe on your smartphones and tablets.   

When selecting a laptop screen, it is better to go for FHD screen resolution (1920 x 1080p) as it is the best resolution for gaming. Generally, laptop screens have 50 to 60 Hz refresh rates. However, the gaming monsters have better refresh rates like 120 or 144 Hz to deliver a powerful gaming experience.

Related: HD vs Full HD vs 4K

The displays come in various sizes ranging from 13 inches to around 17 and a half inches.

Screen Backlight

As you know, LCD panels do not have self-illumination like OLED. Therefore, the display needs a screen backlighting feature to illuminate the pixels. Laptops have slim screens, and hence you need to have slim CFL tubes. However, the best bet is LED. Secondly, LED offers a better quality of illumination and makes the laptop light in weight.  

The backlight lamp is situated inside the screen. It is not easy to replace the lamps. Therefore, people generally replace the screen if the screen backlight lamp fails to function.

Screen Inverter Board

Laptop Screen Inverter Board

The screen inverter board supplies power to the CFL tubes or the LEDs that help illuminate the display screen. When the inverter fails, the screen can go dark. Replacing the inverter board can sort out the issue. This inverter board is generally placed inside the display panel just below the LCD screen.

Display Hinges

The laptop display is connected to the base using hinges. There are usually two hinges, one on either end, to connect the base to the display. Unless you have a 360-degree laptop display, you should not stretch the screen too much backward as the hinges could snap.

Screen Cable

The screen cable provides the connection from the motherboard to the display screen. Thus, it serves the dual purpose of carrying data for the display and power for the inverter board.

Webcam

Usually, all laptops come with a webcam with at least a 720p resolution. It enables you to have video chats on the social media network. Today, you have laptops offering privacy shutters that allow you to shut the webcam physically. Software is also available that enables you to disable the webcam when not required.

Keyboard

After the display, the keyboard is a significant component of a laptop. Depending on the screen size, the keyboard varies in size. Accordingly, it affects the number of keys on the keyboard. For example, a 15.6-inch screen enables a full-sized keyboard with the facility of a numeric pad. On the other hand, a smaller screen size forces manufacturers to compromise on the keyboard size.

The feature to look for in a good keyboard is the key travel distance. A decent laptop should have a key travel distance of 1.4 to 1.5mm.

In addition, gaming laptops come with pronounced WASD and arrow keys to enable comfortable gaming. Today, you get laptops with backlighting facilities (monochrome and RGB) to improve your typing and gaming exploits.

Compared to desktop keyboards, laptop keyboards feature special function keys. These keys are accessible by simultaneously pressing the ‘Fn’ key and the specific associated key. 

Trackpad

trackpad laptop

The trackpad is another critical aspect of your laptop keyboard. It allows you to scroll all over the screen. The trackpad is soft to touch and comes with sensors to enable smooth scrolling. Today, you have trackpads coming with features like pinch and zoom to provide a tablet or smartphone screen-like experience.

CD/DVD Drive

The latest generation laptops do not feature CD/DVD/Optical drives, but such laptops are also available, especially in the budget laptop categories. Besides enabling you to watch movies and listen to music, these drives also come with R/W facilities to write data on them from the laptop.

CD or DVD Drive in laptop

In addition, these CD/DVD drives are also useful for downloading and installing software and updates.

Connectivity Ports

With CD/DVD/Optical drives going out of fashion, the focus is more on connectivity ports for data transferring and other activities. When discussing connectivity ports, you get a plethora of such ports on laptops. Here are some commonly found connectivity ports.

USB – Different types of USB ports explained

The USB Type-A is the most commonly found rectangular connectivity port on laptops, the host device. The peripheral or mobile devices are Type-B, Mini, or Micro USB ports. Despite the introduction of the USB Type-C ports, laptops come with two or even three Type-A ports.

The USB Type-B port is not much in use today. These ports have an almost square connector at one end and plug into printers or other similar devices. There are newer standards today as the USB Type-B ports have become obsolete.

As the name suggests, the mini and micro USB ports are smaller connections you find in cameras, smartphones, etc. Even smartphones have now graduated to USB Type-C ports.

usb type c port in a laptop

The USB Type-C ports have a thinner, smaller, and lighter form factor. These ports connect to laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Today, you have USB Type-C ports replacing the USB Type-A ports, RJ45 Ethernet ports, and charging cables. In addition, USB Type-C has prompted the introduction of other protocols like Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4, DisplayPort, MHL, and HDMI to adopt them as their source connector.

Apple’s latest MacBook and MacBook Pro feature only USB Type-C ports. Though Thunderbolt 3 and 4 follow the same USB Type-C protocol, all USB Type-C ports do not support Thunderbolt.

The primary advantage of the USB Type-C port is that it is reversible, unlike the USB Type-A and Type-B protocols.

You have iPhones and iPads coming with their proprietary Lightning cable. However, these lightning cables use a USB Type-A port at the other end to charge and connect to a PC.

USB ports come in different generations, depending on the data transfer speeds. Today, the naming convention has changed to USB 3.2. Here is the tabular description of the different USB 3.2 ports for a simpler understanding.

USB SpecificationSignaling Rate/LaneNumber of LanesAggregate Bandwidth
USB 3.2 Gen 1×15 Gbps (Super speed)One5 Gbps
USB 3.2 Gen 2×110 Gbps (Super speed+)One10 Gbps
USB 3.2 Gen 1×25 Gbps (Super Speed)Two10 Gbps
USB 3.2 Gen 2×210 Gbps (Super Speed+)Two20 Gbps

The USB 3.x convention can get confusing. Hence, you have the latest USB 4 protocol available today.  The following tabular description explains USB 4.

USB SpecificationSignaling Rate/LaneNumber of LanesAggregate Bandwidth
USB 4 Gen 2×210 GbpsTwo20 Gbps
USB 4 Gen 3×220 GbpsTwo40 Gbps

Thunderbolt – 3 and 4

Thunderbolt 3 and 4 use the USB Type-C form factor. Thunderbolt 3 is available in Apple Ultrabooks since 2011. It includes USB 3.1, DisplayPort 1.2, and PCIe in a single cable. Thunderbolt 3 ports have utility as charging points for laptops and other devices. In addition, the high-end 10th generation and 11th Intel Core CPUs support Thunderbolt 3.

thunderbolt 4

Thunderbolt 4 is a considerable improvement over Thunderbolt 3 as it supports USB 4 specifications. In addition, Thunderbolt 3 and 4 supports data transfer speeds up to 40 Gbps. The difference is that Thunderbolt 3 can support one 4K display, whereas Thunderbolt 4 supports two.

Both Thunderbolt 3 and 4 can be used for charging laptops.

HDMI – Different connections explained

Every laptop has one HDMI connection port for transferring uncompressed digital signals from a suitable AV source to the laptop. The HDMI connection is handy to connect to monitors, gaming consoles, projectors, and other devices.

HDMI connections have evolved from HDMI 1.0 to HDMI 2.1 today.

HDMI StandardReleasedUsage
HDMI 1.0December 2002DVI for sending video signals, offering a data transfer rate of 4.9 Gbps
HDMI 1.1May 2004Minor update to deliver audio ranging from single-channel mono to 5.1 channel surround sound
HDMI 1.2 and 1.2a2005Compatibility for low voltage devices, graphics cards for PCs, and CEC compliance
HDMI 1.3 and 1.3aJune 2006Doubled the bandwidth to 10.2 Gbps, introduced a Type-C Mini HDMI connector
HDMI 1.4, 1.4a, 1.4b2009-104K resolution support
HDMI 2.0, 2.0a, 2.0b2013, 2015-16Increased bandwidth to 18 Gbps and supported 4K resolution @ 60 Hz, besides pushing 1080p @ 240 Hz and 144 Hz refresh rates, excellent for gaming
HDMI 2.12017The latest version supports 4K @ 120 Hz and even 8K/10K at 30 Hz, supports dynamic HDR, VRR, and eARC

Generally, laptops come with either an HDMI 1.4 or 2.0 port.

HDMI 2.1

The introduction of USB and HDMI ports has eliminated the use of various ports that were used earlier. However, some desktop PCs still offer these ports today.

  • VGA Port – VGA represents a Video Graphics Array connector and connects your analog computer monitor to other monitors or televisions.
  • DVI Port – It is similar in functionality to the VGA port, but it can carry both analog and digital signals. It is also easily convertible to other standards like HDMI.
  • Serial Ports – You can find the serial ports in desktop PCs as a serial communication interface for transferring sequentially one bit at a time.
  • Parallel Ports – In contrast to the serial port, parallel ports can transmit multiple bits of data simultaneously in parallel.
  • Keyboard and Mouse port – These ports have become outdated today because you can connect external keyboards and mice thru USB and Bluetooth. However, you have them on desktop PCs even today.
  • External diskette drive connector – Today, you can connect external disks and drives using USB ports. The external diskette drive connectors have become obsolete in laptops and PCs.
  • Line-in connector – The line-in connector is used for connecting one audio device to another. This connector is no longer available on laptops.

Headphone Jack

laptop headphone Jack

Though you have laptops supporting Bluetooth today, these appliances feature a headphone (audio-out) jack as a viable alternative. It can prove useful to connect to non-Bluetooth headphones. You can also connect the Bluetooth-enabled headphones to it if they come with a simultaneous audio-in jack. Usually, Bluetooth speakers have this connection as it allows you to use the speakers or headphones without recharging their batteries.

SD Card Slot

The SD card slots are available on laptops to enable users to read data from SD cards. You have different kinds of SD cards, such as mini SD and micro SD cards. If your laptop does not have mini or micro card readers, you can use connectors.

Ethernet Ports

RJ45 Port in laptop

With almost all laptops supporting Wi-Fi, there is not much use for the ethernet connectivity ports. However, most laptops have an Ethernet RJ45 port to connect to the internet using cables. The RJ45 connectors connect to Cat5 and Cat6 cables. Earlier, laptops used to come with RJ11 connectors that connect to telephone cables.

Air Vents – For free air circulation

Computer components like CPU, GPU, and other internal parts emit considerable heat. Hence, free air circulation is essential for controlling the temperature inside the laptop. Desktop PCs have sufficient space to install exhaust fans and allow comfortable air circulation.

Laptops have space constraints. However, fans are available inside the laptop. The laptop body contains air vents, usually located at the sides and behind. Some laptops have air vents situated below the base. The purpose is the same.

AC Power adaptor

While laptops work on batteries, they require AC power input for charging. Hence, all laptops come with a power connector slot to connect the AC power adaptor to them. Nowadays, the USB Type-C ports (Thunderbolt) also allow charging of the laptop batteries.

The AC power adaptor converts the AC power supply to DC to recharge the batteries. Therefore, it is better to use a genuine and branded power adaptor as you can otherwise risk damaging the batteries and other components.

Kensington Lock slot

A Kensington lock is a security device with a cable enabling you to attach the laptop to a stationary object like a table. This device deters potential thefts of your laptop in public areas such as university libraries, airports, railway terminals, restaurants, and even your office. Generally, all laptops feature a Kensington lock slot that allows you to affix the Kensington lock to them.

We have discussed all the laptop components generally situated on the exterior. Let us now proceed to discuss the laptop constituents situated inside the device.

Motherboard

Compared to desktop motherboards, laptop motherboards are smaller. Besides, they are proprietary and generally specific to the model. The motherboard is a primary printed circuit board (PCB) placed inside the laptop and contains all the components that make it work.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 Cooling system

Laptop motherboards contain hundreds of components, including sockets for processors, memory slots, firmware for chips, transistors, integrated circuits, and a power connector. In addition, you have electrical connectors etched on the motherboard that help connect the different laptop components.

The primary components that live on the motherboard include the CPU, RAM slots, chipsets, and various chips and connectors.

As the laptop motherboards are smaller than their desktop counterparts, they generally do not come with expansion units. Instead, they come with integrated sound cards or Wi-Fi network cards.

CPU – Central Processing Unit

laptop cpu

The CPU is the most significant component of the laptop. Laptop processors differ from desktop chips and come affixed on the motherboard. Generally laptops feature Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processors, the latest Apple laptops come with their proprietary M1 chips.

GPU – Graphics Processing Unit

Generally, all CPUs come with integrated graphics. However, users can install discrete graphics cards if they wish to improve the overall graphics performance. Gamers and video editing professionals require high-quality graphics cards for efficient functioning.

However, users should check whether the graphics cards are compatible with their laptop’s motherboard. Generally, you get NVidia GeForce or MSI graphics cards on their laptops. Other graphics cards manufacturers include EVGA, Asus, Zotac, PNY, etc.

Memory Cards – RAM

Laptop RAMs are smaller than their desktop counterparts to enable them to fit onto the laptop motherboard.

While desktops come with DIMM RAMs, laptops feature SO-DIMM RAMs. These RAMs are smaller than desktop RAMs and use integrated circuits. As a result, the SO-DIMM chip is around half the size of the desktop DIMM chip. Besides, they are easily accessible and convenient to upgrade.

laptop ram

The top-end Intel and AMD laptops support DDR4 RAM, whereas DDR3 RAM is also available in some budget laptops. DDR5 RAM will be introduced very soon in desktops, followed by laptops.

When purchasing RAM, you should ensure that your laptop motherboard can accommodate the RAM. For example, if your motherboard allows up to 4 GB RAM, you cannot expand your laptop RAM to 8 GB.

While desktops come with multiple memory slots up to eight, laptops generally do not come with more than two because of space constraints.

Hard Disk Drives – HDD

While RAM is a temporary storage mechanism, HDD and SSD offer permanent storage options. As the name suggests, HDD is a non-volatile memory hardware device that controls the hard disk’s positioning, reading, and writing, the primary storage device on a laptop.

HDDs connect to the motherboard using a SATA or SCSI cable. While it connects to the power supply, it can store data even when the disk is powered down.

HDDs consist of various disk platters positioned around a spindle inside a sealed chamber that includes R/W heads and motors. The motors spin the platter at up to a maximum of 15,000 rpm. As the platters spin, the secondary motor controls the R/W activity that records information magnetically.

Hard Disk drive

Laptops generally come equipped with a maximum of 1TB HDD. The HDDs can be bulky and occupy space. Hence, many laptops offer SSD storage, either independently or as hybrid storage, along with the HDD

Solid State Drives – SSD

SSD denotes Solid State Drives. Unlike HDDs, SSDs do not feature movable parts. As a result, they display lower latency than HDDs and hence are the favorites to store critical data that needs quick access. Furthermore, compared to HDDs, SSDs can deliver excellent R/W performance for sequential and random data requests.

Nvme M.2 SSD in India

Besides, SSDs are advantageous because they do not store data magnetically. Therefore, the read performance remains steady, irrespective of where the data is stored on the device.

Compared to HDDs, SSDs are expensive from a price-per-GB viewpoint. Therefore, you have laptops offering hybrid storage that include an HDD and SSD component to offer dual storage.

Wi-Fi Network card

The prime advantage of a laptop is its portability. Attaching an internet cable from your modem through the RJ45 port restricts the laptop’s portability. Hence, laptops come with a wireless network card option. It connects to the laptop through a specific connector in the motherboard or through a dongle device in the USB port.

laptop Wi-Fi Network card

However, the dongle or the Wi-Fi network card is geared to a specific Wi-Fi connection. Hence, the laptop has to be in the Wi-Fi range. The Wi-Fi card can act as a receiver and transmitter.

Laptop battery

Laptops are mobile equipment that should not have any mobility restrictions like power connections through cables. Therefore, each laptop comes with a battery unit that powers the laptop components from the CPU to the HDDs and other parts. If you notice, the battery is the single heaviest component of your laptop.

The battery needs recharging from time to time. You can connect the power source to the battery through the powering port and the AC power adapter. Once fully charged, the laptop can work independent of the AC power source, making it a mobile device.

Battery life is crucial to a laptop to ensure its efficient functioning. If the battery takes unduly more time for recharging or drains off quickly, it requires a replacement.

CMOS Battery

Besides the main battery that powers all the laptop components, laptops come equipped with a CMOS battery. Let us understand the functions of a CMOS battery.

CMOS stands for Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. The CMOS battery powers the BIOS and is a small coin-sized component affixed on the motherboard.

Every laptop has a BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) to manage the functions of receiving input and generating the corresponding output. It works when you boot the laptop. BIOS performs the basic activities when the laptop is waking up. When you press the power key, it is a basic input. The BIOS helps to boot the computer and switch it on. It serves as the basic output.

Though you switch off the laptop power, the BIOS has to remain operational. Therefore, it relies on the CMOS battery for its power source. While laptops and desktops have CMOS battery, it is in use more because they remain disconnected to the main power source for extended periods compared to the desktop.

The CMOS battery needs replacement when you find the laptop showing booting lag, time and date reset, experience a constant beeping sound from the motherboard, or you cannot connect to the internet. If the CMOS battery fails, the BIOS firmware shuts down and reverts to its default settings.

Cooling System

Laptop components can get hot because they come in an enclosed environment without much free air circulation. As the CPU and other components keep working continuously for extended hours, they become hot. It can damage the laptop and its components. Therefore, laptops come with a cooling system, including an exhaust fan.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 Cooling system

These cooling systems come with coolants and heat sinks to absorb the generated heat and maintain proper functioning. Gaming laptops and laptops used for extensive graphics designing tend to get hot faster than regular laptops. Hence, such laptops come with advanced cooling systems and diagnostics.

Audio System

Laptops come with integrated audio systems and speakers to deliver a decent sound performance. Generally, you do not need external speaker systems when using laptops. The sound generated by a laptop should prove sufficient to the user.

laptop speakers inbuilt

The speakers usually come in pairs are located inside the machine. You have upwards-facing or downward-firing speakers, depending on the laptop model.

Final Thoughts

We have discussed every component of a laptop that should prove useful to you in understanding its functions. While users need to know the device’s functioning, much depends on how they use the laptop. For example, the laptop’s longevity depends on your usage patterns. The better you use it, the more durable it is.

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