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Laptop Expansion Ports - Buyers Guide

Buying guide to laptop expansion ports.

  • 3+ USB 2.0 or USB 3.0, 1 Firewire
  • Media Card Reader
  • HDMI Output
  • 2 USB
  • VGA Output

usb port apple What's the deal with laptop expansion?

Expansion ports in a nutshell are all the various connections on your laptop computer case that allow you to plug in various external components such as a mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, network connection, wireless card, etc.

Laptop expansion ports don't change all too often but there are in fact things to consider when purchasing a laptop computer like amount or type of ports, etc. 

Nothing too complicated here but it is great to be informed of what exactly is out there in the mobile universe at the given moment for technology does change often and computer manufacturers are introducing new features on their laptops all the time.

You've most likely heard of USB, right? It is in fact one of the most recognized laptop expansion ports out there. And thanks to USB's flexibility and speed mobile computers today even have similar connectivity to full featured desktop systems.

One of the newest laptop expansion ports out there which we are going to detail is called an ExpressCard slot, and another slightly newer inclusion on laptops is what's called an HDMI high definition video output. Other than these two refreshes to laptop expansion ports things haven't changed too much.

Ok, so much for the introduction let's get down to the details.

Colored Laptops
Information on hot colored laptops..

Laptop Expansion Ports

laptop computer expansion ports

Pink Laptops
Information on hot pink laptops..

USB port

Out of all the laptop expansion ports USB is the most widely used and known. USB ports are used for connecting many types of devices to your laptop computer such as keyboards or mice, flash memory sticks, digital cameras, and even monitors these days among many other things. For devices that do not have their own power, USB ports even provide a small amount of electricity for various low power demand devices such as a mouse or flash memory stick for example. When looking at laptops we recommend 3 or more USB ports and 2 as a minimum.

usb port

ExpressCard slot:

Laptop expansion slot that has replaced the PC-Card/PCMCIA card in new laptop computers. The ExpressCard slot is much faster than older slots allowing it to keep pace with today's digital demands. The ExpressCard slot is the largest expansion slot on the laptop and it is used for devices such as cellular broadband cards, digital memory card adapters, and network cards among other things.

express card slot

HDMI connector:

An inclusion on many newer laptop computers, High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is a compact digital audio/video connector that is popular in entertainment equipment such as High-Definition LCD or plasma TV's, and HD-DVD or BlueRay players among other high-tech devices. With an HDMI port you can pretty much connect your laptop to any high-end HDTV plasma or LCD with ease.

hdmi connector

Firewire/IEEE 1394 port:

Firewire is similar to USB yet very different on a technical level. Firewire used to in fact be the mainstream laptop expansion ports on Apple computers because USB at the time was much slower.

Firewire is an inclusion on pretty much any laptop these days and it is primarily used for digital camcorders. The speed increase and usage of fast USB 2.0 is however on many digital camcorders these days but Firewire is still great to have built-in if ever needed.

firewire port

Memory Card Reader:

Slot on most new laptops that allows you to pretty much plug in any digital camera memory card out there including SD, XD, Sony Memory Stick, and others. Many newer laptops allow you to plug in 8 or more types of memory cards even.

DVI connector:

DVI is a digital video connector that is on some laptops. It is used primarily to connect your laptop to a monitor or HD TV among other display devices.

dvi connector

VGA connector:

Analog connection used to connect a laptop to any analog monitor or LCD TV. Unlike newer HDMI or DVI connections VGA is not digital, it has also been a standard video connector for decades. Because of this you can find VGA connectors on almost any display device thus making it a nice addition to any laptop. They are pretty standard for laptops today.

vga connector

S-Video connector:

Basic analog video connector that is used primarily to connect your laptop to a television or some projectors. Since S-Video connectors are found on all but the oldest television sets it is a nice inclusion to have on a laptop. Most laptop's these days have an S-Video connector.

s-video connector

RJ-45/Network jack:

Allows you to connect your laptop to a wired computer network or Broadband high speed Internet connection via a standard Ethernet network cable. The RJ-45 jack is a standard laptop expansion port on all home user and business notebooks.

ethernet jack

RJ-11/Phone jack:

Small connector used to connect a laptops internal 56k modem to a standard phone line.

Cable Lock slot:

Small slot that allows you to attach a special security cable to your laptop so it can be secured to an object to prevent an easy theft. Keep in mind that a cable lock is a deterrent and not a permanent security fix so do not stray far away from your laptop when using one. Good to have when at a coffee shop or on college campus nevertheless.

Docking station port:

Used to connect a laptop into a docking station. A docking station is a device that you can permanently plug a monitor, printer, Internet connection etc. into. All you then have to do is plug the laptop into it and everything is ready to go.

Not all laptops have a docking station connector and it is more common in business tailored laptops. Keep in mind that each port is specific to the manufacturer and model so a docking station for one laptop will not always work for another unless maybe by the same manufacturer.

docking station bottom connector

Media bays:

Included on some laptops, a media bay allows you to swap in devices such as CD/DVD drives, extra hard drives, or extra batteries among other things. A media bay device is normally specific to a laptop model except sometimes when the laptops are by the same manufacturer.

laptop smart bay pictures

Misc laptop expansion ports or connectors:

Other laptop expansion ports that you will still find on some laptop computers include among others a serial port, and parallel printer ports. These ports are considered legacy ports and they have been around since the dinosaurs. You can still find them on some business class notebooks.

parallel port pictures

See also:

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