Laptop Features – CompTIA A+ 220-801: 3.3

Laptops include many features that are not found on other computer devices. In this video, you’ll learn about the functions and capabilities that make laptops a unique computing experience.

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Although a desktop computer and a laptop computer functionally do the same thing, some of the features on a laptop work a little bit differently. One common way to see this is by looking at the keyboard itself. You’ll notice that, of course, the keyboard is much smaller, and one of the things that you’ll find is that the features available on the keyboard are a lot different than what you’d find on the desktop. There’s usually an extra key like a function key that you may find so that you’re able to perform additional features that you would normally have on a full sized keyboard.

Things like a numeric keypad. You can see the blue numbers here that you could only hit if you’re holding down that function key at the same time. Or maybe you would like to put this laptop into a standby mode. And you do that on this laptop by holding down the function key and clicking the escape button which, as you see with the blue text, also stands for the standby when you have that function key depressed.

Every laptop works a little bit differently with these secondary keys or these function keys, so you want to check your specific laptop model to determine where the keys might be and what options might be available to you. When we’re working with our laptops, we’re usually looking at the LCD that’s part of the laptop itself.

But occasionally, we would like to plug into an external monitor or an external LCD projector. And in those cases, you have to tell the laptop to take the signal that’s on the screen and send it to that secondary device or, in some cases, mirror it to both devices at the same time. It’s very common to do that by using that secondary function key.

You can see at the bottom of the screen here that I have some options. When I hit the secondary function key and that display button on my keyboard, I have the option to put it just on my LCD laptop display, I have an option to duplicate it or mirror that, I have an option to extend the display so the two displays are independent, and I have one that only sends that single interface on my computer out to a projector or out to a secondary monitor.

Some laptops can recognize when you’ve closed the lid. And in those cases, you can have the laptop automatically send that video signal out the external port. It does this through a number of different mechanisms. In older laptops, there may be a physical switch on the laptop itself. You can see a tiny little sensor that’s popped up that, when you close the lid, is pushed down, and that tells the laptop that it’s closed.

Most newer laptops have a magnetic switch instead. There’s nothing you can see on the outside of the laptop, but when you close it, that magnetic switch activates and it knows that the lid of the laptop is now closed. It’s becoming almost a rare event these days that we would connect our portable device to a wired network connection. We’re almost always using a wireless connection, especially on these mobile devices that need to travel from place to place.

In these particular situations though, there may be times when you don’t want to have that wireless signal turned on, and you can usually look on a laptop that has a special switch to be able to enable and disable that wireless connection very, very easily. This is a good example of a wireless switch that’s on the side of this laptop. So you don’t have to look around for a function key.

You don’t have to try to start your operating system and disable the wireless connection. You simply reach over to the side of your laptop and you flip the switch, and the wireless connection no longer operates. If your laptop does not have a physical button or a physical switch on the side of it, you can probably still use a function key where you can turn on and off that wireless connection once you’ve started up the laptop itself.

There’s also the ability to enable or disable not just the 802.11 but also the Bluetooth. So if you’re a plane, you could turn all of them off, or if you’re in an environment where you would like to have the Bluetooth on but the wireless off, there’s often settings you can make to enable or disable those independent wireless functions as well.

If you want to be sure, there’s sometimes a status light that is on the laptop itself, and sometimes you’re looking for an extra symbol like the Bluetooth symbol that will light up when your Bluetooth connection is enabled. Our portable devices often have speakers embedded right inside of them, which is great if you’d like to listen to music or watch a video on your portable device.

But if you’re in a meeting, that’s not exactly the type of situation that you would like a lot of noise coming out. So a laptop will often have a switch on it somewhere that allows you to make the volume louder, or softer, , or mute that volume completely. It may be an extra function key that you could use on the keyboard itself, or there may be buttons that are right on the laptop’s screen itself.

You can find them maybe on the edge of the laptop there on the top near the keyboard so you can turn down, turn up, or mute the volume completely. Sometimes on the front of the laptop, there’s even a dial. So you can spin the dial to make the volume louder, or softer, or disable the volume completely. But no matter where that switch happens to be, you’ll often get visual feedback on the screen.

These drivers will be embedded so that it knows if the volume is getting louder or softer, and it prompts information on the screen that shows you exactly how loud, how soft, or muted that particular volume control might be. We know that there’s a backlight behind our LCD that allows us to see what’s presented on the screen, but you often have control over how bright that happens to be.

It’s often a secondary function key. On this particular keyboard, we would hold down the function key and the brightness higher or lower is connected to the arrow keys that are on the keyboard. This is really useful. If you’re in an environment that is very bright outside, you can turn that light up. If you’re somewhere very dark, you can turn it down so it doesn’t hurt your eyes.

And by turning it down, you’re also decreasing the amount of power that’s being used. So if you would like to make sure that battery lasts a little bit longer, it might make sense to turn down that brightness just a little bit. If you’re used to working in a dark place like the night time on a plane, you’ll find that a back lit keyboard becomes really, really useful.

There’s a light underneath the keys that shines through so you’re able to see all of the different keys on your laptop without having an external light that’s shining down on everything. There’s usually an option on the laptop so you can set the intensity of the light that’s coming through those keys, you can set how long those turn on. Maybe they only turn on when you press a button and they eventually fade off.

Or maybe you don’t use them at all, but you’re usually under complete control of how you use that keyboard backlight. If you’re someone who carries your laptop around with you but you eventually come back to a central place, you come back to a home office, you come back to a central office, and you just want to connect your laptop into your computer system there without having to constantly plug and unplug a lot of cable connections, and printer connections, and network tables, you’re usually then plugging into something like a docking station or port replicator.

We almost use these two terms interchangeably. There are some subtle differences between them, but if somebody’s mentioning that they’re having a problem with their port replicator or they’re having a problem with their docking station, it effectively really means this external device that you’re plugging your laptop into that then allows you access to all of those connections outside of the laptop.

Usually when we’re talking about a docking station, we’re not only referring to this device that duplicates all of those ports on the back, but it often provides us with the ability to add additional full-size adapter cards into the system. So they’re usually a little bit larger, but I can fit a standard PCI or PCI express card right into the docking station itself.

If somebody’s looking at a port replicator, then it usually doesn’t have that particular feature. What we’re really doing is plugging in all of the different connections on the back of the port replicator. And then when we’d like to use those connections, we simply connect our laptop directly to the port replicator one time. It makes it, then, very easy for us to bring in our laptop.

We simply push it down onto the port replicator are and we’re able to use all of those connections. And then when we’re ready to leave, we click one button, the laptop comes out, and we didn’t have to touch any cables. One challenge we have with our mobile devices is that, well, they’re mobile. They like to move. And unfortunately, the bad guys have gotten very good at separating us from our mobile devices.

So we, of course, have options to be able to protect ourselves when we want to be sure that nobody’s taking away these laptops and other devices that we might own. Normally we would do this by connecting a cable itself. There’s a lock and a cable that we can connect directly to our portable devices. That means that we can connect this cable to our laptop and then wrap the cable around something that’s not going to move.

Maybe it’s a metal desk that we have in the environment that can’t be taken apart and can’t be easily moved. That way, we can walk away to get coffee, we can walk away to go to a meeting, and when we come back, we can feel relatively certain that our laptop is still going to be there. Many laptops that are designed for businesses have a small slot right in the side of the laptop that is reinforced with metal that is used to plug in this particular lock.

You may not have even noticed it, but if you look very closely, it’s a little tiny slot that’s right on the side. So our lock slides into that, it turns, and now that laptop’s not going anywhere, even if you don’t have one of those tiny reinforced metal slots on your portable device, you could do something like this. It’s a piece of steel that you would epoxy and fasten permanently to your mobile device.

And by doing that, there’s a slot inside of that piece that you can then connect that same lock to it. By using something like this, we’ve created our own reinforced metal slot, and now we can use the same locking mechanism to protect even those portable devices.