When you buy a business laptop one of the questions you ask yourself is "will all my stuff hook up to it?" Business laptops have a variety of connection ports and hubs, and sometimes it gets confusing trying to decipher which ports perform what function.
To that end, we have compiled a list of the physical connections you see most often on business laptops.
USB stands for Universal Service Bus, and you know it when you see it. If you have used a computer built after 1995, you have interacted with a USB hub. You will use this port to connect your devices most often. Mice, thumb-drives, speakers, iPods, smartphones, pocket camcorders and even some obscure devices like heating gloves and dart launchers all connect via USB.
eSATA stands for External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. eSATA ports service devices that require more speed than USB can deliver. Most eSATA ports also function as an additional USB port. You won t find an eSATA port on every model you look at, but depending on the devices you have, you may not need one. eSATA ports primarily connect external hard drives.
FireWire is eSATA s cousin normally found on Apple computers. Not to say that it doesn t appear on PC machines; you just usually see eSATA more often. In addition to external hard drives, FireWire connects to devices like high-performance video cameras for fast transfer of large volume data.
VGA stands for Video Graphics Array. First introduced in 1987, this standard has been around for a while. Its primary function is to connect your computer to an external monitor or projector. Most business laptops still have this port so you can connect to a CRT monitor, but don t expect it to stick around much longer. Big-name manufacturers like Dell have announced their intentions to phase out VGA in the near future.
HDMI is the heir apparent to the VGA throne. With the rise of high definition everything TVs, monitors, media players, you name it you need a way to hook these video devices together. HDMI allows you to connect your business laptop to a high-definition television or monitor and play your HD video files to their full capacity.
Ethernet is the port you use to connect to a high-speed modem or a local network. Generally, Ethernet connects via some flavor of Cat cable. Cat 5 and Cat 6 cables are most popular these days and provide a fast connection for your business laptop to talk to your network.
Thunderbolt Port this port is the new kid on the block and threatens to put FireWire and eSATA out of business. This port transfers more information faster than everything listed above combined. When you connect a device via a Thunderbolt port, data transfers as though your device were built directly into your machine. At the time of this writing there are only about half a dozen devices that connect via Thunderbolt. However, we expect that to change very quickly.
That rounds up your most common physical connectivity options for your business laptop.