It does not matter for what purpose you are using your laptop, but keeping track of different laptop port types and their usage becomes overwhelming, especially if you are a newbie. Maybe you sometimes pondered about the various ports! These ports are intended for different tasks or purposes. Which is why this article is here to help you identify different laptop ports and their usage.
What is basically a laptop port?
In terms of computer hardware, a port is used as an interface between the computer and other peripheral devices such as keyboard, mouse, printer, flash drive, display unit and speaker. By now, most of the laptops have common ports like USB, HDMI etc. by which keyboards or pen drives can be connected quickly. Generally speaking, a laptop port is a specialized outlet, on which a cable or plug connects. Generally, laptop ports cover a wide variety of shapes such as round, square and rectangular.
Types of laptop ports
There are different types of ports on a laptop:
- USB port
- HDMI port
- Ethernet port
- VGA port
- Serial port
- DVI port
- Display port
- Parallel port
- FireWire port
- Docking station
USB port is the most commonly used one. The main function of this port is to connect different peripherals (printers, keyboards, external hard drives, mice, scanners, cameras, and many more) to the laptop. USB ports are available on all kinds of computers, such as laptops, notebooks, desktops, tablets etc. A USB port is also known as a powered port because it transfers more power, which is enough to charge a smartphone (some USB ports can charge a smartphone even if the computer is sleeping or turned off). Also, you will find two to three different types of USB ports on any laptop: USB-Type A, USB-Type B and USB-Type C.
USB-Type A: USB-Type A is a rectangular, 4-pin connector that comes in different versions, such as USB 3.0, USB 3.1, USB 1.1 and USB 2. This type of USB can easily be identified by looking at its rectangular shape.
USB-Type B: In general, USB-Type B ports come in square shape and black or grey in colour.
USB-Type C: It is a new entry in the block. It is easier to handle and it has faster transfer speed. USB-Type C is slimmer and smaller compared to USB-Type A or B
It works as a digital interface, which is used mostly for high definition multimedia devices. Through HDMI port, you can connect high definition or ultra high definition devices like HDTV, monitor, gaming console as well as Blue-Ray players. This port contains 19-pins. Recently, HDMI 2.0 is released with its advantages for carrying digital video signal up to 4k resolution and 32 audio signals.
Before buying an HDMI cable, you need to consider the version of your laptop’s HDMI Port, which you can check through the user’s manual or simply Googling!
Most of the laptops nowadays manage to keep Ethernet cable. Ethernet ports are used to connect the network cable to a PC. Once the cable is plugged into an Ethernet port, it can either lead to a modem, network hub and internet gateway. Ethernet ports are little wider than a phone jack.
VGA, Video graphics array, is a 15-pin connector. It is widely used in monitors, laptops, video cards, projectors etc. Many of the current LCD monitors and LED monitors support VGA ports, but the quality of picture will be reduced to a great extent. VGA ports can carry analogue video signals up to 648X480 resolution. By now, many laptops have in-built VGA ports, which are excellent to connect external monitors and projectors.
Serial ports are largely replaced by modern consumer PCs now. The main function of serial ports is to carry RS232 signals (D-Subminiature and D-Subconnector are ideal examples of serial ports). This type of port can be used to connect peripherals, with the help of a serial protocol — to transmit 1-bit data at a time, over an only-communication-line.
DVI port works as an interface between a source device such as display controller of a computer and a display device like monitor or projector. DVI port was aimed to remove drawbacks of analog VGA technology, which was unable to carry lossless transmission of digital video signals. DVI ports have 3 modes: DVI-A (analog), DVI-D (digital) and DVI-I (analog and digital both).
These kinds of ports work as a digital display interface among multimedia audio channels and other types of data. Later standardized through VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association), these ports were earlier used by companies like Sony, Maxell, Philip and Lattice. As a matter of evidence, display ports were discovered just to replace DVI and VGA ports. The latest version of this port is Display port 1.3. It can handle up to 7680 X 4320 resolutions. Display ports are mostly found on Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets and Apple’s MacBook Pro. There are two types of display ports: 1) Standard display Port and 2) Mini display port. Standard display ports are mostly found on bigger size laptops, which comes with lock-mechanism that prevents attached cables for disconnecting accidentally.
Parallel port (also known as Centronics port) is used to build interfaces between a computer and its peripheral devices— with the help of cables. Parallel ports were found on most personal computers from 1970-2000. Printer cable is one such example of parallel port (though there are many types of parallel ports). Unlike serial ports, which demand a minimum amount of data lines, but parallel ports require multiple data lines from cables or port connectors.
PS/2 ports include 6-pins and it avails DIN connector. These kinds of ports are used to connect keyboard and mouse. It was first introduced by the personal computer system of IBM. These ports come in diverse colours, for the keyboard, it is purple but for the mouse, it is green. The good thing is — the configuration of both (keyboard and mouse) is the same. You don’t need to worry if you plugged into the wrong ports, because the computer soon identifies themselves.
Thunderbolt 3 may be identical to the regular USB-C port, but it has almost different protocols. It supports faster transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps— 4x more than regular USB-C Gen 2. Thunderbolt ports are much similar to USB-C ports, but you have to look for a sign (a thunder-like symbol) next to it— this is what identifies a thunderbolt port.
Firewire port, also known as IEEE 1394 port, somehow looks like USB in many ways — but ultimately different. Firewire ports are applicable for many video cameras as they have firewire connections by default.
Docking station port
These kinds of ports are used to plug your laptop into a docking station or port replicator. Docking ports are different for each manufacturer and model of laptop. Thus, it is usually in-built in business laptops, such as Lenovo’s ThinkPad. You cannot expect them on a consumer laptop.
It’s been observed that each port in a laptop has its unique significance. All of the above-mentioned ports will not be available in a single laptop. Actually, availability of these ports varies from manufacturers to models. So it is highly recommended to dig a while about all kinds of ports you need before purchasing a laptop.