HotHardware's Notebook Buyer's Guide
Notebook Terms to Know
Before we get on with our notebook reviews and you start asking us questions on "what does that mean," we figured we would take a pre-emptive strike and layout a few terms that you will see in our reviews.
Active Matrix Display –This is a type of flat panel display where each pixel is controlled by a transistor. This is extremely common type of notebook display, and the terms active matrix and TFT are often used interchangeable, even though they mean two different things. Technically, an active matrix display uses TFT technology.
Centrino –Everyone should have heard this term already. A "Centrino" branded notebook is not the same thing as a "notebook based on Centrino technology." For a notebook system vendors like Dell, HP/Compaq, and IBM, in order for them to be able to get Centrino branding three things must be true: the notebook must use a Intel WiFi card (2200BG is the most common these days).
Notebook and Laptop –These really are interchangeable terms.
OEM –There is a distinct difference between the two. An OEM is much more common in the desktop field then it is to the notebook. An OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) refers to a company that designs and builds a product and then sells it to another company with the second company's brand and distribution. In the computer world, the term OEM is used mostly as a verb to imply. An example would be that Foxconn "OEMs" desktop motherboards for Dell.
ODM –An ODM on the other hand is a company that designs and or builds a product based on another company's specification. For example, Dell has a design team that works with Samsung to design a notebook to cater to a specific market. Dell would be the one to specify the basic details of the notebook
Sonoma –This is the code name for the most recent platform of the Pentium-M, where by there are substantial technology improvements, i.e. the capability for 7.1 dolby sound (Intel's Azalia sound hardware), PCI Express, SATA, and a new integrated graphics core for those computers choosing IGP. The biggest benefit over the previous Centrino platform is the lower power consumption specs due to Intel's Display Power Saving Technology (DPST) and Wireless SpeedStep.
Tactile Feedback/Response –One of the most important, yet underwritten portions of notebooks reviews is the keyboard and touchpad experience. You will be using this everyday, so when we speak of "tactile feedback" we mean the resistance of the button that gives a distinctive "click" or other noise and general feel to let you know that you actually pressed it.
TFT –This is an acronym for thin film transistor, and is a type of flat panel display where each pixel is controlled by one to four transistors. The terms active matrix and TFT are often used interchangeable, even though they mean two different things. Technically, an active matrix display uses TFT technology.
Wide aspect ratio/widescreen display –These are what they are: widescreen displays. Think of the widescreen TV sets, only in the notebook arena everything is an LCD display. In the past (mostly pre 2004), the technology for widescreen LCD displays was at a much higher premium than it is now.