An expansion port can be a slot or slot on the side, front, back or even bottom of the laptop – it provides you with a physical connection point to peripherals (devices) such as printers, external mice, keyboards, monitors or even cell phones. Different computer ports can help you expand the capabilities of your laptop.
When buying a laptop, do not ignore these connection ports. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and different users need different ports so you can connect more devices and get more work done. If your favorite laptop does not have the required built-in connectors, it may be possible to expand the ports by purchasing additional adapters.
1. IEEE 1394 port
This expansion port is named FireWire by Apple, i is named Link by Sony, and Linx by Texas Instruments.
The 1394 port, can connect the laptop to a variety of peripheral devices, including digital cameras, external hard drives, printers and scanners. On such devices, the port will have either a 4-pin or 6-pin connection.
The IEEE 1394 standard is designed to support plug-and-play, which means that once you connect your laptop to a peripheral device that supports the standard, the operating system will automatically find the device and request permission to download the necessary drivers to use the plug-in.
2. USB 2.0
USB (Universal Serial Bus) is the most popular expansion port on laptops because of the number of peripherals that can be connected to it.
This port is often referred to as High Speed USB or USB 2. It is capable of transferring data at speeds of up to 480 Mbps, which is the most common speed for USB. USB 2 can be used for most devices, which is why practically every laptop comes with this port.
For better or worse, USB 2.0 ports are unique in that they come in a variety of shapes, such as Type A (rectangular), Type B (square), micro or mini USB sizes to support a variety of peripherals. On laptops, USB 2.0 ports are always Type-A connectors.
3. USB 3.0
SuperSpeed USB or USB 3, with a maximum transfer rate of 5 Gbps, is more than 10 times faster than its predecessor. The wonderful thing about this port is that it is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 cables and peripherals.
The USB 3 connection is perfect for devices such as external hard drives, SSDs, and high resolution docking stations. You can identify the port by the light blue color around the connection or the small “SS” logo next to the port to indicate its higher transfer rate.
4. USB Type C
The USB Type C port slim USB port is being touted as the connector of the future, and for good reason: you will find it on many devices, and it is expected to replace USB Type-A, Type-B and microUSB ports on all new laptops and devices.
Laptops are getting thinner, and the port is much thinner than previous ports to fit the latest devices. It’s also reversible, so you don’t have to worry about plugging it in the wrong way. Plus, USB Type-C supports many different standards. However, not all of them offer the same features.
For example, a USB-C port can transfer files at 5 Gbps (gigabytes per second) if it has the USB 3.1 Gen 1 protocol, or 10 Gbps if it has USB 3.1 Gen 2 (more on these two later).
But the most fascinating thing about this port is that it accepts USB Power Delivery when it is labeled USB-PD, which means you can use this connection to charge your laptop.
It also has the ability to send DisplayPort signals via “alt mode” and can even be used as a Thunderbolt port – twice the size of a Thunderbolt 3 port with a lightning bolt next to the connector.
If your laptop only has a USB Type-A port and needs to connect to a USB Type-C device, then one of the adapters you’ll need is a USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable.
5. Thunderbolt 3
Thunderbolt ports are the fastest connectivity ports on the market today, offering up to 40 Gbps data transfer speeds, which is four times faster than the USB 3.1 Gen 2 protocol. Thunderbolt 3 is unique in that it is a high-speed standard with a single port carrying dual DisplayPort signals to support up to two 4K displays simultaneously.
Suppose the slim design of your laptop doesn’t allow for the graphics capabilities you need to play games for long periods of time. If it has a Thunderbolt port, it can connect to an external graphics card for more graphics capabilities to play high-end games.
And all Thunderbolt 3 ports use USB Type-C connections and can double as USB Type-C ports. What does this mean for you? You can connect an entire range of USB-enabled devices, and even use this connection to power up your laptop.
If you need to connect a Thunderbolt laptop to an older Thunderbolt device, one of the adapters you will need to use is a Thunderbolt 3 cable. Not all Thunderbolt cables can handle the full speed of 40 Gbps. So please be sure to read the specifications. Connecting to older devices will require a Thunderbolt-to-Thunderbolt adapter.
6. USB 3.1 Gen 1
USB 3.1 Gen 1 is the same 5 Gbps speed connection protocol as USB 3.0, which is another SuperSpeed USB. the difference is that you can only find it on USB Type-C ports. It is backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 devices.
Another cool thing about USB Type-C connections for laptops and devices that support the USB 3.1 Gen 1 protocol is USB Power Delivery. this allows you to receive or send up to 100 watts of power from your laptop, which means you can use this type of connection to charge your laptop.
If you are trying to connect to a device that has the USB 3.1 Gen 1 protocol and the laptop does not have this port. The adapter you need is a standard Type-C cable, as the USB 3.1 port requires a Type-C connector. 7.
7. USB 3.1 Gen 2
This is called SuperSpeed + and is named after the higher transfer speed of up to 10 Gbps. Functionally, it is similar to the USB 3.1 Gen 1 protocol, but with one major difference: it supports twice the throughput. The advantage of this protocol is that, just like USB 3.1 Gen 1, it is backwards compatible with USB ports.
If your laptop does not have a USB 3.1 Gen 2 connector, it will need to be connected to a device that supports this protocol. The adapter you need is a C-type cable. Just make sure it is rated at 10 Gbps to take full advantage of all USB 3.1 Gen 2 features.
8. SD Card Reader
SD card readers are also sold as 3-in-1 card readers, 4-in-1 card readers, 5-in-1 card readers, SDHC card readers or Express Card slots, which is a space-saving technology that allows a variety of memory cards to be inserted depending on the desired functionality.
It is the largest expansion slot available on portable computers. But as laptop footprints shrink, they are becoming less common. However, you can still find them on laptops that are suitable for photo and video editing.
The ExpressCard itself has a 26-pin connector and is hot-swappable and hot-swappable, which means you can remove and insert them without having to reboot your laptop. These cards come in two standard formats: 34mm and 54mm to describe the width of the slot. The depth is always 75mm. they support data transfer rates of 2.5 Gbps.
If you want a laptop that does not have a card reader slot, the adapter you need is to convert to an SD card reader via USB connection.
9. microSD card reader
Another type of ExpressCard slot is the microSD card slot.
Also known as a microSDHC reader or microSDXC reader, it is an expansion slot that can read smaller SD memory cards, such as those used by smartphones for external storage.
By inserting the card into the slot, files can be easily transferred between the card and the laptop without the need to connect a USB cable. Like the larger expansion port above, it is hot-swappable and can be hot-swapped.
Governed by the SD Association (Secure Digital Association), the industry standard for these non-volatile data memory cards are: MicroSD and MiniSD, with SD being the largest in the family.
Chromebooks make heavy use of microSD card storage because the on-board storage is limited to less than 100GB (half of which is used by the OS).
If you choose a laptop with very limited internal storage, be sure to get one with at least a microSD card slot. You can install your most frequently used Windows 10 apps on the microSD card without taking up system space.
10. e-SATA port
e-SATA stands for “External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment”. It is a BUS interface that supports both SATA and USB standards for connecting to external storage devices. But it is a professional-grade port that is faster than the standard USB port and can offload thousands of files and data between the laptop and the external storage drive. You’ll find them on workstation-class laptops .
The eSATA ports are an esoteric interface: unlike USB ports, they have a separate purpose and are used strictly for transferring information back and forth to and from storage devices, which makes them faster than USB.
VGA (Video Graphics Array) is the granddaddy of all video output ports. You can still find this port on monitors and projects, and even on some current laptops. This is the analog connection with the thick 15-pin connector, so you will usually find them on larger/thicker laptops.
VGA output is limited to 1920 x 1200p. Since this is an analog connection, it can easily lead to signal degradation on long cables – in 2010, computer manufacturers announced the phase-out of this technology in favor of HDMI.
But one advantage it has over HDMI is the ability to display images at different resolutions, as opposed to HDMI, which is a digital standard that will replace unscalable images with black boxes only.
If your laptop has a DVI, DisplayPort or HDMI port standard, the adapter you need to connect to a VGA-enabled device is a DVI-to-VGA, DisplayPort-to-VGA or HDMI-to-VGA converter.
The High Definition Multimedia Interface is the most popular port for connecting external monitors, TVs and projectors – some can output up to 4K!
This port sends audio and video signals to external visual peripherals connected to the laptop. You will not be able to output to dual monitors from a single port. While most laptops have full-size HDMI connectors, we find that many ultra-thin laptops use the miniHDMI port more frequently.
If your laptop is equipped with HDMI, but the device you are connecting has a DVI (Digital Video Interface) connection, you may need to use certain adapters, including an HDMI to DVI cable or a USB Type-C to HDMI adapter, provided your C-type connector can support video.
This is the world’s most advanced display connectivity standard. Not only can it output to a single monitor at 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution and 60 Hz. Up to three monitors can be output at once!
Most modern laptops have a mini DisplayPort, or they can send signals from a USB C-type port. Like HDMI, DisplayPort can output audio and video on the same cable.
Many of the peripherals you’ll connect don’t have this port: the adapter that connects your laptop to them is a mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI cable. To output to a single device, you’ll need either a USB Type-C to DisplayPort or a mini DisplayPort to full DisplayPort cable. To output DisplayPort from a single mini DisplayPort to multiple displays, you need a Multistream Transport (MST) hub.
Ethernet is also known as network adapter, network jack, RJ-45, Gigabit Ethernet, and 10/100 Ethernet.
You can find this port type mainly on commercial laptops. The purpose is to help you connect directly to a wired network through the network adapter inside the laptop. The ability to plug into the network through the Ethernet port is especially important when you find that the wireless signal is poor or non-existent.
The FCC-approved “RJ” stands for “registered jack,” which is basically a telephone connector-all Ethernet ports operate at up to 1 Gbps.
If your laptop doesn’t have a built-in Ethernet port, you’ll need a USB-to-Ethernet adapter as long as the system comes with a USB Type-C or USB Type-A port.
Note: As Wi-Fi continues to improve and laptops get thinner, many manufacturers are starting to drop the Ethernet port. You can use a docking station to connect to a wired network.
15. Audio/Microphone Jack
The 3.5mm audio jack standard, also known as the headphone jack, is common on laptops. Because it can be easily connected to most wired headphones and speakers in the world. Some older laptops have an audio jack for headphones and a jack for a microphone.
The models we see today have both headphone and microphone technology integrated into the same port. But some laptops do away with this port altogether. If you want a laptop that doesn’t have a headphone jack, you may need to pick up a wired USB Type-C headset or a wireless Bluetooth headset.
Now that you are more familiar with the various computer ports, are you ready to buy a better laptop based on your business needs? We hope this guide has been helpful to you.