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What is a Wireless Notebook Computer?

By Ken Black
Updated May 16, 2024
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A wireless notebook computer is simply a computer that is equipped with a type of network card so that it can connect to a wireless network. Most modern notebook computers come equipped with a wireless card already on board internally. Those that do not have a card can often be retrofitted with one so that connectivity can still take place once software is installed so that the card can interface with the computer.

The wireless notebook computer has become popular in recent years simply because of the mobile computing capability that comes along with them. In the past, it was difficult to be very mobile even with laptops due to the fact that connectivity to the Internet was still very much fixed to certain locations. Often, these locations involved wires. The advent of wireless networks changed all that.

In order to get on a wireless network, most wireless notebooks use a wireless card capable of receiving and sending what are known as WiFi signals. These signals are regulated and standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in what is know as section 802 of their uniform code. Thus, any WiFi product is likely to be referred to as 802. More specifically, WiFi uses 802.11. Anyone buying a wireless notebook computer will also notice a letter behind the number, likely to be a (b), (g), or (n).

For those who are simply using the wireless notebook to connect to the internet, these letters will likely not mean much. However, they do represent different generations of the technology, with subsequent letters being newer technologies capable of going at faster speeds. Still, for those who have a wireless notebook computer capable of sending and receiving in the 802.11(b) standard, any router that is meant for later generations is usually backward compatible to the standard required by the computer.

Most models of portable computer will have the capability of turning on and off a wireless signal when it is needed. This can help conserve energy when operating from battery power. Also, for those who are concerned about other people accessing their machine through a wireless network, this is a good way to ensure that does not happen. The computer may have a manual switch that can be turned to cut off the signal, may use software to cut the signal off, or may offer both options.

For those who require wireless connectivity as a priority but do not really need a fast machine, the wireless notebook computer offers an advantage. Nearly all notebooks take advantage of the same technology, which is available for a relatively cheap price. This is one reason why it has become a standard for all notebook computers.

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Discussion Comments
By JoseJames — On Nov 10, 2010

I have had nothing but ease when setting up my wireless router connection. Even though the device came with a compact disc of all the drivers and other software, I didn't even have to use it. The simple instructions made for a painless setup that my laptop connection instantly recognized and connected to.

There is even a one button means of setting up the security on the device and I have been amazed at how secure I felt after the simple setup. I have heard many horror stories of people's wireless internet connections be broken into and having bandwidth stolen but I have yet to identify any issues with my router and connection.

While there are some dead spots inside of my house I only discovered them after having walked every square foot of my living quarters with the laptop in one arm to see if my connection stayed active. Never did I actually loose the connection but there were a few corners where my speed slowed to a crawl and I could tell that it would not be an acceptable connection for me to work on.

I think that if people follow the setup directions carefully for the router that they purchase, things will come together well and you will soon be browsing wirelessly.

By ronburg44 — On Nov 10, 2010

I think that the hardest part when dealing with a wireless notebook computer is not actually setting up the computer but the difficulty really comes when trying to setup the wireless router. While a box with blinking lights and almost no buttons would seem to be fairly easy to get working, it has been far from it.

One of the most difficult computer experiences I have ever dealt with is the wireless router connection used here in my house. I followed the instructions very closely and I pride myself on the ability to configure electronics for proper use. Be sure that when you buy a wireless router that you examine just how easy or complicated it is to set up that wireless router.

Previously I had setup a wireless mouse for my notebook computer and had no problems at all but that was using Bluetooth technology and not the very old style Wi-Fi technology. Perhaps that is the reason that it was so simple and I wonder if we will ever see Bluetooth wireless connection cards hit the consumer electronic market.

By youbiKan — On Nov 10, 2010

@GraniteChief is right about the fact that you will need a wireless access point or router in order to have a complete wireless setup. One thing to keep in mind is that not all wireless internet routers are created equal. It is in fact a marketing ploy that has been developed to guide consumers to more expensive choices.

Depending on the standard of wireless connectivity that your laptop or notebook computer uses, you can sometimes buy a router that will match the speed of your wireless card.

If you have an older wireless connection card inside of your notebook or laptop computer then you might be wasting money by purchasing a more expensive router and one that is capable of speeds faster then your laptop is capable of.

Another major thing to consider but is much more difficult to determine is the operating power of the wireless radio inside of the router or access point. Depending on the broadcast wattage, you may or may not be able to reach every corner of your house and you should consider the coverage area you desire when deciding what router is going to be capable of doing the job you need to have done.

The marketing materials and sales specifications of these types of wireless electronics can be confusing so be sure to research properly before investing in your wireless infrastructure.

By GraniteChief — On Nov 10, 2010

In this day and age, is there really any ever reason to have a notebook computer that isn't wireless? In the past few years, it has become a standard for these types of portable systems to come equipped with wireless capability from the manufacturer. We have also seen the phasing out of expansion cards as the Universal Serial Bus ports have taken away the need for the old style flat cards.

One thing that people often forget to realize is that there is a need for a wireless access point or router in addition to the wireless expansion card that may or may not have come preinstalled on your system. These access points and routers act as a means of you home internet connection being broadcast wirelessly.

Without this critical component, the wireless access card inside of you system does not have anything to connect to in order to get an internet connection. This can be confusing but most sales people that are in the computer industry can guide you in the right direction as to how to get a complete wireless setup up and running inside of your home of office.

Wireless is crucial and the freedom that it gives means that you will not be held back by wires and other physical constraints of a cable connection.

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