The modern laptop comes with all sorts of things built-in as standard and most people rarely pay attention to what’s going on under the hood.

That’s often because the technologies you find on most laptops can seem a little bit intimidating and complex, but they’re not all that difficult to get your head around.

Naturally, the basic specifications are simple enough to work out, as we explained in our tech jargon buster, and often the bigger the number the better is a good rule of thumb. So, the faster the processor or the larger the hard disk the better, a higher-resolution screen will make all the difference when you want to watch Blu-ray movies and as much RAM as you can afford is also a good idea. However, there’s a host of other things that you’ll find on a laptop that perhaps need a little more explanation.

What’s more, it’s important to pay particular attention to specific specifications depending on what you’re intending to use your laptop for. So, if you want a laptop for watching movies and TV, it’s likely you’ll need different specifications to a laptop that’s designed for simple web browsing and basic office suite functionality.

Let’s take a look at various specs to watch out for.

Laptop for home entertainment

If you’re planning to use your laptop as the centre of your home entertainment system you’ll need to ensure that it has a couple of features to make hooking things up and getting the best results simple. HDMI is the very latest video connector that allows you to connect your PC to a projector or screen and retain a high quality digital output.

An HDMI port allows you to show off your HD movie collection on the big screen with ease. Because HDMI is digital there’s no setup to perform, you just plug the cable in and your high-definition video is ready to go. The HDMI cable carries digital audio too.

Naturally, for high-definition video you’ll also want a Blu-ray disc drive so you can get the most from the latest 3D releases. It’s backwards compatible too - you can still play all your old DVDs in a Blu-ray drive.

 Laptop for digital photography

If you’re an avid photographer then having a laptop to store, organise and edit all your pictures is essential these days. For a laptop that suits your needs you want to look out for a few specifications in particular.

Digital photography has taken off massively and nearly every home has a digital camera. Getting those pictures onto your laptop so that you can upload them to Facebook or print them out at home used to be a bit of a pain.

Now, however, laptops come with built-in digital memory card readers that support loads of different formats - simply insert the memory card into you PC and it shows up as a disk drive. You can even let Windows automatically import images for you. With free apps like Windows Photo gallery you can easily put together slideshows and create photo panoramas. You can even use memory cards for super fast storage to share documents between PCs.

USB 3 is the latest and greatest version of connecting cable that’s used to hook up that vast majority of devices that plug into a PC. This new incarnation is faster than ever meaning that PCs can transfer data more quickly. USB 3 is perfect for transferring images from your digital camera to your PC and then to an external USB disk drive for backup. Best of all it’s compatible with all the USB connectors that have come before it. So, if you have an older hard drive or printer that uses USB 2 or earlier it’ll still work with your USB 3 ports on your brand new laptop.

Laptop for homework/office

For the home office laptop the most important factor is connectivity - being able to get online to work remotely is essential so ensure that you choose the right networking options for you. Every laptop these days comes with wireless connectivity built-in. Accessing the internet whenever you are in range of a base station gives you great flexibility. Sat on the couch, at the kitchen table or in bed you can use your laptop to surf the web wherever you have Wi-Fi.

Though Wi-Fi has taken over and, let’s be honest it’s clearly the best way to connect your PC to a network, Ethernet is still an option found on most laptops. Wired connections have the distinct advantage of being very safe and consistently faster than wireless too. The downside, of course, is that Ethernet requires a physical connection so you need to be stuck at a desk to reap the benefits. However, if you’re only ever using the laptop in your office Ethernet makes perfect sense.

One distinct advantage of Windows 8 is how it automatically handles your network connections. Once you’ve setup your home networks Windows will automatically connect the next time you need it. Even better, where there’s a problem connecting Windows can automatically troubleshoot the issue and help you solve it too.

If speed is important to you then you should consider looking at a machine with a solid state hard disk (SSD). The hard disk inside most laptops is a spinning platter that writes data magnetically and has proved to be an incredibly reliable technology, but its time may be limited. The Solid State Disk (SSD) has no moving parts which gives it some major advantages over traditional hard disks. Firstly, there’s less chance of an SSD failing physically and they are silent in operation. Secondly they use much less power and increase laptop speeds dramatically.

Laptop for the kids

If you want a PC that’s primarily for the kids then you can afford to be a little more flexible when looking over the specifications. Naturally, you’ll want the laptop to be quite robust and able to take a fair few knocks and the good news is that modern laptops are built to resist heavy-handed treatment. It’s unlikely the kids need high-end processors or graphics cards so look to some of the more fun features.

Webcams can bring a lot of fun to laptop use and though they are very good for international video calling you can use the webcam for some fun too, taking shots of yourself to post to the web or using it to make short home movies really resonates well with the younger kids.

Visit the Dell Tech Zone for more advice on family computing.