The ports to look for on a computer include USB, FireWire, Ethernet, and S-video or HDMI. USB ports let you connect many add-on devices, such as digital cameras or external hard drives, as well as a memory drive for copying files to and from the hard drive. Having these ports at the front of the case makes connecting devices more convenient. An Ethernet port or wireless network card lets you link several computers in the household to share files, a printer, or a broadband Internet connection. FireWire or IEEE 1394 ports are used to capture video from digital camcorders and connect to other peripheral devices. An S-video or HDMI output jack lets you run a video cable from the computer to a television so you can use the computer's DVD drive to view a movie on a TV instead of on the computer monitor. Media-center PCs (equipped with TV tuners) can also capture video from a VCR, letting you copy tapes to DVDs. The once-ubiquitous modem port is disappearing from new PCs as dial-up Internet access marches toward oblivion. Other slots to look for on a new computer are memory-card readers for flash cards.
For laptops: Most laptops let you attach those devices without the docking station. At least two USB ports for easy hookup of, say, a printer, digital camera, or scanner are standard. A wired network (Ethernet) port is also standard. A FireWire port for digital-video transfer is common. An internal wireless-network (Wi-Fi) adapter is standard. Another option is an internal Bluetooth wireless adapter to link to a Bluetooth-capable cell phone, camera, or another laptop.