Notebooks came in from the cold with Windows 2000. After the desktop-only orientation of Windows NT, Windows 2000 finally provided notebooks with a robust, protected memory-model operating system that also supported critical features such as standby, hibernate and resume. In addition, there were power-saving measures that, after a given interval, shut down power-hungry components such as the display and the hard disk.
Windows XP takes things a step further: all those features are still there, of course, but they work faster. Going into and resuming from hibernation are much quicker and booting up, which often takes longer on a laptop since they tend to be of lower specification -- is quicker too.
When turning off your XP notebook, you get the option to put it into standby or hibernate mode. Going into and resuming from each mode is quicker under XP than previous versions of Windows.
Among the extras Microsoft has included for notebook users is support for wireless LAN authentication and the ability explicitly to log into wireless networks -- which are likely to be the future of networking for both homes and businesses.
You can also extend your display to a second monitor. Since most modern notebooks have a VGA port for an external display, the idea behind what Microsoft calls its DualView technology is that you can extend the desktop. Rather than choosing which display is the primary, as with a standard twin monitor setup, DualView simply spreads the display across two devices. In practice, however, DualView's potential on a notebook is likely to be limited because of the differing sizes and display attributes of a notebook's LCD panel and a desktop CRT monitor.
Of more use is the support for CPU power-saving technologies such as Intel's SpeedStep, and the ability to shut off power to the display when the lid closes or dim it while running on batteries. Although many hardware configurations have supported this feature, it now comes under the operating system's -- and therefore the user's -- control. Other small improvements in battery life may be gained by the ability to turn off USB ports individually to save power.
XP's new Display Properties dialog allows you to invoke ClearType, which removes jaggies from text on LCDs.
Finally, ClearType is brought over from Microsoft's PocketPC operating system. This is a form of anti-aliasing that works by addressing sub-pixels -- the individual liquid crystal cells for each colour rather than the whole RGB pixel -- and calculating which should be dithered on or off. The result is crisp, non-pixellated text that's a vast improvement on previous fuzzy-looking attempts.
If you use a notebook as a second system, then Windows XP is not a compelling prospect. But if it's your only PC, you plan on going wireless, or you're fed up with jaggy text on your LCD screen, then XP becomes more of a must-have.