Common Computing Devices & Their Purposes | CompTIA IT Fundamentals FC0-U61 | 2.6

In this video you will learn about various computing devices and their purposes such as:  mobile phones, tablets, laptops, workstations, servers, gaming consoles, & IoT devices.

Mobile Phones

Smartphones are a class of mobile phones and of multi-purpose mobile computing devices.  They are distinguished from feature phones by their stronger hardware capabilities and extensive mobile operating systems, which facilitate wider software, internet (including web browsing over mobile broadband), and multimedia functionality (including music, video, camera, and gaming), alongside core phone functions such as voice calls and text messaging.  Smartphones are among the most widespread computing devices in common use. Many smartphones users rely on them for email, web browsing, and text/video communication, and might make phone calls only a small amount of time. Many smartphones have faster processors, more RAM, and more flash memory storage space than desktop computers of a decade ago, along with integrated digital cameras, video capture, and music playback.  A few feature expandable storage using microSD-family cards. Smartphones can be used almost anywhere because they feature both cellular and Wi-Fi connections: cellular connections for cellular phone calls and data, and Wi-Fi for data and (with some carriers) phone calls.  Switching to Wi-Fi connections enables communication without using up cellular minutes or data limits.

Smartphone Core Features


A tablet is a mobile computing device designed to be held in one or two hands.  It is approximately the size of a hardcover book (seven inches or bigger), and resembles a large smartphone.  Tablets let you do many of the same things as a traditional computer. They can browse the internet, connect to social network apps, and display HD videos.  They excel at applications which do not require a large amount of precise user input. Tablets are a step up from smartphones in storage capacity, screen size, and RAM.  When paired with a wireless keyboard, a tablet can be used as an effective mobile substitute for a computer when used for web surfing, email, and light-duty office tasks.  Many tablets feature expandable storage using microSD-family or SD-family cards. Tablets are equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but some can also be fitted with cellular radios to provide the same kind of connect-anywhere capabilities a smartphone has.

Tablet Core Features
**Via USB-Ethernet adapter


A laptop (aka a notebook) is a portable computer that is more efficient, and nearly as powerful as a desktop computer.  Portable computers run off AC power or batteries, such as NiMH, NiCad, or Li-ion packs, for several hours. Laptop computers have the essential features of a desktop computer, plus a built-in screen.  Laptop computers use the same operating system as a desktop computer (Windows, macOS, or Linux), offers multiple USB 2.0/3.0 ports for expansion as well as one or more video ports, has built-in audio, and might have a built-in DVD drive.  Laptop computers also include a webcam for video chatting and a touchpad (sometimes also a touchscreen) for mouseless control of the computer. With the similarities in performance between laptop and desktop computers, it’s not surprising that laptop computers have been outselling desktop computers for several years.

Laptop Core Features


A workstation refers to an individual computer, or group of computers, used by a single user to perform work.  The term workstation usually refers to a basic desktop computer that runs an office suite, web browser, and email, and is typically connected to a network for printing and internet access. Sometimes a workstation is a computer that is more powerful than a normal desktop or laptop computer.  It uses processors, video cards, and other components designed for technical workloads such as 3D CAD, 3D modeling, video editing, photo editing, operating system/app virtualization, and audio editing.

Typical Office Workstation
Workstation Core Features


A server is a software or hardware device that accepts and responds to requests made over a network.  The device that makes the request, and receives a response from the server, is called a client. On the internet, the term “server” commonly refers to the computer system which receives a request a web document, and sends the requested information to the client.  A server is optimized for connecting to or managing other computers on a network. There are many specialized configurations for servers, but their main features include one or more multicore CPUs optimized for higher throughput, one or more Gigabit or 10G Ethernet wired or fiber optic ports, RAID drive arrays using multi-TB drives built for additional reliability, 16GB or more of RAM with error correction, hot-swap power supplies, and management features.  Some servers are controlled directly from a display, keyboard, and mouse the same way the desktops are, but many are controlled using a KVM switch (keyboard, video, mouse) or with remote access software.

KVM Switch to enable a single keyboard, mouse & display to be connected to multiple servers.

Servers are sold in many form factors, including tower, rack-mounted, and blade for use in blade servers.

Rack-Mounted Servers & Switches

A blade server is a compact, self-contained server that consists of core processing components that fit into an enclosure with other blade servers.  A single blade may consist of hot-plug hard drives, memory, network cards, input/output cards and integrated lights-out remote management. The modular design of the blade server helps to optimize server performance and reduce energy costs.

Server Core Features

Gaming Consoles

A gaming console is a specialized computer system designed for interactive video gameplay and display. A video game console functions like a PC and is built with the same essential components, including a central processing unit (CPU), graphics processing unit (GPU) and random access memory (RAM). Unlike a standard computer, expansion options are proprietary and limited to controllers and additional storage.  Current gaming console models include Blu-ray drives (BDs) and can also be used as Blu-ray players.

You can’t upgrade a gaming console’s RAM, processor, or video output, you can choose from two or more models with the latest consoles from Sony & Microsoft.  For example, the Sony Playstation 4 Pro has three USB 3.0 (USB 3.1 Gen 1) ports, versus only two on the original PS4 and PS4 Slim. The PS4 Pro has a faster processor with much more powerful 3D graphics than its predecessors and can stream 4K video sources, compared to its predecessors, which can only support 1080p output.  The Microsoft Xbox One X offers more RAM and a faster CPU and GPU than its predecessors (Xbox One and Xbox One S). The Xbox One S and One X support HDR and 4K Blu-ray, compared to the original Xbox One, which supports 1080p Blu-ray.

Computing Device Feature Comparison

IoT (Internet of Things)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, & objects that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.  IoT devices are usually not full-fledged computers, but, depending on the device, have sensors, controllers, or other components that are internet enabled. IoT devices are designed to work with specific apps. It might be necessary to install an app on your smartphone to enable a connection to a particular IoT device.  The connection between home automation systems and you is typically a smart assistant app, accessible through your smartphone or intelligent speakers.  There are several competing technologies (Apple HomeKit, Nest, Amazon Echo/Alexa, Google Home, Microsoft Cortana, and IFTTT).  Fortunately many products support more than one technology.

Illustration of the Internet of Things (IoT)

Home Appliances

IoT enabled home appliances include refrigerators, ranges, microwave ovens, dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers.

Examples of IoT Appliances

IoT enabled devices can enable users to:

  • Find out the refrigerator door was left open.
  • Use cameras inside the refrigerator to see what needs to go on the shopping list.
  • Download and use customized wash and dry cycles.
  • Preheat an oven.
  • Scan food product barcodes to set cooking time and temp.
  • Use Alexa or other smart home speakers to control appliances.
  • Receive maintenance alerts when it’s time to replace filters.
  • And a whole bunch of other stuff.

Home Automation Devices

A home automation system will control lighting, climate, entertainment systems, and appliances.  It may also include home security such as access control and alarm systems. When connected with the internet, home devices are an important constituent of the internet of things.  Some include:

  • Intelligent speaker systems
  • Smart LED lighting
  • Smart plugs and switches to retrofit existing lights, fans, space heaters, and other small appliances with IoT capabilities
  • Smart robotic vacuum cleaners
  • Window blinds and shades
Home Automation


Intelligent thermostats enable you to control temperature when you’re away from home.  Use them to adjust the thermostat when you’re away on a trip, warm up or cool down your home before you arrive, and tweak your home’s temperature without getting out of bed.  Intelligent thermostats can help you save on heating and cooling costs, and rebates are available from some gas and electric utilities. Some popular brands are:

  • Ecobee
  • Nest
  • Lux KONO and GEO
  • Honeywell Lyric
Intelligent Thermostats

Security Systems

IoT enabled security systems provide capabilities for remote monitoring, intrusion detection, and fire warnings without using wires, enabling easy installation and the ability to install systems in rented properties.  Some of the features of typical intelligent security systems might include:

  • Motion sensors
  • Glass breakage
  • Fire and smoke detection
  • Gas leak detection
  • Water leak detection
  • Freeze detection
  • Wi-Fi and cellular connections
  • IP cameras
  • Integration with home automation systems
  • Professional monitoring (optional)

Some leading vendors are SimpliSafe, Frontpoint, ADT, iSmartAlarm, and Ring.

IoT Home Security Systems

Modern Cars

Many recent cars contain a lot of connected technology.  Some of the connected automotive features that might be found on a new passenger vehicle include cellular connections with a Wi-Fi hotspot, so all of your Wi-Fi devices are usable while you drive; integration with iOS or Android smartphones, so you can use many of your smartphone’s features from the touchscreen display in the vehicle; a vehicle locator so you’ll never forget where you parked your car; vehicle service status, satellite navigation and radio; voice commands; streaming media support; etc.

Wi-Fi Enabled Car on Smartphone

IP Cameras

An internet protocol (IP) camera is a type of digital camera that receives control data and sends image data via the internet.  They are commonly used for security systems. They are also available as independent devices. When IP cameras are used as independent devices, still or video output is generally stored in a private cloud account for review on your smartphone or computer.  Many IP cameras can be integrated with home automation systems. Some of the leading vendors of IP camera are:

  • Logitech
  • Arlo
  • D-Link
IP Cameras

Streaming Media Devices

An increasing number of TV and movie fans are switching from cable or satellite TV to streaming media services.  Streaming media servers are delivered by cable or other broadband internet providers. A mixture of paid and free streaming channels brought in via broadband internet services means that viewers have access to more media than with a traditional cable TV or satellite TV subscription. The leading streaming media devices include:

  • Roku:  some models have 4K video and wired network support; some models support analog TV connections; also available in smart TVs from third-party vendors.
  • Amazon Fire TV:  some models have 4K video and 3D audio support; can be controlled with Alexa/Echo; use optional adapter for wired network.
  • Apple TV:  supports 4K video, 3D audio, and Siri voice command; other versions support full HD; plays Apple TV games.
  • Google Chromecast:  streams 1080p video from Android, iOS, macOS, & Windows devices.
  • Sonos:  streams audio from streaming music services, including Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, etc.  Available in stereo and 5.1 surround audio versions.

Medical Devices

Wearable activity trackers such as Fitbit are the most well-known IoT medical devices, but there are many other categories now available or in trials.  Some devices are:

  • Asthma management
  • Back therapy
  • Biosensors
  • Smart contact lenses
  • Breast health tracking
  • Compact ECG monitor
  • Pacemaker/defibrillators
Wireless Implantable Medical Devices

These and similar products work with Bluetooth, cellular, or Wi-Fi connections to smartphones or directly to healthcare providers.  While IoT in general provides a new level of security threats, medical device security is an even greater concern because misuse or hacking could be a literal life or death issue.  Technical, security, and privacy issues are all important factors in this new field.