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Laptop Screen Size and Resolution

December 27th, 2010

laptop-screen-measurement.jpgLaptop computers are a popular choice for many people as either a primary or secondary computer for the home. Size, portability, and convenience are all reasons for people choosing to buy a laptop instead of a desktop computer. Large capacity hard drives, multi-core processors, and even dedicated video cards are available in laptops today, making them suitable as a desktop replacement for all except the most demanding tasks. While it is easy to compare processors, memory, and hard drives between laptops, screen resolution is not always clearly stated.

Advertisements in newspapers, magazines, and online media will often describe a screen size in inches, followed by WSXGA, WSXGA+, WUXGA, or simply HD widescreen. While the acronyms describe a specific resolution, HD (High Definition) can refer to either a 720p or 1080p resolution. It is important to understand that resolution, not panel size, is the key factor that determines how much information can be displayed on the screen at any given time. Just because a 17-inch screen is physically larger than a 15.6-inch screen does not necessarily mean that a 17-inch screen will display more information. It may just mean the information displayed looks bigger. Depending on how you plan to use the laptop, resolution can be more important than screen size.

A common resolution you are likely to encounter with laptops is 1366×768. That means that the display is 1366 pixels horizontally (left to right) and 768 pixels vertically (top to bottom). You can find that resolution on screen sizes from 11.6 to 17 inches, and it is very common on 15.6-inch screens. With this amount of resolution, the image will appear bigger on the 15.6-inch screen than the 11.6-inch model, but you cannot put more information on the larger screen. Visualize a checkerboard, 64 alternating color squares arranged 8 rows by 8 columns. A 16-inch checkerboard has the same number of squares as an 8-inch checkerboard — the squares are just bigger.

Stepping up in resolution will allow you to display more information on a given screen. 15.6-inch screens, for example, can have other resolutions, such as 1440×900, 1680×1050, and 1920×1080, to name a few. Since those numbers describe pixel dimensions, larger does mean more. Referring to the checkerboard example, a 16-inch board with 16 rows and 8 columns would have 128 squares; you could play 2 games side by side simultaneously if you so desired. It is easier to display and work more efficiently with multiple open windows with a higher resolution LCD. You can easily see the information in two windows side by side. For a person who compares documents or images, for example, having them side by side would be easier than having to click the taskbar to switch open windows because one is partially obscuring the other. Also you would not need to scroll as much because more of the document, image, or web page you are viewing will be visible on the screen.

That vertical dimension is also important for HD viewing. The two HD resolutions that are broadcast today are 720p and 1080p. In order to display 1080p HD, the vertical pixel dimension has to be at least 1080. So while a 1366×768 resolution can display 720p HD, it cannot display 1080p HD. This is something to consider if you are purchasing a laptop with a Blu-ray drive, intending to watch movies at full 1080p resolution.

Of course price will change as resolution changes. It simply costs more for manufacturers to produce a 15.6-inch LCD panel with 1680×1050 than it does to make a panel with 1366×768 resolution. There are more transistors involved in the manufacture of higher resolution panels, and the on-board graphics chip or video card has to be more powerful to be able to “drive” those extra pixels. All of this equates to more expense in manufacturing, which means a higher cost to the consumer. If you desire a higher resolution screen but want to save money, think about this: you can’t really change the LCD of a laptop to gain more resolution in the future. It’s not like a desktop, where you can simply buy a larger, higher resolution screen when you have the money. So if you need or want a higher resolution screen on a laptop, you’ll have to pay the extra money at the time of purchase.

Screen size and pixel resolution are both important when choosing a laptop. Screen resolution stated as an acronym can be referenced online. However, if the ambiguous HD is all the description available, you’ll need to ask the salesperson, or email the online store for the specific resolution. The computer manufacturer’s website should have the resolution specifications as well.

Knowing the specific LCD resolution can help ensure that you get what you need or expect.


This article on laptop screen sizes and resolutions was supplied by Jeffrey Semich from Constant Content.


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