The trend in laptop screens has been to move away from a 4:3 aspect ratio and towards 16:9. Maybe it’s cheaper to produce the widescreens. Maybe it’s a marketing gimmick relating to widescreen HD video playback. But unless you’re using your laptop to play movies all the time, the loss of vertical resolution is really inconvenient.
My old 15-inch laptop, from 2005, has 800 pixels of vertical resolution. All the brand-new 15-inch models have 768 pixels. Considering you’ve got various menu bars, tool bars, status bars, and other things taking up precious vertical space, the actual main window (in your browser, word processor, etc.) has shrunk quite a bit, requiring a lot of vertical scrolling. Assuming you spend most of your laptop time not watching HD movies, this is very frustrating.
I recently purchased a 17-inch laptop, which gives me an extra 100 vertical pixels over my old machine. However, 17-inch laptops once came with 1200 vertical pixels. They then shifted to 1050 pixels, and now a mere 900. What a shame. On the bright side, I don’t think laptop manufacturers will go any lower.
There is even a Facebook group about this issue. (Then again, I suppose there is a Facebook group about every issue.)
I believe in getting the most out of existing hardware, but my aging Averatec laptop (purchased in 2005) was beginning to give me trouble, as old hardware will do. Additionally, the old machine could not be counted upon to run an IDE like Netbeans. It just lacked the horsepower.
So I’ve been doing a lot of research into mid-range consumer laptops, reading reviews, trying to find the one that strikes just the right balance between price and features. I ended up purchasing a Dell Inspiron 17R (aka N7010) from Staples, on clearance for $600.
LED displays began entering the laptop market back in 2007, though at the time they were offered on higher-end laptops only. These days LED displays are more common, even on budget models. What are the benefits of LED displays? In a nutshell, the LED screens are thinner, brighter, and more energy efficient than traditional displays.
I understand why glossy screens have completely overtaken matte screens; glossies look a lot sexier on display at the store. Images and videos are shown in vivid, eye-catching color and contrast that matte screens cannot achieve. However, the flaw of the glossy screen is easily overlooked at the store display.
I purchased a glossy screen model several years ago, when they were just becoming popular. It was not long before I noticed how much glare these screens pick up. They reflect light like a mirrored surface! In certain light conditions glossy screens are completely unusable, where a matte screen would be acceptable. I found myself often adjusting the screen, tilting it, turning it, to minimize the glare. It became a constant annoyance.
Now I’ve gone laptop shopping once again, and my local Best Buy no longer carries a single matte screen model. Glossies have completely overtaken. Where is the consumer choice? I realize that the colors on matte screens don’t “pop” like they do on glossies, but that’s a sacrifice I’d make to be rid of the annoying glare problem.
The few matte screen laptops I’ve found for sale online tend to be Thinkpads and other business-focused models. If I were to limit myself to matte screens only, my selection would be pretty thin. I guess I’ll likely suck it up and reluctantly go with a glossy.
UPDATE: what a sad, yet prescient comment (from 2006!) I came across on this topic:
The glare is terrible and you can’t use the laptop outside at all. The side viewing angle is totally destroyed because looking at the screen from the side looks just like a mirror.
What in the world were they thinking? I sure hope that this does not become a major trend.