by Todd Haselton on November 9, 2009
Your notebook display is the primary viewing device for your laptop computer. It shows all of your on-screen content, from your desktop to your Web browser. A good display can give you a large, colorful workspace, while a bad one can leave you squinting. Here’s what you need to consider.
Netbook screens range from 7 to 10 inches in size, and notebook screens can go as high as 20.1 inches; the majority of notebooks have screens between 12 and 18 inches.
If you plan to carry your system around, a size of 12 to 14 inches is ideal for notebooks, while 10 to 12 inches is fine for netbooks. If your system will spend more time on a desk than in your lap or bag, go for a larger screen.
LED-backlit LCD displays are brighter and consume less power, so you’ll have longer battery life with this option. They also offer even lighting across the display, so you won’t have some areas that are darker than the others. LED displays are also the future of the industry, as fewer and fewer CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamp) panels are made. Many new notebooks and netbooks come with LED, but a few configurable systems give you a choice between CCFL and LED screens where the CCFL option is cheaper.
If you have a choice, an LED screen will give you longer battery life.
A notebook’s native screen resolution is the amount of pixels it is capable of displaying on-screen. The more pixels you have, the more desktop real estate is available.
Typical resolutions range from 1024 x 576, which is common on 10-inch netbooks, to 1920 x 1200, which can be found on some desktop replacement notebooks. Mainstream notebooks with screens from 12 to 16 inches in size tend to have resolutions of 1280 x 800, 1366 x 768, or 1440 x 900.
If given a choice between a screen with a higher resolution and a lower one, go for the higher one, as more desktop space is always better. If you find the icons and fonts too small, you can always change settings to make them bigger.
These screen resolutions are usually in widescreen aspect ratios of either 16:10 or 16:9. The 16:9 aspect ratio screens, with resolutions like 1366 x 768, 1600 x 900, or 1920 x 1080, are designed to show widescreen movies in their native aspect ratio without the need for black lines at the top and bottom of the screen. 16:10 screens offer more vertical space to help you see more of your favorite Web pages or read more of your word processing documents without scrolling. Most notebook makers are moving toward 16:9 screens, though many models with 16:10 aspect ratios are still available.
If watching high-def video on your notebook screen isn’t as important to you as surfing the Web or editing documents, try to get a 16:10 screen, or at least one with as many vertical pixels as possible. As the market is moving away from 16:10, this choice may not always be available.