Data Shows Clueless Consumers Favor 15-inch Notebooks, Ruining Market

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Notebook buyers, what are you thinking? We all know that the main benefit of a notebook over a desktop is its portability, yet new sales stats from Q2 show that most of you are buying giant, heavy clunkers. As a result, PC makers continue to churn out 15-inch machines no one needs, making more attractive 13- and 14-inch notebooks practically endangered.

This morning, I met with reps from MSI who told us that they no longer plan to release their highly-anticipated 13-inch X360 notebook in the U.S., because consumers just aren't buying ultraportables. Instead the company told us that they are focused on the more popular 15.6-inch form factor. They're not alone.

Just look at this preliminary data that the folks at DisplaySearch extracted for us from the Q2'10 Quarterly Advanced Notebook PC, Module, and Tablet Shipment and Forecast Report. As you can see, 15-inch notebooks remain the most popular size and ultraportables from 11 to 13 inches make up less than 12 percent of the North American market. According to DisplaySearch, even the 8.7 percent share of 13-inch notebooks is deceptively high, because more than 60-percent of 13-inch systems sold in North America are MacBooks.

Europe has an even bigger appetite for large screens, while Asia is the only region that buys more 14-inch systems than 15-inchers. We haven't posted them here, but the prior five quarters have similar percentages, with the exception of the iPad, which only began shipping at the end of Q1 2010.

Screen Size North America Europe Asia Worldwide
8.9" 0.2% 0.2% 0.1% 0.2%
9.7" (iPad) 12% 2.1% 0.8% 4.4%
10" 14.2% 16.8% 17.1% 17.1%
11.6" 1.9% 1.9% 2.9% 2.2%
12.x" 1.2% 1.4% 3.4% 1.9%
13.x" 8.7% 5.8% 8.1% 7.3%
14.x" 14.3% 11% 39.4% 22.3%
15.x" 35.3% 46.4% 25% 35.2%
16.x" 4.5% 2.1% 2% 2.7%
17.x" 7% 11.4% 0.8% 6.2%
All Others 0.8% 0.8% 0.3% 0.6%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

If we could exclude secondary devices such as netbooks and tablets from these lists (everything 10-inches and below), the 15-inch category would loom even larger. Yet, despite the ubiquity of this size, it provides the worst of all notebook experiences, as it's not large enough to enable high-res gaming or multimedia playback, nor is it small enough to go everywhere.

Big, Bulky, and Short on Endurance

Battery life is one area in which 15-inch notebooks clearly fall short. In our last year of testing at LAPTOP, the average 15-inch notebook got only 225 minutes of battery life. Compare that to 11-inch systems, which averaged 364 minutes, 12-inchers that endured for 322 minutes, or 13-inch ultraportables which lasted a full 338 minutes. Even 14-inch notebooks lasted an average of 264 minutes, two thirds of an hour longer than their clunky counterparts.

Screen Size Battery Life (hours)
10" 6.7
11" 6.1
12" 5.4
13" 5.6
14" 4.4
15" 3.8
16" 3.6
17" 2.8
18" 2.5

It goes without saying that 15-inch notebooks weigh more than those with smaller screens. If you're looking to carry a laptop around all day, you really want it to weight 5 pounds or less. The average 15-inch notebook we've reviewed in the past 12 months has weighed 6 pounds, with none lighter than 5.2. By contrast, the average 14-inch notebook weighed only 5.1 pounds, with the lightest weighing only 3.8 pounds. The 13-inch notebooks averaged 4.4 pounds, while 12- and 11-inchers averaged just 3.5 pounds.

Worse still, you're not getting any significant benefit from having a larger display panel since the typical 15-inch notebook has the same 1366 x 768- pixel resolution that comes standard on 11 to 14- inch systems as well. In fact, having the same amount of pixels in a larger area makes the picture less sharp, kind of like watching standard def programming on a large screen TV.

Making the Wrong Resolution

In the past two years, panel-makers have forced vendors to switch from 16:10 aspect ratio screens to 16:9 screens that are cheaper to manufacture. "You can cut a 15.4-inch panel on a 16:10 aspect ratio 15 times; you can cut a 15.6-inch panel on the 16:9 aspect ratio 18 times. So on the same piece of glass, [you get] 18 panels versus 15 panels," said said John Jacobs, Director of Notebook PC Market Research for DisplaySearch. "Your cost drops substantially, and in times of shortage, you're increasing your throughput without really having to do a whole heck of a lot in terms of cost."

Unfortunately, this new aspect ratio is worse for user productivity, because it prioritizes horizontal over vertical screen real estate. Back in 2008, PC magazine Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff warned that the move to 16:9 screens is bad for users because "most of our computing and content consumption on the PC is a top-down experience. We read stories that way. Web pages are designed to put as much 'above the fold' (or above the end of the screen) as possible. Most photos are still in 4:3 format, so a shallower screen means you have to view the images at a somewhat diminished size."

According to DisplaySearch, the transition to 16:9 is nearly complete. Preliminary worldwide sales data for Q2 of 2010 show that 55 percent of notebooks have 1366 x 768-pixel resolution while only 13.7 percent have the older 1280 x 800 standard. None of the other resolutions, except for the netbook standard 1024 x 600, make up even 10 percent of the market on their own.

Screen Resolution Q2 2010
800 x 480 0%
1024 x 576 0.1%
1024 x 600 16.1%
1024 x 768 4.6%
1200 x 900 0%
1280 x 768 0%
1280 x 800 13.7%
1366 x 768 55.5%
1400 x 1050 0%
1440 x 900 1.8%
1600 x 768 0.1%
1600 x 900 6.2%
1600 x 1200 0%
1680 x 945 0.2%
1680 x 1050 0.3%
1920 x 1080 1.1%
1920 x 1200 0.4%
1280 x 720 0%
Total 100%

Jacobs explained that over the past 10 years most notebook screens have clustered around a common resolution to make manufacturing easier. "It went from 1024 x 768 to 1280 x 800 and now it's 1366 x 768, so it's just from a 4:3 to a 16:10 to a 16:9 aspect ratio. It's really nothing more than that. There's also integration of components so you can use the same driver ICs on a 15.4 as a 14.1 if you're driving the same resolution. It's in the best interest of commoditization and keeping costs down for the panel makers to have a lot of the same resolution," he

Couldn't vendors just standardize on a higher 16:9 resolution like 1600 x 900 instead of the productivity-stealing 1366 x 768? Just like the switch to 16:9, it's all about the money. Jacobs explained that building screens with a higher pixel density raises costs and that, thus far, very few users are demanding the added real estate, outside of niche groups like graphic designers and gamers.

Why You Buy 15-inch Notebooks

So why are people still buying clunky 15-inch notebooks, and whose fault is it? Both notebook vendors and the panel manufacturers they buy their displays from certainly deserve some of the blame, because they've been pricing 15-inch systems so aggressively while building them only with the same native resolution as smaller models.

"It's more about bang for your buck, and if you look at price trends . . . you'll see that on Black Friday, the $499 and $399 boxes are all 15-wide boxes. They're not in the 14-inch class," Jacobs said. He also noted that panel makers have a lot of influence over the cost of systems because they manufacture more 15-inch panels and price them aggressively.

Because they aren't receiving all the information they need, consumers are the real force behind the popularity of 15-inch notebooks. Many users don't even think they need portability. We know that 60-percent of netbooks never leave the home, so we can only imagine how rarely consumer notebooks make it out. And because the family computer is now a notebook that travels around the house more than the globe, many consumers wrongly assume that they don't need long battery life or light weight. They just don't realize that, even on the couch, it's inconvenient to be chained to an outlet or to use a system that's too bulky to prop on your lap.

Still others take the puzzling position that bigger is always better. As both consumers and businesses replace desktops with notebooks, they opt for 15-inch screens because the larger panel and chassis seem more similar to the experience they're used to. Unfortunately, many of them don't realize that they aren't gaining any screen real estate by purchasing this class of notebook. If you want a large screen system, either get a 17- or 18-inch notebook that has full HD resolution or, better yet, spend $150 on an external monitor you can use when your notebook is on your desk. If you want a mainstream system, go for the lighter 14-inch variety.

While 14-inch notebooks have the same CPUs as their 15-inch counterparts, 11 to 13-inch ultraportables present another challenge because they usually have low-voltage processors. Buyers see a less-sexy CPU on a smaller system's spec sheet and run the other way. However, many low-voltage systems pack a lot of punch (see the MacBook Pro 13, the ASUS U33Jc, or the Alienware M11x), and even those with slower processors are more than adequate for the average of consumer or business user.

Because they see 15-inch notebooks on sale, users also assume that smaller systems are too expensive, but that just isn't true. Today, you can get a high quality consumer ultraportable like the 13-inch Toshiba Satellite T235 for under $600, which lasts more than 6 hours on a charge.

To be fair, there are some legitimate reasons to buy a 15-inch system. Many times, vendors only manufacture the notebook you want in this form factor. For example, there's no 13 or 14-inch Alienware gaming machine. Other times, the 15-inch version of a notebook offers added features that you just can't get in a smaller size, such as 3D support, a numeric keypad, Blu-ray, or maybe even a higher resolution panel. Finally, some users with poor eye sight prefer the lower pixel density of a 1366x768 panel. However, all of these reasons don't account for  the lopsided sales numbers we're seeing.

The Consequences

Unfortunately, MSI is just the latest vendor that is pulling away from the ultraporable market. We've talked to other vendors off the record who told us that they too are moving away from systems smaller than 14 inches. Lenovo also recently confirmed that it's pulling the plug on the 13-inch ThinkPad X300 series (my favorite ultraportable of all-time), which leaves only one 13-inch ThinkPad: the low-powered Edge 13.

The power to end the tyranny of clunky, low-res 15-inch notebooks rests in your wallet. If more consumers and businesses purchase ultraportables, lightweight 14-inchers, or 15-inch systems that have high-res screens that take advantage of their size, notebook vendors will step up their game as well.

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
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  • SD Says:

    A major reason why consumers are going for 15 inch laptops is may be because of their better spaced keyboard, I own a Acer Aspire S7 and my younger brother owns a Lenovo Y50 and I use his laptop sometimes, and one obvious difference I mark between his laptop and mine is the keyboard, a 15 inch laptop often has a full fledged keyboard with numeric keys hence typing on them is easier, another reason for their popularity is they are like a trade off between extremely portable 13 inch laptops and big powerful 17 inch laptops, 15 inchers provide ample screen space but at the same time they aren't as huge as the 17 inchers and at the same time they provide a comfortable keyboard to type on. I noticed that on my Aspire S7 I often needed to make a lot of adjustment to get acquainted with it's small keyboard but on the Y50 typing felt more natural and faster, same is true about the new 15 inch Thinkpad models, the presence of a better spaced keyboard makes them delight to use for students and programmers.

  • lolz Says:

    So, you have trouble carrying 15inch laptop around the house.

  • BrookeATL Says:

    This idiot just bought a new 15.6" Lenovo ThinkPad. I was looking at 14" options but I couldn't find something that offered a 10-key numeric keyboard and everything else I was looking for. Until the smaller options routinely offer 10-key, they really don't offer much for those whose jobs require heavy Excel Modeling. Needing an accessary 10-key tool would make that whole "sitting on the couch" thing difficult.

  • marc Says:

    lol I just bought a 14" Ideapad and Im going back to the store tomorrow to return it an get a 15.6. My eyes are straining trying to do Photoshop on that small screen

    I love it for the portability. I think 14" is great if youre only reading emails, doing facebook etc, but for real work the larger one is better.
    thank you

  • Seriously Says:

    Could you enjoy the smell of your own farts anymore than you do in this article? People have different needs, which is why there are different size ranges. Something as simple as body type and size (e.g. Being 6'5 and 250lbs) might influence someone to have a larger laptop for no other reason than the relative weight/strength ratio is the same and their eyes are actually further from the screen. Or, they might have graphic editing needs and require a bigger screen with more room for high end internals. There are a plethora of reasons that could justify consumer spending trends - but more than anything THE MARKET SPEAKS and it strongly disagrees with you.

  • Jacob Says:

    AVRAM PILTCH. you are a complete dumbass. Those 'clueless" consumers buy what WORKS for them, Not you!. 15 inch is just the right size to not be too big and heavy to tote, and doesn't have a screen that you need a magnifying glass to read (like those 11 inch toys) Not to mention 15 inch models can house better batteries and better guts. Instead of voicing your narrow minded view like it's some fact how about shutting the f*** up and go back to drinking iApplejuice

  • RJ Says:

    Interesting discussion. I too have never been fond of the 15 inch because they are always the cheapest and seem to have less desirable components. I've also thought they are too big for portability, but then I think my 14 is too big as well. If you can live with a 15, it definitely is the cheapest price point. I personally have never understood why a 14 is so munch more expensive than a 15 even with like components. It's almost as if the PC makers have divided the users up into groups. 14 and below are discerning professionals who desire fast CPU's, lots of RAM and Storage and functionality. 15s are for customers on a budget with less demanding needs. 17s are for customers who want the use of a desktop on their laptop.

    I'm kind of wondering what the future holds for the laptop market. It seems like companies are pushing the limits on how many devices a person is willing to carry. Its definitely an evolution. I look at myself back in the 90s. I never wanted to even carry a cell phone. I always left it in the car and had it off - only using it when I wanted to make a call. Cell phones turned into smart phones and now I can't imagine not having my phone at my side at all times. My laptop too has become a necessary companion. I will never leave town without it. Now Apple is trying convince us that a tablet is just as necessary. It has almost the functionality of your phone and almost the functionality of your laptop. But not quite as useful as either. Are we willing to carry all three? I think a lot of companies are asking this very question.

    I think the perfect device would be a smart phone that is as powerful as a laptop and has the ability to somehow "open" into a larger tablet - combining power,convenience, portability. Basically a tablet, notebook, and phone rolled into one.


    Nice article. I wanted to know one thing. Why cant laptop manufacturers manufacture 14.5 inch or 15 inch (instead of 15.6 inch) laptops. Because we dont have any choice between 14 and 15.6 inch laptops. Is there any reason why a 15 inch laptop cannot be manufactured? can anyone answer this.

  • Rob Says:

    Clueless? Really?

    First off, your resolution sales numbers are flat wrong. EVERY MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro ships in 16:10. 1440 x 900 is the native resolution for the MBP 15" and it represents WAY more that 1.8% of the market. So, bad stats = lost credibility.

    Second - "They just don’t realize that, even on the couch, it’s inconvenient to be chained to an outlet or to use a system that’s too bulky to prop on your lap." Yeah, that is why I am typing this in bed with my MBP on my lap. Oh my, thanks for telling me I am stupid. Did it ever occur to you that people bought 13 and 14 inch systems before they bought their 15's? I did. I tried a 17" too. But I went back to 15". see, I actually USE my system rather than just comparing tech specs. A 13" didn't proved enough space for my hands to type comfortably. And in Photoshop I didn't get enough of my image at 1:1. Excel files didnt show enough rows. On the other hand a 17" was just too big and heavy. And for the type of traveling I do, it was too fragile. 17" is just enough bigger to risk being flexed to death. But I am clueless right?

    Third - "Ruining the Market"? How? Because I am buying something I made a rational decision to purchase based on needs and resources. Um, that DEFINES a market. Just because YOU want a 13' or 14" system doesnt mean I do.

    Fourth - "We know that 60-percent of netbooks never leave the home, so we can only imagine how rarely consumer notebooks make it out." Um, maybe its because people realized that a netbook is just too darn small to type on so they leave them home? maybe because if I am going to haul around something bigger than my iPhone I want a REAL computer? How can you extrapolate that netbooks begin left home means notbooks are being left home in greater numbers? Any facts to back that up? Any? (crickets). Oh, and when you start a sentence with "we know" it means not only do most people not know, they dont care. Wo is "we"? You and one other guy? Find me one person who said "well, I was going to buy a netbook but NPD says that 60% stay at home and I dont want to be in the minority so I am going to buy something else."

    Finally, your basic premiss is that YOU know better than MILLIONS of people what is best for them. Get over yourself. You want a tiny keyboard with no palm space, buy one. But dont claim you know what I want and what I need. Or for that matter what I am willing to carry around for a day or a week or even longer. Yes longer. My MBP has travelled with me to three combat zones including my current one. After doing a rational cost/benefit/needs analysis that included portability I decided a 15 in was the best solution. It was a much better solution than listening to web commentators who know NOTHING about MY needs and my cost/benefit trade offs.

  • Ranger 9 Says:

    You wrote: "some users with poor eye sight..." prefer the lower pixel density.

    Change that to "Just about all users over age 50..." and you'll be right on target. There are a lot of sophisticated, active computer users moving into this age group. And once age-related presbyopia (loss of the eye's close-focusing ability) hits, most of us are going to want to move the screen away to a more comfortable viewing distance. And at a longer distance, assuming the same screen resolution, a larger monitor with physically bigger pixels is going to be easier to read.

    So, the "graying of America" could be an unrecognized reason the 15-inchers are hanging on to their popularity. And yes, twentysomethings, this is going to happen to you eventually!

  • chotu Says:

    EDIT ABOVE:who use 15inch to do their work should try and know if the same work can be done on 13inches with additional advantages.

    he main reason 15inch laptops are so popular is the price range at which they are available

  • chotu Says:

    @persona: "What I think Avram is trying to tell everyone who bought a 15″ is that they need to see and experience the feel of a 13″. If you do take your notebook out of the house, you owe it to yourself to try carrying a 13″ to work/study. Even the feeling of holding a 13″ in your hands would be enough for some to be converted. Most online notebook reviewers agree that the 13″ is the sweet spot when it comes to mobility and functionality."

    i agree with you.this is what i think the author is trying to tell but instead he was a bit carried away,nonetheless i believe he was trying to convince and tell people who use 15inch for works than can be done on 13inch with additional advantages like portability and battery life.

    i am huge fan of ultraportables like the author but i am always disappointed with the prices of laptops with 11 to 14inches that have decent specs.i understand their prices have come down as of late since netbooks were out but still compared to specs on 15inch laptop is always better than a ultraportable say 13inch with same specs or a step below it for a specific price.

    the main reason ultraportables are so popular is the price range at which they are available.15inches start from 350$ to 2000$ plus and mostly people ll be looking in between 400/500 to 700$ where 15inches are very popular and you can find may be couple of ultraportables in that price range.when 13inches come in diff price range, at that point only i see there ll be some popularity among consumers to go for it.

    i am a huge fan of laptopmag(i check it daily 4 to 5 times),but i am a bit disappointed with the article and manner in which it is written but i understand what author is trying to say.
    irrespective of this thread i ll keep coming to this website for hopefully much much better articles.:)

  • parsona Says:

    While Avram's article might seem abit elitist and arrogant, I can concur with most of his opinions, but as always different strokes for different folks. Being someone who carries around a notebook to various locations due to work, I fully appreciate the significantly reduced weight of a 13". I have carried 15" and 14", and the difference from that is immediately felt. I'm an active sports player but I do not like lugging around 6 pounds of notebook weight wherever I go. Those who think that only sissies would care about the difference obviously do not understand the real meaning of mobile work. It doesn't mean just lugging your notebook to and from your comfy office.

    Netbooks and tablets are a bane to real work, and I do not see it being useful for anything other than facebooking or its time wasting games. Emailing and scheduling is already done pretty well with smartphones. So I think, for those with REAL work to be done such as presentations, spreadsheet work, documentation, and is required to be mobile, then a 13" is the perfect balance.

    I can see 15" being popular as they are cheap and is bought by those looking for desktop replacements. Reso might suck but alot do not care nor need higher resolutions. Personally, I wouldn't game on a notebook, only a full length PCIE video card would be sufficient for my gaming needs. If I need to game while on the move, my smartphone can keep me satisfied. Video on a 13" doesnt suffer much too compared to 15".

    What I cannot see is why the 13" is not as popular as it should be. I am concerned for the future when I will need to upgrade from my current 13" which I absolutely love. I do not want to see them die out or become super expensive like how they once were. What I think Avram is trying to tell everyone who bought a 15" is that they need to see and experience the feel of a 13". If you do take your notebook out of the house, you owe it to yourself to try carrying a 13" to work/study. Even the feeling of holding a 13" in your hands would be enough for some to be converted. Most online notebook reviewers agree that the 13" is the sweet spot when it comes to mobility and functionality.


    Mobility options
    Smartphone: email, scheduler, light gaming, facebooking, chatting
    Tablets + netbooks: smartphone + more light gaming, ebook reading, browsing
    13": Real work, spread sheets, presentations, better browsing

    Immobility options
    >15": Simple desktop replacement, home use, maybe also home->office->home solution.
    Desktop: Real gaming, CAD/CAM, multimedia/graphics work and other processor intensive tasks.

  • Hmmmm Says:

    What a bizarre article. Some nerd who thinks he knows better than everyone else what's good for them. The fact that everyone prefers the 15" 1366 screen makes me think it's a better idea than I thought.

    "Couldn’t vendors just standardize on a higher 16:9 resolution like 1600 x 900 instead of the productivity-stealing 1366 x 768?"

    I've used a 15" 1680x1050 for the last 6 years, and the resolution is seriously overkill. What benefits does it provide? All it did was annoy me with web pages that break when I specify a minimum font size. I *want* my next laptop to have a lower resolution. Less energy usage, web pages that display properly, etc.

    "Many users don’t even think they need portability. We know that 60-percent of netbooks never leave the home, so we can only imagine how rarely consumer notebooks make it out. And because the family computer is now a notebook that travels around the house more than the globe, many consumers wrongly assume that they don’t need long battery life or light weight. They just don’t realize that, even on the couch, it’s inconvenient to be chained to an outlet or to use a system that’s too bulky to prop on your lap."

    Right. Sitting on the couch or the bed with a laptop connected to the wall is SOOOO inconvenient. What is this guy smoking? I've been doing this for years. So does everyone else I know. It's fine. Killing the battery by repetitively depleting it is better?

  • Peter Says:

    If you want to do something useful with the machine then the bigger screen is essential. My laptop (portable) is 17" and is great for CAD CAE applications.

  • Mladen Says:

    Since my old laptop (Acer Aspire 33000) had 1024*768 in 2005, it would be shame buying anything with screen height under 900 pixels. And I look for something under 800$ or so... So here it is: Aspire 7551, 17" machine with triple core processor, sitting on my desk. When I carry it around, I have lovely Hedgren backpack. It is my desktop replacement, basically.

    And yes, I am waiting cheap 12" with 1366*768 pixels. 600 pixels high display is pain for Word (let alone Eclipse). I have old Asus eee 701 if I really must have something tiny with me.

  • Avram Piltch Says:

    @Steve, Students are obviously big laptop consumers, but I don't have numbers on how much of the market they make up. It seems more likely that home retail consumers (students + families) make up a larger chunk.

    Which notebook size you should choose really depends on the form factor, but if you go for a 15-inch, I recommend you get one that has a higher resolution than 1366x768. For example, the Dell Latitude E6400 and Lenovo ThinkPad W510 can both be configured with 1600x900 screens and the 15-inch MacBooks are 1440x900. Core i5 / i7 are definitely more future-proof than something lesser, but I don't think you will be in-love with any notebook 5 years after you buy it unless you've replaced the battery (they wear out) a couple of times along the way.

  • Steve Says:

    I am a professional who is currently in the market for a laptop for "mainstream" use, and I am trying my best to absorb alot of information in order to make an informed decision. When I recently called a laptop manufacturer's representative, they advised me to go to 17 inch, i-5, and be "safe" for next 5 years. A usual case of an "upsell"...perhaps. But I'm nearing 60, and would like to have the option to keep my next purchase for a long long time, and to me, having options is "everything" with laptop computers.

    I thought Avram's column was a good one...sometimes, middle of the road is just nowhere...and here I was, looking in earnest at 15.6 in screens as a good compromise. The graph was particularly interesting. Avram, I'm curious seems as if every freshman college student is purchasing (or a beneficiary of) a laptop and thinking of buying one that will last a minimum of their 4 years of undergraduate life. To what extent does this sector drive the laptop marketplace? Is there any consumer data that links age brackets for laptop purchases of any particular size of screen...

  • Imperor Says:

    From real-life experience I know that a lot of people are just Ignorant! After "lugging" around my 13.3" ASUS UL30VT for a while and letting people finger it a lot, I can honestly say that a lot of typical 15"-byers have been turned around by the experience! "What, your computer is in there as well???" And I never even bring the charger.
    Of course people with specific needs, be it gaming, hardcore CPU-work, poor eyesight (I had LASIK), and so on will argue their specific needs, but I definitely agree with the author that most people would be better off with a smaller, 11-14" laptop than a 15"! The "consumer" market is overflowing with crappy offers. "2GB Graphics!" Eh, with a slow GPU and limited bus that memory is inconsequential, but sheeple buy it anyway because it sounds good...
    YOU might be happy with your last investment, or want to convince yourself that you are, but you're not everyone neither! And a person already owning several devices from very small to very large, arguing that the category is unnecessary should really consider their point, IF there were a "smallish" laptop which could handle all your needs and still be portable enough to not need the smaller device at all, wouldn't that be great? THAT is what I think the author envisions when he argues for improved development in this category!

    Best regards

  • kiwit Says:

    and somehow the trouble comes to the price. Think about this, a 15" Asus G51J priced at US$ 1600 with specs for gamer (i7, nVidia 1GB, 1920 x 1080, etc); compare it to 13" Sony Vaio Z priced at around US$ 2000 at it's cheapest at which will give you almost the same spec as that Asus G51J, but with resolution only at 1600 x 900, what would you think you would buy? Sometimes the price isn't just right compared to the size.
    Sorry for bad english, though

  • JC Says:

    I have to agree with what "Shut Up" said, even if they put it in a not-so-nice fashion.

    A 15" laptop is absolutely portable, unless you're some 98-pound weakling. Furthermore, even if such a laptop can't be run at a higher screen resolution than one of your beloved 13-inch laptops, it does carry the added benefit of not requiring someone to strain their eyes in order to read text on the screen. Sure, the industry needs to start making screens with 1600x900 as an option, but if we're stuck with 1366x768 right now, I'd rather have 1366x768 on a screen two inches larger. I run 1280x960 on a 19" screen on my desktop, so do you really think I care to try to look at 1366x768 on a little 13" screen?

    Give consumers a little credit. People know what works for them. Most consumer laptops are purchased as desktop replacements these days. They are used in settings where there is easy access to a power outlet, so battery life isn't all that important. Not to mention that even 15" laptops can get four hours on a battery now, anyway. If someone needs an ultraportable, they probably have, or can easily buy, a $250 netbook that will fulfill their needs just fine. A 13.3" laptop is typically nothing but a poor compromise that can't do the job of a larger laptop very well, can't do the job of a smaller netbook very well (it's too big), but tries to be all things to all people. If that works for you, great, but it doesn't work for most people, and it doesn't mean that consumers are clueless.

  • Asus sux Says:

    Most people could care less about the resolution of their screen as long as it looks good. How is that suffering if the person is happy with what they got and it was within their budget? It does not make them clueless or ignorant. This is nothing more than an arrogant man's rant.

  • Hanksporster Says:

    So let me get this right, you know what is better for the consumer than they do so they should buy what you want them to because you know better?


  • Shut Up Says:

    Shut up. You are a moron. If you don't think 15" is portable you either have little girl arms or you're a cripple.

    15" is flooding the market because it's actually the right size -- 12", 13", and 14" blows, and so does your site.

  • F. Augusztin Says:

    Typo: *...making small noise with one fan blow once in a while...

  • F. Augusztin Says:

    @rafael: Actually, one of the current top 13.3" laptops is actually an Acer, the TimelineX 3820TG :

    Model i own has a i5 430M, IGP+HD5650 (switchable), 4GB RAM, originally 640GB HDD (WD Scorpio Blue, i replaced it with a Intel 80GB SSD) and what is most important - silence. It's dead silent 99% durring non-gaming work (including J2EE development), making small fan blow once in a while to exhaust the hot air. Of course it misses some features (no DVD drive, no eSATA, no ExpressCard), but considering the silence and power, the sub-800€ price is justifiable. And looking around - 15.6" laptops with same specs cost the same amount of money, with i3 330M you can save 80-100€.

    The problem is not with the powerfull 13.3" laptop market above 700€ as this article suggests, because in that market the pricing is very competitive against 15.6" laptops with same specs. The problem is the sub-700€ market - finding a sub-600€ 13.3" laptop is nearly impossible, and 600-700€ are still rare. At same moment, you can even find sub-400€ 15.6" laptops, lots of sub-500€ laptops and the sub-700€ segment is pages long. And the IGP/low performance CPU market is the one which majority of laptop buyers need. And as i said, this is the area where 13.3" is uncompetitive.

  • Stebe Yobs Says:

    @Ben Adler

    You have an iBook, not a MacBook. There is no such think as a pre-Intel MacBook.

  • lunalearner Says:

    I was offended by this article that tells us we don't know what we want/need! I have a laptop as a desktop replacement but it sits on a laptop stand plugged into a power supply in my living room where I can handle email and watch TV at the same time. When I had to replace the 15" Toshiba on which I wrote my doctoral dissertation (yeah, we're not all dumb**ses) because I'd filled up the 80gb hard-drive, I chose another reliable Toshiba, and looked for the biggest hard drive and most RAM I could afford (and a Core i-5). When I did my research, the one on sale happened to be a 16", so I got it. As for portability, I was sick and tired of humping around a 6lb+ laptop to conferences and workshops and when netbooks came out I was in heaven! So my 10" Samsung goes with me to those, and I didn't get an ultralight because they are still larger to put in a purse than a netbook. Together with my Android phone with the spectacular 4" screen, I have everything technology I need, in the sizes I need. And if the laptop I wanted had been in a 14" size, I would likely have gotten it. Frankly, a couple of inches either way wouldn't matter a darn to me--I'm just happy that 500GB and 4MG of RAM will give me a laptop I won't outgrow for a few years, and I'm not a gamer so I don't care about the screen resolution--it looks fine to me. But please don't patronize me--I've probably been using computers longer than some of you Laptop geeks have been alive!

  • AlaskanHandyman Says:

    My 17" MacBook pro is a portable desktop replacement. I need the screen real-estate that it offers when not at home connected to an additional monitor. I carry the nearly 7 pound beast with me on 12 to 24 flights a month, sure I cannot open it in coach on the flight but rarely do I ever actually do any real work on the plane either because there are too many curious passengers that interfere with the whole process. I need a desktop replacement that I can carry with me wherever my clients need me to go. If I need something more portable, I can always use my iPad, which can do about 90% of the things that use my laptop for, it's the other 10% that requires me to need the 1920 X 1200 resolution offered by my MacBook Pro's 17" screen and the more powerful processor, than a 13-14" laptop offers.

  • fb0r Says:

    Yes, a 15" notebook DOES make sense to me as a mid-end casually portable desktop replacement but when lugging around a lot of other stuff while out and about the extra weight and bulk of a 15.6" vs a 13.3" notebook did personally make a difference for me. It might not have been huge but the difference WAS there and it was big enough to be noticeable after a few days out of the office.

    As for real world application performance I think most would be surprised when comparing a decent CULV system such the ASUS UL30 series (C2D SU7300 stock OCed to 1.73 GHz) to one of the standard 15.6" offerings. Whether you believe it or not the UL30VT I currently own handles even lighter gaming fairly pleasingly. With the nVidia graphics enabled even demanding and fairly modern games such as Fallout 3 run at around 15-25 fps on low/medium details at native res and most older games like Painkiller etc stay nailed at 60 fps most of the time. The CPU isn't much of a limiting factor either (unless encoding HD video or doing other highly computationally intensive tasks) and it runs Win 7 x64 with no hiccups whatsoever. With the integrated Intel graphics it's still good for a decent 7-8 hours (with wifi on) of real world use while away from the mains. This is despite daily use since last winter. With portability comes regular battery use and thus the battery its gets much needed exercise every now and then... ;)

    With that personal experience in mind I'd say that for those who are looking for a truly PORTABLE system, one that can easily be stowed away in a bag to be used on the bus/subway or on a long flight, a modern 13.3-14" CULV system could possibly be a surprisingly good match unless you have very specific needs. It's just that the sub notebooks as a category seem to be compared with full sized 15.6" notebooks for all the wrong reasons when they really are two fairly different types of machines aimed at somewhat different patterns of usage.

    Now, personally, if I was looking for a proper desktop replacement (one that would rarely leave the house) I wouldn't look at anything other than a mid-high end 17"+ machine with a higher res display @ 1600+ resolution. If I was looking for TRUE portability I'd definitely go 14" and below. The 15.6" category strikes me as a bit of a tradeoff between those two distinct classes, a class that doesn't excel at either role but provides a compromise, a middle line, that many consumers may find attractive. Especially if they only want to own one computer and need a jack of all trades. But I still feel that some consumers, due to unfounded fears of poor performance etc, may actually be missing out on a much better PORTABLE computing experience with smaller yet today fairly potent sub notebooks though.

  • majestixblue Says:

    I bought my 15in laptop because it's a good size.. not too small which will sore my eyes and not too big n heavy on my lap. Of course 15in laptop is not as light as 13-14in but that's not what I need. If you only need to browse internet, maybe smaller screen is no problem.. but if you do more than that, you need a bigger screen (say for work, photo touching, video etc). Another thing, it's true that 15 in laptop is cheaper than the smaller one.. unless you're mobile, you don't really need small laptop which is more expensive. I used my office small laptop for travelling.. nice to have but too small for work... not to mention the tendency small laptop uses low voltage CPU, long battery life but slower performance..

  • Meeks Says:

    @ Ben Adler

    "My big question is why anyone would need a 13″ laptop for portability when they could go down to a netbook?
    For portability a netbook has you beat, and size factors like the MSI wind with full size keyboard really only suffer from low graphics capability, low vertical real-estate, and somewhat limited ability to multitask."

    For me it is having a better processor, a full sized keyboard, larger screen for multitasking and doing actual work without straining my eyes. Ultraportables fill that niche between the netbook and a larger laptop just perfect. With a netbook I feel held back while with a larger laptop I feel like it's too much.


    "And if u think u are getting “work” done on the 13-14″……? No, u just *think* u are!"

    If you say so, but I've gotten plenty of school work done with my ultraportable.

  • Meeks Says:


    While it is true that battery life degrades overtime, it doesn't happen nearly that quickly. Also if you have your laptop plugged in all of the time, chances are you aren't the type who needs a long battery life since you're apparently able to use your laptop frequently while plugged in. Hence, yes you wouldn't need an ultraportable.

    However ultraportables don't lose this as a selling point, their battery life does last pretty long without being meticulous and as you're often away when using it the battery gets plenty of healthy drainage during use and slows down the degradation of battery life.


    "If you want an ultra portable that has long battery life, get an Android based cell phone with a 4″ screen."

    That's ridiculous. I can't do what I do at school with an Android based cell phone.


    "As far as size and weight, here’s my thing, if you can’t carry an extra .5 to 1.5 pds you shouldn’t be carrying a laptop in the first place. "

    Well in a backpack full of multiple items, shedding as many pounds as you can is optimal. After all I'm hoping to have a good and strong back by the time I'm an old man. Those 1.5lbs can help a lot.

    As for smaller screen + high resolution, I agree with you that's bad for your eyes. But ultraportables often don't come with high resolutions. 1366 x 768 is the standard.

  • Geeky1 Says:

    "Many users don’t even think they need portability (...) many consumers wrongly assume that they don’t need long battery life or light weight. They just don’t understand that, even on the couch, it’s inconvenient to be chained to an outlet or to use a system that’s too bulky to prop on your lap."

    As a rule, people are pretty stupid. But I don't think they're so stupid as to be unable to realize the tradeoffs they're making by purchasing larger notebooks.

    For instance, I have a Lenovo W700ds. It's comfortably over 2" thick and considerably over 10lbs. It has a 17" screen AND an 11" screen that slides out of the right side of the lid. On a good day it might hit 2 hours or a bit over of runtime on a charge, even with a giant 9 cell battery. None of which matters to me.

    Leaving it plugged in is not an inconvenience; it's better for the battery and it keeps SpeedStep and the GPU's own power management from castrating performance the way they do on battery power. And oddly enough, even though I carry it between home and work daily, and use it on my lap for an average of 2-3hrs every day, the weight and size don't bother me in the least. Heck I've even used it on airplanes.

    On the other hand, I flat refuse to use anything with a screen resolution lower than 1680x1050/1600x1200 on a daily basis, although 1920x1200 is really the minimum I'll tolerate for any length of time without complaint. And while I don't expect my notebooks to match my desktops speed-wise, I expect a certain level of performance that's just not available on a <15" machine.

    It's not that I don't think I need portability or that I "don't understand", it's that I KNOW I don't need portability.

    And on the very rare occasion that I DO find myself in a situation where having something more portable would be convenient (say if I want to sit at a coffee shop for a few hours with someone else and I'd actually like to be able to see them around the notebook), I have a W500. Which has a very nice 15" 1680x1050 screen and weighs only about 5lbs while getting about 4hrs on a charge. I see no need or use for anything smaller than that except as a toy.

  • Rafael Says:

    "My big question is why anyone would need a 13″ laptop for portability when they could go down to a netbook?"

    Maybe cuz people wont have a crappy atom netbook AND a 6+ pounds 15+ inch juggernaut notebook. 13 inch laptops just gives everything that both can do, like portability and power. I have a mbp, and it fits perfectly at home (like playing SC2) and at work , no need to transfer anything to a main cpu or whatever.

  • IMO Says:

    I'm as much a sucker for a good "consumers reaping what they sow" story as the next guy, but you have it all backwards.

    Try: "Clueless tech pundits ruining the market for respectable portable computing devices." More is better in terms of screen. If u want small, u have so many weakly spec'ed "fashion first" choices it's not funny: smartphone, netbook, ipod whatever.

    If u don't use portable computing to "get actual work done" then any of these devices should suit you phine. And if you *do*.... then u don't want a 14" screen..........

    And if u think u are getting "work" done on the 13-14"......? No, u just *think* u are!

  • Peter Says:

    A comment on the importance of battery life. Unless you are meticulous in battery management, your battery life will degrade within months of ownership. So, no matter how much battery life exists in a new computer, if you leave it plugged in a lot, you'll have to have it plugged in all the time, on the couch or wherever. Those "lasts for 6 hours!" advertisements pertain to the first six months of ownership. So ultraportables lose that selling point, too.

  • david stillwell Says:

    The real question to ask is what ever happened to nano engineering? I see it on cell phones, but it appears to be nonexistent on laptops. A 15" laptop should not weigh more than four pounds. A 17" less than five. Dell's Latitude Z is a first step, but that model like the MacBook Air is flawed. Are the flaws going to be fixed?

    The only part of a laptop that appears to be nano engineered is the processor. There is something seriously wrong with that. I would say the problem is that Foxconn is the engineer as well as the manufacturer. All the American nano engineering is part of the Military Industrial Complex. We don't manufacture any consumer goods, just weapons of mass destruction to kill consumers in other countries like Pakistan. Hellfire missiles never created anything but hate and more death.

  • Ben Adler Says:

    I've got 3 portable devices, my 4 year old pre-intel macbook 12" for when I really need an actual keyboard on the go (which almost never happens really)
    I've got a 17" ASUS for schlepping to and from college with me which can actually game and run CAD.
    And I have my 2nd gen ipod touch which is my actual portable computing device. Portable net and plenty of battery life, lots of useful freeware. Big thing is it fits in a pocket, and is smaller and lighter than my wallet.

    My big question is why anyone would need a 13" laptop for portability when they could go down to a netbook?
    For portability a netbook has you beat, and size factors like the MSI wind with full size keyboard really only suffer from low graphics capability, low vertical real-estate, and somewhat limited ability to multitask.
    For power I really would go with either a higher def 15" or a 17" like the one I've got now.
    I agree that a 15" with 1366x768 is pretty useless, but then I've got a 12" 1024x768 portable which I hardly use at all.
    It really comes down to a question of what fraction of the consumers need a high-portability mid-power laptop, and it seems that not many do.

  • Matt Smith Says:


    You're literally telling people that they don't understand what they need. You do this despite admitting in your own article that studies indicate people don't take advantage of portability (hint: this means they don't need portability).

    Maybe you shouldn't write an article based on the idea that consumers are idiots and you know what is best for them.

  • WildOat Says:

    Anything the public wants should be a boon to the industry. If it weren't for the 15" and above ' notebooks' considerable interest would be lost in this market. Just because a journalist says they are not portable doesn't make it so. Maybe netbooks should be dropped in favor of the complete experience the 15" and above affords the consumer.

  • Aaron Says:

    If you want an ultra portable that has long battery life, get an Android based cell phone with a 4" screen.
    This article is crap.

  • Jordan Says:

    Claiming there is no tangible difference between larger screens that offer the same resolutions is a bit silly. I have a 140" projection screen in my living room who's resolution is a mere 1024x768, but let me tell you watching "HD" movies on this thing sure beats the pants off my 42" 720 LCD. People want larger screens, plain and simple. Even if the resolution is the same, the screen is still bigger, and gives the impression you are seeing more since it consumes more of your visual focus. In fact, I have used a 17" laptop that had a 1920x1200 resolution and it gave me a headache! I actually dropped it down to 1600 so I could read text!


    I did get the opportunity to actually use a real netbook a few months back, something in the realm of a 10" screen or so I'd guess, that had a nice 6+ hr battery life, and I really began to dig it. It was just so light and portable, kinda felt like an oversized version of my EVO 4G cellphone, something I could legitimately carry around with me, something I could use on the couch. I dont like using my laptop on the couch, I'll be the first to admit it. This thing was quite pleasant though, and the battery life left me never worrying about tethering to an A/C outlet again. with 6 hours of life I can comfortably forget that I'm running on batteries.

  • The Mighty Buzzard Says:

    Laptop, for using on top of your lap. With a display that will fit in a 12-14" shell, I really don't care how high the resolution will go; I won't be able to read a damn thing anyway. Get the hell over yourself and quit telling people they're [redacted] if they don't look for the same things you do in a [redacted] laptop.

  • Pete Mitchell Says:

    I want a 15" laptop with a 1600x900 resolution, damn it! Without it, there's no point in even having a 15" class.

  • pcenthusiast1 Says:

    People kill me about the size of the laptop and the whole 13/14" being a good "portable" size! I just lmao at everyone who looks at them. Yeah some have better battery life, but honestly that's the only advantage. Smaller screen with higher resolution ='s more eyestrain and harder on your eyes in the long run which is bad for anyone, just ask an optometrist.

    A lot of the avg consumer's do use a laptop for more than facebook, email and light web browsing believe it or not and having a more capable processor and gpu is nice. You rarely see nice gpu's in the lower end/portable laptop's as you refer to them and if you do the price is close to double that of a decent 15.6 with the same specs which makes it a no-brainer for the avg consumer.

    As far as size and weight, here's my thing, if you can't carry an extra .5 to 1.5 pds you shouldn't be carrying a laptop in the first place. This entire article is nothing but you whining b/c you like smaller notebooks and you imposing your opinion on the topic and calling the avg consumer of laptops clueless when the truth is your clueless about what "most" people need and want.

  • Avram Piltch Says:

    I don't think even general consumers are being shown the value of a lighter notebook. They are sold on specs - "Core i5 vs Core i3" more than on portability, but maybe the notebook would leave the desk more often if people understood the need for portability.

  • Meeks Says:

    @Joe Blow

    Someone is a bit upset.

    Neither FB0R or I have suggested that we are somehow "brilliant" compared to other consumers nor have we bragged about max screen resolution. My 13.3" ultraportable has a 1366 x 768 screen resolution, which is just fine for me.

    All we did was state the advantages of smaller laptops and why we think consumers are being duped by these 15" often basement bargain laptops. Now a good point that other people have brought up that I haven't considered (given that I'm a college student it is understandable) is the fact that more notebooks don't leave the desk. Given that I understand going for a 15" notebook, small enough to still carry around the home if need to but also cheap.

    From a student's perspective like me however, we want something lighter like the 14" or 13.3" laptops and I have assumed that anyone who has bought the 15" notebooks for school did so looking at the price and not realizing the burden of that weight and size on their back while walking around campus.

  • fb0r Says:

    I fully agree that all machines, of varying sizes, have perfectly valid uses. Even those "crappy" 15.6" notebooks with 1366x768 resolution screens. No argument there and I'm certainly not being elitist.

    In a perfect Ayn-Rand-kind-of-world it's all simply a game of supply and demand and if we just let the free market decide what's best for us we're all winners in the end and everyone will be happy. The question is, however, just exactly who is in control of how that supply and demand is shaped? The answer is: not always the end users.

    What really made the ultraportable (11"-14") notebook such a viable option for the common consumer today is the fact that something, in this case the entry of cheap netbooks onto the market as a reasonably priced alternative, pushed the prices of the once heavily overpriced ultraportable category way down (much to the chagrin of the laptop industry.) Anyone here still remember that just a few years ago an average thin-and-light subnotebook could easily cost you 50% more than a comparable larger system? If you needed to buy an ultraportable system you had to pay up because you had no choice as a consumer. The free market caught a lucky break with the invention of the netbook concept which eventually forced ultraportable prices down to where they are now and we the consumers were the winners in the end with a much larger yet still reasonably priced selection of laptop sizes to pick from without having to compromise too much on hardware.

    But laptop pricing, competition and availability is highly dependent on the balance between what we consumers demand, what drives this demand (price? features? trends?), the state of the competition and what is cheapest or most efficiently produced by the largest laptop players on the market. The question we really need to ask ourselves is: are laptop producers today actively trying to shape the market in order to make production more efficient and profitable for them, i.e. "dumb down" the market into two basic and easily manageable categories: 10-11 inch netbooks (keeping in mind that with relatively little profit per unit sold it would be many laptop makers' wet dream if the netbook category would simply die a horrible death as well) and bog standard 15.6" laptops, rather than continue to give us consumers the choice of a plethora of notebook sizes such as we have today? I'd say that choice is good for the consumers and that we need more choice and more competition. Not less!

    One thing is for sure though: the fewer companies there are on the market producing and selling ultraportables, the more expensive the category is going to become over time and once again we might be back to a situation where truly powerful ultraportable, non-standard sized alternatives are only something for niche business customers with deep pockets. Not ideal for the future of mobile tech IMO.

  • Mugsy Pinkrton Says:

    The problem with 13 inch laptops is price to value. Smaller hard drives. Less cpu power, less dedicated graphics,no optical drives, less ports, smaller cameras, touch pads, smaller keyboards, non upgradeable.and poor heat control. Loud fan noise. At a higher price than a 15 inch. Sure we can purchase these extra's not included like optical drives and hard drives but we prefer it all in one. Asus and apples 13 inchers are great buys but at their price points. I get less than a 15incher. We consumers do care and we want portability but what do we gain other then battery life and little less weight?
    Not much. That is why netbooks are popular they filled that hole. We use our 15 inchers as home machines and netbooks for travel. A few play movies just fine and no we can't play quality games on them small price to pay. But for the price of a 13 inch macbook I can get a 15 inch notebook and a 8 inch netbook and replace their battery's & upgrade their ram myself. Its all about needs not wants what is my money paying for over time we consumers want that over anything else.

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