Why 66 Percent of Laptop Screens Suck

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In the past few years, we've seen laptops get faster, lighter and a bit cheaper, but unfortunately the majority of them still have the same ugly, low-res screens they had six or seven years ago. According to analyst firm NPD, in 2017, 66 percent of consumer laptops sold had displays with resolutions that were lower than full HD; most of those were a lame, 1366 x 768 . In this day and age, manufacturers shouldn't even make a laptop with less than a 1920 x 1080 screen, and as a consumer, you should make every effort not to buy one.

1366 resolution vs 1920 x 1080

Unfortunately, PC vendors are counting on your ignorance. They market their grainy 1366 x 768 screens as "HD," which is technically correct but very confusing. You wouldn't call a one-story house a high-rise, so we shouldn't label a 1366 display as "high definition," when it's the lowest resolution you can get. When shopping, you need to look for a model with a display that's at least "full HD," which is also known as 1080p, or 1920 x 1080. Even sharper screens are often labeled as 4K / Ultra HD (3840 x 2160), 2K / QHD (2560 x 1440) or are just listed by their pixel count.

Why 1366 Is a Joke

Underneath the hood, any flat panel display is like a giant Lite-Brite, but instead of pegs, you have pixels. The fewer pixels you have, the more likely you are to notice that all your images are made of dots, a feeling that really takes away from the experience of looking at everything from the text in Microsoft Word to the moving images on YouTube.

If you stand across the room from a laptop , you won't notice the pixilation of a 1366 x 768 display, but at typical viewing distances of one to two feet, you'll be able to make out a lot of dots.  According to Raymond Soneira, the president of screen-testing company DisplayMate, if you have a laptop with 15-inch display and view it from 18 inches away, you would need a ratio of at least 190 PPI (pixels per inch) in order to avoid graininess. Laptops with 14.1-inch, 13.3-inch and 11.6-inch screens are only a little sharper at this resolution, with PPIs of 111, 118 and 135, respectively.

Speaking about  systems with 1366 x 768 displays, Soneira told us "I have a laptop like this and the text is noticeably coarse and pixelated, which reduces reading speed and productivity, and increases eye fatigue."

PPI By Laptop Screen Size

Even worse, a 1366 x 768 display doesn't provide enough screen real estate for reading Web pages, editing documents or multitasking. On some online articles, you can't even see past the headline on a low-res screen. Looking at the New York Times home page at both resolutions, the 1920 x 1080 screen has 10 more lines of text on it. So, if you're going to get a laptop with a low-res screen, you better start practicing your two-finger swipes.

Most applications and Web pages need around 1,000 pixels of horizontal space to show their content. With only 1366 pixels of space, you can't fit two full-size applications on the screen at once, without scrolling horizontally or having them overlap each other. However, with 1920 pixels, you have just enough space to stack two windows side-by-side (2048 or 2560 would be even better). Only when you can compose an email in one window while looking at Web page in the other can you truly multitask.

Slow Progress

Back in 2012, I wrote a column entitled "Note to Notebook Makers: 1366 is a joke," and sadly, today, we're still hearing the same stale punchline. According to NPD, in 2012, 82 percent of all laptops sold had low-res displays. In 2017, 66 percent of all consumer notebooks had low-res screens while 51-percent of business systems were less than full HD. A full 80 percent of Chromebooks sold in 2017 had 1366 x 768 displays. 

Believe it or not, even though two-thirds of consumer laptops still have crappy screens, that percentage has dropped from 72 percent in 2016 and 84 percent in 2015. In 2015, 78 percent of business systems had low-res screens; so that number dropped by 27 percent in just two years.

Percentage of Laptops with Low-Res Screens


NPD Analyst Stephen Baker says that 1366 x 768 displays are so common, because manufacturers want to save money. "They often have to make the choice as to what the consumer would want (or the business) and a down-res screen is an easier sell (and takes out more costs to hit a pricepoint) than a shift in processor, or RAM , or sometimes even weight or thickness," Baker told me.

We have no idea what the cost difference is between a 1366 panel and 1080p one, but when you're making thousands of PCs, even a $10 difference in the BOM (Bill of Materials) cost adds up.  More importantly, the price of laptops with 1080p displays tends to be much higher, though that may be an indication that those systems also have better processors, RAM and storage drives. In 2017, the average selling price of a Windows laptop with a less-than-1080p display was $323 while the typical 1080p laptop cost a full $795. 

Least Expensive 1080p Laptops

Though 1080p resolution laptops are still way overpriced as a group, you can find a few at budget prices if you look hard enough. Acer's Spin 1 convertible costs just $329 and has a gorgeous, 1080p screen that can reproduce an impressive 129 percent of the color gamut.  The Acer E 15 (E5-575-33BM) also has a 1920 x 1080 panel, along with a Core i3 CPU and a 1TB hard drive.  For $399, the Asus VivoBook E403NA has a sleek aluminum chassis, a great selection of ports and a sharp, 13-inch full HD screen.

Acer Spin 1



In the world of Chromebooks, Acer's Chromebook 14 gives you a 1080p display for $299. HP's Chromebook 14 is also available with a full HD screen.

What You Can Do

At one point in PC history, you had to pay extra to get a laptop with Wi-Fi. Now, you can't find a new system with worse than an 802.11n radio and most support the latest 802.11ac standard. If Dell or Lenovo tried to sell an Ethernet-only laptop today, it probably wouldn't sell a single unit.

Just as we expect our laptops to have modern Wi-Fi, we should demand that they have high- resolution screens. Next time you're shopping for a laptop, getting one with 1920 x 1080 pixels or higher should be at or near the top of your list of priorities. If you have to pay a little extra or skimp on other components to get 1080p, you have to do it. Your laptop's screen is its most important feature.


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 Laptopmag.com 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
Add a comment
  • Michael Swartz Says:

    I'd like a laptop with a 4:3 or even better a 5:4 screen resolution. I'm a programmer so I need it to be functional as in I need the vertical space. What I don't need or want is a wide screen, expensive, portable, Blu-ray player and/or gaming device.

  • phalaps.com Says:

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  • Ike Leland Says:

    It’s 2018 and PC manufacturers are still making giant pixels?!?! Why??? Ive had a 15” 4k laptop for 3 years now. 281 PPI. For a person like me with perfect vision, I can only describe getting a 4k monitor being the same as a person with bad vision getting glasses. FINALLY....after staring at terrible screens for most of my life...clear crisp text and images! And as an added bonus...accurate colors! (asus zenbook pro / vivobook pro)
    It’s beyond sad that 95% of big box retail PC’s have giant ugly pixels. Even 1080p pixels are too big considering most smartphones now have 300+ PPI. The surface pro is the almost always the only retail “laptop” with an acceptable PPI. Best buy has maybe 1 or 2 devices with 4k. This forces all of us higher end users to buy online.

  • John S Says:

    I've seen my share of cheap poor quality 1080P screens on $800 laptops. Screen quality is more important to me then anything. Unfortunately PC makers seem to choose skimping on the screen to save a few bucks and buyers tend to buy pre configured models with those cheaper TN screens. Even if they offer a optional IPS screen. Overall, the PC industry seems to have little incentive to offer better screens in cheaper models. Using that demand for better screens to steer you into a more expensive model. I myself have no issue with a good quality 720p screen. Its better then a poor quality Full HD one.

  • omegatalon Says:

    1920 X 1080 is essentially the standard for almost a decade as the lower end resolution displays are usually used in devices that cost under $200.00.

  • Rajathi Says:

    This site is highly useful as it gave me what I had expected

  • M_Atif Says:

    A full HD or higher resolution justifies its relatively higher cost when it aids you in online searching. It will improve your productivity like nothing else. The primary purpose of a laptop is browsing, reading documents and watch youtube videos. Even if you are a casual user, anything that helps you find answers quickly or lets you sit longer in front of the screen will justify its cost. If you think about it a laptop might be the most important tool in your life. A cell phone or laptop can never get real work done. Nothing is more important in today's life than making quick decisions. Keep a quick sharp tool at your disposal. Don't settle for a toy.

  • Ravae Says:

    Very helpful article as I was debating between which laptops to buy and most expensive ones had full HD screens couple hundred more than 768 screens and didn't understand why such a big price difference?

  • Erwin Says:

    The real reason that we need more than 1366x768 is that most os's and applications are really wasting a lot of screen realestate. A prime example is Adobe Acrobat; one can switch off most elements that take up space like the menubar navigation pane and so on, but most of these are taking up horizontal space. the improvement we need the most is being able to switch off that humongous bar that has only 2 elements in it "Home" and "tools" that takes up a lot of vertical space, exactly where it is needed the most on a 1366x768 screen.
    There is nothing in those menu's that can't be found in the standard menu bar but it takes up about three times as much space as the standard menubar.
    On the other hand, it would not hurt to have a 1080p screen even for a budget laptop. And with sensible use of the screen we even get to view and work more efficiently.

  • mikic Says:

    As someone already said, the biggest problem are cheap TN screens. My cheap android phone looks way, way better with IPS screen compared to my grainy laptop. I will never EVER again buy anything with less than IPS screen, resolution of 720p is just enough.

  • Cyrus Prince Says:

    Good morning Mr. Piltch,

    Yesterday, I bought an E403SA and it works very flawlessly.

    Could you, please, help me to find the brest parameters for screen resolution?

    Actually, I use per default parameters, but this is not like Full HD!

    Your advices are very welcoming.


  • Goku19 Says:

    I would be happy to get a laptop of screen size 30x20cm and resolution 1500x1000 which will give 50ppc or 127ppi.

  • Mgdlns Says:

    Why some manufactures not looking into doing expandable screens which can be expanded side ways and upwards, and can be folded when not in use? Creating like a normal desktop monitor? So much for technology.. hmm

  • JayDee Says:

    I am perfectly okay with 1366 x 768 too, as anything higher and it's a struggle to read text etc; and no, I'm not old.

    What I would like to see though is more manufacturers offering a 2800 x 1400 type resolution (a la Macbook Pro Retina), where the screen uses more pixels to display effectively the same as you'd get on a standard 1368 screen, but with much sharper text. I've had 1600 and 1900 res screens, and even on a 15" screen it's too much of a strain; I don't need to fit two pages or documents on my screen at the same time.

    Can journalists stop speaking on behalf of 'everyone' and insisting on 1900+ resolutions. I don't have a laptop for watching movies, I have a TV for that.

  • noobpro Says:

    I am ok with 1366 768, since the higher resolution make the text so hard to see. But the worst part of most laptop's screen is its lack of color production and viewing angle, especially when you compare it to your smartphone's screen. Today most smartphone has a better display than the laptop does.

  • Hank22 Says:

    I just helped my niece buy a laptop because of the specs advertised online. The problem with that is you do not see the quality of the screen,clarity and richness of colors.The screen resolution can be changed in settings with AMD/ under Display Tab and Virtual Resolution if it has that option. You can almost double the lines per inch BUT that does not change the crappy quality of a milky looking cheap screen. Better to see a laptop in person to know what you are buying as far as screen quality goes.The Lenovo Ideapad 310 that I helped buy should have had a better quality screen.

  • Tech100 Says:

    The perfect resolution on a 15.6 inch widescreen would have been 1600x900 pixels. This is what it should have been all along and better yet, it should have been 16:10 aspect ratio at 1600x1000. That little bit of height makes all the difference. A 1600x1000 IPS panel on a 15 or 16 inch screen today would be PERFECT.

  • David Jerusalem Says:

    The only reason for higher screen resolutions is, that the web pages can bomb the viewers with more add banners.

  • David Says:

    It is all very well saying better res is better but 1920x1200 is not practical because it makes the text smaller, so can't read anything.

    If I make the DPI higher some apps do not work well.

    I do not want to have to wear glasses to read a laptop.

    So for now, MY advice would be if you want a better res get a bigger screen to accomodate it, say a 17inch, they are not as huge and heavy as they used to be and cheap on Dell Outlet site.

  • David Says:

    It is all very well saying better res is better but 1920x1200 is not practical because it makes the text smaller, so can't read anything.

    If I make the DPI higher some apps do not work well.

    I do not want to have to wear glasses to read a laptop.

    So for now, MY advice would be if you want a better res get a bigger screen to accomodate it, say a 17inch, they are not as huge and heavy as they used to be and cheap on Dell Outlet site.

  • John S Says:

    Not sure this problem is all on the PC makers providing cheap low resolution screens. It's about poor support in the OS and programs for high resolution. Even in Windows 10 you have blurry menu's and even some programs like Note that still suffer from DPI scaling issues. For most people a good IPS panel screen on a notebook rather than a TN screen is the better purchase. Many times I think higher resolution screens only look better because they are the IPS screens. So from the start the quality and viewing angles will be better. Also many people like myself seeing middle age eye sight degrade. Know that while high resolution looks good it also means you may have to increase DPI just to read stuff. I don't think its clear that you should buy a high resolution screen. Some people may prefer a 1366 X 768 just because that's what they like.

  • David Says:

    Getting anything above a 1920x1080 display on a laptop is a waste of time and money because Windows unfortunately still sucks at handling high DPI displays. It's a shame when I'm shopping for a high-end laptop and all the displays are QHD+, which also takes its toll on the GPU. Plus anything above 1080p your eyes will literally not notice a difference, even with a 17" display.

  • lapn-rouge Says:

    Avram you are a fool. 1920 x 1080 is the current 'MEH' standard - simply not good enough. A Macbook Pro is 2560 x 1600, and THAT is what you should be talking about.

  • Barry Says:

    Good article. I wish people would quit buying these cheap laptops, thats the only way pc vendor's are gonna change. 1280x1080 isnt even the greatest

  • Peter Says:

    That's funny -- Avram doesn't *look* like a 22-year-old fighter pilot with 20/5 vision...

    But all joking aside, readers who use an OS whose elements and applications are not designed to scale way, way up, and do it well, should take Stan the Man's and Zzzzz's comments to heart. Even at just 150% scaling, you run into problems with Windows 7 (e.g., some programs' dialog boxes not fitting on the screen and their control buttons becoming unviewable and inaccessible), and I've read that even Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 are not ready for prime time unless you stick exclusively to modern apps (as opposed to desktop programs). I've even read complaints about scaling in OSX here and there. If all you do on your laptop is watch video, view photos, and play games, by all means, go for full HD or beyond. But unless you're a teenager or twenty-something with very good vision, if you have to use traditional productivity apps you may be unpleasantly surprised at the ergonomic price you pay for that "extra real estate" on a small screen. And for users over age 50, when presbyopia has usually set in, fuhgeddaboudit. If you want more real estate, get a big external monitor (and make sure your laptop can drive it at full speed).

  • wombat Says:

    Horses for courses. 16:10 aspect ratio is ok for consuming videos etc. but terrible for other pursuits. bring back 4:3 and scale the fonts properly so I can read the darn thing without messing with the os settings.

  • Bart. Says:

    My laptop from 2008 has a 1920x1200 screen at 17", it's really perfect.

  • Jerry Says:

    My 9 year old ACER Aspire 5920G has 15.6 inch 1280 x 800 screen. Its time for replacement. A trip to my local 'PC World' shocked me. Without exception ALL the 1366 x 768 screens were no better and some worse than mine. Its not about pixels, its about contrast, colour, viewing angles, the ability to do black. Three models has full HD screens. But with the increased pixels also came a huge leap in quality as these were IPS screens. BUT your average laptop cannot get close to the screen quality of your average Tablet or smart phone. This lack of progress in 9 years is unacceptable and a bit scandalous.

  • Stan The Man Says:

    All full HD laptops 15,6" I buy for the company are returned by the employees because native resolution is too small, others are too bad approximation and eyes hurt after 10 min, they all want 1366x768.

  • al 02 ex Says:

    one of the problems is windows, windows still now not finding a way to work properly in high resolutions. the best result windows had get is with windows 10 which is not sufficient yet. OS X already has a way to manage and move high resolutions and make any program fit in it.

    all of this it's very annoying, one think this article doesn't mention is the quality of the screens too, not everything is resolution as colours, technology and at the end of the they how crisp and clear is and the majority of laptops has really bad quality display even expensive ones.

  • ali4wisdom Says:

    This article is very informative. but i astonish how older screens manage a better display with even lower resolution like 1024x768. newer laptops are crap they font give half of the quality of those 1024x768. I am really disappointed by the quality of dispaly in newer laptops.

  • Zzzzz Says:

    What a load of crap. Sorry mate, but using a FHD - 1080p resolution on a small screen is just a tiring for eyes. Icons, as well as menus in the software are way too small. I would not recommend the FHD resolution to anyone with smaller screen than 17 inches for a laptop, and 19 inches for a PC monitor.
    I hope that laptop manufacturers will not listen to dumbasses like you. Let's not even enter the area of performance for a larger resulution. While for videos this is unimportant, it is essential for any type of gaming, and most people are going to play in their native resolution. Good luck playin anything modern in FHD on an intel HD integrated graphics...

  • Thomas Says:

    My old laptop, owned for about 5 years, had a 1366 x 768 display. I wouldn't describe it as 'grainy', nor would I describe it as a 'joke'. I happily watched countless hours of HD video, admittedly not rendered at full HD, but it still looked good. I also browsed numerous web pages and edited many Word documents. So I'm living proof that the author's claim that "a 1366 x 768 display doesn't provide enough screen real estate for reading Web pages, editing documents or multitasking" is simply wrong.

    The author seems to believe the higher the resolution the better, but it's not that simple. The higher the screen's resolution, the better the video hardware needs to be to drive it, and the more power will be consumed. On a laptop, that might not be a good thing.

    If the physical screen size stays the same and the resolution increases, the native display size of icons and text gets smaller, and text more difficult to read. Operating systems have functions to scale them up again, but they are not perfect and may not be properly handled by older software, making user interfaces look ugly.

    My new laptop has got a full HD screen and I appreciate the improvement. I'm not yet convinced that there is much point in 2K or 4K resolution on a small 13 inch laptop screen. Perhaps in another 5 years I will be, but for now I'm more than happy with 1920 x 1080.

  • Towla Says:

    I totally agree. 1366*768 shouldn't even have existed, it should have been phased out after 1280*800 was discontinued.

    The sexy Studio Xps had full HD back in 2008-2009 something. Too bad they're rare here in Scandinavia..

  • Mario Becroft Says:

    I would kill for a modern laptop with 1920x1200 15.4" screen (or preferably 2560x1600). I despise the progressive decline in laptop screen aspect. Sure I can get a mobile workstation from HP or Lenovo with 1080p, but that's 120 lines less resolution on what was already a short (16:10) display.

    If this trend continues (4:3, 16:10, 16:9,) what will be next, 16:5? 16:2??

    Vendors could make notebooks with super high quality 1920x1200 screens 10 years ago, why not now?

    As it is I am still using my HP 8510w (the last 15.4" model with a 16:10 screen) but it's getting old, and there is no longer up-to-date driver support from Nvidia for the Quadro FX570M video. One of these days I will have to bite the bullet and downgrade my resolution... but I hope notebook makers will see sense before then and give us a screen as good as we had 10 years ago.

  • Joan Warburton Says:

    Hello Avram, great article and advice on Screen resolution. I am considering buying a new Laptop, a Toshiba Tecra Z50-C. I need a high resolution Laptop which can operate very fast as I use a lot of mining software and data with Earth Bridge whilst travelling. Can I have your opinion on this model and its resolution. Thank you Joan

  • longname Says:

    The problem is not the resolution, it's poor TN panels.

  • Darrell Says:

    I love the resolution of my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro's 3200 x 1800 pixel 13.3" display! Text and photos are beautifully sharp, and Windows 8 and 10 handle it pretty well. I'd never want to go down to 1920 x 1080 now.

  • Joe Bean Says:

    I couldn't agree more with the author. A lot of people just go buy a laptop thinking they don't need much because they just surf the Web, so they don't really know what they are missing and are looking for a price. I had 1920x1200 IPS screens on laptops as an option almost 10 years ago and it was great. The sad thing is manufacturers puts out way too much products models with incoherent options like a low-res screen and slow mechanical HD on a 1500$ laptop. They should copy Apple, simplify the number of models and put more emphasis on the differences : low-cost laptop, medium-cost great light web surfing machine, high end powerhouse light or heavy... Last time I looked at a price list from Lenovo, they had about 400 models... Choice is great, except when it is illogical combinations.

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