Note to Notebook Makers: 1366 is a Joke!

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1366 is a Joke!

Flava Flav was at CES last week to promote Soul headphones, but if everyone's favorite clock-wearing bard had been keeping his eye on the PC space, he'd be compelled to rap about the sorry state of notebook displays and declare them a joke. While 10-inch tablets like the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF700 rock 1920 x 1200 displays and 4.5-inch phones like the Sony Xperia Ion offer 1280 x 720, most of the latest Ultrabooks remain stuck at the same lame 1366 x 768 resolution the vast majority of notebooks have had for the past couple of years.

The worst thing that ever happened to notebook users occurred in 2009, when panel makers found out they could save on manufacturing costs by changing the standard panel aspect ratio from 16:10 to 16:9. This resulted in OEMs switching their notebook displays from 1280 x 800 or 1440 x 900 to the now-ubiquitous 1366 x 768 resolution we see today on most notebooks with 15-inch or smaller screens. Only Apple resisted the siren's song of lower prices and continues to use 1440 x 900 panels on its 13-inch MacBook Air.

Though this 1366 x 768 standard offers a little more horizontal space than its 1280 x 800 predecessors, vertical space is what matters most when you're editing a document, viewing a web page or managing your inbox. Losing 32 to 132 pixels of space means more scrolling and less content visible above the fold. Also, as screen sizes creep up to 13.3, 14.1 and even 15.6-inches with this resolution, users are stuck with very low pixel densities of 118, 111 or even 100 PPI (pixels-per-inch).

The lower a screen's PPI, the bigger each dot on the screen appears, making it too easy for the human eye to notice that the entire picture is made up of dots. That large dot effect may look cool on a Lichtenstein painting, but on a computer screen, you want lots of tiny pixels to make images look sharp and natural.  

Mobile device makers seem to get it. We're now seeing tablets with PPIs as high as 224 and phones like the LG Spectrum with PPIs well over 300. Over two years ago, Apple introduced the iPhone 4, which has a 3.5-inch,  960 x 640 panel the company calls a "retina display" because it claims the screen's 326 PPI is higher than the human eye can distinguish. While Apple's claims about how many PPI the human eye can see are debatable (some say up to 500 or 600 PPI is noticeable), the importance of a sharp image is not. 

So why are notebook makers wearing the late crown? Even the latest Ultrabooks, including the Acer Aspire S5, Dell XPS 13 and HP Folio 13 are all saddled with 1366 x 768 displays. You could spend over $1,000 on a notebook and get the same work area you'll see on a $400 Black Friday special. If pressed, notebook OEMs place the blame on panel manufacturers for charging too much or producing too few panels with higher resolutions. Considering that you'll soon be able to buy the Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF700 and its 1920 x 1200 10-inch screen for just $599, this excuse doesn't pass the smell test. Someone needs to step up for the users. 

Another pitiful pretext for sticking with 1366 on notebooks is that some users find the sharper text on high-res screens too small for their aging eyes. However, small fonts are why DJ Billy G and his Microsoft posse invented the Windows control panel and why every browser coded since 1995 has a zoom function. You can take advantage of your notebook's increased pixel density while still making the letters as big or as small as you want. 

The good news is that we've seen a few premium products sporting the much sharper 1600 x 900 panel in the 13- and 14-inch form factors, including the ASUS ZenBook UX31, the upcoming Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, 14-inch HP Envy 14 Spectre and the Q2-launching Lenovo ThinkPad Edge S430. However, these are the exception rather than the rule. 1600 x 900 should be the minimum acceptable resolution for any notebook that's bigger than 10-inches, with more systems emulating the Sony VAIO Z and its 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 display.

Unfortunately, the way things are going, we can expect the average notebook screen to remain fixed at 1366. Seeing this lame situation, Flava Flav would surely opine:

Now, notebooks switched to 1366 x 768 a long time ago.
My screen had more space three years ago.
Don't you see how late OEMs are reactin'?
They never upgrade their displays; they don't wanna
So roll that scroll wheel. Your finger's a goner. 

OEMs keep selling notebooks with lame 1366 screens anyway.
While 10-inch tablets rock a full 1920 x 1200 display
If your document's on the line, you'll be scrolling a lot today 
Scrolling carpal tunnel will put you in a stretcher
Does your tablet show more of your sites? Yeah,  you betcha.

Ultrabooks are the kings of pixel amputation
So check out this messed up situation.
High-priced 13-inchers have low PPI. 
118 pixels per inch is too dull for my eye.  

Tablets' res goes up while notebooks stay down.
1366 is a joke in your town. 
PC OEMs wear the late crown 
1366 is a joke! 

Online Editorial Director Avram Piltch oversees the production and content of LAPTOP’s web site. With a reputation as the staff’s biggest geek, he has also helped develop a number of LAPTOP’s custom tests, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. Catch the Geek’s Geek column here every week or follow Avram on twitter.

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
Add a comment
  • Scott Says:

    Best selling laptop on Amazon has a 1080 panel. Consumers are taking notice. So should manufacturers.

  • Max Says:

    Totally agree, Avram. And 3 years later the situation isn't much better. Death to 1366x768!

  • Dino Says:

    While 10" tablets have their resolution increasing, 15+" laptops keep decreasing. We had 1920x1200 resolution in last century. Try finding that now. You can't, but you will find plenty of this "wide screen 16:9hd" cheap bullshit.

  • Indra Says:

    I was using 1440 x 900 display
    But since its way too wide for me to code and web browsing, I switched to old 1280 x 1024 display and everything feel better now.

    For gaming and movie watching, I prefer my 1920 x 1080 Smart TV

    But 1920 x 1080 for web browsing ? What a waste of 900px.
    Its just like watching 4:3 VCD on HDTV, too much pillarbox

    I wish monitor manufacturer still produce this text-friendly 1.25 ratio or even better, improve the size and resolution.

  • alexrota1970 Says:

    My lovely notebooks: HP 8510w (15", Nvidia Quadro, 1680x1050) and Lenovo T61 (15", Nvidia Quadro, 1920x1200). I bought them few months ago, obviously they are not brand new. I had to search on the 2nd hand market and I found them. 300Euros each and now I'm so happy when I work with such hi-res screens!

  • who am I Says:

    I also use a notebook primarily to work and view the web, NOT to watch movies. I'm after depth, not wide screen movie width. So I'm now having to buy an apple mac for the first time for the more practical screen shape. 1440*900 instead of all other notebook makers who use 1366*768 or 1920*1080 .

    Strange that all other manufacturers don't follow Apple Mac, given they are the most successful and profitable company in the world. when they lose enough sales to apple, maybe they will wake up.

  • Jez Says:


    Try using a development IDE such as Eclipse on 1366×768 and you will soon see that 1366×768 is definitely *NOT* fine!

    My old laptop with a 1600x1200 display is perfect for this, however it is circa 2003 so is somewhat resource limited! The main issue is that the manufacturers think everyone uses laptops for watching movies so needs 16:9 or 16:10 aspect. For doing something productive 4:3 is a far better aspect (IMHO).

  • KSH Says:

    1080p is a joke. What happened to WUXGA? They stopped making it because it wasn't as profitable. A**holes.

  • MotorMouth Says:

    1366x768 is perfectly fine. You only need enough vertical res to see the sentence you are reading on a laptop, any more is superfluous. Same with writing/typing, you only need to see the bit you're currently working on. My laptop probably spend more than 90% of its life plugged into a full HD monitor but on those occasions I am required to work on-site with my 1366x768 screen I find it more than adequate, even when working on portrait-oriented posters, flyers, etc.

  • Douglas Says:

    As far as I'm concerned, 1366x768 only has a place on 13" and smaller laptops. 14" machines should have nothing less than 1600x900, and 15" machines should have Full HD screens.

    After seeing how glorious a full HD 15" screen looks, you won't want anything else.

  • Mike C Says:

    Hell yeah!!!

    I'm still using a 2007 lenovo X61 tablet with a 12.1 1400x1050 screen because I need the real estate for work.

    Laptop makers need to get their crap together!

  • William Says:

    I think a factor not mentioned in this article is that graphics are now king. OEMs are most likely sticking with the 1366 X 768 resolution as it has allowed them to more easily deliver budget laptops with impressive 3D applications performance as resolutions stay the same and hardware improves.

    The more pixels your graphics hardware has to drive, the more horsepower your graphics hardware has to have in order to yield the same number of frames per second (FPS). FPS being the key attribute in the delivering a good user experience within 3D applications. By not increasing display resolutions FPS within 3D applications have increased to levels on par with workstations of several years ago that have nonproprietary graphics hardware. In short graphics hardware in laptops has not also had to outstrip increases in display resolution to deliver better user experiences.

    We are approaching a point in time though where display resolutions will increase and at least 1 generation of laptops will deliver the same if not close to the same FPS in 3D applications as the generation preceding it. That will be the generation of laptops not to buy if you can properly identify them.

  • MarcXW Says:

    Agreed, I'm shocked to see that 1366 by 768 is still used nowadays given the resolutions we get on smartphones and tablet. 1080p should be the norm on 13' screens. I'm sure the cost is only marginally lower than higher resolution displays.

  • Ihateapple Says:

    What about 1280*800 resolution apple is using for their $1099 laptop?

  • Mark Says:

    Hear hear. 1366 is a waste of time.

  • critical input Says:

    Keep your day job....

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