Do you use a 1366×768 resolution screen? Really?

1000px-Vector_Video_Standards2.svgCaution, we are getting into rant territory with this one. You were warned. Grin. What make and model notebook are you using?  What is the size of your screen?  What is the native resolution of the screen?

I really wish I had kept track of all the notebook computers I’ve used or tested over the years.  Somewhere about 2003 I became a high resolution screen snob.  I mean really.  Remember the first time you saw a 14.1" SXGA+ 1400×1050 screen?  Pure bliss.  How about a 15.4" WSXGA+ 1680×1050 screen?  Bliss again.

By the time these competing standards were pervasive, it was official.  I became a high resolution snob. Is it any wonder I detest the current crop of notebook computers?

Resolution isn’t the only issue. The aspect ratio movement has really screwed everything up.  Somewhere along the line someone decided notebook computers needed to have widescreen formats so they all switched from 4:3 ratio screen and resolutions to 16:10 ratio screens and resolutions.  That switch by the screen suppliers and OEMs wasn’t terrible.  In fact, it gave us my favorite screen.  The 15.4" 1680×1050 WSXGA+ screen.  Perfect vertical and horizontal real estate for business professionals and technical personnel.  The font size is on the small side for the elderly and my wife certainly doesn’t dig it, but adjusting the DPI up to 125% is a pretty good workaround for most people.

Around the same time things started to get a little overboard.  Suppliers and OEM’s started making and supplying 15.4" high resolution WUXGA 1920×1200 screens.  If you have really good eyes, and the screen is good and bright, this was a great resolution for coders or spreadsheet fanatics that need more horizontal resolution.  My first notebook with this screen was the legendary Dell Latitude D820.  The fonts were too small so upping the DPI to 125% was pretty much mandatory for me and my poor eyesight.

Then comes the 16:9 revolution.  I totally get that we need killer HDTV screens at this aspect ratio.  I can almost understand consumer notebooks and netbooks might be more attractive with this widescreen ratio, but business computers?  Not so much. 

I’ve heard and read some of the arguments on the internet.  Supposedly it’s cheaper to manufacture 16:9 screens. I’m not sure I buy that.  Even if I do, what’s up with the crazy screen resolutions on the market?  You basically get three choices now. 1366×768, 1600×900 and 1920×1080.  If that isn’t bad enough, the actual quality of the screens being made seems to have eroded, too.  I am referring to the "mainstream" "business class" screens for 13, 14 and 15" notebook computers. Combine a 1366×768 resolution with a matte screen with poor viewing angles and you have a recipe for dissatisfaction.

I really hope the notebook makers do something creative with the ultra thin and mobile machines coming out.  The ThinkPad X220 with the 12.5" IPS screen was a step in the right direction but I’m still concerned about the resolution for the machines being made now.  You should be too.

[UPDATE for 6/6/2011]  Here’s a real good example.  Look at the new Acer TimelineX Series information at  1366×768 resolution across the 13.3", 14" and 15.6" models.  What?  Really? 

Comments (12)

  1. MarcD1973 says:

    1920×1200 on a 15" is the way to go. you need the vertical resolution to be able to see a whole page of a document (preferably 2 pages side by side) to read comfortably and review documents

  2. BillK says:

    Send a link of this to Lenovo engineers with a RFC!

    BTW, how good or bad are the Lenovo Business 2011 screens?

    And who, in your opinion, offers the best choices/selections?

  3. Flemming Riis says:

    i borrowed a X1 this week , and i personally find 1366*768 horrible on a 13" monitor , i use a x201 for size for day to day tasks but would love a 13" with a higher resolution.

    X1 with my limited scope i dont see it being able to compete with a macbook air

  4. Patrick Blitstein says:

    I gave away my MacBook Air after working with it for less than 2 weeks because of the crappy 1366 resolution.

    I am quite happy with a resolution >= 1600×900 (Lenovo TP W510) but I have the impression that I am done with my work in half the time when I use a FullHD W520 🙂

  5. OtherKevin says:

    I agree, 1920×1200 is about the best.  Even for mid-sized desktop monitors I'd prefer it to the much more ubiquitous 1920×1080.

    As to the HDTV-resolution screens being cheaper to produce, I think that's largely a question of scale.  I don't think that they're appreciably cheaper to make based on materials cost, but because more people are demanding HDTV formats there just aren't as many people making them and they end up costing more than the commodity screens.

  6. Stu says:

    Fantasitc rant!  While our notebook vendor of choice is currently dell, and I find their 13" E sreies Latitude line to be great it makes me frustrated that they do not offer a 1440×900 screen.

  7. BillXT says:

    Just be glad that there still are options to order some of the higher res. screens on ThinkPads (14" 1440 x 900 on T-series, as an example).  I will be trying to stretch the useful life of my personal X61T (12" 1400 x 1050 4:3 screen) as long as possible, and am guessing there won't be a great substitute for the hi-res screen when my work X200s (12" 1440 x 900) dies either.  🙁

  8. Keith Combs says:


    The T series machines are no longer made with 16:10 1440×900 screen. That's what I have on my personal T410s and I am really glad I bought that. The T420, T420s and T520 are all 16:9 screens and resolutions.  This isn't unique to Lenovo.  It's happening everywhere now.

  9. Dan_IT says:

    Found out the hard way recently when I needed to take a screenshot of a Google custom map I made for a project. Found that the 1366×768 just didn't cut it. I had to hook up my 20" 1680×1050 external monitor to the Thinkpad to get the right zoom and height resolution down. I don't like the movement to 16:9 format either.

    Here's to a X220s with a 1600×900 soon!

  10. Matt W says:


    Would you please post a link to the graph above? I'd love to print it as a poster and discuss with my boss… who is about to order Lenovo laptops for all of us here at work with the wrong resolution!

    I guess the best that to get is the 1600 x 900, right?

  11. Keith Combs says:

    @Matt, if you click the graph it will take you over to…/Graphic_display_resolutions
    which is the source for the pic. On that article you can click the pic to take you to…/File:Vector_Video_Standards2.svg
    which has a variety of printable formats.

  12. Keith Combs says:


    I forgot to answer the other question. Picking the right resolution is usually related to the role.  It's a highly subjective matter, too.

    For instance, my wife prefers bigger fonts than I do.  She runs her 1440×900 14" screen laptop at 125% DPI.  I run mine at 100% DPI.

    My recommendation these days is to usually go to the higher resolution screen than you think you need because changing the DPI percentage and increasing font size is rather easy.

    1600×900 is a pretty good resolution and I often wish that was the native resolution on my 15.6" laptop. It's really easy on the eyes on that size screen. Instead I went with a screen with a native resolution of 1920×1080 and set the DPI to 125%.

    1600×900 starts looking a little small font wise on a 14" screen.  Again, you can compensate for that by bumping up the DPI%.

    What you can't do is compensate for the lack of resolution in a 1366×768 display.