Notebook PCs / Laptop

Display

The display is your window into your notebook computer's world and because it's your primary interface -- it pays to get a good one!

Notebooks now all feature liquid crystal display (LCD) screens with Thin-Film Transistor (TFT) technology.

If you will be using your notebook as a desktop replacement for graphic-intense work, then perhaps you might consider buying a second, larger LCD screen to connect to it when doing this sort of work. If this isn't an option, then choose a notebook with a large display, keeping in mind that a larger screen means a pricier and heavier notebook.

The screen sizes for notebooks (on average) range from 12.1in to 17in (widescreen). A 15.4in widescreen display is the most common in notebooks today, followed closely by the 14.1in or 17in widescreen options.

In most cases, the larger the display, the higher the on-screen resolution will be, although this can also depend on the type of graphics processor used.

Some vendors (such as Dell), actually give you the choice of paying more for a better display panel that allows for a higher resolution. Keep this in mind. It's true that if you'll mainly be using your notebook for word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail and Internet, etc, then screen size and resolution might not be important factors. However, keep in mind that a widescreen can be a good compromise between extra on-screen real estate and notebook weight. Resolution will be more important on gaming notebooks or notebooks with high-definition players like an HD-DVD or Blu-ray drive.

Notebooks are also competing on brightness (measured in nits). A newer trend with notebooks (especially of multimedia-orientated models) is the use of a glossy, reflective coating over the display. Each vendor has a different name for their technology, but for the most part the results are the same: much improved contrast and colours instead of that washed out look. Sometimes this feature is standard, sometimes it's optional or not available. Be sure to ask about it -- but remember that the downside can include you sometimes seeing your reflection at certain viewing angles (which can be distracting) and that any scratches can be more visible.

Another factor that distinguishes one notebook's display from another is its viewable angle. Quite often, less costly notebooks have lower quality screens that are not easily viewed from a side angle. When shopping online for a notebook, this is something you can't test.

Here's something to try: When you're at the notebook retailer: with the notebook on -- and preferably playing a DVD movie, if the situation allows -- stand in front of it and look at the screen. You should be able to see the display fine. Now take a step or so to the side until you're on about a 45-degree angle to the display. Can you still see the screen properly or is there an increase in darkness and loss of clarity? Now try standing about 10 degrees off the axis of the display and about 1m away.

Try this with a few notebooks and you should see the difference for yourself. This is more important if you are trying to share the screen with multiple people, such as when using it in a presentation of watching a movie on it.

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