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The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

For the past six to eight weeks, I've been on the lookout for a new laptop. Now, I know that I have high standards, but I can't believe that some of the things that I really want in a laptop are no longer available. About a year ago, my old Dell Inspiron 8100 was about to bite the dust. It was 6 years old, overheated frequently, one of the two batteries I had was essentially a short circuit, and did I mention it was six years old?

One of the main reasons I bought that laptop was that it went well with my 20" LCD monitor. They both had the same resolution, and 1600x1200 resolution on a 15" screen really isn't that bad once you're used to it. In fact, when you get used to it it's very hard to go to anything else. The middle of last year, I broke down and bought a new laptop. I was a little bit concerned that the screen resolution wasn't quite what I was used to, but it was a widescreen monitor. Apple didn't make anything else for their 15" MacBook Pro series, so that's what I went with.

I've been using this thing for just shy of a year now, and I have to be honest: I have some pretty major gripes about this laptop, which I'll cover in a different article. Don't get me wrong, the raw power and the light weight of the MacBook Pro are great. But using BootCamp isn't all it's cracked up to be. More on that later.

So here were the criteria that I put forth for my new laptop:

  • Dual core is a must. Don't care whether it's Core 2 Duo or Athlon X2. Either would work fine.
  • I want 2GB of RAM. This shouldn't be hard to do, although I would prefer a single 1GB RAM chip installed so I could buy the additional RAM at a reasonable price.
  • 15" screen. It can be 15.0", 15.1", or 15.4". I don't really care. I don't want 14" because the screen is too small, and I don't want 17" because they're too heavy. Neither of those would fit well into my laptop bag and I don't care to blow another $60 on another laptop bag.
  • 1600x1200 resolution. Having been running my Macbook Pro at 1440x900 for the nine months, I can't tell you how much I miss that extra 300 pixels at the bottom of the screen. I'm not a fan of widescreen, so I'd prefer not to have WUXGA.
  • 7200 RPM main hard drive. Doesn't need to be large. 60GB would probably work fine. I use an external 80GB USB drive to house VMWare images and the system performs better with VMWare running on a separate drive.
  • Must be reasonably light weight. I'm somewhat willing to compromise on this. I know I won't find anything as light as the Macbook, but the 1600x1200 resolution is more important.

I didn't think that these requirements were too much to ask. My current search for a new laptop has run the gauntlet of every reputable notebook maker I could find. I've looked at Dell, HP, Alienware, Prostar, Sony, Toshiba, Gateway, etc... It turns out that finding a laptop with a screen resolution of 1600x1200 these days is close to impossible. Since I bought my last laptop back in the year 2000, the 1600x1200 screen resolution has become less common rather than more common. The ONLY laptop I've found that meets that criteria is a Panasonic Toughbook 51 from NexTag.com and it's really not what I'm looking for. Everything else has been widescreen, which as I said before, isn't something I particularly care for.

Part of the reason laptop manufacturers no longer make UXGA screens is that widescreen laptops are cheaper to manufacture because the screens have less screen real estate overall. It's hard to quantify this without having two LCD's that are nearly identical to compare, so as an example we'll use Dell's 20" 2007FP monitor and compare it to the Dell 20" 2007FPW because excepting the screen resolution, they are virtually identical. The first thing you notice is that the 2007FP retails for $449 while the 2007FPW retails for $399. Comparing the screen resolutions, we have 1600x1200 and 1680x1050. So what? That's basically the same, right?

Actually, they're not. You don't need to be a rocket scientist here. Just do the math. 1600x1200=1,920,000 pixels while 1680x1050=1,764,000 pixels. That's nearly a 9% difference in screen real estate for the "same 20 inch screen" yet the retail cost increase is roughly 12.5%. But nobody pays retail for these things, right? After all, Dell runs deals every week in an effort to top your local supermarket in the number of deals they give you. Current sale prices are $384 and $359, respectively. Voila! You're getting a better deal by buying the 4:3 format screen as opposed to the widescreen based on raw percentages. With computer margins as thin as they are, laptop manufacturers are being squeezed to save money anywhere they can. Going back to our widescreen laptop problem, using widescreen monitors on their laptops is how they shave dollars off the cost.

If you look at LCD monitors larger than 20" from Dell, you'll find that all of them are widescreen and it's not possible to get one larger than 20" with the 4:3 format. One rumor I read from a laptop forum last fall was that there were production problems making UXGA screens, but I suspect that's not the case. They were making 15" monitors with 1600x1200 resolution 7 years ago so unless someone deleted a hard drive that had some important information on how to do it, they still have the technology to do it. If there were supply problems, laptop makers would get it resolved. If you go to Pricewatch.com and look for UXGA notebooks, there's only one on the entire site.

You also might think that these are laptops, so their video cards aren't up to par but that's not true either. Again, laptop makers were selling UXGA screens on laptops 7 years ago so technology has only gotten better. Besides, my Macbook Pro supports an external connection to a 2560x1600 monitor!!! I never did real well at Calculus, but something tells me that's a much larger number than 1600x1200.

So we know that it's still technically possible to make UXGA notebooks; what bothers me is that they've stopped making them. What's even more mystifying is why more developers and CAD engineers aren't complaining. There are a few people commenting on the lack of high screen resolutions for higher end laptops on the Dell IdeaStorm website, but not enough to make a difference. In a world where mobility has become more and more important, laptop vendors are responding with 17" laptops with WUXGA screens. Let me make one thing clear to laptop makers.

For software development purposes, or dare I say most business purposes, widescreen sucks.

Are we clear on that? Now, I realize that widescreen has a place in the world. People in the accounting department use spreadsheets for which widescreen could be useful to see more columns of their financial statements. Home users would certainly want to be able to watch movies on their laptops. But isn't it entirely possible that having more vertical screen real estate would be just as important as horizontal real estate? Indeed it would. I like ketchup on my burgers. On my cheesecake, not so much. I love widescreen for movies. For writing code... not so much. Everything has a place, and widescreen does not have a place on my laptop.

The astute reader will point out that there are many 15" notebooks out there that feature 1920x1200 LCD's. To this, I will refer you to my previous point: that widescreen sucks for software development and most business purposes. Somehow, writing a design document in letterbox format doesn't appeal to me and I don't remember the last time I had a single line of code that was so long that I needed a widescreen monitor to see it all. The problem with widescreen is that you are sacrificing height for width, when for software development purposes, the opposite is what you need. I need to see more lines of code, not less. The only conceivable benefit of a widescreen would be to have multiple windows open, and 1920 pixels just isn't enough to have multiple software development applications open side by side. Anyone who's ever used Visual Studio would know this. Heck, when I'm using Viso Enterprise Architect on my desktop, I use two 20" monitors to get me 3200x1200 and shift all of the tabbed windows onto my other monitor. Guess what? I still wish I had more vertical real estate. I'm tempted to move to 4 monitors in order to get it.

It's an unfortunate reality that over the past few years, the push for widescreen televisions has carried over so much into laptops. It's as if laptops are suddenly no longer used for anything else except watching movies. Let's think about this for a minute. What percentage of time that you use your laptop are you watching movies vs. doing something where widescreen really doesn't help? I think I've watched a grand total of 3 movies on my widescreen laptop in the last 9 months. To me, that in no way justifies a complete transition to widescreen laptops.

As applications move from the desktop to the web, browser based applications will become more and more prevalent. If you're a web application developer, widescreen is a terrible waste of otherwise good screen real estate. There's a limit to the width of the web pages that you design because you have to be sure that the majority of people will be able to see everything horizontally without scrolling right and left. The standard 4:3 format seems like a better fit for not only the developers, but for the web application users as well. What's worse is the fact that our option to choose widescreen or standard format is being eliminated entirely. We no longer have a choice, as illustrated by the fact that there is only one high resolution laptop left on the market.

I blame Apple for part of this transition. For years, widescreen has been the only format available for their computers. They've morphed their company into something of a media mogul with the iPod and iTunes. With the recent release of AppleTV, they're poised to enter the video market after dominating the audio market. Somehow, that translates into hundreds of lemming companies yanking standard format laptops from the shelves and replacing them with widescreen. Is there a good reason? I don't think so, but lets take a closer look.

What are the real arguments for widescreen? As I mentioned before, you can fit more columns on a screen in Excel. Ooh. A whole 3 extra columns and 30 less rows. Yea, I'm not excited about that, either.

How about the fact that using a laptop on a plane is a little bit easier because the laptop isn't as deep and fits better onto the tray table. That's a good reason. Of course, since it's wider, you no longer have room for soda and peanuts. What, no peanuts? Just soda I guess. I'll hold it and type one handed because my laptop is too wide to actually set my soda down.

Yep. That sucks too, and it's a legitimate problem for those of you who haven't had the 'pleasure' of this problem.

What about watching movies? Ah yes. The proverbial golden hammer. In my eyes, that's something of a lame excuse given that business class laptops are meant for well... business purposes and I don't know anyone running a business that makes money from watching movies. For all you widescreen fanatics out there complaining about "artists rights", feel free to chime in on this at any time. Artists rights have nothing to do with the screen. It has to do with the format of the medium (that being VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, HDDVD, etc). If you want to watch a movie, get a TV, a PSP, or a portable DVD player. Let the rest of us get our laptops with screen sizes and resolutions that actually help us do our jobs.

I can't think of any particularly good reasons to have widescreen LCD's on laptops or to make them generally unavailable on larger LCD's that are intended as desktop monitors, so I pose this simple innocuous question. What good is widescreen on a laptop? Anyone?

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# Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy Dugg!

Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy Dugg! 4/4/2007 11:10 AM |
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Very good point, and I have a MacBook Pro too. I agree too that vertical screen real estate is vital for reading code efficiently.

One thing that I did before to work around this problem with viewing code and web pages was to use a 19" CRT in portrait mode @ 1024 x 1280 whenever i'm home. Not alot of screen real estate, but its the only spare monitor I had.

One crazy idea is to try using the MacBook Pro in portrait mode too with an external keyboard and mouse giving a resolution of 900 x 1440. Post a blog entry if you try this. :-) 4/4/2007 11:15 AM | Joe Goh
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Check out www.sagerlaptops.com . My boss just bought a machine from there, it's very fast, although it is a Pentium 4, not a Core Duo.... 4/5/2007 12:25 AM | Mike Strock
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Mike,
I think the laptop you are looking for is the Lenovo (IBM) ThinkPad R Series or T Series. They are available with Core 2 Duo processor, up to 4GB of RAM, and 15' standard UXGA screens. I own a T42 and am very happy with it, especially the 1600x1200 resolution.

4/5/2007 1:31 PM | Crystal Kurtz
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I checked the Sager Laptops site and they don't have UXGA laptops, or at least I didn't see them. They had WUXGA, but as I mentioned before, that's widescreen and I can't stand it.

I also checked every single Thinkpad that is currently available and none of them are UXGA. As I said, there's a conspiracy to quietly extinguish UXGA laptops. When did you get your T42? I ended up getting a T60p off of eBay to get the screen resolution I wanted. 4/5/2007 1:54 PM | Mike Taber
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I bought my T42 last year. I’m glad to hear you found a T60 on eBay, but horrified to hear you can't order a T60 with UXGA anymore. Gasp, can it be true? Conspiracy may be too mild an accusation. The T60 is supposed to be an upgrade, not a travesty of its glorious T42 predecessor. I'm glad I bought mine when I did. Perhaps manufacturers will come to their senses and realize that widescreen is fine for TV, but vertical real estate is important for monitors? 4/6/2007 7:01 PM | Crystal Kurtz

# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

The one question i have is i just bought a laptop with a 17.0" WXGA+ BrightView Widescreen (1440x900) display

the next upgrade is only 50 bucks... but is the improvement noticable.. the improvment is ultrabright (1680x1050)

the money is not the object it is whether or not i would see a great difference

4/7/2007 4:31 PM | Playmaker
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I would think so. For an extra $50, you get more than 36% more visible pixels. You have to be comfortable viewing things at that resolution though. If you're not, and it's uncomfortable for your eyes, then it obviously isn't worth it. 4/7/2007 5:10 PM | Mike Taber
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Mike,

Thanks for your input, well i made the jump, simply because since i placed the order i have been obsessively lookin on the hp site.. and come to find out i repriced my laptop..and for whatever odd reason.. by me placing the order today.. its comes out as 40 dollars less than my previous order.. with the new screen.. ...so i decided to upgrade... smh.
Thx again 4/8/2007 3:21 PM | Playmaker
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

The Lenovo outlet currently has the T60 available with UXGA IPS TFT FlexView display with wide viewing angle and high density (1600x1200). I believe it is brand new although it is only a Core Duo (not a Core 2 Duo). Also looks like it comes with the Verizon Wireless card built in. 4/14/2007 4:21 PM | Doug M
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I'm selling my macbook pro, I can't stand it anymore.
I'm getting a tablet pc with 1400x1050 on a 12". and I'm getting a desktop with 2 1600x1200+ resolution panels.

and if I get seriosu about programming, I MAY turn a couple widescreen panels on their side... LCD's are so cheap now, it's just better to go with desktop systems, laptops are a rip off, tablet is the only way to go for ultimate portability , but it's not usefull for anything other than note taking and quick reading on some pdfs.

4/18/2007 10:41 AM | Jeremy
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

For those who design for print, widescreen is typically the better option. It allows you to see double-page spreads in full view with enough space left over at the edge for all those palettes in Quark, InDesign, Illustrator, etc. The 4:3 format was a nightmare to work with as you could lose up to half your pasteboard with palettes.

I assume, also, that widescreen would be better for audio and film production as you can see the sequences for longer. However, the more tracks you have, the more you have to scroll up and down.

If I were working with the written word, day in, day out, then I'd want that extra space top and bottom. But isn't that what portrait mode is for on widescreens? Well, the ones you can tilt.

Widescreen is suited for a multitude of applications as is the standard 4:3 format. Both have their pros and cons but I'm glad to see widescreen becoming more popular. It's certainly a more aesthetically pleasing proportion (Google the Golden Section).

It's not all doom and gloom with widescreens. 5/2/2007 6:41 PM | Osmosis
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Hi, I do video editing as well as a web development.. and i have to say.. my eyes feel .. that 16:9 on laptops.. IS NOT GOOD!

I have been feeling eye strain while using a new 16:9 laptop.
I really dislike the fact that there is no 4:3 option available on the laptop at the store where I purchased it.
Acer aspire 5673WLMi

(something people need to know before buying a new laptop is how they will feel using a new screen resolution)

I really do miss 1024x768 on a 4:3 screen.

The screen size viewing most websites feels terrible.. especially at 1280x800 making the fonts really small.
(possibly also causing eye strain.)

I have tried to make my site www.suzao.net compatible with most viewing by using variable width.

I do feel it is a sad thing that 4:3 screens are not as commonly available side by side the new 16:9 counterparts.

I hope the notebook manufacturing industry changes back to making more of the 4:3 screens available.





6/3/2007 4:43 PM | andrew

# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Widescreen sucks 6/10/2007 8:56 PM | James
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I totally agree. I would die for a new 1600x1200 laptop (currently a 4-year old toshiba) even with a price premium. Maybe we should start a campaign and sign a petition or something. I am sure there is a strong market among software developers who need vertical real estate (all my friends have been buying T42p and T43ps while they were still available).

Another conspiracy reasoning is that a 15.4" widescreen screen surface is 116 square inch whereas standard aspect ratio screen with the same diagonal would have a 142 square inch surface. That is about 20% less glass for the same diagonal. (Imagine they start making a 15.4:1 aspect ratio: the diagonal would be 15.4" but its height would only be 1 inch and thus the surface would be 15.4 square inch). 8/7/2007 12:51 PM | PeterKese

# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I'm on the lookout for a laptop and have had the same problems. All the screen are wide-screen, or as someone put it 'short.-screen'. I've actually seen a lot of people using widescreens that are tilted 90 degrees, so the are long instead of wide. You can't do this on a laptop, of course. 8/19/2007 10:46 AM | Esben
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I agree 100%. I purchased a refurbished 15" Thinkpad T42p with a UXGA display just yesterday. My present laptop is an Inspiron 8100 which started to have display problems with minimal if any abuse.
After searching nor a new non widescreen 15" laptop for a month, I opted for a slower used laptop with a better build than the soft bodied Inspiron.
The T42p has a 1.8 mHz Pentium M 745 series processor, an ATI FireGL with 125MB, a 7200 RPM drive, 1GB and a DVD writer for $870.
What I lose by not buying a new Core2Duo machine is significant speed and less graphics memory. I would have preferred 256 MB.
For over $1000 saved, I get a taller display for programming and document handling and a laptop that has a smaller footprint on my desktop and lap.
9/19/2007 6:56 PM | Damon

# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Dang. I have a five year old Thinkpad A31p with UXGA and am looking at replacing it - solely because the UXGA Display seems temperature sensitive - goes bonkers when the temps drop below 72F. No problem in California between March and November. But winter is hard. A heater/blow dryer does the job, but not when I really need it......

SXGA+ is the best to be haved on Thinkpads these days.... That's 25% less real estate.... 11/3/2007 2:04 AM | Thomas
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I also want UXGA 15" laptops back! i asked a friend in the business to "investigate" during a visit to suppliers in Taiwan... you could buy a "naked" 1600x1200 15" screen, easily, but for a laptop we could find no solution... 11/8/2007 10:48 AM | Mario
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

There is a good reason why widescreen laptops and monitors have become so prevelent today, and few people are aware of it...there is a glass shortage in Asia. The manufatureres deduced exactly what you did; that is, that the wirescreen format saves overall space and thus uses less glass. This shortage may pass in the short term, or it may not...but you can bet that the widescreen format will take over as the norm for most available retail laptops and monitors. 11/9/2007 9:57 AM | Chris Edmondson
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I agree with Mike. I ended up buying a WUXGA because I couldn't find a suitable laptop to replace my old 15" UXGA Toshiba!!!!

Ater getting used to 1600x1200 everything else "sucks"! 11/11/2007 4:31 PM | Miguel

# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Hi, thanks a lot for this brilliant article. For a long time I suspected that the intentions were suspect for making WUXGA. Shop keepers always misled saying that it was good for watching movies or excel. As you clearly said thats not the only or most impt purpose for which we use the laptops. Clearly the objective is to cut cost. You have confimred my suspicion through this article. Thanks a lot and pls know that many share you views. Thanks again. 11/17/2007 2:02 AM | Walter

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I refuse to buy a widescreen laptop (or desktop monitor). I'm planning on getting my next laptop from e-Bay. 11/30/2007 1:40 PM | Hedley Lamar
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I recently went to an electronics store to purchase a new LCD monitor for my desktop. When I insisted I did not want a wide screen the salesguy insisted they were better... better for what I asked. I surf the net like everybody but I also to web development like the original post mentioned. I don't need wider... you lose vertical space! ARRRRGHH! I have a TV for watching movies thank you.

I had to pay more for a nearly discontinued monitor than the new "widescreen" models they were trying to sell me. 12/30/2007 11:07 PM | Dan
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I agree with Mike.
I find it ridiculous that I now cannot replace my 8200 1600 x 1200 with a Dell of the same density.

In the same way that it is now virtually impossible to view the contents of a C drive amongst 'My favorite this and that', the PC industry is aimed purely at the teenager, movie and game market.

The business user is seen as requiring only movies and e-mails - ideal for widescreen.
1/4/2008 4:14 AM | Roger
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I completely disagree with the person who commented about graphic design and film editing.

I do film editing and frankly, the idea of editing on any laptop with any screen of any size is ridiculous. Long before widescreen monitors, film editors were using two and three monitors side by side to get enough screen space. Even with widescreen monitors, editors still use at least two. You have to have so many different windows open at once, multiple video monitors, timelines, bins, effects windows. Forget it. It just can't be done reasonably on a single monitor (unless you're talking about at least a 30" monitor), so it's silly to talk about whether 4:3 or 16:10 is better with a laptop for this purpose.

I have also done design for print and there, when I have to do it on my laptop, I prefer 4:3. Generally, you're working with 8 1/2 x 11 proportioned documents. Those are documents with more vertical height. So the taller the screen, the larger the image. Widescreen means that each image you're working on has to be tiny. I'd rather work on one page at a time and have it be larger, than have two pages together and have them be tiny. And with one page, there's plenty of room for the palettes.

Anyway, it's obviously ridiculous that pretty soon there may not be a single 4:3 laptop available. Different people hav different preferences. But one preference is being forced on everyone. And since most people use their laptops for textual documents and the interent, widescreen is overall the worse choice. But because it looks "cool" and for no other reason, it's going to be the only thing left. I blame Apple. 3/7/2008 4:32 AM | gg555

# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I use a 12-inch laptop because I light the lightweight portability, but in a widescreen mode, losing an extra inch of height makes it nearly impossible to read/edit a simple document.

Dell Small Business sells one non-widescreen, the D530. I don't think it solves your resolution problem or my lightweight preferences, but it's good to know there is at least one option. 3/15/2008 2:39 PM | Stacey

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I agree, this situation totally sucks. Had to just buy a 14.1 because I like the Think Pad product, but am not happy about it. 4/7/2008 8:51 PM | John

# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Lenovo just retired the 14.1 NON-widescreen from the market! It's pretty bad, since I was going to buy a T61! I just made it one week to late! Me and a bunch of people in the Lenovo forums are calling their customer service filing complaints. If enough people call, maybe we can make them revive the NON-widescreen laptops. Just let them know that people will buy other brands if they don't offer NON-widescreen 4/20/2008 8:11 PM | santi
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Mike i've never read your blog before but now im becoming a regular, like you, i was in the market recently for a new laptop and a new LCD, as a programmer and avid IT industry insider, i too noticed this vast sweeping trend all of a sudden engulfing the display markets. The masses are suckered by catch phrases like widescreen and these manufactures are riding the coat tails of the widespread adoption of wide screen media formats. But for those of us who do real work with computers , wide screen format is horrible. the aspect ratio is terrible, and overall, the resolution numbers just dont jive. give my 640 x 480, 1024x768, 1280x1024, and 1600 x 1200. all these wierd widescreen resolutions are crap. Its less expensive to make the electronics necessary to make these monitors work at lower resolutions than it would take to make a solid 20" run at 1600x1200. Wake up people, take a look at the crappy and cramped displays of widescreen laptops and you will soon notice how uncomfortable it is to display any documents, you soon will see how much scrolling you have to do.

Death to the widescreen. 6/5/2008 8:17 PM | Ron
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Agree with all the comments about widescreen above, and disturbed. I do text, and Excel spreadsheet development and prefer 1600 x 1200--I don't need to see more columns, so the crap about widescreen being better for spreadsheets is BS--I prefer to tile multiple windows of spreasheets on a 1600x1200 screen, and with the 4/3 ratio, I can fit 4 to 6 or more with the vertical height.

I am so disturbed I went out and bought two additional used Dell Inspiron 8200 with the UXGA , and two 20 inch Samsung 204B's with the 1600 x 1200 resolution. I need to keep these as spares, since non-widescreen is no longer available.

Widescreen is only good for watch movies, but for a business user, it is totally inadequate.

I would stay with my Dell Inspiron 8200 forever if I could. Actually, I wanted to stay with my Inspiron 7500 with the 15.4 screen, but could not upgrade the VRAM, processor or RAM. That 15.4 screen was the best. The Inspiron 8200 with the 15.1 is smaller.

This is the problem with many industries, including computer and auto's and many others, and it is such bullshit--they take something that works, and modify to save costs, and then feed crap--mind wash the consumer--about how the new is better. 6/6/2008 1:39 PM | Patsaison
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# you win t3h intarwebz!

I agree completely with everyone except the guy who does the film stuff. I do digital video editing, and I've been quite happy with a single screen. In fact, it's the only application for which I can imagine widescreen being better, because the input and output frames are displayed side-by-side instead of on top of each other (at least in Vdub and Premiere). But then again, I just cut up DVDs to make music videos, so it's not exactly a "business" concern.

But yeah, think about it. Everything in the entire history of computers has been designed for 4:3. If you open up any game with Doom, Duke, Quake, Unreal, etc. in the name and go to fiddle with the resolution, you'll be given a very specific list to choose from: 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, 1152x864, 1280x960, 1600x1200, 1920x1440, 2048x1536, whatever... ALL FULLSCREEN!

This problem isn't just with regards to computers; it extends to photography, television, and movies, as well. Quite literally everything that has ever been filmed in the history of film itself has been committed to fullscreen film frames. This goes all the way back to the days of Kodak and Edison. Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, and Gone with the Wind were all done in fullscreen. Disney animated his movies in fullscreen. Even after widescreen movies came along, guess what? They were filmed in fullscreen and cropped for theaters!

Do you know what the worst part is, though? Few, if any, "widescreen" computer displays are actually true 16:9 widescreen. They're 8:5, which isn't useful for ANYTHING, much less watching movies.

6/7/2008 9:49 PM | Gregorius Maximus Augustus
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

So if anyone finds anyone still making Non - Widescreen Laptops please post up here! 6/25/2008 7:25 PM | LC

# Ebay is good

Actually, some companies do still make fullscreen laptops, just not in 1600x1200. Panasonic, for exaple, still provides Toughbooks with resolutions of up to 1400x1050.

For those of us who care more about pixels than benchmarks, though, there's always eBay. I just won an old Alienware with a 3.0 GHz Pentium 4 with Hyperthreading, 1GB RAM, Radeon 9600, etc... I'm not expecting to play Crysis on it, but all the best games were made prior to 2004 anyway :) 7/11/2008 11:38 PM | G-Max
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I fully agree with your concerns over losing the benefits of 4:3 laptops as technology "progresses". Dell also still makes some models, but I think their best resolution is 1400x1050.

Interestingly I was at an airport club lounge recently and about 5 people with laptops were all sitting at the same bench. None of the laptops were widescreen! (Even though they would have all experienced the problems with tall screens on planes). I think a lot of business people will be hanging on to the current models as long as possible. It is ridiculous having to look at only part of document pages all my working hours so that one day I might want to watch a movie (I've seen one in the last 2 years on mine - and it was fine on the 4:3 15.4" anyway).

How can we get it across to suppliers that people often don't want what is on offer - and how do we get the corporate IT departments to put some pressure on the manufacturers? 8/1/2008 9:31 AM | Don
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I'm a Web Developer and whilst in the office i enjoy the real estate of two nice big 4:3 LCDs, but at home i've been struggling with a silly widscreen laptop for quite some time now. It's not sonething i considered until after purchasing and trying to code on the damn thing but it's truly awful.. I had no idea that 4:3 laptops were being phased out until i started trying to find one. The only option so far seems to be Dell's Latitude D530, but they're hardly feature packed.

It may be my only option. I'm seriously considering buying one to use now and one to keep in it's packaging ready for when the first one throws in the towel in a few years time when i can only assume that laptops with 4:3 screens will be a thing of the past entirely. 8/17/2008 9:55 AM | Jamie Thompson
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

yes, this wide screen issue have wasted me a lot of time...


because the standard-screen is extincting recently i rushed to purchase three lenovo thinkpad x61, two for cousin and friend, one for myself


besides, i bought a 17" 1280x1024 lenovo l171p, which can be viewed in both portrait and landscape modes


so at home i use the 1280x1024, at outdoor i use x61's 1024x768 screen 9/14/2008 10:57 PM | kenn
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I agree with all of the remarks against widescreens. I am very happy with the 15" 4:3 screen on my Sony laptop. I think that is a perfect balance between size & weight for an easy-to-work-on screen.

I would also like to address the eye-strain point someone mentioned. At one of my clients, where I was doing a 2-day-a-week project, we upgraded to 22" widescreens. At 22", you can put 2 windows side-by-side for document compare, etc. & see the text quite well (I am over 55!)

Within a week of using the widescreen, I had a severe strain reaction in my left eye, & had to cut my daily hours for a while! There is just too much horizontal real estate for comfortable eye movement!

I am typing this on the Hanns-G HN199D aty my office & my eyes are very comfortable with their movement around the screen as I read & write & code.

Bring back our square screens! 10/2/2008 8:24 PM | Harreson Lovick
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

After reading this article my eyes feel terrible from looking at my 15 in, 1920x1200 widescreen. I could hardly see the text. I was able to see the largre amount of blue space that coverd the other 2/3 of this website... 10/17/2008 1:01 AM | blah
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I am outraged by the lack of 4:3 availability. I have a staff of 12 CADD operators that use both laptops and pc's. I would absolutely purchase any manufacturers product if it simply offered a decent monitor. Widescreen is a buzzword sales term with the following meaning: "the consumer gets less viewable area and the retailers and manufacturers get more profit". I am disgusted that the public cannot understand when they are getting the wool pulled over their eyes. It would be a great advertising campaign for any manufacturer to buck the trend and offer 4:3 screens. 10/23/2008 8:14 AM | Carl Koslowski
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Great article and informative read. I hope the industry wont totally kill it off. As you said it earlier, for those in business(code and word)processing can take a hit with less vertical room, it is just silly to forcefully swap people into new standards but it has been done before unfortunately. Guess I'll hang on to my 1024x768 notebook as long as i can, looks strange when u gander at newer machines but it gets WORK done. Anyone idiot can take out a laptop on a machine and play a movie, its just sad that the industry seems to only care to the indolent consumer market, what about the dutiful productive market? 11/8/2008 4:16 PM | JOEF
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I feel your pain.

I've a 5 year old Dell (8200) that's got a 1600x1200 screen. and i love it!

it's only a slow P4 2Ghz but stick linux (Ubuntu) on it and it's a dream with crisp clear big screen (15")

I've been looking for a new laptop (or even Desktop deal) with a 1600x1200 screen) but they re nowhere to be found!!

Why!!!

Everyone got in the pockets of the MPAA???? 11/17/2008 11:50 PM | Solitaire
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

Now, is there a petition we could sign? Or should someone set one up?

At work, I even turned my 1600x1200 to be 1200x1600 - that's so great for reading email, browsing the web, authoring documentation, coding, everything.

Bring back our square screens! 12/11/2008 7:15 AM | Low
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I write technical reports, usually in a hotel room at night after doing field work all day. The 1200 x 1600 screen on a 15 or 16-inch LCD permits me to view a full page of text very nicely. On a 15.4 inch wide screen, 1900 x 1200, the print is so small I cannot use the screen to edit/write my documents effectively. I've searched EBAY high and low mid-December 2008 and there are NO UXGA laptops with Core 2 Duos and 15" displays, and only a few Core Duos. This is very bad news for for people who use computers for writing, editing, report-making, etc. 12/15/2008 7:31 PM | Gene
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# re: The Widescreen Laptop Conspiracy

I feel your pain. I also prefer 4:3 in televisions. I feel so lucky to have gotten a 4:3 Sharp Aquos LCD. It seems like they're impossible to find now. In fact, the only 4:3 LCD television you can find right now on Newegg is designed to look like Spongebob. No joke. As far as laptops go, I'm currently using a Fujitsu T4215 which is 12" 4:3, but I prefer no larger than a 13" screen. All of Fujitsu's bigger laptops are widescreen as well. 1/16/2009 12:57 AM | Mark

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