Introduction

Two of the areas where we've seen the most growth in the last few years are notebooks and flat-panel displays. The reasons for the tremendous growth differ, of course. Notebooks are a hot item because people are becoming enamored with wireless networks and portability, while LCDs have become popular because few manufacturers are making CRTs anymore and the small footprint of LCDs is desired by many people. We're working on increasing our coverage of both of these sectors, but up until now we haven't actually taken a close look at where they intersect.

Since the first laptops began shipping, LCDs have been the de facto display standard. Years before most people were using LCDs on their desktop, laptops were sporting these thin, sleek, attractive displays. As anyone who used one of the earlier laptops can tell you, however, the actual quality of the LCD panels was often severely lacking. With the ramp up in production of both LCD panels and notebook computers, you might be tempted to assume that the quality of laptop displays has improved dramatically over the years. That may be true to a certain degree, but with power considerations being a primary factor in the design of most notebooks, compromises continue to be made.

Without even running any objective tests, most people could pretty easily tell you that the latest and greatest desktop LCDs are far superior to any of the laptop LCDs currently available. While desktop LCDs have moved beyond TN panels to such technologies as S-IPS, S-PVA, and S-MVA we are aware of only a few laptop brands that use something other than a TN panel. (Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to get any of those laptops for review.) We have also complained about desktop LCDs that have reached the point where they are actually becoming too bright, in an apparent attempt to win the marketing war for maximum brightness. The same can't be said of laptops, as very few can even break the 200 cd/m2 mark. Individual preferences definitely play a role, but outside of photography and print work most people prefer a brightness setting of somewhere between 200 and 300 cd/m2.

Luckily, there are plenty of new technologies being worked on that aim to improve the current situation. Not only should we get brighter laptop panels in the near future, but color accuracy may improve and power requirements may actually be reduced relative to current models. LED backlighting is one technology that holds a lot of promise, and it has only just begun to show up on desktop LCDs. Dynamic backlighting - were the brightness of some LEDs can be increased or decreased in zones depending on what content is currently being shown - is another technology that we may see sooner rather than later. Then there are completely new display technologies like OLED.

With the current laptop landscape in mind, we have decided that it's time for us to put a bigger focus on the quality of laptop LCDs. To accomplish this we have put together a roundup of the current notebooks that we have in-house. Future laptop reviews will continue this trend by including a section covering display analysis and quality, but we wanted to build a repertoire of past notebook displays in the meantime. While we only have four laptops at present, it is also important to remember that there are only a few companies that actually manufacture LCD panels. We would also expect any companies that release notebooks with higher-quality LCDs to make a bullet point out of the fact, which means that if you don't see any particular emphasis placed on the display panel in a notebook's specifications it probably has a panel similar to one of the laptops we're looking at today.

Test Setup
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  • Axbattler - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    I am also very interested in this. I know that the Sony screen tend to be a love or hate affair: on one hand they are bright and and clear, but many can't get past the reflection. I'd like to know if there are any monitors that's similar to Sony's minus the refection. Reply
  • figuerc - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    My Thinkpad X60 tablet still comes with an IPS screen and it is the best screen I have ever used period. Reply
  • Pirks - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    yeah, this article is a waste of time considering they have omitted IPS screen notebooks. I saw the title, thought "yess!!" and went to read it, you know I always wanted to see good comparison between IPS and TN notebook displays... and in the first page they write "uh we don't know about any notebook with IPS panel" - WTF?! alright Anand and Co, it was agood job, you barely made it but to make TRYLY high-quality article you really have to include at least one IPS thinkpad. I'll keep waiting for your _proper_ notebook screen comparison article, it's likely you do it first

    after all I haven't seen decent notebook TN panel reviews online before yours, so once you add an IPS notebook - job's done!
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Again Pirks, STFU. Reply
  • Pirks - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    sorry for typos, I pressed post button too quick, should be truly not tryly Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    This is a starting point Pirks, not an end point. I tried to make that clear. All notebooks that we review in the future will include a more in-depth review of the display. As for getting the Lenovo Thinkpad X60 (or something similar if there are other IPS laptops), we're working on it. Unfortunately, previous attempts to contact Lenovo for a review unit have been unsuccessful, so we review what we have. Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    okay, okay, if this is just the beginning - I'm going to STFU, if only to make DigitalFreak quiet

    waiting for your IPS notebook reviews, and thanks for making this just the beginning - I really like the idea of the article, and IPS panels is the only things that's missing

    I wasn't criticizing the article per se, I only disliked the omission of the IPS panels. sorry for not stating it clearly
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    I knew what you meant, and I was glad to find out that I was wrong and that there were some non-TN panels available in laptops. I'll be curious to see if the IPS models (assuming I can get some sent my way) perform noticeably better. After all, the best of the laptops I've looked at so far still trails behind desktop TN models, most likely due to backlighting and power concerns. It could be that the IPS laptops follow that trend. Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    hey Jarred, here's another mistake you made in the article: "LED backlighting is one technology that holds a lot of promise, and it has only just begun to show up on desktop LCDs" - now don't you know that Sony has been selling notebooks with LED backlighting for some time already? why have you said that it only appeared on desktop LCD while in fact Sony was making notebooks with LEDs waaay before desktop LCDs with LED appeared? Reply
  • Pirks - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    exactly! this is why I'm waiting for your IPS panel notebooks article veeery impatiently! bring it on! :) Reply

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