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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  • koljit singh - Saturday, August 09, 2008 - link

    hi
    i was confused in different manufacturers making same size lcds and which one fit which ones ?

    i would like to import them but the model no are so huge it seems difficult to import all of them
    is there any way to find out which ones fit which ones like compatibility chart would be great help

    thanks

    koljit
    Reply
  • Oscarine - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    Just a point of note that probably holds true for all the laptop manufacturers (especially Dell). Although the basic technology process for the displays I'm sure is the same, the quality of the sourced display even in the same model can vary wildly. When purchasing a dell with a WUXGA+ Res screen you could be recieving any number of manufacturers displays, fro Phillips, LG, Samsung, etc, and even among those manufacturers numerous different versions of the same panel. Case in point I owned a Dell 9300, with a samsung wuxga+ screen, it had poor contrast, miserable colors, and horrible light bleeding. Whereas my wife's 9300 had LG unit that had much better contrast, richer but less accurate color, and much less light bleed. All of this within the same model, at the same time period. So just like all the other components from DVD, HDD, even keyboards and whatnot are sourced from multiple manufacturers so are the displays, and some are significantly better than others in performance. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    Yeah... which really sucks but unfortunately we can't do much about it other than point out the fact. I will try to determine the panel manufacturers on the various laptops and update the table to reflect this information. Reply
  • lazybum131 - Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - link

    Just a note about the updated table with the panel vendors, most likely the Seiko Epson panel reported for the M1710 is actually a Samsung panel. I just replaced a Samsung panel with a LG-Philips on my Latitude D620 (you may have heard about the screen complaints), where Astra reported the Samsung as a Seiko Epson SEC4457. Reply
  • Wesleyrpg - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    hey there, great and infomative article.

    Any ideas who the manufacturer is of the panels in each laptop? I'm curious about the G2P, and apparently the A8JS has two different manufacturers of the panel used in it depending on the country you are based in.

    I'm using a fujistu lifebook n6220, its got a Samsung 17inch panel, 1440 x 900, and a beautiful display, i wonder if its the same panel as the G2P???
    Reply
  • austonia - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    The quality of the display (viewing angles, brightness, contrast) is very high on my priority list when buying a notebook, yet few of them come with a decent display and few sites/reviewers focus on it. I hope Anandtech will follow up on this idea with a wider range of notebooks, when they can. Reply
  • jmvillafana - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    This is a great topic with too few attention. As IT head for a large corporation I used to have Dell as standard for Laptops I used to be glad with response from the total user experience. When switching some 50 users from ispiron 8600 provided in 2004 to a Latitude D820 in late 2006, we had very bad comments. Better speed, better resolution, but the display brightness and clarity was really difficult in users eyes. When looking around for options of other brands, we found similar trends in other brands. Toshiba´s looked better than Dell´s still were not as good as their own laptops from three years before. It seems that most brands have looked for this area as a cut cutting opportunity. The problem is that we could not get better displays even as options for additional cost. The company that grabs this as a marketing opportunity has a good chance of making good money. Reply
  • figuerc - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Agreed - my old Toshiba (Celeron 400) has a better screen then my newer one (P4 2.8 ghz - not that new). Some of the newer dells and gateways are just terrible on the eyes. Reply
  • Theguynextdoor - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    This little laptop has the Xbrite screen with an LED bulb. Does anyone know if this will be tested anytime soon? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    If Sony deems to send us one, we will happily test it. We don't have any contacts at Sony right now, unfortunately, so the best we can do is ask and hope for a response. If any of you have an inside track at Sony, tell them to contact me via email. Reply

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