Another Low Quality TN Panel

Stop me if you've heard this one before. AnandTech receives a notebook for review from a vendor not named Sony or Apple, and that notebook features a cut rate 1366x768 TN panel with poor viewing angles, poor color, poor contrast, and just poor quality all around. While I don't take issue with that resolution on a 13" screen, everything else only continues to be aggravating, and it's a situation notebook vendors just don't seem to be in any great rush to correct.

If you'll forgive my soapboxing for a second, this wasn't quite as aggravating before the tablet boom. At that point in time, there wasn't any device we could really point to and say "why can't we have that on a notebook?" You could argue that tablets necessitate IPS panels, but high resolution ones like the ones that are beginning to proliferate? And how do they really necessitate them any more than a notebook would, when you're still going to be looking at the screen from roughly the same angles? Yet tablets continue to enjoy excellent quality screens while notebook users are being left out in the cold.

LCD Analysis - Contrast

LCD Analysis - White

LCD Analysis - Black

LCD Analysis - Delta E

LCD Analysis - Color Gamut

The Sony Vaio Z2's high resolution screen runs roughshod over the competition, while the XPS 13 ranks only as one of the best of a bad bunch. It's incredibly difficult for us, as consumers, to demand better or vote with our dollars when there are virtually no notebooks out there with good panels for us to vote for. Dell is theoretically a big enough vendor to get good panels in the kind of bulk order needed for economy of scale, and I can't help but wish they'd throw that weight around.

Viewing angles are adequate, but the sweet spot is hard to find as is often the case with TN panel notebook screens in this size class. Really, we just need better screens.

Battery, Noise, and Heat Conclusion: Excellent Starting Point


View All Comments

  • r3loaded - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    All these bandwagon-jumping ultrabooks are soon to be rendered irrelevant by the upcoming Asus Zenbook UX21A/UX31A. Both will feature a 1920x1080 IPS panel as an upgrade option, immediately placing it above and beyond almost every other laptop in terms of display quality. Reply
  • ZekkPacus - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    Thing is, a good panel shouldn't be an upgrade option. These devices are premium products - this ultrabook as reviewed is a $1500 machine. For that kind of cash, I want a 1440*900 IPS panel AS A MINIMUM. Reply
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    I know, it sucks too, because this is a really nice laptop outside of the crap screen. Reply
  • mmaestro - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link


    What manufacturers don't seem to realize is that a large part of consumers' perception of quality is to do with the screen. It is, after all, the thing you spend all day staring at, and so if it's crap, it's what you'll notice. This is IMO why Apple has such a perception of quality to do with their products: They don't compromise on their screens, they use absolutely beautiful panels. Until other manufacturers try to compete with that then they'll carry the perception that their product is substandard. It's stupid, and this should be obvious. Yet next to no one seems to realize this.
  • fuzzymath10 - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    I think in the price categories people focus on, screen quality is not very important. Seems like more cores, more GBs of RAM, more TBs of space (SSD loses out here where it shouldn't), more inches of LCD are what sell.

    Also, while high res displays have been an option for ages (my Dell Inspiron 8500 from 2003 has a 1680x1050 display which was a $100 upgrade from 1280x800, and another $100-150 got you 1920x1200), it did also cost me $2500. If we say that's $3000 today, we have many high res options at our disposal.
  • ThreeDee912 - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    Apple seems to focus a lot on the things people actually interact with the most, like the screen, trackpad, keyboard, and battery, as well as build quality. The actual specs are balanced. Not excessively powered that it kills the battery, but now so crap that it makes things feel sluggish. It makes sense, and this strategy seems to be working well.

    It's somewhat like the megapixel (and now optical zoom) wars. There's a lot more to cameras then the spec sheet.
  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    It's not an Ultrabook, but Apple is rumored to be releasing a 2880x1800 notebook soon (2nd quarter this year is what I read), a notebook with closer to a tablet screen AND 16:10. I'm not a fan of Apple the company, but that's a head-turner for me, and it's the first time I've considered Apple in the running for a purchase since the Lisa (which was just dreaming back then as there was no way I could afford one).

    As far as I'm concerned, 16:9 is exponentially worse as screen size goes down; 16:10 or 4:3 should be what notebooks and smaller screen have.

  • makaronen - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    I created an account here just to applaud Dustin Sklavos in summarizing the annoyment I feel about PC manufacturers and the useless screens they put in premium laptops. A good screen in every high end laptop with stable viewing angles and high contrast should be a minimum as ZekkPacus puts it!

    Asus UX31A will hopefully be a game changer and a VERY late wake-up call for PC manufacturers...
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    Wow it cant do anything without going to 80 celcius? lol what a piece of trash. Is that really what you get for $1000? What can this steaming pile of trash do that a $500 notebook cant do? Reply
  • Rinadien - Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - link

    ummm.... weigh less than 3 lbs??? Reply

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