It seems that notebooks with widescreen displays have come to stay. In the portable sector (12” and smaller) there are almost no classic notebooks with a display aspect ratio of 4:3 except for a very few models from major brands. The advantages of a wide display have been touted by so many marketers that common users should have long taken in the idea that they must be using such a wonderful thing just everywhere they possibly can. But if you were just to delve deeper into this matter and see whence the wide-format picture comes from, you would learn a few curious facts.
We all know that the wide screen comes to computers from the cinema, but there are several opinions as to where it had come to the cinema from. Knowing the human nature a little, I’m inclined to believe the version that holds money as the main force behind the rise of the 16:9 format. It all began in America, more exactly in Hollywood, and with something Hollywood then had little to do with. I mean television. As people bought more TV boxes that displayed a 4:3 picture, the cinema-makers from Hollywood got alarmed at declining audiences in cinema houses – people just wouldn’t go to the cinema because they could watch movies at home. And so the wide screen was invented and marketed as the main alluring feature of the cinema house. Some people from the industry even say that until quite recently a couple of shutters that cropped the picture from top and bottom were placed on the ordinary camera when shooting movies. And nobody cared that this “wide-format” picture was written on 4:3 film. So, if this story is true, the claims that the wide screen is the best solution for presentation of visual information are nothing else but wishful thinking.
The general trend towards the wide screen is all right for the home users, though – even soap operas are now being shot in the wide format so that the ordinary consumer could fully enjoy his/her new plasma or LCD TV-set, but it’s not all so clear with computers. Long-time users of notebooks are not so eager to transition to the fashionable widescreen matrix. I don’t talk about new users because their choice is predetermined by the advertisements and the seller who shows them how a new DVD looks on a widescreen display, but people who have worked with the classic display are in no hurry to replace it just because the classic display is better when it comes to work. It’s just not convenient to perceive information in long strings, and most information you process with a computer is text – in form of documents and web-pages, etc. It’s only in large Excel spreadsheets or in programs like Photoshop where you can tuck the numerous toolboxes away into the sides of the screen that the wide display is indeed superior.
Well, since we have to put up with this format in near future, it’s one of the goals of this review to check how comfortable we’ll feel. The main argument in favor of wide LCD panels is that they can display more information while having the same area. The vertical resolution of a majority of business-oriented models has remained the same as in the classic display, i.e. 768 pixels, or even got bigger to 800 pixels. The matrix has only got wider, which results in a more compact notebook. And compactness is a weighty argument in favor of the wide screen. Even loyal users of classic notebooks have to accept that it was not easy to open one up in a cramped environment like in the back seat of a car or in an economy-class seat in a plane: the lid rests upon the back of the seat in front of you and it’s a trouble to take a good look at the screen. This problem doesn’t exist with widescreen notebooks – the typical 14” model can be opened up just everywhere (well, if you need real comfort in cramped conditions, you may want to consider transformer notebooks on the Tablet PC platform, but this not the subject of this review). The tradeoff is that the reduction of the physical size of the display, while the vertical resolution remains the same (or even bigger in some matrixes), results in a smaller picture on the screen. This is critical for text processing since you don’t need empty margins on the document’s sides.
So, here’s what we’ve come to in the end: notebooks are and will be equipped with widescreen displays. Moreover, this wide display is steadily ousting the classic design in the two most popular “traveling” categories, i.e. notebooks with a screen diagonal of 12” and 14”. And even though you personally didn’t ask for it, the manufacturers are once again making your life better and earning their money on that. There is actually not much you can gripe about comparing a wide display with a classic one: yes, you now have unnecessary margins when viewing Web-pages and typical documents, but this is compensated by light weight, small size, and large screen area as well as by the advantages when working with spreadsheets or watching movies. The weight/size considerations alone are enough to make the wide screen popular in the business sector – the rest are just nice extras. As for actual implementation, let’s have a look at the notebooks to be tested in this review.