The laptop screen or what you see is what you get

Other than design, reliability, performance and autonomy, another feature that makes you point your finger and say “this is the one I want”, is the laptop screen. The main factors that we have to consider when choosing a laptop screen are size and resolution. Other than these main characteristics there are other that you may want to consider like aspect ratio,  glossy-matte and LED-backlight.


The size of a laptop screen is one of the main factors on which our laptop choice stands, and is also one of the factors that categorize notebooks. Laptop screens vary in size from the small 7 inch netbooks to the big 21 inch high performance laptops. A small display offers better mobility, while a bigger one offers more space to work on, and less eye squinting. So, we have to base our choice on what we use our laptop for, and how much we drag it around. If you need a laptop just to browse the web than a small netbook might be the right choice for you, but if you use your laptop as a desktop replacement and you want to be able to have a lot of space on your screen to organize your work, or you use your laptop for photo or video processing, gaming or watching movies in HD, then a bigger screen laptop would be the best option.

The display size is measured diagonally, and is expressed in inches or cm.


Resolution represents the number of pixels that are shown on the laptop screen. An image is better displayed when the laptop screen runs on its natural or standard resolution. If a lower or higher resolution than the display’s natural resolution is used, than the image will be negatively affected by stretching, blur, etc.

A bigger standard resolution means that images are more crisp and detailed (more pixels compose the image displayed and you get more work space on your screen. Unfortunately, a bigger standard resolution has some disadvantages – on bigger laptop screens, the fonts become smaller, making them harder to read, and on smaller screens, they will be even harder to read.

Here’s a list of laptop screen standard resolutions:

  • WVGA: 800×480
  • SVGA: 800×600
  • WSVGA: 1024×600
  • XGA: 1024×768
  • WXGA: 1366×768 or 1280×800
  • SXGA: 1280×1020
  • SXGA+: 1400×1050
  • WXGA+: 1440×900
  • WSXGA+: 1680×900 or 1680 × 1050
  • UXGA: 1600×1200
  • WUXGA: 1920×1080 or 1920×1200

Aspect ratio;  4:3 vs 16:9

Currently, there aren’t many laptops left on the market with 4:3 aspect ratio screens, the majority of laptop screens today having an aspect ratio of 16:9 widescreen. This is used because the human eye is designed to have a better horizontal (right and left) line of sight and a poorer vertical (up and down) one. Therefore, widescreen (16:9, 16:10 ratios) laptop screens are more adapted to your eyes, making for better peripheral view.

Glossy (glare) laptop screens

  • Bright, lively, saturated colors, higher contrast, better black tones;
  • They reflect ambient light and this can be annoying in some cases;
  • Glossy displays are recommended for those who use their laptop for gaming or multimedia, but photographers and photo/video processing professionals might find the colors too sharp and unrealistic.

Matte (anti-glare) laptop screens

  • These laptop screens are covered with an anti-glare coating that reduces reflected ambient light, allowing for better usability in environments that have a lot of ambient light: outside, next to a window or lamp;
  • the same anti-glare coating affects the quality of the image – colors are less vivid, black tones are dim, the contrast is reduced;
  • his type of laptop screen is recommended if you use your laptop in a lot of different environments, where ambient light can be a problem, and also for photographers, because the colors displayed are not affected too much by ambient light.

Here’s a video that shows the difference between a glossy and a matte laptop screen:


A laptop screen is in fact an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screen, which is plain and half an inch thick. LCD displays take a lot of power because they can’t make their own light so they need another source of light (backlight). Some of the laptop screens today come with LED backlight technology. LED backlit screens have a few advantages over the traditional backlight screens: they are brighter, slimmer, lighter and consume less power which makes for better battery life. On the other hand, they are also more expensive. Being slim and light, also makes for a slimmer and lighter laptop, and the increased brightness gives a better view in bright environments.


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