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I'm currently in the process of deciding what kind of laptop I want to buy.

I pretty much have it narrowed down to particular model that has a 15.6" screen.

I have a little bit of a dilemma with regards to the display however.

I'm tried to decide between a 1440x900 and 1920x1080 for the display resolution. The price difference is very minor ($25), so I'm not worried about that aspect.

Normally, it'd be a no-brainer: go for the higher resolution.

However, I am worried that at 1920x1080, everything will be very small and hard to read. After all, I'm used to a 24" monitor with 1920x1200.

Readability is obviously very important, but I'm also worried that I might curse myself later for not getting the full 1920x1080.

Does anyone have any experience with using small screens with resolution this high? Do you find it difficult/painful to read things?

Update: I've tried adjusting DPI in the past on XP/Vista, and generally it seems to be annoying: things get misaligned and don't look right.

I should note that while this notebook will have Vista (with Win7 upgrade option), I'll probably be using it mostly for linux. Does anyone know well the font scaling works in ubuntu?

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is there an option for a panel w/ 1680x1050? it might just be the sweet spot. –  caliban Sep 9 '09 at 4:00
    
The only other option is 1280x720 which I think is a bit low. –  TM. Sep 9 '09 at 4:03
    
Font scaling sucks in Linux. In fact font scaling blows balls in all operating systems right now. Until true resolution independence comes along, font-scaling is just a bad workaround. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resolution_independence –  caliban Sep 9 '09 at 5:14
    
It looked ok in Windows 7. I was curious to see how it worked, and it seemed fine to me. It's not perfect, but it's ok. –  alex Sep 9 '09 at 6:19
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closed as not constructive by techie007, TFM, BBlake, ChrisF, 8088 Nov 17 '12 at 23:55

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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

For a period of time, I used a sony vaio tx that has a 11.1" lcd with 1366x768 resolution. 1 hour into working with it, my eyes started to tear, and I just told my colleagues that I was crying because i was broke and had no money for lunch. :)

1440x900 is a good resolution for a 15", trust me on that. Make sure the notebook has DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort out so you can always connect to a bigger LCD monitor when you need the higher resolution.

1920x1080 on a 15" is non-sustainable for long periods of staring at the screen - it gets really uncomfortable.

You will curse yourself... if you get the 1920x1080 panel.

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I have to agree. I run 1920 x 1200 on a 17" laptop. I can NOT imagine going anywhere close to that on a 15" -- I'd be blind! –  Chris_K Sep 9 '09 at 4:49
    
I have a 15" screen with 1920x1200 and it is really nice. No problems with using it for 10+ hours at a time. –  Hennes Nov 17 '12 at 16:21
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Higher DPI settings have been much improved in Windows 7 over XP (where they looked like a hastily added afterthought). Windows 7 has display options to enlarge everything by 125% (~120dpi) or 150% (~144dpi) over the default (96dpi) which give a very smooth looking interface thanks to Windows 7's improved scalability of icons etc.

That said, if you do this with the higher res screen you're effectively reducing the screen resolution anyway, though you will have the advantage of being able to watch 1080 HD movies.

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All things being equal, the higher resolution display will look better. You can always adjust the text and icon sizes to fit your needs.

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In my experience, moving the DPI up tends to make everything look kinda crappy and things aren't aligned right. I plan to use this mostly for linux however, and I admit I've only used that feature in XP/Vista. –  TM. Sep 9 '09 at 3:52
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I think this is a very personal decision and no one can really answer this. I wear glasses - have for nearly 20 years. My sight has been pretty steady since then. And I PREFER high resolution screens? How high? I have an 8 year old Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop with 1600x1200 in a 15" display. I LOVE IT. I've never had ANY difficulty reading it. I don't replace it in part because I can't find that screen size anymore. I don't WANT a WIDE screen laptop - it's getting too bulky - but to get a resolution even close to that (the last time I looked), I'd have to get a 17" screen. So I stick with old reliable. Frankly, I'd be ecstatic if I could get DESKTOP monitors that were 15" AND 1600x1200.

My advice - go to a local computer store and check it out. Or find one with the same screen size and resolution if you can't find the same laptop.

As much as I like to get high resolutions, as a consultant, I've seen plenty of people that complain about them. This is why the decision is yours and you need to witness for yourself and decide for yourself.

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Checking it out in person is a good idea. I just wish some retail stores had linux installs that I could take a peek at. –  TM. Sep 9 '09 at 4:26
    
Bring a live CD - Knoppix, Suse, etc - and ask to boot it. (or don't ask - people mess around all the time). –  Multiverse IT Sep 9 '09 at 5:07
    
+1 for it is a very personal decision. I heard people curse and I saw people literally jump from joy when they got a high resolution display. We humans vary. :) –  Hennes Nov 17 '12 at 16:23
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I know in Windows you can set a higher DPI value. The default value is 96, by increasing this to 120 fonts will be render at a larger size. This way you get clear visible text on the higher resolution screen.

Edit: I assume these options are available on other OS's like Linux and OS X, but as I do not use them I am unable to confirm this.

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Most Windows apps aren't written to be compatible with 120dpi fonts. If you use 120dpi, you'll find that the installers, dialogs, pop-ups, etc., for a lot of programs are impossible to read because they were written to be fixed-size, and the text gets chopped off. You'll especially run into this with a lot of freeware apps. –  rob Oct 1 '09 at 21:57
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Depends. I had a display that size that was 1600x1200 and liked it just fine, and I'm ok with my HP 2133 with a 9" 1280x768, but I'm a little near sighted, and have been know to get perscription glasses just for using the computer, so I will go a long ways for more pixels.

I'd go for the high def screen, perhaps get some reading glasses.

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