back to article Laptop display pixel counts to quadruple in 2012

Buy one of Apple's next MacBook Pro notebooks and you'll get yourself a - glossy, no doubt - 2880 x 1800 resolution display. So say the inevitably anonymous Asia moles, who add that next year's fresh crop of Ultrabooks - likely to be demo'd at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January but not go on sale until Q2 when …


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  1. Alan Watson

    15' Macbook Pro displays max out at 1440x900 do they? So the 2 year old 15" 1680x1050 I'm using must be a fake then...

  2. Victor Ludorum

    That's all very well, but...

    You can already buy a Sony Z series 13 incher with a full HD screen. Only problem is it's over £1500. There are probably other manufacturers, but I expect they're in the same price bracket.

    I have been looking for an ultraportable with a better than 1440x900 screen, and I can't find one at a sensible price. In the meantime I settled on an ex corp Thinkpad X200s (12inch 1280x800 with a 1.6GHz Core Duo), and upped it to 6GB RAM. Total cost so far less than £250. I might stick a 60G SSD in if I think it needs it. If I see a 1440x900 for a sensible price I'll swap.

    1. Piro

      You've found the best answer

      Buy ex-corporate kit. They often overspec laptops, get rid of them before they're obsolete, and often the execs simply pick out the best in a certain line, so you usually get high end Dells/HP/Lenovo gear, and it can be seen sold on ebay for cheap at any time.

      You can also sometimes find them with interesting screen resolutions.

    2. Mark Honman

      Good advice!

      Another happy punter here - just got an ex-corporate Finkpad with 1920x1200. It's 4 years old, but at £200 who's complaining? ... especially not after having fitted a 60GB SSD.

  3. Ron1

    Current MacBook Pro 15 screen res goes up to 1680x1050

    "Current MacBook screen resolutions max out at 1440 x 900 on the 15in model and 1920 x 1200 on the 17-incher. Both have non-glossy alternatives, BTW."

    Unless it's been discontinued, the last time I checked (a minute ago) MacBook Pro 15 had an option for

    1680x1050 (gloss or non gloss) screen (and has had this option since 2010).

    So your MacBook list should read :-)

    11in 1366x768

    13in 1440x900

    15in 1680x1050

    17in 1920x1200

    This is from Apple:

    15.4-inch LED-backlit glossy or optional antiglare widescreen display

    1440 by 900 pixels

    High-resolution 1680-by-1050 glossy or antiglare option available

  4. AdamB

    Given GPUs struggle refreshing 1920 on non-trivial apps, they're going to need at least 4x GPU performance to make this useful.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ AdamB

      Quite so - I hope Apple et al include a pair of ear defenders to deal with the GPU fan noise...

      My Toshiba's third-party GPU runs at very high speed just typing a Wordpad document, forget about being able to hear multimedia over the din...

  5. Ru

    Wouldn't it be nice if battery life quadrupled too?

    At least advances like this give developers something to do with all that surplus CPU and GPU power they have nowadays; they can use it for doing the exact same UI compositing routines they've been doing for 30 years, only with rounder corners.


    1. dogged
      Thumb Up

      Agreed 100%

      And we all know, laptop batteries are so overpowered and currently last for days.....


  6. Timfy67

    Just out of interest...

    At what point does resolution cease to matter? My bog standard monitor looks fine to me, no jaggies and even if I put my nose to the screen, I can't make out the individual pixels (my eyes admittedly date back to when man first stood on the moon!)

    This isn't an anti technology rant, I just seem to be missing the point of having to shuffle four times as many pixels for very little gain?

    1. Andrew Garrard

      How closely can you focus?

      I'm curious what monitor has pixels you can't see. If you can't see the pixels with your nose to the screen, I suggest that might be because you're too close to focus. My getting-on-for-forty-year-old eyes are a bit mangled, so admittedly close is better for me than for most, but I can see the pixels on an iPhone4 and the PenTile grid on a Galaxy Nexus, let alone pixels on my T221 (204ppi, 3840x2400), although they're still all clearly better than the norm. The pixel grid on the 1920x1080 24" panel I've got at work is clearly visible even from a normal working distance.

      You pay for the image quality in GPU requirements (although, for a plain desktop, this wasn't an issue in 2004 when I got my T221, and probably isn't now except in the mobile space) and of course it makes the panel more expensive, but getting above WUXGA makes a big difference to a lot of workloads. I've regretted that it's been nearly impossible to get a 15" laptop with a decent screen for most of the last decade.

      I claimed for a long time that the CEOs of monitor companies have failing eyesight, which is why the panels get bigger without resolution increases. Facetiousness aside, I'll be very happy to see the trend reversed - I'd actively have preferred a 22" 1920x1080 panel to the 24" one I got, and I'd certainly have preferred WUXGA or higher. Here's hoping they finally start selling them and the prices can come down.

      1. Gordan

        Spot on. It is very disappointing that nobody has yet managed to beat the T221 in the 7 years since it came out.

      2. AdamWill

        dell does that

        "I'd actively have preferred a 22" 1920x1080 panel to the 24" one I got"

        Dell sells a 22" 1920x1080 Ultrasharp. I've got two of 'em.

        Couldn't find any 20" ones though. :/

    2. Stacy

      It's not about getting rid of those jagged lines, it's about desk top real estate. I use 2 FullHD monitors in the office and that is still not enough. I wanted 2 of the 27" monitors, but our budget would not even get close.

      As Terry Pratchett said when asked why he has 6 of the monsters on his desk when writing 'Because I could not fit 8 in the room'.

      Having to settle for a pathetic 1280*800 on my MacBook Pro 13" was such a come down, but as I only use it when on the train I can live with it. Sure it looks nice enough for word processing, but I just can't see enough code on the screen when I want to try and work on code or database queries.

    3. Arkasha

      According to a book on 3D graphics I had at Uni many moons ago (can't remember the title), the human eye is capable of discerning detail down to about 8,000 dpi.

  7. Adam T
    Thumb Up

    About bleeding time!

    I fully understand the luddite argument that they don't need that kind of resolution on a small screen, but then you can't fit everyone's needs in a small basket.

    I'm sure if it was Samsung, LG or Acer quoted instead of Apple, then the reception would be a lot more positive over this than it's probably to be be.

  8. Dazed and Confused

    About bloody time too

    Not that I care one bit about MacBooks but my circa 2003 laptop had a 150dpi 1920x1200 display, today's crop of 1920x1080 displays might be find for playing BluRays if that is what you think a laptop is for, but otherwise its a step backwards. So many things that I personally use a laptop for would benefit from a lot more pixels I can but hope that manufactures will finally pull their fingers out and do something about it rather than doing as HP has done recently and dropped the higher res in favour of the crappy laughingly called HD spec 1080 screens.

  9. Sooty

    nice to see...

    ...pixel counts going in the right direction again, following 'High Definition' screens causing it to reduce.

    1. Steve Evans


      The count is going in the right direction, but the pixels are going in the wrong direction.. Sideways!

      How about a bit more on the height and a bit less on the width, you know, like ummm, one of those quaint old 4:3 screens.

      Then we could have a good size business desktop without having something that looks like the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

  10. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Sometimes, the sun shines

    Resolution is nice, but I would massively prefer a panel I can read in daylight.

  11. Peter 48

    i hope not

    I do hope that these increases don't also mean an increase in actual desktop resolution but instead are used as a way of improving colour fidelity and as a form of anti-aliasing. The thought of a desktop running at quadruple resolution fills me with dread - minuscule, illegible icons, overworked graphics card that sap battery power just to be able to run at max resolution in 2D let alone 3D and websites with postage stamp size images to name a few of the problems.

    1. Andrew Garrard


      I can't deny that it'll increase the graphics requirements - not that most devices are all that pushed when just showing the desktop - but regarding small icons, could I suggest changing the dpi settings on your OS? Admittedly it might be nice if all software handled this a bit better, but allegedly as of Vista (I've not checked, Vista broke spanning and I've not tried my Windows 7 box with a decent monitor yet) the multi-resolution capabilities of the OS got much better. At least for web sites you could always, I don't know, hold down the control key and move the mouse wheel. Rocket science, I know...

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: desktop resolution

      The Windows API has always been scalable, so if developers have followed the rules laid down back in the 80s by Mr Petzold, you shouldn't have any trouble rescaling your desktop. From my experience, mainstream apps get this right and Win7 scales to 200% without any trouble.

      (Nit-pick: So many people *didn't* follow the rules, that Microsoft made a breaking change for Vista and now developers also have to set a flag in their manifest to say "Yes you doofus, I *do* honour system metrics". Otherwise the OS tries to do it for them, with fugly results.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I agree with the original post. I remember a couple of years ago one of the corporate support guys got a netbook sized notebook with a ridiculously huge resolution. Compared to our 19" desktop monitors, you had to squint to read text!

        He needed glasses soon after. Any wonder!

        2440 resolution would look fine, on something approaching the size of a TV.

      2. Peter 48

        If you end up scaling your whole desktop to 200%, why would you bother in the first place? You will still have the same amount of info displayed on the screen whilst the things that aren't scalable like no vector graphics won't look any sharper or smoother, just smaller or blockier. In the meantime your graphics adapter will have to do 4x the work in 2D and 8x the work in 3D just to maintain the status quo, whilst sapping your battery. And all so that the 0.0001% of the population that delude themselves into thinking they can see the difference can pat themselves on the back? what a total waste of resources.

        I have no problem with increasing the resolution on current displays to some degree, but a 200% boost is way over the top. 2048x1280 would be more than enough for any portable device (16:10 ratio) anything above that and you are looking at some drastically diminishing returns.

        1. Andrew Garrard

          All I can guarantee is that *I* find it useful

          To be honest, I don't scale my desktop to 200% when I use my T221 - I prefer the extra real estate, and move closer when I want to - but I was answering a question about the icons being too small.

          A lot of software these days will scale. Looking at a PDF (or doing DTP) on a T221 is visibly improved over a "conventional" monitor. Using PhotoShop is much better in showing detail (although since the T221 is ancient, the colours aren't quite up to modern standards). I deliberately got a 960x540 phone in order to make the experience of reading PDFs and web pages without scrolling more comfortable. And, of course, you can fit more code on the screen. I've got from a five monitor set-up in my previous job to a 1920x1080 + 1280x1024 combination with Windows running in a 1440x1050 remote desktop in my new place; it's unbelievable how much more constrained I feel.

          Most GPUs these days have resources to spare - except possibly in the mobile space - although I admit that composited desktops get hit hard when the resolution quadruples. I don't claim that everyone should care, and that everyone should buy a monitor with a higher resolution - but it's been a source of frustration for years that very few high resolution panels have been available. Thank goodness for Apple, first with the Cinema Display and then the Retina Display, which dragged other companies along. Given Apple's history of "100ppi is perfect", I wouldn't have expected it of them.

          As for portable devices, where you're actually constrained in the physical size of the screen and it's easier to get close than with a desktop, the more pixels the better (although 2880x1800 is a bit of a weird choice compared with, say, 2560x1600 or 3072x1920 - at least it's not 16:9). To me, for a tablet or netbook that's a content viewing rather than creation device and spends a lot of time displaying relatively static information, I'm completely behind the idea of a premium offering giving you more pixels even if it means that games can't run as fast at the full resolution. That doesn't stop the cheap end of the market getting pixels the size of bricks, but it's genuinely a useful differentiator. Although I'd prefer not to have to buy Apple to do it (if a 960x640 Android phone had been available in the UK when the iPhone4 came out, I'd not have suffered another year of Windows Mobile).

    3. aThingOrTwo


      Mac OS X Lion has a HiDPI mode.

      So that means in applications you'll get exactly the same size icons, text and images , just with twice the detail.

      You don't see any elements on the screen of a 480x320px iPhone 3GS versus a 960x640 iPhone 4. But you do see more detail.

  12. MondoMan

    Errr, the UX31 offers 900x1600 screens.

  13. JDX Gold badge


    Is this simply to match mobile resolutions or for a real reason? It puts quite a large extra load on CPU/GPU?

    I suppose at least you'll be able to run it at 1440x900 (half-res) if you prefer, without pixel jaggies?

  14. Greg Kerr

    Not sure that's entirely right but it's close. I have a 13" Macbook Air with a 1440*900 display.

  15. Dotter
    Thumb Up

    Good. I'm fed up of 1366x768 resolutions on 12"+ screens.

  16. PerlyKing

    Screen resolution

    "Current MacBook screen resolutions max out at 1440 x 900 on the 15in model"

    MacBooks maybe but MacBook Pros go to 1680x1050, and the article does start with a reference to new MBPs.

    7/10, must try harder.

  17. MagicBoy

    "Current MacBook screen resolutions max out at 1440 x 900 on the 15in model".

    The 1680x1680 Hi-Res Anti-Glare screen on my 15" would suggest otherwise...

  18. Piro

    As much as Apple are patent trolls and flog overpriced kit..

    They're the only ones stemming the tide of 16:9 1366x768 shit on their ranges, unlike every other manufacturer, who's happy with that from 11.6" to 15.4"

  19. Jon Green

    Sign of things to come

    "Ultrabooks currently offer 1280 x 800 or 1366 x 768 screens."

    Let's not forget the Asus Zenbook UX31 series, and their much nicer 1600x900 13" panels! A bit of a shame that their rivals don't seem to have anything to answer with, right now - some price competition would be nice.

  20. rurwin

    Oh please no. I need reading glasses to read text on the laptop screen now.

    1. Piro

      Hmm, someone hasn't heard of resolution independence.

  21. Hardcastle the ancient


    That's a bit better. We are in the future now, after all.

  22. Richard Neill

    QXGA would be nice

    I upgraded my T60p with a 15" 2048×1536 panel, which is a wonderful device, but had to be found from new-old-stock, last made in about 2005. The best thing is that it includes a decent amount of vertical space too. Why is it so hard for manufacturers to offer a decent screen-height these days?

    1. Gordan

      I was just about to say the exact same thing, but you beat me to it. :)

      The ThinkPad upgrade to 2048x1536 is just awesome. It is a worthy on-the-go alternative to the 22in T221 on my desk from 2005 that is pumping out 3840x2400. And yes - it is completely gaming capable. ;)

  23. MarcusB

    I've an ancient Dell in the loft with a 1600x1200 15" screen. Them were the days... (It also ran quite happily with 256MB, but that's another rant...). The 1600x900 of my new Fujitsu laptop just isn't the same. Doesn't really look as good as the 1400x1050 of my other two laptops, from 4 and 7 years ago.

    I don't want widescreen, I want tallscreen. And an end to toolbars which won't co-exist on the same line with others.

  24. Mage Silver badge

    HD isn't good enough for documents

    I have a 1920x1080 TV to watch video.

    I want to create and read documents on a Laptop or PC. A WS screen isn't a good shape. 1800 lines in 4 x3 aspect would be good at about 133 to 150dpi At 180 dpi you need over 2000 lines

  25. stucs201

    When are they going to improve desktop monitors?

    Even just matching the pixel density of laptop screens would be nice. Its slightly annoying that my 24" desktop screen doesn't have any more pixels than my 17" laptop screen.

    As for what I'm going to do with that resolution? Better display of those multi-megapixel images my camera has been producing for years. It'll also help bring MS's ribbon UI back down to a sensible proportion of the screen size. On the downside I'll need a new graphics card for Crysis.

  26. Chris Evans

    Why no lap top panels in desktop screen?

    e.g. 17" 1920 x 1080 desktop screens?

    I also don't understand the obsession with widescreen. Most? people rarely if ever watch DVDs on their computer!

    I prefer more vertical resolution myself to width, less scrolling! 1920x1200 monitors were readily available two years ago, but now are rare and more expensive.

    n.b. I find it strange that laptop screens are normally sold by resolution, but desktop monitors by physical size often not even mentioning resolution.

  27. James Haley 2


    "Oh please no. I need reading glasses to read text on the laptop screen now."

    Exactly, I hope Apple adds re-sizable menus fonts to Lion to make the high pixel screens readable.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Need upgraded eyes

    From the distance I'm sitting at my desk, the 27" display at 2560 x 1440 on occasion has more resolution than I can see (that said, I'm not a teenager anymore, ymmv)

    And if you need more pixels, just add another monitor. Going squinty eyed blind is not worth it.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid OSX - dpi isn't arc radians, and is a magnifying glass included?

    OSX system interface is not totally resolution independent. Windows is. OSX isn't.

    Currently on OSX you cannot change the system font size. You can change icon size, and with some hacks can even change some text sizes of the OS. But you can't change system menu sizes, for instance. Oh no, you are not allowed to ruin the approved look.

    On the regular 13" Macbook Air that I got for mom's birthday I tweaked all I could but, she occasionally has to squint at the very nicely shaded but tiny letters on menus and such. Since she's accustomed to OSX, I haven't the heart to install Windows 7 on the doodah.

    And anyway: Quadruple (~3k x 2k) resolution may look brilliantly sharp on a 15", but is quite overkill.

    Pixel density is distance related. The so-called retina display on an iphone is nice, but you hold it very close. The same pixels would be unusable in A4 print, and lousy when projected.

    And anyway, the graphics cards of today are barely coping with HD resolutions when taxed with 3D apps (such as games, where fill rates matter). And more pixel-rate-worthy cards are power hogs.

  30. JDX Gold badge


    People have been managing at 1280x1024 on their 4:3 22" monitors for years. Why do you need double that on a small laptop screen for editing documents?

    1. Andrew Garrard

      Managing, yes. Enjoying, no.

      One of the biggest negatives about the first LCD monitors was that their resolution was awful. An LCD running 1280x1024 looks sharper than a CRT running 1280x1024, but my 19" CRT is extremely sharp at 1600x1200 and pretty good at 2048x1536. With CRTs, the user had the opportunity to trade off text size and sharpness. That went with LCDs - and the market position that should have been occupied by successors to the T210 and T221 got filled with LCDs that were the same resolution, but different physical sizes. Given the appearance 17" SXGA LCD, why the "upgrade path" was a 19" SXGA LCD is lost on me (I, like several colleagues, kept our 17" panels and rejected the 19" ones when given a 1920x1080 upgrade to our second monitors). The rant I had when it became clear that 1920x1200 needed at least a 24" screen, and that (prior to Apple) 27-28" screens were still only 1920x1200. Thanks, but I need that space for the other monitor that I have to use because you won't sell me one with more pixels...

      If you've spent a life being able to have multiple documents on the screen at once, or see a reasonable overview of a document while still examining detail, any small screen is seriously constrictive. If you've been managing at 1280x1024, maybe you don't know what you're missing (but try running at 1024x768 for a while and maybe you will).

  31. JDX Gold badge


    All the people whinging about how 1080 is a step down from 1200 lines... fine, and 900 or even 768 line resolutions are sucky. But the solution isn't to DOUBLE it... is it? Rather a kind of overkill?

  32. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Hoping everyone follows suit

    The current crap of laptops and even the new batch of 24 inch monitors with 768 to 1080 vertical resolution is a joke. I'm really glad it works for those watching their 720-1080p movies but those of us who have to work with applications with poorly thought out real estate sucking ribbons locked across the top of the screen are eager to find alternatives and we're looking for workable hardware and software. Pity it isn't easier to migrate thousands of files. Yes, I'm talking to you PTC, come on even Autocad lets you move the ribbon.

  33. Jared Vanderbilt

    Why not hop to the digital film 4k format.

    That way cinema, tv, projector, pc, mac, slab ... would all support the same f'n standard. I'm sick of paying for pixels that don't get used half the time.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm tired of the 1366x768 crap on most machines. Being wide, it lacks the height required to work comfortably with many programs and looks and feels like the grainy, low resolution shit found in cheap chinese knock-offs.

    Computers really did not need to be crippled by the media industry and their 'HD' folly.

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