Editor’s Note: When Tommy approached me about writing this article, I had no idea it would come on a day when Acer and Lenovo both announced plans to release high resolution versions of their netbooks. As it turns out, that makes today a great time to talk about the pros and cons of higher resolution displays on Intel Atom-powered netbooks.
When you think about netbooks, you think about portability first. 8.9″ and 10.1″ or 10.2″ screens have been the norm, giving us small form factors and lightweight machines. And one of the prices to pay for these small screens has been the low 1024 by 600 (0r even 1024 x 576) pixel resolution. With the LED backlighting, they’re good and usable, but 600 vertical pixels (minus the 30-100 pixels of various taskbars and menubars, for example) just might not be enough. And while Brad may have gotten to play with the HP Mini 2140 earlier, I have been living with the 1366 by 768 pixel HD version for the past two weeks.
High resolution laptop panels have been around for a while. Dell laptops have been sporting WXGA and higher resolutions. But the high resolution screens for netbooks have been rare. Of course HP’s first netbook, the 2133 Mini-Note sported a 1280 by 768 pixel 8.9″ screen. While some people found this to be eye-squintingly sharp – certainly the screen real estate alone was something to consider.
HP’s new HD version of the Mini 2140 has a 10.1″ screen with a resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. This comes out to roughly 155.2 ppi (pixels per inch). Just what does this mean, anyway? Well, this is roughly how smooth or sharp an image can look. For comparison, the iPhone/iPod Touch has a very sharp and crisp display, at 164 ppi (that’s 320 by 480 pixels on a 3.5″ screen) – and our trusty friend the 1024 by 600, 10.1″ screen has a ppi of 117.5 (the 8.9″ screens are about 133.3 ppi). The 2140’s HD screen is very sharp, with lots of space for open windows.
Having so much more space is a welcome change – less scrolling, more screen area – I feel like I’m using a much more powerful machine. Of course it’s only an illusion, but I really do appreciate being able to work without maximizing every window I’m working in. The fit and finish of the HP Mini 2140 HD is solid – as Brad mentions in the earlier review – it masks the plastic-y feel netbooks often have. The keyboard is a joy to type on (even with a noticeably narrower wristrest), and the horizontal touchpad does take some getting used to – a few minutes of practice, and I’m sure anyone would pick it up. If you don’t have good eyesight, the screen resolution could be a bit troubling – check out the differences in how webpages are displayed in the picture above.
Having more pixels to push present a bit of a problem when viewing full screen Flash-powered video. Sites that allow you to cache or pre-buffer content will work (on YouTube and Vimeo I like to hit pause and then wait until the video finishes loading), but sites that like to stream content as you watch (such as Hulu) are a bit choppy, as Brad’s seen before. Personally, I have updated to the latest version of Adobe Flash, and am using Mac OS X – so my results might be different. What really matters is that the HD screen does have 40% more area to display, and loading a video while playing it does stress the processor, graphics, and system bus components.
I’ve been using netbooks for about a year now, starting off with the MSI Wind, getting a Lenovo S10, and finally now getting to use the HP Mini 2140 HD. If there’s one thing to be said it’s that we’re in a maturing market. The Lenovo S10’s form factor and construction put it a step above the earlier MSI Wind; the HP Mini 2140 HD takes it a step further. The welcome return of the 2133’s metallic finish and the excellent, bright, and sharp HD screen puts it past the competition.
So… is anyone interested in buying a gently used Lenovo S10?