I’ve been testing out a number of netbooks over the last few days, including the Samsung Go (pictured above, left), and Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X (pictured, right). Like most 10 inch netbooks on the market today, the Samsung Go has a 1024 x 600 pixel display. The TouchNote T1028X, on the other hand, has a 1366 x 768 pixel touchscreen display. The picture above gives you a rough idea of how much more text you can fit on that higher resolution screen. But just an idea. Because I’m starting to think that no 10 inch netbook should really have a display this sharp.

The T1028X isn’t the only 10 inch netbook with a 1366 x 768 pixel display.  That resolution is sort of a magical number for many people, because it corresponds to 720p, which means HD video. The Sony Vaio Mini W comes with a similarly sharp screen, and the HP Mini 5101, Mini 1101, and Dell Inspiron Mini 10 are available with 720p display options.

On the one hand, there’s no doubt that you can fit a whole lot more on the screens. But there are a few problems. The first and foremost is that the text is so sharp that it’s hard for me to read from the  netbook for more than 20 or 30 minutes without getting a headache. I’ve tried adjusting the dpi from 96 to 125 and that helps a bit, as does using large fonts and adjusting the zoom level in Firefox and other web browsers. But these changes are often inconsistent throughout the user interface and just result in making the experience of using the T1028X even more disorienting.

There’s another problem too, and it’s one that I’ve also noticed with Intel Atom powered machines like the Asus Eee Top ET1602 with a 15.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel screen. The 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 and 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processors have to work a lot harder to pump out graphics to higher resolution displays. So while Flash video from web sites like Hulu looks great in full screen on a netbook with a 1024 x 600 pixel display, it’s choppy on a 1366 x 768 pixel screen. This is a problem that could eventually be resolved by offloading some of the responsibility for processing Flash video to the graphics processor, but right now the integrated GMA 950 graphics in most netbooks isn’t optimized to work with Flash, and neither is the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M processor used in the NVIDIA ION platform.

I know some folks will feel differently about this, and never met an extra pixel they didn’t like. But I’m starting to think that 1366 x 768 pixel displays should only be used on laptops with 12 inch or larger screens. Even on those machines, that resolution is pretty darn sharp, but at least it’s not quite as blinding. It would be nice if there was an accepted resolution between 1024 x 600 and 1366 x 768 that netbook makers could comfortably use for 10 inch netbooks, but aside from the occasional 1280 x 800 or 1280 x 720 machine, I haven’t seen much.

What do you think? Do you have a netbook with an HD display? How do you like it? What do you think would be the perfect resolution for a 10 inch netbook?

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48 replies on “How much difference does a high resolution display make?”

  1. Thanks for all analysis but my biggest problem is that lots of software that I like, Pinnacle, Crazy Talk 6 etc won’t work with 1024*600 on the other hand I hate to carry around the heavy normal size laptops. And since I do not use my netbook as an e-book reader mostly then a higher resolution would be a blessing. Thansk again

  2. is there any hack solution to change my aspire one from 1024×600 to higher resolution? driver mod perhaps???? pls…

  3. I have a larger laptop with a high resolution display. I had to tweak font size heavily due to the same concerns you have. Current operating systems and browsers do a poor job at scaling. Websites don’t help either, since many expect 96 dpi and loose formatting all too easily with larger fonts.

  4. I’m using a friends 720p Westinghouse TV as my display. I had to bump the dpi up also so I could sit back and at least read the text. but things are still blocky… but I suppose it is a 32″ monitor. Video is amazing, very different from 1080p but… not bad. I just dont understand… I have a 22″ Samsung ViewSonic monitor @ 1536×2048.. and looks MUCH MUCH better than this 700 dollar HDTV. Ahh its almost moronic. Any PC display 19″ or up needs to be at least 1080 or higher resolution I think. The 32″ Westinghouse just doesnt have the UMPH to make Windows 7 look good @ 720p. I think I just wated 60 bucks on a HDMI to DVI adaptor… OH WELL. At leas I can plug the Westinghouse up to my DVR and have some fun. I’m also having overscan problems even on my DVR set to 720p. it Never shows the last inch or so around the screen. BAHHHH.. I dont understand!

  5. I have a Lenovo S10e. Its definitely not something I would want to use a lot. I tend to agree that the Intel Ion along with high resolution and Intel graphics makes for a sluggish performer. I bump my Ram to 1.5GB and still the video is choppy at times. Not everything is that way. Just the better quality flash video’s. But then again my expectations were not that high for it. Too me its a email getter and lite web browser and that’s about it!

    1. Ironic that it’s one of the 2 keys that a Dell Mini 9 didn’t have…

  6. Hulu’s flash container actually has h.264 inside for their 480p streams (which nearly all of their content has):

    https://www.hulu.com/support says “Some of our videos now come in a 1,000 Kbps, H.264, 480p stream. You can recognize these streams by the 480p Hi-Res button that will appear in the lower right of the player.”

    CUDA for nVidia is what makes the graphics chipset work to help process video. https://www.nvidia.com/object/cuda_learn_products.html says that the 9400M G is CUDA, as well as “ION” https://www.nvidia.com/object/sff_ion.html.

    So I think the Ion platform (even the gimpier version) will have CUDA compatibility, and hence h.264 acceleration, and therefore Hulu should get juiced.

    Having said that, while my own Samsung NC10 doesn’t have a CUDA processor in it, it can handle 720P h.264 video with the commercial CoreAVC codec. At the same time, it has troubles with the 480p video from Hulu sometimes (data rendering troubles, not stuttering from data buffering). So it may be something with the flash container itself, or a disparate bitrate issue.

  7. I think a vertical of 768 is key because so much software assumes you are running at 1024 x 768. A prime example is Outlook 2007. When you open a contact many of the lower fields are completely cut off. There is no vertical slider within a contact so if you need to edit the address field you simply can’t reach it on a 600 pixel high screen. Luckily my Asus 1000he has both a sliding 1024×768 mode, and a “compressed” mode, but it is still a hassle to switch into these modes simply for certain pieces of software.

  8. Your POV is my POV, too.
    No higher resolution on 10 inch displays, please!

  9. Gotta have HD or 1366×768 because of software we run requires this resolution.

    We have the HP 2140 and have no problems using the screen for long use.

    Can’t wait for Pixel Qi screens (10.1 inch) as with dual mode and HD then that will be very good.

  10. This is precisely why a lot of people have been advocating the use of the good old XGA (1024×768) screen in 10″ netbooks. They’re a lot better than the crap 1024×600 displays while presenting text and graphics that’s a little easier on the eyes.

    Most linux distros have settings menus that are taller than 600px so it’s a royal pain trying to move around stuff on the current bunch of displays.

    Thankfully, I still have my old Thinkpad X32 that offers the XGA screen, a peppy Mobility Radeon card and superb battery life.

    1. I never felt really comfy with the HP 2133 and ended up selling it. The Lenovo S10 with it’s 10.2″, 1024×600 non-glare LCD is more to my liking, small right shift key notwithstanding. It also helps that I’m using Ubuntu Netbook Remix on the S10. (It hadn’t been released when I owned the 2133).

  11. Why isn’t there a netbook with 1024 X 640 resolution? Less scrolling up and down. 16:10 aspect ratio. Maybe 10.5 inches across.

  12. Square 1024 x 768 that’s what my R5 was that was pefect. Out with the widescreen !

    1. I never wanted to switch from 4:3 screens, but I’ve found that I like it just fine as long as I keep the same vertical resolution.

      Going from 1600×1200 to 1680×1050 is a big step down. Going from 1600×1200 to 1920×1200 is great.

      Exception: going from a 14″ 1400×1050 notebook to a 15.4″ 1680×1050 notebook, it felt like I got saddled with a boat anchor.

      For my netbook, I like the widescreen because the keyboard would be way tiny at 4:3 with the same vertical resolution, and the system would be significantly bigger if you kept the horizontal resolution and made the screen taller.

  13. I’ve got an n10j, and although better res would be nice, I find it is *okay* at 1024×600.

    I would do a do-it-yourself upgrade if there was a compatible screen, but I’m certainly not complaining that the resolution isn’t nice enough as it is.

  14. I would *love* a higher-pixel display. I used to use a Sony UX180p, and it crammed 1024×600 into four and a half inches.

    Aren’t there enough low-res displays floating around anyhow? 🙂 There are plenty of options if your eyes aren’t quite what they used to be.

    1. Some phones, like the new HTC Touch Pro 2, are now rolling with 3.6″ 800×480 screens. Same pixels as the original 7″ Eee, 1/4 the screen area.

  15. My ideal netbook would have a 1366 x 768 10″ display. I have quite a few programs that will not run with less than 768 vertical resolution. I know that my Asus EeePC 900HA runs them at that resolution, because I have used it with an external monitor.

    The company that thumbs their nose at the general netbook market and uses an Atom 330 with an Nvidia Ion in and the above display, will get my money even if it costs $600-$700 dollars.

  16. Well it is very simple, if you don’t like that resolution change it (to 1024×600 for example).

    I have a 17 ” lcd monitor able to go to 1280×800
    it is too sharp for my eyes I changed it to 1024×768 so what ?

    when you see the small P sony, when you see pda with 400×800 on 4″ etc. I don’t see the need to make that point such a prominent subject.

    please let’s slide to more substancial points, like does it compare to a tablet, inking, wheigh, volume, mobility etc.

      1. More specifically, it results in blurry fonts and images (I think), which tends to impact anyone spending alot of time at the computer in a noticable way (e.g. programmers, for whom netbooks can be sometimes a convenient tool)

        1. no problem for images, fonts are less sharply designd but you can read them and I can live with that

  17. Readability is one consideration, performance is another: I was also wondering how the CPU & chipset will deal with generating all those additional pixels? Personally speaking, I will wait off on the higher resolution displays until next year and the next generation of Netbook`s are released;

    I recently looked at one of the Sony P series and they have a screen resolution of 1600 x 768, very sharp and clear, however excruciatingly small, and I would not want use a machine with this size of font for any length of time. 1366 x 768 will be a little better. My favorite display at present is my LG X120 with its 1024×576 resolution, a scroll monster it may be, yet I find it a little easier on the eyes than my D250`s 1024×600.

    The increased real-estate will be a clear benefit, am just concerned I would spend my time increasing font sizes to make the display more readable, I think you need to assess what you use the Netbook for; video you may well need more computing power, general browsing font size may be problematic, 2D imaging I can see the benefit.

    The additional computing power needed for the higher res display has to impact battery life to some extent. Next year there will be a new series of Atom CPU`s, CULV etc, NVIDIA® ION™ will be more widespread, battery designs are becoming ever smarter and have greater capacities (new LG X130 estimated 12Hr !!!), OS`s will be more Netbook centric; Windows 7, Ubuntu & Kubuntu Netbook Remix, Open Solaris to name but a few, buy one now and you will definitely be upgrading again in 2010, there is just too much in the pipeline for Netbooks coming in the not too distant future.

    1. 1366×768 at 10″ is not enough resolution for me, but it is certainly better than 1024×600, which is completely unusable for the level of multitasking i require. I’d be very happy with a 1080p 10″.

      i’m happy to see higher pixel density making it into the mainstream.. now i just wish i could get a similar DPI on a desktop monitor.

      1. I’m lucky enough at my office that I have 2 monitors, both 1280×1024, 1 horizontal, 1 vertical. I definitely miss the extra pixels when I’m not at work – but my 2133 is much easier to carry! 😉

  18. But I think some of you are missing the point. The advantage of the higher-resolution screen on the right is that you don’t have you surf the web in full-screen mode! You can have a nicely sized web window open using 75-80% of the horizontal width of the screen, and still have room for an IM client or widgets or anything else you’d like to see at the same time.

    Also, I think we need to clarify the terminology. I don’t think we should call a screen “too sharp”. I’d never say that my 600 dpi laser printer prints too sharply and gives me a headache, compared to my 300dpi inkjet. Another example would be viewing a photo of at least 1366×768 size in full-screen on a 1024×600 vs. 1366×768 display of the same size. Everyone would like the photo on the higher-resolution display because it allows them to see more detail!

    People are always looking forward to higher-resolution displays that can more closely match the pixels per inch to the standard 300 dpi of the printed page world, because they result in easier to read, smoother text, for text of the same size. With higher resolution screens though, we do need to take advantage of and call for more “resolution-independence” in our applications, which can be especially helpful for people who have decreased close-up eyesight.

  19. I think the photo illustrates something I have noticed myself on my Samsung. On a 10″ screen a 1024 x 600 image looks great. Easy to ready, everythings nice. The web pages ‘fits’ too, you just have to scroll a bit to see the bottom page content. Now, look at the wasted white-space on that 1366 x 768 screen? Am I reading the NYT or reading white space? …I’m reading the Times!

    I think this foolish grasp for 1366 x 768 on a 10″ screen will end in eight months in two ways.

    ONE: People will see that side by side ‘their’ computers isn’t as nice as the computer next to them at the coffee shop.

    TWO: 12″ screens will be on half of the netbooks sold, and the 1366 x 768 resolution will be useful on that larger screen.

    Thus the whole issue will be resolved by market forces and the people trying to hammer a square peg in a round hole will have their hammers taken away.

    1. If you’re using it just for web content, music, and simple games, get the low-res version. This is the original target market for netbooks, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

      Lots of other applications benefit from many more pixels, and many of them still run on netbooks.

    2. That’s a non-issue with proper software.

      For example, Opera has “fit to width” function (works of course in both ways’ not only when the page takes too much space, also when it’s too wide and doesn’t fit) and flawlessly working with it zoom function.

      1. Well, Samsung itself has an app that makes a mock higher-res, itscalled (without irony) Easy Resolution. It is imperfect since it really is just made to give you more horizontal lines with a 1024 x 768 display, but it does the job. Moreover, the Samsungs all come with a crazy multi-touch zoom that I don’t even think about because I turned that ‘insanity’ off after a week of accidentally zooming or pulling back like a roller coaster.

  20. I tried an Acer Aspire One AO751, which has an 11.6″ 1366×768 display. The pixel size was a good match for a screen this large. The increase in screen real estate was welcome for web browsing. The overall machine size was not so different than a 10 inch netbook.

    Unfortunately, the Z520 processor was too slow to handle screen refresh, so this machine went back. I think this screen size will become popular when we see chipsets with faster graphics processors.

    1. BTW, if that was one of the Vista models (I have the XP model, and it refreshes fine right out of the box), there’s an updated driver on Intel’s site that supposedly makes a huge difference in general, as well as adding significant hardware acceleration for most kinds of video (Flash, of course, beign the key exception).

      I suppose if you’ve already sent it back, that doesn’t help much, though. 😐

    2. “I think this screen size will become popular when we see chipsets with faster graphics processors.”

      Like this Acer 1410, available for pre-order for $449 now at Newegg:
      Acer AS1410 11.6″ display, Intel Core 2 Solo Processor ULV SU3500 / 2GB RAM / 250GB 5400 rpm HD / Intel GMA 4500MHD / Webcam / 802.11N Wireless / 6-Cell Battery / 3.08 lbs. /

  21. I just got an 11″ Aspire One 751 with a 1366 screen, and I wouldn’t have bought it without one. I considered 10″ with that resolution as well, but ended up getting a deal on the 751, which seems like a very solid machine so far.

    Of course, the last 3 notebooks I’ve owned have been two 1400×1050 14-inchers and a 1680×1050 15.4″ machine (which has bothered me, because it’s too big). I need screen real estate, but I want a machine to be as light and compact as I can get away with.

    I have a 22″ 1680×1050 LCD monitor I use sometimes with a desktop, and the giant text and general lack of sharpness really bugs me. I would happily trade it for a 1920×1200 monitor, even if it was only 17″ or 19″.

    I may have to do all the CPU-intensive stuff (large compiles, AV transcoding) on another machine over RDP or VNC, but I can still see all the pixels I need, which is what counts for me.

    Of course, I make no claims to be representative of the market in general.

    1. Agreed. Higher resolution is never a bad thing. If need be you can always adjust it down for 3D games and what not. I would love a 10″ 1366×768 device.

      Brad, I will however point out, that you are using XP on the Gigabyte shown above. Vista or Windows 7 handle DPI scaling much better if I recall correctly.

      1. The netbook ships with Windows XP and includes software for the
        touchscreen and other hardware made for Windows XP. When GIgabyte
        starts shipping the T1028X with Windows 7, things may change. But this
        is the experience most customers will have when they buy this netbook.

        I also used an HP Mini 2133 with an 8.9 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel display
        for a few months. It shipped with SUSE Linux, and I installed both
        Windows XP and Ubuntu. The screen was still a bit too sharp for my
        eyes no matter which operating system I used.

        But again, I realize that not everyone will agree with me here.

      1. That’s really cool.

        I mostly work in .Net (along with Haskell and Ruby when I’m coding for fun), so it’s not a fit for me, but I expect this one is just the beginning.

  22. Maybe its your eyes. Ive had a low res (1024×600) and a high res (1366×768) netbook. It makes a big differnce for spreadsheets, image editing, blender, text editing (programming). You can get your work done at least in visual comfort. Web browsing didnt seem to suffer much.

    also some apps just are not made for 600 pixels (let alone 576).

    most movies play fine in linux (ubuntu) with mplayer or totem. flash movies are slow at full screen

  23. I agree.

    When I had my HP 2133, was really tough to deal with. 1280 X 800 in an 8.9 inch screen really is hard on the eyes and leads to a quick headache.

    I’ve owned several netbooks with varying resolutions, and to me, 1024 X 600 seems to be the sweet spot. Anytime I try anything higher or lower, I end up regretting it.

    1. Not to argue, by my experience is just the opposite: I love the 1280×768 8.9″ screen on my 2133. The only time small text is a problem is reading certain pages on a browser, and ^+ does the job quite nicely.

      My fiancee just got a Toshiba NB205 with 1024×600 in 10″, and I absolutely can’t stand it. Using it is like trying to walk down the street while looking through a paper-towel tube. Now that she’s had it for a while, she’s starting to feel the same way.

      The next netbook I get will definitely have a 12″ screen – and hopefully 2GB RAM + 320GB HD, 12 hours of battery life, all under 3 lbs. Oh, and like my 2133, it will run Linux. It’s absurd that MS was able to kill the MSI 115.

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