Poll: What’s the sweet spot for laptop display sizes?

Many of us have had to shop for laptops at one point or another, and one of the greatest dilemmas a laptop buyer must face is the choice of display size. For roughly the same amount of dough, PC vendors often let you pick between laptops with different screens and form factors. Some users favor smaller, more portable offerings, while others relish the added screen real estate and often-beefier hardware of larger machines.

For our new poll, we’re asking what you think the “sweet spot” is with current notebooks. You can either vote below or on the front page. To keep the poll from being overwhelming, we’ve opted not to distinguish between wide and standard aspect ratios.

The subject of our previous poll was, “Who will be the top discrete graphics supplier in 2012?” Nvidia had the highest number of votes there at first, but in a surprising twist of events, AMD ended up on top. 43% of the 4166 readers who participated voted for AMD, while 40% sided with Nvidia. Only 14% think Intel’s “Larrabee” discrete GPU and its successors will have the lion’s share of sales in four years time. The remaining 3% seem to be expecting a major comeback from the likes of Matrox and S3.

Comments closed
    • normalicy
    • 12 years ago

    I think that along with the screen size, people need to consider that this affects the keyboard as well. Smaller screen means tiny or poorly spaced keys. I think that 12″ is the absolute minimum if you plan on doing any typing & actually 14-15″ if you want to be comfortable.

      • Voldenuit
      • 12 years ago

      12″ and 13″ widescreen laptops have regular key size & spacing.

      It’s mainly the 11″ and smaller laptops that have shrunken keyboards.

      So going 14″ or 15″ doesn’t actually do anything as far as improving the keyboard*. The thinkpad X61 and X300 have the best keyboards in the business, and they are 12″ and 13″ respectively.

      * caveat: the bigger laptops tend to be thicker, and sometimes (but not always) this translates to to deeper key travel.

    • YeuEmMaiMai
    • 12 years ago

    i have a dell vostro 1400 with a 14.1″ 1440*900 screen.

    Play DVD? check
    Play blueray? check
    play hd=dvd? check
    Enough room for work?
    check not too big or small? check
    Enough capacity to run 4+ hours on a charge? check

    • Flatland_Spider
    • 12 years ago

    Between my 12″ Powerbook, and my 15″ Thinkpad, my Thinkpad is the better desktop replacement, and my Powerbook is the better traveler, I just wish it didn’t have the optical drive in it.

    12.1″ minus the optical drive really is the perfect size for a laptop. I have my desktop if I need more space or power. My only gripes about the form factor involve the low resolutions 12″ laptops get saddled with.

    My next laptop will be between 14″ – 12″. It kind of depends on what I want it to do, and what Lenovo does with the Thinkpad line.

      • A_Pickle
      • 12 years ago

      I think… you’re a special case. Most people like their optical drives. I have no idea how some people think it’s okay to just… up and ditch an ODD.

        • UberGerbil
        • 12 years ago

        I like my optical drive fine, but I don’t need to carry it everywhere. Once I have my software and media installed I can go weeks, even months, without touching an optical disc. If you don’t want to rip DVDs (or don’t have the HD space) and you’re using your notebook as a movie player on the plane, sure you might want it with you. But for a lot of day-to-day use, you can leave it on the shelf (and on some models that also gives you a place to put a second battery).

          • A_Pickle
          • 12 years ago

          I can too…

          …but a lot of people rip music CD’s to their computers.

            • Tamale
            • 12 years ago

            do that on your desktop.. put your collection on the hard drive on the laptop over the network ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • SonicSilicon
    • 12 years ago

    I do quite a bit of amateur print graphics work. This meant getting high resolution along with some processing power, yet be at a reasonable size. To those requirements, I ended up getting a Tecra M4 which landed me a 14.1 inch, 4:3 screen. (1400 by 1050.)
    It just so happens to be slightly different in size compared to a letter sized sheet of paper (8.5 inch by 11 inch.) Also being a tablet, it makes for an excellent way to preview sizing before printing. A full size keyboard is also nice, though usually I use an external keyboard.

    That said, it is a bit large for actual lap-top use. A 12 inch display seems to be much better suited for portable use while having a full-size keyboard available.

    • Jigar
    • 12 years ago

    Those 2 who voted for 7″ Lappy should get themself a High end PDA like HTC Shift…

    • Firestarter
    • 12 years ago

    I bought a 15.4″ laptop because I wanted it to do it all. This was before the introduction of the EEE pc.

    I’ll eventually switch to a regular desktop and a cheap 10″ laptop I guess, but for the past year and a half this laptop has served me well.

    • spuppy
    • 12 years ago

    13.3″ is great. High enough res, but small and light enough for travel. 15″ laptops are always too big and heavy.

      • continuum
      • 12 years ago

      That’s how I feel. 14″ works for me as well. I actually prefer 12″ for traveling– but I find to actually USE a laptop to do normal things, 12″ rarely gives me enough resolution.

      As a result, 13.3″ or 14″ at 1440×900 is about ideal. 1680×1050 in a 14″ would be perfect but doesn’t exist in most models (heck any models I’ve looked at recently).

    • Nitrodist
    • 12 years ago

    I don’t care, really, how big it is as long as the resolution is at LEAST 1024×768 or greater and has a regular laptop sized screen (no UMPC!).

    • Voldenuit
    • 12 years ago

    13.3″ for me.

    I want a laptop I can (and will) carry around everywhere without breaking my back or a sweat.

    I have a 12.1″ Toshiba, and I’m eyeing the X300 when lenovo releases a non-ssd version.

    • PetMiceRnice
    • 12 years ago

    My 2-year-old laptop has a 14.1″ widescreen display and it’s certainly good enough. If I was to buy a laptop today, I would go with a 15″ or 15.4″ screen, but 14.1″ is a good compromise between size and function. I have no regrets.

    • willyolio
    • 12 years ago

    15.4 seems to be the most popular and the cheapest form that OEMs use.

    for me, though, 12.1″ widescreens can fit in a comfortable keyboard, while being small and light.

    • reactor
    • 12 years ago

    13.3″-14″ for me.

    I’ve used 15″ and 17″ laptops, but they are simply too big, too heavy and use too much battery power.

    12″ and under are too cramped for me to comfortably type on.

    • crazybus
    • 12 years ago

    If I had to pick one screen size it would be 13.3″ 1440×900, although that’s on the large side for portability purposes.

    • Prototyped
    • 12 years ago

    14.1″ Standard or Widescreen would be my choice. Still small and light to carry around comfortably and large enough to view comfortably.

    • MixedPower
    • 12 years ago

    I don’t plan on getting a laptop anytime soon, but if I was to get one to replace my desktop for day to day activities, I would go for one with a 17″ screen (which I voted for). That’d give me plenty of screen real estate for Photoshop and other multimedia software I may run in the near future. Plus you can squeeze a full-size keyboard in that form factor.

    For something more mobile that I could carry around with me and use for more basic tasks, I think 11.1″ or so would be about perfect as long as the max resolution was at least 1280×720.

    • CampinCarl
    • 12 years ago

    I prefer my 15.4″ laptop. While I admit that a 13.3″ laptop would definitely fit better on those absolutely ridiculously small desks they give you in a university lecture hall, I prefer the additional power my 15.4″ has that I couldn’t find in a 13.3″ for nearly the same cash–an 8600M GT. For someone who likes to game, I think that combo is best. I just wish I’d had the money at the time to fork out for a higher-res screen than 1280×800.

      • Smurfer2
      • 12 years ago

      I have a 15.4in as well… Too lazy to actually take it to college with me.. However I voted and would prefer a 13.3in or maybe 14.1in. While I love my laptop, when I actually want to be mobile, it is a little large and a little heavy.

    • Jon
    • 12 years ago

    I honestly don’t know why HP is going all widescreen format on all of their laptops, even the business line of laptops. My company used to buy the NC6230 and the NC6320 laptops and those are undoubtedly the BEST laptops HP have ever produced, their size, weight and totally awesome functionality were PERFECT for business use. The screen on the NC6230 was a 14.1″ 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s perfect for traveling, now we’re stuck buying these ridiculous 6710b notebooks which barely fit into laptop bags because of their 16:10 aspect ratio screens, so retarded for business use.

    Honestly HP, who’s behind your design decisions?

      • StashTheVampede
      • 12 years ago

      It’s simple: consumers.

      Bob, from accounting, bought a laptop for home. He liked the wide display of them and then requested something similar for his office.

      Repeat this … say … a few million times and it becomes cheaper to produce non 4:3 ratio laptops.

        • FireGryphon
        • 12 years ago

        To me, a laptop is all about portability. I want the smallest, lightest, most energy-efficient machine I can get. For stationary use, I’d hook it up to a good LCD and plug in a mouse. The smallest screen I’ve seen with a full size keyboard is 12.1″, so that’s my choice.

      • ludi
      • 12 years ago

      For the same reasons everyone else is switching: widescreen LCDs are cheaper to manufacture because the manufacturing logistics allow for more of them to be cut from a single sheet of the source glass.

      I also fail to grasp why the preservation of a $30 laptop bag would make the purchase of a $1000 machine seem odious. Frankly, I like widescreen aspect ratio for productive work as well as for play, because vertical scrolling comes naturally while horizontal real estate is scarce.

        • Saber Cherry
        • 12 years ago

        It’s a bit different for programmers. Widescreen monitors, unfortunately, are impractical as replacements for 4:3 unless the height is at least as great as the old screen… which means a much bigger diagonal than before.

        Widescreen monitors are not quite wide enough to easily have source code on the left and the executing program on the right. Almost… but not quite.

        Wisescreens monitors, lastly, do not do so well side-by-side in a dual-monitor config.

        Will all that stop me from making my next monitor a 24″ widescreen? Hell no!

      • Master Kenobi
      • 12 years ago

      We did to. Then we went to NC6400 at work. But yes I agree, the whole wide aspect thing is a bit odd.

    • deathBOB
    • 12 years ago

    13.3″ is just right because it uses about the same space as a text book.

    • gohan
    • 12 years ago

    I have 15.4″ 1680*1050 and a 14.1″ 1440*900 laptop. both work really good but i would say 14.1″ is the best as it is smaller, lighter and it has a better battery life. i have used 13.3″ one and i absoluetely hate the KB on those. they are too small for typing comfortably.

    • malicious
    • 12 years ago

    Of the laptops I’ve used, the screen that fit best was a 15″ 1400×1050 so that was my vote. My current 15.4″ 1440×900 is nice enough but I’d still get a 4:3 screen if they were more common.

    • floodo1
    • 12 years ago

    yeah macbook with 13.3 is good except resolution should be higher.
    otherwise the size is perfect to me, highly portable and fits anywhere and has full size keyboard
    only thing really lacking is expresscard

    • Shinare
    • 12 years ago

    I bought my wife a 17″ lappy a while back (a couple years ago). When looking I was thinking “the bigger the screen, the better”. After having to deal with its size on multiple road trips and airplane trips since then, I can say with enthusiasm that 17″ screen and the associated laptop size is just too big. I had a chance to play a little with my mom’s 15″ laptop that she just got, and thought the size to be a perfect balance of size and ease of viewing.

    • Damage
    • 12 years ago

    God and Qwerty have spoken…. 13.3″ wide-aspect FTW

      • adisor19
      • 12 years ago

      Yep. Currently saving $$ for the MacBook Air ๐Ÿ˜€

      Adi

        • YodaTech
        • 12 years ago

        He’s not joking is he…>_<

          • bthylafh
          • 12 years ago

          They’re on special: if you buy a Macbook Air in the next week, you get a free manila envelope.

            • Smurfer2
            • 12 years ago

            haha, that made my day!

            Yea, if only he was kidding… As soon as I saw who it was. ๐Ÿ˜€

            • adisor19
            • 12 years ago

            Damage wasn’t kidding.. was he ? Damage ? :'(

            Adi

            • bthylafh
            • 12 years ago

            Standard Macbooks are also 13.3″ widescreen. I’d rather keep mine than switch to an Air, since I use its DVD-RW drive more often than you’d think.

            • Damage
            • 12 years ago

            Heck, no.

            13.3″ is just right.

            • ludi
            • 12 years ago

            And after that fine feast of a gag…desert:

            ยง[<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hnOCUkbix0<]ยง (worksafe)

        • A_Pickle
        • 12 years ago

        Hmm. I vote Toshiba Satellite U305.

        1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, 2 GB DDR2 RAM, 250 GB HDD, fingerprint reader, DVD+/-R/RW DL drive, media keys, wifi a/b/g/n, built-in webcam, 3x USB ports, 1x firewire port, 1x 5-in-1 card reader, bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, Intel GMA X3100 (plays HL2: DM at 1280×800) with Vista Home Premium 32-bit…

        …$630. I don’t know what to say.

    • [SDG]Mantis
    • 12 years ago

    I think that the trend towards wide screens actually means that you need a larger display panel. Rows of information are important for me. My main laptop is an aging G4 iBook. The 14″ screen is 4:3, so it is tolerable…but the resolution is awful (1024×768). It is a work system, but I am definitely going to move to higher resolution and a 15.4″ screen for my next machine. I’d love to have a 17″, but I doubt that work will spring for it.

    • VILLAIN_xx
    • 12 years ago

    i love these polls. I wonder if some manufacturers actually get an idea.

    Even if its just 4000 ish votes, i believe we voters at least have a good idea what represents the over target consumer.

      • indeego
      • 12 years ago

      riiiiiiiiightg{<.<}g

    • cygnus1
    • 12 years ago

    gotta say, i love my 15.4 widescreen at 1680×1050. only problem is that it’s a few years old and the NV 4200 go graphics in their can’t handle full res video in vista because of aero. had to drop the resolution to watch video.

    • mentaldrano
    • 12 years ago

    Even with only 29 votes cast, we can see a clear divide between the mobility folks (13″ or less) and the DTR folks (15″ or more).

    My laptop sits on my desk all day, unless I’m traveling, and I’m not going to sacrifice daily use for something that happens twice a year, so I have a 15″ screen.

      • UberGerbil
      • 12 years ago

      Actually, I think price is swamping that. Those signals are there, but they’re overwhelmed by the fact that the 15.4″ form factor is the most common because it tends to be the cheapest (the latest EeePC excepted, but that’s still owned in such small numbers even among TR users that it isn’t going to have much effect on the poll today).

    • UberGerbil
    • 12 years ago

    Equally good question: what’s your preferred DPI? Would you rather have a 13.3″ screen that is higher res than a 15.4″ screen?

      • obediah
      • 12 years ago

      Why Chose? I have a 15.4″ 1920×1200 T61P and love it.

      • DrDillyBar
      • 12 years ago

      Personally, for 1280×800 I’d say around 13″; 1440×900 should be a 14″; 1680×1050 is the 15.4″ and 1920×1200 should be 17″ at least. I’m too lazy to figure out what the DPI is though… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 12 years ago

    I’m on a 13″ macbook, and so far it’s alright. Every once in a while, particularly if I’m working on a spreadsheet, I’ll wish I had more real-estate width-wise. But then I’d lose some battery life/portability, so… 13″ is a good compromise for me.

    • bthylafh
    • 12 years ago

    14.1″ widescreen.

      • A_Pickle
      • 12 years ago

      Agreed. I’m on my little 13.3″ Toshiba right now, which I purchased specifically FOR the size… but I think 14.1″ is really the best. You can’t get 13.3″ laptops without incurring a pretty decent hit in price as a result of the miniaturization. 14.1″ laptops, on the other hand, are smaller and more frugal power managers than are their 15.4″ counterparts — and they cost almost the same price.

      14.1″ is the nice spot there. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • bthylafh
        • 12 years ago

        I’ve got a 13.3″ Macbook in front of me. Great for mobile & being a laptop, slightly too small to be useful on a desk without a bigger external monitor like mine.

        Works for having Thunderbird open on it all the time, anyway.

      • YeuEmMaiMai
      • 12 years ago

      14.1 is the way to go imho

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