Poll: What’s your ideal laptop size?

When I bought my first laptop more than a decade ago, there were only a few sizes from which to choose: big, bigger, and huge. Well, maybe the selection wasn’t quite that bad, but it pales in comparison to what’s available today. Netbooks cover the 9-12" slice of the spectrum, while more capable notebooks start at 11.6" and scale all the way up to a gargantuan 19". A multitude of options can be found at nearly every incremental inch, raising the question: which is best?

I’m quite fond of the 11.6" display in my CULV-based ultraportable because it’s as small as you can go without really sacrificing resolution or keyboard size. A larger screen would be an absolute necessity if I didn’t already have a couple of 24" panels hooked up to my primary desktop, though. What about you? What’s your ideal laptop size? You can cast your vote over on the right column on the front page or after clicking on the comment link below.

Last week’s poll explored networked-attached storage, which 55% of voters have in their homes. Folks clearly prefer to build their own, with 34% cobbling together a storage server themselves and only 5% buying something pre-built. 17% have gone the NAS route, quite literally deploying network-attached storage boxes. The remaining 45% keep their storage local.

Comments closed
    • DeadOfKnight
    • 9 years ago

    It’s kinda funny to see the numbers go down from 13″ to 14″ and then back up at 15″. I think 14″ is usually the best compromise between performance and portability.

    • C-A_99
    • 9 years ago

    The 15″ range is the smallest where you can still get a numberpad on the keyboard, and it also puts the screen resolution at a reasonable level. The overused 1024×600 is so short that not much can be done on it.

    Nothing can replace a good desktop setup though. A 22″ monitor beats any 17″ laptop screen and since laptop panels have to be so thin, their viewing angles are extremely limited. I suppose some people simply can’t afford, don’t have space for, or are simply on the move too often to have a desktop setup though.

    Netbooks are far too slow to really do much of anything on so I’ll probably never bother with them.

    • burntham77
    • 9 years ago

    Real men haul big heavy 17″+ laptops in one meaty hand, while pulling our cars down the road with the other hand.

    • gerbilspy
    • 9 years ago

    No cheese option

    • PetMiceRnice
    • 9 years ago

    I like 15.4″ or 15.6″, which is the size of my current laptop. My old laptop was 14.1″ and it was OK although a little small for my tastes. Mind you, I don’t carry either laptop around a lot, but I have a few times and I did not mind the size or weight. At the end of the day, the more important thing for me is to be comfortable with my viewing experience and the size of the keyboard rather than have something that is (very) easy to carry around.

    • potatochobit
    • 9 years ago

    in the past I used to be an advocate of 17″+
    but only until recently after buying my macbookpro in 15″ did i realize that hauling around a 10lb TV was ridiculous

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 9 years ago

      Since you have a Macbook-15, you might have noticed that the MacBook-17 is only one pound heavier.

    • Thrashdog
    • 9 years ago

    15″ is the threshold for getting good all-rounder laptops, with enough graphics horsepower to be viable as a workstation or middle-of-the-road gaming machine while staying small enough to carry with you. They are bordering on luggable territory, though. My T61p (dead on account of bumpgate, RIP) was great while I was in architecture school, but now that I don’t need to have my own workstation at home and at studio, I’m quite happy with havng a boat-anchor desktop and a 13″-14″ work laptop. It would be nice if more vendors could stuff a nice mid-range discrete GPU into the 14-inchers, though…

    • Imperor
    • 9 years ago

    I’m really happy with my 13.3″ Asus UL30VT. I was looking around for something smaller but couldn’t pass over the increased power and battery-life of the slightly larger one.
    And after carrying it around all summer, in a small shoulder bag together with the swimtrunks and towel, listening to music in the park, watching movies in boats, campers and summer houses all day without having to worry about batteries I have to say I went the right way. Even if it’s larger, it’s still small enough!
    I am seriously considering a 7″ tablet as well though… But first I’ll get me an Android-phone and see if it doesn’t do what I want the tablet for anyway!

    I’ve previously had 12-14″ models lake Dell Latitude, Compaq Evo, Toshiba Portege, etc and have always liked the “intermediate” form-factor, small but not too small. I do have freaking perfect eye-sight due to LASIK and quite nimble fingers, so smaller’s never been a problem for me neither! 🙂

    • ChrisDTC
    • 9 years ago

    It depends on the purpose of the machine. And it sounds like we have quite similar tastes. I love the 11.6″ on my CULV Acer laptop, but that’s because I have dual 22″ monitors on a desktop at home. If I were having to use a laptop as a primary computer I would go for a 13″ that has full size features like an optical drive but is still very portable.

    • blastdoor
    • 9 years ago

    A laptop is no longer the best solution for me. I find desktop+iPad to be a better combination for my circumstances.

    • Chrispy_
    • 9 years ago

    Laptops are about portability: If you’re going to lug around a 19″ DTR, you might as well buy two (bigger, better) desktops and leave them in place, pocketing the leftover cash in the process.

    11.6″ seems to be the width that best fits a standard 88-key keyboard at full size without wasting any space, and the 1366×768 screen is also far more useful than 1024×600.

    Obviously, the form factor excludes any powerful graphics cards, but most modern titles require the GPU of a 17″ in order to make it look good, and I do NOT enjoy carrying my 17″ i7 around.

    • Hattig
    • 9 years ago

    I started with a 14″ (1024×768) HP Omnibook 4100 back in the day (Pentium II 266MHz!). Then I went to a 12″ iBook (1.33GHz G4) with the same resolution, and that sufficed for a few years. Two years ago I got a HP 2133 netbook – the 9″ display was too small, despite the lovely high resolution screen, and the keyboard suffered (despite being rated one of the best netbook keyboards).

    At work I got a 15″ Dell three years ago (1280×800), but the OS made the resolution uncomfortable (and the display was naff to boot). I had a 22″ monitor attached too.

    Now at work I have a 13″ MacBook Pro (1280×800). The OS does make the smaller display usable despite having the same resolution as the 15″ Dell. The weight is also far more amenable than that Dell. But the keyboard is still totally usable, and the trackpad is lovely and large.

    I think I’d like a slightly higher resolution – 1440×900 would be nice. But in terms of screen size I think it’s perfect for a laptop.

    • Skrying
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve had my 13″ laptop for nearly 3 years now. The size has been great and I have never regretted getting a 13″ unit though many people I know regret going 15″ or larger.

    In fact I’m considering going smaller. I’m thinking 11.6″ may be the ideal size. The main concern is resolution and keyboard. Performance wise I just need something that plays Flash video comfortably (ideally able to handle YouTube 720p or similar). I desire at least 8 hours of battery life as well.

    • odizzido
    • 9 years ago

    After using a 10 inch laptop for quite some time, I would say the largest I would want is a 9 inch one. I would consider looking at laptops less than 9 inches as well.

      • EndlessWaves
      • 9 years ago

      Ditto, except having used a 9″ netbook I’d say about 8″ would be about right, it also needs to be much lighter, 500g instead of 1kg.

      Of course, if I was getting a laptop to work with instead I’d probably go for 12-14″.

    • paulWTAMU
    • 9 years ago

    I like 13 or 14″ ones for actual portability. 15+ is just a bit big to carry around. 10 would be much nicer from a portability standpoint but I can’t abide those keyboards. I’ve never used a 12″ myself so can’t say for sure on that size.

    • lethal
    • 9 years ago

    l[<#32 1920x1200 in a 12.1<]l. The market of people who can afford that screen and still have the eyesight to use it is about the size of the pixels on such display =p. edit: doh reply fail.

    • Corrado
    • 9 years ago

    If I have an iPad, I’ll take a 15 or 17″. If it’s my primary Portable device, 13.3.

    • Voldenuit
    • 9 years ago

    13 in of lovin’ from me.

    Sadly, there’s not a whole lot of love for this in the high end/business segment. The only way to get a 13in Thinkpad is the ultra-expensive (and slow) X301. The 13 in Macbook is still sporting C2D. As is the hp envy 13.

    The Vaio Z (finally) has Core i7 (a bit ov overkill) and a discrete GPU (GF 330M), but has the sony sticker shock to go with it.

    Looking at the poll, it’s the most popular laptop size. So where are all the -[

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 years ago

    To me, 15-16 is ideal as long as the display resolution is 1440×900 or 1600×900. Anything lower than that is tough to work on, and would require me to get a secondary monitor.

    To me, most 13″ laptops are not losing enough size and weight to justify the lighter performance and lower resolution. When I need a portable machine it’s to be set up somewhere else for recording which means it needs to be powerful above all else.

    • kizzmequik_74
    • 9 years ago

    The first laptop I ever used for an extended period of time was a 12″ Toshiba, so I went with that for old time’s sake.

    My only problem with the current bunch of laptops in that range is screen resolution. My girlfriend has a 14″ laptop with a 1280×800 screen, and it feels cramped like hell. While the smaller screen offsets things a bit, it’s still not optimal.

    Ideally, I’d want to have a 11.6″ or 12″ thin-and-light with at least a 1440×900 resolution, but it seems like the vast majority of offerings have a 1280×800 or 1366×768 screen. (Aside: where did all the 1440×900 Thinkpad X201s’ go?)

    • wira020
    • 9 years ago

    13″-15″ is fine for me… It’s a good compromise between screen real estate and mobility.. The more resolution the better tho..

    • BiffStroganoffsky
    • 9 years ago

    I’ll take the 34DD please.

    • albundy
    • 9 years ago

    i dont care much for laptops these days, knowing that slate type pads our on the way, so i think 8-9 inches of touchscreen space is ok. but for home, i will not opt for anything less than 24 inches of screen size.

    • bhtooefr
    • 9 years ago

    I prefer a 12.1″ chassis (I’ll take 4:3 or 16:10, either works, not so much of a fan of 16:9,) but as much resolution as I can get, and that means I’m stuck on a 4 year old 15″ 4:3 machine. (2048×1536. Oh yeah.)

    Get 1920×1200 in a 12.1″ ThinkPad, Lenovo, and I’ll *[

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 9 years ago

    It depends on the aspect ratio. There really should be ranges for all of these. I chose 14″ just because I’ve had my eye on the HP ENVY 14 lately.

      • Ethyriel
      • 9 years ago

      Number of pixels somehow combined with weight may be the best metric to categorize laptops right now. You can have a 12″ laptop that weighs almost 5lbs getting compared to one that weighs under 3lbs, and it just isn’t right.

        • DeadOfKnight
        • 9 years ago

        Well I think most people couldn’t care less about how heavy it is as long as it’s not some bulky 2-inch thick brick. We’re comparing form factors.

          • Voldenuit
          • 9 years ago

          Put me down as someone who cares about weight. My X300 weighs 3 lbs, and I really don’t want anything much heavier (4 lbs is probably my limit for a laptop these days).

          The laptop is for moving around (office, lab, travel, net cafe). If something’s going to sit on the desk, I’d get a desktop.

    • Snarl
    • 9 years ago

    I’m approaching 50 and my Eyes aren’t quite what they used to be, my 15.6″ screen at 1600 x 900 resolution is perfect, east to read without glasses and a sweet spot resolution for the GTX 260M and Games 🙂

    • Flatland_Spider
    • 9 years ago

    14″ is a good compromise. It’s small enough to not be too bulky, and they have a good selection of processor speeds. It used to be you could get higher resolution screens too, but that’s disappeared as of late.

    I’d prefer a 12″, but I’d get stuck with a ULV processor, which isn’t really enough to run a VM on.

    • Wintermane
    • 9 years ago

    I realy like my 15.6 laptop. Keyboard is just the right size and so is the screen.

    • SNM
    • 9 years ago

    I loved the size of my old 12″ Powerbook, but I need a high-resolution screen. Maybe the new Macbook Air will make me happy.

      • paulWTAMU
      • 9 years ago

      at a high cost :-/ I like the concept but damn those’re expensive.

    • ColdMist
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve got an HP 2710p. For sitting on my lap as a tablet, looking at web pages, I wish it were a 10″ and only 1lb. The screen is a bit large to fit comfortably, and the weight is starts to get annoying after 10-20 minutes.

    So, a full tablet, with a 10″ high-res screen, with both a pen input (to take notes) and touch (for general stuff), running Win7 (for some apps I use and FireFox+Flash) would be ideal!

    • ew
    • 9 years ago

    14″ or 15″ without an optical drive.

    • MrDigi
    • 9 years ago

    Size and resolution aren’t always connected so maybe the sizes should state at what resolution. Most applications and web sites are designed for XGA min resolution, so 10.2″ and lower isn’t ideal. WXGA starts at 11.6″, so I find this is ideal for a travel laptop that is ~3 lbs. Anything bigger or heavier isn’t that portable by today’s standard. Upcoming the standard will go to slates at < 2 lbs as the standard for portability, but they will need to be XGA or WXGA. The iPad is a pain to always zoom and pan. Remember the first portables had CRTs and were probably 20 lbs.

    • Spotpuff
    • 9 years ago

    10-12″ this poll needs bands!

    • FuturePastNow
    • 9 years ago

    I picked 12″, but I could go an inch or two in either direction.

    My current (dying) laptop is a 15.4″ monster (it was cheap), but I’ve owned a 12″ before, and I’m going back in that direction when I have the money.

    • this_rock
    • 9 years ago

    I prefer a 13″ but I am slowly being converted by my netbook. I think 11.6 is a nice compromise. I regularly use my netbook for presenting/demonstrating and I find the screen a touch too small to use easily (I won’t even talk about the touchpad!).

    • Captain Ned
    • 9 years ago

    Both of my work laptops are 1680*1050 in a 17″ form factor. I can’t think of shrinking the screen for personal use.

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    I answered 17″ for remote work/movie watching. Weight nor battery life have never mattered much to me, noise and speed have mattered much moreg{<.<}g For work we get the smallest/lightest/most powerful we can, and just use external display(s) in docking stations for 90% of what we dog{<.<}g I'd say a good 20% of our laptop force almost never undocks their laptop, but they still want them.

    • dragmor
    • 9 years ago

    11.6″ to 12″.

    Anyone making smaller 1600×900 laptops? I know Sony had 13″ models with matte 1600×900 screens, but I don’t know anyone pushing them down the line.

    Dreaming of a 300ppi screen on a 11.6″

      • continuum
      • 9 years ago

      HP’s got the ENVY 13 which I believe is 1600×900… but I think that’s about it.

      Lenovo Thinkpad T410s is still in short supply, but it’s 1440×900 if you can get it.

      We’re deploying HP Elitebook 2540p’s in some customer situations and living with the 1280×800 12.1″ til the T410s supply eases up. It’s not bad but still meh. These are mostly remote use machines so portability is paramount.

      The demo I have…
      §[<http://www.brian1.net/computers/hp_elitebook2540p/<]§

      • bhtooefr
      • 9 years ago

      Sony’s got 1920×1080 in 13.3…

    • End User
    • 9 years ago

    A friend of mine just bought the 13″ Sony Vaio Z with a 1080p display. It is fantastic (apart from the fact that it is running Windows).

    • ShadowTiger
    • 9 years ago

    This is an interesting question because weight and resolution matter to me much more than the physical size. Since it is not going to fit into my pocket, size isn’t really an issue.

    I voted for 11.6, because a < 3lb laptop with 1920×1200 resolution at that size would be ideal. It would also be ideal at $500. Yeah keep dreaming, right?

    • adisor19
    • 9 years ago

    Full size keyboard = 13″ of comfortable. Drop the DVD drive, make it thin, light and sturdy and i’m in.

    12″ is doable too if the keyboard doesn’t suffer too much.

    Adi

    • KarateBob
    • 9 years ago

    11.6-12″ Is my dream size, but there are not enough choices…yet.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 9 years ago

    13″ is a good size for actually putting on your lap and carrying around, but there is just no way in hell I could squint at that for 8+ hours a day, so I’m stuck in the “bulky” 15-16″ range for eternity.

    Any bigger than 15″ and I’d have to wonder why you wouldn’t just use a separate monitor, though. Those 18.4″ laptops are funny. There goes your portability, and your battery, and here comes your low quality laptop panel. Hooray worst of all worlds!

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 9 years ago

      Well, I beg to differ.

      Having a laptop with a big screen (17″) is nice for moving from one desk to another. And great for software development presentations to clients. The main thing I like about this is that I can play side-by-side with others when gaming.

      For lunging around and doing the basics, then yea, a netbook is the way to go.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 9 years ago

        There are legitimate uses here and there for 17″ but that’s really pushing it as it is. My point was that there are laptops which are larger and it’s almost comical.

        I don’t think a netbook is the way to go for much of anything lol. There are plenty of very capable 11-13″ laptops that get better battery life than lots of netbooks do.

        It won’t be long before quad-core CPUs can move down into that range. Larger screens may have made sense for “desktop replacements,” but that sort of hardware doesn’t require a high power, large laptop anymore. With wireless video soon to be standard, that will be perfect even for people who need to move from place to place.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 9 years ago

      My 17″ Apple PB-G4 fits into the same bags as the 15″ Thinkpads I’ve used. Its wider, but quite thin, and has the same depth (or less, compared to a Thinkpad with the extended battery). While most large cheap sloppy laptops annoy me, I think the form factor Apple uses at 17″ is brilliant.

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    I voted 12″ since I’m assuming I’d only use it on the go or for surfing from the couch and I’d use my desktop for “real computing”.

    I cannot see the point of any resolution less than 1280×800 and even that does not deliver satisfactory web browsing.

    It’s resolution that would guide my laptop selection, more so than size.

    At the end of the day I’d get the smallest laptop that would give me 1440×900. I’m guessing that can be had in the 12 inch form factor.

      • mattthemuppet
      • 9 years ago

      you’d assume that you’d use your desktop, but when I got my 13in timeline I stopped using the desktop almost completely (caveat – I don’t have time to game). I never have to worry about battery life, it’s light enough that it’s reasonably comfortable on my lap and my couch is waaay more comfortable than any desk chair 🙂

      I wish I had a second monitor at work for DNA stuff or having 2 manuscripts lined up side by side, but that’s about the only short coming I can think of. I even find a mouse restrictive now, after using a multi touch pad.

        • aatu
        • 9 years ago

        Then you must have a lousy computer chair and desktop computer (small monitor?), or some really-über-comfy couch. And/or you’re too decent to lift your feet on the table to rest.

        PS. My advice for buying computer chairs: don’t buy one with wheels or one that revolves. My chair doesn’t have any moving parts, and I’m loving it. It’s quite ugly though…

    • smackrabbit
    • 9 years ago

    I want the 13″, 1600×900 display on my wife’s Sony Vaio Z laptop. That display is just gorgeous compared to any other laptop I’ve used for a long period of time, and with font scaling in Windows 7, not hard to read at all. I’d almost consider the 1920×1080 13″ screen they offer for it now since the scaling works so well.

    • willyolio
    • 9 years ago

    i seem to be going progressively smaller. my first laptop was a 15.4″, i’m on a 13.3″ and i’m looking at around 12″ for my next one. although another 13.3″, but thinner and lighter, would also work.

    • Bauxite
    • 9 years ago

    Theres two kinds of laptops, ones used all over the place on the go, and the other end of the spectrum which is basically a “super mobile desktop” that never sits in a *[

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 9 years ago

      If they were mutually exclusive, that would imply that people buy one of each.

      They don’t.

        • aatu
        • 9 years ago

        What he’s trying to say is:
        If I’m buying a desktop replacement (as in “not really mobile”), I’d buy a 17″ laptop (or maybe even 20″).
        If I’m buying something to supplement the current desktop, I’d go with something in the 8-12″ range.

        So he’s wondering which one they are polling for. By mutually exclusive he means that once the target usage (replacement/supplement) is chosen, the other range is pretty much out of the game.

        But this is when money is not of concern or you spend relatively more time on computer(s) than average people. Normal/most people will buy the cheap 15 incher as an all-arounder. Not especially good for either usage, but will somehow manage on both.

        PS. I myself have a desktop (with 22″ CRT) and a 12″ laptop. And I think I’d like to change the laptop to some 5-7″ device.

        • Bauxite
        • 9 years ago

        They do if you count a desktop, which follow with quite a few <13″ laptop users. The “mobile desktop” users rarely have a desktop as well for themselves.

    • bthylafh
    • 9 years ago

    I’m really happy with the 11.6″ screen on my Acer 1410.

    It’s just a secondary computer, so I don’t need or want a bigger screen.

    • Captain Ned
    • 9 years ago

    My work life is spent behind a laptop, so I want the largest screen available.

      • SuperSpy
      • 9 years ago

      l[

        • StuG
        • 9 years ago

        You both need to buy quality monitors then ><

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