Test Setup

We have covered this information in our desktop LCD reviews, but for those of you unfamiliar with some of the terminology used when discussing displays/LCDs we refer back to our Gateway FPD2485W review. The various specifications have become somewhat meaningless on the desktop, as the difference between higher contrast levels and higher quality isn't immediately apparent, for example. On notebooks, things are further exacerbated by the fact that most of the LCD panels don't list any specifications beyond the size and resolution. In some ways, this is the reverse of what we see on the desktop; we would almost go so far as to say that the manufacturers are aware of the poor quality of their laptop LCDs and they don't want to draw attention to this fact by listing specifications.

We couldn't dig up much information beyond the size and resolution, but we will provide actual measurements of some of the specifications later in this article. Here's a quick overview of the displays on the four laptops we're looking at today, all of which have been previously reviewed here at AnandTech. Hopefully, notebook manufacturers will begin to include more detail in their specifications in the near future.

Laptop LCD Specifications
Panel Size Resolution Panel Vendor Penel Model
ASUS A8Js 14.1" 1440x900 CMC CMO 1416
ASUS G2P 17.0" 1440x900 AU Optronics AUO 4087
Dell XPS M1710 17.0" 1920x1200 Seiko Epson SEC 3155
MSI S271 12.0" 1280x800 Unknown Unknown

Update: One of our readers suggested we try using a utility called Advanced System Information Tool (ASTRA32) to determine which LCD panels were actually being used in our test laptops. While we can't guarantee that the information is 100% accurate, it's at least something some of you will find useful. (Note for example that we were unable to get any details of the MSI S271 panel so far, but we will update the table if we can find updated drivers that will work with ASTRA32.) There is a very good chance that some notebook manufacturers will source LCD panels from more than one location, so for example the Dell XPS M1710 we have for testing may not be (and probably isn't) representative of all such laptops in the area of the LCD panel.

We mentioned in our review of the ASUS G2P that it had one of the best notebook LCDs that we had ever experienced, and our opinion has not changed. The only drawback is its relatively low resolution for a 17" laptop, but we have seen some other laptops advertising "ultra bright" LCDs with 1680x1050 and 1920x1200 resolutions, so those may be comparable to the G2P LCD. We can also say that the 1920x1200 17" laptops that we've encountered to date (the ABS Mayhem Z5 and some brief use of an Alienware notebook) appeared to be very similar to the XPS M1710 display.

Given how rapid desktop LCDs have been improving over the past three or four years, we're actually a bit surprised at the relatively low quality that we find in laptop LCDs. We understand the need to conserve power, particularly when running off of batteries, but the performance of laptops has reached the point now where many people would be more than happy with midrange (or even entry level) processor and graphics performance with a high-quality display, as opposed to extreme performance with a low-quality display. In some ways, the ASUS G2P is a perfect example of this, as its graphics chip is relatively underpowered compared to many of the other similarly priced notebooks. As we mentioned in our review, despite the "Gaming Series" moniker given to the G2P, it serves far better as a moderately powerful laptop with a great display than as something suitable for mobile gaming.

Just like in our desktop LCD reviews, we use a Monaco Optix XR (DTP-94) colorimeter and Monaco Optix XR Pro software for most of our objective measurements. Since the majority of people don't have such hardware/software available, we will also look at the uncalibrated performance of the notebooks.

Index Brightness and Contrast Ratio
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  • Axbattler - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    I am also very interested in this. I know that the Sony screen tend to be a love or hate affair: on one hand they are bright and and clear, but many can't get past the reflection. I'd like to know if there are any monitors that's similar to Sony's minus the refection.
  • figuerc - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    My Thinkpad X60 tablet still comes with an IPS screen and it is the best screen I have ever used period.
  • Pirks - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    yeah, this article is a waste of time considering they have omitted IPS screen notebooks. I saw the title, thought "yess!!" and went to read it, you know I always wanted to see good comparison between IPS and TN notebook displays... and in the first page they write "uh we don't know about any notebook with IPS panel" - WTF?! alright Anand and Co, it was agood job, you barely made it but to make TRYLY high-quality article you really have to include at least one IPS thinkpad. I'll keep waiting for your _proper_ notebook screen comparison article, it's likely you do it first

    after all I haven't seen decent notebook TN panel reviews online before yours, so once you add an IPS notebook - job's done!
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Again Pirks, STFU.
  • Pirks - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    sorry for typos, I pressed post button too quick, should be truly not tryly
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    This is a starting point Pirks, not an end point. I tried to make that clear. All notebooks that we review in the future will include a more in-depth review of the display. As for getting the Lenovo Thinkpad X60 (or something similar if there are other IPS laptops), we're working on it. Unfortunately, previous attempts to contact Lenovo for a review unit have been unsuccessful, so we review what we have.
  • Pirks - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    okay, okay, if this is just the beginning - I'm going to STFU, if only to make DigitalFreak quiet

    waiting for your IPS notebook reviews, and thanks for making this just the beginning - I really like the idea of the article, and IPS panels is the only things that's missing

    I wasn't criticizing the article per se, I only disliked the omission of the IPS panels. sorry for not stating it clearly
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    I knew what you meant, and I was glad to find out that I was wrong and that there were some non-TN panels available in laptops. I'll be curious to see if the IPS models (assuming I can get some sent my way) perform noticeably better. After all, the best of the laptops I've looked at so far still trails behind desktop TN models, most likely due to backlighting and power concerns. It could be that the IPS laptops follow that trend.
  • Pirks - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    hey Jarred, here's another mistake you made in the article: "LED backlighting is one technology that holds a lot of promise, and it has only just begun to show up on desktop LCDs" - now don't you know that Sony has been selling notebooks with LED backlighting for some time already? why have you said that it only appeared on desktop LCD while in fact Sony was making notebooks with LEDs waaay before desktop LCDs with LED appeared?
  • Pirks - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    exactly! this is why I'm waiting for your IPS panel notebooks article veeery impatiently! bring it on! :)

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