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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  • Myrandex - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    I am not all that opposed to lower resolution screens when it comes to a laptop. Laptop video chipsets are often times slow enough as it is, and when my 7200 G0 64MB (256MB TC) is attempted to be used for gaming, 1280x800 gives a much better experience then some 1980x1600 breatly resolution. Reply
  • MrPickins - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    4 screens, and not a single one a 15" model? How does that constitute a "roundup"?
    This article needs far more models tested to be worthwhile.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    It's a roundup of what we have right now. I have some 15" laptops coming for review, and if this wasn't made clear we will be performing these same tests on all future laptop reviews. This was just a way to jump start things before the laptops we currently have are sent back. Reply
  • MrPickins - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Don't get me wrong, I like the article's intent, and the tests run. I just feel it would have been better to wait and give a large comparison all at one time, rather than piecemeal. Reply
  • EarthsDM - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Great article. If you guys wouldn't mind, could you do these tests to the MacBook and MacBook Pro? In light of this new lawsuit (see below) I'd like to know how good my MacBook Pro's display is, i.e. 6-bit or 8-bit. Thanks!

    http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2007/05/...">http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.a...it-over-...
    http://www.appledefects.com/?p=282">http://www.appledefects.com/?p=282
    Reply
  • heulenwolf - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Great job on the article. I had no idea the G2P's display was so demonstrably superior to the competition. I'd be interested to see these tests performed with two more variables:
    1) How do screen options within a single laptop model score? For example, if you get a Dell Inspiron with the default screen vs the upsell for the "Ultrasharp" model. Such a comparison could also give you two systems that are alike in every other way so you could discern the impact of the "better" screen on battery life
    2) I always hear about how Macs are better for multimedia applications. Does the colorimeter and software work with Macs, as well? If so, I'd be interested to see whether their color accuracy is truly better than those of competing laptops.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    I'd assume you could test the colorimeter on a Mac running Windows, shouldn't affect the screen quality. Reply
  • bldckstark - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    Apparently recent testing on the Mac's have shown that the display performs better under Windows than OSx. This is one of the reasons they are being sued right now for claiming better visual representation than "regular" notebooks, when they appear to be the same as all the rest.

    I don't know anyone who has a Macbook, Pro or not so I have not seen this.

    I have been on the edge of buying a Macbook for some time, but when push came to shove, I bought a Lenovo. It is hard to find someone (now I am sure millions will reply since I said this) that thinks the other manufacturers are even in the same league as IBM was. So far Lenovo has been doing a good job of keeping the Thinkpad up to snuff, so I couldn't reasonably spend my money on something I had never seen before and had no consistency in manufacturing from one model to the other. Besides, there is that keyboard 8^)
    Reply
  • jelifah - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    This article was TREMENDOUSLY helpful. As most laptops are bought online it is impossible to be able to determine what an LCD looks like, short of going to a company's kiosk.

    Please continue to do reviews like this.
    Reply
  • mostlyprudent - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Agreed. It's about time someone included one of the most important part of a laptop in the review process. I also appreciated the comparison to desktop LCDs. I have been sticking with my CRT, in part, because of the stark difference in viewing quality between my laptop and desktop PCs. Reply

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