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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  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    The first page mentions that you don't know of any laptops which use an LCD that isn't a TN panel. The Flexview Thinkpads use IPS panels, and they are nice. Any chance of getting one of those in the comparison? Reply
  • n7 - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    And Macbook Pros use IPS.

    Sadly, i'd say 99% of notebooks have garbage for displays.

    Only good thing to come from notebook displays is glossy finishes, as now that's finally spreading nicely into the desktop segment.
    Reply
  • bldckstark - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    Apple is currently being sued for poor display quality. Word is they are using TN panels in both Pro and regular versions. I guess we will find out more soon, since this is another high profile (if unwarranted) case against Apple. Reply
  • n7 - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    They aren't using TNs in the Macbook Pros, at least not all the ones i've seen.

    In the regular Macbooks, yes, they use TNs, like everyone else.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    Personally I hate glossy finishes, thankfully neither my laptop or desktop have one.

    I thought I had read somewhere that some Macbooks used IPS as well. They are certainly popular amongst traveling photographers.
    Reply
  • drwho9437 - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    While Flexview is IPS, it is not offered at the moment (CTO though perhaps in prebuilt T60 models still).

    It is unknown if Lenovo will bring it back, but it was one of the few panels out there that had good color by most accounts. There were objective measurements done at the Thinkpads.com forum once upon a time...

    I myself didn't get flexview due to the size and cost. I'm quite happy with my T60, but i a 14" wide or standard IPS display is marketed in a Lenovo package, I will certainly be tempted. I don't think I can go back to 'regular' laptops after using my Thinkpad.
    Reply
  • Pirks - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    ditto here, I saw IPS screen on a Thinkpad and it was gorgeous compared to other shitty apple and dell notebooks I saw. so I was seriously surprised to find out that Anand guys don't know about it. guys, your credibility has plummeted down in my eyes. to not know anything about IPS displays in Thinkpads - what kind of techies are you anyway? sheesh... overclocking, overclocking... blah blah... while not knowing about such an OBVIOUS thing as IPS based Thinkpad... sigh :-( Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Dude, STFU. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Not everyone knows everything about every computer part. I'm glad someone makes a laptop with a non-TN panel, and I have updated the article text. As it said, we were "as yet unaware" of such laptops, and we are now aware. Hopefully Lenovo will be good enough to get us a unit for testing. The point stands that only one manufacturer so far (I think?) makes such a laptop, no one makes a major point about advertising the laptop panel specs or type, and as far as I can tell it's only in the 12.1" X series. We definitely need more such notebooks. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, May 23, 2007 - link

    Suppose it might now be available on the X series (I haven't kept up with laptop specs much recently). Previously Flexview was only available in 15" 4:3 ratio panels in SXGA and UXGA resolution, on some T and R series models. Whoever was making the panels might have folded up shop though if a few Thinkpads were the only laptops using that panel. Reply

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