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Laptop Displays and Video Cards. How Many Inches?

Dead Pixel Clarified: <click here> and an updated 2007 article <click here>


Updated: March 25, 2006
* added more information about Video Cards:

Video-Graphic Cards
When you’re playing games or scrolling through photos from your last vacation, you’re probably not thinking about what’s making the images appear on screen. In case you ever did wonder, it’s a video adapter called a graphics accelerator. This graphics processing unit (GPU) flies through raw data and converts it into the images that you see on your notebook’s screen.

CPU's are usually so busy doing basic calculations that they need help translating visual output to the viewing screen. This is the duty of the graphics card (or graphics controller). The graphics card plays an essential role in the PC. It takes the digital information that the computer produces and turns it into something human beings can see. On most computers, the graphics card converts digital information to analog information for display on the monitor; on laptops, the data remains digital because laptop displays are digital.

Much of what you do on a computer today, including using the Internet, editing photos, making presentations, watching movies and gaming, involves intense graphics. The picture quality you experience is largely dependent on your graphics solution and your notebook’s display. Why is graphics memory important? Graphics memory is used by the GPU to accelerate how quickly information is displayed on your notebook screen or external monitor and to improve the overall visual quality of games, movies and other entertainment activities.

If you look at the screen of a typical PC very closely, you can see that all of the different things on the screen are made up of individual dots. These dots are called pixels, and each pixel has a color. On some screens (for example, on the original Macintosh), the pixels could have just two colors -- black or white. On some screens today, a pixel can be one of 256 colors. On many screens, the pixels are full-color (also known as true color) and have 16.8-million possible shades. Since the human eye can only discern about 10-million different colors, 16.8-million colors is more than enough for most people.

The goal of a graphics card is to create a set of signals that display the dots on the computer screen.

A modern graphics card is a circuit board with memory and a dedicated processor. The Video-Processor is designed specifically to handle the intense computational requirements of displaying graphics. Most of these graphics processors have special command sets for graphics manipulation built right into the chip.

Graphics cards are known by many names, such as:
* Video cards
* Video boards
* Video display boards
* Graphics boards
* Graphics adapter cards
* Video adapter cards

Most common question: What games may I play with integrated graphic Cards?

A. Intel 910 Graphic Accelerator? (Sonoma Systems) <click here>
B. Intel 945 Graphic Accelerator? (Core Duo Systems) <click here>
C. Intel 965 Chipset / X3100 Graphic Accelerator? (Crestline Systems) <click here>

HyperMemory or TurboCache graphics solutions are designed to deliver a great balance of price and performance. These solutions consist of a discrete GPU with some discrete graphics memory. The remaining memory allocated to graphics is shared with the system memory. Overall system performance is likely to be significantly better with discrete graphics when running applications that use complex images.

More information about Video Cards below after "Laptop Screen Size"

What Size Screen Do You Need?

Be warned that if you're buying a laptop, Once you commit to a laptop screen, you CAN NOT just go out and replace the display as you can with your desktop. You're stuck with it until you get a new laptop.

One advantage from buying from a Full Time laptop store is that you get to compare different models and different screen sizes to determine which one will suit you best. Experience tell us NOT ALL SCREENS are created equal. Some brand new laptops have displays that are darker than Used Laptops. Some Laptop brands have screens that produce results that have "rugged" edges. Ironically we say - DO NOT TRUST specifications unless different models are compared side-by-side and that is an advantage you get at CoolTOYZ

The most common mistake in deciding on what screen to purchase is thinking that the BIGGER the SCREEN the MORE you will see. NOT TRUE.
Screen size ONLY magnifies (makes Big) the size of the images but you will see the same amount of information on a 12-inch XGA Display and a 15-inch XGA display.

It is actually the display RESOLUTION that determines how much you will see.
A computer's resolution is the number of pixels a computer can display.
Screen real estate is measured in pixels. The more pixels your screen displays, the more stuff you can display onscreen
Resolution is usually expressed as width-by-height dimensions (in that order) for example, 1024x768 means 1,024 pixels wide and 768 pixels high. A higher RESOLUTION means that there are more pixels per inch.
The higher the native resolution of a Display the MORE information can fit on the screen.
RESOLUTION is important as extended resolution is great for viewing long documents, sprawling Web pages, and large spreadsheets because more information can be displayed at one time. Also, the higher the resolution the crisper the image. Reality is some big screen Laptops with low resolution tend to blur the picture then improve them...

Why is Display Resolution important? Resolution is the number of pixels on the display with the horizontal number shown first, followed by the vertical number (1200 x 800). The pixel number increases with higher resolution WXGA+(1440x900), WSXGA+(1680x1050) and WUXGA(1900x1200)[/b] screens. The overall appearance of documents and photos is greatly improved with higher resolution. Fonts, icons and graphic elements appear physically smaller but Higher resolutions allow for greater image detail and more workspace, which is great for DVD viewing, gaming, and multitasking.

note: Pixels

What are common Laptop Display Resolution?

The Most Common is the 4:3 Aspect Ratio

VGA - Video Graphics Array
is a video standard whose resolution varied with the number of colors displayed. Today the term is generally used to describe a 640 x 480 pixel display

Display Resolution is 800 x 600 pixels

XGA - Extended Graphics Array
Resolution is 1,024 x 768 pixels

SXGA - Super Extended Graphics
Resolution is 1280 x 1024 pixels

SXGA+ Super Extended Graphics Plus
Resolution is 1400 x 1050 pixels

UXGA - ULTRA Extended Graphics
Resolution is 1600 x 1200 pixels

Recently more and more Wide Screen (16:9 Aspect Ratio) Laptops are coming out.
Wide Screen Displays makes you see more things on the screen, On a wide screen, you can view at 150% without scrolling, simply because you can fit more words on the screen width. It will not distort the fonts or graphics.

Another great thing about the wide display is that you can open two windows and work side-by-side on the screen, since neither of the windows will be too narrow. Finally Wide Screen displays are gaining popularity because they match up with the aspect ratios of many DVDs

Common Wide Screen resolutions are:

WXGA Wide Extended Graphics Array
Resolution is 1,280 x 800 pixels

WXGA+ Wide Extended Graphics Array Plus
Resolution is 1,440 x 900 pixels

WSXGA Wide Super Extended Graphics
Resolution is 1600 x 1024 pixels

WSXGA+ Wide Super Extended Graphics Plus
Resolution is 1680 x 1050 pixels

WUXGA Wide ULTRA Extended Graphics
Resolution is 1920 x 1200 pixels

The choice you make all depends how you use your laptop.
Based on our own experience:

The 15-inch LCD panels are the same size used in the large majority of LCD monitors for desktop PCs today. The only difference is that a 15-inch desktop LCD panel will be fitted with a glass rather than a plastic covering and boast a bit brighter screen due to the extra power available to it.

If you're looking to purchase a laptop for use as your only machine, you should begin your search with systems that include 14.1-inch displays. The advantage of 14.1 & 15.1 Inch displays in laptops is that they are optimized for 1,024 x 768 (XGA). This extended resolution is great for viewing long documents, sprawling Web pages, and large spreadsheets because more information can be displayed at one time. A disadvantage of 15-16-inch screens is the extra weight they put on your shoulder. Most 15- and 16-inch notebooks tip the scales at close to ten(10) pounds.

If you're shopping for a laptop and feel comfortable with a smaller screen, a 12.1-inch display make your laptop far more portable. That's a lot more than the near-(7)Seven pounds typical for notebooks with 13-and even 14-inch screens. But be warned that the writer of this article is wearing eye glasses for insisting to use a 12"display for 8 hours a day...

If the combination of your preferences or finances put you somewhere between 12.1 and 14.1-inch screens, a 13.3-inch display is for you. Most users can't tell the difference between a 13.3- and a 14.1-inch screen without placing them side by side.

The answer all depends how you use your laptop...
- If all you do is word processing on the road, you can get by with a 12.1-inch screen.
- For games, presentations, spreadsheets, and video, however, you'll really be able to make use of the added display area that a 14-inch screen offers.

If you are looking to design, 3D design & Desktop publishing then a larger 15" Wide screen display is for you. Though the screen is really no taller than a 14", but a Wide Screen feels much larger than that because of the extra space on the sides.

But as always...
Try Before You Buy!


Called by different names by manufacturers:
Acer - CrystalBrite
Dell - TrueLife / UltraSharpTM
Fujitsu - Crystal View (Outside Europe) and SuperFine (Europe)
Gateway - Ultrabright
HP/Compaq - BrightView
Sony - XBRITE technology
Toshiba - TruBriteTM

High-gloss / enhanced brightness screens are a term for bright, high-contrast LCD TFT active matrix laptop LCD screens. These types of LCD screens are manufactured by various LCD screen OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). There is not much documentation as this information is proprietary between the LCD screen manufacturers and the laptop makers. However, despite the lack of publicly available documentation, we have noticed that all enhanced brightness screens have a high luster glossy finish. LCD screens with a high luster glossy finish have a different type of polarizer (the film on top of the glass) than common laptop LCD screens.

Enhanced brightness laptop screens include one or both of the following characteristics:
1) High-gloss polarizer
2) Stronger and/or multiple backlights

This bright screen produces blacker blacks and displays images more vividly at higher contrast, with less reflection. You'll find it perfect for viewing DVDs and 3D games and editing video images.

SONY's XBRITE(TM) displays feature a special multi-layer anti-reflection coating on the screen surface. The coating reduces glare and ambient light reflection, reducing eye fatigue. The coating also gives the display a wider viewing angle than a standard LCD display

Most LCD displays use a single lamp to illuminate the screen. XBRITE(TM) displays feature dual-lamp illumination for more evenly distributed light across the entire screen. This provides a brighter, more consistent display while maintaining a low power consumption profile.

The glare filter curbs light diffusion without dimming brightness, realizing
blacker blacks and more vivid colours. An AR coating minimizes annoying reflection from external light sources, enabling a usable 120degree vertical viewing angle for sharing Video and Gaming Experience.

XBRITE(TM) LCD displays also feature faster video response times than standard displays. For this reason, XBRITE(TM) displays are perfect for watching DVDs. Also, video games, photo slide shows and other graphics-intensive applications are clearer and more lifelike.

In Summary what are the benefits?
* Crisper images
* Brilliant colors
* Sharp contrast
* Wider viewing angles
* Reduced eye fatigue

(For the technical explanation: <click here>)

Our Opinion - a TECHNOLOGY development Worth every centavo.
Imagine Pictures Quality like a WEGA TV...

Source: www.pcguide.com

The GPU determines the size, shape, color, and brightness of the images on your screen. It enables 3D graphics at more than 60 frames per second, making that latest PC games look realistic and fluid. Video RAM or VRAM. As the name implies, this memory is specifically tailored for use in video systems. The fundamental difference between VRAM and standard DRAM is that VRAM is dual-ported. This means that it has two access paths, and can be written to and read from simultaneously.

Dedicated Video Memory have one Goal: to improve the speed with which information can be pumped into and out of the video memory, to keep system performance high as the video system tries to do more and more. The only reason that VRAM hasn't replaced standard DRAM entirely is of course: COST. VRAM is more complex and requires more silicon per bit than standard DRAM, which makes it cost more.

Laptops with NO DEDICATED video memory. If your notebook lists the term "shared memory" in its specifications, the video controller shares system RAM with the CPU, eliminating the requirement for dedicated Video RAM. For notebooks that use shared RAM, the video controller's capability is the limiting factor for the Laptop speed.

There are two drawbacks to SHARED RAM: The video controller accesses shared RAM slower than dedicated Video RAM, and the memory used by the video card reduces total system RAM available to software programs. One solution is to increase the RAM but it will still not increase the speed

So what is good about SHARED RAM? Shared RAM allows manufacturers to cut cost, size, and heat generation. Moreover, with less components Laptops with Shared Video Memory have longer Battery life.

For any task that renders graphics in only two dimensions, from Web browsing to watching DVD movies to photo and video editing, an integrated video adapter will serve you perfectly well and save you money and power consumption. The trade-off is that the graphics chipset shares memory with the rest of the system, which can affect overall performance. Intel’s latest Graphics Media Accelerator 900, found in many mainstream and thin-and-light notebooks, offers great DVD playback and decent performance for a few 3D titles optimized for the chipset, such as Dungeon Siege II. However, if you want serious gaming performance, you’re better off with a discrete graphics card from ATI or Nvidia inside your system, one that has its own dedicated video memory. <click here>

the following additional information was "lifted" from <click here>. We share his opinions although he writes better than us and we decided to "lift" the discussion below from his work.

Integrated Chipsets
Integrated chipsets suffer from the need to share memory with the main system, resulting in slower performance all around. The other downside is that most integrated solutions lack true support for modern 3D extensions such as Pixel Sharder 2, Vertex Shader, and Hardware Transform and Lighting. The upshot is that integrated cards use very little power and produce almost no heat of their own, allowing for longer battery life and more comfortable use.

Dedicated GPUs
There are only two companies currently manufacturing dedicated graphics chipsets: ATi and nVidia. Both companies have their winners (Go6800, x600) and the losers (*cough*entire GFFX line*cough*). These card tend to feature more hardware support for advanced DirectX 9 and OpenGL 1.5 features. Most importantly, dedicated graphics cards get that name from the fact that they use exclusively dedicated Video RAM (VRAM), ensuring smooth and snappy performance. The primary downside is that dedicated video cards use much more power than integrated chipsets, resulting in shorter battery life more heat.

Ranking based on core performance. note: Amount of video RAM can affect the placement of your card.
Intel Extreme -> VIA/S3G Unichrome -> SiS Mirage -> Intel Extreme 2 -> SiS Mirage 2 -> Intel GMA 900/915 -> ATI Mobility RADEON 9000/9100 -> nVidia GeForceFX Go5200 -> MR9200 -> GFFX Go5400 -> MR x200M -> GFFX Go5500-> GFFX Go5600 -> GF Go6200 -> [b]MR x300 -> MR9600 -> GFFX Go5700 -> MR9700 -> MR x600 -> GFFX Go5900 -> MR x700 -> MR9800 -> GF Go6600 -> MR x800 ->GF Go6800 -> MR x800XT -> GF Go6800 Ultra[/b]

Intel Extreme/Extreme 2: Intel's standard integrated chipset for use with pre-Sonoma Pentium-M processors. The official name for these chipsets are the 845GME (Intel Extreme) and the 855GME (Intel Extreme 2). The Extreme is now relegated almost exclusively to ultraportables with ULV processors, which you aren't going to be using for gaming anyways.

Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900: The GMA 900 is the standard integrated graphics chipset of Dell's new Sonoma core Pentium-M. The GMA 900 is a huge leap over previous integrated graphics processors, with full DirectX9/Pixel Sharder 2.0 hardware support and a PCI-Express interface. The GMA 900 also features the same pitfalls of other IGPs, namely a shared memory architecture and lack of hardware support for advanced features such as Vertex Shader 2. Whereas you may be able to eek out playable framerates from less intensive modern games such as UT2004 or even Half-Life 2 on lowest quality settings, don't expect to play DooM3 or Battlefield 2 on these.

VIA/S3G S3G Unichrome Pro/Pro II: The Unichrome is a rare graphics chipset used (thankfully) only in select budget computers by Acer and AVERATEC. The Unicrome is nearly identical to the Intel Extreme chipsets, complete with no DirectX 9 support or hardware support for modern graphics features such as Vertex Shader or T&L.

SiS Mirage/Mirage 2: The Mirage chipsets are again rarely used GPUs seen only in budget notebooks. The differences between the Mirage, the Unichrome, and the Intel Extreme are so miniscule it's hardly worth discussing.

Mobility RADEON 9000/9100 IGP: The 9000 and 9100 IGPs are the bottom end of ATi's modern graphics cards. Not capable of DirectX9/Pixel Shader 2 features, the 9000/9100 are still capable of outperforming most other integrated graphics chips with ease. These are increasingly rare on modern laptops, however.

Mobility RADEON x200M IGP: The x200M is ATi's newest integrated graphics processor. The x200M uses a 32MB dedicated/96MB shared PCI-E memory architecture and true PS2.0 support to provide the illusion of modern, dedicated video performance. This illusion is easily shattered, however, by throwing a few 3DMark tests at the x200M. Ultimately the x200M just isn't capable of handling demanding 3D games like DooM3 or FarCry. It's a fair card for simple 3D gaming, however, especially if you don't mind cranking down the resolution a notch or two.

GeForce 6200 IGP: nVidia's rarely-seen answer to the x200M is a superioir card in almost all repsects. Using the same 32/96 PCI-E memory architecture, the 6200 has improved hardware support for a full range of DirectX9 features, providing better performance in modern games. The 6200 is still stopped in tracks by advanced 3D renedering, but it puts up a decent fight.


NVidia GeForceGO FX Series: ...just about all FX series cards are the same: loud, inefficient, and power-guzzling, but capable of full Pixel Shader 2 support and hardware-accelerated Vertex Shader and T&L. The major complaint against the FX series is that they produce a lot of heat and cause the fans to run continuously to dissapate that heat, earning them a label as "loud" video cards as well. They also don't offer the room for overclocking that most ATi cards do (due to the heat issues), so what you see is closer to what you get.

GeForce Go6600: nVidia's first major PCI-Express dedicated video card, the 6600 is an impressive card, with true PS2.0 and DirectX 9 support, high memory clock speeds, and a powerful core. The 6600 is capable of tearing through most modern games with ease, but consumes a fair amount of power to do so.

GeForce Go6800/Go6800 Ultra: The Go6800 is the second most powerful currently available notebook graphics card; the Go6800 Ultra is the first. The primary difference between the two is core clock speed; in fact, the 6800 (with proper added cooling) can be easily overclocked to Ultra levels. These cards provide premium performance in modern 3D games - paired with even a moderately powerful processor and a decent amount of RAM, the Go6800 can handle even the most demanding games such as DooM3, HL2, and Battlefield 2 on maximum settings. The primary drawback of the GF Go6800 is the huge power requirement, resulting in very poor battery life.

Mobility RADEON 9200: The most simplistic of ATi's MR series, the 9200 nonetheless features limited DX9 support and a powerful graphics core, combined with low power requirements and low heat output. The MR9200 is used primarily in Apple's iBook and some older notebook computers.

Mobility RADEON 9550/9600/9700/9800: The most common of ATi's GPUs, and indeed some of the most popular notebook graphics cards, are those based on the ATi M10-M12 chipsets. These cards offer a good blend of performance and battery life. Even the modest MR9600 can handle modern 3D games with adequate performance; the MR9700 and 9800 provide excellent perfmorance on standard WXGA resolutions in all but the most demanding games. These chips are found in a wide range of notebooks, from the inexpensive eMachines m6000 and Gateway 7400GX series to the Apple Powerbook to the earlier Acer Ferrari and Dell XPS models. These card are gradually being phased out in favor of the newer PCI-E powered xX00 series cards.

Mobility RADEON x300/x600/x700: These are the newer, PCI-E based cores seen in most newer, higher-end machines, such as the Dell Inspiron 6000, ASUS W3V, and Acer Ferrari 4000. These GPUs are generally slightly less powerful than their 9x00 equivalents and rely on the PCI-Express interface to make up the difference. In practice, this theory doesn't work out so well, but the xX00 series cards are quickly replacing the older M10-M12 cores in high-end machines.

Our take: Video memory only mattery when you want to play games. Office users can take the least video card and still be happy...

Summary of Available Video Cards: Updated September 24, 2006
ATI Video Cards: <click here>

Nvidia Video Cards: <click here>

Special Thanks to Atty.Anton for the information.