Notebooks to get wider screens with higher resolution

The difference in screen sizes between notebook computers and desktop PCs will narrow next year as users will get to see more notebook PCs with larger and wider LCDs offering higher resolutions, according to industry executives at the LCD/PDP International 2002 in Yokohama, Japan.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. will be among the first companies to manufacture wide-screen LCDs with screen sizes larger size than 15 inches for notebook PCs, said James Woo, assistant manager of LCD Strategic Marketing Team at Samsung.

Samsung will introduce a 15.4-inch WXGA (1,280 pixel x 800 pixel) TFT (thin film transistor) LCD and a 17-inch WXGA TFT LCD for notebook PCs in January, he said.

Hitachi Ltd. will follow soon afterwards with a 15.4-inch WXGA TFT LCD set to ship during the first quarter, said Masanori Kataoka, engineer at the company's subsidiary Hitachi Device Engineering Ltd.

"Wide screen in 15.4 inches will become the mainstream for notebook PCs," Woo said.

One of the factors driving this shift to wide-screen LCDs is the popularity of DVD-ROM drives, which allow users to watch DVD movies on their notebooks, and the ability to keep multiple windows, such as two Internet browsers, open at one time. Another factor is the increasing use of notebooks as stationary desktop computers, rather than as principally mobile machines.

To help meet growing demand for wider screens, LG. Philips LCD Co. Ltd. is mass producing custom-ordered 17.1-inch WXGA TFT LCDs, with a resolution of 1,440 pixels by 900 pixels for the North American market, said Tae-Kyoung Kwark, deputy general manager of technical sales at LG. Philips.

"Notebook PC LCDs started with a 14.5-inch size. A 15-inch XGA LCD is the mainstream in the current large-size notebook PC market, and now it's shifting to a 16-inch and 17-inch class," said Sharp Corp.'s Toru Imanishi, assistant supervisor at the AVC Liquid Crystal Display Division.

To meet the demand of users who want better quality displays for notebook PCs, Sharp has unveiled two high-end LCD prototypes, a 15-inch UXGA (1,600 pixel x 1,200 pixel) TFT LCD with improved color quality and a 16-inch SXGA (1,280 pixel x 1,024 pixel) TFT LCD with a wider 170-degree viewing angle.

The company hopes that the two prototypes will help realize its concept of an all-in-one PC, which allows users to use the device both as a computer and a television, Imanishi said. However, the adoption of higher resolutions like UXGA may take some time to become popular with users, he said.

Currently, LCDs offering UXGA resolution are mostly found in high-end notebooks designed for specialized applications, such as CAD (computer-aided design) and graphic design, where higher resolutions are required. Adoption of these displays in mainstream laptops is held back by higher display costs and lack of software support.

"UXGA (displays) cost around 30 to 40 dollars more, compared to XGA, so I think it is still only for high-end professionals," Woo said.

However, with LCD prices dropping dramatically, UXGA displays could soon be affordable enough to used in mainstream notebooks and display makers are pushing resolution even higher.

International Display Technology (ID Tech), a joint venture between Taiwan's Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. and IBM-Japan Ltd., has produced a QXGA (2,048 pixel by 1,536 pixel) display which is used in an NEC Corp. Versa Pro notebook. [See "NEC unwraps QXGA notebook", July 1.]

In April, Samsung will join in with the launch of a 15.4-inch WUXGA (1,920 pixel x 1,200 pixel) display. But there are some in the industry who think this push towards higher resolutions will have little impact on mainstream users. "I think consumer notebook resolution will stop at U(XGA). It doesn't need anything higher," Hitachi's Kataoka said.

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Kuriko Miyake

PC World

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