Notebook displays- we give up more than we think with widescreen formats

I remember when HDTVs started spreading like wildfire how enamored we were at the widescreen format.  This 16:9 format mimicked what we see in the movie theaters and we were enthralled at having that experience in our homes.  About the time that these TVs were gaining in popularity we saw the 16:9 format begin to appear on our notebook screens.  It started slowly enough then rapidly picked up pace until it seems that most notebooks today come with the wide screens that mimic our TVs.

The adoption of the 16:9 format for notebooks means the screen is shorter in the up/down direction than the older 16:10 format of yesteryear.  This means that notebooks can be shorter overall and this can improve the portability of them.  What PC Magazine has reported in an article is that we may be surprised how much screen real estate we lose with the wide screen format.  While shorter TVs don’t impact their usability the same is not true of notebooks since the screen gets shorter when the wide screen format is used and that’s the main direction we use for document and web work.  They took a ruler to notebook screens to determine how much we are losing in that screen direction and they were surprised how much.

What is interesting is their discussion with screen makers who are totally switching to the 16:9 format next year.  They don’t anticipate making very many of the older, taller screens.  Are they doing it because this is better for the end users?  Of course not, shorter screens are cheaper to make and that’s where we’re going with this.  Shorter screens also use less power which is good for battery life but since most applications are written for top-down data consumption are we losing too much?