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Whether you’re a gamer looking for the ultimate visual experience or you don’t know your LCDs from IPS or OLED panels, this article is for you.
Different laptop screen types provide different benefits. Before buying a laptop, you should know which display best suits your needs.
We’ll explore different laptop display technologies, sizes, aspect ratios, and even touchscreens. By the end of it, you’ll know exactly what kind of screen suits you best.
Choosing the right display panel ultimately boils down to your needs.
Table of Contents
- Types of Laptop Screen Panels
- Laptop Screen Size, Resolution, and Aspect Ratio
- Brightness and Refresh Rate
- Color Gamut and Color Accuracy
- Display Finish
- Touch & Stylus Input
Types of Laptop Screen Panels
The most important screen types are determined by the technology behind them. Read on to see all the types available in the market today.
Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) Screens
A liquid crystal display (LCD) is a flat panel that uses liquid crystals and two electrodes to produce the image on the screen.
- Slim and lightweight
- High resolution
- Sharp and precise
- Reduced eye strain
- No geometric distortions
- Can get expensive
- Limited viewing angle
Light Emitting Diode (LED) Screens
Light-emitting diode (LED) screen is also a flat panel that uses diodes to light up the screen. Compared to LCDs, they have longer lifespans, better resolution, and image quality, and are generally more energy-efficient.
- High contrast
- Good brightness levels
- Longer lifespan
- Better dimming control
- Lower response times
- Thin and lightweight
- No heat
- Limited color accuracy
- Limited viewing angles
- Potential ghosting in gaming
Twisted Nematic (TN) Screens
Twisted nematic (TN) panels are a sub-type of LCD screens. Liquid crystals are placed between two polarizing diodes, which, upon twisting of the crystals, move perpendicular one to another allowing light to pass between and create an image. TN panels are nowadays practically obsolete.
- More affordable than other types
- Low power consumption
- High refresh rates
- Fast response times
- No burn-in
- Poor color accuracy
- Worst viewing angles
- Not suitable for image and video work
- Quality varies a lot
In-Plane Switching (IPS) Screens
In-plane switching (IPS) panels were introduced in 1996 to address the drawbacks of TN panels. Liquid crystals in IPS displays are parallel to each other, which allows for greater color accuracy and better viewing angles. Most mainstream laptops today have IPS panels.
- Wide viewing angles
- Better color contrast
- Longer lifespan
- More applications
- Increased power consumption
- More expensive than TN
- Slower response times
OLED and AMOLED
OLED display (Organic Light Emitting Diode) and AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode) use organic compounds to produce light. OLED display type has a single layer of organic compounds that gives off light, while AMOLED screens have an additional layer of TFT compounds on top of OLED.
- Better color reproduction
- Wider viewing angles
- Thin and lightweight
- Low power consumption
- High brightness and resolution
- Great blacks
- Awesome contrast
- No ghosting
- More expensive
- Limited lifespan
- Limited availability
- Prone to burn-in
Laptop Screen Size, Resolution, and Aspect Ratio
Bigger screens offer more workspace and less horizontal scrolling.
Probably the second biggest consideration, after the panel type, is the laptop screen size. There is no one right laptop screen size. Generally speaking, smaller screens are more portable, while bigger screens offer more workspace and less horizontal scrolling. Besides the size, you should also consider the aspect ratio and resolution of the display for your laptop.
Laptops come in the following display sizes:
- 10.1 inches (25.65 cm ): Smallest size available, usually with 2-in-1 tablet/laptop hybrids, extremely portable.
- 11.6 inches (29.46 cm) and 12.5 inches (31.75 cm): Great for people who travel a lot and need a very portable companion.
- 13.3 inches (33.78 cm) and 14 inches (35.56 cm): Good choices for people who need a balance between portability, screen real estate, and energy consumption.
- 15.3 or 15.6 inches (39.62 cm): This is one of the most popular sizes for anyone who needs lots of screen space and doesn’t mind sacrificing some portability. It’s a great choice for work and gaming.
- 16 inches (40.64 cm ): 16″ laptops have become more popular in recent years, especially among gamers and professionals working with image-based projects, like photo and video editors or CAD professionals.
- 17.3 inches (43.94 cm): This is the size you’d choose for a desktop replacement laptop and if you want lots of space, but don’t care about portability.
- 18 inches (45.72 cm): Only a handful of laptops come with an 18″ diagonal, which is awesome for gaming.
Higher resolution may look better, but it isn’t always absolutely necessary. Let’s look at the types and what they’re good for.
- HD (High Definition): commonly found on budget laptops, this display resolution will drive the price down, but so will the image quality. Typically refers to 1280×720 pixels (720p) or 1920×1080 pixels (1080p).
- FHD (Full High Definition): found on mainstream laptops, this screen resolution (1920×1080 pixels) is usually quite enough for most users.
- Retina (Apple only): this resolution is found on Apple laptops and gives a sharper picture than FHD while preserving battery life.
- WUXGA (Wide Ultra Extended Graphics Array): a display resolution of 1920×1200 pixels, providing a widescreen aspect ratio.
- QHD (3K): Quad HD, several manufacturers opt for this resolution of 2560×1440 pixels, which is great for budget-ish photo editing.
- UHD (4K): Ultra High Definition or 4K resolution is much sharper than FHD and works great for photo and video editors, but will also dry up the battery quickly.
- 8K: Only a handful of laptops have this resolution, and it is meant for top-level professionals.
The aspect ratio shows the proportion between the width and height of the screen. There are a couple available.
- 16:9: Once the mainstream ratio, this aspect ratio is slowly but surely becoming obsolete and, for the most part, is still used with budget laptops.
- 16:10: The 16:10 ratio is the new mainstream and provides more vertical space than 16:9. It is usually found in thin laptops.
- 3:2: This ratio is found only on Microsoft Surface laptops and it’s great for artists and people who want to use touchscreen capabilities.
Brightness and Refresh Rate
Gaming laptops typically have a refresh rate of 144Hz or 165Hz
A screen brightness is expressed in nits, and it can range from 200-ish to over 1000 nits. A midrange or a high-end laptop would have around 400-600 nits which is an excellent brightness level. Budget laptops usually have 200-300 nits which is enough for work indoors.
Most productivity laptops have a refresh rate of 60Hz. Gaming laptops have more, typically 144Hz or 165Hz, but can go up to 360Hz if you’re into eSports. However, if you’re not into competitive gaming, I think that 120Hz can also be good enough.
G-Sync is an engine developed by NVIDIA for gaming laptops that connects to the refresh rate so as to avoid screen tearing.
Color Gamut and Color Accuracy
Graphic designers, photo and video editors, and CAD professionals should also pay attention to color gamut and color accuracy.
- sRGB: Standard color gamut used in most laptop displays.
- Adobe RGB: This color gamut is larger than sRGB and includes a broader range of saturated hues. Typically used for high-quality photography and printing.
- DCI-P3: Developed by the cinema industry to replace sRGB, DCI-P3 has 10-bit color depth as opposed to sRGB’s 8-bit, which means it can show more vibrant hues.
Generally speaking, if you’re working with images, you want the percentages for these three to be as high as possible.
Display finish is also important for the aesthetics, durability, and performance
Display finish is also important for the aesthetics, durability, and performance of a laptop. There are three main types:
- Glossy: Shiny finish, great for watching movies, and crispy visuals, but it can reflect sunlight.
- Matte: Non-reflective finish, practical for office work and productivity, but with less saturated colors.
- Anti-glare: Similar to a matte finish, but with a glossy layer that makes them more saturated. Anti-glare finish reduces glare and reflections and can be used outdoors.
Touch & Stylus Input
Multitouch technology is typically more expensive
If you want to use your laptop in tablet mode, or just prefer touchscreens, you should know what kind of touchscreens are out there.
- Capacitive: Most widely used in tech. Can be activated with any object, but it’s also less accurate.
- Resistive: Highly accurate and responsive, but not as durable. Only responds to the touch of a finger or a special glove.
- Infrared: Highly durable and ideal for outdoor displays, but not as accurate.
- Multi-touch: Multitouch technology can be combined with other types for more accuracy and durability, but is typically more expensive too.
With so many laptop display types, there is no one best laptop screen. Choosing the right display panel ultimately boils down to your needs.
If you’re looking for a laptop with great display quality, check out some of the best 4K editing laptops.
But if you’re still unsure, before you get a laptop, make sure to read a comprehensive laptop buying guide. A good laptop is so much more than a higher refresh rate or excellent backlight. While you are learning about peripherals, you might also want to know more about the different types of laptop keyboards.