Looking for a notebook computer with very small pixels. How to search?
July 29, 2010 4:18 PM   Subscribe

I want a laptop / notebook computer with very small pixels. How do I better articulate this, and more to the point, search for it?

My overwhelming preference in a notebook computer display, more than screen size or sheer resolution, is having teeny tiny pixels. I just find it nicer for viewing all kinds of text and pictures.

What is this called, and how do I search for it? I was pretty sure that dot pitch or pixel pitch was the right concept, but this only seems to be a search category or recited statistic (at NewEgg, PriceGrabber, etc) for monitors, not laptops.

I originally bought a Dell Inspiron 8200 with a 1600x1200 display way back before HD screens were cool; I dearly love the screen, though the CPU and memory (and lack of wireless) led me to replace it. I got fortunate by finding a Lenovo with an (apparently very rare) 1440x1000 screen. I never checked out what the dot pitch was on either of these, but they both seemed fine. By contrast, most of the screens I go physically look at in stores seem to have pebbles for pixels - they're way too big.

So, is it a tiny dot pitch that I'm looking for? If so, how tiny (realistically) can I find in a laptop, and more to the point, how do I search for it?
posted by rkent to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Heard of Google?

Certainly! I have tried many combinations of laptop, notebook, display, screen, "pixel pitch" and "dot pitch" and have had no luck finding a good listing or categorization of computers according to this stat.

I am aware that I could probably Google up the pixel pitch of any particular laptop, if it met my other needs, but it would be preferable to browse by pixel pitch if such a thing exists, since that's what I care about most.
posted by rkent at 4:23 PM on July 29, 2010

I think your best bet is to settle on a given screen size and just go by resolution. 1920x1200 or 1920x1080 isn't rare on screens around 15".

Note that most laptops you see in physical stores have really low resolutions because they're skimping on the display to keep the cost down.
posted by zsazsa at 4:29 PM on July 29, 2010

They don't usually list this as a spec number but it's easy enough to calculate given the size of the LCD and the resolution. Given that there are a finite # of screen resolutions out there I'd suggest to look for 13" or 14" screens with high resolution numbers. 17" screens usually don't have much higher resolution.
posted by GuyZero at 4:30 PM on July 29, 2010

I spent some time researching this a number of months ago (probably anywhere from 6 months to a year ago) for someone with similar desires who, despite my initial searching, insisted there was something smaller than what I was finding.

At the time, the smallest/densest pixels we could find was in a Sony Z690 -- 1600x900 in 13.1".

This page has a breakdown but appears terribly out of date -- http://www.prismo.ch/comparisons/notebook.php -- not least because it doesn't contain the sony we ended up ordering. There was another one just like it that ended up giving me the lead I needed to the Sony line but I can't find it at the moment. It had a list of all of the screen options from the lcd manufacturers along with a list of the laptop vendors that used each one. That might, if you can find it, give you some more recent options for the same or better.
posted by devbrain at 4:32 PM on July 29, 2010

Dot pitch or DPI (dots per inch) is what you're looking for, yes, but it is rarely given for laptop screens in the official specifications. All you need to do, though, is look at the size of the screen (13", 17", etc.) and the resolution. Some math will get you the exact DPI for any given screen, but the easy way to go is to look at what the most common resolution is for a given screen size. For example, 13-15" screens are often 1366x768. That will be your "pebble" size. Aim higher for smaller pixels. The Sony Vaio Z series, for example, has much higher resolution screens available in a 13" size.
posted by whatnotever at 4:32 PM on July 29, 2010


You can't really search for it as some manufacturers offer optional hi-res screens nor do they advertise the exact values, just resolutions. You will find higher res screens on business oriented notebooks.

Probably the best way to search would be to find the exact resolution you want and google that and the desired screen size.
posted by wongcorgi at 4:44 PM on July 29, 2010

17" screens usually don't have much higher resolution.

Many manufacturers offer 1920x1200 on 17" models.

The highest DPI I've seen recently is the Sony Z series which has a 13.1" screen @ 1920x1080. There is also the Sony P series (netbook?) w/ 8" @ 1600x768.
posted by wongcorgi at 4:49 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's a chart that shows you DPI as a function of diagonal size and resolution. Here's another list that has some makes and models.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:54 PM on July 29, 2010

Here's how to work out the DPI for any given screen size.

You need to know three things: diagonal measurement in inches (which is how screen sizes are generally specified), screen width in pixels, and screen height in pixels.

Assuming the pixels are square, which is close enough to true for every modern display I'm aware of, all you need to do is use Pythagorus's right-triangle formula to work out the length of the diagonal in pixels, then divide the result by its length in inches. Here are some worked examples to give you some basis for comparisons.

My Inspiron 8200 also has a 15" screen at 1600x1200:

The diagonal length, in pixels, is the square root of (16002 + 12002) = 2000 pixels.

2000 pixels / 15 inches = 133 pixels per inch.

The Sony Z series that wongcorgi mentioned:

Diagonal length, in pixels: square root of (19202 + 10802) = 2203 pixels.

2203 pixels / 13.1 inches = 168 pixels per inch.

Apple's iPhone 4, 3.5" at 960x640:

Diagonal length, in pixels: square root of (9602 + 6402) = 1154 pixels.

1154 pixels / 3.5 inches = 330 pixels per inch (actual Apple spec is 326).

Standard 17" LCD monitor at 1280x1024:

Diagonal length, in pixels: square root of (12802 + 10242) = 1639 pixels.

1639 pixels / 17 inches = 96 pixels per inch.
posted by flabdablet at 9:08 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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