Screen Resolution: Why it matters.

"So, why should I spend $900-$1200 on a laptop, when I can just buy this <points to ad> laptop at <insert big box store here> for $250?" is a common question I get, when I suggest a laptop for someone.
Screen resolution, is one of the most important things I look for when choosing a laptop (or any computer monitor) for a client. 

There are other factors I consider, some of the other important factors I consider are:

  • Support Quality (if I need to file a warranty claim, how much of a headache will it be, will I need to send the whole laptop, or will they just send me a part I need)
  • Ergonomics (is the keyboard easy to type on?)
  • Durability (if I drop this, will it break? will they keyboard just start falling apart after a few months? if someone trips over the power cord, will the laptop break?)
  • Battery Life (Power efficiency, battery size)
  • Extendability (Is the laptop compatible with a docking station?  Does the laptop have an optical drive?  Do you need an optical drive?, HDMI out? DisplayPort out? VGA out? FireWire? SD Card Reader?)
  • Security (Hardware Encrypted Hard Drive?,  Biometrics?, TPM?, SmartCard?)
  • Management Features (vPro?  Asset Tags?)
  • Connectivity Options (WiFi, Mobile Broadband, Cellular GSM/CDMA, etc., WiMax, Bluetooth, IrDA, RJ45 Connector?

But thats another article for another time.

Screen Resolution is the number of "pixels" your computer monitor will display.  Pixels are the tiny dots that make up your screen.  It's very important, and high resolution screens will greatly increase your productivity.

The higher the screen resolution, the larger your computer work area becomes.  It's a huge productivity increase.  It's like having a nice large desk instead of one of those tiny little student desk-chairs with the one square foot writing surface.

Here's an example:

It may not be clear from this small photo, but this is a screenshot from a 1920x1080 (aka "1080p") laptop screen.  I opened a random word document (random court filing, found on google) The screen resolution is high enough to display 3 pages of a word document at the same time.  The resolution is high enough to clearly read all 3 pages of document.

Here's what it looks like with a 1280×720 (aka "720p") laptop screen:

Looks the same from here right?  not really

This is how clear the text would look on a 1080p display:

This is how the text would look on a 720p display trying to display all 3 pages:

It's almost unreadable, if the font had been any smaller, it would have been completely unreadable.

Here's another example, here is a screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet on a 1080p display: (I made this up with some random data)

It may be hard to tell from here, but the text is clearly readable, and even the totals on the right and bottom of the screen are visible.

What happens if I open the same Excel spreadsheet on a 720p display:

From here, the text may look clearer, but it's not, it's just bigger. But look, the totals are no longer visible, they are cut off on the side and bottom.

Bottom line:
Don't cheap out on computer monitors/laptop screens.  Screen resolution has been linked to employee productivity, and multi-monitor setups are even more beneficial.  However, if you are going to do a multi-monitor setup, I highly suggest buying 2-3 of the SAME EXACT monitor.  I'll be writing another article about multi-monitor setups soon.  Don't buy a "bigger screen", buy a higher resolution screen.

As of writing this, 1080p seems to be the "sweet spot" for computer monitors.  It currently delivers the most pixels per dollar, in a desktop environment, you might be better off to buy multiple 1080p monitors, than one super high resolution LCD

Other Reading:

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