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Where Are The High Resolution Displays?


we have 3 days of articles about why you think clear type is better

We have 3 days of articles because I think it’s an interesting topic that touches on multiple aspects of software and hardware engineering. I said up front that neither approach is “right”. I think it’s important that people have enough knowledge to know why they are seeing what they are seeing rather than just accepting it as fact.

Also, here are a few other citations on the vast difference in resolution between print and screen:


It’s something that Edward Tufte talks about quite a bit.


Its a bit unfair to say screens have improved by a factor of 1.6 over the past 20 years.
if you measure the number of pixels in each screen:
1984 Original Macintosh 512 x 342 NPix=175104
1984 IBM PC AT 640 x 350 NPIX=224000
1994 Apple Multiple Scan 17 1024 x 768 NPix=786432
2004 Apple Cinema HD display 2560 x 1600 NPix=4096000

You see that the number of pixels have improved by a factor of over 23 in the same time.
number of pixels determines how much information you can really put on the screen, not DPI. also, high DPI gets less and less useful the higher it gets, because of out eyes limitations.


The Sony UX180P through UX390 have 4.5" diagonal screens with 1024x600 pixels. Doing the math, this is:

sqrt((1 024^2) + (600^2)) / 4.5 = 264 dpi (color)

Applying Clear Type or other subpixel technology leverages 791 sppi.

(Note: the otherwise impressive OQO O2 has only 800x480.)


Terretta got there before me! Yes, the Sony’s advertise up to 285dpi (ppi?) on the recent models. They have an enlarge function to dynamically enlarge and scroll through the now larger than screen page. At the multimedia shows in Tokyo you often see mobile phones with similarly high-res displays, albeit small. The problem of quality production is clearly being solved, but making larger versions is hard. I’m looking forward to Sony and other Japanese makers coming out with 10" in the near future. Time to buy a real portable laptop then!


I use a Dell 17" that’s 1900x1200 which I think is 130 dpi or more. I love it… but then, like so many other computer users, I’m nearsighted and can easily see tiny text clearly. I use my Dell for software development and find that the 1900x1200 format is PERFECT for development because I find a lot more value in having a wide array of tool palettes surrounding the code than I find in having 200 lines of code visible on screen at once.

I do think that my display approaches the limit of diminishing marginal returns. I wouldn’t want much more information (or much smaller text) on the screen.

I agree with the poster above about distance of eye to display. I had an original Mac, and you sit a lot closer to that little 72 dpi screen than when sitting in front of a 100 dpi 24" monitor. I like to sit back.

For that matter, I have a 60" 1080p DLP TV and a computer connected to it that drives it at full 1900x1200. At that resolution, sitting on the couch 10’ away, the text is about the same “size” as when sitting right in front of my Dell notebook. Now that’s a developer’s workstation.


What is the big deal about DPI? …what about the majority of users that simply set down at a computer to browse the web, type a paper, view an Excel spreadsheet, etc? You know that “average user”. What will they do if this becomes standard?

They’ll enjoy how their eyes no longer feel tired after viewing Excel spreadsheets and browsing the web all day.

Looking at words printed on paper is less hard on the eyes than looking at a screen. Partially, this is because a screen is a big light shining in your eyes, and until we get digital paper we’re stuck with that.

But the other part of the reason is DPI. As Jeff linked to above, consumer printers have been able to print at 1200 DPI and above for years. It’s nicer looking at text like this because you can’t see the dots. Your eye doesn’t try and focus on the tiny little details that make up the image, because it can’t. They’re too small.

When computer screens get better resolution, they’ll be more like paper: our eyes won’t be able to see the dots, so text will get much less tiring to look at.

Every user with eyes will benefit.


Dell Dimension 9200, 20" widescreen at 1680 x 1050 - can’t see a darn thing text-wise and I already have my glasses on. Other than watching movies, the point of high resolution is what? I’m trading this in and going back to pens.


Hello, I just stumbled on this discussion as I am in the process of buying a new 15.4 laptop and I’m really hesitating between 1920 and 1680, which equates to 147 dpi vs 128 dpi.

Of course if everything was scaling properly (especially the web, as for the OS and most apps like word or excel or editing tools it is now ok) I would go for 1920, but for now I thing I will go to 1680 … , what do you thing ?

Otherwise I fully agree that higher dpi could change – a lot – to the way computers are perceived and especially for the web.

After all for text, quality printing on paper goes up to 3200 dpi no ?


For example, the Hitachi TX36D58VC1CAA laptop panel is 14" and 1600x1200, about $450. If you search ebay.com for vga lvds you will find controller for about $50. Do you want to pay $500 for a 14" monitor?


My understanding of some of this discussion is that it is mostly about having very high resolution screens and then scaling the dpi to make it readable. I find the results completely unacceptable, as it only changes the font size in some places, and leaves a mixed result that’s hard to read, as well as page design that’s all out of whack. At least on XP. Maybe it works better on Vista. Do you expect to be able to read a 14" screen with 1680 or 1920 resolution? I doubt you’ll be able to see anything.


Alain75, in response to yours, my conclusion is that it’s best to sit in front of whatever you’re thinking of buying so you can see for yourself.

I made some calculations showing comparable sizes, (see my website, the last two articles are about my recent experience with monitors) although that doesn’t cover everything. A 20" wide monitor I purchased at 1680 x 1050 res might be OK (although smaller for reading than I would like) except the text is so faint I can’t see it at all without straining. The text seems to be medium grey instead of black so it tends to disappear into the white background. Some-one suggested this had to do with different technologies used in manufacturing monitors. Some-one else said not.

I didn’t know 15" laptops came with 1680 and 1920 resolution. It sounds very high to me. Have you seen that in person?


Cool article dude, too many comments though, I’ll try to read them all!
I’ve loved it especially as I’m trying to buy a screen with the same pixels density as the screen of my VAIO (17", 1920x1200,133dpi)! this sucks!


The best resolution screen I’ve used is the 254ppi one on a Nokia N90. Strangely, it’s the only phone that uses that 352x416 display. Subsequent Nokias use a 320x240 in the same size.


at 100dpi clear type looks great


on a shopping channel i saw a guy pedalling a projector. he had a standard laptop which i would guess was running at 1280px across - 1900 absolute max - projecting it onto a wall, and claiming ‘you’ve increased your screen resolution 30 times! think how many more windows you can fit into the screen now!’. funny in an infuriating way.


I think that the total display resolution is as important as dpi resolution. The situation gradualy tends to turn ridiculous - compare the digital SLR resolution of 20 Mps.(o reven more) and that of standart computer display of a humble 2 Mps!
Manufacturers seem to be not interested to manufacture to make high resolution displays due to economical reasons. While consumer continues to bye old-fashioned displays there is no use spend money to build new plants and develop new technologies
Though at present there is non expansive technical way to increase the total resolution of existing computer displays by a factor of 10, i.e. dpi resolution by a factor of 3 – e.g. via using ferroelectric LCD alongside with double addressing technique and modulated amplitude illumination.


Not sure if it was mentioned before, but the Thinkpad R50p had a 4:3 QXGA (2048x1536) display running at 171 DPI. I would love to get myself one of those, as the 1920x1200 in my current 15.4 laptop is still kind of limiting. I’d be happy with 2560x1600, likely with a little font bump though (Windows Classic theme is already small enough at 147 dpi, maybe 170 would be OK, 200 would be tiny).


More than a year has passed since this thread was started. Still no higher resolution monitors available.

It’s funny that so few people recognize that it’s insufficient screen resolution why people prefer to read printouts rather than directly from the screen. I suffer if I have to read nonsens like: a 9 point font is too small to read on a 200 dpi display… A 9 point font should be (roughly spoken) 9/72 inch high. So it has the same size on a 3200 dpi printer as on a 72 dpi 1984 Macintosh. Everybody will agree that the 3200 dpi version is better to read than the 72 dpi version. It’s just OSes unable to scale images that hampered the progress.

I have Vista on my 1400x1040 12.1 display at 120 dpi setting, and essentially all programs and web pages work now. So, one obstacle is gone.

Concerning screen size: for reading, I guess 30 - 50 distance is optimum. A column of text should not be wider than about 5 inch, and the font should be something like 7 to 10 points (open a book or a newspaper, if you do not believe that). The resolution should be at least 300 dpi, but 3200 is not too much. There is not much sense in a single document wider than 8. For sure we want to be able to place several documents on the desktop, but if I have 2000 pixels available I’d rather save my eyes by concentrating them on 10 inch and do without documents in parallel.


By the way: progress is even slower than assumed in this article. I had almost forgotten that: as a student, I encountered an (at that time already old) Tek 4014 display (see http://www.science.uva.nl/museum/tek4014.html). 4096x4096 pixels, on ~12x12. Technical drawings looked as clear as on a pen plotter (anybody around who remembers what a plotter is?).

What do we learn from this? Uumph, also the Concorde commenced service in 1976, and since then we are going down, because we spend to much time with computer games.


I can’t think of any other piece of computer hardware that has improved so little since 1984.

The keyboard? :slight_smile:

Indeed. I’m still using an IBM model M keyboard and I wouldn’t have it any other way.