If you’re in the market for a laptop, one of the things you should consider is the type of screen it utilizes. Not all screens are made equally, and a poor quality screen can be a deal-breaker. After all, you will be staring at it for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, making sense of all the acronyms, ratings and seemingly meaningless numbers can be confusing. Don’t know the difference between an IPS and TN display? Confused by how many “nits” your screen should be? You’ve come to the right place. Here are the things you should take note of when choosing your laptop screen.
The first thing you’ll want to consider when it comes to a laptop screen is how big you want to go. Laptop screens are measured diagonally from corner to corner. They range in size; however, most fall in the 13- to 15-inch category, but you can find laptops that are smaller (11- to 12-inches). Conversely, you can find laptops with significantly bigger screens. The most common is 17 inches; however, there are some that are even larger.
Generally, 13- to 15-inch screens are the most common. The weight of the laptop does increase with the screen size, so if you use your laptop mostly on the go, you’ll probably want to stick to a 13-inch model. If your laptop primarily lives at home, then you’ll probably want to opt for a 15-inch screen, as the extra real estate will make working on it easier on the eyes.
All laptop screens are made of pixels. Pixels are essentially tiny individual dots that show different elements of your laptop’s screen. Working in unison, these pixels are able to display the image you see on your laptop screen. The more pixels you have, the higher the screen’s resolution. A higher resolution screen means a sharper, clearer picture.
When shopping around, you’ll see laptops with screens of varying resolutions. We recommend opting for a machine that has a screen that is 1920 x 1080 or higher. You will come across screens that have a lower resolution. Typically, these machines will be at a lower price point. This is very much a case of “you get what you pay for.” Screens with higher resolutions have more pixels, which means they are able to show more content.
You can also opt for laptop screens with higher resolution screens, like 2560 x 1440 (2K) or 3840 x 2160 (4K). While these higher resolutions will offer a sharper display, they can consume more power.
When it comes to laptop screens, there are a variety of panels that a manufacturer can choose from, and they all come in at different price points. It should come as no surprise that higher quality panels are more expensive, and that extra cost is passed on to the consumer.
TN (Twisted Nematic) – This is the oldest panel type, and they are easy and cheap to produce. As a result, TN screens are often found in lower-end devices. Generally, they suffer from poorer viewing angles and less accurate color reproduction. That being said, TN panels are known for relatively high refresh rates and being more budget conscious.
IPS (In-Plane Switching) – These panels sought to remedy the problems with TN screens. IPS panels have excellent viewing angles and have better color accuracy. As you might have guessed, IPS panels are more expensive to produce. Therefore, you generally find them in mid- to upper-range devices.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) – All displays are made up of pixels with a backlight that allows the user to see the display. With traditional LED displays, the backlight illuminates all of the pixels. This can result in some colors looking washed out and blacks looking more grey. OLEDs on the other hand, are able to turn the backlighting of each individual pixel on and off. This results in more accurate color reproduction and true blacks. While OLED screens are common on smartphones, they’re a bit rarer on laptops. That being said, many manufacturers offer laptops with OLED screens; however, they tend to be the more top-of-the-range offerings.
How bright your laptop screen is has a significant impact on the usability of your laptop. Using a laptop outside or in a well-lit area can result in a washed-out display. Poor screen visibility can ruin your productivity, so having a screen that is outdoor readable is a must. This means your screen must be able to become brighter than the light around it in order to be readable.
Screen brightness is measured in “nits.” To keep things simple, just remember that the higher the nits, the brighter the screen will be. With laptops, the general consensus is that the screen should be at least 250 nits. That being said, if you tend to use your laptop outside or in direct sunlight, you’ll probably want to opt for a laptop capable of emitting more than 300 nits. There are displays that boast significantly more nits; however, a brighter screen will consume more power, resulting in faster battery drain.
The refresh rate will determine how smooth the picture is. In order for you to experience a smooth picture, your screen must “redraw” what is being displayed many times per second. How fast your screen is able to do this (measured in hertz) is known as the refresh rate.
Computer displays start with a refresh rate of 60Hz. This ensures smooth motion. Anything less and operations like moving the mouse would appear jerky. Some laptop models boast significantly higher refresh rates – 120, 144, 240, even 360Hz displays can be found in the wild. Laptop screens with higher refresh rates are usually found in more expensive models. However, costing more money doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll benefit.
The average laptop user probably won’t notice much of a difference between the standard 60Hz and one that is higher. That being said, if you are a gamer, you’ll notice sharper visuals. Whether you’ll benefit from a higher refresh rate depends on what you’re going to do with your machine and your own individual perception. Some people swear by a higher refresh rate, while others shrug their shoulders. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
What do you look for in a laptop screen? Let us know in the comments!