The two most popular screen resolutions for Tablet PCs are
- 1024 x 768 (the majority) and
- 1400 x 1050 (Toshiba Portégé M200 and recently as an option for the Fujitsu LifeBook T4000)
There have been new models released by Toshiba and HP lately and not a little anticipation that there would be improvements in the high resolution screen technology. This appears to have been wishful thinking as both manufacturers have come to market with larger screens but with the lower (but seemingly standard) 1024 x 768 resolution.
Rather than compare the technical aspects of the screens, I thought it might be useful to discuss what it is like to use them.
I’ve been living with an HP TC1100 and a Toshiba M200 for over a year. The HP has a nice wide angle screen using BOE Hydis technology which is also used in products from Motion Computing, Fujitsu and others. It seems that this is not yet available at higher resolutions for Tablet PC consumers.
It is often remarked that the trade-off with the Toshiba Portégé M200 is high resolution at the expense of viewing angle. I agree that this machine doesn’t compare favorably to the HP TC1100 or Motion M1400 in this respect. The Fujitsu LifeBook T4000 does offer a wide-angle-viewing option, but not with the 1400 x 1050 screen.
Does that mean you should dismiss the machines with high resolution screens, as Tablet PCs? No, I certainly don’t think you should..Portrait Mode as a Simulation of Paper
It took me awhile to notice, but although I frequently “ink” on the M200, I almost never use it in Portrait mode the way I do automatically with the TC1100. This seemed odd because if we are emulating a pad of paper when we use ink, wouldn’t it be natural to want the machine to be oriented the way we would have the pad of paper?
I thought about this for awhile and then it dawned on me:
The M200 is not very flexible when it comes to viewing it in portrait mode. You have to fidget a bit to be able to see the screen. For me, I was forever propping something underneath one end to get it tipped up towards me a bit. I finally gave up and just used it in secondary landscape mode. (That is what you get when you turn the screen around and lay it over the keyboard – without physically turning the base). Okay, so it doesn’t look like a pad of paper exactly but I stopped carrying paper that way years ago, so why persist in that view of the world?
Landscape Mode with a High Resolution Screen
If you view the M200 in ordinary “laptop mode”, that is with the keys visible and the screen facing you, it’s pretty good. From side-to-side and up and down, you can see everything well. I can’t substantiate this with any references, but I think it’s a safe bet that most LCD panels in portable computers were meant to be viewed this way. Clear-type technology is somewhat dependent on the screen being aligned this way too. Turn the thing sideways (portrait mode) and all bets are off, but turn it to secondary landscape, and it’s all good again.
But don’t you lose the width and height advantage of portrait mode? On a high resolution screen, the answer here is “no”. With a resolution of 1024 x 768, in portrait mode you are working at 768 x 1024. With a resolution of 1400 x 1050 you are nearly twice as wide and still a bit taller without turning the screen sideways. In other words, you don’t have to turn the screen to portrait mode to gain the advantages of that orientation.
So give up the linear thinking about this and the advantages start to become apparent, but we can explore all of that another time.
See Part II – What can I do with 1400 x 1050 pixels?