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The End of Non-Widescreen Laptops? 668

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the aspect-ratios-give-me-shivers dept.
Santi Onta writes "Today Lenovo retired the last NON-widescreen laptop they offered (the T61 14.1) from the market, and Lenovo is just an example (Apple, Sony, HP, etc. are the same). I understand the motivation behind all the laptop manufacturers to move to widescreen: they can still advertise that they offer 14.1 or 15.4 screens, but the screen area is smaller, and thus they save more money. Some people might like widescreens (they are useful for some tasks), but any developer knows that vertical space matters! Less vertical space = less lines of code in the screen = more scrolling = less productivity. How can laptop manufacturers still claim that they look after their customers when the move to widescreens is clearly a selfish one? I just wish they offered non-widescreen laptops, even if it were for a plus (that I'd be more than happy to pay)." I've always preferred the widescreen aspect ratio -- vertical matters, but having two nice wide columns always mattered more to me. Until this reader's submission, I hadn't realized that it was such a contested issue. Does this matter?
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The End of Non-Widescreen Laptops?

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  • Use a desktop (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingSkippus (799657) * on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:19AM (#23142974) Homepage Journal

    any developer knows that vertical space matters!

    I suppose there are developers out there who develop primarily on a laptop. Shoot, I'm even one of them, since we only get laptops at my job.

    But I have a docking station hooked up to a 19-inch LCD that I do almost all of my work on, and the laptop display is my secondary display I use to keep my documentation, watch windows, etc. on.

    I would think that most developers either have this kind of setup or do most of their development on desktops, which are generally more powerful anyway.

  • by freaker_TuC (7632) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:19AM (#23142984) Homepage Journal
    My suppliers got problems getting the normal LCD screens ; they are all widescreen.
    I've been forced to buy 2 widescreen LCD's because none of my suppliers could get me decent 20/22" non-widescreen LCDs.
    Pretty annoying when coding overnight through a secure shell session, I must say...
  • I just wish... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:20AM (#23142988) Journal
    they were the same aspect ratio as an HDTV.
  • by Puls4r (724907) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:22AM (#23143044)
    I would much rather have a wider screen. Most coders have multiple windows open, and additional width proves more easy for me to use in that case. In addition, long code statements won't fit on a narrow screen and having to scroll sideways to read your code PLUS scroll vertically is a major annoyance. By going wide you removing ever having to scroll sideways - unless you're in excel. It's a big plus for me.
  • macurmudgeon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macurmudgeon (900466) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:22AM (#23143068) Homepage
    How many people actually write code, or for that matter, any long documents? It mostly about media now days where the ability to watch a wide screen movie is a selling point. And, wider screens are a boon to people who use graphics applications like Photoshop where the extra width gets filled with palettes.
  • by Zigurd (3528) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:22AM (#23143074) Homepage
    Write shorter methods. That is all.
  • Re:macurmudgeon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrMacman2u (831102) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:25AM (#23143134) Journal
    I'm not a coder, but as someone who regularly works in graphics design, Photoshop, Web Design, Page Layout, etc... a wide aspect ratio screen is completely invaluable and I have found it frustrating to use the "old" 4:3 style screens for some time now.

    Your natural tendency is to look left and right, not up and down. I have been informed repeatedly of this by people who have "switched" and now favor the wider screen ratio.

    Of course another reason general users probably prefer the widescreen is for viewing movies also, but that's another point all together.

    I, for one, will waste no tears in the death knell of the standard aspect ratio.
  • From an old thread (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:25AM (#23143136)
    A commenter in an old thread had the explanation for this:

    Widescreen monitors are about keeping the cost of LCDs high - providing a new "feature" that people have to pay for without actually providing any costly new functionality.

    Some time after widescreen becomes ubiquitous you can expect them to reintroduce 4:3 monitors as the new thing.
  • Not only that (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:29AM (#23143252) Homepage Journal
    What is the actual percentage of the market for laptops who are developers? The summary almost makes it sound like it's the entire user base and that manufacturers are ignoring a huge and important market segment.
  • Form factor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d (855514) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:31AM (#23143316)
    It's not just a case of the manufacturers being selfish. It's a form factor issue.

    The biggest limiting factor on a laptop's width is the keyboard. Almost everything else you can shrink and expand without limitation. Resizing the keyboard is not as easy. By messing with the layout you can add or remove a row of keys but that's about it unless you want to significantly shrink the size of the keys themselves.

    Add to that the fact that every centimeter of extra screen height equals a matching amount of extra case real estate in front that can't be put to very good use, where as extra width lets you expand the keyboard outward.

    So, if you want a more portable laptop any shrinkage is going to have to come from the vertical instead of the horizontal. Also, many backpacks/bags/slip cases have the laptop inserted sideways so one that is smaller in that dimension is easier to get at.
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:34AM (#23143388) Homepage
    The percentage of coders in the over-all laptop market is probably less than 1%. The vast majority of laptop buyers want widescreen. The better question is why laptop manufacturers would create a line of laptops for such an incredibly small niche.

    If you think there is a large market for coder/laptops start up a business yourself and make a killing. I won't be holding my breath on that.
  • Not just for cost (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OpenSourced (323149) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:43AM (#23143620) Journal
    I'd think that the move to widescreen is global, and not reduced to laptops. Desktop screens in bigger sizes are only widescreen. I think 20" is about the maximum you get in 4:3. Even these are in very short supply. 22" and 24" are just widescreen, and of course I don't think we'll ever see a 30" 4:3 monitor, even if that were desirable.

    I think the laptops are adapting to a general tide in the industry. It's probably not economically viable to keep making 4:3 screens. Also, the laptops have an easier time growing horizontally. You can after all offer a better keyboard. But vertically there is nothing you can add at the "other side of the clap" that has user value.

  • by artifex2004 (766107) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:48AM (#23143752) Journal
    The form factor allows for a lot less wasted space below, where the keyboard is, for a device that's overall smaller and easier to carry and stick on small tables. This seems like it was written by someone who never actually carries a laptop around, or just lugs it between desks and plugs it in.

    If you're only using it at a desk, why not just buy a desktop and a widescreen monitor that you turn 90 degrees, so you can get full page views? (Actually, there have been laptops offering detachable, rotatable screens, but they have not been that popular)

    I just opened my Macbook's terminal window and expanded it to full size. Got 209x53. That's on a 13 inch widescreen, with OSX's nonremoveable menubar and other window dressing, Monaco 10 pt. Unless you've got a cumbersome IDE, is that really not good enough for coding on the go?
  • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:00AM (#23144044) Homepage
    About the only place I see "Full Screen" (what a misleading name!) movies is WalMart. They've lost out on quite a few sales due to only having the FS version of a particular movie, while most other stores will only have the WS version.

    The OP accused manufacturers of going widescreen to save money, but the truth is that the market wants widescreen because there is now so much widescreen content. 4:3 laptops just don't sell any more except to niche markets (pretty much corporate-only). Most corporate users are happy to receive a widescreen laptop or display nowadays for the "pseudo-dualhead" effect of being able to stack windows side by side.
  • by tepples (727027) <> on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:03AM (#23144090) Homepage Journal

    The current generation of widescreen displays and the way text is laid-out onscreen causes you to lose track of which line you are reading and it also causes you to slow down in order to better keep track of your vertical position.
    Newspapers came up with a solution to the mess of long lines years ago: they added multiple columns. Is it that hard to unmaximize a web browser, resize it to half the screen width, and put another page into a second window?
  • by coats (1068) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:17AM (#23144350) Homepage
    Rumor has it that Google's programmers use dual 24-inch monitors--side by side, in portrait instead of landscape. That gives you 120-line edit windows easily, with room for multiple edit windows side-by-side. Btw, at the office are you running Linux or Windows? If the former, you can add a "virtual display" line to your xorg.conf file that will give you a bigger screen area that you can pan around in with your mouse. UI do a lot of very high res environmental modeling, so I use a *huge* 3200x2400virtual display. That part of my xorg.conf looks like:

    Section "Screen" Identifier "screen1" Device "device1" Monitor "monitor1" DefaultColorDepth 24 Subsection "Display"

    Depth 24 Modes "1920x1200" "1680x1050" "1600x1000" "1440x900" "1280x800" virtual 3200 2400
    Note that max virtual-display size is governed by your graphics card and its driver. But you should be able to get at least 2048x1536, anyway.

    And I don't recommend that large a virtual display for general-purpose use; things can get "lost" in the corners ;-(

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) * on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:33AM (#23144744) Homepage Journal
    The amateur who says "vertical space matters" to developers, never ran a comparison diff on his code.

    Side by side, my friend. Side by side.
  • by CarpetShark (865376) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:39AM (#23144882)
    There's nothing wrong with widescreen. It's more suited to our eyes for watching movies, and it forces developers to consider how their app looks and feels when tiled on the screen and used in conjunction with other on-screen apps (ie, *gasp* multitasking) instead of being maximised all the time as if it where the only app.

    Widescreen is also great for developers, artists, designers, writers, and many other professionals, since you can rotate the screens and get a vertical, page-oriented layout.

    BUT, the problem is that rotation is rarely supported -- not on laptops, or on monitor stands. On graphics cards, it's "supported" usually, but without acceleration, which sucks. How hard can it be to rotate 90% before applying an operation on today's super-fast graphics cards?
  • by Chaoticmass (213593) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:46AM (#23145042) Homepage
    I came here to say almost the same thing. 24" widescreen at 1920x1200 gives me room for four 80x25 terminal windows open with a large readable font, or if I want to I can maximize one terminal window and see almost forever.

    I've never thought of a widescreen as a smaller version of a 4.3 aspect screen. I think of it as a 4.3 screen with extra space on the sides.
  • by iangoldby (552781) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:46AM (#23145046) Homepage

    Our eyes are more suited to reading narrow columns of text...

    I try... to place as many elements as I can (toolbars, etc.) in a vertical orientation rather than a horizontal one.... I do what I can to create a narrow, high space for text.
    Would I be right in thinking that you tend to work with maximised windows?

    I suspect that a great deal of the argument about wide-screen monitors (even if not in this particular case) comes down to those who prefer working with maximised windows, so that the aspect ratio of the window is fixed by the screen, and those who loathe maximised windows and like to keep multiple windows open side-by-side.

    There was a similar argument recently when the BBC redesigned their News web site. Half the visitors said "Hurray, the big empty space occupying half of my browser window is now a smaller empty space". The other half screamed "Now I have to make the browser window nearly the full width of the screen, obscuring the other windows I have open."
  • Re:1680 (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Wiseman1024 (993899) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:49AM (#23145108)
    Problem solved my ass. Why should I use a bigger resolution in a tiny screen that will kill my eyes, then waste part of the screen because it's too uselessly wide? (And no, two windows of code side by side is not going to help much most of the time.)

    I neverunderstood what's with this widescreen obsession. Just because a few metrosexual stylists decided the newest fad was to have widescreen screens, vendors have thrown actual usability and requirements out of the window. Text is harder to read when lines are too wide; browsers won't automatically columnize text (and it'd be kinda useless to do that); I don't need to have things side by side because I work in full screen; pictures and people accomodate better in 4:3 screens (and I don't know about theirs, but in my town, people is taller than wide); and most of all, the area of vision of our fucking human eyes is more similar to 4:3 than it is to that fucking stylist fad.
  • by Captain Spam (66120) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:58AM (#23145340) Homepage
    Whining Dev: "Waaah! This 1280x1024 screen is too small! I can't see all my code on it!"
    Manufacturer: "All right, fine, here's a 1600x1200 screen."
    WD: "Wellll... okay, you live THIS time..."
    DVD Watcher: "Hey! Why can't I watch my DVDs in widescreen on my laptop?"
    M: "Fine, fine, here's a 1920x1200 screen."
    DW: "Yaaaaay! And my desktop looks so much bigger, too!"
    WD: "HEY HEY HEY! What the hell is this? My screen isn't tall enough now! I want more height so I can see more code!"
    M: "But... but that's the exact same screen height you used to have and just bugged for a few minutes ago. It's the width that's-"
    M: *deep sigh*
  • not bad for coders (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:09PM (#23145604)
    I have been coding on wide screen laptops since long time , and I am totally fine with it , actually vertical scrolling is much easier than doing horizontal scrolling on the non-wide screens. When you have a long function name which requires like 7 parameters , each on is a structure with pointers will appreciate the wide screen. Also as a developer I need to open lots of windows at the same time , so I need a longer taskbar
  • by PMuse (320639) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:19PM (#23145814)
    Just think of widescreen as bonus. Your previous machine had a 4:3 area of 1024x768. Your new machine has a 4:3 area of 1066x800. Plus, it has a 213x800 sidebar. Why are you complaining about that?

    What you should be complaining about is the inability of Windows and many of the apps to negotiate a dual-monitor configuration.
    1. Will the dialog box appear (a) centered in monitor 1, (b) centered in monitor 2, or (c) split across them at the mean of the monitor 1 + monitor 2 coordinates?
    2. Got that figured out? OK, now swap the left-right positions of monitors 1 and 2 while the apps are running. Where will that dialog box show up now?
    3. If monitor 2 is removed, how will you get the apps being displayed there to redisplay themselves on monitor 1?

    It's long past time that Windows and its apps got some standards of behavior in the multi-monitor world.
  • by skiflyer (716312) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:21PM (#23145874)
    yes... am I alone on this? I find resizing windows to be a serious PITA. With the exception of my IM window, I never use a non-maximized window. I really don't know what it is, but I just hate non-maximized windows... Oddly, I don't mind windows that maximize to a non-full screen size.
  • by rjamestaylor (117847) <> on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:41PM (#23146336) Homepage Journal
    Why kick against the goads of commerce and progress? Why complain about that which you cannot change? You are flotsam on the sea of technology...

    Besides, my MacBook is pretty and trendy and makes me look smart.

    Actually, I've come to like the wide-screen format for placing my IM buddy list on the left and OSX dock on the right. It works nicely. Code? Yeah, that's mainly what I look at all day. The center area for content and side areas for BS is the Slashdot model!

    Actually... that's the point. Since Slashdot began its been begging for a wide screen monitor. The OEMs are finally giving into the Slashdot imperator by providing Slashdot-optimized widescreen monitors!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:49PM (#23146520)
    Or, just turn OFF the greatest vulnerability of all time: browser scripting.
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:51PM (#23146572)
    And watching a HD movie on my 15" laptop!?! Haha, what's the point? I'd rather watch it on something designed and comfortable for movie/TV watching.

    So would I, but the conductor of the commuter train I ride got really upset when I used up a whole row on my sound system alone.

    Christ, do Slashdotters never leave the house? Seriously, you can't think of a single place or situation in the entire world where it would be good to watch a movie, but you can't fit a 54" TV?
  • by King_TJ (85913) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:16PM (#23147056) Journal
    Years ago, I remember the "Radius" monitors that were sold as higher-end displays for Apple Macs. They easily rotated the 4:3 aspect screen between a "portrait" and a "landscape" mode, and as I recall, the computer received a signal that it was rotated (mercury tilt sensor in the display, I guess?), so it would automatically flip the video signal to match it.

    Seems like that whole thing never really caught on though, and I don't see why not? I'd love to have a wide-screen notebook that would allow you to pull up on the display to extend it a few inches from the notebook, and then let the user rotate it to portrait mode to read full PDF pages at a time and so on.

    If that's too much to ask, at least I'd like to see more desktop LCDs supporting rotation. My Samsung Syncmaster 213T did this nicely, except you still had to tell the computer you rotated it afterwards. (Is it THAT much to ask to integrate some sort of rotation support with modern video cards, so a display being turned can tell the ATI or nVidia board you need to rotate the video display 90 degrees?)
  • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday April 21, 2008 @02:34PM (#23148430) Journal

    Why are ACs allowed to post links anyway? That's just asking for abuse. IMHO, link posting should be limited to non-AC posters. ACs should be there for people to express their own opinion anonymously because of fear of repercussions, not provide links to other people's opinions. AC posts should be the exception, not the rule, and they should be a lot more limited than real account posts as a result.

    On the widescreen thing, non-widescreen laptops are going away because of people wanting to watch movies in the car or on airplanes or whatever. That's the only time I'd ever watch a movie on anything other than a large widescreen TV....

  • ugh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rantingkitten (938138) <kitten AT mirrorshades DOT org> on Monday April 21, 2008 @08:51PM (#23153216) Homepage
    The problem is that the "widescreen" displays being offered are, by and large, no more wide than were your old displays. That's what ticks me off the most. 1280x1024 was a decent resolution a couple of years ago. But then "widescreen" came out and, oh, what do we have?

    1280x900. Gee whiz, thanks! Since it's now clearly rectangular it's "wide", but all they really did was cut off one or two hundred pixels from your vertical rez. Exactly how did I benefit from this? Drives me absolutely insane. Finding laptops above 900 pixels vertical is quite a chore; I know, because I've spent quite a while pricing them out for work and I refuse to go below 1050.

    I like my 1680x1050 screens just fine, but they still don't compare to the 1600x1200 screens of yore, which are nearly impossible to find these days. Sacrificing 80 pixels in the horizontal to gain that kind of vertical resolution is fine by me.

    I realise everyone's needs and preferences are different, but I am so, so tired of manufacturers touting this OMFG WIDESCREEN garbage like it's the second coming, when in reality it's just as wide as it was before, and significantly less tall.

No amount of careful planning will ever replace dumb luck.