If you are looking to buy a laptop, you should consider the type of screen it uses. Not all screens are made the same, and poor screen quality can be a problem. After all, you will be looking at it for a long time. Unfortunately, understanding all of the acronyms, ratings, and seemingly meaningless numbers can be confusing. Not sure the difference between IPS and TN displays? Not sure how many nits your screen should have? You have come to the right place. Here’s what to look for when choosing a laptop screen.
When it comes to a laptop screen, the first thing to consider is what size you want. Laptop screens are measured diagonally from corner to corner. They vary in size, however most are in the 13 “to 15” category, but you can find smaller laptops (11 “to 12”). Conversely, you can find laptops with significantly larger screens. The most common is 17 inches, but there are also larger ones.
Typically, the most common screens are 13-15 inches. The weight of a laptop increases with screen size, so if you use your laptop primarily on the road, you probably want to stick with the 13-inch model. If your laptop is mostly at home, you probably want to opt for a 15-inch screen, as the extra space will make it easier for the eyes to work with.
All laptop screens are made of pixels. Pixels are essentially tiny individual dots that show various elements of your laptop screen. Working in unison, these pixels can display the image you see on your laptop screen. The more pixels you have, the higher the screen resolution. A higher resolution screen means a sharper picture.
Today on the market you will see laptops with screens of different resolutions. We recommend choosing a laptop with a 1920 x 1080 screen or higher. You will also come across lower resolution screens. Typically, these laptops will be at a lower price point. This is where you get what you pay for. Higher resolution screens have more pixels, which means they can display more content.
You can also choose laptops with higher resolution screens such as 2560 x 1440 (2K) or 3840 x 2160 (4K). While these higher resolutions provide sharper images, they can use more power.
When it comes to laptop screens, a manufacturer can choose from a variety of panels, and they all come in different price points. Unsurprisingly, higher quality panels are more expensive and the additional costs are passed on to the consumer.
TN (Twisted Nematic) is the oldest type of panel and is easy and cheap to produce. As a result, TN screens are often found in lower-end devices. They generally suffer from poor viewing angles and less accurate color reproduction. That being said, TN panels are known for a relatively high refresh rate and a more economical budget.
IPS (In-Plane Switching) – These panels are designed to fix problems with TN screens. IPS panels have excellent viewing angles and better color accuracy. As you might have guessed, IPS panels are more expensive to manufacture. Hence, you will usually find them in mid to high end devices.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) – All displays are composed of backlit pixels that allow the user to see the display. In traditional LED displays, a backlight illuminates all pixels. This can cause some colors to appear washed out and blacks to appear more gray. On the other hand, OLED LEDs can turn the backlight on and off for each individual pixel. This results in more accurate color reproduction and true blacks. Although OLED screens are common on smartphones, they are also found on laptops. Many manufacturers offer laptops with OLED screens, however these tend to be high-end offerings.
The brightness of your laptop screen greatly affects the usability. Using your laptop outdoors or in a well-lit area may result in an unclear image on the screen. Poor screen visibility can ruin your productivity, so having a screen that is readable outdoors is a must. This means that your screen must be brighter than the light around it in order for the content to be seen.
Screen brightness is measured in nits. For simplicity, remember that the higher the nits, the brighter the screen will be. For laptops, it is generally accepted that the screen should be at least 250 nits. That being said, if you tend to use your laptop outdoors or in direct sunlight, you probably want to opt for a laptop that’s capable of emitting over 300 nits. There are displays that boast significantly more nits, but a brighter screen draws more power, resulting in faster battery drain.
The refresh rate determines how smooth the image will be. For the image to be smooth, the screen must “redraw” what is displayed many times per second. The refresh rate of the screen (measured in hertz) is called the refresh rate.
Currently, computer displays are available with a refresh rate of 60 Hz or more. This ensures a smooth ride. If the refresh rate is less than 60Hz, simple operations such as moving the mouse will appear choppy. Some laptop models boast significantly higher refresh rates – 120, 144, 240, even 360 Hz displays can be found on sale. Laptop screens with higher refresh rates are usually found in more expensive models. Higher cost does not necessarily mean you win, however.
The average laptop user probably won’t notice much difference between the standard 60Hz and higher frequencies. However, if you are a gamer, you will notice a sharper image. Whether or not you benefit from a higher refresh rate depends on what you’re going to do with your laptop and your personal perception.