Yup… I should have been posting for the past few months. Hopefully I can get back into the habit!
I don’t need a new laptop yet. Yet… however, the screen size trend in industry really bothers me. Wider is not better if we’re sacrificing vertical pixels! Yet, every manufacturer is basically training us to accept low vertical pixel density by hiding behind the “HD” moniker.
Today, you will be hard pressed to find anything functional with a vertical pixel count of 800 or more. I’m not talking about netbooks (although I have one). I mean most new laptops in general.
We’re just taking a step backward to the 90’s… 1024×768 (VGA) is really close to 800 pixels tall!
Now, I’ve been a user of Tablet PC’s for the past 5 or 6 years now and I find them incredibly useful. I do mainly 3 things with my tablet:
- Draw User Experience Prototype Sketches
- Take down whiteboard sketches of architectures and the usual “ideation” work therein
- Retouch, enhance, and correct photos I take (portraits especially)
I find the tablet’s interface to be as natural as we can get for work in photography. For example, there’s a big difference (in my mind) in the look of a brush stroke made with a pen vs. made with a mouse. This guys seems to agree with me about screen size and art.
I can draw something in OneNote quickly, and then go into SketchFlow and redraw the same thing and make it function.
I can retouch a photo using an airbrush that actually almost works like an airbrush.
Yes, I could use an external tablet like a Wacom Bamboo, but it’s so much nicer to see exactly what you’re doing on the screen. Moreover, you don’t have to carry one more thing around. I’m sure that anyone who’s seen Microsoft Research’s Project Gustav will agree that more pixels will be better!
As a backup plan, I have one of these Hantech Stylo pens that will work with any PC. But, it’s probably not quite the same (I have yet to really try it out in earnest).
Size is everything, actually
My criteria for picking a Tablet PC has been pretty simple:
Get the one with the highest screen resolution possible!
The last time I bought a tablet, there were basically 2 vendors – Lenovo and Fujitsu. Because Lenovo had an issue with its screen bezel staying put, production was delayed indefinitely (during my purchase window) for its SXGA+ X61t. So, I went with Fujitsu’s T4220. It’s been a good workhorse and I’ve really gotten a lot of miles out of it.
Both of these models had an SXGA+ screen option. Today, neither manufacturer makes this combination. Though, it’s hard to decipher these screen sizes by just looking at the specs (I think manufacturers hide behind these acronyms). SXGA+ = 1400 x 1050. WXGA is something like 1280×768 (or slight variations of that ratio).
Reading documents, editing photos, etc. is a frustrating experience on this size of display. Vertical space is more important than you realize if you are downgrading from something larger than 1024×768. Rotating the display on its side for detail work is an option if you have an external keyboard and mouse, but it’s not quite a solution. Tool pallets that dock sideways will eat up that screen real estate just as fast as horizontal toolbars or Office 2007 and beyond’s Fluent UI.
Sure, movies are fine on a WXGA screen, but it’s not really even HD. We’d have to get up to WUXGA or UXGA in order to do true 1080p HD!
Using tablets that have smaller resolutions feel more like using a Fisher Price “My First Tablet PC” than actually doing something meaningful.
So now what?
I’ve heard that it’s easier to manufacture wide LCD panels vs. the higher density 4:3 panels, but I believe that’s probably because you get 1.5 or 2x the panels out of a single production run due to the reduced vertical pixel count.
I don’t know what to do once my trusty tablet decides to go the way of all things… my screen sometimes makes a high-pitched whine while it warms up (they say due to capacitors in the screen).
Here’s hoping that someone out there is going to start using a Tablet PC for real work instead of finger painting or iPadding!