Looking Forward to WUXGA and QXGA Tablets

In a similar vein to the 4K displays, it looks like many tablets are getting a serious resolution bump in the next few months. When I complain regularly about the state of laptop displays (I can count the number of good laptop LCDs we saw in the last year on one hand), it gives me hope to see tablets pushing for higher quality, higher resolution panels. Amazingly enough, ASUS has announced that the Eee Prime Transformer will receive a 1920x1200 update in Q2 this year (and for the record, they’re not the only ones planning on using such a panel). Rumors suggest that the iPad 3 will go one step further and offer a QXGA (2048x1536) panel, sticking with the 4:3 aspect ratio of previous iPads—though of course Apple hasn’t officially announced anything yet—and there's even talk of some QSXGA (2560x2048) and/or QWXGA (2560x1600) tablets shipping later this year.

I had the chance to play with the upcoming Eee Prime Transformer TF700T, and I loved the increased resolution. Surprisingly, the Tegra 3 chipset appeared able to handle WUXGA quite well, though I didn’t get a chance to test any games. Gaming at WUXGA is going to really stress current SoC GPUs, however, at least if you want decent quality settings. Many desktop users—even those with high-end cards like the GTX 570/HD 6970—run at 1920x1200, albeit with significantly higher quality textures and geometry than seen in tablet games. Even so, pushing ~2MP on a tablet at decent frame rates will very likely need more memory bandwidth and faster GPUs; I expect many games will run at a lower resolution and simply scale the image to the screen size. Outside of gaming, however, higher resolutions can be very useful. Browsing the web at 1280x720 is doable, 720x1280 not so much; 1080x1920 on the other hand is wide enough for all the 1024-width websites that you won’t have to zoom out to see it. Plus, text and images in general will be improved.

What really irks me is that all of this comes in a 10.1” IPS package, exactly what I’ve been asking for in laptops for the past several years. What’s more, the price point for these is in the <$600 range, and we’re still getting 16:10 aspect ratio panels instead of being forced into 16:9. I asked several manufacturers, "How is it we're getting 16:10 aspect ratio tablets with IPS WUXGA displays, and you still can't put anything better than a low quality 1366x768 TN panel into your laptops?" Naturally, they blamed the display manufacturers and consumers for not being willing to buy better quality laptops.

There's certainly some truth to that, but it's also a matter of supply and demand; if ASUS for instance were to order a million ~13.3" 1920x1200 IPS laptop displays, I'm sure they could get prices down to <$1000 for a quality laptop. Naturally, they're worried that the laptops wouldn't sell well enough and they’d get stuck with a bunch of “too expensive” laptops. With all the $500 Best Buy laptops floating around they may be right, but I wish I could convince more people to stop settling for low quality displays in their laptops. That brings me to my final top-three device/tech that impressed me at CES.

I Have Seen the Future, and the Future Is 4K Ultrabooks Everywhere and Wrap Up
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  • name99 - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    "Most Blu-ray titles clock in around the 30-40 GB range for the film, so given 4x the resolution you are looking at 120-160 GB for a film of similar quality. "

    Not even close.
    The higher you push the resolution, the higher the correlation between adjacent pixels, meaning that the material compresses better for the same level of visual quality.

    Heck, even if you compressed a 4K movie into the SAME 30-40GB you'd get better results. The compressor will throw away information intelligently, whereas you can view an existing BR movie as consisting of an initial dumb transfer stage (downsampling the 4K to 1080p) followed by compression.
    (This assumes, of course, that the compressor is actually intelligent and, for example, scales search domain upward to cover equivalent area in the 4K movie as in the 1080p movie. This is a obvious point, yet I've yet to see a compressor that does it properly by default, so you will have to tweak the settings to get the improvement. But I am correct in this --- with a smart compressor 4K at 40GB will look better than 1080p at 40GB.)
  • legoman666 - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    I was unable to find a good current-gen laptop with a 1920x1080 or 1920x1200 display for less than $1000. I eventually settled on a 3-4 year old refurbed IBM T61p with a beautiful WUXGA 1920x1200 15.4" display.

    I looked up the part number for the panel, a replacement is less than $100 from eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&... I don't know what laptop manufacturers are doing these days that prevent them from putting a decent panel in their laptops, but they need to quit it. 1366x768 @ 15"? Are you joking? My 3 year old Dell netbook had the same resolution in a 10" form factor for $350.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who's disappointed.
  • Mithan - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    I have not bought a tablet yet because I want at least a 1080p display on them and yes, this is for surfing.

    As for Laptops, my last Laptop was a MSI GX640 and I specifically hunted that down because it has a good video card in it AND most importantly, it has a 1600x1080 display.

    I had bought some Acer with a 768p display but it went back. What crap.
  • lbeyak - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    For those of you who that these low-quality displays are good enough...

    I'm not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now, and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"
  • inperfectdarkness - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    it's my money, and i need it now!!!
  • name99 - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    You might as well just give up.
    As far as I can tell most tech blog commenters
    (a) are completely unaware that something like Moore's law exists
    (b) think everything right now is absolutely perfect and should never be changed.

    Thunderbolt. Higher res iPad screens. 4K TVs. Windows File System Improvements. Cell phone system improvements. WiFi improvements.
    Doesn't matter what it is, there's a chorus telling you that it will always cost too much, that it probably won't work well, and no-one will care about the improvement.

    My god --- who would have thought that the hangout spot for 21st century Luddites would be the comments section of sites like Ars Technica and AnandTech?
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    The problem is that we're not even getting 1080p on a lot of laptops. I want 1080p pretty much as an option on anything 13" and up. Right now it's really only there on 15.6" and 17.3" displays (and of course, Sony has one 13.1" panel on the VAIO Z).
  • inperfectdarkness - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    i've been lamenting the watering-down of laptop screens for years. i'm bloody sick of 1080p screens. 1080p would be fine...if i had an 11" netbook. i LIKE gaming at 16:10--and i like doing it on a 15.4" screen. and for what it's worth, 17" laptops should be offering wqxga at a MINIMUM. ~300dpi should be the standard--regardless of display size.

    of course, part of the problem with stagnation is probably because xbox-360 has dilluted consumer expectations for gaming--which has resulted in games in which practically the entire library of new GPU's will run in 1080p at acceptable framerates. that kind of versitility didn't even exist at 1024x768 resolutions 10 years ago. the ti4600 i had back then was the ONLY card which even had a prayer of running at 1600x1200. so rather than software improving (and keeping hardware choking on rendering), we've plateaued & hardware has caught up big-time. that's also why 10 years ago, mobile gaming left a LOT to be desired. today, (at 1080p) you can't tell the difference in many cases.

    here's to hoping that my 15" form-factor laptop experience will soon offer 4MP gaming at a reliable 60fps. it's been long overdue. i'm still baffled by the reverse-progress in laptop displays. you don't see people rejecting 90's cars in order to drive 80's cars. doesn't make sense why we'd do the same with laptops.

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