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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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    I think it does, but I can't find an image to confirm and I might be confusing it with several other laptops.
  • EnzoFX - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    Of course every power user wants it. But the average user doesn't care, and won't care. They're used to $300-$500 laptops, and that's what they will continue to expect. Yes it's become a race to the bottom, but why would that change? I think it's much more likely that it'll remain the same because that's how the market has developed into. I think the real reasons tablets are pushing better displays is because they can't afford not to. They're supposed to have better viewing angles, and supposed to be something you can hold at any angle and distance. This is not the case with laptops. Laptops, IMO, as long as they continue to have the same form factor, will continue to have the same attributes, and the same race to the bottom.
  • Malih - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    I think the main issue is when Ultrabooks (and any laptops above $1000) have poor display, They are nowhere near $500, yet some of them have display resolution and sometimes display quality of a $500 laptop.
  • PubFiction - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    I will also add this. No one wants to add large amounts to the price of a laptop because they know they are going to throw it out soon. Lets leave apple users out of this because they are often less practical.

    People will buy very nice monitors because they can move it through a couple different desktops or add a second one. But most laptops simply do not have any reasonable option to do something similar.

    There are 2 things the laptop companies could have done. They could design modular displays. Have a connection similar to the asus transformer for the display. You buy the display of your choice and are able to upgrade or replace it if damaged. Then people might go for better displays knowing they might have that option.

    The other thing is maybe if laptop manufacturers had ever come up with some standards for design it would have helped too, if people had an upgrade path. This is the same reason for the cheapness of laptops. Why build a strong case when it should be replaced every 2 years?
  • PubFiction - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Somene of the reasons tablets are bucking the trend is because the internal components of a tablet are much cheaper. So you have something that overal is cheaper and smaller than even a netbook to produce. Second if you look at a tablet what makes it unique? Nothing other than the screen is the answer. They are so basica in design they are all almost the same. That is why they are always trying to push on the only 3 things that most people are ever going to notice. Thin, display, and price.
  • EnzoFX - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Gotta agree, well said.
  • name99 - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    "Second if you look at a tablet what makes it unique? Nothing other than the screen is the answer."

    That may be true for Android tablets. iPads come crammed with sensors, and the iPad2 has notably more sophisticated sensing (eg being able to track its 3D orientation) than iPad1.

    The real problem is that Android land is utterly devoid of imagination ---- without Apple to copy they would be lost. Let me describe just some obvious addition that could be made to a tablet or phone --- and you tell me which Android (land of variety and choice) vendor has implemented them:
    (a) temperature measurements (using a bolometer) for both local temperature and "remote" temperature (eg point the device at my forehead and tell me how hot I am
    (b) incorporate a small laser. Now you can use the device as a laser pointer. Or as a plumbline. Or you can fire and detect a laser pulse, and use it for ranging.
    (c) sensible speakers. Apple has so far stuck to mono speakers because of the device rotation issue. Some Android vendors have stereo speakers --- which work OK if you're watching a movie and suck if the device is in portrait. INTELLIGENT would be to have four speakers, one in each corner, so that you can rotate the sound to follow the orientation of the device.
  • Malih - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    That'll be great if people can just bring back their old laptop to upgrade the internal components and still use the old case.

    At least there's now hope for upgrading a laptop with an external GPU, thanks to Thunderbolt/Lightpeak.
  • marc1000 - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    any words from AMD about radeon 7870 ????
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    No, but I'm guessing Ryan knows and is under NDA, or that it won't be for at least two months.

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