« Previous Idea | Main | Next Idea »

March 30, 2006

Display Resolution Options on MacBook Pro

Categories Apple 

I'll be the first to admit that I probably focus on screen resolution a smidge more than the average computer user. So I'm incredibly disappointed that after finally adopting a 15.4" display on the 15" MacBook Pro, Apple is not offering different resolution options. What's most surprising about this move is that the current 15" MacBook Pro has a lower resolution than 15" PowerBook. Apple should really take better advantage of the 15.4" screen size and offer resolution options on the MacBook Pro.

Some Back Story

The original Titanium PowerBook was one of the first (if not the first) mainstream laptop to offer a wide aspect display. It was a daring move that really paid off as widescreen displays have become the norm on laptops. However, because wide aspect displays were so new (seemingly before standard sizes were developed), the display for the Titanium PowerBook ended up being 15.2". As far as I know, they are the only company to use a 15.2" display on a laptop.

As time went on and the widescreen displays grew in popularity, the industry standard 15.4" display emerged. To meet the demand of different manufactures and customers the 15.4" display was made in different resolutions. As to how 15.4" became the standard instead of 15.2" which Apple had already developed I'm not really sure, I'd imagine that LCD glass manufactuers offered a new LCD glass plate size to better accomodate widescreen display dimensions with less wasted glass and the 15.4" size just fit better on the plate. For more about how LCD displays are made, this is the best link I've found: http://www.crystec.com/crylcde.htm

Standard 15.4" Resolutions

Pixel Pitch
WXGA 1280 x 800 0.258 mm
WSXGA+ 1680 x 1050 0.197 mm
WUXGA 1920 x 1200 0.172 mm

Apple 15.2" Resolutions

Pixel Pitch
PowerBook - 01/07/01 1152 x 768 0.2789 mm
PowerBook DVI - 04/29/02 1280 x 854 0.2509 mm
PowerBook (Aluminum) -10/19/05 1440 x 960 0.2231 mm
More on LCD Resolutions via Prismo

However, for some reason, which I've never understood, Apple stuck with their 15.2" display long after the 15.4" was the norm.

Can I ask you a personal question? What resolution do you use?

Display resolution is a matter of personal taste. Lots of people prefer low resolution as everything appears bigger and easy to read. Others prefer higher resolution so that more can fit on the screen and achieve a higher definition image for games and graphics applications. To lots of people the WUXGA and UXGA resolution makes everything "too small" (I definitely fall into this camp). But the point is, there's no ideal resolution for everyone.

I have a SXGA+ display (1400 x 1050) and for me it's just right. As a designer, this resolution allows me to not have my palettes overlap the canvas of whatever I'm working on, but things aren't so small to the point of straining my eyes.

15.4" Finally. Buhhh....

After upgrading the 15.2" display on the most recent 15" PowerBook to 1440 x 960, Apple finally moved to the 15.4" display on the MacBook Pro. However, to date they only offer it in one resolution: 1440 x 900. So somehow they went to a larger screen (15.4" versus 15.2") but a lower resolution; the 15" MacBook Pro screen despite being bigger has fewer pixels than the most recent 15" PowerBook. I can't understand why Apple would accept a lower resolution in moving from the PowerBook to the MacBook Pro. And I really can't understand why Apple doesn't take advantage of using the standard size display and offer different resolutions to consumers.

Even more confusing is the resolution of the 15" MacBook Pro is a non-standard resolution (it's not WXGA or WSXGA+). For what it's worth this resolution is a very good compromise medium resolution, but that means that it's still too low for users who prefer higher resolution.

It's too bad really, the resolution of the display is literally the only thing holding me back from buying a 15" MacBook Pro.


Good article.

I completely agree. I'd buy a MacBook Pro today if it had a WUXGA screen. I've been spoiled by the WUXGA I've had in my Inspiron 8100/8200s and will never go back to a lower res.

I figure apple will introduce an WUXGA option when MacOS 10.5 Leopard is shipping installed in the MacBook Pro. This is because Leopard will be resolution independent, allowing all parts of the user interface to be scaled to the users liking. This way you get the best of both worlds. High Pixes Per Inch screens with text, buttons, and pointer you can see and read.

Actually 1440x900 is a standard resolution, but for smaller size screens.
I do agree with you totally though on the resolution issue, I have a Dell D810 1680x1050. I too find the 1920x1200 to be too small but the 1280x800 is a waste of screen realistate.
Anyway, the only thing holding me back from buying a MacBook Pro is the screen resolution.
I would like a second mouse button as well but can live without it. The screen resolution is definately a deal breaker.


You're absolutely right, 1440x900 is pretty standard on 14.1" and 15.4" screens. However, when I wrote this article it was fairly rare and new.

It's good to see someone tackle this issue. Like a few of the commenters here I am looking for a 15.4" MBP with 1680x1050. The current setup is laughably behind the times for a laptop aimed at professional designers, musicians and the like.

Given the price tag Apple need to tackle this sooner rather than later, even if it's just an optional upgrade like the 17" MBP.

Any chance of a follow up article tackling this issue? In particular the fact that the 17" model has an upgrade option, yet the 15.4" doesn't? I think this is newsworthy, but seems to be eclipsed by the obssession with tiny sub-notebooks.

I suggest putting in your request for higher res 15.4's at http://www.apple.com/feedback/macbookpro.html.

That's what I did.

However, I do know when they'll introduce a higher res version ... approximately 30-45 days after I bite the bullet and buy the low res one. :(

I am also waiting for a 1400x1050 or higher resolution 15.4" MBP.
I have a Dell Latitude D610 15" that's falling apart and it has 1400x1050. Right now, it'll have to do until Apple gets with the program.

Yes, I'll start buying macbook pros once I get WSXGA+ish resolutions on them, please Apple.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2