Mobile Computing: Vibrant Notebook Screens

Feature: Vibrant Notebook Screens Go Mainstream

If you haven't looked at new notebooks lately, you may be in for a pleasant surprise. In the past year, a growing number of notebooks have debuted with brighter and whiter screens and glossy reflective coatings. These sparkling displays show off colors and improve contrast for video playback and digital photos.

I've seen several of the bright-white notebook screens, and in general I love what I see. But bright-white screens have some downsides, too. Here's the scoop.

The Bright-Screen Backstory

Bright, glossy notebook screens are currently available from Dell, HP, Sony, Toshiba, and other vendors on selected models. Each company has a different name for its technology. HP calls its BrightView, Sony's is Xbrite, and so on. Of the various bright-screen flavors currently offered, I'm most familiar with HP's BrightView, as I've been trying out one of its notebooks that features the technology, an HP Pavilion DV1000.

I've viewed the DV1000's screen both indoors and out; and I've been amazed by how crisp and legible it is, even in direct sunlight. (Most notebook screens look washed-out in bright light.) The DV1000's BrightView screen has impressed several of my friends, too. In fact, my pal Bob bought a DV1000 the day after I showed him the notebook--and Bob is by no means an impulse buyer.

The DV1000's dazzle is achieved by adding a high-gloss polarized coating to a transmissive LCD screen, says Kevin Clancy, manager of display technology for HP's consumer notebooks. Transmissive screens are the most common type found in notebooks today. They usually come with an antiglare, as opposed to a high-gloss, finish.

The mirror-like sheen on the DV1000 greatly improves contrast and eliminates the washed-out look so common when traditional antiglare LCDs are exposed to sunlight. And because HP is using the widely available and long-manufactured transmissive screen technology, BrightView is an inexpensive option, adding only $50 to the cost of a DV1000 when configured on HP's Web site. The DV1000 is nicely priced overall, too, starting at $799 for a basic configuration. Go to our Product Finder for the latest prices.

What's the Catch?

Now for those downsides I mentioned.

Mirror-like Display: Depending on the lighting conditions and the screen's tilt, you can see yourself in the reflective coating of an HP BrightView display. Most of the time, I wasn't bothered by the reflection, but it could prove distracting.

Ergonomics: For prolonged viewing, ergonomic experts suggest that LCDs with a traditional antiglare finish are easier on the eyes than high-gloss displays, Clancy points out. That shouldn't be a concern if you have a desktop PC and use your high-gloss-screen notebook only when you're out of the office. If you use your notebook as your office computer, too, you could connect it to an external monitor (without a high-gloss finish, of course). That's a good idea ergonomically, no matter what type of screen your notebook has.

Scratches: A high-gloss coating is no more vulnerable to scratches than a typical antiglare finish--but because the high-gloss coating emphasizes screen contrast, you could notice the scratch more, Clancy admits. He cautions users to avoid scratching their display regardless of the screen type, because repairing a scratched screen can be expensive. One tip: The DV1000 ships with a removable, gauzy black strip that protects the screen when the notebook is in its original box. I'd hold onto the strip and place it between the monitor and keyboard whenever I traveled with the notebook.

The Big Picture

To me, the advantages of a bright-white, glossy notebook screen far outweigh their drawbacks.

HP's BrightView makes everything on screen look better, crisper, and cleaner. Best of all, with the DV1000, I can sit at an outdoor cafe table on a sunny day and work. For me, that alone makes a BrightView display--or other competing high-gloss, high-contrast screen technologies--worth the few extra bucks.

For more information about the DV1000 series, go to HPshopping.com.

What's Your Story?

Does your notebook have a high-gloss, high-contrast screen? If so, are you happy with it? If not, why not? Send me e-mail.

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