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I need 1280x1024 (SXGA) resolution in a notebook. Recommendations?

Posted on 2004-10-06
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I need 1280x1024 (SXGA) resolution in a notebook, immediately. Recommendations?

Most of the new notebook makers have abandoned the SXGA spec (1280x1024) in favor of a wider screen that will work with wide screen DVD playback. My problem is that I need to buy a notebook right now (for a trade show) that will support exactly 1280x1024. ("SXGA+" will not look right, as I need to fill the screen with 1280x1024 pixels, and drive an outboard LCD monitor at the same time.)

Although I have built over 100 computers, I have very little experience with notebooks/laptops, and have never owned one. So, I am asking for your recommendation of a notebook that:
1.) you have some experience with
2.) you would recommend
3.) costs as little as possible (hopefully under $1500)
4.) will display EXACTLY 1280x1024

I will also be connecting either a Samsung 710-T or a 710-N LCD monitor to the notebook for the trade show, and I assume that the output resolution of the video card needs to be 1280x1024 in order for this to work.
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Question by:dtleahy
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by:Callandor
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An IBM T21 should work for you, and leave you with some money: http://shopping.yahoo.com/p:IBM%20ThinkPad%20T21%20Laptop%20Computer:1990431122:page=user-reviews
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by:dtleahy
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Callandor,

Sorry, maybe I underspecified...

The IBM T21 is not a modern notebook, runs a Pentium III at 800MHz. I need a relatively powerful notebook PC running a P4 2.x GHz (or the Centrino equivalent.) Also, I don't even see where it can support that one specific CRITICAL output resolution that is my main criterion: 1280x1024
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bobo_tech earned 400 total points
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Unfortuently you are running into a common occurance these days.  A lot of laptops are now being built with widescreen displays offering those odd wider resolutions for dvd playback.  A lot of other normal aspect display laptops are now offered with the much higher than the SXGA resolutions that you desire.  Some notebooks will allow you to run the resolution that you desire and "stretch" the display to fill out the black borders that occur with running a LCD at lower than native resolutions BUT (yes its a big but) the qualtiy of the display will be signifcantly lower than running the LCD at the native resolution.  It will show a lot of artifcating and just general fuzziness.

That is a hardware limitatiaon of a LCD but if you can live with it, you should be able to run the laptops internal display at 1280x1024 and mirror that same display on the external LCD panel.  I'm assuming that the reason you need the 1280x1024 is that your external lcd display will only allow that resolution?  If thats not the reason, could you explain it (maybe we can offer a workaround, simliar to my suggestion of driving a SXGA+ monitor at SXGA resolutions and enabling the "stretch" option that a lot of laptops offer).

One more thing, even if the laptop doesn't offer stretching, if you are running a SXGA+ LCD at 1280x1024 with the blackbars, the external monitor (if its 1280x1024 native) should show the same screen except with NO black bars.

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by:bobo_tech
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Also one more thing that I forgot to mention, if you are running the SXGA+ internal display at 1280x1024 and get the undesirable quality, your external monitor (if its SXGA 1280x1024 native) should show the same picture with crisp high quality that you desire.
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by:Callandor
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There are many laptops with a "stretch to fit screen" button that will let you display 1280x1024 on a higher resolution screen, using all of the screen, and that would be more desirable.

I don't think many late model laptops with Pentium-M cpus have this "small" screen resolution, so you either go for an old model with a slower cpu or get a new model and stretch the screen to fit.  The IBM T42 is a more recent entry, as well as the lighter subnotebooks like the X40.
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by:dtleahy
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bobo tech and Callandor:

Thanks for the replies.

Background:
I have written some software, and I want to market it at a trade show. The software requires 1280x1024 screen resolution. (Think of an application running on a kiosk - it will only look right when filling the entire 1280x1024 screen.) This is an easy resolution to hit on current LCD and CRT monitors, which is where it will ultimately be displayed, on my customers' machines. The software displays textual data from a database, along with 1024x768 photos.

In addition to the notebook computer, I will take a 17" LCD monitor to the trade show, to show a better (brighter, better field of view) picture than I can show on a notebook screen. So, I guess I should say that it is critical that I am able to run an outboard monitor at 1280x1024. If the notebook screen was 1280x1024 native, then I would have the option to show the software later at a client site simply on the notebook without taking along an additional monitor. So, it is not critical that the notebook be capable of displaying the 1280x1024 on its internal monitor, but it would be a bonus.

Since I admittedly have very limited experience with notebooks, I made the assumption that I would need to display 1280x1024 on the notebook monitor so that the video card would properly display the 1280x1024 on the outboard monitor. As long as the outboard monitor looks "perfect" then I guess I will live with the fact that at best I will have a fuzzy, stretched 1280x1024 image on the notebook's internal screen. All the Google searches and visits to manufacturer's websites yielded maximum resolutions, but never a listing of the alternate resolutions that the notebook's screen can display. That's why I came to Experts Exchange, hoping to get specific recommendations for a notebook from someone who has connected an outboard monitor and operated it at 1280x1024.

This notebook will be dedicated to this task, so I don't care about (and will not use) wireless LAN, nor will it be used for gaming or watching DVDs. I will probably never run it on batteries, but will always plug it in. With that in mind, I figured a Pentium 4 based machine made more sense (and less dollars) than a Pentium-M machine, but again I'm asking for expert advice. I also have read that virtually all notebooks are made (as barebones) by a handful of manufacturers, and then HP, Dell, Alienware, IBM, Toshiba, etc. pop in the HDD and RAM and put their sticker on the box. So, I don't really care which sticker is on the box, as long as they will honor their warranty.

You may be thinking, "why in the hell does this guy want a notebook?", since I am describing the functionality of a desktop... Well, it just comes down to portability, and the notebook will travel better than a desktop. By the time I connect an external monitor, external keyboard, external mouse, and an external keyboard wedge (for a barcode scanner) I will be happy to be carrying a notebook rather than a desktop.

Requirements:
P4 2.xGhz, 512MB RAM, DVD/CDRW drive, USB 2.0 port, analog VGA video out - with the ability to output 1280x1024, and a standard mini-DIN connector for an external keyboard (to accomodate the barcode wedge cables)

My search turned up empty for modern notebooks with 1280x1024 native resolution, so I know that is not an option.

What would you recommend?

Thanks in advance.  

- Dennis
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by:bobo_tech
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Well i don't have any specific recommendations in mind right now, but I will tell you that pretty much all laptops will show the native resolution and any steps below the native on the main lcd (and some even will "pan" if you set them higher than the native resolution).  So if your laptop does 1600x1280, it will do 1280x1024 or 1024x768 or 800x600 and some will do the 1400xwhatever resoltuion.  The key is the stretching, you just need to make sure that there is an option to stretch the screen to physcally fill the screen.  I know that my gateway/dell/thinkpads all do it in one way or another.  (note, all my laptops are older pentium 3 or lower).

Also a lot of people are pickier than others when it comes to the fuzziness.  It bothers me a LOT but I am very picky, on the other hand a lot of the teachers who use lcd displays where i work are perfectly happy with running their lcd's at lower than native even after i show them how much sharper it is with native resolution.
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